History Lesson

There once was a time when a toe could make or break a game in the National Hockey League. One sliver of a skate in the crease could result in a no-goal call. One inconsequential fragment of a skater’s body part in the blue paint could eliminate a goal. The no-goal due to a skate in the crease was first enacted in the NHL for the 1991-92 season along with an increase in the size and shape of the crease. In conjunction with these changes, the NHL introduced video replay for the first time. These three changes would create controversy throughout the 1990’s, and everything culminated in 1999 during game six of the Stanley Cup Finals where the Dallas Stars took a 3-2 series lead into Buffalo against the Sabres.

Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek, winner of the two previous NHL MVP awards in 1997 and 1998, had been unbelievable for the seventh seeded Sabres in the 1999 playoffs thus far, and needed another spectacular start to force a game seven back in Dallas. The game was tied at one through 60 minutes of play. The game pushed on into overtime, double overtime and finally triple OT. Nearing the end of the third overtime period, with just over five minutes of play remaining, Mike Modano finds Jere Lehtinen who takes a shot from the left circle, Hasek makes the save but the puck is loose, Mike Modano comes in to wack at it but the puck magically finds it’s way onto Brett Hull’s stick and he puts it home for the Stanley Cup winning goal! But wait, it appears that Hull’s foot was in the crease. The rule stated that one could be in the create only after the puck had already been there first. Despite that initially happening, the puck left the crease but Hull’s foot did not, and then he scores. Commissioner Gary Bettman said that because he kept possession the goal was allowed to count, but many disagreed, including Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. According to the rule book, and how it had been called since 1991, the goal should not have counted. But who wants to call back a Stanley Cup winning goal in triple overtime? After much controversy, the NHL redacted the “toe-in-the-crease” rule and the system we have today was created.

At the time, an overwhelming majority agreed with the elimination of such a strict rule on goaltender interference. A toe in the crease that has nothing to do with the play shouldn’t be overturned. It was incredibly frustrating to always have to wonder if a scramble in front of the net will result in a no-goal call because of an errant skate blade. Since 1999, the game has changed dramatically. Along with the elimination of the foot-in-the-crease rule, the crease itself shrunk from it’s previous half moon shape that extended  to what we know today. After 2005, the two-line pass became legal, and the game became faster than ever.


With so many changes to the game’s speed and players’ skill , along with the ever shrinking size of goaltender’s equipment and the addition of carbon fiber sticks (as opposed to wooden ones), and the frustration that has grown due to very inconsistent calling on goaltender interference, it’s time for the NHL to revisit a more strict crease rule. There are certainly pros and cons, but here are several reasons why reenacting a more strict rule is viable.

  1. The crease is smaller than it was in the 1990’s, making it less likely for a player to find themselves in the crease but so far out of the play it makes no difference.
  2. The type of hacking and shoving that used to be synonymous with standing in front of the net have all but faded. Therefore, it’s much easier to get positioning in front of the net, so players can stand where they need to without having to worry about a cross-check to the back. This fact means its less likely for the back of a player’s skates to end up in the crease.
  3. The current rule allows for too much subjectivity. Even with the league shifting to allow replay officials to make the call on goaltender interference, there will still be subjective calls with different rulings. Even the same person, from game-to-game could potentially make different calls on similar plays. You can find the current ruling here on page 162-166. The foot-in-the-crease rule would eliminate almost all subjectivity on the matter.
  4. The size of the crease could be adjusted to be shortened to only 4 feet from the net, eliminating the circular portion and have it stop at the posts whereas currently it goes one foot beyond. Goalies would still be able to roam outside the crease, and if they’re physically impeded it can still result in a no-goal call, but it would eliminate some of the fringe “toe-in-the-crease” fiascoes.
  5. The NHL could adopt IIHF Rule 184i, which says: “If an attacking skater establishes position in the goal crease, play will be stopped and the ensuing faceoff will take place at the nearest faceoff spot in the neutral zone.” However, the solution given in this article seems like a more balanced approach. Stopping the play during an offensive attack just because of positioning seems extreme. It doesn’t give the skater an opportunity to reset and establish legal positioning.

