Technological advancements such as thinner mesh for the nets, mounting an HD camera inside the goals and painting a verification line three inches behind the goal line would all enhance how Hockey Operations conducts its goal reviews without affecting the on-ice product, NHL Senior V.P. of Hockey Operations and Player Safety Brendan Shanahan said.
Shanahan also said using the curved-glass system to replace the padded turnbuckle on the stanchions near the player benches is now thought of as an obvious and likely change because it is designed to protect the players.
These are changes that will likely be used in preseason games and could even be implemented for the start of the 2011-12 season.
"It's not as sexy as a rule change, but it can certainly have a big play in how a game is decided," Shanahan said. "Of course everybody wants to talk about the rules, but some of the advances in technology and the verification line for goal reviews are going to make a big difference."
Shanahan would also like to see the NHL use the shallower nets that were tested at RDO Camp for a second straight year. The nets have a 40-inch deep frame compared to the 44-inch frame currently used around the League. It provided more room for players to work with the puck behind the net and allowed for more wraparound goal opportunities.
"We've seen them now for two years and I think it's time to try them in some exhibition games with real NHL players," Shanahan said.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said the defensemen on his bench talked about how different it was having that extra four inches.
"They commented that they had a little more room and it things opened up for them to make plays behind there," Tippett said.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said the difference was notable in the first game Wednesday, when his team scored a wraparound goal.
"It didn't look any different, but realizing he had less net to go around and he got there quicker, I think that's a factor," Bylsma said. "I think the passing is a factor. We saw a couple of plays that went in our net that were plays from behind that they made with those angles. It's something no one is going to notice, but it is going to add to the game, add more space and make it more difficult to defend."
The obvious question now is how to get these changes into the game. That's an ongoing discussion among League executives.
"That's what we're talking about, the process," Shanahan said. "Is this a rule change or an enhancement?"
Regardless, he did say "there's a good chance" the curved-glass system and the in-net HD cameras will be in place for the start of this season with the verification line, thinner mesh and shallower nets either lumped in to the enhancements or not far behind.
The HD cameras are mounted so they break away but do not fall to the ice if a player barrels into the goal. The linesmen would be tasked with putting the camera back in place if it came off.
Shanahan said the players were not distracted by the cameras in the net.
"We're still going to have the cameras up above, but I think this will catch a lot more," Shanahan said.
The thinner mesh is designed to make it easier to see the puck on goal reviews.
The verification line, which was tested in yellow and green at the RDO Camp, would help Hockey Operations determine if the puck completely crossed the goal line. The goal line would still be the first point of reference in determining goal review, but the verification line would be looked at for, well, verification of a goal.
"It wouldn't eliminate all (gray area reviews), but it would certainly help, as would this camera that we've tested," Shanahan said. "The feedback we've had now two years in a row is that it's not (distracting to the players) and it's a really good assistance to Hockey Operations."