I don't often attempt to use sex in my articles, but with the current NHL lockout I guess I feel I need to get your head out of all the minutia, posturing and other pointless grandstanding to try to talk about something else. No, I am not saying we need to add sex to the game of hockey. I'll be honest, I've always thought 'Ice Girls' are kind of pathetic and completely unnecessary. The lockout sucks, I find myself almost wanting to tune out all of the flotsam and jetsam regarding ineffective discussions and the whining on both sides as to why a deal hasn't been reached. I want to talk about rules, and when we think of rules we think of referees. Before anyone gets anymore upset with my initial picture, I am not suggesting we replace the NHL's officials with scantily clad women more akin to the Lingerie Football League. Just relax, take a deep breath, we're all going to be ok. So I am going to suggest we look at the past to try to find a way to make the game better when the smoke finally clears than it was before so many games (and most likely a season) was lost. In the last lockout of 2004, the NHL at least had the foresight to take the hiatus as an opportunity to examine the game itself and devise fixes to try to end what was then known as the 'Dead Puck Era' where obstruction was rampant and the game was painfully boring to watch. Why can't they do this again? If the players and league don't want to talk about business, fine then at least talk about hockey, right? I was recently reading the November 12th issue of the Hockey News where a mix of players and broadcasters opined what they felt could be some rule changes to help improve the game. Some of the ideas were tossed out were interesting and others I felt were not that appealing. I'd love to hear what you (the readers) would like to see with some of these rule changes. Sure, we'd like this lockout mess to end, but if it doesn't hopefully the powers at be at least see another opportunity to improve the game and fix some of its problems. Hopefully Brendan Shanahan will be apart of it because I'd say he did a terrific job the last time around.
Let's review quickly what those rule changes were the last time around; most of which I'd say turned out to be a great success. 1. A crackdown on obstruction, which for most part stayed somewhat consistent over the last 7 years and the result was more free flowing play. 2. The removal of the true red line and the elimination of the two-line pass rule, this was perhaps one of the most underrated changes as I think it helped open up the game a lot. 3. The inclusion of a trapezoid to limit the goaltenders area where they can play the puck down low beneath the goal line. This forced defenseman to take more of a role in chasing down pucks instead of simply having goalies act as a 3rd defenseman out there. I know some purists, especially those who love goaltenders hate this rule because they feel it punishes a player for developing puckhandling skills like Martin Brodeur but I don't care I'd rather watch a defenseman play the puck than a goaltender anyday. 4. The new icing rule which forces the team that iced the puck to keep the same players out on the ice. This is a great rule which greatly reduced the amount of icing plays you saw in a game and when they did it sometimes came back to haunt those teams so it made the rule actually mean something other than a cheap stoppage of the game. 5. The implementation of the shootout to decide games still tied after 4-on-4 overtime. This is another rule that annoys hockey purists who feel as though games are decided by skills competition than through actual play but I'd rather watch a shootout than pay good money to watch two teams tie. So what rules should the league consider altering or adding altogether this time around?
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Before I make any of my own suggestions, perhaps it would be best if I mentioned some of the new changes the Hockey News' article's panel of experts suggested and offer up my own views on their ideas. So in no particular order I'll toss out their ideas and then give my own two cents.
Sidney Crosby - Center ~ Pittsburgh Penguins: 3 on 3 Overtime
The current face of the NHL for North America (like it or not), Sidney Crosby, offered his suggestion of a 3-on-3 overtime after the two clubs are still tied after 5 minutes of 4-on-4 overtime. Crosby opined that after experiencing this once due to penalties that it was some of the most exciting hockey he had experienced and felt it would be better than just going to a shootout. I'll be honest, I don't mind that idea but would it be just another 5 minutes of 3-on-3 and what then? The shootout? Another 5 minutes of 3-on-3? If so, and the 3-on-3 is so entertaining why not just go to that right after the conclusion of regulation? Why wait through 5-minutes of 4-on-4. Also, what if a team takes a penalty when its 3-on-3? Do you go 3 on 2, or do you add another man to make it a 4-on-3 power play? The premise of it does not bother me and I do believe its better for the game to see it end with the two clubs actually playing hockey than going 1-on-1 with the goalie in a series of penalty shots. However, I do understand that if your team has another game the next night staying up late playing a few overtimes; even if its 4-on-4 or 3-on-3 can take an extra physical toll. It also can take its toll on fans who may be staying up until 1AM trying to watch the finish of the game.