These five concepts create as objective of a goalie interference rule as one can create. Frustrations would still arise from such a rule, but the rule would be clear. Players and coaches could complain, but would ultimately understand since the rules are very apparent and obvious. The late Pat Burns, coach of the Boston Bruins at the time, was clearly upset after his Bruins had lost in double overtime of game three in the 1998 playoffs to the Washington Capitals because in the first overtime, his team had a goal called back due to a foot-in-the-crease that ultimately didn’t effect the play. “The rule is that, and that’s it. It’s no goal and I could sit here and moan about it for 15 or 20 minutes and it’s not going to change nothing,” said Burns.

Players, coaches and even fans would be more forgiving of a constant, consistent and objective rule with regards to goalie interference. Obviously, this is just a starting point. Language can be used to give referees and goal judges the ability to allow a goal if the the “toe-in-the-crease” had zero effect on the play. This does allow for some subjectivity but not nearly as much as is currently tolerated. The goaltender interference crisis will never be perfected but it will not be consistent until the NHL recognizes objectivity is king.

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Through their first 10 games, only 18 goals. They’ve since scored 13 goals in two games, but that is probably more of an anomaly than a new trend. In reality, it’s no secret, this team can’t score. What’s worse, they only have 4 wins through 12 games. To put it mildly, this season is lost.

If you look at the team’s stats, Jonathan Drouin leads the way with 9 points through 12 games. Brendan Gallagher leads in the goal department with four. Is it time to hit the panic button yet? I believe, it should have been pushed a couple years ago.

Looking back at the 2015-16 season, the Habs finished with a mediocre 38-38-6 record. Carey Price played 12 games, and no one on the team played with better than a +4 in the +/- category. Read into that what you will, but the Habs missed the playoffs and only finished better in the Atlantic division than the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. Not something to be proud of for a team that was on everyone’s list as a playoff team. That season should have been the point they hit panic button.

Looking at the last 10 cup winners, only 2 of them had a goalie win the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP. Contrary to popular belief that all one needs is a hot goalie to win the Cup, t’s hard to be a Cup champion when your best player is your goalie. It takes a great system, solid D, and timely goals. Looking at where the league has been trending the last few years, your team’s best player needs to be the center. When one looks at their team on paper, they should be able to say that the number one center is the best player or close to it. The Hab’s number one center, Drouin, would be hard to argue as the number second or third best player on that team. He may not even be a true center. He played the beginning part of his career in Tampa Bay as a winger.

For a team that has so much trouble scoring, their highest paid player should not be their goaltender. You cannot rely on Price to carry the team every year. If he plays average (this year for example) or even above average, this team will struggle to get into the playoffs. Not to mention, the defense in front of him is poor outside of Shea Weber. One of the worst groups of 6/7 D-men in the league. Now, did Carey Price deserve the money he got on his contract extension? Yes. If there was ever a guy that could easily be a team’s MVP, it’s Price. They have relied too much on him to carry the team, and when he was injured or while he’s playing average this year, it shows in the win column. What the Habs should have done, was deal Price before his extension was signed and finish a rebuild.

Price’s current deal at $6.5 mil, does have a modified NTC. This would have restricted the ability to trade him to 15 teams of Price’s choosing, which likely would not have been bottom-of-the-league teams. Looking at the remaining teams, who could and would have traded for Price? Perhaps Dallas, Winnipeg, the Islanders, Flyers, or Calgary? This is assuming the Habs move Price at the draft this past year after the Habs won the division and Price’s value was very high. So what could they have gotten in return? Start with Travis Hamonic for example.

