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Offside rule likely to be on table at NHL GM meetings

Extended breaks, concussion protocol program also expected to be discussed beginning Monday

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- NHL general managers will gather for three days beginning Monday to talk about the state of the League and discuss potential changes that could be implemented as early as next season.

The GMs are expected to discuss the offside rule as it relates to the coach's challenge.

According to offside rule (83.1) a player is judged to be onside when either of his skates are in contact with or on his own side of the blue line at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line.

The GMs want to discuss the potential for changing the language to allow for a player to be onside as long as one of his skates has broken the vertical plane of the blue line regardless if it is in contact with the ice.

Any rule change recommended by the general managers would have to be approved subsequently by the NHL Competition Committee and the Board of Governors.

Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill said offside on video review through the coach's challenge would be "easier to define" for the referees if the rule was changed.

Changing the rule theoretically would cut down on the number of reviews as well because many of the offside reviews and subsequent overturned goals are a result of a player having a foot in the air.

"In football when you score a touchdown you have to break the plane to get across the line," Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said. "The fact of the matter is if a guy has his foot up in the air only by a few inches or whatever, probably his body is still onside. Maybe there is a different way of looking at that."

Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien said he would be a proponent of that change largely as a way to help the officials.

"To me, it's tough when they're looking at the small tablet to see if a toe cap or a blade is off the ice and sometimes we're talking about an inch," Julien said. "If they want to put that in I'm for it."

The GMs are also expected to talk about the extended breaks in the schedule, commonly referred to as bye weeks, which were implemented this season to give the players time off between Jan. 1-March 2 not associated with NHL All-Star Weekend.

The GMs want to discuss with the League if there is a better way to incorporate the extended breaks to ensure that a team coming off its break plays another team doing the same.

"That's the only way to do it," Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.

Teams coming off their extended breaks went 10-16-4 in their first game back this season. Four teams (Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks) came off their break and played an opponent that also was coming off its break.

"I think it's good that the players get the time that they need but maybe there is a better way of doing," Rutherford said. "It certainly appears that the teams coming off the break have a little bit tougher time getting going again."

Potential formats the GMs could discuss with the League are conference-based and division-based, where an entire conference or division is off at the same time and comes back at the same time.

Instead of going conference by conference or division by division, the League could decide to select arbitrarily half the teams to be off for one week and the other half to be off the next.

The complication is that there will be 31 teams in the League next season with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights beginning play, leaving the likelihood that one team will have to come off its break and play a team that already was playing.

Vegas general manager George McPhee will be in attendance at the meetings.

There will be no extended breaks for teams next season if the League chooses to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. Olympic participation would require the League to suspend the schedule for approximately two weeks in February.

"I think the key is that the League still has games going and we don't shut down for an extended period of time," Rutherford said.

In addition, the GMs are expected to receive an update on the salary cap projection for next season and review the concussion protocol program. Rutherford said he's hoping they also do a review of faceoffs because he feels there is too much congestion after the puck is dropped.

"What's happening now is some players are just trying to tie up the guy that he's having the faceoff with instead of directly trying to win the faceoff," Rutherford said. "When guys get tied up, it seems like they're all in one spot there for a few seconds and it gets really congested."

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