August 18, 2010
From the indispensable Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press, a glimpse of the NHL Research and Development Camp on Wednesday in Toronto, where concepts such as having one giant cyclopic faceoff circle in the offensive zone were tested by some of the 2011 draft's top prospects.
You can also see the 24-inch blue lines, double the size of the current regulations and exactly the size of Hulk Hogan's pythons in the late 1980s ...
Coming up, video of NHL VP Brendan Shanahan(notes) and former Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock talking about what worked and what didn't at the first day of R&D camp -- and coverage of the one rule change that appears to have the potential for implementation by the league.
Here's Shanny talking about the camp and its objectives:
Sounds like the 3-on-3, being tested for overtime, was a hit. The pullout quote: "I just liked how defense quickly turned into offense. A scoring chance for one team that went wrong quickly turned into a scoring chance for the opposition. It was dangerous."
We also thought his comments about the offsides rule, which would keep the offending team from making a line change, were interesting; seems as if the coaches were in favor of it, even if we have our reservations about it.
Here's Ken Hitchcock, offering praise of hybrid icing and the offsides rule:
So 2-on-2 is gimmicky, 3-on-3 was "in the net" and could prevent shootouts. So let's go 3-on-3 for 10 minutes and call it an overtime, people!
They're also looking at wider bluelines -- two feet wide as opposed to one -- with the defensive zone edge in the same spot. That creates more room in the offensive zone without making the neutral zone any smaller.
Another variation is changing the delayed penalty rule so a team committing the infraction not only has to touch the puck for the play to be whistled dead, it also has to clear the puck out of its defensive zone. Other experiments involve not allowing shorthanded teams to freely ice the puck and not letting a team that has gone offside to make any player changes.
The NHL is also looking at some physical alterations beyond widening the blueline. Over the two days, the league will experiment with red mesh in the nets that give players more of a distinctive target. It will also try nets that are less deep, by four inches, thereby providing more room behind the net.
Dan Rosen of NHL.com, meanwhile, zeroes in on arguably the most popular rule change seen in practice:
Hybrid icing is a mixture of touch and no-touch icing. It gives a linesman the discretion to blow his whistle and stop the play if he believes a defending player will reach the puck first. If the linesman believes the attacking player has a chance to reach the puck first, he keeps his whistle in his pocket and lets the race to the puck play out. The linesman always will side with the defending player and blow his whistle if he feels the race is a tie by the time the players reach the faceoff dots.
"The race for a loose puck is an exciting play for our fans and we have to keep that play in, but we have to figure out a way to eliminate the injuries to the defensemen," [Toronto GM Brian] Burke said. "This is something I've put on the GMs agenda now for five years, and the injuries these defensemen get on those plays are often catastrophic. I think we have to change that. I like the hybrid rule. They have used it in the USHL for a couple of years with success. I've studied some video of that, and I think that will work."
On the other hand, Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals, the only current NHL coach at the camp, was a proponent of keeping icing unchanged. From NHL.com: "To me the hybrid icing, and I've seen it for one period, is confusing because there is a whole bunch of different things that can happen." Well, yeah.