No appetite for rule changes among NHL GMs
Offsides, coach's challenges continue to be reviewed
They call it "Mike Murphy's law" around the NHL hockey operations department, and it means that something is bound to go wrong.
But while league officials are fully expecting at least one rule to cause consternation in the playoffs, general managers opted against recommending changes to it or anything else on the second day of meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.
"Like anything, it's better to move slow," Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka said.
Among the issues of most intrigue was the offside element of the coach's challenge, which was introduced itself at the start of the 2015-16 season.
Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said it was almost certain to bubble into controversy during the post-season — Mike Murphy's law in other words. Some calls involving the offside have been almost too close to call and there's been murkiness on players raising one leg in the air to avoid drawing an offside charge.
Ultimately, no change was deemed necessary for now.
"It's almost like a hair — is it up or is it not up?" Campbell said. "It's all to get the call right. That's how this whole thing got started, just get the call right. We're trying to get the call right. Can you get it righter than right?
Campbell said there were 100 challenges on offsides so far this season, 29 of which related to a player lifting his skate in the air to avoid being offside. Just nine were overturned and ruled offside, another 20 deemed inconclusive. The league assumed that the addition of high-definition cameras at the blue-line last spring would make the offside aspect of the challenge essentially cut and dried, but it's not been that way so far.
"I don't think we have to change anything," said Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic. "You grow up as a kid and you know the rule and it is what it is."
'We're working out the kinks'
Some general managers, however, took issue with calls being ruled inconclusive, arguing that it was either a goal or offsides and not.
The Edmonton Oilers challenged a Viktor Arvidsson goal in late February that saw Arvidsson leap with both legs as the puck crossed the line. On closer review it looked like the Swede was offside, but the goal was confirmed after a lengthy look by officials and proved the eventual game-winner for Nashville.
"But I think it's working," Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said. "We're working out the kinks."
"It always comes back to the fact that there are over 5,000 offside [calls] and there were nine goals that were disallowed that would have been allowed if we change the rule," added Chayka.
Campbell couldn't help but recall those rare instances when a wrong call led to an unfortunate, unforgettable result. He noted the Calgary Flames dropping Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final after an apparent Martin Gelinas go-ahead goal was ruled to have not crossed the line.
Calgary was leading the series 3-2 at that point, but lost in seven games to Tampa.
Campbell also mentioned the Philadelphia Flyers losing the 1980 Stanley Cup final when Duane Sutter scored a goal in the deciding Game 6 that was clearly offside.
"They don't forget and we don't either, so we want to try to be perfect on every call," Campbell said.
The goaltender interference aspect of the coach's challenge was also reviewed in detail Tuesday with no changes recommended.
Next on the agenda: Bye weeks
The five-day "bye week", instituted for the first time this season, is on the docket for discussion on Wednesday and it's likely to draw some strong opinions. Clubs haven't been thrilled with the concept, given its effects on scheduling, practice time and performance, among other things.
Players got the bye week in return for agreeing to the three-on-three concept for the 2016 all-star game.
Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray thought the obvious fix was aligning the bye week by division or conference so that no team had an advantage.
"I don't know if there's any cure for it," Murray said. "But that's the best fix."
GMs were told that there was nothing to update as far as NHL players attending the 2018 Olympics. Owners are increasingly against the idea, but no final decision has been reached. The group also heard reports on newly implemented concussion protocols for this season and the status of updated goaltending equipment.
Further chatter about long-term changes for the game — many of which were tossed around on Monday — are expected before the meetings wrap on Wednesday.