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NHL Season Preview: Rule Changes, Name Changes, and a Net Change in New Jersey

NHL Season Preview: Rule Changes, Name Changes, and a Net Change in New Jersey

The 2014-2015 NHL season starts Wednesday on Rivalry Night with a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is the perfect beginning for what should be another exciting season.

The NHL implemented a few rule changes, which could mean more scoring. Dan Rosen, NHL.com senior writer, said the changes are subtle, but just enough to increase offense. The goaltender trapezoid “will be expanded by two feet,” which means more room for the goalie to work defense. But, as Rosen points out, this could cause some goalies to turn over the puck.

The tripping rule also changed. A defending player previously could move the puck away from “an attacking player’s stick with his own stick, hands, legs or feet as long as he touches the puck first,” which killed potential breakaways. The rule now states if a defending player does this action it will result in a two-minute penalty.

Overtime even changed. The general managers want the game to end in OT instead of the shootout. From NHL.com: “Teams will switch ends prior to the start of overtime as they do prior to the start of the second period. Switching ends creates the long-change effect and has led to a greater number of goals scored in the second period (36 percent) than in the first (30 percent) or third (34 percent) since 2005-06 because of the increased challenges of changing players on the fly.” 

To help facilitate more goals in overtime, the entire ice surface will be cleaned with a dry scrape prior to the beginning of the overtime session. A cleaner ice sheet obviously gives players a better chance to make plays and create scoring chances. In the past, the ice wasn’t scraped until before the start of the shootout.

The Phoenix Coyotes changed their name to the Arizona Coyotes. The name became official on June 27. President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc hopes the name change will bring in more fans across the state. The team is not very popular in Arizona. In 2009, the team filed for bankruptcy after they lost millions of dollars since moving from Winnipeg. The NHL was in full control of the team in 2008, but never revealed full details on the team’s finances. IceArizona, a group of business leaders, bought the team in 2013. But the group has since “acknowledged it was in negotiations with a potential new investor.”

The NHL kicks off the New Year with an outdoor game. On January 1, 2015, the Washington Capitals will host the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park. The San Jose Sharks will host the Los Angeles Kings on February 21, 2015 at Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers. The game is almost sold out.

The Kings defend their Stanley Cup championship. But oddsmakers don’t favor them to win the Stanley Cup. That honor goes to the Chicago Blackhawks. The oddsmakers at Bovada put the Hawks at 15/2. Next are the Boston Bruins with an 8/1 chance. The Hawks defeated the Bruins in 2013 to win the Stanley Cup. If they do win it, it will be their third cup in 5 years. They defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. The least likely team to win? The Buffalo Sabres at 75/1. The Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, and New York Islanders join them at the bottom of the list.

A familiar face will no longer grace the goal for the New Jersey Devils. Martin Brodeur is not in net for the first time in 23 seasons. It will be weird for any hockey fan.

“It will seem strange, but there’s always that handoff,” said NBC broadcaster Mike Emrick. “The same question was raised when Steve Yzerman wouldn’t be in Detroit anymore. Who takes over? As it turns out, it was Nicklas Lidstrom, not only as captain but as the face of the franchise. So that will be the intriguing thing; who will be the new face in New Jersey?”

Brodeur said he wanted to test the free agent market at the end of the 2013-2014 season. But as of today, no team has offered him a contract. It is indeed the end of an era.

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