My Take: I guess I'd be fine with it. Perhaps a suggestion for either overtime is to just simply make it an automatic penalty shot for any penalty taken during overtime in general. A two-minute penalty in overtime whether it would be 4-on-4 or 3-on-3 always seems incredibly harsh considering it eats up 2/5ths of overtime just to kill it off.
Brett Hull - Right Wing & Hall of Famer: Remove the trapezoid and reducing elbow and shoulder pad size to reduce injuries
Brett Hull has never shied away from sharing his opinions, and that is what has made him a colorful and polarizing kind of player through his career and beyond, just as his father Bobby Hull continues to be as well. When these guys speak, people listen. His suggestion for the Hockey News' piece was to get rid of the trapezoid to reduce injuries to defenseman who now have to chase the pucks into the corners where they become fodder for huge hits delivered by fast moving forecheckers. While I can certainly understand the want to curb big hits on defenseless defenseman racing into the corners to get the puck, I also do not want to return to watching the goaltenders amble out there and just stand in front of it and negate the forecheck altogether and if any forechecker dares get close the goaltender falls to the ice and draws a weak goaltender interference penalty.
My Take: I think the trapezoid keeps the goaltender where he belongs, between the pipes and forced the skaters to make the plays down low and if it led to a few big collisions with forecheckers so be it. If he's worried about races for the icing of the puck, then I think he should embrace no-touch icing which I believe is long overdue. Hybrid icing which is being tried out in the American Hockey League is another possible solution but keeping icing as it is currently to me is ridiculous and only setting the stage for more devastating injuries. The game does not need to have more Kurtis Foster or Marty Reasoner type of injuries. A goaltender can still skate out and play the puck, they just have to do so within the trapezoid or before the goal crosses the goal line.
Hull's second major point was to reduce the size and redesign shoulder and elbow pads to reduce injuries. He felt not only did the hard plastic used in those areas make it a major reason for the amount of players we see getting concussed but also how it made them more fearless in blocking shots. Hull believes the pads should be there to protect the player from injury but not be constructed to more or less be a weapon which currently is the case.
My Take: I agree 100% with this. In fact, ever since I heard Don Cherry talk about this a few years ago on Coaches Corner on Hockey Night in Canada about how he felt the hard plastic used on shoulder pads and elbow pads were making the game dangerous. Cherry is certainly a proponent of the tough parts of hockey but what he was saying about padding makes total sense. Players feel they are invincible since pads do so much more to absorb and insulate them from almost any kind of impact. So they put their elbow up without fear and when they catch a guy in the side of the head they feel no impact at all while his opponent gets rocked. If the players knew the pads only softened the hit a little instead of insulating them from it they might think twice before trying to lighting someone up. Yet I'd take it even a step farther. I'd ban players from using the clear plastic skate guards that go over the top of the foot. These are of course designed to protect the top part of the foot as players attempt to block shots. Why would the league want to help players block shots? The skate guards do not cause injuries in other players but they make them more likely to step in front of shots that normally could cause them significant injury. If you take those skate guards out, then the player really has to make a decision as to whether its really worth it to step in front of that shot. I would also look into reducing the shielding qualities of shin guards as well. I remember broadcasters talking at great lengths about the mutant shin pads of shot blocking defenseman Craig Ludwig back in the day, how it was bolted and taped together to make them extra wide so he could stand in front of even the hardest shots with relatively impunity. Shot blocking used to be the exclusive territory of the playoffs where players made that sacrifice of their bodies to prevent pucks from reaching the goal. Now its commonplace in regular season games, and a big reason for that is the players are so well protected there are very few places a player can be hit where a player will suffer an injury. I still think its crazy to step in front of a 100mph slap shot, and some defenseman still may choose to do so but they will know that they'll have less protection in doing so. I do not think the league should make it easier for players to do so either. Sorry Greg Zanon and Anton Volchenkov but you're going to have to find another way to help out your goaltender.
