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GM meetings could lead to tweaks; no major changes

by Dan Rosen

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- After three days of meetings at the Boca Beach Club, the NHL general managers came away with a consensus that the game is in good shape and needs no radical makeover.

"There are no major announcements or major changes," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "There will be some recommendations, some things people will look at, there will be some more homework done, but you should continue to enjoy the game principally the way it's being played."

Among the recommendations the managers are considering to propose to the Competition Committee are modifications to the overtime format and faceoff protocol.

Specifically, the GMs are in favor of having teams switch ends for overtime to create the "long change" dynamic which exists in the second period, historically the most offensive and most penalized period in the game. The GMs would like to see more games which extend beyond regulation end in overtime rather than the shootout.

On faceoffs the managers would like to see the hash marks outside the faceoff circles extended from three feet to five feet, which they believe would reduce the amount of congestion on a faceoff. Also, instead of having linesmen toss players out of the faceoff if they commit a violation, the GMs would like to see the offending player moved to a line that is 12 to 18 inches removed from the dot, taking away that player's leverage to win the draw.

For any of these changes to become official the managers need to present a formal proposal to the Competition Committee, which will meet in June. The changes then need the approval of the Competition Committee and the Board of Governors, which typically meets after the Stanley Cup Final.

Commissioner Bettman called the modifications to overtime and faceoffs tweaks to a game that is operating smoothly.

"The overwhelming sense of the group is you don't make change for the sake of change," Commissioner Bettman said. "Maybe you want to focus on a tweak here and there because if you can make it better you do that, but we're not looking at any core fundamental problems."

The GMs also are interested in seeing more kicked-in goals allowed as a way to increase scoring, but NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday that proposal is a rules-interpretation issue and does not require approval from the Competition Committee. The managers would like to see any goal scored off a skate with the blade remaining on the ice considered legal.

On Wednesday the GMs spent time discussing a variety of topics unrelated to rule changes. The salary cap for next season, a number that will not be released until after the season, rules related to the NHL Draft Combine and a review of the 2014 Sochi Olympics were among the discussion points.

Commissioner Bettman also echoed statements made by Daly on Tuesday, saying the falling value of the Canadian dollar (now 90 cents on the U.S. dollar) will have a small impact on next season's salary cap, which in December was projected to be approximately $71 million. The cap this season is $64.3 million.

"I know a lot of people were talking about the number we showed the Board in December; that was an illustration. It wasn't based on anything because we didn't have any revenues," Commissioner Bettman said. "We said after we get to the end of the regular season we may be able to better project what it looks like. With the Canadian dollar where it is maybe you're looking at a million or two difference in the cap based on where the cap is likely to be. It's not that big of a deal."

The draft combine received a lot of attention Wednesday.

GMs are concerned that teams are bringing in too many prospects for medical testing and interviews in the time after the official scouting combine run by NHL Central Scouting, which takes place in Toronto in late May.

Washington Capitals GM George McPhee said the combine was designed so prospects didn't have to visit multiple teams.

"We originally came up with a combine to streamline that and have all the players go to one place, work out and you get the results," McPhee said. "We've improved the combine over the years to make sure we're getting the results we need. … Ideally what we want is one combine where everybody gets their information and it's equal for [all] teams."

There was discussion about adding new physical-testing elements to the combine to satisfy the needs of the teams.

As it stands now teams are not allowed to do any physical testing with prospects after the combine and before the draft. The penalty is a small fine, but Colin Campbell, NHL senior vice president of hockey operations, said there is talk about increasing the fine for teams which violate the rule.

Commissioner Bettman said any changes to the combine process would need the approval of the Board of Governors. He said the League would spend the next few months looking at ways to make the combine more effective.

The GMs also received a review of the 2014 Sochi Olympics from Commissioner Bettman and Daly, but there was no discussion on future NHL participation in the Olympics. He said NHL players sustained more injuries in Sochi than during any previous Olympic tournament.


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