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Wednesday Boogie with The Noogie: The Worst Rule in the NHL

And it ain't even close folks. With all the talk of over-the-boards delay of games and instigator rules, there is one rule the NHL brought to us that has made no sense from the start yet continues to be enforced as if it actually improves the game.

I just want to freely play the puck, just like everyone else!
I just want to freely play the puck, just like everyone else!

We are talking about rule 27.8 of course which restricts the movement of a goalie who might be playing the puck. Commonly referred to as the "Goalie Trapezoid", it prevents a well meaning goalie from playing the puck behind his net unless he is in an oddly shaped trapezoid-like area the NHL has somehow deemed magical. The rule starts out innocently enough with just some measurements:

1.8 Goalkeeper's Restricted Area - A restricted trapezoid-shaped area behind the goal will be laid out as follows: Five feet (5') outside of each goal crease (six feet (6') from each goal post), a two-inch (2") red line shall be painted extending from the goal line to a point on the end of the rink ten feet (10') from the goal crease (eleven feet (11') from the goal post) and continuing vertically up the kick plate.

Now that part is just fine by itself, and in fact could be considered a great thing for the guy getting paid by the hour to paint lines on a sheet of ice. I'm all for jobs and job creation folks. A job I'm not a big fan of however is people whose job it is to make rules. They would seemingly be out of a job if they weren't able to come up with a monstrosity like this:

27.8 Restricted Area - A goalkeeper shall not play the puck outside of the designated area behind the net. This area shall be defined by lines that begin six feet (6') from either goal post and extend diagonally to points twenty-eight feet (28') apart at the end boards. Should the goalkeeper play the puck outside of the designated area behind the goal line, a minor penalty for delay of game shall be imposed. The determining factor shall be the position of the puck. The minor penalty will not be assessed when a goalkeeper plays the puck while maintaining skate contact with his goal crease.

I do especially enjoy how they give the goalie an out, like a tiny flicker of hope at the end. 'No no good sir, you can play the puck in the restricted area all you want, just stay in your crease to do it!'

The rule, seemingly put in place to punish a goalie who can actually handle the puck, also eliminates another very important and unpredictable part of the game. It is a part I miss very much, and that is the goalie who struggles with handling the puck.

Gone in an instant is Chris Osgood of the Red Wings attempting to play the puck in the corner during the 1994 Western Conference Quarter Finals against the Sharks. It's game 7, Osgood screws the pooch pretty bad giving up the game/series winner because of gambling and losing. Love it! Fortunately that moment lives on forever on YouTube. Sorry Detroit, that hurts!

That is what I truly miss folks. I know a lot of goalies out there are plenty peeved they are restricted in where they are allowed to help their team, when all I really want to see myself is a goalie frustrating the fan base to no end. That is not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things if you ask me.

Now the reasoning behind the rule is something which I have heard a lot of hockey fans complain about. It creates a buffer zone in the corners for your prototypical dump and chase offense.

With a goalie not allowed to clear out the corners, it give the opposition's offense an opportunity to get in on the fore-check and create puck battles in the corners. Wilderness, you cannot tell me with a straight face you have not explicitly complained about the Wild's (or anyone else's) dump and chase, ad nauseam.

Another argument for the trapezoid was that it would create more opportunities to score goals. So obviously with more opportunities you will see more goals right? Not so much, sorry folks. Here is how those numbers breakdown. The '00-01 seasons saw a goals per game average of 5.51. This number spiked to 6.17g/g in the '05-'06 season when the trapezoid was instituted but has steadily declined since, down to 5.64g/g in the NHL's last full season ('11-'12), and 5.44g/g this lockout-shortened season.

Over the past 13 seasons those numbers fluctuate as teams adjust to the news rules. You will always see a spike in goals as teams adjust to something new. With that, cue the shot-blockers era. Players like Greg Zanon and Dennis Seidenberg have found welcome homes around the NHL because they get bodies in front of shots, period. Well, Zanon probably gets a little help from his beard as well.

To remove the trapezoid free's the goalie and would force skaters to find a different approach towards entering the offensive zone and maintaining pressure. The NHL is the only league in the world that has instituted a restricted area for goalies in the corners. The dump and chase also leads to some violent collisions as fore-checkers bear down on defenders who are placed in a very vulnerable position against the boards.

With a league that is just starting to figure things out, the smart play would be to eliminate a restricted area for goalies. We can never expect to eliminate head injuries altogether in such a violent sport. That should not however be a reason to not try to eliminate some very clear trouble spots on the ice. Mixed with the hybrid icing experiment going on this upcoming pre-season we could return a fun, puck possession oriented game, while maybe eliminating the opportunity for a few extra head injuries along the end-wall.

So please, NHL .... Can we save a little paint behind the goal next season?