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NHL GMs ponder the return of the red line

Mar 9, 2012, 7:30 AM EDT

Ken Hitchcock AP

As an unrepentant hockey nerd, few things bring me more joy than a gorgeous, tape-to-tape outlet pass.

For that reason, the scuttlebutt around the return of the red line – and the two-line pass rule that would come with it – scares me. That being said, there are more than a few general managers who believe that re-instituting the red line would help “control” a game that’s gotten faster and increasingly dangerous but not necessarily more skilled.

Yahoo’s Nicholas Cotsonika provides an in-depth report on the debated issue, including Ken Hitchcock’s interesting argument for its return.

“If you want more puck possession in the game, you’ve got to bring the red line back in the game so there’s more control,” Hitchcock said. “It slows down a little bit. Second thing, the big hits on the defensemen, it comes from the middle of the ice. It doesn’t come from the walls. It comes from the middle of the ice.”

Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman understands the sentiment behind bringing back the red line, but advances a compelling counterargument: are we so certain that the removal of the red line is really the main culprit for an increase in injuries?

“In theory, I understand it,” Bowman said. “I don’t know in actuality. Is that why there’s been injuries? Because of the red line? Or is it more that there’s no obstruction? … I don’t know if there’s a correlation between the red line and injuries. … If you really broke it down, I’m not so sure that allowing the stretch pass is going to result in more concussions.”

source: Getty ImagesWhile one defense-leaning coach made an argument for the red line, Nashville Predators bench boss Barry Trotz articulates my worst fears about bringing back back the red line.

“I think actually it would hurt the game, putting the red line back in, to be honest, because of the fact that you could just back up and keep everybody in front of you,” Trotz said. “Now they can spread you out, and it allows the skill players a little bit more room.”

If the league really wants to limit injuries related in large part to unnecessary collisions, here’s my two-pronged suggestion that could take care of some of the concerns without allowing devious defensive coaches to get their trap-friendly red line back:

1. Remove the trapezoid: Why get rid of the red line when you can remove two other red lines that arbitrarily limit a marketable skill for puck-moving goalies? By allowing the Martin Brodeurs of the world more freedom to play the puck, defensemen wouldn’t have to subject themselves to as many collisions and yawn-inducing dump-and-chase strategies would be a little less effective.

2. Hybrid/no-touch icing: It’s funny that the NHL’s executives are pondering a rather drastic change yet they continuously ignore an alteration to a rule that places players in danger for marginal returns. How many ugly touch-up injuries need to happen before the league wises up? Is the chase for those pucks thrilling enough – and the success rate in attempting to retrieve those loose pucks high enough – for them to be worth the risks?

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So how do you feel about these ideas? What rule changes and/or tweaksshould be considered – if any? Debate away in the comments.

  1. Stiller43 - Mar 9, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Both of yours are way better than adding in the red line again. Yuck.

  2. predswilrule - Mar 9, 2012 at 7:44 AM

    the game doesnt need changing. change the rules and punishment for hits to the head and running a player from behind into the boards. clearly, they havent gotten a message yet because a serious one hasnt been sent.

  3. billsin20xx - Mar 9, 2012 at 7:52 AM

    Here’s an idea from Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo news –
    My suggestion since 2005: Keep the red line and dump both blue lines — the offside line then would be the red line — until the puck enters the offensive zone.

    You can’t have a neutral-zone trap without a neutral zone. Once the puck enters the offensive zone, the blue line comes back into play. Teams still would be forced to set up more often. Long passes would still be encouraged, but they would be shorter than the ones today.

  4. rainyday56 - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    In the next CBA:
    Negotiate a player safety program including an annual training and certification program for player.
    Install a lifetime ban for players that are irreconcilable repeat offenders.
    Simplify the cap structure so they can lay off a bunch of bean counters and replace them with player safety officials (travelling,impartial,one for each game.)

    Start changing the business, not the game.

  5. zachg10 - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    I completely agree on Hybrid Icing. As a CAPS fan I find myself both cheering and cringing every time a speedster like Chimera pushes it trying to beat a defender out. Bringing back the redline may or may not help with player safety but it will alienate the new crop of fans that found the game after the strike.

  6. fishtales10 - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    No touch icing and removing the trapezoid would curb injuries to defensemen for sure without lose to gameplay excitement.

  7. gsr1191 - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    please dont bring back the redline. I really don’t want to go back to the world of trap hockey and and avg score of 2-1!!

    I think the trapezoid should be removed (even though i’m a pens fan and Fleurys biggest weakness is playing the puck). Both that and the no touch icing would help with injuries.

  8. j0ey15 - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    Do NOT bring back the red line and no way with the “no touch icing” what are we playing in house hockey? leave the game as is

  9. pavelfitzgerald - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    Couldn’t agree more with you on the icing rule. Don Cherry has been saying it for years too (one of the only reasonable things he says). Bringing bal the red line means the trap will become even worse – awful idea. I like the one commenters idea of no blue lines better then bringing back the red line but even that is a bit extremem.

  10. mehetmet - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    no-touch icing is the way to go. also yeah, get rid of the trapezoid. why not let goalies give it away more because they think that they can play the puck like Brodeur. it would result in more goals i think, half these goalies think they help they play but really ruin it and turn it over most of the time.

  11. chiadam - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    The game will not be safer unless and until the players develop some sort respect for one another. Stop taking runs at other guy’s heads. Stop low-bridging guys. Keep your elbows down when you hit (and, as a result, your stick on the ice). Then the game will be safer.

  12. islandersfan - Mar 9, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    I completely agree with both of your suggestions – especially the no touch icing. There have simply been way to many bad injuries over the years from racing towards a puck nestled at the end boards ….

    As for the red line, I understand the concept and the idea needs to be talked about but no, leave it as is in that regard. There were big hits and concussions back then as well just not the awareness of today to give it the publicity that we currently experience.

  13. BarberPoleBlog - Mar 9, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    As someone who spends a lot of time in Junior Hockey rinks watching the OHL, I can tell you that I’ve never, not once, had an instance where I saw a no-touch icing occur and wished that a race for the puck had been allowed in that instance.

    In my experience, no-touch icing has no impact on the “excitement level” of a game. Touch-up icing should be done away with immediately.

  14. bcisleman - Mar 9, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Not sure about the center red line or the trapezoid, but the no touch icing is a no-brainer. NHL should also go to international rules about headshots with an automatic ejection and suspension. Hasnt made the international game less interesting at all in my view.

  15. drewsylvania - Mar 9, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Yes, let’s make the game SLOWER. #redlinefail

  16. Buffalo Grumblings - Mar 9, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    The great skating teams of the Canadiens in thet 70’s had no problem with the redline. It didn’t slow down Guy LaFluer. And they didn’t wear helmets. And just start penalizing these guys that constantly head hunt.

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