TAMPA — It's All-Star Weekend here in Tampa Bay, meaning all the NHL bigwigs are here.
And, since we have their ear for a few moments, maybe we can offer a few suggestions to improve the game.
After all, the NHL is good league. Sometimes it's even great. But it's not perfect.
Here are some ideas on how to, once again, make the NHL the coolest game on earth.
Shootouts once had their place. It was a way to satisfy fans who spent hundreds of dollars sitting through a 2 1/2-hour game who didn't want their money and time wasted on a tie.
The shootout was cool when it started, mostly because of the novelty. But it has lost its luster. Through 759 games this season, 70 have gone to a shootout. That's 9.2 percent, and that's way too much. Games and ultimate playoff spots are being decided by a skills competition.
No one wants to see ties. In fact, overtime for the regular season was put in place in 1983 because bad teams would try to sit on ties against good teams late in games just to get a point.
The three-on-three format is an exciting one. So exciting that the league should scrap the shootout and just play three-on-three until there's a winner, even if it takes all night. But it won't take all night. There's too much skill and too much open ice for overtime to last too long.
Reconfigure how points are awarded
Right now, if a team wins a game in regulation or overtime or in a shootout, they are awarded two points. A loser in overtime or a shootout gets a point.
Something about that feels off. While NHL traditionalists would hate this idea, the league needs to make regulation victories more valuable and overtime/shootout losses less valuable.
So, here's the idea. Regulation victories are worth three points. Overtime/shootout victories are worth two. Overtime/shootout losses are worth one. That places the greatest emphasis on winning — as it should.
Kill the salary cap
On the surface, the salary cap makes sense. It allows the small-market teams such as Winnipeg and Columbus and Edmonton to compete with big-market teams such as Toronto, New York and Chicago. But even prior to the cap in the 2005-06, small-market teams such as the Lightning won the Cup. The salary cap, interestingly enough, was put in place to help teams like the Lightning and it ended up hurting Tampa Bay because it couldn't re-sign all its free agents.
But here's where the cap really hurts. It has killed one of the best parts of the NHL: blockbuster trades. Now, teams can't make big deals at the end of the season unless they can work it under their caps. But big trades can be beneficial for the bottom feeders of the NHL. Those teams can trade a good veteran or two to a team making a Cup run and get really good prospects in return. It's a great way to restock and build for the future, and improves the league's competitive balance.
Put a team in Quebec City
It seems almost criminal to have hockey teams in Miami, Arizona, Las Vegas and Raleigh, N.C., and no team in Quebec City. Although, to be fair, at least Vegas is a hot ticket right now. But Florida, Arizona and Carolina are all playing to less than 80 percent capacity. I'm not usually one in favor of moving teams, but would there be any uproar if the NHL packed up the Coyotes and moved them to Quebec City?
Fix the goaltender interference
Whenever someone suggests getting rid of something, they should at least have an alternative plan. I'll admit, I have no idea how to fix goaltender interference calls, but apparently neither does the NHL. It's a mess. No one, most of all the players and coaches, has any idea what constitutes interference, which goals should count and which ones shouldn't. But the league needs to get together with the players and sort this out because it's a nightmare.
Get rid of replay for offsides
Too many goals are being wiped out over silly replay calls. Nothing makes less sense than when a player's skate is behind the blue line, but he is considered offsides because that skate is lifted off the ice. NHL linesmen are pretty good at their jobs. And even if they miss a call because a player is a half-inch offsides, is that really impacting the play? Scrap replay on offsides and let's get more goals in a sport that can use more goals.
Either make the goals bigger or make the goalie pads smaller. But right now, goalies look like mountains in front of the net.
Get back to the Olympics
It's great that the NHL All-Star Game is here this weekend, but it would be better if the NHL players were in the Olympics. Get it done, fellas; 2022 isn't that far away.