Assessing if the NHL should move to bigger nets

Larger net animation by

Larger net animation by

Recently in an interview Mike Babcock brought up his argument for the NHL to make the nets bigger yet again this week, and it definitely poses an interesting question, should the league make the nets bigger to make it easier on the players to score?

The first thing I thought of was that this was a desperate attempt at an excuse for the Maple Leafs lack of scoring lately, but apparently this is also a point Babcock was trying to make while he was still coaching the Red Wings. Here is what Babcock had to say in regards to the nets being small, and the goalies being to big.


Here are some of the bigger points that Babcock made about the size of the nets.

“It’s impossible to score,” said Babcock. “All you gotta do is a math equation. You go to 1980 when the puck went in the net. You got the average size of the goalies in the NHL and the average size of the net. You keep growing the net bigger, that would make the game the same. We change the game every year because we don’t want to change the game. The net’s too small for the size of the goalies. Period.”

Here are a look at the numbers to help prove Babcock’s point.

In 1981-82, NHL teams scored 4.01 goals per game and the average save percentage was around .870. Wayne Gretzky led the league with 92 goals and 212 points. Billy Smith won the Vezina Trophy with a .900 save percentage.

In 2014-15, it was 2.73 goals per game and a .915 average save percentage. Alex Ovechkin‘s 53 goals led the league; Jamie Benn‘s 87 points gave him the Art Ross Trophy; and Carey Price won the Vezina with a .936 save percentage.

Any hockey fan that consistently watches the game today knows how hard it is to score on the goalies. Now you can either credit that to the nets being too small, the goalie equipment being larger, or simply the fact that the goalies just have gotten better over the years. Surely we probably won’t see a goal scorer come anywhere close to a 92 goal season in our lifetime again, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Me personally as a hockey fan, I don’t need to see teams score five to six goals a game for it to be an exciting game or keep my attention. Now I understand that everyone isn’t an avid hockey fan like myself, and for those who aren’t who just like to casually watch the games, they wanna see goals. So who should the NHL try to market towards?

This last off-season the NHL has made a move towards more goal scoring, and a move to reduce it. The big new move to increase the amount of goals we see was the addition of the 3 on 3 overtime to this season. With the amount of open ice and the speed of the current players in the league, the goal of this was that the game would be finished by more in-game goal scoring instead of waiting for the shootout to finish the job, and so far that has worked.

The new 3 on 3 overtime has definitely added more scoring to the game today, but what if we did make the nets bigger? Would the league have to completely get rid of shootouts all together if the nets were made bigger, simply because it is already a big disadvantage to the goalies as it is in the shootouts and if they make the nets bigger on them it becomes a near impossible task. I do believe the league is working their way towards trashing the shootouts all together, which if you’re a hockey fan is absolutely great news, but I do think that if the league were to make the nets bigger it would have to be the first order of business to take care of.

With the addition of the new overtime system taking a step forward to help the league get more scoring, we also took a step back with the new coach’s challenge. Another new rule this year was that a coach could be allowed to challenge the ruling of a goal on the ice. My only issues with the coach’s challenge so far is that it is in the hands of the referees and the calls are inconsistent across the league. The war-room in Toronto should have the final say on the goal taking the call out of the referees hands and have one governing body over the calls to gain a more consistent ruling. The biggest problem so far has also been goals being taken away due to apparent goaltender interference.

Here are three different scenarios where goals were either upheld or disallowed due to goaltender interference.

Disallowed: No Goal


Upheld: Good Goal

Disallowed: No goal

Now the two goals that were disallowed should have counted ten times out of ten, and there was no reason for those not to be upheld as good goals. The one goal that did get allowed seemed like the most blatant goalie interference out of the three. Taking these calls to the war-room in Toronto will help set a firm case for what is or isn’t goalie interference which should make for a more consistent call allowing the right goals to be counted and the wrong ones to be disallowed.

You also can’t take away the fact that the goalies simply have gotten better over the year, and the style of play that we see now is on a different planet as opposed to the style of play from the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. Sure you can argue that the pads are bigger, the nets not big enough, and that the athletes have gotten bigger, but that’s all about the progression of the game as a whole. The small and quick butterfly style goalies that we grew up seeing just simply wouldn’t exist in this league, and that’s why we’ve seen such a drastic difference in size growth in goaltenders because simply there is a demand for them. So of course it is harder to score in the league these days, but that’s what makes it more satisfying when you do and makes the games that much more intense and exciting.

I personally do not see the need for bigger nets, but of course my opinion isn’t going to be taken into consideration due to the fact that I’m not the one lacing up my skates every night or grabbing my clipboard to be apart of the game. I don’t think the NHL will do anything about the net sizes anytime soon simply due to the fact that the game has looked the best it has in years.

The silly part is that as I am writing this blog, I am watching the Chicago Blackhawks play the St. Louis Blues, and there was just 7 goals in the first period. Obviously not every game is going to be that ridiculous with the scoring, but I just have never noticed or heralded an outcry to need more scoring. The NHL did increase the net size once already in 2009 to try to increase scoring, so it’s not out of the question that they might do it again.

What do you think, should the NHL make the nets bigger? Comment below!

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