Tomorrow marks the start of the annual GM meetings in the NHL, where for three days leaders of the league’s teams will get together and discuss how to make the game better. As Sportnet’s John Shannon reports, there are several things being discussed at the meetings and we’ll go through some of the more important points.
The lengthy offside challenges this season have been a cause of much debate, as some have taken as long as 10 minutes to determine the call. Though the theory of the rule is good—that is, getting the correct call in all situations—the implementation leaves something to be desired. When the play is extremely close as it has been at several times this season, many fans, players and coaches would just as well have it ruled on the ice instead of watching the referee’s examine a small screen for several minutes, effectively interrupting any flow of the game that has been established.
As Shannon points out, the issue being discussed though isn’t with the length of the review. Instead, it likely has to do with when a coach can initiate a challenge, and how many he has during the game. Currently, a coach can only challenge offside plays resulting in a goal, and interference with the goaltender that results in a goal.
Going hand-in-hand with the challenge discussion is the definition of the play itself. Since so many of the calls have been inconclusive because of the reading that it’s not offside until it touches his stick inside the blueline, the league is likely considering a change that would include some sort of “possession” reading. If the player carries it across, but isn’t actually in contact with the puck it could still be ruled offside. Many traditionalists may hate this interpretation should it come to pass, but it likely would help the referees make a determination on the replays more easily.
This has been another hot-button topic this year, as teams have done extremely poorly coming out of their mandated rest period. Because of the perception that a team coming off the rest is at a disadvantage to one in the swing of playing every other day, the league has been considering moving to a two-week system where half of the league breaks at a time. Coming out of the break, everyone would be playing another squad that had the same bye-week for their first game back. The problem is, obviously, what to do with 31 teams in this scenario.
An interesting inclusion at the end of Shannon’s list, is that of the shootout. While some (many) fans want it abolished all together, Shannon notes that they may be considering a change that would allow a team to choose anyone after the third shooter. It’s this way in international events, and have resulted in some extremely memorable moments like T.J. Oshie at the Olympics, or the battle between Jonathan Toews and Peter Mueller at the World Juniors.
Should the league move to this method, it does (slightly) strengthen the idea of having a shootout specialist on your bench. While there is obviously no room for someone who can only perform in the shootout, teams already carry forwards who see less than 10 minutes of ice time a game. Should a young player show excellent skills in the shootout, it’s not unfathomable that a team could bring him up a little sooner as a sort of secret weapon.