BOCA RATON, Fla. – All talk and no major changes didn’t make this a dull NHL general managers meeting.
A handful of GMs considered the three-day get together an excellent use of time because of the amount and quality of ideas that were discussed, including expanded video replay, coach’s challenges and three-on-three in overtime.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about a lot of different aspects of the game,” Mike Gillis of the Vancouver Canucks said. “In my six years now, I think it’s one of the most productive meetings we’ve ever had.”
Ultimately only three things are set to be recommended for consideration to the competition committee: changing ends in overtime for a longer change, making faceoff violators move back instead of being tossed out and altering the faceoff circles to push players on the outside further away from each other.
Those must go to the competition committee in June and then potentially to the board of governors for approval. A more liberal interpretation of kicked-in goals – allowing them to count if a player’s skate blade is on the ice – does not need to be approved by those parties.
Commissioner Gary Bettman says the recommendations made represented the best ways to tweak a game that got rave reviews this week at Boca Beach Club. The feeling was that GMs didn’t want to make changes just for the sake of it.
“We’re not looking at any core fundamental problems,” Bettman said. “That’s a testament to the work the general managers do on an ongoing basis. In a meeting like this you can have a good, candid discussion, you can raise ideas and talk about why they work and why they don’t work.”
Figuring out why a lot of ideas don’t work, or at least bringing up unsolved issues that could lead to unintended consequences, was a large part of what the general managers did. Three-on-three in overtime, longer overtimes, video review, a coach’s challenge system and goaltender interference engendered plenty of conversation and debate, but there was no consensus to move ahead with immediate changes in those areas and others for next season.
Bettman said more “homework” can be done on those issues before the competition committee meets in June and then the GMs re-convene during the Stanley Cup final.
But even though not much came of this meeting, count Craig MacTavish of the Edmonton Oilers as someone who believes one of the best changes was one that wasn’t made.
“I am happy there wasn’t more done about video review,” MacTavish said.
There could be tweaks in that area in the not-too-distant future, including giving the situation room in Toronto more leeway on goals and possibly even putting video monitors in penalty boxes so that referees can make a better determination of goaltender interference. A last-minute goal by the Philadelphia Flyers against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night was waved off and likely could have been reviewable in that process if it were available.
Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke wondered if that might get a look during the pre-season. He’s all about ideas being discussed and tried out.
“I just keep putting the stuff on the agenda, and I figure sooner than later some will pass,” he said Tuesday.
The lockout eliminated one opportunity to throw scenarios and possibilities around, as the GMs didn’t have their normal three-day Florida meeting last year. Kevin Cheveldayoff of the Winnipeg Jets thinks that’s why this was such a productive meeting.
“I think there’s lots of maybe pent-up thoughts from the last time that were able to have a multi-day discussion like this,” Cheveldayoff said.
George McPhee of the Washington Capitals thinks these meetings are always productive because of the exchange of ideas.
“Even if we don’t implement a new rule they’re productive because you’ve had comprehensive discussion about it and you do what’s right for the game,” McPhee said.
The GMs dismissed a few things that they don’t think need to change, such as goaltender fights. That was a hot topic at November’s one-day setup meeting, which came soon after the incident involving Ray Emery of the Flyers and Braden Holtby of the Capitals.
There simply wasn’t enough support to even consider changes there after one event.
“The rules are what they are and from a whole variety of constituencies, including the players, there doesn’t seem to be any change in the consensus right now,” Bettman said. “To effectuate a change there would have to be a change among the constituent groups and I’ve been told is that if you ask the players it would be 99 to one that you leave it the way it is. So, it is something we’ll continue to look at it, but there was nothing to report.”
There wasn’t much to report overall. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“There are no major announcements or major changes,” Bettman said. “There will be some recommendations, some things people will look at … but you should continue to enjoy the game principally the way it’s being played.”
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