A serving of news with a side of views is on the menu today.
SERVING OF NEWS: The first session of the NHL’s two-day research and development camp showed how important the process has become to the league in only its second year of operation. And for the first time, it appears the league is poised to implement at least one small, R&D camp-tested alteration to the game.
In testing some 30 rule variations in the west end of Toronto using the top 2012 NHL draft prospects as players, camp architect (and NHL vice-president of hockey and business development) Brendan Shanahan stressed the process was more about gathering information than making “knee-jerk reactions” to what could be passing trends.
Nevertheless, he couldn’t help but give a solid thumbs-up to the one suggested change virtually everyone on hand – which included more than one-third of the league’s GMs and numerous player development people – thought was a no-brainer: a solid green line just inside the goal line that would serve as a verification for goal disputes. (The idea is that if the puck in any way is touching the green line, it has passed the traditional goal line and counts on the scoreboard.)
“I think the verification line is a really good idea that doesn’t affect the game and how it’s played in any way other than it will be of great assistance to hockey operations on certain goal reviews,” Shanahan said.
He’s absolutely correct: the new green line clearly wouldn’t have any ramifications on the game, but would go a long ways to cutting down on the often-lengthy video goal review system.
The other rule one GM called a “no-brainer” were the nets being reduced in depth by nearly 10 percent. The shallower nets would barely be perceptible to the average fan, but by making the net 40 inches deep (instead of the current, standard 44-inch deep model), the league would be adding precious space to a playing surface most agree is too small for the size of its players.
You’d be hard-pressed to imagine shallower nets having any negative unintended consequences. Instead, they would give NHLers more room to work – and just as importantly, more frozen real estate to be used to evade giant bodies pin-balling at great speed.
There were other rules experimented with Wednesday, but considering the league didn’t implement any of the rules tested in 2010, it’s safe to take Shanahan at his word and see the camp as a laboratory and not an assemble-and-go-with-it Ikea store.
Still, there was no denying the sense that, by the time the 2011-12 season begins, we will see the first fruits of Shanahan’s labor of love.
SIDE OF VIEWS: The Hockey News Yearbook’s 2011-12 pre-season predictions went public this week and, as per usual, everybody’s tribal side came out and bared its fangs at us.
We always expect to hear from fan bases of the teams we slot at the bottom of their conference (this year, we see Edmonton and Ottawa occupying the basement) but unbelievably, we’re also getting guff from supporters of the Washington Capitals – the team we picked to win the Stanley Cup this season.
That’s right, some Caps fans weren’t pleased that we “jinxed” their beloved team by picking them to have all the pieces on paper to claim the first championship in franchise history.
Yeesh. Talk about impossible to please.
If you believe in jinxes, you probably believe sciatica is the latest TV series by the makers of Battlestar Galactica. See that head of yours? Give it a good, solid shake. Nothing we write has any bearing on a team’s ability to win or lose.
Beyond that, everybody needs to relax about predictions in general. We choose our collective magazine picks by consensus as an editorial department – and that means, even within that department, not everyone agrees on the final order we arrive at.
Ultimately, our picks try and capture the general expectations in the hockey community for each team, not the best-case wishes of devoted fans. We’re not saying any of the 30 teams can’t rise above or fall short of those expectations, nor are we insinuating any of your mothers is a wearer of army boots. Predictions are inherently an inexact science and not intended to be used for high-stakes gambling purposes.
Disagree with them if you like, but spare us the haughty indignation.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. Power Rankings appear Mondays, his blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.
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