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NHL Scoring Falling Again

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Chris Boersma posted these numbers in a discussion over at Canucks Corner. I found it interesting.

Combined Goals Per Game in the NHL
6.14 1st half of 05-06
5.96 2nd half of 05-06
5.81 1st half of 06-07
5.70 2nd half of 06-07
5.34 through 10-12 of 07-08

After the lockout scoring went up because more penalties were called and a larger percentage of each game was spent in special teams situations. Even after the NHL eliminated much of the clutch and grab and interference tactics scoring at even strength did not shoot upward. Scoring went up in 2005-06 because there were a lot more power plays. Now that NHL players have adjusted to the new rules the number of PP minutes per game has also declined. It looks like scoring has also started to tumble as well.

Now you don't have to me a math major to see that the trend is towards less goal scoring. This trend has been evident since the 1980s when combined goals per game peaked. The rule changes brought a one time jump in scoring after the lockout but the trend line downward once again.

What I find most interesting is that the trend toward less goal scoring is evident if virtually every single high level hockey league. You will find the same pattern in major junior hockey, European Pro Leagues in Russia, Sweden, Finland, etc. No matter where you look the long term trend is for less scoring.

To me this suggests that the cause of decreased scoring must be something more widespread that affected the entire hockey world on both sides of the Atlantic. Is better goalie techniques? Bigger goalies? Greater emphasis on defensive play? Larger players? That is difficult to sort out.
I do know that if the trend toward fewer goals continues I would be in favor of a modest increase in the size of the nets. A few years ago in the NFL the was an increase in field goals and decrease in touchdowns. The league considered this bad for the sport so the narrowed the uprights to making kicking a field goal more risky which would cause more coaches to go for the (more exciting) touchdown. Baseball years ago lowered the pitchers mound when pitching got the upper hand on hitting. When your sport is in a 20 year period of offensive decline I think that is is time to consider making adjustments to bring balance back to the offense/defense equation.

Now I'm calling for a return of 7-8 goal games like we saw in the 1980s but the historical average for the NHL since World War II is 6.4 combined goals per game. I'd like to see the league get closer to the historical average. At the moment we are below that average and moving further away from it with each passing year.