Who Did it Best? NHL v. NFL Rule Changes for 2015

For all of the major leagues, there are always some tweaks to the rules in the offseason.  For the NFL and NHL, this year’s tweaks have been a bit larger than usual.  That said, how much will the games actually change?

The NFL made half of a dozen small adjustments this summer including fine tuning to protections against chop blocks and for defenseless receivers.  They also added some clock management rules and medical timeouts.  But the change that has gotten all of the attention is to the extra point attempt after a score.  Up until now, the snap on an extra point attempt was taken at the 2-yard line, which equated to a successful extra point some 99% of the time.  This year, while 2-point conversion will continue to be on the 2 yard-line, the extra point kick will be from 15 yards out.  In addition, a defense that scores on such plays can get 2 points.  What will actually change though?  The answer is not much.  Even considering that the snapped ball will actually be kicked from 30ish yards, it’s still basically a chip shot for an NFL kicker.  And when’s the last time there was a turnover on an extra point kick?  There will be some small effects however.  The danger of the defense returning a ball makes the 2-point conversion a much more dangerous situation to run certain passing plays on.  And the fact that a kick attempt starts 15 yards out will discourage the occasional fake extra point/2-point conversion play.  Both of these are issues that will rarely affect the game.  From a viewer standpoint, the only difference is that the kick will look a tad different and there will be safer play calling on 2-point conversions.  Not a game changer, to use the phrase literally.

On the other hand, the NHL has made two rule changes that we will most certainly see effects of this year.  The first is that coaches can now challenge goaltender interference calls and offside calls (or lack thereof) on scoring plays.  While I didn’t notice many offside players scoring goals last season and getting away with it, you can bet we will see the coaches challenge on goaltender interference a lot this year.  Coaches will be happy to pull at straws to try to stop, say, a late tying goal even if there’s little chance of winning the challenge.  Of course when they don’t and the game goes to overtime, the other major rule change will come into play.  Overtime periods will now be played 3-on-3 instead of 4-on-4, hopefully ending games quicker and lessening the need for shootouts by opening up space for skill players to score.  Considering that almost a quarter of games go into overtime and almost 15% went to shootout last year, this is definitely something fans are going to take note of.

While the NFL’s extra point change will add just enough room for error to see fluky misses or mistakes slight more often, the tweaks they made to player safety will actually have a greater impact on the game.  The NHL, however, made the smarter moves to make overtime more effective and hopefully return the excitement to shootouts by making them a little rarer.  Of course, one does wonder what will happen if most overtimes continue to go to shootout.  Will we play 2-on-2 next year?  Play without goalies?  I jest, but the NHL wins this one by making a move to solve an actual problem rather than what the NFL did, which is basically just an ineffective ploy to stop people from leaving the room to go get chip dip or take a bathroom break during the extra point.  Next year, they’ll change the rules to have the goal posts be on fire.  I’d watch that.