What changes would you make to the game?
Scott Burnside: To start, make teams play shorthanded the entire length of a penalty, regardless of whether the opposing team scores. It would be a throwback rule, given that's how the league operated for many years until the Montreal Canadiens dynasty of the 1950s. And I'd take out the trapezoid behind the nets, opening up the space in which a goalie can handle the puck. But the major change -- and one that will never be made, even though it's guaranteed to make the product better -- would be shortening the schedule to 72 games. Fewer injuries, better spacing for games, more practice times for coaches and more recovery time for players. What's not to love? The games would become more meaningful in December and January, and not just in March. You could start the schedule a little later. The biggest upside of it all? Every year the Stanley Cup would be awarded before the end of May. Golden.
Changes in order from least to most wacky:
Three points for a win. Way overdue.
Icings called on teams killing penalties.
Make nets higher and wider, and not as deep.
I like Scott's suggestion of 72-game schedule. The season is too long.
Fewer teams in the playoffs. Eliminate divisions; the top four teams make it from each conference, with two wild cards playing a five-game series with the No. 3 and 4 seeds.
The playoffs are too long and the current system doesn't reward a great season because of the nature of hockey and how easy it is for a low seed to beat a high seed compared to, say, the NBA.
Three-strike rule on fighting: first fight, automatic game misconduct plus a 10-game suspension; second fight, 40-game suspension; third fight, full-season suspension.
Eliminate faceoffs except for when opening a period; replace them with possession and have the opposing team stand behind a designated line.
Permanent 4-on-4 (not as convinced on this one, but I'd like to see it in action).
Before someone tells me not to change the game because it's great the way it is: Hockey didn't always have forward passes or helmets, and had a designated rover. A little change can be good.
Joe McDonald: When a team scores on a delayed penalty, the penalty is still served, which would increase scoring. Another change would be that a penalized team can't ice the puck until it crosses its own blue line. After all, you're shorthanded, so why should you be given an advantage? (Teams with a potent penalty-killing unit aren't afraid to get a penalty late in the game with a one-goal lead because they can ice the puck.) At the U.S. national development camp, players aren't allowed to ice it during a penalty and the kids have adapted to it pretty well.
Rob Vollman: Today's NHL is the fastest, most exciting and most entertaining hockey anywhere in the world or at any time in history. As such, I would be reluctant to introduce anything new, other than an annual super-series with European teams that would count in the standings. Oh, and obviously a skills competition (e.g., the shootout) shouldn't count in the standings and every game should be worth the same total number of points.