Jarome Iginla - Right Wing ~ Calgary Flames: Make the nets bigger
The man who almost always has a smile on his face when he's being interviewed offers up that NHL goal cages need to be made bigger as NHL netminders seem to be getting bigger and bigger giving shooters less and less to look at. Jarome Iginla certainly has a point, especially when you consider goaltenders like Nashville's Pekka Rinne (6'5") and Tampa Bay's Anders Lindback (6'6"), and Edmonton's Devan Dubnyk (6'5") becoming more and more commonplace throughout the league. These guys are not just big area stoppers, they move very well and the small athletic goaltender seems to almost be a thing of the past. All one has to do is watch a tape of a classic NHL game and look at how much more net you could see behind even hall of fame goaltenders like Tony Esposito, Patrick Roy, and Ken Dryden to realize that these big bodied goalies and their significantly larger equipment and super refined understanding of angles give shooters little to nothing to shoot at. As Iginla said in the article, "You might see a little space around the goalie's head but all you wind up doing is blasting it and hoping somehow it goes through him." So Iginla's suggestion that with bigger goalies (wearing bigger padding) the natural solution is to make the size of the goal bigger. He offers up that the NBA added the 3 point line and Major League Baseball made the pitching mounds taller in an effort to improve the game so why not make the nets bigger?
My Take: It sounds like a nice idea, but I wouldn't do that just yet. I think a lot more can be done to reduce the size of goalie equipment while not compromising safety. While Buffalo's Ryan Miller might disagree with me I think the league needs to get drastic about this. An area I think the league has continued to ignore is the size of goaltender jerseys. Look at the arms of goaltenders and notice just how much space they take up, depriving shooters of a clear view of possible places to shoot the puck. The jersey needs to be more form fitting and the arms especially need to shrink. If the goaltender is going to crouch then he'll have to keep his arms tight to his body and that should open up lanes to the outside for shooters to aim for. The 'blocker' pad should also basically be eliminated. It is just another large surface that again robs shooters of net to look at. You can still apply more padding to goalie gloves to protect their hands but putting a giant waffle pad out there is unnecessary for their safety and if that is really the only concern goaltenders have (which is what Miller and other goalies insist) then they should be fine with it. Bigger nets are not the answer, at least not until the league gets real serious about reducing the size of goalie equipment in my opinion. If you shrink down goalie equipment and shooters still have little to nothing to shoot at then you can always examine making the goal cages bigger.
I think Daryl Reaugh exhibited some significant 'mental flatulence' in some of his rule change ideas
Daryl Reaugh - Former NHL goaltender & broadcaster: 10 ways to improve the hockey broadcast
The former Dallas Stars' analyst and current Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Daryl Reaugh has always tried to put the 'color' in the colorman role as he attempts snappy witticisms to illustrate the action on the ice. Some feel Reaugh is one of the more intelligent broadcasters in the game, which I have to admit I find his commentary boring and weak. I've always found it interesting that so many ex- backup goalies are now broadcasters and the simple reason is they spend so much time just watching the game from the bench as the backup I guess they feel a need to contribute something for a change. 'Razor' as he's sometimes called, put forth 10 ideas he felt would improve the broadcast. I shall list them quickly and then provide my analysis of each point. Here they are in no particular order:
~ Have both teams wear their 'dark' colored jerseys as he feels it works better on television.
~ Mic the games where you can hear players conversations by bleeping the language out.
~ Move the playing / singing of the anthems out of the broadcast.
~ Allow for more time for celebration, replays and analysis following goals.
~ Mandate all broadcasts run at least a 30-minute segment on the charitable things players and teams participate in.
~ Make the boards and the ice a different color to make it easier to follow on TV.
~ Pursue a way to 'enhance the puck' to make it show up better on TV, to accentuate the speed the puck travels at.
~ Form a panel that includes team, players and local people where they get together to think of ways to improve the broadcasts.
~ Eliminate one of the period intermissions from the game.
~ If you can't eliminate the intermissions, at least shorten them.
My Take: Ah, where to begin. How about I simply tear apart 'Razor's opinion's point by point?
On the issue of wearing dark colored jerseys. Why? I realize white colored jerseys would allow those players to blend in a bit with the color of the ice, but have you ever had a moment where you watching the game and a player in a white jersey simply came out of nowhere because he somehow blended in so well with the ice? Of course not. The players wearing light and dark jerseys are for their benefit and I think the viewer can handle watching a team wear white jerseys and not lose track of where their players are. Besides, I think there are more than a few jerseys where their white one is the better looking of their pair.
