Commentary: With rules up for debate, let’s look at shot blocking

Some thoughts to ponder. Feel free to discuss among yourselves.

Rule change year

This is a rules change year for the NCAA, and here are a couple of things I’d love to see on the agenda.

The first is one that I have asked coaches about the past couple of years and about 99 percent of them agree on this. We need to eliminate players’ ability to leave their feet to block shots. While shot blocking is the purest form of team-first bravery and sacrifice you can have, it also eliminates a ton of offense.

I have no problem with a player squaring up, getting in a shot lane and blocking a shot. That is just good, fundamental hockey. It is the concept of having six goalies on the ice that bothers me a bit. It is amazing how many games scouts go to where a goalie plays for a great shot-blocking team, and they’re unable to asses if the kid can play because he didn’t face many good shots. Trust me, it is a discussion the scouts have.

If you push this rule you do get into the minutia of “What if a defenseman does the slide?” The slide is a move used by defensemen to take away the passing lane on a two on one, and it also lets him be on the ice to block a shot if it happens. It is mostly used when F1 and F2 are under the circles, between the dots, and somewhat parallel to each other. It eliminates pass and shot options all in one.

It is a tactical move and several defenseman are great at it. I say that the slide is the exception to the rule; that can stay. It is when a player is winding up for a shot and someone goes prone that should be removed.

This is not something clear cut but at the next coaches convention in Naples, Fla., I’d like to see it tabled for discussion. Back in the 1980s when very few players blocked shots the offense was there in college hockey. Just look at the numbers. There are elite-level NCAA players whose career numbers don’t match Mike Donnelly’s best season! That has to change.

Equipment is better and everyone blocks shots. I have no problem with goalies having to face more quality shots and teams needing to adjust to more offense as the defensive team. Teams will pack in anyway, so at least this takes away some of the clutter in the defensive zone and gets some shots through. That creates more scrambles, tips, deflections and chaos by the net. That creates excitement, or as Boston College coach Jerry York and I like to say, “It gets the heartbeat up a bit.”

That leads to part two and it relates to goalmouth scrambles. Last Friday in the Vermont-Boston College game there was a premature whistle in a goalmouth scramble that cost Vermont a goal. The whistle was by the lead referee who lost sight of the puck. That referee was in proper position, behind the net, almost standing on the netting to see the goal line and the back portion of the play.

However, he had absolutely no clear sight line to the front of the goalie and no ability to see if the puck was still loose. He blew the play dead because he lost sight. Of course he did; from where he was standing he couldn’t see the puck to begin with. He was blocked by the goalie.

Here is another rule I’d like to see implemented to the officials who have screwed this call up across five conferences for the better part of four years. The low, or lead, referee, the one behind the goal whose view can be obscured by his position, should not be allowed to shut down a scramble in the slot. That has to be the job of the other referee, the one out by the blue line who can be encouraged to move lower to see the scramble.

The next night the exact situation happened again, and credit to the stripes who let the play live and handled it well. You have to give credit where credit is due, and they got it right Saturday.

Video review

I’m not going to say a ton here because most of the time these video sessions get the correct call. However, there is one school that I’ll keep nameless that decided that it would not provide TV replays to the officials booth and it cost a visiting team a potential goal. That needs to be fixed.

Paul Kelly

This is another unique situation. Much has been written about Kelly’s departure from College Hockey Inc., the marketing arm of college hockey under the direction of the Hockey Commissioners Association. Kelly has done a lot for college hockey. His contacts were invaluable in discussions with the NHL. His savvy media presence, ability to communicate and work ethic made him a tremendous asset in college hockey. He got things done that helped the game.

I’m not sure where this goes from here, but Kelly’s loss is a big one. Kelly, I’m sure, is viewed in many ways by many people but his almost unanimous endorsement by the prominent coaches nationwide can’t be ignored. If you ignore the coaches then who are you listening to in terms of what is needed to make the game better and compete against the Canadian Hockey League for players?

Coaches are in the trenches and they felt they had an ally in Kelly. The HCA felt it had legit reasons to feel otherwise. Those are huge shoes to fill. The HCA is on the clock with a huge hire to be made sooner rather than later. That hire could have a huge impact on college hockey. As the character playing former NASA flight director Gene Kranz said in “Apollo 13,” failure is not an option. However, will the next CHI chief be able to do what Kelly did? Tall order.

The ifs and the skinnys

Don’t you just love it when someone says “Well, if …?” Here are a few of those.

