While 20 of the League's best players were in New York for a preseason promotional tour, the NHL's Board of Governors gathered at a nearby hotel to approve a new tiebreaker system for the standings. Starting with the 2010-11 season, the tiebreaker among teams with the same total of points in the standings will go to the club with the most regulation and overtime wins -- no longer including shootout wins in the decision.
"All of our research indicates overwhelmingly that the fans do like the shootouts," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "There has been an increase [in shootouts] in the last year, after consistent numbers in the four prior years, but one year does not an issue make."
Statistics prove out the Commissioner's point: From the 2005-06 season through 2008-09, games resulting in overtime ranged from 272 to 282 and shootouts ranged from 145 to 164. Last season, total overtime games totaled 301 and there were 184 shootouts.
"We are going to keep an eye on it," Bettman said. "It's why at our recent Research, Development and Orientation Camp [held in Toronto during mid-August] we looked at playing 4-on-4, then 3-and-3 and tried switching ends for the overtime period to force a long-line change [which League numbers show trends to more scoring, probably due to tiring defenders]. We would like to see more games decided in 4-on-4."
Toronto general manager Brian Burke told reporters after the meeting "there is a sense among managers that we never envisioned this many shootouts." This concern led to the recommendation from the GMs for "a reduced role in the tiebreaker system" for shootout wins, which the NHL Players' Association representatives on the League's Competition Committee approved and subsequently the Board of Governors approved.
The tiebreaker system also is used to decide NHL Entry Draft order and any waiver-claim priorities during the season.
The annual September meeting of the NHL Board of Governors afforded Bettman the opportunity to give his "State of the League" address, plus various business reports. Tuesday's meeting included a well-received review of the RDO camp, a brainchild of the Commissioner led by the NHL Hockey Operations Department Vice President and former NHL star Brendan Shanahan.
Bettman was asked during the media scrum for comment about the NHL's resolution with the New Jersey Devils over the Ilya Kovalchuk contract dispute.
"The matter is closed, both from the League and Devils' standpoint," said Bettman. "The arbitrator [Richard Bloch] found there was a circumvention in this particular case and I have been very clear to the Board that if there is a finding of circumvention it has to be punishable. It's that simple.
"I am not suggesting for a minute that the Devils acted in bad faith or thought they were trying to do something wrong. Once the finding is circumvention, it has to be addressed."