Every year, there’s a grand discussion about which rules should the NHL should overhaul, tweak, or get rid of entirely. Hockey is a constantly evolving sport as the league tries to put a compelling product on the ice while maintaining its ideal of parity.
With the season around the corner, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan decided to ask some top NHL players what changes they’d make to the league if they could fill commissioner Gary Bettman’s shoes for a day. There were lots of complaints about the 2018 Olympics and postseason refereeing, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who follows the game closely.
Some players’ ideas were a bit more radical than others, though, starting with Jack Eichel. Never one to shy away from expressing his opinions — he recently told SI he thinks hockey players should try showing more personality — the Sabres superstar told ESPN it’s time to ditch one of the oldest rules in hockey.
“No offside. Just hang down at the other end and wait for the puck to come there,” Eichel said.
There’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek tone there, but this is not the first time somebody has complained about the offside rule. Last year, CBS Sports published an article about how it needs to be modified, and this summer, The Hockey News did the same. There’s a growing group of fans and analysts who believe that freeing up the game from the current offside rule would be a good way to make it more entertaining.
One suggestion would be to modify the offside rule so it no longer applies to offensive zone entries. Essentially, you’d be able to carry the puck into the offensive zone whenever you want, but once it’s there, offside rules goes into effect and you’ll need to leave the zone if the puck does. While teams might adjust their strategies for this in unforeseen ways, the idea is intriguing.
It’s not clear if Eichel had something like that in mind, or simply wants to see what would happen with offside scrapped entirely, but it’s an interesting idea. Offsides has become an increasingly controversial rule over the years as a result of the implementation of the challenge review.
The NHL has tweaked its rules regarding challenges for offside entering next season, so you’ll now get a penalty for a failed challenge, but that doesn’t solve how offside clogs the neutral zone or stifles offense.
There are a lot of ways the NHL could try to be more fun, especially if the way to achieve that is more scoring. Eliminating offside would be a big one that would require a sea change in attitudes around the hockey world, but it’s interesting to see a star player wishing it happened.