Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Open Letter To The NHL Competition Committee

Every year the NHL Competition Committee meets to look at ways to improve the game. According to the NHL this year the recommendations include the mandatory use of visors for all players entering the NHL beginning in the 2013-14 season, and the use of hybrid icing in the 2013 preseason. Also all double-minor penalties for high-sticking will be subject to video review. The League will eliminate the attainable pass, which gave linesmen the discretion to wave off icing infractions on attempted passes that are deemed to be attainable. With the new standard, there must be contact with the stick. And beginning next season, the NHL would use nets that are 4 inches shallower. Nets will remain six feet wide by four feet tall, but they will be 40 inches in depth, down from 44 inches.

But I have an idea I think the Competition Committee should consider...Substitutions.

With a 22 man roster, currently teams play with 12 forwards, 6 defensemen and a goalie. A back-up goalie is dressed and ready on the bench in case of injury or poor performance by the starting goalie. Most often an additional forward and defenseman will take part in the warm-up but then being a healthy scratch will watch the game from the press box.

My suggestion would be to allow each team to name one forward and one defenseman on their line-up cards as substitutes. These designated substitutes would remain ready in the dressing rooms.

If a player was injured the substitute could be brought into the game to replace the injured player. Once a player is substituted for he can not return to the game. One, this would not give a team an advantage if they injured the opposing team player and second, it would deter injured players (such as mild concussions) from wanting to return to the ice so their team is not down a man. Non-injury related substitutions could perhaps be allowed at the start of a period.

Maybe a coach would like to bring in a more offensively minded defenseman if they are down a goal or bring in a defensive specialist forward to help preserve that one-goal lead. There are many strategies that could be developed and the 21st and 22nd man on the roster become even more important. And wouldn't the analysts and fans have a great time second guessing the coaches and their use of substitutions.

Now substitutions would not be allowed for players who leave the game because of an assessed penalty.

There would be no additional cost to the teams. The fans see a better product. And injuries will have less effect on the game outcome. It increases safety for the players. And the 22 man roster gets more playing time. Coaches can send messages to non-performing players through more than just benching during the game. The substitution will become a strategic part of the game. For the teams, coaches, players, fans, broadcasters...this is a win, win, win, win, win.

It is done in baseball, football and soccer. Why not hockey? As a fan I would be much more interested in who are the 21st and 22nd man on the roster rather than shallower nets and hybrid icing.

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