Each summer NHL officials led by NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan convene to test potential rule changes. This year, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Byslma has been asked to participate due to his status as reigning Jack Adams Trophy recipient.

Among the proposed rule changes to be explored, several focus on power plays with hopes of increasing scoring and eventually deterring illegal infractions.

These rule changes include:

  • Delayed penalty variation (offending team must exit zone in possession of puck to stop play)
  • All penalties to be served in their entirety
  • No icing permitted while shorthanded

A full list of rule changes to be researched can be found at NHL.com

The idea of increasing scoring always seems to surface in the Research and Development camp, but rarely does anything come of it.

This year, however, the proposed rule changes make sense in that they don’t change the game significantly, but also allow for an atmosphere more conducive to scoring.

The first change, and the one that might actually decrease the number of power plays, is a variation on when the whistle is blown to signal a penalty. Currently, officials are instructed to blow the whistle when the guilty team gains possession of the puck. The proposed change says that the guilty team must not only gain possession, but carry the puck out of the zone.

While it may not be overly exciting during the regular season, can you imagine the battles that will ensue come playoffs, when every play seems to be the most important? To me, this brings drama and excitement to a game that already is packed with both. That’s not a bad thing.

Then again, I’m confused what would happen if a penalty is committed in the offensive zone. Would the guilty team gain control and carry the puck backward, toward its own end? Clearly, a little tweaking is needed – which is why they hold this camp.

The second, and my favorite, change is the idea of a two minute “major” penalty. Currently, when a player goes to the penalty box for two minutes, he is permitted to return to action if the opposition scores during that time. In other words, one goal is the limit. The proposed change, however, would set no goal limit, forcing a guilty player to serve the full two minutes of the penalty, even if the opposition scores.

Sure, this could turn the NHL into a gun-slinging league, where teams frequently surpass five goals in a game, but then again, it also could deter teams from dressing no-talent hacks who spend more time in the penalty box than on the ice. Either way, it helps the game, right?

Lastly, the NHL has the idea of eliminating the option for a penalty killing team to ice the puck without repercussion. Currently, the team with the man disadvantage can clear the puck and regroup, but the proposed change says that such an action would result in an icing call and a faceoff in the defensive zone.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing exciting about stops in action, but the way I see it, this idea creates more action than it eliminates. Like the first rule change mentioned above, this one encourages desperation, an element that brings out the best (or worst) in hockey players. It’s an exciting idea, and one I would be in favor of implementing.

All that being said, the Research and Development Camp will analyze each rule change from various viewpoints to determine which, if any, make sense to implement. While I believe all three of the above rules make sense, at least in part, it’s difficult to imagine the NHL will approve all three. But with a decline in scoring over the last few seasons, one can hope the NHL realizes the urgency to encourage an increase.