It's getting close to decision time.
Players and general managers will be asked to vote on whether the NHL should implement hybrid icing
, which is being tested during the pre-season. If the yes vote wins, it will be used in the regular season.
Hybrid icing allows the on-ice officials to blow a play dead if, on a potential icing play, they feel the defending player is going to get to the puck first.
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, for one, likes the new hybrid icing.
"It seems to be working from our perspective," Carlyle said. "I think the games have moved along quicker because of it. There's not a lot of time wasted and it seems that the linesmen have adopted it and made some good decisions.
"There are far more good decisions being made out there than poor ones and I think it has sped up the game."
Carlyle said from a safety point of view hybrid icing makes sense to him.
"I was kind of old school, but now that you visualize it and you're actually participating in it, I can see where there is a lot of common sense and common ground," he said. "The whole idea behind it is for safety and if we can speed up the game."
Toronto defenceman Carl Gunnarsson said hybrid icing is a good concept, but he feels there are some kinks that need to be worked out.
"I've only played one game in which they used it and I think it is a good idea, but there are questions that I have," Gunnarsson said. "When they ring the puck around the boards or if it's behind the net and there are two guys coming at it from both sides, what do you call?
"As a D-man, I think I'm going to love it, though. If they can make it work, I think I would love the rule."
Fellow defenceman Mark Fraser hasn't made his mind up on which way he'll vote yet.
"I don't mind icing the way it has always been called, but at the same time there have been some pretty bad injuries because of it and nobody wants to see that either," Fraser said. "I wouldn't mind if we kept touch icing, but when it comes down to it there was an earlier whistle. I guess in essence that is what the hybrid icing is."
Some -- such as Hockey Night in Canada
commentator Don Cherry, who promotes the implementation of no-touch icing weekly on Coach's Corner
-- feel hybrid icing doesn't go far enough.
Cherry and many others feel racing for the puck presents too much danger to players. Rising star Pat Peake had his career come to an abrupt end when he was injured after crashing into the boards while chasing down a puck on an icing play. Former NHL defenceman Kurtis Foster also suffered a severe broken leg on a similar play.
Others argue the race for the puck - usually only a couple per game - is an exciting play and should not be removed from the game. No-touch icing is used in international hockey competition, but the NHL has resisted it, preferring instead to have players race one another for the puck.
Lou Lamoriello, general manager of the New Jersey Devils, spoke out against hybrid icing this week, suggesting it puts additional pressure on the officials.
"I don't like the idea of adding another judgement call for officials when we've had something exact," Lamoriello said.
Dog days of camp
Carlyle said these are the dog days of training camp. With five pre-season games remaining, he said some players are itching for the regular season to begin.
It really is an interesting dynamic when you consider many of the players know they will be on the team and the pre-season games are used to get them prepared for the regular season. Other players, however, are on the bubble and fighting for their professional lives.
"That's the life of a pro athlete," Carlyle said. "When training camp comes around there [are] always going to be people, if you are in a solid position, lined up to try to take your job.
"That's what remains unique; you can be a teammate one minute and the next minute you're fighting for the same job. That's the harsh reality of the dog-eat-dog world we live in."
Smaller equipment, bigger five-hole
Toronto goalie James Reimer said he, like all goalies, is adjusting to the new trimmed down goalie equipment. The biggest difference he has noticed thus far is his five-hole has increased in size.
"It's more like a 5.2 hole," he joked.
Reimer, who will face the Sabres in Buffalo Saturday night, said it doesn't bother him to go a week between games. He played last Sunday in London against the Philadelphia Flyers.
"You get more and more comfortable every time you practise or play a game," Reimer said. "There are some things in games you really can't practise and you have to get comfortable in those situations, but practice is huge. I have honestly felt better every day since camp started. It's not a downer to have just practised and not played. I feel I have gotten better."
A lot has been made of the fact he has some stiff competition from newcomer Jonathan Bernier
for the starter's job, but Reimer said you can really only pay attention to your own game and things will fall into place.
"When you start worrying about what other people are doing then things kind of go downhill," he said. "The competition is ramping up and everyone is trying to play the best they can and that has to be good enough."
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