After watching the team they are paid to analyze get shutout for the second time in three games on Tuesday, February 12, the Comcast Sports Net broadcast team called for smaller goaltender gear. It was the same message general manager Doug Wilson told The Hockey News (THN) after the last shutout (Saturday by Mike Smith), remarking about goalie pads that "somebody has to ask...why they are allowed to wear them up to their hips."
As noted by THN, this has failed before:
However, the NHLPA has traditionally stifled attempts to further rein in the padding. In 2004, the union filed an unfair labor practices grievance against the NHL for attempting to shrink the width of pads from 12 to 10 inches without players’ consent. And when (NHL goaltending supervisor Kay) Whitmore, in his first presentation working for the league on the issue, proposed goalie pads rise no higher than eight inches above the knee, the idea was rejected by the NHL’s Competition Committee.
But the NHL should be behind this, and it does gain popularity. As goalies get better, the game is evolving into one of collapsing defenses blocking fan-friendly scoring chances. If a shot does get through, goalies are in position and take up so much space that they make saves they cannot see.
Whether or not a shot gets through, the defense jumps on the puck to clear it, and a re-entry makes it all start over again. Having a more exciting game could go a long way to bringing fans back, even if it is somewhat artificial. Exhibit A is the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire after the only World Series cancellation in MLB history.
Changing goalie pads by taking a couple inches off the top does not rise to anywhere near that level of corrupting the game. If it opens the once gaping five hole, scoring gets tweaked in the right direction without seriously impacting the balance of the game.