Earlier this offseason, the NHL approved a few changes, ranging from smaller goalie equipment to shallower nets. Justin discussed the smaller goalie equipment, you can read his piece from the link provided in the previous sentence, but the shallower nets are something that few have discussed. The nets were made smaller from behind, but the size of the opening remain unchanged. The nets themselves were not made smaller, but the dimensions were changed in an attempt to open scoring a bit from behind the net.
The area behind the net is known as Gretzky’s Office. As you can imagine, it is an area where playmakers set up and see the play develop from behind the net. Gretzky was particularly adept at seeing the entire play develop and set up his scorers with perfect passes. While Gretzky’s Office is not utilized as much anymore, it is still an area where playmakers can sit and read the play for offensive chances.
Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch has delved into the impact of the new nets, with images to show the changes, and has a couple of nice tidbits regarding the new shape:
“You’re probably going to notice it a lot on wrap-arounds,” said former NHL player Chris Clark, now the Blue Jackets’ director of player development. “Those times when the goaltender gets his leg across just in time to cover the other post? Those might be goals now.
The shallower nets will expand “Gretzky’s office,” that space behind the net where playmakers feast. As the new frame doesn’t jut out so much, the path from post to post from behind the net will be shorter. (Who knew Euclid would apply so well to hockey?)
These are two very interesting points. We have rarely seen a successful wrap around, as most players choose to take the puck out from behind the net and roof the puck on goalies on their knees. While I disagree a bit with Chris Clark –I don’t think that goalie movement is going to be effected by the new alignment– I do think that we will see more scoring chances originate from behind the net.
One other area where we might see a change is in the offensive breakout. Defending a breakout is difficult, but the one rule of thumb is to never follow the puck behind the net. You wind up trapped as the opposition breaks out with a man advantage. The shallower nets allow for more skating room, which means more chance for a defender to build up steam and get back to cancel the breakout. Of course, this means that there is more room for the defenseman to make that first breakout pass. It’s a give and take here.
This is another step made by the NHL to increase goal scoring without increasing the size of the goal mount itself. I believe they are delaying the inevitable, especially with the safety concerns Justin brought up with the smaller pads, but this is a step in the right direction. I, for one, and interested to see how the new shape of the nets affects scoring, if at all.