Creating 5 essential rule changes 

March, 18, 2011

If the New Jersey Devils' historic second-half push doesn't result in a trip to the postseason, they can blame the lowly Ottawa Senators.

On Thursday, the East's worst team bit the hard-charging Devils for the second time in nine days, scoring a 3-1 victory behind a silly good goaltending performance from Curtis McElhinney.

In their last 29 games, dating back to Jan. 9, Jacques Lemaire's team is a hard-to-believe 23-4-2. It's almost tougher to believe two of those four regulation losses have come at the hands of the Senators, who inherited the conference basement from the resurgent Devils.

Fortunately, New Jersey has seen the last of Ottawa. Tonight, the Devils return to Newark to host the Washington Capitals, who just had a nine-game winning streak snapped in Detroit on Wednesday night. Perhaps the Devils will respond to a better quality opponent. Six points out of a playoff spot with 12 games to play, the Devs need to get back on track immediately.

After spending the first three days of the week at the GMs meetings in sunny Florida, listening to team execs talk about possible changes, I got to thinking about some of the things I'm not crazy about. In this week's edition of Five for Friday, I've typed up a short laundry list of suggestions for the league to consider.

1. No Tagging

If the league wanted to get rid of some unnecessary collisions and bring some more thought back into the game, it would dump the tag-up offside rule. The league likes the tag-up because it helps keep the game moving. And, it does that.

It also creates unnecessary points of contact along the wall when defensemen bring the puck back into the zone against the boards. Upon seeing that move, forwards pick up speed as they circle out of the offensive zone to "tag up" before making a bee-line to the spot on the wall in which they anticipate the puck will arrive. At that point, they can deliver a substantial blow to a defending player.

In light of the league research that indicates a number of concussions occur near the boards when a player's head makes contact with the glass, you'd think it might be a good idea to change a rule that creates more of those collisions.

I have another issue with the rule. It dumbs down the game. In the neutral zone, a defenseman never has to think about making a play; he can just fire the puck back into the zone. I'd like to see a defender have to make a decision or a more skilled play in that spot.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.