TORONTO – The NHL has scrapped the dry scrape.
In an effort to end more games in overtime – and avoid the shootout skills competition – the NHL ordered Zambonis to scrape the ice without laying water between the end of regulation and the start of OT this season. The idea was to improve ice quality, making it easier to pass, shoot and score.
Problem was, it was a buzzkill. Here were two teams in a tie game headed to overtime and … everyone … had … to … wait.
The dry scrape took about five minutes on average but as long as 6 1/2 minutes in some cases, and the early returns didn’t show much effect in ending more games in OT.
So at their annual November meeting Tuesday, the NHL’s general managers decided to park the Zambonis. Crews will now shovel the ice between regulation and overtime the same way they do during TV timeouts.
NHL executive Colin Campbell said there would not be a dry scrape before shootouts, the way there was in the past. Zambonis made only four passes in the middle of the ice then, and players still handled the puck wider than that lane without complaint.
“I guess it just took a little too long,” said Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. “It took the excitement out of the end of the game. I think that’s what these meetings are for. We see something that wasn’t working the way we thought and correct it rather than just let it linger.”
Other key points from the GM meeting:
-- No Waiting For Whistle: The GMs decided to make another immediate change: Say the puck appears to go in the net but play continues. If NHL officials in the video room in Toronto clearly see the puck crossed the goal line, they will buzz the arena and have play stopped. They will not wait for a whistle.
“Too much can happen after that play that we don’t want to deal with,” Campbell said.
For example, there can be a penalty -- and the penalty sticks even though the goal is posted and the clock is rewound.
“It didn’t really happen, but it happened,” Campbell said.
-- Goalie Interference: The GMs discussed goalie interference at length. Campbell said there were three calls in 93 playoff games last season that the NHL would have liked to have changed. Two calls might have impacted a series – one in the first round between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, the other in the Stanley Cup final between the Kings and New York Rangers.
“The key question is: Should we take the call on the ice to video review and how should we do it?” Campbell said.
Going to video review isn’t as simple as it sounds. Campbell put the GMs through an exercise. He showed them six examples of goalie interference, gave them the call on the ice and told them to make the call via video review. In three cases, there was a clear majority. But in the other three, there was almost a split opinion.
“We wanted to show the difficulty,” Campbell said.
First, the GMs need to clarify the rule in wording or interpretation. For example, how do you define when a player was driven into the goaltender? How do you define when a goaltender embellished contact?
“Right now there’s some gray area,” Campbell said.
Then the GMs need to decide on a video review process. Does Toronto handle it? Is there a coaches challenge? Could the referees look at a monitor in the penalty box?
“I think with the goaltender interference, if we’re going to expand video review, people expect us to get it right and we want to make sure the process is right,” Campbell said. “If we can make it better, we’ll implement it. But it’s got to be perfect almost when we implement it.”
-- 3-on-3: The GMs looked at the results of the new overtime format in the American Hockey League, but they didn’t debate the issue. The AHL now has seven minutes of OT – 4-on-4 until the first whistle after the three-minute mark, then 3-on-3.
Through Nov. 10, 36 games had gone to OT in the AHL, and 30 had been decided in OT, including 14 in 3-on-3. But it’s early, and it isn’t apples to apples because the AHL’s OT is two minutes longer than the NHL’s.
“Whenever you have something new, it’s dangerous to draw conclusions after just a month or two,” said Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. “You want to see what happens over the course of the whole season. Certainly to date in the American League, there’s been a lot fewer games going to shootouts. Now, will that hold up over the whole year? Will coaches make adjustments? You have to see a bigger sample size before you can really make a determination.”
-- Player Safety: NHL disciplinarian Stephane Quintal made a routine player safety presentation. The focus was knee-on-knee incidents. The last few years, the league had one about every 24 games. So far this year, it has had one about every 14.
“In the past, we only suspended players when there was an injury,” Quintal said. “I’m very sensitive to that. So I was asking them if I could raise the standard.”
The GMs will discuss these issues in more depth at their annual March meeting in Boca Raton, Fla.
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