NHL Rule Changes Will Affect the Pittsburgh Penguins


The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2014-2015 season will see significant departures from what the Pittsburgh faithful had come to expect under Dan Bylsma. Changes in management, coaching, and personnel have already resulted in noticeable differences in the team’s playing style. However, the Penguins could also see some “boom” and “bust” from the NHL rule changes enacted recently.

Let’s start with the “boom.”  Rule 1.9, titled “Face-off Spots and Circles,” was amended to increase the space between the hash marks in the end zone circles from three feet to five feet seven inches. This change makes the NHL playing surface more closely resemble the surface used in international competition. On its face, this change doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider the speed of NHL players, that extra two feet and seven inches provides the essential ingredients of any scoring play: time and space.

So how does this translate to “boom” for the Pittsburgh Penguins? Consider where Chris Kunitz earns his living – in front of the opponent’s net. This rule change, this extra two feet seven inches, means that Kunitz will have that much more time to get open.  Oh, by the way, Sidney Crosby isn’t too bad in front of the net either.

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However, not all of the NHL rule changes have so much up-side potential for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The NHL Rules Committee also voted to increase the size of the Trapezoid – the area behind the net where the goalie can legally play the puck – by two feet from each goal post. Why do I consider this rule to be a “bust” for the Penguins? One name: Marc-Andre Fleury. What this rule change means is that Fleury has that much more space, twenty-two square feet more to be precise, to make a bad decision.

This concern is more than hypothetical – we saw a Fleury make a terrible play on opening night that led directly to a goal by Corey Perry.  With Fleury’s future with the Penguins in flux, this rule change could have a tangible impact not only on the 2014-2015 season but on the franchise’s foreseeable future.

There are a few rule changes that are worth mentioning that should have a negligible effect on the Penguins this season.

The first is Expanded Video Review. Rule 38.4 (viii) has provided broader discretion to Hockey Operations in assisting the on-ice officials.  The essence of this rule change is that goals won’t only be reviewed for whether the puck crossed the goal line; the officials will look and listen for whistles before the puck went in and other situations that would affect whether or not the goal should count.  This rule change is a wash as far as the Pittsburgh Penguins are concerned because it applies equally to all teams regardless of playing style or team composition.

The second is the new scheme employed for diving penalties. Rule 64.3 governing “Diving/Embellishment” has incorporated a graduated scale of player and coach fines to emphasize the seriousness of the offense and decrease its prevalence in the game.  While the mainstream sports media, the blogosphere, and team forums have portrayed Crosby as a perpetual diver, the man has never once received a penalty for diving.

This new “Diving/Embellishment” penalty and fine regime will have very little, if anything, to do with the Penguins’ success or failure this year.  First, regardless of the increased attention diving has received, it is still an infrequent call. Second, Crosby, the league’s most notorious offender, knows better than to push the limits of a rule change. Third, and perhaps most importantly, any diving calls that might be called on the Penguins will surely be balanced out on October 25, when the Penguins visit the recently departed James Neal in Nashville.

I encourage everyone to head over to NHL.com for more details on all of this year’s rule changes.