"Does everybody like (the trapezoid)? Probably not. Does everybody like that you can't shoot the puck over the glass? Probably not. But, the whole package is there and the package says that in 2003 goal-scoring was down, our 100-point men were down, our 50-goal scorers were down."
-- Canadiens GM Bob Gainey
That's because many of the GMs on hand at Tuesday's general managers' meeting at the Westin Harbour Castle believe the entire rules package coming out of the 2004-05 lockout -- which included the trapezoid -- has been so successful in re-introducing offensive flow to the game.
Other rules in that offense-stimulation package that evolved out of the season-long stoppage included a more stringent enforcement of obstruction fouls, the elimination of the two-line offsides, as well as the re-introduction of tag-up offsides. Also, the clearing of a puck in the defensive zone over the protective glass by a defending player became a mandatory delay-of-game penalty.
"It goes into the package of things," Montreal GM Bob Gainey said after Tuesday's afternoon meeting broke. "Does everybody like (the trapezoid)? Probably not. Does everybody like that you can't shoot the puck over the glass? Probably not. But, the whole package is there and the package says that in 2003 goal-scoring was down, our 100-point men were down, our 50-goal scorers were down.
"So there were these things we were attempting to accomplish that when we look five years later, we can see tangible evidence that it is a more wide-open, a faster, more exciting game without the holding, hooking and stuff like that."
Statistically, the evidence is on the side of Gainey and those that advocate the status quo.
In 2003-04, the year before the lockout, there was a three-way tie for the League's goal-scoring lead at 41 goals, while Tampa Bay's Marty St. Louis led all point-getters with 94 points. In 2007-08, three players topped 50 goals, including a League-leading 65 goals by Alex Ovechkin. Last season, four players -- including who broke the 100-point barrier -- topped St. Louis' 2003-04 League-leading point total.
"There was an attempt to go back and ask why did we put it there and try to bring up to the surface why this was included in that group of changes in 2005 that we felt was important to increase speed and the offense and the general level of play to have it more fun for the players and the fans," Gainey said.
There was also a consensus among GMs on Tuesday that the trapezoid has been a part of the success in opening the game back up, despite the fact that it limited the ability of some NHL goalies to play the puck and serve as a third defenseman.
"I can only remind them, if you take away the trapezoid, you are going to have the same issues you had in the past -- goalies out there playing the puck, putting their back to the play," NHL Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said. "We had tons of issues that way with goalies playing pucks. That was one issue and the other issue was it became a ping-pong game -- throw the puck in, throw the puck out. Guys forget that part of that whole aspect we put into place was to reward offensive hockey coming out of the lockout and penalize defensive hockey.
"These rules, taken as a whole package, opened the game up and when we get a couple of hiccups or burps, we have to hang in there with resolve."
But there are some dissenters, most of whom are more concerned with the potential for defensemen chasing after dump-ins can get hurt as unimpeded forecheckers are given a free run into the attacking zone to hunt down the puck and initiate a board battle.
San Jose GM Doug Wilson introduced the issue onto the agenda for that very reason, but seemed to take Tuesday's defeat in stride.
"We ask questions to hear other people's response," Wilson said. "It was a good discussion. You can learn from listening to others."
Carolina GM Jim Rutherford is on Wilson's side in this debate, and he seemed to be the most displeased out of those proposing the elimination of the trapezoid. He believes that the inability of a goalie to play the puck up to his defenseman has left defensemen vulnerable along the end boards, resulting in the potential for injury.
Many defenders of the trapezoid argue that there is little empirical evidence that players are being hurt in the end-board battle scenario outlined by Rutherford, but the long-time executive and former player trusts his eyes more than any statistics.
"What's happening now is (the defensemen) are going back to get the puck and the first player going back is kind of tip-toeing back there, trying to tie the guy because he is so afraid he's going to get whacked into the boards and you are going to peel him of the glass," Rutherford said. "I'm surprised that more guys didn't want to take a closer look at it."