The Islanders received a first and 2 seconds for a top-4 defenseman. For the teams listed above, their need for a quality goalie would definitely have gotten the Habs a greater return. We’re talking multiple first rounders, a prospect, and a quality NHL roster defenseman/center. Take for example the Flyers. Now while I like Brian Elliott, Carey Price is clearly a big upgrade. The Flyers could have moved the 2017 first rounder (#27 pick acquired in the Blues trade), one of their 2018 first rounders, another mid rounder and/or a prospect, and perhaps Sean Couturier? Looking at this current year, Couturier has been good in their number 1 center role, but Philly has an abundance of centers and moving Couturier may not have hurt as much with the return coming their way. Not to mention, the arrival of Patrick Nolan would have eased that trade for the fans.

Now, this is all hypothetical, but looking at what Couturier is doing with Vorachek, being able to put Drouin on the wing would have been a better fit for the Habs, as he continues to grow. Not to mention, Couturier is capable of handling the defensive aspect of a number one role. So with Price out of Montreal, where do they turn in goal? Montoya is a great backup, but not a number one. Looking at available free agents; Jonathan Bernier, Brian Elliot, or Steve Mason would have been solid options. Obviously a downgrade in goal, but a definite upgrade at the center position. Would this have been worth it? Yes.

At this point, you’re looking to rebuild on the fly. You acquire a capable number one center, you now have Drouin (a potential 30 to 40 goal scoring winger), and now some future pieces in prospects or draft picks. You could also use those extra draft picks along with Galchenyuk, to flip for a top-4 defensman, something Montreal desperately needs. Again, these are all hypotheticals, but it gives you options to rebuild quickly. Either way, now you don’t have to spend $10.5 million a year on a goalie, which is going to hinder their ability to lock down a number one center or other big goal scorers in the future. Plain and simple, your goalie cannot be the highest paid player on the team.

For me the answer is simple, Price should have been traded.

Each week, Overtime Hockey Talk will compile the best headlines and articles from around the league for each team. The order has significance, as it will follow the league standings from top to bottom. In this week’s case, the St. Louis Blues get the honor after their 4-0 start.

  • St Louis Blue – A great start can be your ticket to the playoffs (see 2016-17 Columbus Blue Jackets). It was easy to pick the St. Louis Blues to fall in the Central after losing Robbie Fabbri, and not having made any external acquisitions of note♪ over the offseason. The Blues will have to rely heavily on Jake Allen (which is great for children’s cancer research), but this Blues team looks pretty real, especially Tarasenko…[Bleed In Blue]

  • Chicago Blackhawks – No other team has made more adjustments to their defensive core than the Chicago Blackhawks. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell and Trevor van Riemsdyk are all gone, leaving head coach Joel Quenneville some work to figure out who pairs well together. Connor Murphy being scratched for Cody Franson is a situation to keep eyes on. [Chicago Tribune]

  • New Jersey Devils –  The Devils are 3-0 and doing it in such a way that is very un-Devils-like by scoring 16 goals in those 3 games. They look fast & exciting and Cory Schneider looks like he’s worked hard to return to form. All that said, former Devil’s goaltender and analyst Chico Resch has come out of retirement and returned to the broadcast booth and he’s on Twitter. If you haven’t seen #ChicoEats, you’re missing out…[Twitter]

  • Vegas Golden Knights – No one expected to this team to win their first three games but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. They beat an Arizona Coyotes team that looks to be a mess right now. However, the story that may effect this team long-term is the fact that Vadim Shipachyov, Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch have all been sent to the minors because GM George McPhee hasn’t been able to move all the extra defensemen (9 on the active roster with Clayton Stoner on IR) that he took during the expansion draft. Shipachyov wasn’t happy about it and McPhee apparently waited until after the fact to explain why he did it. Yikes. [Knights on Ice]

