March 10, 2010
"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm" is the famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. The same can be said for some NHL general managers who are currently down in Boca Raton, Fla., trying to convince their colleagues of changes that the League should instill in the future.
The GMs meetings are a laboratory of ideas with many failures, few successes, but plenty of open minds. Who could forget ESPN's Pierre LeBrun donning a prototype of a helmet that would provide better protection for players in a fight on Hockey Night in Canada?
In the past, these meetings were held not long before the NHL trade deadline and the GMs were a bit more focused on changing personnel than brainstorming potential rule changes. Though last year, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland did propose setting the trade deadline during the meetings.
While headshots have been the topic du jour this week, during the breakout sessions, four groups of general managers discuss various proposals for improving the game. Coming out of these groups, many ideas gain little traction, while a few are picked up among the GMs and some find themselves presented to all 30 GMs and eventually seek the approval of the NHL's Competition Committee and Board of Governors before being enacted.
Some ideas are logical and some are result of great out-of-the-box thinking, but the brainstorming sessions are what help to jump-start future discussions and get the ball rolling on other ideas.
After the jump, we take a look at five proposals that were brought up in the breakout meetings this week and examine whether we see a future in the NHL for them. Which ones would you like to see adopted for the League, if any?
1. The first standings tiebreaker is changed from "most wins" to "most regulation/OT wins"
Florida Panthers GM Randy Sexton would whole-heartedly agree with this proposal. Had this been the case last season, the Panthers (3 shootout wins) would have earned the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference over the Montreal Canadiens (7 shootout wins).
GM Scott Howson of the Columbus Blue Jackets formed this proposal, which looks to minimize the impact of the shootout. It's almost a dig at the shootout, with GMs wanting teams to go for the win in regulation or overtime. The shootout certainly has its detractors among fans, but is that disdain reaching the GMs now?
This idea has some legs and is likely to be put to a vote before the meetings end.
2. Overtime during the regular season becomes eight minutes. The first half to be played four-on-four and the last half three-on-three.
Another proposal to avoid the shootout and push for games to end in overtime. With the two halves, it's similar to what we've seen in the Winter Classic during windy conditions where the final period is stopped at the 10-minute mark and both teams switch sides.
Four-on-four provides enough open ice so that it doesn't turn into a game of professional shinny. Going three-aside with an extra point on the line is silly and could force teams to play cautious so to not turn the puck over and find themselves defending an odd-man rush.
If overtime is to be changed, keep it four-on-four, but extend it to a 10-minute period.
3. The 8th seed in each conference will be won via a one-and-done tournament between teams in 8th-15th place.
New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow devised this idea, sort of piggy-backing on March Madness to create a little excitement before the real playoffs begin. Consider it the NHL's version of the NCAA play-in game where the winner would likely find themselves out of the playoffs a short time later.
The "tournament," according to Snow, would last between five and seven days, meaning the week after the regular season ends fans would be stuck watching the bottom eight teams in each conference play instead of the best in each conference. Will that get you "Cup Crazy"?
If there's something all hockey fans can agree on, it's that the one thing the NHL does right is the playoffs. Tinkering with the postseason is something that should never be done.
4. Coaches will be allowed one challenge per game.
Like the NFL, coaches could decide once per game to have a play reviewed. It's unclear if only specific plays would be eligible to be challenged like in the NFL or if anything can be reviewed. For the most part, the NHL does a good job with their review system even though a few tweaks may be needed as to what can be looked at after the fact. Referees and linesman also do a commendable job of knowing what plays should be looked at, though some extra barking from a team's bench might help in the process.
5. All-Star Game rosters are selected by two "captains."
Think of it like a really big pond hockey game between you and your friends. Ray Shero of the Pittsburgh Penguins threw out one of the more creative ideas of the week in hopes of helping to spice up the midseason spectacle that has lost its luster over time.
How the captains would be selected is up for discussion, but given the way NHL marketing has been, it wouldn't be crazy to see "Team Ovie" and "Team Sidney" replace the East/West format in this scenario.
Can't you just see the puck bunnies creating their own "Twilight" knock-off T-shirts?
It's a fun idea, but if you thought the snubs were bad using fan voting, imagine if Alex Ovechkin(notes) and Sidney Crosby(notes) were the ones making the decisions? Could Philadelphia Flyers fans hate either player more if one of their own was left off either roster?
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Though many of the proposals in the breakout sessions may not get to a vote or get passed, the groundwork is now there for future discussions. Some ideas may even be brought up at future meetings with GMs coming back to the table with a few tweaks to the ideas.
Do any of those five ideas catch your eye and are changes you'd like to eventually see?