The NHL generated two very big pieces of news this week which will shape the future of the league. First, on Tuesday, the league released new guidelines on the size of equipment that goaltenders can wear in games. Then on Wednesday, they released the groundwork of an expansion draft, with the possibility of one or two new teams joining the league as soon as 2017.
Smaller Goalie Gear
By the beginning of next season, goaltenders will be required to wear gear suited to their body size. This will dramatically decrease the apparent size of goalies, especially relating to the pants and upper body areas. The goal of the new rule is twofold: it will make goalies look more normal-sized to opposing players, and it will force goalies to play with more skill, rather than just sticking a pad out. Rule breakers will be punished with a two-game suspension.
Somewhat surprisingly, top goalies in the league support the rule change, and in fact initially pushed for new rules. Goaltenders such as the New Jersey Devils’ Cory Schneider and the Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby believe, by reducing the pad size, goalies will exercise more ability.
This will prove once and for all who the best goalies are, no longer allowing goalies to rely on their gigantic pad advantage. Many believe the best goalies don’t want or need big gear anyway, and the new rule will put that to the test.
The NHL hopes it will strengthen the skills of their goalies, but is unsure if it will result in higher scoring league-wide. I expect both a fairly dramatic change in goalie appearance next season, with the reduced pad size imminent, and potentially an accompanying increase in goals scored per game.
Expansion Draft in the Near Future
The NHL followed up the exciting goalie news by releasing a rough outline for an expansion draft, with eyes on possible expansion as soon as the 2017-18 season. Per ESPN, the NHL is considering both Las Vegas and Quebec City as destinations for a new franchise. The current 30 teams would stand to possibly lose one or two players, depending on which city is awarded a new team.
Each team would be able to protect as many as eleven players. Teams could choose to protect either:
- 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie.
- or 8 skaters of any type, and 1 goalie.
- Also, all rookies, second-year players, and unsigned draft picks would automatically be protected.
This would mean, for example: the Anaheim Ducks would have to choose between John Gibson and Frederik Andersen, both excellent young goaltenders. Also the New York Rangers would have to decide whether to keep four forwards and all four of their top defenders – Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Keith Yandle, and Dan Girardi – or only three of them and seven front men.
The new guidelines are a little stricter than the last time the NHL held an expansion draft, in 2000. The league added two new teams, the Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both new teams finished in last place in their divisions, and were the two worst teams in the Western Conference.
In 1999, the Atlanta Thrashers played their inaugural season. The league held a draft to fill the Thrashers’ roster for the 1999-2000 season, in which the Thrashers went just 14-57-7. For the next twelve seasons, the Thrashers had little success, including only one playoff appearance, before moving and becoming the Winnipeg Jets in 2011.
The NHL hopes that by tightening up the draft rules, better players will be made available to the new team(s), and this in turn will make the new team(s) more competitive. It’s important to remember that nothing is certain yet, as the league expects to have a definite decision in June on the possibility of expansion for the 2017-18 season.
Statistics and relevent information provided by: ESPN.com
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