Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Thoughts: Fixing the Lack of Scoring in the NHL


The Pittsburgh Penguins, along with so many other teams that are packed with superstar talent have stood by and watched as scoring falls more and more each year in the NHL. Consider the following stats that I had used previously when discussing NHL officiating. Below are the top-10 scorers in 2005-2006.

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Joe Thornton – 125 pts (29g, 96a)
Jaromir Jagr – 123 pts (54g, 69a)
Alex Ovechkin – 106 pts (52g, 54a)
Dany Heatley – 103 pts (50g, 53a)
Daniel Alfredsson – 103 pts (43g, 60a)
Sidney Crosby – 102 pts (39g, 63a)
Eric Staal – 100 pts (45g, 55a)
Ilya Kovalchuk – 98 pts (52g, 46a)
Marc Savard – 97 pts (28g, 69a)
Jonathan Cheechoo – 93 pts (56g, 37a)

At this point, it’s rare to see a player eclipse the 100-point mark. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the only players to do so since Daniel Sedin registered 104 points in 2010-11. To make things worse, it seems to be something that the NHL has ignored until just recently when discussions at this year’s GM conference were directed toward solutions. Unforunately, though, the solutions are trivial and will likely have little impact.

I’m a firm believer that the biggest reason for the lack of scoring is better overall talent in the league. The difference in skating ability from the first-line to the fourth is minimal, as the NHL is full of outstanding athletes. Gone are the days in which fourth-line players were simply enforcers or aggravators. But, that doesn’t mean we have to accept the lack of offense. It’s time to adapt.

The first thing that needs addressed is the officiating. This dead horse has been beaten over and over again, but I’ll just say that obstruction in general needs to be at the forefront of any officiating meetings this summer. You can’t let guys like Crosby and Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, and Patrick Kane get mugged night-in and night-out and not expect offense in this league to diminish. These guys are exciting to watch, so let them do their thing.

The league is discussing items like faceoff placement, who puts their stick down last, and when/where someone is allowed to block shots. Like I said, trivial.

One suggestion that I’ve heard and can agree with is angled posts. With directionally angled posts there’s a higher chance that the puck will ring off them and in rather than wide or straight out. However, while that may mean more goals, I’m not sure that adds to the excitement of watching the talent of this league put on a show with the puck.

If we learned anything from the IIHF World Championships it’s that bigger ice means more creativity and offense. So, how can the NHL duplicate that on North American ice?

Shrink the neutral zone.

The blue lines are currently 50 feet apart and 64 feet from the goal line. Why do you need a 50-foot neutral zone? If you can cut, say, 10 feet off the neutral zone by moving the blue lines toward the red line by 5 feet on each side, you’re giving the players some much needed room to maneuver. Have you witnessed a Pittsburgh Penguins game and watched Evgeni Malkin navigate the offensive zone with the puck on his stick? Imagine giving him an extra 5 feet without going offsides.

Decreasing the size of the neutral zone also makes it very difficult to play the dreaded neutral zone trap defense. It would force teams to pressure more, which would result in a higher number of chances from both turnovers and quick breakouts.

Get rid of the trapezoid.

Did you ever have one of those ideas that seemed great, but in turn made a situation worse? Well, that’s what the trapezoid has done.

The idea made sense. Limit goaltenders such as Martin Brodeur from essentially acting as a third defenseman and playing pucks out of harm’s way. The Pittsburgh Penguins had a similar advantage with Tom Barrasso. But, what it actually did was create a platform for very boring dump-and-chase hockey that we see so much of today.

Eliminating the trapezoid means that teams will need to possess the puck while entering the zone. Dumping would likely mean a goaltender turning it back up ice quickly and therefore you’ve forfeited possession. Combined with a smaller neutral zone and quicker zone breaches, things would start opening up in a big way.

Neither of those ideas are being discussed at this year’s GM meetings, of course. These are my own ideas, and we can only hope that someone of importance will stumble across this article and buy-in. Hopefully we’ll return to a world in which talent is showcased in the NHL and stars are exciting to watch. It’s how you increase popularity. Have you watched the NBA final with Lebron James and Steph Curry? Your move NHL.

Thanks for reading! Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @Michael29Angelo.

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