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Bigger Nets?

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Colin Campbell was come out in favor of large nets for the NHL saying: "I know this is going to rock some traditionalists, and I can say this because I'm one of those, but I really think we've got to look long and hard at bigger nets."

If you look at this from a historical perspective scoring in total's NHL is much closer to the all time low than it is to the 80s high. Across NHL history the average goals per game is around 6.4 per game. Goals per game is down around 5.3 in the current season. I would like to see the NHL move back towards that traditional number.

During the lockout, I went and looked at the scoring rates for the NHL, AHL, OHL, WHL, QMJHL, and the national leagues of Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Swiss League. Over the last twenty years scoring has declined in every single one of those leagues. If scoring is declining in every elite hockey league, that indicates to me that some fundamental change is afoot. In other words, scoring isn't down because of some minor rule that can be altered.

Scoring is down in leagues with the larger Olympic sized ice and it is down in leagues that use the NHL sized sheet. So that tells me that increasing the ice size in North America isn't going to necessarily boost goals per game in the NHL.

I asked a NHL scout about the decline in scoring and he said "Just go back and look at tapes from the old days. The guys are smaller, they technique is terrible by today's standards and the equipment is bigger." It is true, when I pull out some of those highlight videotapes, the goaltending is laughably bad at times. It is also true that the NHL is increasing dominated by large goaltenders.

Well the NHL can't tell players to play with less skill, nor can they ban goaltenders larger than 6 feet. Some additional shrinking of equipment could be legislated, but I'm not convinced it would make a 10%-20% increase in scoring to get us back to the historical average.

So put me down as favoring larger nets. The goalies are bigger, they are better trained and they cover more of the net. If we could use a time machine to bring back Richard, Howe and Gretzky they would all find it harder to score, so let's restore some balance to the offense/defense equation and give those talented shooters some place to put the puck.