Wider Nets Is a Dumb Idea

Courtesy of Amy Irvin

More net = more goals, duh! (image courtesy of Amy Irvin/38 Photogrophy)

Subprime mortgages. Going home with the girl who lets you do body shots off her. Roman Chechmanek.

Do you know what these things have in common?

All three had immediate short-term gains resulting in devastating, long-term, unforeseen, negative results. Widening the nets would just be another ill-conceived, short sighted quick fix to a problem that actually doesn’t exist.

“But goal scoring is awesome!” “Goalies’ pads are too big” “Whaaa…cry…etc.”

These are the bellows of idiots. However, let’s pretend the NHL gives into the dinger lovin’, Stephen A. Smith watchin’ ESPN crowd and widens the nets (arbitrarily) by one foot making the cage 7′ x 4′.

The very first thing that would happen is that at 5’10”, Jhonas Enroth’s career would end the second this announcement is made. Next (aside from Jonathan Quick) all goalies would have to be a minimum 6’5″ (which was going to happen anyway). Finally, goal scoring will go up. Wooooooo!

But how sustainable would this effect be and what is the ironic twist that we often see in deals with the Devil?

Well, initially goal scoring will go up to achieve the desired effect and increase goals per game by (my best guess is) 3-4 more red light activations. This is of course until goalies figure out how to attenuate to their larger habitats.

Look, I get it. Goalies wear pads that are twice the size that are half the weight of what they used to wear in the early 90’s, 80’s, Stone Age, or whatever time period Generic Argument Person decides to reference. Despite my snark, this has admittedly given goalkeepers a competitive advantage that they didn’t once have. However, whenever I hear people make the “equipment was different in my day” argument I think of my dude, Hall of Fame goalie, Turk Broda here:

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This is bit of a loaded/exaggerated example, but Broda used to eat a stack of pancakes before every game and have himself a couple of Steve Coates style “Canadian ginger ales” in-between periods. Could you imagine  not just a professional athlete doing this today, but a professional anything trying to pull off such a routine? I jockey a desk all day and there is NO WAY that this would fly.

This is relevant to goalies adapting because if you look at the training that Jonathan Quick does (chronicled here by the Player’s Tribune) to stop pucks, it’s not hard to imagine which goalie is going to be better at his job no matter what equipment they are wearing.

So will go scoring go up?

Sure, but only until (physically) bigger goalies figure out how to move laterally faster, and more efficiently than they already do now.

The point is that goals per game will spike but eventually level off as goalies adapt.

Goal scoring will also level off because having a wider net has a negative affect on offensive production.

No you didn’t misread that. Having a larger target will inhibit goal production for two reasons:

  1. I know that most fans hate it when the defenseman is just standing behind the net doing nothing, but what he is actually doing is waiting for the breakout to develop so his team can go from defense to offense. That guy “standing there doing nothing” is analogous to a quarterback standing in the pocket waiting for receivers to execute their routes. But also like a quarterback, “that pocket” behind the net collapses fast and a wider net would physically trap that defender forcing him to travel a further distance under duress to escape the fore-checker coming to kill him. A wider net would also force all breakouts to go from the boards and then move inward towards the center of the ice.  Which means no more 70 foot home run breakaway passes, and even worse, breakouts will be much more predictable for fore-checkers, essentially resulting in a game where teams trade 2 minute possessions (like football) because no one can get out of their zone.
  2. Excuse my memory if it’s off, but wasn’t it this exact same time last year where everyone was juiced up about the nets being smaller? Reducing the depth of net was one of the most sensible things the NHL has ever done because it provided more room to maneuver to behind the net (which is essentially dead ice for the offense), and also allowed for much sharper angled passes from behind the net which helps breakouts for the aforementioned reason, but more importantly creates a dimension to offense that previously didn’t exist as evidenced by Evegeny Kuznetsov here:

 

Widening the nets would result in an initial increase in goal scoring, however, history suggests that goalies will continue to evolve to bring whatever goal scoring spike back to down to reality. Wider nets will also ironically inhibit offensive production by limiting all players’ abilities to escape from behind the net eliminating sick, awesome no-look, backdoor passes as well as defenders’ ability to start the break out.

So, what happens in a couple of years after widening the nets has been deemed not an effective enough measure to increase goal scoring? What then?

The next logical answer is to strip masked men of all of their gear and put lacrosse goalies on skates to make game scores 25-1,000! That will bring all of the fringe fans, ratings, and advertising dollars won’t it NHL?!

There will come another time for me to gripe about the world’s prejudice against goalie gear, but for now, ask yourself, ‘Will 3-4 more goals a game enhance my hockey watching experience?’ Or, ‘Will you stop watching if games don’t have 3-4 more goals per game?’

Increased goal scoring is merely an attempt to draw in new fans and fringe fans that don’t appreciate hockey for the great game that it already is. Widening the nets would be a reductive step towards gimmickry in the same way that there was once that terrible trampoline basketball league.

The beauty in this game is in its complexity. So, NHL, don’t dumb down for people that didn’t care about it in the first place.

 

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