BOCA RATON, FL -- Maybe it's because the weather here is way too nice to stay indoors and talk, but don't expect major changes to the NHL game near you.
The league's general managers and hockey operations department met Monday in three different "breakout" groups, with the debates involving overtime format, a coach's challenge and goalie interference, among other things.
It appeared, after the last get-together in November, there might be appetite for adding a three-on-three portion in overtime to de-emphasize the shootout. Not anymore.
"Three-on-three is a bit of a pipe dream, in my opinion," said Rangers president and GM Glen Sather.
"Coming out of the November meetings we were thinking three-on-three, but I'm not sure [now]," said Ken Holland, Detroit's executive vice-president and GM, a proponent of this idea. "I'm not sure if we're going to be able to get more minutes, but we talked about longer changes."
That's probably the biggest proposal you'll see when the managers reconvene Tuesday in a larger group. Right now, teams switch ends during playoff overtimes, but don't in the regular season. Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said in Sochi he thought the "long change" had a major impact in the overtime of Canada's dramatic victory over the American in the women's gold medal game.
There is support to add this for the regular season, too.
"I think so," Islanders GM Garth Snow said. "It was pretty unanimous in our group."
Entering Monday's night, 74.9 of the NHL's games ended in regulation, 14.3 per cent in a shootout and 10.8 in overtime.
"Anything that reduces the number of shootouts, I would vote for," Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke said.
Holland's idea on extra time for three-on-three ran into a couple of major roadblocks. There is concern about making games longer (we'll get to that in a minute) and a question of whether players would be willing to agree. (The NHLPA will be in attendance on Tuesday.)
"When it comes to extra minutes added, you're talking about your best players playing more," said Washington's George McPhee. "They may play enough already. It might be back-to-back games, three games in four nights... How much are you using those guys?"
This change could also involve a dry scrape before overtime, instead of before the shootout -- where it is now. Makes sense, you might as well have the best ice for four-on-four.
It's tough to find consensus on this one. In 2005-06, the average time of an NHL game was 2.19 hours. Now, we're at 2.31. It's not a tonne, but teams are sensitive to this. You creep towards/over 2.5 hours, and you've got yourself a problem, buster.
I love the idea and support it, but admit that anyone who remembers reviews from the late-1990s knows how bad a Pandora's Box this can be. It was brutal back then.
"It's just a lot more complicated than you think," said Kings president and GM Dean Lombardi, whose team lost a game in Detroit when no officials saw the puck hit the netting above the glass seconds before a last-second goal.
"The hard part on this one is, when you see something like that that's so far out in left field, you want to fix it. But as soon as you try to fix it, does it apply to offsides? Does it apply to high-sticks or all those other things that aren't reviewable now?"
"What if it's offside? You enter the zone offside, you end up on the cycle and you score 30 seconds later. Technically, you could say, yeah. I don't know where you draw it. That's what happens when we get in a room."
"I will say there wasn't a lot of consensus on the criteria," said Edmonton's Craig MacTavish. "I'm an advocate of a coach's challenge, but there's got to be a lot of work done to boil it down and fine tune it so it makes sense.
"There's some discussion about a coach's ability to use that coach's challenge to buy time as another timeout that is going to further delay the game, which everybody was conscientious of."
To further MacTavish's point, baseball is expanding replay this year and already there are reports of Tampa Bay's inventive Joe Maddon running certain spring training drills in an effort to take advantage of the system.
Minnesota's Chuck Fletcher mentioned he would probably hire a second video coach whose sole responsibility would be monitoring review opportunities.
"I like the coach's challenge, I like the idea of a coach's challenge, but I think if we are reviewing the things that are important then we don't need the coach's challenge," Ottawa's Bryan Murray said.
The replay question also factored into a conversation about goaltender interference.
"Today's nature of the game is to crash the net," Florida's Dale Tallon said, "Everyone collapses in the box and blocks shots. It's hard to get open to score goals. So everyone crowds the net. That's where all of the traffic is obviously. So it's just a matter of getting it right, and not making the games 20 minutes longer."
"I don't know if we made progress or not, but the proposal would be that you have a television monitor in the penalty box and that referee could review the call, rather than abdicating the responsibility to Toronto," Burke said. "I think it's worth looking at, maybe in the preseason."
"It's giving the referee a second chance to look at a play," said Murray. "If the goaltender is not allowed to make a play on the shot, then we should we get the call as correct as we can...In the main meeting I don't know that it will have a lot of support. I think the War Room will be more inclined to have a bigger say in that."
"There's so many different areas that you have to explore on goalie interference, and the question is: 'Should we leave it with the referee?'" said NHL senior vice-president Colin Campbell. "And the referees get the last real good view of what happens. "Everybody, even an individual [fan] in the stands with a laptop or a handheld, he sees it better than the referee sees it. We tend to make our decisions based upon the video review, and the referee doesn't get that.
"I talk to Ed Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, who's on the Competition Committee -- he still talks about the offside goal in (1980) that he felt cost him a Stanley Cup. You may chuckle here, but it still bothers him. If we have the possibility to make it right, should we do it? And should we be refereeing from the video room is the question. And I think all sports is asking that question today."
In fact, the NBA will be creating a "command centre" for replay next season, based on a study of the NHL's model.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong proposed moving the hashmarks on the faceoff circle farther apart, to five feet -- which was distance at the Olympics.
"Lots of support for that in our group," Holland said. "Less obstruction, less interference off the draws. Probably would lead to less centre icemen kicked out...because of the jostling around."
"I liked it," Snow said. "Means less b.s. on face-offs."
Sounds good to me. See you tomorrow.
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