NHL should adopt these five suggestions to increase scoring and emphasize skill

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William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The only thing that is wrong with the NHL is, well, the NHL. Hockey is great; playoff hockey is something you have to experience in order to understand it.

But as great as hockey is, it’s not nearly as popular as it should be. It’s succeeded almost in spite of the Neanderthals who have run it forever and tried desperately to keep it in the 1950s.

Every sport undergoes changes, even the NFL which is far and away the most popular sport in the U.S.

Hockey is far better now than it ever has been, but more should be done to increase scoring, speed and skill. And that isn’t hard to do.

So I have come up with five suggestions for rules changes that I think would fundamentally improve the NHL product significantly.

First, and this is easy, but instruct the officials to call more penalties. Crack down on obstruction penalties that take the flow out of the game. Don’t let the greatest players get slowed down by players who hook and hold and clutch and grab.

I am all for hitting. There is nothing like a good, clean hard check to rev up the crowd. But put the emphasis on the unbelievable skill of players like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Patrick Laine, Nathan MacKinnon and Johnny Gaudreau.

Fans will respond to their breathtaking plays far more than they will seeing them hooked and held and unfairly obstructed.

Tell the referees not to put the whistle away, not even in the last five minutes or overtime. The notion that a ref shouldn’t decide the game is ridiculous. He is deciding it if he sees a penalty he doesn’t call just because it happens in the closing stages of a close game. Tell the refs this: If it is a penalty in the first minute of a scoreless game, it should be a penalty in the final minute of a 1-1 game.

Secondly, make a player serve the full two minutes if he’s called for a minor penalty. If it leads to two or, less likely, three power-play goals from one penalty, guess what: Players will react and will foul less. The whole idea of this is to emphasize the skill and talent of the players, and so it’s a good thing if it forces a player to reconsider a penalty he might otherwise have taken.

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NHL referees should call more penalties to crack down on offense-snuffing violations.

My next suggestion goes along with the prior one. Do not allow teams that are short-handed to freely ice the puck. Why should a team that just committed a penalty see the rules change for it and be allowed to ice the puck?

Force them to develop alternate strategies (as well as encouraging them to take fewer penalties). Perhaps teams will play their best players more killing penalties, because they’d be better at getting the puck out of the zone short-handed without icing it than the fourth liners.

Fourth, the league should institute an automatic major penalty, along with an ejection, for any hit to an opposing player’s head. Not only will this make the game safer, it will add to the scoring potential.

Finally, I’d like to see the league move the blue lines a foot further out, reducing the neutral zone but giving more room in the offensive end. While it could clog things up for someone skating through the middle, it will provide more room for the skilled players in the offensive end to work their magic.

A side benefit of a smaller neutral zone would be more hits, and that’s not a bad thing. As ┬álong as the league outlaws hits to the head, open ice checks should be encouraged.

Anything that would make the game faster and increase the reliance of skill and puck movement is a good thing.

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A Calgary Flames player is about to slash Connor McDavid.

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