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GMs debate more goalie shrinkage

by Dan Rosen

The size of goalie equipment is once again a hot-button issue among the GMs.
NAPLES, Fla. -- The major topic during the second day of the NHL General Managers meetings was one that has been at the forefront of discussions among this group for quite some time now.

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Reducing the size of goaltender's equipment once again is a hot-button issue and the GMs are working on a plan to present to the Board of Governor's and the NHLPA about how to go about doing it.

A group of GMs, including Bob Gainey of Montreal, Francois Giguere of Colorado, Ken Holland of Detroit, Brett Hull of Dallas, Bryan Murray of Ottawa, Doug Risebrough of Minnesota, and Dale Tallon of Chicago, discussed the topic Monday and presented their view to the entire group Tuesday morning. What comes of it remains to be seen.

"I was just talking to Bob Gainey and I was saying how goaltending has had the biggest impact in the game over the last 20 years with the style, the size, the athleticism and on top of all that the equipment," Holland said once the meeting broke shortly before 1 p.m. here. "The plan over the course of the summer is to figure out a way to shrink them. You've heard that before. If we can't get this done then we have to start looking at serious alternatives."

"Everybody is tired of the situation…we have to shrink the goalies."

Hull said there are no specifics on what can be done other than the "whole gear is being looked at except for the helmet, of course, and the skates. We want to make it level for every team and every goalie."

"It's an issue in the game and we have to take care of it," Hull said. "It's not like there are some goalies that are getting an advantage. Every goalie is the same. They all have the same basic gear on. It's something that is going to have to be a unilateral change throughout the game and that's what we're working on."

Holland said one possibility could be making goaltender's equipment more form-fitting to the athlete.

"(NHL goalie equipment consultant) Kay Whitmore believes we can make goaltender equipment more body-fitting, in the sense that the shape follows the shape of the body," the Detroit GM said. "Basically it's custom-size goaltender equipment for the size of the athlete vs. all the edges and all the things on the equipment that take up space."

More on the pads -- Islanders GM Garth Snow was an obvious target for the media here to talk about goalie equipment. Snow, a former goalie, was known to have worn large pads during his playing career.

While Snow said he believes "great strides" have already been made in goalie equipment, he was happy to report that a question he had as a player has finally been answered.

”One good aspect of being on this side and being in a meeting like that is seeing the No. 1 concern is the goaltender's health," Snow said. "I know from being a player you always wondered if general managers in the League concerned themselves with that? I can see that is the No. 1 priority."

Thinking differently -- While many GMs here could be looking for that one player to put them over the top, Doug Risebrough of the Minnesota Wild doesn't always think the expectations of a big-name deadline acquisition equate to success.

It's no surprise either that Risebrough, the Wild GM since the team's inaugural season in 2000, is rarely a significant player at the deadline.

"I would say there is way more buildup of what a player outside your organization can do for your organization at this time of year," Risebrough told "I don't think it really equates. I don't think the expectations match up. So, consequently, I think that's saying I wouldn't pay a big price and that's probably the case. I don't see that making a difference."

Risebrough, though, isn't totally against acquiring talent at the deadline, but only if it augments a team that is already gelling.

"I think it makes sense when you can augment a lineup that has had a great year and everybody is going in the right direction, everybody is on the same page, and a lot of things are playing in your favor," he said. "If you can add something then, you're adding it to something that is good. You're not trying to switch something or change something. It could be a significant player, but you have to add it to a quality team with momentum."

Risebrough said former Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix, now the team's president, "probably did it as well as anybody."

Lacroix's teams won the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001 thanks in part to him adding Hall of Fame talent -- Patrick Roy in 1995, Ray Bourque in 2000, and Rob Blake in 2001 -- to already contending teams.

"He had good teams that were on a role and bingo at the trade deadline he found a way to add another good player, but he wasn't asking that player to save the year," Risebrough said. "They were having a good year to start with."

Newly acquired Ottawa Senator Cory Stillman (61) warms up prior to taking on the Buffalo Sabres in NHL hockey action at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008.

Know when to say when -- Ottawa GM Bryan Murray is reportedly active in his search to find more depth and goal scoring before next Tuesday's trade deadline, but he was asked an interesting question today about whether he worries about doing too much at the deadline.

Murray already picked up Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore from Carolina in a trade last week that remains the biggest deal of the trading season so far.

"I think you can probably overstate your case a little bit," Murray responded, "but if you evaluate your players and add good players from the outside that are good people than they should only be positive to what you're trying to do."

Murray may have more urgency now to strike a deal because the Senators have been somewhat stagnant over the last two months and on Monday their lead in the Eastern Conference disappeared when New Jersey pulled into a first-place tie with them.

"When you drop the puck in October the objective of every team in the League is to make the playoffs, and we've slid, there's no question about that," Murray said. "We've been playing around .500 hockey for too long almost. But you just want to make sure you're team is playing better as you go forward and obviously make the playoffs."

Overcoming a bad run -- Prior to trading a third-round pick in June's NHL Entry Draft to Los Angeles for veteran defenseman Jaroslav Modry, Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told that the cure for his team could come with a win, that's all.

The Flyers had lost seven in a row entering Tuesday night's game at Ottawa, and have been hounded by injuries to Simon Gagne (concussion), Joffrey Lupul (high ankle sprain), Denis Tolpeko (concussion), Steve Downie (concussion), and Derian Hatcher (knee). They have already called up Ryan Parent and Stefan Ruzicka, and even went as far as calling up Claude Giroux, a junior prospect in the QMJHL, for emergency purposes.

It didn't help either that Peter Forsberg, who was rumored to be in the Flyers grasp, told teams Monday that it is unlikely he'll return to the NHL this season.

"It's a tough time to go through it," Holmgren said. "Even though every team does at some point, right now we haven't won in a game in seven and some of our forwards are hurt. We just have to suck it up and win a game."

Happy first timer -- Brett Hull is here at his first GM meetings and he told that his experience has been downright awesome.

"It's fabulous," Hull said. "You know what, I didn't know what to expect so there were no expectations. It's been a great learning experience. I'm sitting next to Bob Gainey and it's just an invaluable experience."

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