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GMs propose new faceoff rule to increase offense

by Dan Rosen

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- A recommendation to change the rules governing faceoffs to create a better opportunity for increased puck-possession time, which could lead to more goals, was made Wednesday by NHL general managers on the final day of their annual March meeting here.

The GMs will recommend to the NHL-NHLPA Competition Committee that the player who is on the defensive side of the red line must be the first to place his stick on the ice before the puck is dropped. In doing so, that player is at a slight disadvantage to the attacking player, who can put his stick down second.

The current rule (76.4) requires the player on the visiting team to put his stick down first in all zones, including at the center-ice faceoff dot. The visiting player still would be required to put his stick down first on faceoffs taken at center ice, according to the recommendation. But in all other faceoffs the player closest to his own goalie would have to declare first.

The rule change can't become official unless it passes through the Competition Committee and the NHL Players’ Association Executive Board, and is ratified by NHL Board of Governors. The Competition Committee, NHLPA Executive Board and the Board of Governors each meet in June.

"As a former centerman you always feel you have a little more of an advantage if you can get in there second," Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. "To try and help the offense, why not try it? I think it's a good idea."

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis proposed the change. Francis was known as one of the best at faceoffs during his Hockey Hall of Fame playing career.

Colin Campbell, NHL senior vice president of hockey operations, said the recommendation is another example of how the general managers are thinking about increasing scoring in the NHL.

"For example, every puck shot at the net now, crossbars, hitting the netting, we keep the faceoffs in the offensive zone," Campbell said. "It's the same thing with the faceoffs. Ron Francis has felt strongly, having been a center and one of the better faceoff guys, that the defensive player should put his stick down first to add a little more to the offensive part of the game because coaches are always beating up the game defensively. They can prevent goals; it's hard for them to produce goals."

Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said players who are tasked with taking a lot of defensive-zone faceoffs will not like the change, but the GMs are in favor of it if it will create more offense.

"It will count for a few more goals for sure," MacTavish said. "I thought it was a good initiative by Ron Francis being an old centerman. If he was taking the faceoffs there would have been a lot more goals."


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