  • Colorado Avalanche – Nail Yakupov has seen early success playing on a line with Matt Duchene and Alex Kerfoot, but what if the Avs finally trade Duchene? For now, it’s good to see the biggest bust of the salary cap era leading his team in scoring with 3 goals and 2 assists, already matching last season’s goal totals with the Blues. Maybe he can avoid  [Denver Post]

  • Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs have been off to a torrid offensive start becoming the first team since the 92-93 Penguins to score 18 goals in the first 3 games. But in the battle of the last two year’s #1 overall picks, Nico Hischier’s Devils exposed the Leafs defense with a relentless and speed-driven forecheck. The Devils even scored a shorthanded goal on a 5 on 3 penalty kill! Later in the 5 on 3 though there should’ve been a cross checking penalty, but the ref decided against it…
  • Calgary Flames – Jaromir Jagr is back in the NHL, this time with the Flames. His first game was uneventful and he said that he didn’t feel he had his legs back yet, but he’s just made the Flames a go-to when deciding which west-coast game to watch. Here’s a great picture created by NHL.com in honor of Jagr playing for his ninth NHL franchise…

  • Los Angeles Kings – Dustin Brown has 5 points in 3 games playing with Anze Kopitar again and Kings fans are going nuts about it. I’m sorry but no, this isn’t a resurrection of the Stanley Cup days, the Kings are not on the rise yet, and I don’t expect Brown to be anywhere close to a point per game player. Will gladly admit to being wrong if this is still happening at the 30 game mark though! [CBS Sports]

  • Anaheim Ducks – Antoine Vermette, unhappy with a linesman’s placement of the puck on a faceoff (that’s my only explanation) decided it’d be a great idea to slash the linesman in the leg. It wasn’t nearly as violent as it sounds but it’s got to be the most out of left field player to be suspended I’ve witnessed. Have a nice 10 days off, Antoine! [Pucks of a Feather]

  • Pittsburgh Penguins – Ever wonder why the Capitals just can’t seem to beat the Penguins? [Pens Labyrinth]

  • Washington Capitals – If the Caps have a weakness, it’s their inability to stay out of the penalty box. They took the third most penalties in the league last year and have continued that trend with 20 penalties in their first four games. There’s no excuses for the new slashing enforcement either because every other team has to adjust too! [Washington Post]

  • Columbus Blue Jackets – It’s always hilarious when fans think that referees are out to get their team. Referees in the NHL are the best (one of the best blogs for former referees is Paul Stewart). They don’t care who wins a random regular season game. They call it based on what they see and sometimes, they’re going to miss calls. They’re human beings. [Union and Blue]

  • Tampa Bay Lightning – If there was one positive from last season’s debacle of a season, it was Brayden Point. He looks really good and a deep Tampa team is even more dangerous with him in it. [Tampa Bay Times]

  • Detroit Red Wings – If the Red Wings could somehow get a healthy Niklas Kronwall for one more year, it’d go a long way to keeping this team out of the basement and competitive for most of the year. Imagine if they can somehow find $600,000 for Andreas Athanasiou! [Hockey Buzz]

  • Ottawa Senators – Most people haven’t heard of Frederick Claesson but he’s being touted as the other Swedish d-man for the Sens. He played a career high 26:51 in a 3-2 shootout win against the Vancouver Canucks. He might be drawing comparisons to Karlsson but only because he’s from the same country and he played a lot of minutes that one time…Sens fans (and honestly any hockey fan) anxiously awaits a healthy Karlsson because he’s the reason to watch Ottawa. [Ottawa Citizen]

  • Philadelphia Flyers – Sometimes using your coaches challenge to reverse a goal isn’t the best call when you consider all the factors that play a part. Might just be better to leave it be according to the statistics. If you didn’t see our article about what should really happen to coaches when they fail at offside challenges you should check it out here!  [Hockey Graphs]

  • Vancouver Canucks – Brock Boeser was a guy a lot of people picked to contend for the Calder trophy. That’s not going to happen if he can’t get into the lineup over Derek Dorsett…[The Canuck Way]