If Miami gets good goaltending it is as good as any team in the CCHA. The Skinny … Miami is solid, boasts a great top line and has a lot of tenacity. The RedHawks aren’t fun to play against. They get a buzz saw in Michigan State this weekend. Miami has more skill. Miami goaltending has made believers out of many in college hockey.

If New Hampshire can win Game 1 at Boston University it can win the series. The Skinny … This is a funny series as each team has proven it can win at the other one’s rink. UNH playing the underdog role could be a tough out. BU has been through hell and back and is still here. That has to say something. Both teams are survivors this season for different reasons. BU veteran goaltending is a big factor.

If Rochester Institute of Technology and Air Force play for the Atlantic Hockey title, one of those teams can pull off a win in the national tourney. The Skinny … Holy Cross is 9-0-1 in its last 10 games and Niagara 3-0-2 in its last five. The Purple Eagles are always a tough out. Mercyhurst was solid and there were a lot of over-.500 AHA teams near the top of the standings. This is a real good tourney.

If Lake Superior State can play great defense and limit turnovers it can beat Western Michigan. The Skinny … LSSU has the 13th-ranked penalty kill in the nation, is among the best in not taking penalties and its goals for/goals against is about even. Then again, Lake can be offensively challenged and Western might have the best top-to-bottom defensive corps in the CCHA.

If Massachusetts shuts down Billy Arnold’s line it has a chance to upset No. 1 Boston College. The Skinny … UMass has great speed but BC is as deep as anyone. Any line can be a hero and Destry Straight has awoken the Kevin Hayes-Chris Krieder duo. BC is too deep.

If there is an upset in the WCHA playoffs it is Bemidji State knocking off North Dakota. The Skinny … North Dakota has been beaten up with injuries but is as resilient a team as any in the NCAA right now. The Brock Nelson-Corban Knight-Danny Kristo line is a pretty tall order for anyone. Andrew MacWilliam is a monster on the back line. There’s a good second line. NoDak could bend, but I don’t see them breaking at home.

If Yale’s best players play their best they beat Harvard. The Skinny … Despite four players at a point per game or just under, Yale has liabilities. But the Bulldogs can score. When rivals meet in the playoffs momentum swings are huge. Yale’s front end should determine this series. Many feel this is a bad matchup for Harvard.

If there is a dark horse here to win the national title it is Maine. The Skinny … Maine isn’t the best team out there but it has been pretty good when it has had to be. The Black Bears are on a 12-4-1 run right now, including back-to-back sweeps of BC and BU in the second half, and they outscored opponents 62-43 in that span. They have a win at Massachusetts-Lowell and won a huge 1-0 game to preserve home ice the last day of the season.

The last word

He did a really good job at Alabama-Huntsville and is doing likewise with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. Somewhere out there is an NCAA coaching job awaiting Danton Cole if he wants it.

30 COMMENTS

  1. There is no way that 99% of coaches agree that laying down to sacrifice your body for the greater good of your team is bad for the game. If so, our sport is headed into a bad direction. It is absolutely ridiculous that this is an issue that could be brought up in the meetings. What is the penalty going to be called? “2 minutes for stopping the other team from possibly scoring?” Why stop there, why dont we just make it 3-on-3 since the end game is to apparently increase scoring.This would be the equivalent to a football D lineman not being able to jump when he tries to block a pass, a basketball player not reaching or jumping to steal the ball, a baseball outfielder not being able to jump jump over the wall to catch a homerun ball. This whole idea is crazy and should never be talked about again. I might be a little biased in that I used to be a college goalie and I hated when players didnt get low to block shots because if they didnt they were just screening me. Since I started my junior days when I was 17 in British Columbia pre-lockout, all ive seen is this game have rule changes that make it softer and softer and this is another example. If what you say is true and 99% of coaches agree with this I will be ashamed. 

    What needs to be addressed is diving/embellishment. When I was a freshman my conference took a charge on diving/embellishment and said they would be strict on those types of penalties. There wasn’t one diving penalty called all year in any of our games and players were diving all over the place. Next time you watch a game watch when a player hits another player, one goes to the box and the other lays on the ice. Watch when he comes back to play. I guarantee 90% of the time that same player will be on the ice the next shift looking like nothing happened. Its a disgrace to the sport and needs to be completely taken out of them game. It happens every game

    • I’ll publish the results of the poll of all 58 in the near future.  I asked about 30 coaches, one thought it was a bad idea.  The guys who like the proposal to end sliding shot blocking are some of the big names in the sport.  That even surprised me.  It has been a topic of discussion at the national meetings in April for a while now.  This wasn’t my idea, I got it from listening to them.

