“Bettman has only a marginal interest in the weaker teams. He only wants the NHL to make a bigger profit as a whole.” -- Dominik Hasek

May 15, 2007

Crybaby Watch™: Bucci Wants More Room To Score

I generally like John Buccigross. If there is anyone who genuinely tries to promote the sport of hockey on ESPN.com, it's him. He used to anchor the show NHL2Night on the same network before they axed it permanently during the lockout, and he's still trying to get it back on the air. His articles about outdoor rinks, teaching his son the joy of the game and his believable support of all 30 NHL teams are truly a gift to hockey.

But he insists on widening the goals.

In nearly every column he writes, he mentions his obsession with changing the spread of the posts, which he believes will instantly transform the NHL into a league where scoring a goal is no longer a relatively rare event. In his column today, he waited to mention this until the letters section, but mention it he did. A reader asked if GPS tracking devices should be implanted in the pucks in order to accurately determine when a goal has been scored. His response:

With the NHL destined to be a tight-checking, close-scoring, low-scoring league until the net dimensions are increased, an improvement in puck tracking should be No. 1 on the offseason agenda.

What? How would the NHL cease to be tight-checking if the net dimensions are increased? Does the size of the rink change too? How would a couple of additional inches in the goals make the NHL any less defensive-minded?

This mindset kills me. Does the NBA ever consider shrinking the size of the baskets (or raising them another foot or two) because scoring is too easy? Does the NFL periodically consider making the field 80 yards long instead of 100 because there are too few touchdowns? No, of course not. Why on earth should the NHL alter the size of the goals? Just to get one or two more goals per game? So what?

The idea that hockey would somehow be more exciting if more goals were scored has been a running theme among many columnists for a while now, and it still doesn't make any sense. Hockey is exciting to watch
because it's so damn hard to score, not despite it. Every goal is an event, a celebration, a spectacle. Every goal means something.

Goals should be hard to score. With the exception of soccer, no other professional sport in North America boasts scoring celebrations like this:


Danny said...

I dont think they should widen the posts. In my opinion, lower scoring games are more exciting, watching the goalies fly all over the place just to make a save is way more exciting than a 10-9 game where there is about 40 saves between the two goalies.


Dear Lord Stanley said...

I agree. And what would happen to the legacies of great goalies like Brodeur, Luongo and Giguere? Their save percentages could conceivably drop, their GAAs increase and judging their success as goaltenders would rely merely on the number of games they won---which is hardly fair to other greats like Olaf Kolzig and Nikolai Khabibulin who are stuck on horrible teams.

Mike said...

Another thing- what makes Bucci think that opening up the nets by a few inches will increase scoring by an appreciable amount? Lets say you move the posts out 2 or 3 inches, and raise the crossbar by the same amount. That's roughly a 15% increase in goal area, which by today's standards is less than one goal per game. That's given the assumption that increasing the size of the net by x% will increase the number of goals by x%. And I'm not convinced. I think there won't be that big of a difference for a couple of inches in each direction, but the flood gates would open if it gets more than that.

B_Washington said...

Well In John Buccigross's defense, he has defended his point with good logical arguments that make sense.

He has noted that goalies have gotten bigger (not to mention conditioned better, more flexible and better training), and goalie equipment has gotten bigger but goal sizes have stayed the same.

See, to me, it's one thing to have a knee-jerk reaction to a an on-ice event. It's another to have an improvment for the game that has sound logical reasoning behind it.

Now in saying that I'm not saying I agree, but I think he at least makes some valid points, and he's not just writing it in response to some flukey statisticallyimprobable thing that happened the night before.

Dear Lord Stanley said...

Sure, Bucci's argument makes sense: widen the goals and it will be easier to score. That's pretty obvious. And yeah, he's right that the goalies are bigger, faster and generally better than they were back in the day. This is all true.

But the real question: Is it really necessary to fundamentally alter an important, historical aspect of the game of hockey just to boost scoring totals? Really, what's so great about a couple of extra goals per game?

I have never spoken to a hockey non-fan who cited "lack of goal scoring" as the reason they don't watch hockey. Their actual reasons range from "I have no idea what the rules are" to "I can't tell who's on the ice," among others.

While Bucci's obsession with changing the size of the goals isn't a reaction to one single event, it's a reaction to a whole string of events that he just doesn't like personally.

Tough nuggets, I say. The game is what it is, and if every columnist would stop griping over a centimeter here and a hand-pass there and just promote the sport, the audience would grow. Sidney Crosby put up 120 points this past season in a supposedly "dead puck" era. Instead of widening the goals, why not concentrate on making him a household name like Peyton Manning or LeBron James?

I don't understand why it's so hard to figure out.

Wow, that was long. My bad.

B_Washington said...

Well I think the NHL flew in the face of historical records and aspects when they introduced the shootout. Win totals are now inflated, and so are team point totals.

And I think, in any sport, it's tough to compare players of a different era, and a different time. Patrick Roy and Jaques Plante are incomparable. Hell Roy and Grant Fuhr are incomparable, because of the way the game was played during their eras.

And yes, the NHL needs to market Sid Crosby, and Ovechkin and all the other really good young stars coming out.

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