As a hockey fan, I’m always debating with friends over which rules the NHL should change to make the product more enjoyable for fans. I’ve got a lot of problems with you, Gary Bettman — here are some changes you should make to the NHL starting immediately:
Get rid of the salary cap
The salary cap is flawed in a number of ways. First of all, it dries up the free agent market, leading to gross overpayments for players such as David Clarkson. The only true way to get top-end talent under a salary cap is to tank, which is happening to a number of teams this season, and will only become more prevalent in the future. Eliminating the salary cap would rejuvenate the free agency and trade market, as well as reduce the incentive to tank.
No more preseason
Preseason was important back in the ‘70s when players had to get rid of their beer guts. Today, being an athlete is a yearlong commitment, and players stay fit throughout the offseason — it’s big news when a hockey player shows up to training camp overweight or out of shape. This would allow the regular season to start earlier and end earlier, which would be good for business, as the Stanley Cup finals wouldn’t have to compete with the NBA finals for ratings, where it gets routinely trounced (in the American market, at least).
You could also say that the preseason is important for player evaluation, but the league could easily extend the number of games a rookie can play without a year of his contract counting from nine games to 15 — and give teams incentive to try out the youth in the first few games.
Three points for a win
The shootout isn’t necessarily a bad way to decide a game, the NHL just needs to make sure that it decides as few games as possible. Giving three points for a regulation win instead of two seems to be the easiest solution, as it would give teams chasing a playoff spot or teams trying to win their division more incentive to go for it at the end of a game. It doesn’t sit well with me that winning in regulation and winning in a skills competition gives you the same amount of points.
Contract at least two teams
Contracting at least two teams would help the business aspect, as the richer teams would not have to help prop up teams that are too inept to get fans to the rink. My vote is for the two unmitigated disasters that are the Florida Panthers and the Arizona Coyotes. Relocation would be a good idea as well, but with the Canadian dollar slumping, even the currently profitable Canadian markets aren’t a sure bet.