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The Return of the 2-Minute Major?

Nov 5, 2007 – 4:04 PM
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Greg Wyshynski

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Devils President/GM/Galactic Emperor Lou Lamoriello did an interview with WFAN in New York some time ago -- perhaps even before the lockout -- and two insights he shared have stuck with me. The first was that television time outs have contributed to a decrease in offense as much as any defensive system has, because rested players on defense have an advantage over rested players on offense. The second was Lou's suggestion that if the NHL really wanted to increase scoring and cut down on penalties, it should return to a power-play format in which teams could score as many goals as they can within a two-minute penalty.

While writing about the Canadiens' incredible power play this season (Sheldon who?), Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber echoes that thought:
Montreal is converting almost one-third of its opportunities, a league-leading number that is a nod to the Canadiens' power play of the mid-1950s that was so absurdly good the NHL had to change the rule that obliged the penalized player to serve the full two minutes.

(Note to NHL hockey operation vice-president Colin Campbell: Bring the rule back. Maybe it fractionally improves scoring, which is below an average of six goals per game. Maybe it further discourages penalties and increases the amount of five-on-five play, worth considering given the special-teams fests now on display many nights.)
I think it's a little Pollyanna to believe the return of the "two-minute major" would decrease penalties, because the NHL isn't about to ease its draconian enforcement of rules and because players would still hook, hold and slash even if the League passed a mandate that they'd be stabbed in the eye with a Fondue fork after each infraction. But I think fans could rally around this idea if it increases goal-scoring (which, as the NHL has told us, is like crack rock to mainstream American sports fans); if you're going to have a dozen power-plays per game, might as well make the most of them.

The danger, obviously, is that if teams can have around 16 minutes of unending power-play time per game, we may see roster spots being reserved for the hockey equivalent of a designated hitter -- a flawed 5-on-5 player who is used exclusively as an offensive special-teams specialist. If the last thing the league needs is more power-play time, the second-to-last thing is a gaggle of hacks landing NHL gigs by doing poor Joni Pitkanen imitations.
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