On mic'ing the games. Sounds good in theory, but in order to achieve it the NHL would have to have at least a 20-30 second tape delay to make it happen if not longer. Ever hear of Twitter Daryl Reaugh? Like many fans from home, I have my Twitter feed going while I am watching the game and do I really want to hear about a goal being scored on there when it hasn't happened yet? So it might make for a more 'colorful' broadcast to hear the players chirp at one another but you really think its better for the game to hear all that trash talk? The NFL doesn't mic its players because quite frankly those are conversations that a lot people probably don't want to hear. If the games were played on HBO, then go ahead because you wouldn't even have to bleep it out, but a national broadast on network television. While I can certainly see having that 'insider' option in a web-based format, for TV I think it might make families think twice about watching the game with their younger kids if they know they might have to hear guys question one another's sexual orientation, their marital status, possible racial or ethnic slurs etc.
On moving the playing of the national anthems out of the broadcast. With the exception of the playoffs, the Winter Classic and the All Star game I'd have to agree to this. The anthems are great to be in the presence of at a game, but on TV it just doesn't seem to have the same effect unless the game is huge in itself. Although I would mandate that all of the players stay at attention until the anthem is finished. Maybe its just me but I don't like seeing goaltenders carving up the bluepaint when the anthem isn't even over. Have some respect please. Yet the 7 o' clock start should be at 7 o' clock, not 7:08 as Reaugh mentions.
On allowing more time for celebration of goals, analysis, replays, etc? I thought you wanted to speed up the game Daryl. If you want them to shorten the intermissions then keep the time given for post-goal celebrations to be the same. Get a quick replay in and move on. You want to really delve into the analysis of how a goal was scored that is what the intermissions and post-game shows are for. Give the viewer some credit, and realize we're smart enough to understand what happened. That we (the fans at home) can watch the replay much the same way you can (albeit probably on a bigger screen) and don't really need to hear your rendition of it.
On mandating all broadcasts run a well-produced 30 second segment on the positive things players and teams are doing in their community. This is another place where I'd put it on the networks and teams to do this outside of the actual hockey broadcast themselves. NHL teams all have their own 'TV' portion of their websites. Broadcast those 'feel-good' segments there or contact the local news and ask them if they'd like to cover it. While you think its a way to make good connections in the community, hockey fans know that you will not be able to highlight something new every time so you'd end up trotting out the same 30-second feel good stories again and again forcing your loyal audience to watch yet one more time the silent auction a team 'recently' held 3 months ago. You want to include the feel good stories? Put it in the pre-game or post-game shows but keep the in-game hockey talk on the game itself.
On making the boards and the ice a different color to make the puck stand out. Really? What color do you suggest we make the ice? Magenta? Periwinkle? Orange? You suggest a glacial blue, but didn't the NHL have it before and was the puck much easier to follow then? You top that off by suggesting the puck be flourescent orange. Really? Is it the black color of the puck that makes it tough for untrained viewers to follow or the fact that its fairly small? I'm going to go with the latter. I think viewers can see the puck just fine and over time they're eyes learn how to track it, even when its fired around at high velocity. Wayne Gretzky used to track the path of the puck on a piece of cardboard while he was watching the games on a blurry black & white television. We have it in color and in high definition, if Gretzky can track the puck just fine back then we can certainly track it now with ease. No need to change that.
What we saw on the TV What the players saw
On Daryl Reaugh's comments on 'puck enhancement'. Really?!?! Have you been watching too many Extenze commercials have you Daryl? Reaugh, the former commentator during Fox television's experiements with the 'Fox Puck' which was an attempt to enhance the viewability of the puck to TV viewers by highlighting it electronically on the screen and then making it streak red for when it was shot at high velocity. When it was fired at high velocity a small box in the lower right corner called the Fox Trax would tell you just how fast the puck was traveling. The players hated the Fox pucks which they felt never really moved quite right and the flashing lights were annoying. To TV viewers it was really cheesy and it attempted to make hockey look like real-life video game. Even EA Sports learned to crap can the glowing puck in its NHL games. It was a short-lived experiment that most NHL fans remember in the way we remember Cooperalls; an experiment we're glad is gone and buried. But Reaugh wants to bring it back. Sure you're not suffering from mental flatulence Daryl?
