Sunday, February 11, 2007

Calling 50 Goal Scorers

In case you missed it, Tampa's Vinny Lecavalier took the goalscoring lead with his 35th goal of the season in the Bolts' 4-1 triumph at CAA in a game televised on NBC this afternoon.

With only about 25 games left, there is lingering doubt as to whether the league will indeed have a 50-goal scorer this season. One year removed from five players reaching that mark including Rocket Richard recipient Jonathan Cheechoo's league best 56 for San Jose, it's unclear whether anyone will get to 50 in the NHL's second season since the lockout. So much for all those rule changes fixing scoring, huh? Translation: Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

In a league where they're always looking for more ways to improve scoring, the question is how far will they go to get the desired result? If nobody reaches 50 this season, it certainly won't help. There's even been wild speculation that they are toying with the artificial idea of making nets bigger. Though I'd like to see more goals, I'm not a proponent of this. What's next? Soccer nets? You can only go so far before your diehard fanbase finally says, 'Enough is enough.'

If they actually do that, they're continuing to push the game towards newer fans who haven't been around as long as the established hardcore hockey fan. If they do indeed take that step, it would also continue to appease the new corporate sponsors who want more offense no matter at what consequence. And does anyone actually think they want to see two guys drop the gloves and throwdown? Do we even have to provide an answer here?

And that's where the legit concerns are as far as the product. I've said it many times. I'll say it once more like a broken record. The real core puck fans love physicality. Anytime two enforcers drop'em, the crowd is energized at games. Anytime there's a huge hit like the one Brad Lukowich got on Petr Prucha who I still haven't figured out how he bounced up from it, the fans jump out of their seats.

You can't take that out of our game. So, how can they get more offense without sacrificing anything else which would disgust legions of supporters?

1.Make goalie equipment smaller- this has been covered before. And it looks like it needs some reemphasis. These netminders are just too good today and can take up even more net with the big pads they have.

2.Make players' equipment smaller- this is something I have harped on before. Anytime you see an old highlight reel from even 15 years ago, you'll notice how much more room there was on the ice. Players were smaller for one but also, the equipment they wore looked normal. Now every player looks like a warrior from The Gladiator. And that's a big problem. When Anaheim can't even find a shooting lane on a 6-on-4 against San Jose, there's a dilemma. The form fitting uniforms are a start even if it's a ripoff for fans.

3.If they don't minimize equipment, then the only other option is to finally bite the bullet and go to Olympic size style rinks. This would give players more operating space to work with and make it even tougher to defend. The problem is this. They're not going to spend the kind of big bucks to make every arena conform to a wider surface because it will mean less seats and the owners will be opposed to it.

I hope that the league evaluates everything after the season and makes a solid decision which will make everyone happy.

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