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Penguins Brass Intrigued by RDO Camp

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Ever watch an NHL game and wonder what it would be like if coaches could only change lines on the fly, or if teams weren’t allowed to ice the puck while shorthanded?

Well, the NHL is aiming to find out, as they will be testing a number of potential changes to the game at the Research, Development and Orientation Camp in Etobicoke, Ontario on Wednesday and Thursday.

Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma will be playing an integral role in the NHL’s efforts, as he will serve as one of two coaches at the camp alongside Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett.

Bylsma and Tippett – the last two winners of the Jack Adams Award for NHL Coach of the Year – will coach 36 of the top prospects available for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft as they all act as test pilots in the league’s experiments.

“I take it as an honor to be able to go and be one of the coaches at the research and development camp,” Bylsma said. “It’s a big thing for the NHL to try different rules and different things to see how the game could work and how they could change it. To be asked to do that is pretty neat.”

Penguins general manager Ray Shero will also be at the camp, and he’s looking forward to his coach having such a stake in it this year.

“I come back from it last year and I want to get Dan’s input and our coaches’ input on some of these rules too, because they’re the ones behind the bench,” Shero said. “He’s going to be hands-on this year, so I think it’s going to be great. We’re going to have some really good feedback by the end of the week.”

This will be the third RDO camp since the lockout, with one being held last summer and the other in 2005.

The NHL will be re-testing many of the rule changes they introduced last year, like hybrid icing, no-touch icing, certain faceoff variations and switching ends after regulation, to name a few.

But there are several new components being introduced to the program this summer, with a few especially piquing Bylsma and Shero’s interest.

Both the Penguins head coach and general manager said they’re intrigued to see how the rule of no line change for a team committing an offside will play out.

Bylsma is also interested in the “no icing permitted while shorthanded” rule, saying that it could have quite an impact on the importance of special teams.  

“I think that can have a big effect on the game,” he said. “We’ll see how that plays out. … It’s about 20 seconds to retrieve a puck, get in in-zone and set it up. So we’re talking about adding a significant amount of time to the power play just by giving them a chance to get a faceoff and not have to go retrieve and get it back down. I think all of those things will make power plays and special teams that much more important.”

He's also looking forward to some of the faceoff variations, which he believes could add more versatility to his offensive-minded system.

"Those things are going to add a little bit of a change and a dynamic from the coaching aspect, and also give you the opportunity maybe to have more offense in the game," he said.

Shero, meanwhile, pointed out the “Bear Hug Rule,” which has been championed by Toronto general manager Brian Burke. It would allow players to wrap their arms around their opponent and take them into boards, potentially eliminating some dangerous hits.

“It’ll be interesting to see how that goes,” Shero said.

The NHL will also be tinkering with the area around the net (and the cages themselves), as well as changes to the shootout and the overtime format.

Overall, it’s a hugely beneficial two days of information gathering that Shero is looking forward to seeing hopefully continue to improve the same.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it goes,” he said. “I went last year for a couple of days and I thought it was really beneficial. (NHL senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations) Brendan Shanahan did a great job with it.”

Listed below are the session agendas for the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp to be held next week in at the Mastercard Centre for Excellence in Etobicoke, Ont.

Wednesday, Aug. 17

10:00 a.m – Noon
• No-touch icing

• No line change for team committing an offside
• Faceoff variations (penalty line for center committing an infraction; all faceoffs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all faceoffs)

• No icing permitted while shorthanded

• Verification line (additional line behind the goal line)

• Overtime variation (four minutes of 4-on-4 followed by three minutes of 3-on-3)
• Shootout variation (5-man shootout precedes sudden-death format)

• Shallow-back nets

2:30 p.m to 4:30 p.m.
• After offside, faceoff goes back to offending team's end
• Faceoff variations (both centers must come set on whistle; all faceoffs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs)

• Delayed penalty variation (offending team must exit zone in possession of puck to stop play)

• Changes only permitted on-the-fly (except after goals and upon manpower changes)

• Strict enforcement of goaltenders covering puck outside crease (Rule 63.2)

• Remove trapezoid

• Verification line

• Allow hand passes in all zones
• Overtime variation (switch ends)

• Shootout variation (5-man shootout with repeat players if tied after 5 shooters)

• Thin-netting nets

Thursday, Aug. 18

9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
• 'Hybrid' icing

• Offside variation (offending team can't change and faceoff in its end zone)

• Faceoff variations (player encroaching can't replace thrown-out center, all faceoffs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all faceoffs)
• All penalties to be served in their entirety

• Strict enforcement of goaltenders covering puck outside crease (rule 63.2)

• Bear-hug rule
• Verification line
• Overtime variation (switch ends for four minutes of 4-on-4, followed by three minutes of 3-on-3)

• Shootout variation (3-man shoot out with repeat shooters if tied after 3 shooters)

• Shallow-back nets

1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

• All-Star Skills competition (fastest skater, breakaway challenge, accuracy shooting, skills relay challenge, hardest shot, elimination shootout)

Other technology/modifications to be tested during various sessions:

• On-ice officials communication -- ref-to-ref wireless

• Overhead camera -- to assist Hockey Operations reviews of various initiatives (verification line/goal netting/in-net camera)

• In-net camera -- mounted camera at one end with one net with camera view focused on the goal line to help verify goals

• Robotic camera --  to test camera angles for coverage closer to ice
• Video replay application review
• Curved glass -- protection options at players bench areas
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