Bobby Clarke's Solution to Hockey!

Believe it or not, Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke, master of the controversial sound bite and inane comments, actually had something intelligent to say recently.On the topic of what to do to improve the state of the game, Clarke told the New York Post that the NHL should ban goaltenders from leaving the crease to play the puck.

The suggestion is one of the best yet on how to make the NHL a more exciting league without messing with the game too much.

To be sure, if a rule were passed limiting goalies’ rights to handle the puck, many people would be up in arms, calling the change too extreme. In actuality, such a rule change, would not have nearly as radical an effect as some of the other ideas being bandied about, such as removing the center ice red-line, or going to four-on-four hockey full-time. In fact, an NHL where goalies remained in their crease would be a lot closer to old-time hockey than today’s version.

The great puck-handling goalie has been a 1990s phenomenon. After all, you did not see Ken Dryden, Grant Fuhr, or Patrick Roy (in his early Habs days) roaming around out there, and coincidentally or not, a lot more goals were scored in those days.

Currently, goalies are like third defencemen. Forwards used to be able to dump the puck in and chase it…not anymore. Negating goaltenders’ ability to play the puck would lead to many more quality scoring chances. There would be more dump-ins, and more defensemen making bad plays, leading to turnovers as they hurry to get the puck out of their zone.

To make things worse, goalies have all kinds of time out there to make plays because there is an unwritten rule that they cannot be touched outside of the crease. Giving the goalie a free pass to ponder the situation before making a play only makes it easier for goalies to contribute to the sleep-inducing defensive style of hockey that is all the rage in today’s over-expanded NHL.

Making goalies fair game wouldn’t be a good solution either. They make too much money to be exposed to the mayhem that goes on behind the net. It would be far more practical and effective to keep them in the crease, where they belong.

The presence of Martin Brodeur, one of the best puck-handling goalies of all time, has been a huge reason why the Devils have won three Cups since 1995. Surely the Devils and other teams such as the Islanders (who drafted Rick DiPietro first overall in 2000, largely because of his skills playing the puck) would complain bitterly about having one of their main strengths wiped out.

If goalies could no longer play the puck behind the net or at the face-off circles, it’s logical to assume that there would be around five more good scoring chances per period, or fifteen per game. These new chances would likely generate about two more goals per game.

That number may not seem like a lot upon first glance, but adding those two goals would be equivalent to bringing in a third more offense to the game, without radically changing the rules. Yes defensemen would get their brains scrambled by fore-checkers on a more regular basis, but that problem could be solved by the implementation of a no-touch icing rule. Yes, Brodeur and his imitators would have one of their main talents taken away, but for the good of the game, this rule should be implemented. You guys can have your say