Getty ImagesThe National Hockey League’s general managers are meeting in Toronto on Wednesday to discuss the very future of the sport. And by that we mean everyone gets a few minutes to tell their peers what’s sticking in their craw this season, they propose a solution, everyone humors it and then nothing happens …
But let’s say something did come out of this year’s meetings; some recommendations to be passed along to the Competition Committee and then the Board of Governors. What would you like to see?
Here are five things the NHL GMs should recommend, all of them common sense and all of them better for the NHL.
1. Ban Spin-o-Ramas in the Shootout
Or just ban the shootout altogether because it’s an affront to both logic and the virtues of hockey. But if we have to have it for SportsCenter highlights, then let’s agree to dump its most controversial aspect: The spin-o-rama.
We’ve been debating its validity for years, and every month brings another moment of controversy, with Mason Raymond’s attempt against the Columbus Blue Jackets as the latest. Despite not exactly in keeping with the “puck moving forward at all times” thing, the NHL allows them as long as the move “involves continuous motion.”
Eliminate the spin-o-rama, and you eliminate a vast majority of the controversies we have in the shootout.
(But, again, the skills competition is such a ridiculous exercise in artifice that players should be able to shoot three pucks at the same time while firing a blow torch at the goalie’s face. You know, for entertainment’s sake.)
2. Hybrid Icing
For the uninitiated, this would transform icing into a race to the hash marks in the defensive zone; icing would be called as soon as the defensive player has the advantage – or is even – in the race to the end boards. No more shoves from behind or femur-shattering collisions at rink’s end.
It’s something that GMs like Steve Tambellini and especially Chuck Fletcher see as a common sense move, and it is: Hybrid icing helps prevent potentially catastrophic injuries while maintaining the visceral thrill of two players desperately chasing the puck. We’re still not sure how there’s opposition to that.
Speaking of icing …
3. Enough With Sneaky Delays of the Game
Every team knows how to earn its exhausted players some extra time to rest, whether it’s a goalie that needs an “equipment adjustment” or a player spending an extra second or 10 on the ice after an “injury.”
One trend in the NHL that’s been bugging me is on icing calls. It’s when teams empty their benches with players on a line change that legally can’t happen now that the defending team has iced the puck.
But rather than have five exhausted players immediately report to the faceoff dot near their goaltender to do the dance again, on-ice officials have to comb through a group of players to determine who needs to remain on the ice or back on the bench.
It’s a sneaky little move that I’ve seen employed by coaches like Peter Laviollette of the Philadelphia Flyers and Guy Boucher of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has its roots in the mind of the late Roger Nielsen, that mad genius of rule-bending.
Defensive exhaustion leads to offensive chances. There’s no more established truth in hockey than that. So giving defensive players that extra time as this line change is sorted out is counter-intuitive to the icing rule that, frankly, is one of the better ones the NHL has passed.
Hit’em with a delay of game minor. Now we’re talking instant offense.
Of course, it doesn't stop there. As Jesse Spector noted on The Sporting News, teams are buying time in the faceoff dot as well by using wingers to take draws only to get tossed out of the circle:
“On every icing, the winger goes in (for the draw) and gets thrown out on purpose,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “You see that everywhere you go. He’s getting thrown out so the center can take the draw and it buys five more seconds (after a team is not allowed to make a line change following an icing). That should be a rule that they should look at. That happens all the time. The officials, if they see something, a guy cheating once or twice, they’ve got to throw him out. I’ve got no problem with it.”
It's all a sneaky little delay.
Speaking of delay of game …
4. ‘Common Sense’ Puck Over The Glass
The moment I realized the “puck over the glass” delay of game penalty was idiotic was when I witnessed Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins get a 2-minute minor after he shot the puck from his own end over the glass at the other end of the rink. Because, you know, that’s exactly where players are going to put the puck to delay the game. Yup.
Down Goes Brown picked apart this rule rather adeptly on Grantland, but came to the same conclusion I have:
The NHL wants more offense, but they can’t seem to figure out how to accomplish that at even strength. So why not add a nonsensical penalty that seems to have been specifically designed to create more power-play goals? Scoring goes up a little, everyone high-fives, and if we’re lucky nobody will mention that the rule is completely arbitrary and unfair.
In summary: It’s a rule that probably isn’t going to change, despite being awful, because it creates offense. And I’ve heard from enough coaches and GMs that are convince that it has actually decreased intentional pucks over the glass, whether or not that was an epidemic to begin with.
So if the rule isn’t going anywhere, let’s at least inject some common sense into the rule: Amend Rule 63.2 to give the referee some level of discretion on whether a player intentionally cleared the puck over the glass or simply misfired it.
We all see the games. We all know the difference. If you’re beef is that this turns referees into mind-readers … well, then we might as well take boarding majors away from them too.
5. Coach’s Challenge
As we’ve written this year: It’s beyond time for a limited coach’s challenge in the NHL. The technology is there to make reviews of plays efficient. The need is there for some check or balanced to be in place for game-changing calls like goalie interference on a scoring play or high-sticking double-minors in which one teammate cuts another.
As long as we limit them to one per game with consequences for teams that waste our time – a delay of the game minor, for example – they won’t become egregiously used.
What do you want to see the GMs recommend this week?
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