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GMs considering minor changes to overtime

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

Anything that reduces the number of shootouts I would vote for.Flames President of Hockey Operations and GM Brian Burke

BOCA RATON, FL -- Dry-scraping the entire ice sheet and requiring teams to switch ends after regulation are two modifications to the current overtime format which are gaining momentum after the first day of the annual March meetings of the League's general managers.

The managers are considering the changes as a way to have more games end in overtime rather than the shootout.

Since 2005-06, when the shootout was implemented, approximately 57 percent of the games which have gone to overtime were decided in a shootout, a number the GMs would like to see decline.

"Anything that reduces the number of shootouts I would vote for," Calgary Flames president of hockey operations and acting general manager Brian Burke said.

The GMs opened their meetings Monday by splitting into three breakout groups of 10 managers each to discuss various topics, among them the overtime format. New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow was in the group which discussed overtime and said the GMs were unanimously in favor of the dry scrape and teams switching ends.

Moving the dry scrape to the start of overtime instead of before the shootout, when it currently occurs, would give the players a better playing surface for the overtime period and encourage them to attempt more skilled plays in overtime, according to the advocates for the rule.

The proposal for switching ends allows for the re-introduction of the "long change," which already exists in the second period of games. For the past 10 years the second period has produced 36 percent of all goals scored and 37 percent of all penalties committed.

As proof of the potential effect the "long change" could have in overtime, the GMs were shown statistics from the United States Hockey League, which this season started requiring teams to switch ends for overtime and has seen a 10 percent increase in the number of games which extend beyond regulation decided in overtime.

The "long change" forces players, especially defensemen, to skate further in order to make a line change, potentially creating more mistakes that lead to offensive chances.

"We don't need major tweaks here," Washington Capitals GM George McPhee said. "This might be one."

The overtime discussion will continue Tuesday in a large-group session of all 30 GMs. Any changes to the current rules would have to be agreed upon by the GMs and then presented in a formal proposal to the Competition Committee, which next meets in June.

To become official, the changes would need the approval of the Competition Committee and the NHL's Board of Governors, which typically meets after the Stanley Cup Final.

"Years ago if you would have said, 'If you ice the puck you would have to stay on the ice, would that change the game,' everybody would have said that's not a big a deal," Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said. "It is a big deal. It's amazing how little things can change the game."

However, there doesn't appear to be an appetite among the GMs to make any big changes to the overtime format, so for now it's unlikely the proposal by Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland to expand overtime to include a 3-on-3 element will garner much support.

New York Rangers GM Glen Sather called going to 3-on-3 "a bit of a pipe dream in my opinion."

According to numbers provided by the NHL Department of Player Safety, there have been zero goals scored in 10 minutes of 3-on-3 time this season and there has been one 3-on-3 goal in the past four years.

St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said the fact that 3-on-3 is so rare makes it hard to gauge how effective it would be in ending games before a shootout.

"We haven't seen it for a full two minutes," Armstrong said. "That's the only issue. You see 3-on-3 for a minute or 45 seconds and the one team waiting to get the power play might attack a little bit differently than if it was a full two minutes. I think really to see it you have to see it for the full two minutes with everyone at even strength and no advantage coming by killing that penalty and getting back to 4-on-3."

In addition, the managers are concerned about the effect adding more time to the game would have on players. Holland's idea is to have a four-minute session of 3-on-3 follow a scoreless four-minute session of 4-on-4.

"When it comes to extra minutes added, you're talking about your best players playing more," McPhee said. "They may play enough already. It might be back-to-back games, three games in four nights. How much are you using those guys?

"We don't see 3-on-3 much anyway in hockey."

Author: Dan Rosen | Senior Writer

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