General managers from around the National Hockey League are gathering this week in Boca Raton, Fla., for annual March meetings, and among the issues that are expected to command attention are overtime format and expanded video review.
Overtime format was most recently discussed by general managers in November meetings in Toronto, the goal of which is to have more games decided before a shootout. Video review is expected to be discussed as it applies to expanding it beyond its current limited focus of determining the validity of a goal, and the idea of a coach’s challenge will also likely be considered.
While these ideas are being tossed around in South Florida, CarolinaHurricanes.com took an informal straw poll inside the Canes’ locker room.
Perhaps the most popular idea in altering overtime is to simply add time to the current five-minute, four-on-four sudden death session, possibly making it 10 minutes in duration.
“If you just kept it four-on-four and add in another five minutes, if teams play four-on-four for 10 minutes, someone is going to score a goal,” forward Patrick Dwyer said, also noting that the extra five minutes wouldn’t play that much of a factor in fatigue in an 82-game season. “The concern, obviously, is the ice conditions. But you could do a dry scrape on the ice. They do it for shootouts.”
Another minor alteration would be having the teams switch sides, forcing the long change that currently exists in the second period. This season in the NHL (through March 9), goal scoring is the highest in the second period, as teams have combined for 1,829 tallies, nearly 36 percent of regulation goal-scoring.
According to Bob McKenzie, the USHL instituted the long change in overtime and has since settled 10 percent more games in the extra period.
“I’ve heard things about that – stats show there are more goals in the second than the first or third,” Dwyer said. “If you have to go that far for a change, it will open it up.”
“What would happen is maybe guys get stuck out there a bit longer and get tired, and it might not be the best hockey you’d see,” defenseman Brett Bellemore said.
Another, more radical yet intriguing idea is to add five minutes of three-on-three action before proceeding to a shootout, if necessary. Early reports out of Florida, however, indicate there might not be much support behind this plan.
“I know three-on-three I wouldn’t be playing that. Probably all the speedy guys,” Bellemore joked. “Whatever is better for the game, I’m all for that.”
“You’re definitely going to open the game up on three-on-three,” Dwyer said. “The tendency with three-on-three is it’s usually a two-on-one one way, and if they don’t score, it’s a two-on-one coming back. So it’s definitely going to open things up and end a lot of games that way.”
“It would be fun to watch three-on-three. It would open up a lot of space. But then you get to the point where, if it opens up too much space, you may never get to a shootout. Then you have a different problem or different look to overtime,” forward Jeff Skinner said. “For me, that would be pretty cool watching or playing in three-on-three but it’s tough to say which one is better.”
“If you’re going to turn the puck over, it’s pretty much a rush, three-on-two or even three-on-one, so there would be more scoring chances and more space to make passes,” goaltender Anton Khudobin said.
Though general managers are searching for ways to diminish the role shootouts play in the regular season, eliminating them all together doesn’t seem to be an option.
According to NHL.com, 14 percent of games played this season (through March 8) have ended in a shootout, and 40 percent of overtime games have reached a shootout. These numbers represent a slight uptick from last season (13.46 percent) and a slight downtick from 2011-12 (14.72 percent). Overall, since the implementation of the shootout in the 2005-06 season, 13.3 percent of the 10,293 games played have been decided in such a manner.
Support for the shootout in the Canes’ room is mixed.
“Personally, I hate to see games won or lost in the shootout, especially at this time of year,” Dwyer said. “Teams are fighting so hard and points are going every which way. To have it decided in a shootout is kind of a tough way to go.”
“I don’t mind it,” Bellemore said.
“Over my career here, it hasn’t been too kind to us, so I guess looking at changing it up wouldn’t be too bad of an idea for us,” Skinner said, referencing the fact that the Hurricanes are 8-15 in the shootout – including just three wins in the last three seasons alone – since the beginning of his rookie season (2010-11). “It’s entertaining, but I think three-on-three could be just as entertaining.”
“I like it. It’s just a battle between you and the player. So it’s kind of interesting for me. I get excited about it,” Khudobin said. “One year in the AHL, I had, I don’t know, maybe 11 or 12 shootouts in the season, so sometimes you don’t want it as much, but at the same time it’s fun.”
The logistics of expanded video review, especially a coach’s challenge, could be tricky. There is also the consideration of how much it would impact the pace of a game.
But, if the ultimate goal is to make the correct call, why not at least consider it?
“I think it’s worked well in football. Certainly there have been some crucial moments that [coaches] able to question a certain call,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “It’s such a tough job for referees to be perfect. If you have the opportunity to dispute a key moment and save it, it’s obviously an effective way at the end of the day to not go, hey, that one play cost us the game. So, sure, I think we’d be in favor of it.”
Should the general managers want to make a rule change, they would present the agreed-upon proposal as a recommendation to the competition committee, which convenes next in June. Then, to become official, the rule proposal would need to be ratified by the competition committee and the NHL’s Board of Governors.
As with any discussed rule changes, there exists debate, but the ultimate goal is to better the game.
“I like things how they are,” said a rather un-opinionated Bellemore. “Whatever will be better for the game.”
“They’ll do a good job reviewing it,” Dwyer said. “They’ll have information, examine it and hopefully find a way that works best for everyone.”
“There are all of these little ways to open up the game and create offense,” Skinner said. “It’s cool that they’re looking into it to keep the game evolving but at the same time keeping the tradition in it. It’s all about finding the balance in it. They’ve got some good options, and in my opinion, they can’t really go wrong.”