The American Hockey League is the official NHL guinea pig (or canary in a coal mine for the pessimists) when it comes to rules changes. That's where the overtime skills competition got its trial run, before it started bastardizing the notion of "team sports" in the NHL regular season.
Now, upon the NHL's suggestion, the AHL will be the testing ground for one-minute minor penalties in overtime during the regular season.
The Toronto Star reported earlier this year that "39 percent of the penalties in OT that have resulted in a 4-on-3 power play have produced the winning goal in NHL games." A two-minute minor penalty can literally leave a team shorthanded for 40 percent of overtime when the same call would eat up about 3 percent of regulation.
So empirically, this rule change experiment is worth a shot. That is until you hear the potential details of the AHL overtime amendment. According to Jason Chaimovitch, Vice President of Communications for the AHL, a minor penalty called in regulation whose time carries over to OT will have its remaining time cut in half, under one proposed form of the new rule.
His example: A minor penalty that carries over 50 seconds into overtime will actually only result in a 25-second power-play during sudden death.
What this does, in effect, is reduce the punishment for a desperation minor penalty at the end of regulation. Raise your hand if you think a defensive player might kill or maim to prevent a goal knowing that his team would only be shorthanded for, at most, under a minute in the OT?
No sir, I don't think I like it. Chaimovitch said the rule still needs to be finalized, which means these details could change.
The AHL also adopted NHL standards on icing, high-sticking, face-off location and finally came around to the "over the glass" delay of game penalty for defensive player. They held out as long as they could on that one; rejecting the rule after a test in 2002-03 and making the penalty for that kind of delay a simple loss of a line change.
But the AHL must keeps its rules in line with the NHL. Somewhere, Don Cherry weeps into a Technicolor suit jacket.