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THN.com Blog: Bigger can be better

Even with decreased goalie equipment, players don’t have a lot to shoot at.

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Even with decreased goalie equipment, players don’t have a lot to shoot at.

Darcy Regier may not be winning many friends in Buffalo these days, following a sorry summer that has resulted in an awful autumn for his Sabres. But we applaud him for remaining vigilant in his efforts to improve the offensive flow in the game.

In a story by Buffalo News reporter and THN contributor John Vogl, the Sabres GM says he’s committed to finding ways to open up the game and make it as entertaining as possible for the fans.

While it’s important to note Regier firmly believes hockey remains a great game, he sees room for improvement and an obligation to get there. That goal-scoring this season has dipped to 5.5 per game – compared to 5.9 at this point last season and 6.2 through the first part of 2005-06 – supports that notion.

His most controversial suggestion is to create more shooting space by either making the goalies smaller or, dare we say it, making the nets bigger.

For some reason, the latter notion sends many hockey people into apoplectic fits. Let’s change everything else about the game: the skates, the sticks, the equipment, the rink dimensions, bigger offensive zones, smaller offensive zones, overtimes and shootouts.

Let’s witness the players get significantly bigger, stronger and faster. Let’s see goaltending technique and gear improve to the point where shooters need a GPS to find some netting. But don’t ever, ever tinker with the size of a goal cage that has been the same  4 x 6 – forever.

We’ve heard the all the arguments – the record book would be rendered moot; that it would be too drastic a change. We don’t buy it. The record book has been impacted by a plethora of amendments over the years, both organic and legislated, and increasing the size of the net would be no different.

As for it being too drastic, we aren’t talking soccer-sized goals, just a few inches wider or taller, or both. Will coaches try to become even more defense-oriented to protect a larger cage? Perhaps, but we’re surmising that goals would beget goals. Fall behind 2-0 early on shots that maybe wouldn’t have gone in on a smaller net and, as a coach, you’re forced to alter your strategy and take more risks.

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Of course, we can’t guarantee it would serve its purpose. But we love Regier’s idea of establishing an R&D program to test new ideas. The AHL has also been open to the concept of experimentation and we know that some of the top executives in the NHL are onside, or at least receptive of the idea.

We say bring it on.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE We may never know what Rangers superpest Sean Avery really said to Darcy Tucker in last weekend’s fiasco in Toronto, but we do know this: whatever it was, it needn’t have ignited an inferno.

There is no place in our game for indecent behavior, words of spite that cross lines of decency. We can all agree on that. But grown, mature men should also realize those words are a reflection of the speaker’s character, not the recipient’s – unless, of course, you sink to his level.

So what to do if you’re Darcy Tucker and you believe you, or one of your teammates, has been mortally wounded by a verbal dart? We suggest one, or a combination of the following to shut up the foe:

1.    Win the game
2.    Take his number and administer some “clean” retribution within the rules of the game.
3.    Consider the source and laugh it off
4.    Report him

We realize some of the aforementioned don’t fall within the parameters of hockey’s “code”, but maybe it’s time for code to be amended.

That notion was reinforced when we heard one radio commentator promote fighting as a means of quieting pests such as Avery. You know, the old “if you drop the instigator rule, the game would police itself” philosophy.

Gimme a freakin’ break.

That’s like telling our kids to lay a beating on anyone who makes fun of them at school. Every other legitimate team sport has an instigator rule: Fight and you’re ejected.

As adults, we set the example. End of story.

LOOK WITHIN The Maple Leafs sent out a memo this fall advising media members unconventional cameras were banned from the dressing room.

In light of Jiri Tlusty’s cell phone capers, perhaps they should be banning them from their own players.

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