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Fighting a topic of discussion at GM meetings

Tuesday, 11.12.2013 / 6:39 PM / News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Fighting a topic of discussion at GM meetings
NHL general managers discussed and debated fighting by goaltenders at their meeting Tuesday, but took no action and said the conversation would be continued at their meeting in March.

TORONTO -- Goalie fighting was discussed and debated by the NHL's general managers at their meeting Tuesday, and the plan is to continue that conversation in March when the GMs gather for their annual three-day meeting in Florida.

There were no recommendations for rule changes made Tuesday.

"We certainly had a bit of a debate on fighting," Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told NHL.com. "I think the consensus in the room is that we like it the way it is. Certainly we had a conversation obviously on the goaltenders' fighting. We're going to further discuss that in March."

Goalie fighting became a topic discussed around the League on Nov. 1, when Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ray Emery skated the length of the ice to challenge and eventually fight Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who did not appear to be a willing combatant.

The topic of fighting in general also has been a hot button issue this season, stemming largely from the opening-night incident in which Montreal Canadiens forward George Parros lost his footing while fighting Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr, fell and sustained a concussion because he hit his head on the ice.

However, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said the League and the general managers view skaters fighting separately from goalie fighting.

"We discussed aspects around that and if we could put things in place to prevent the goaltending situation, for example," Campbell said.

"I think it needs more time in a breakout meeting in March, but we discussed that fairly intensively [Tuesday]."

In addition, the managers were given reports on the progress of hybrid icing, the new goalie equipment and the new shallower nets. The consensus is those changes, implemented this season, have been positive for the game. In particular, the League and the GMs seem happy with hybrid icing, the most significant change for the season.

NHL Senior Vice President and Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom said there has been the same amount of icings so far this season compared to the total under the old touch-icing system. He said that's what the NHL was hoping for.

"It's stopped that catastrophic injury along the end boards; that was the goal and objective of the hybrid icing," Walkom told NHL.com. "And our guys have been great about going back to center ice if they miss something relative to a player racing that they didn't see or a goaltender coming out of the crease, but there has been less and less of that."

Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier gave credit to the players and the officials for adjusting to the new hybrid icing system.

"I think it's been a positive," Regier told NHL.com.

There were also positive reports on the effect that the new smaller goalie equipment has had on the game. Armstrong said he's noticed more five-hole goals.

"Kenny [Holland] won't like that as much as a former goalie, but for the game it's been good," St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said.

However, San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson cautioned that the League needs to stay on top of the goalies to make sure the equipment remains at the correct size.

"I think we still have to be proactive and stay ahead of the curve because everybody is always on a competitive side looking for ways to get advantages," Wilson told NHL.com, "but the more we meet, the more that we hear, whether it be from players, fellow GMs, coaches, I think it's productive."

Armstrong said the shallower nets also are leading to more offense. He said the GMs were shown clips of players scoring wraparound goals by using the extra four inches available to them.

"They showed some plays where defensemen were using the backboards to get the puck to come back out at different angles," Armstrong said. "I think that has increased the scoring, it's been real positive."

The managers also were given clarification on the new playoff system implemented this season.

The top three teams in each division make the playoffs and the final two spots are taken by the teams that have the next most points. If four teams from each division make the playoffs, the fourth-place teams could cross-over to the other division to ensure the team with the most points in the donference plays the final team to qualify for the playoffs in the first round.

"Certainly my personal opinion is wherever possible to stay within the division. It creates rivalries [and] less travel," Holland said. "That's obviously part of the reason why we went to two divisions in each conference was to build rivalries, less travel. Obviously there's a crossover component, we talked about it [Tuesday], and that's why we're going to continue to talk about it in March."

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