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General managers to evaluate state of game at annual meetings

Offside rule, coach's challenge, EBUG among topics on agenda

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The NHL general managers will discuss the state of the game, examine and possibly recommend new rule changes and evaluate recent rule changes at their annual March meetings which begin Monday and run through Wednesday.

The GMs will have a full general meeting Monday morning followed by group sessions designed to generate conversations and ideas that can be brought back into the main group meeting Tuesday. 

Potential rule change recommendations, should there be any, would likely be announced either Tuesday or Wednesday.

"These three days of meetings always present us with an opportunity to evaluate our game and our on-ice product in a thorough and detailed way," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. "These are the guys [the GMs] that live the game every day and every night over an extended nine-month period. They have the pulse of what's working in the game, and what could be improved. And their insights are critical, if not essential, to all of the game-related decisions we make at the League level."

The general managers are expected to discuss the League's emergency backup goaltender procedure, which came into the spotlight last week when David Ayres was forced to play for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 6-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Feb. 22 because of in-game injuries to Carolina goalies Petr Mrazek and James Reimer.

Ayres, a 42-year-old who drives the ice resurfacing machine at Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto and regularly practices with the Maple Leafs, made eight saves and became the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut.

"There's no easy fixes to it," Deputy Commissioner Daly said. "Particularly, we have to work with the [NHL] Players' Association. Who's a player? Who's not a player? What qualifies all of that? But obviously we want what's best for the game, and we want to make sure people aren't putting themselves in danger by playing goal in a National Hockey League game."

The last time the GMs gathered for a meeting, Nov. 19 in Toronto, they left feeling good about the overall state of the game, but with a difference of opinion on the offside rule, how it is interpreted on video review and if it needs to be modified to allow for fewer overturned goals.

Colin Campbell, the NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said at the time GMs will talk at their meetings in March about modifying the rule to allow for a more liberal interpretation of offside, including allowing players to be considered onside if one of their skates has broken the vertical plane of the blue line regardless if it is in contact with the ice.

The GMs also talked about that possibility at their meetings in March of 2017 and declined to make any changes.

"I think we're always trying to be progressive and reward offense," Campbell said in November. "I think our players are much more talented than the players of the past. I can say that because I was one. But these players, the talent they have now, I think we have to take that into consideration with what they can do with the puck on those possession and control plays on the blue line."

The general managers will also likely review the rule changes implemented this season, including adding a minor penalty for all failed coach's challenges.

There has been a 41 percent decrease in the number of challenges initiated by coaches this season from last season (123-210) through 1,009 games played entering Sunday. The percentage of those challenges that has led to the call on the ice being overturned is 61 percent, up from 40 percent through the same number of games last season.

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