Big Question: What changes would you make to the game and why?
You listening, commissioner? As the 2017-18 season approaches, ESPN asked NHL stars to do a little role-playing: Pretend you are Gary Bettman. What is one rule change you would institute to improve the NHL? We purposely left the question vague to gather a plethora of responses. The players sound off:
The Olympics boycott is a drag
Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators: I would have liked to have gone to the Olympics. I don't think that's a rule, but I think that's the one. Other than that, I think the game itself has the appropriate rules that it has always had.
Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets: Go to the Olympics. I was definitely disappointed at that news last year. It's almost like the next best thing. Obviously, we all dream of winning a Stanley Cup, and then the next is literally right there: winning a gold medal for your country.
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, New York Rangers: Play in the Olympics. That's probably my No. 1. There are different ways to change the game and make it different or better, but the Olympics are the best way to grow the game and I think that's what we need most right now: to increase our footprint on the world.
Blue lines, red lines, offsides
Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers: I feel like everyone says to put the red line back in. Just because teams are now -- they just trap. They just sit back. Put the red line back in and everyone has to come back and regroup and build speed and come through the neutral zone. That could either help it or completely hinder it because now you just can't get to the neutral zone anymore. I don't really know what the answer is, but just find a way to make that neutral zone easier. Nowadays teams just throw up the 1-3-1 or the 4 and you just have to chip in every time and it gets kind of boring to watch.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues: Make icing the European way, so people don't need to chase the puck. It's just boring. As a player. I don't really know, can I beat a guy or not after a couple steps, you know? If I am far away behind him, and I still can beat him, I will try. But then if you don't try and I already know I will not get a puck. If you don't do this, people on the TV will think you are lazy. For no reason, you know.
Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Philadelphia Flyers: You know how you have the long change one time? I'd make it twice. Have a long change twice. Makes it harder, you get pinned in the zone longer. More scoring.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Vegas Golden Knights: Less contact with the goalies. Guys get interfered [with] and pushed and hit on purpose, and guys pretend they don't do that on purpose, and the goals go in.
Jonathan Drouin, C/W, Montreal Canadiens: I'm going to go back to what happened to us in the playoffs a couple years ago: The foot up, off the offside. I remember my foot was completely off the blue, and it has happened in the past where that back foot lifts up and it doesn't count.
Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames: I would make the three-on-three in overtime go until someone scores, instead of doing a shootout. It's more fun for the fans. The shootout is interesting, but I think [a game] shouldn't be decided by [a shootout]. Play the three-on-three out -- sometimes it ends in 10 or 15 seconds, sometimes it goes the whole five minutes, which I like to see.
Taylor Hall, LW, New Jersey Devils: No three-point games anymore. I think it would make it more exciting. You look at the standings and you're like, 'Oh, so-and-so is .500.' But they're really not. They're 13-13-6, but they're really 13-19. I think it would make a big difference.
Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators: I would like to see the two-line pass come back. You have to make more plays to get in the zone. I feel like a lot of teams are just passing it off to bring it in. Maybe make the game a little prettier to watch.
A referendum on refs
Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks: For the [coaches'] challenges, get the answer quicker. Don't let it be delayed as much. It's got to be quicker. Sometimes we already know what the answer is going to be a couple minutes before that. I know they need to hit the angles and figure it out to perfection, but it would be nice to see that a little bit quicker.
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Florida Panthers: The referees are way different than they are in the season. I don't think in any other sport they're that different. In football, they're going to call something in the Super Bowl, last second. In hockey, sometimes it's less penalties [in the playoffs].
Ryan McDonagh, D, New York Rangers: Getting the reviews and challenges right. It's always a tough debate. At some point you almost wish they would go kind of like the NFL and automatically go back and look to see if it were onside, but I know that takes away a lot of the time and slows down the pace. In the end, if they want to keep that energy up in the building, maybe they consider just abolishing it, or maybe just add it for playoffs only, or last 10, 15 games when teams are fighting to get in the playoffs.
Equipment issues remain
Jeff Skinner, LW, Carolina Hurricanes: This isn't mine, I think [Lee] Stempniak told me on our team, but cut the knobs off the goalie sticks. Just because when I hit their knobs and I think it's going in, and it's not a good feeling.
Jordan Eberle, RW, New York Islanders: As an offensive guy, I'd have to say somehow increase scoring. Whether it's making the equipment smaller, which they've done a little bit already. I don't think they can change the nets. That's the dimension of the net. ... I'm obviously biased because I'm offensive, but I find it a lot harder -- because the goalies are a lot bigger -- to see any opening.