On establishing a panel of players, teams, and local media people to meet regularly to discuss how to improve the broadcasts. Not a bad idea, but will any average fans get a chance to offer their input? Only if that happens would I buy into it. However just because one guy really wants to see a helmet cam like we saw on officials during a Golden Gopher Men's hockey game doesn't mean it should stick around forever either. As much as I hate surveys you better be surveying your audience to see if they like the changes you've made otherwise it could just become 'Crazy idea of the week.'
On eliminating or shortening intermissions to speed up the game. I don't see NHL arenas going for that. Intermissions are the time where fans go to the bathroom or stock up on concessions or at the very least stand to stretch out a bit. For those of us at home, we may do some household tasks during that time or have a quick meal. Intermissions may make some viewers leave the game in search of something else, but I think that's the vast minority. Do I think you need to have a contest or the Little Chippers games during every intermission? No, so you could possibly shorten it but eliminate it altogether? No way. Also, for broadcasters intermissions are your chance to do the in depth analysis of scoring plays that you may not have time to do during the course of a game. Please don't try to call the game and do the analysis at the same time like FSN-North's "Second Look" does where it makes two windows; the current game action and the scoring play where you can't really see either too well to make it worthwhile.
Bobby Holik - Stanley Cup winner & retired NHL Center: Make the ice wider and change the current point system
Former New Jersey Devils' star Bobby Holik's belief is that the NHL could help inject more skill into the game by making the ice a little wider but not quite as big as an Olympic-sized ice sheet. He asserts that the wider ice will allow skill players to shine and demonstrate their creativity by having more time and space and lessen some of the physical plays that cause injury on the smaller NHL-sized ice. Holik believes the wider ice will force even 4th line players to exhibit more skill and says he does not think physicality would be eliminated altogether but instead the hits would be forced to be more meaningful (whatever that means).
My Take: There is no way this is going to happen. If anything the lockout has proven is that ownership is going to wait until it gets just about everything it wants. I do not think owners are going to want to eliminate the first two rows of their seats just to accomodate a little bit wider ice sheet. Especially those places that have brand new arenas the loss of those rows could quite possibly be lost revenue of at least a few million over the course of an entire season. Holik thinks you'll have a better product because it would focus more on skill, but what I think he ignores is fans love to watch the collisions. They like the hard hitting forechecker, and that's why players who play that way quickly become fan favorites. The Wild's Cal Clutterbuck is a great example of that.
Holik's next point was about eliminating the much-reviled 'loser' or 'mercy' point in the standings. He wants to simply see 2 points for a win, and nothing for a loss of any kind. This is a common and much repeated position in the Hockey News' Inbox section almost every issue. In fact, I'm tired of hearing about it. I get it, you hate the fact the loser of a game in overtime or a shootout manages to get a point in the standings.
My Take: I think most agree that it does seem to go against logic to give a person a point for simply losing in overtime or a shootout where if they lost in regulation they get nothing at all. However, I don't think its going to go away. Owners like the 'loser' or 'mercy' point because it allows them to inflate their points and have their teams stay in the hunt longer than perhaps they should. Yet at the end of the day, time after time writers tabulate the standings with Holik's 2 for a winner and nothing for the loser and more often than not you do not see almost any change in the actual standings. The only difference is a team is mathmatically eliminated a bit later than they would be under Holik's system. When your still trying to sell a quarter of your tickets, you want the fans to think their team has a shot even if the loser / mercy points often make it more difficult to climb in the standings. In my opinion it makes sense to return it to Holik's idea, but I don't believe the ownership would accept it just for marketing purposes alone. It's all about perception, and those points can give the illusion of quasi-success.
A no-brainer rule that should be implemented no matter what
The goal confirmation line
All it adds is another line to the ice, but one that can help end controversy into one of the most important parts of the game, that being scoring. I remember watching the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Calgary Flames, and watching as Martin Gelinas' bouncing puck seemed to cross the goal line only to be covered up at the last possible moment. The question immediately began, did it cross the goal line completely? The camera angles made it tough to tell and the video was more or less inconclusive and the result was Calgary lost game 6 and Tampa Bay would win Game 7 and the series. A reporter the next day snapped a picture that was very incriminating but it was too little, too late. Perhaps a little more paint on the ice could've solved the mystery that night, a goal confirmation line. If a puck touches any part of this line then it has completely crossed the goal line and thus is a good goal. This is an absolute no-brainer rule that does nothing to change the game other than to give replay officials a definitive point of reference to determine the most crucial plays of any hockey game. There should be no debate about whether this is right or wrong, it is about making sure goals count and preventing those that don't from counting. I believe as many do, that Gelinas' puck crossed that line but because this line was not there we'll never know and this is one small way the game can try to prevent that from ever happening again.
