THN.com Blog: Removing red line did more harm than good

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

As scoring in the NHL continues to drop like a rock – I mean, will Roberto Luongo ever let in another freakin' goal? – the NHL is once again faced with something of a crisis in terms of its entertainment value.

No league has altered its product more dramatically than the NHL has in the past few seasons, but none of it has resulted in the explosion of offense everyone hoped for after the league came out of the lockout.

When the NHL made the bold move of removing the red line, almost all of the hockey world was clearly in favor of the change. But there was a small, quiet faction that wondered whether the move might be doing more harm than good to the product.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, the verdict is in and removing the red line has been a failure.

None of us has anything more than anecdotal evidence on this one, but I believe that removing the center red line has stifled far more chances than it has created.

The long stretch passes that sprung talented forwards for breakaways are almost non-existent now. Instead, they've been replaced by a line of defenders in the neutral zone that has formed because teams are scared to death about giving up the breakaway pass.

And now people are talking about making the ice bigger, which I believe would not contribute one iota to creating more offense. Ask anyone who has scouted Europe extensively and they'll tell you that the big ice surface with no red line has created games that often have the spectators looking for knitting needles to poke into their eyes.

Shots that look like they might be from a scoring area are not even dangerous and having more ice gives slow-footed defensemen more room to angle off forwards trying to beat them to the outside.

Clearly coaches have adjusted to the new NHL. On a game on TSN Wednesday night, future Toronto Maple Leafs president Glenn Healy was going on glowingly about the New York Islanders and their ability to get the puck in deep, 200 feet away from their own net, but not even try to create any offense.

There were 9,211 people at that game.

That, of course, was the bogus "announced" attendance, meaning the real head count was more like 7,000.

When the Islanders play like that, is there any wonder why?

To be sure, the league once again faces a monumental task in increasing excitement. It could go the easy route and make the nets bigger, although that won't create a single additional scoring chance.

Or it could admit that it made a mistake by taking out the red line and put it back in effective next season.

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