Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Save The Red Line

Picture it: late in a tie game, the the puck rolls into the corner to Olie Kolzig's left. Two skaters from each side converge on the biscuit, kicking and poking at it while fighting each other off with elbows and backsides. Suddenly the puck squirts loose and Josef Boumedienne emerges with it. At the same time, Dainius Zubrus slips away from the opposing defenseman who was paying little attention to him near the point. Boumedienne and Zubrus make eye contact and as Zubrus breaks free at his own blue line, Boumedienne launches a crisp saucer pass half the length of the rink. Unfortunately, it's about 10 feet too long for Zubrus and, after an easy icing touch-up, the puck comes back to Kolzig's left for a defensive zone face-off.

Get used to it. The NHL is considering eliminating the redline [bonus points on that link for the girl in the cowboy hat in the left column] for purposes of allowing two-line passes. Suddenly every blueliner will think he's Paul Coffey and the game will slow to a snail's pace as bad pass after bad pass leads to icing after icing. Quite simply, most NHL defensemen do not have the skill needed to take advantage of such a rule change, but that won't stop them from trying.

The other thing that canning the redline will do is it will eliminate any forechecking and neutral zone pressure. Teams will lineup on their own blueline so as to not get burned by a long pass if they try to pressure the puck. The game will turn into dump-and-chase every time down ice, and that doesn't make for interesting hockey either.

Bottom line: keep the two-line pass. The game could use more speed and action, but eliminating the red-line isn't the way to do it.

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