As we continue to look back at the past decade in the NHL, there were a number of rule changes that have significantly affected the state of the game today. Many of these were positive changes, but a few were downright awful. Most of the changes in the last 10 years happened as a direct result of the lockout. Here's a look at the 4 best and 4 worst rule changes over the past decade.
4) The Shootout (2005)
Some may argue this belongs in the worst column, but there's no doubt it has added excitement to many otherwise forgettable regular season games. After all, when's the last time you changed the channel when the game was tied at the end of O.T.? While the shootout has generally been a good thing, it could be improved. 3 shooters isn't enough. The NHL should really consider extending it to 4 or 5 rounds. What's the harm? The other downside to the shootout is that it's taken some of the excitement out of the overtime period. It used to be that a team desperate for points would go all out in O.T. Now, they're just as content to play it safe and take their chances in the shootout. All told, this was a positive change for the NHL.
3) "Zero Tolerance" on Interference (2005)
It took several tries, and it's still a work in process that slips as the season goes on, but there's no arguing it's much, much better than it was pre-lockout. The game is much more exciting to watch now that teams with less talent can't just climb on your back and pin you down.
2) Eliminating the 2-line Pass Rule (2005)
Breakaways are back in the NHL thanks in large part to eliminating the stupid 2-line pass rule. All that rule ever did was clog up the neutral zone and reduce scoring chances. You'd be hard pressed to find a player, fan, or GM who would argue to put this back in place. Let's pray it stays that way.
1) Eliminating the Skate in Crease Rule (2000)
So, it's borderline on the decade thing, but think back to the agony of the late 90's. After every goal, you had to hold your breath and wait 2 minutes before celebrating to make sure the tip of the left winger's skate didn't edge across into the crease, even though it had nothing to do with play. Fans can once again leave their seats and exchange high-fives when they see the red light go on, with relative confidence that the goals will actually count. (My apologizes to Sabres fans for even bringing up the whole crease topic).
4) Younger Free Agency (2005)
As part of the new Collective Bargaining agreement in 2005, the rules for free agency were relaxed to allow players to become free agents at age 27, or after 7 pro seasons. While this was a major victory for players looking to cash in sooner, it's a loss for GM's, owners, and thus, fans. Ask Panthers fans how they feel about Jay Bouwmeester leaving free at the ripe old age of 25 when he had just reached his prime. A few years back, the Penguins had to wrestle with the decision of "wasting" one of Jordan Staal's years at age 18, despite the fact that he clearly belonged in the big league. Seeing your best young stars leave town just when you've gotten attached to them is bad for fans in every town.
3) Salary Cap (2005)
This one is tough to classify. There's good and bad that has come from the Cap and this could merit a page or more of discussion. All told, the "promises" made to fans have fallen through (as expected). The league tried to argue that a cap would help with the ticket prices. Is anybody paying less for a seat these days? The cap was supposed to level the playing field for all teams. All it's really done is frustrate big market teams who have to subsidize teams in smaller markets who can't sell tickets on their own. Every season, there are a few teams who have to sign a high-priced player that they don't want or need, just to reach the cap floor. Maybe I'm still bitter at missing a whole season, but to me as a fan, it certainly wasn't worth the sacrifice for "cost certainty".
2) Increased Divisional Play (2005)
Thankfully, the GM's realized their mistake and rolled this back last year. In 2005, some geniuses thought fans would rather see their teams play their neighbors every other game at the cost of not seeing teams on the other side of the country but once every 3 years. For fans in the West who were anxious to get a glimpse at Crosby, Ovechkin, and Malkin, this was a disaster. I know there were plenty of people who argued in favor of it at the time, but I never understood why. Let's hope we never go back.
1) The Trapezoid (2005)
First off, making a rule primarily to punish one of the greatest goalies of all time was unjustified. Brodeur, and then several others, developed an enviable skill of handling the puck as well as any defenseman, and the league felt the need to punish him for it. It's ridiculous to see a goalie skate out into the corner to play the puck and dance delicately around an arbitrarily shaped line as he plays the puck. Please, please, admit your mistake and no more silly rules pushed by GMs who couldn't field a team with an effective forecheck.