  • Carolina Hurricanes – Can someone give an honest account as to why the Canes need to have a team in Carolina? Passionate hockey fans live in the area, but why don’t enough of them support this team by attending games? This team has a lot of promise and they’ve even won a Stanley Cup in the last 10 years but less than 7900 fans at the second home game of the year? [Charlotte Observer]

  • New York Islanders – Let’s hope the Isles can figure out this arena situation, and fast. The rumors are already flying and this team is a bottom feeder without John Tavares. [NY Post]

  • Florida Panthers – The Panthers lost too much over the offseason from a non-playoff team. My expectations for them are very low, although if they can stay healthy they may be able to stay in the playoff race for a little while. The hope would be that they can continue to get faster with the rest of the league and learn to play the speed game so that when guys like Owen Tippett are ready to come up to the NHL level, the Panthers will be ready to contend. [The Hockey Writers]

  • Dallas Stars – The Stars have one of the most dynamic lines in hockey with Tyler Seguin between Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov. Between the three of them, they might need to score upwards of 90 goals to get this team into the playoffs. Everyone was high on the Stars (and there’s no reason to panic) but when you stack your lines the way the Ken Hitchcock is doing with his Stars, you better be on every night. [Blackout Dallas]

  • Edmonton Oilers – Expectations of two top centers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will have to wait since head coach Todd McLellan just can’t seem to separate the two. Could be a reason for the Oilers slow start. Teams will focus heavily on the top line and wait and see if anyone else can hurt them. Dylan Strome was supposed to be the answer but he looks like the same guy that played on the Islanders last season…who would’ve thought? [SportsNet]

  • Nashville Predators – Since the last guy decided didn’t want to share the limelight with Carrie Underwood, the Predators found a replacement for their regular anthem singer. But someone couldn’t decide so they just went with four. [The Tennessean]

  • Winnipeg Jets – Mark Scheifele wrote about the five toughest players he’s ever played against. The first four are pretty easy to guess (Connor, Sidney, Carey & Erik) but the fifth surprised me…[The Players Tribune]

  • Boston Bruins – The numbers don’t lie…Tukka Rask is an average NHL goaltender. [SB Nation]

  • New York Rangers – Trading Rick Nash is next to impossible unless they take back considerable salary. My assumption is NY hangs onto him and let’s him sign elsewhere via free agency. I couldn’t see Nash fetching more than a second or third round pick. [Blue Line Station]

  • Montreal Canadiens – When you sign a 7/8 defenseman and expect him to replace Andrei Markov, this happens…[A Winning Habit]

  • Minnesota Wild – Is it their lack of star power or Bruce Boudreau that makes me doubt a long playoff run is in store for this team? They’re fun to watch and I want them to succeed because of it, but its hard to forget the past. Boudreau doesn’t win in the playoffs. All that said, “measuring stick” games in the beginning of the regular season are silly. [Twin Cities]

  • Arizona Coyotes – The Vegas home opener may be the best ever from a new NHL franchise and the Coyotes ensured that it would be remembered for a long time. The players staying after they lost to salute the Vegas crowd was unexpectedly epic. This team has class, and while they may still not be good for another year or two, they’re doing everything right. [ABC Arizona]

  • Buffalo Sabres – It’s the battle of the two basement dwellers on Thursday night as the Sabres travel to San Jose. The Sabres will be more desperate than the Sharks, as I doubt the veteran laden Sharks are worried about an 0-2 start but the Sabres have given up 15 goals in their 0-2-1 start. Can Buffalo afford another season amidst the bottom of the league? [Sabre Noise]

  • San Jose Sharks – The Sharks sit last in the standings (albeit after only two games so it means next to nothing) so instead of focusing on a couple loses, just look at this poodle that got a San Jose Sharks makeover. It’ll make everything better, I promise. [Sporting News]

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