A change to this year’s All-Star game and continued vigilance on hits to the head.
Those are the key elements of informal recommendations at the NHL’s General Managers Meetings on Tuesday.
General managers from all 30 teams met at a Toronto Airport hotel to review rule changes and propose some new wrinkles. Some ideas, like a secret plan to revive the All-Star game seemed to have traction. Others, a coach’s challenge initiated by Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon after an atrocious call allowed the Leafs Colton Orr to gain a goal were blown off.
“I think my feelings on the coach’s challenge were pretty public before,” said Leafs’ general manager Brian Burke.
“We have the best officials in the world and they get it right most of the time. I think it requires a great deal more discussion and it didn’t survive the first test where it will be on a future meeting so I’m pleased with that."
The league is also looking at a way to tweak the shootout rule even though the number of games ended by shots is on the decline. This season 41 games that have gone to overtime and 16 ended in shootouts. Last year at this time, 50 games went to overtime and 31 went to shootout. So far this season, the Maple Leafs have played four games that went into overtime.
Two were decided by shots. The Leafs are 1-3 in extra time.
“I think if we were looking at tinkering with the overtime format that’s something we would have to do as part of negotiations with the players,” Burke said.
“The fans like the shootout, it’s here to stay. It’s just that we have too many,” Burke said. “Is there a better way to produce some finality prior to the shootout? We will have to look at that next time around."
“I basically told Colin (league disciplinarian Colin Campbell) I want to keep it on the burner,” said Detroit GM Ken Holland.” It was a five minute conversation to say we're going to put it on the March meetings. Let’s watch the numbers this year.”
Burke said he was pleased with the crackdown on hits to the head. There have been six incidents so far.
“In my mind we took a major step because we had a major problem because of these hits that had crept into the game. It’s a modern phenomenon that’s come over the last few years. I think the league will flush out the rule with suspensions and fines. Overall I think the rule is an unqualified success.”
The Leafs’ GM also said some players invite being hit from behind.
“I am appalled at the position some players put themselves in with the puck where they know the defenceman is right behind them and they put their face behind the glass. Then they are surprised when they end up getting pancaked.”
Meanwhile, GMs seemed to have put the finishing touches on a revised format for the NHL All-Star game. Expect an announcement within the next few days. Suggestions of possible changes have included allowing the players to choose the teams.
The GMs also discussed Twitter. The NHL is the only one of the four sports without a player policy on Twitter and the league was embarrassed when Phoenix tough guy Paul Bissonette let loose with some moronic comments.
His GM Don Maloney was said the league needs to look at social media.
"Really the point of talking about it, for all us 50-somethings in there, this whole Twitter/Facebook, we don’t quite understand it. And yet this was more a discussion on how do we get ahead of it? We don’t want to discourage the personalities, we want the personalities. Paul Bissonette is a great story and a great personality. But there’s certain lines that you can’t cross.”
Burke wasn’t impressed.
“I don’t even understand it (Twitter) so I don’t know how to draft rules. I am lost when we discuss this.”