Some other rule changes / modifications to consider
Making the blue lines bigger (3 feet wide). This was an idea I heard about 6-7 years ago from former North Stars forward Bobby Smith. Smith said that he felt the league could help encourage more offense by making the bluelines wider to make the offensive zone bigger. Like the goal confirmation line, this would not force arenas to really make any drastic change to its ice surface other than a little more paint. The wider lines would make the offensive zone another 2 feet wider than it currently is and also give more room for a player to hold the zone on the rush so they do not go offsides allowing more entries of the offensive zone with speed. It also would help shrink the neutral zone a bit as well.
5 minute majors for diving, 2-game suspensions for every two diving infractions. I can't stand guys who flop around the ice as they attempt to draw a penalty. Smart hockey fans know who these 'divers' are and call them out instantly when they again try to embellish for the sake of giving their team a power play. The NBA finally recognized this and instituted a 'flopping' call, and while the NHL has a 'diving' call the fact it so often is called along with a coincidental minor to the opposing team the effect is negated. The diver is punished just the same as the poor guy who was tagged with a bogus call. That's ridiculous. The diver should be punished further and a 5 minute major sends a loud and clear message that divers and their teams will be punished severely. Dive two times and its a two-game suspension. Players loathe embellishment and say its becoming an epidemic. The major makes sure its the team with the diver that faces the most stringent penalty rather than the coincidental minor as is currently the case. So even if you call both players (the player who allegedly hooked) and the diver, the diver still will be sitting 3 more minutes no matter how many times the other team scores. I think this is really about the integrity of the game and the NHL would be wise to implementing something like this.
Players are required to sit out for at least 5 minutes if a trainer comes to their aid on the ice. Since we're talking about embellishment, nothing gets on my nerves much more than seeing a player who supposedly gets 'injured' from a hit they've recieved skating on the very next shift as if nothing happened. Broadcasters often talk about how 'tough' a player is when that happens when in fact I see a clever faker hoping to draw a more severe penalty on their opponent by trying to 'milk' the situation. I remember distinctly Mike Ribeiro falling to the ice as if he's been shot to draw a severe penalty and after the opposing team was tagged with an extra minor he got up as if nothing had happened, and with a smirk on his face no less. Sorry, but if you're hurt so badly a trainer has to attend to you then you should be required to sit out for 5 minutes for a 'medical evaluation.' If its not so serious, then don't 'milk' the injury and make your way back to the bench as fast as you can. Cynics may argue coaches might hesitate to send out their trainer if its a hit to their star players but I'd argue they'd want to make sure their star players are ok and will be willing to take the risk of having that player sit out if it means being able to quickly assess the health of their player. A guy I coached with told his players, 'if I have to come out there and get you, you're not coming back in the game.' His statement may sound cold, but it eliminates fakers who just want the attention and we never had a problem with that after he made that statement. I think the NHL could easily justify this as a way to ensure a players' safety.
Players that have taken a penalty during overtime that still is in effect at end of OT should not be allowed to participate in the shootout. Its the end of overtime, and a team is on the ropes perhaps on the penalty kill when a player just about tackles an opponent to deprive them of a scoring chance with less than 2 minutes in overtime. The player doesn't really care about taking the penalty because if they keep it tied they still get to participate in the shootout. This is wrong. Teams should not be allowed to just take an endless string of penalties late in OT because there are no consequences in the shootout if they do so. This would force that player who took such a penalty to stay out of the shootout. While it may not deprive a team of its top scorer, it might be a guy they wish they had later in the shootout if it goes that long. If it makes any player think twice before making a mockery of the rules then its well worth it.
Well that about wraps that up, or does it? What rules would you suggest? What do you think of our suggestions? What do you like / agree with and what do you think are crazy? Let us know by leaving a comment!