Last week it was established there’s one surefire way to get goaltenders everywhere to jump on board with the rest of their union brethren and agree that reducing the girth of their supersized equipment is the way to go.
Threaten to make the nets bigger.
“That’s not a good idea,” said the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk, who prefers smaller equipment “all day” over bigger nets. “If you ask any goalie, our position is based off angles and we have to know where our net is all the time in different situations.
“If you change that, you’re changing everything you ingrained in our body growing up.”
Increasing the size of the nets was a good talker last week, but don’t expect that to happen any time soon. That will always be the last resort, if for no other reason than the millions of dollars it would cost in some arenas to alter below-rink piping in order to facilitate bigger nets.
But as soon as next season, we should see smaller-looking goalies.
The increase-the-nets folk have a point. The NHL is no longer a league with goalies the size of Mike Vernon and John Vanbiesbrouck. The 5-foot-something goalies have mostly gone the way of the dinosaur and been replaced by enormous men like Ben Bishop, Pekka Rinne and, yes, Dubnyk.
The goalies have gotten bigger and the nets have remained the same, which is part of the reason it’s so difficult to score.
It’s only part of the reason though. Coaches have implemented suffocating defensive systems, and skaters, too, have gotten bigger and faster and are playing on the same-sized rink, and referees, as one GM loves to say, “don’t call the rule book.”
For instance, obstruction off faceoffs has become an epidemic and is rarely called. Add a couple of power plays per game and offense should increase.
But goalies are easy to pick on because if you look at yesteryear’s goalie compared to today’s, the size of his equipment has grown exponentially.
The problem isn’t so much the pads, which are now 11 inches wide. It’s the hefty chest protectors, bulky jerseys and ridiculously oversized breezers.
“The real culprit is the pants,” said former goalie Mike Greenlay, the Wild’s TV analyst.
Greenlay recently wore a pair of today’s goalie pants in a pickup hockey game and couldn’t believe it.
“I could have played a couple more years if I wore those things,” Greenlay said, jokingly. “Compared to what they wear now, I wore Daisy Dukes. Pants now are like swimming in a barrel.
“When a goaltender butterflies, that becomes the stopping area. In the old days, if you stopped a puck with your hip, you stopped it with your hip. Now it’s 5 inches off your hip. Are your pants supposed to be a stopping area or a protective area? Right now, it’s a stopping area.”
Dubnyk says he’s allowed extra length because of his 6-foot-6 height and long legs. Goalies who wear their chest protectors inside their pants are also allowed a bigger size.
But Dubnyk said bottom line, as long as goalies are protected, he’s open to any conversation. Kings star goalie Jonathan Quick also endorsed smaller equipment, and Florida’s Mike McKenna tweeted: “I’ve become completely numb to any pending goalie equipment regulation changes. I’ll play in whatever as long as I’m not getting hurt.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo agrees something has to be done. He said it’s amazing how, when he charts scoring chances, “the number of goals you’re scoring per scoring chance has gone down. Now is that a function of the goalies getting bigger, getting better, more athletic? I’m not sure.”
Yeo only knows he doesn’t want bigger nets.
“The problem is with every action, there’s always a reaction,” Yeo said. “If more pucks are going into the net, would that cause us to become more defensive and more passive in our approach? I don’t think we should go to soccer-sized nets, that’s for sure.”
NHL short takes
There has yet to be a significant trade in the NHL this season, mostly because many teams are so close to the salary-cap ceiling. Depending on how much is committed in future years determines whether a team can even take on a player with term left on his deal.
The big rumors last week were that San Jose’s Patrick Marleau would be willing to waive his no-trade clause and that Colorado has been shopping Matt Duchene.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen continues to work the phone hard trying to make a trade for a defenseman. He’s shopping Cam Atkinson and Kerby Rychel hard.
Because of the cap and the fact the 75-cent Canadian dollar may only result in the cap going up marginally again, a lot of free agents expecting gigantic paydays next summer could be awfully disappointed. In fact, it’s one reason you should see more teams re-sign their pending free agents.
It used to be you could get more on the open market. Now players may have no choice but to re-sign with their current teams.
The Red Wings just re-signed Justin Abdelkader to a seven-year deal. Some of the top players who could conceivably become unrestricted next summer include Steven Stamkos, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Byfuglien, Kyle Okposo, Andrew Ladd, David Perron and David Backes.
A decision likely won’t be made until after next year’s World Cup of Hockey, but the NHL has been discussing whether it will participate in the next two Winter Olympics. It still seems a long shot.
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Tuesday: 6:30 p.m. at Pittsburgh
Thursday: 6 p.m. at Boston
Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Nashville
Player to watch: Phil Kessel, Penguins
As if the Penguins weren’t intimidating enough with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, now Pittsburgh has one of the most lethal goal scorers in the NHL.
“We’re a steak dinner for six at Manny’s away from the cap, so we’ve got lots of space as long as somebody doesn’t order the double baked potato.”
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, on the team’s flirtation with the salary cap ceiling.