By Dan Bernstein– senior columnist

(CBS) They think they have it figured out, apparently, their path to becoming something other than the distant fourth of the major sports, and the next step is pants management.

After scrapping the two-line pass rule, adding the trapezoid, tinkering with overtime and creating more space behind the net, the NHL now wants to make goalies’ pants more form fitting to shrink their profile in the net and give more pucks a better chance to go in.

The netminders are predictably upset, arguing that time and money would be better spent by the league addressing the issue of ice quality, as they cite that as the limiting factor in the success of offenses.  That they could be right is already an indictment in itself, that there’s that kind of variance existing for the nightly playing surface without investment and standardization of best practices at the game’s highest level.

But the pants are the latest culprit, and tighter ones now will unlock the NHL’s full potential as a thriving television product that can command the kind of dollars fueling the other sports.

I’d like to see the volumes of research that have informed all this, the data that actually shows that the magical formula for hockey’s winning of new hearts and minds involves games ending 5-4 instead of 3-2.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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