      100% with you on diving/embellishment.  Great point!  To be addressed in a future column…would love to incorporate you thoughts from here.

      DS

  2. I think shot blocking is fine.  I can’t believe the courage it takes.  Do you really routinely want 10-7 final scores in games?  I don’t think so.  Leave that one alone!

    Here’s a new rule change topic to discuss.

    In the outdoor games that I’ve seen the clock is stopped at 10:00 minutes of the third period and the teams switch ends.  I guess this is meant to allow each team half a game either with or against any wind that might be effecting play.  That seems reasonable for outdoors but why not indoors too?  Exactly half the time is played at each end of the ice by each team.  It would benefit the fans.      Here is my suggestion:      1. Make the end-to-end switch in every game at the “approximate” 10 minute mark during the SECOND period of play.  (To extend this rule to playoff overtime periods, do it during every even numbered period.)      2. Because you don’t want to have an interruption of play during a sustained offensive attack the clock would be stopped only after the 10 minute mark of the second period when the puck enters neutral ice.  This would mean that if one team had puck posession in its own zone, play would continue past the 10 minute mark until there was either a score, a whistle or when the puck crossed the blue line.  If the puck was in the neutral zone at the 10 minute mark the clock would stop then and the end-to-end switch made.  Perhaps a “built-in” timeout could be part of the switch.

    • Two points, one in regard to the switching ends. There should be no switching ends period, except for the usual every period. For an outdoor game, the home team should get to choose which way they want to play. That ends it. There is your home ice advantage. All this switching ends to “make it fair” is to ticky-tacky. It’s just like the long change away from your bench when you’re the visiting team. It’s simple home ice advantage. You want it, host an outdoor game. You don’t like it, don’t play an outdoor game. 

      Second, shot blocking has evolved the same way the rest of the game has. It should always be allowed. A shooter should be aware of the play in front of him and if the shot is going to be blocked, don’t take it. Or do, and make the blocker feel it. He’ll think twice about diving in front of a shooter next time. There is no way you can regulate that kind of a rule. Too many exceptions. Leave these “ideas” away from the game, where they belong. 

  3. I bet that eliminating going down to block a shot will increase the SOG by only 5-6 per game.
    The big thing is that the kids have a hard time getting a SOG with all the wild slappers they take these days. 
    And as a MSU Spartan, I am saying that Miami will have their way with the Spartans this week end.

  4. Do you know exactly what happened with Paul Kelly?  I think it is hard for you to comment unless you know the whole story – I certainly do not, but I don’t think you do either.

    Also, get rid of going down to block a shot??? Are you serious…doing that often CREATES offensive for the team who properly executes the shot block at the point.  You are way off on that one.

    • I do know a large chunk of it from various sources involved. Was not gathered for the intent of publication though.  My apologies for that.

      DS

  5. Boo! Hiss! Good shot blocking is an art, as is the puck-holders ability to fake a shot only to fake out said shotblocker and get it on net.  Premature whistles on the other hand…..grrrrrrr. As far as switching ends ( as brought up by UnionFan ) I have to side with Nick. No extra switching.

  6. Starman is a Moron.  Dumb article, dumb idea.  Try writing about something that matters.  Starting to lean towards college hockey news for my go to web page.

  7. Good call on the No Dak-Bemigi series.  Bemiji usually gives the Sioux a good game, but not successful at garnering wins.  The Sioux will be hungry at home to solidify thier PWR ranking.  If your looking for a WCHA upset, look toward the Denver-Wisconsin series.  Badgers really playing good hockey.  Denver may be a bit content as they are looking ripe for an at large bid.

  8. how do you decide when the player is going to shoot or pass. in todays hockey you can be winding up for a shot and make a pass. saying your gonig to take away shot blocking but not pass blocking just doesnt make any sense. all players will do is wait for the guy to go prone then take a shot and whatever implication is put in place will go into effect…

  9. IF it is true that 29 out of 30 coaches think there should be a shot block rule, I’d submit ALL 29 shouldn’t be coaching hockey. R U serious? What a stupid idea.  The refs have enough trouble interpreting things now, don’t add this on.  This would also insure that no NCAA players will ever make it to the NHL.  Really dumb idea.

    • If these coaches want their players to stop blocking shots they should just have them stop.  See how that works out for them.  They can go get jobs coaching Mites.

      Once a defender slides why can’t the shooter just move to the side or lift the puck?  Oh yeah, the offensive player shouldn’t have to get better just remove obstructions.What’s next?  A shootout at the end of every period to increase scoring?  A “no-defense” zone in front of the goal?  Defensemen play without sticks?

      That said, I don’t have a problem if they put this on the table.  There is no rule against making stupid suggestions.  Having it pass would be a disaster.

  10. Eliminate shot blocking?  Are you kidding me?  Absolutely the dumbest thing I have heard regarding potential rule changes to this great game I have ever heard.  There is no way the claim that “99 percent of them agree on this”.  Show me some names on that one Starman and then I’ll believe you.

    • Sorry, I meant there is no way that claim is true.  Got a little worked up over this ridiculous article, which I am sure was Starman’s intention.  Nice job sir, it worked:)

      • Believe it or not, couldn’t  care less if anyone got worked up over this….I’m just the messenger here.  Lot of the big name coaches want the no diving to block shots rule added.  I’d love it.  Like I said, you can square up and block a shot, just have to have blades on the ice unless you are executing the slide.  However, thx for the input.  Always appreciate feed back positive or negative.

        DS

        • Star,  What happens when that guy squares up and the shooter changes angles and the blocker loses balance, flops and is now sprawled out on the ice.  That looks like a charcoal grey area to me.  In my opinion, the last thing we need is refs using more judgement, they have enough on their plates trying to look for makeup calls (Adam) or blatantly blowing calls that end up changing games. (Mouseaux)  Your thoughts?

  11. You are crying about a disallowed goal in the Vermont/BC game? We didnt hear this much complaining in OT in an NCAA game that cost a team a shot at the Frozen Four.

    • Think you missed the big picture on the point my friend.  It is not the BC/VT goal that bothers me, it is about jurisdiction on who can shut down a play best based on best observation point of where the puck is on a goal mouth scramble.  Pretty simple concept.

      DS

  12. The problem is not too much defense. It is a lack of effort and ability by the forwards. How about a rule that penalizes weak offensive play, maybe that will motivate forwards to try harder. Taking away shot blocking is just a lame idea. And I would bet that not one of those coaches have ever chastised their players for helping out their team by blocking a shot. Stop trying to turn hockey into a replica of NBA basketball. 

  13. So, when all the forwards get to the NHL and someone lies down in front of them do they go complain to the ref. “Boo-hoo, that just isn’t fair.”? Good scorers find a way to get it done. A guy off his skates is a mark that a decent forward takes advantage of either with a great pass or a well-placed shot. Besides, making a rule about blocking shots just gives the refs another rule to screw up. Most of the college refs can’t even get icing right and now we want to add a rule that requires some modicum of judgement? No, please.  

  14. I have two thoughts on this article
    1. Not allowing shot blocking is the dumbest idea I have ever heard of!
    2.And did anyone else notice he spelled assess      ASSES?

  15. what about changing the rules to allow fighting or allow visors in college hockey? Fighting would lead to a breaking of tension and thus protect the players in the long run. And visors would reduce concussions as people would not be as reckless and throw their heads around with their own face at risk……

  16. I can’t for the life of me figure out what goes through people’s heads with these weird rules change proposals. Bottom line, if you want to compete with the CHL, you have to offer an advantage over them to make up for the things you can’t beat them at, like grade requirements. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to make the college rules as similar to the NHL as possible. Let’s add the goalie trapezoid. Institute the delay of game penalty for sending the puck into the stands from your own end. Making the rules closer to NHL rules will increase scouts’ opinions of the college game and draw more of the elite talent that usually goes to Canada. I’m not saying we should allow fighting or anything like that, but if I’m a top prospect and my choices are playing in a league where I have to maintain a certain GPA and one where I don’t, it would sure help if the college had a distinct advantage to offer.

    One college rule I would like to see in the NHL, however, is the rule where a team scoring during a delayed penalty still gets the power play. It doesn’t come into play very often, but when it does, I think it’s very exciting to watch.

    I definitely agree about the diving issue. Somehow these referees need to be trained to see the difference. I can’t remember the last time I saw a dive actually called since they added the embellishment penalty.

  17. I read the article’s headline, thought it was ridiculous, but decided to read the article.  I read it.  What a ridiculous idea.  Dave, please, banning off-the-skates shot blocking is ridiculous.  And NO WAY that a majority of D1 coaches thinks it is a good idea, let alone the supposed 99% “reported” in the article.  Even with the “oh, wait, it is ok because it was on a 2 on 1 break” exception.  That is even more RIDICULOUS!

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