NHL research and development camp will test out a host of potential new rules

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nhlreferees.jpgEach August, the NHL holds a research and development camp in which former coaches and players team up together to test out potential new rules and settings to use in the NHL. What’s fun about this way of doing things is you have people who are highly experienced in the ways of the game (Dave King, Ken Hitchcock and Brendan Shanahan) testing things out in a controlled setting with experienced people running things and top prospects for the 2011 NHL entry draft playing things out. How could anything go wrong?

When you see the list of things they’ll be working on at the R&D camp, you’ll see that things can go very wrong just out of the board room where the ad wizards came up with some of this stuff. Some of the ideas they’ll be giving a thorough run-through with range from the intriguing to the seemingly obscene. Here’s the full schedule of what they’ll be testing out in Toronto on August 18th and 19th.

Wednesday August 18 (all times ET; subject to change)

10:00 a.m. – Noon

  • Hybrid icing rule;
  • No line change for team committing an offside;
  • Crease reset rule;
  • Face-off variation (face-off controlled by whistle in place of traditional puck drop);
  • Overtime: three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on- 2 followed by shootout (5 players per team).

2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

  • Bigger crease;
  • Verification goal line (additional line situated behind the goal line);
  • Wider blue lines;
  • Line changes zone in front of each bench;
  • Face-off variations (infringement results in the offending player moving back further, three face-off dots down the middle of the ice);
  • No icing the puck while shorthanded;
  • OT – three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on-2 with long line changes; followed by three shooters per team shootout (if tied after three shots then players who have shot previously can shoot again).

Thursday August 19 (all times ET; subject to change)

9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

  • No touch icing;
  • Team that commits an offside infraction cannot make a line change and face-off is in offending team zone;
  • Face-off variation: after a face-off violation, opposition center may choose his face-off opponent;
  • Second referee located off the playing surface;
  • Delayed penalty rule
  • No icing the puck while shorthanded;
  • OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change) followed by a shootout with five players.

1:30 p.m.  –  3:00 p.m.

  • Variations of special teams play;
  • OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change).

All of these things are listed off without any explanation as to what some of them actually mean. After all, if you can guess what the “crease reset rule is” or how a second verification goal line might be used then you’re a better person than I. Some of these ideas are thought provoking for how they could work out (second referee off the playing surface) and others would cause a firestorm of controversy if they were implemented (2-on-2 overtime).

One of the rules they’ll be giving a test to is one that caused the college hockey world to go bonkers which would make it so icing is called on a team killing a penalty. College coaches had this possibility thrown in their laps earlier this summer only to have it turned down by the NCAA rules committee who will test it out in NCAA exhibition games.

Some of the other modifications mentioned (larger crease, wider blue lines) are ideas that have been toyed with in the past and while the larger crease would give the goalies more dominion to rule over and potentially help cut down in the number of questionable goaltender interference calls in front of the net, wider blue lines would give attacking teams a little more room to play with in the attack zone.

One modification I’m disappointed to not see listed off is rather than issuing a delay of game penalty to a team that dumps the puck into the crowd from their own zone, punishing them by not being allowed to change lines would make things a bit easier to stomach. Instances where players put the puck into the crowd unintentionally yet are still penalized for doing so is the ultimate cheap penalty. While some teams might do it on purpose to get a break to relieve the pressure in their own end, more often than not teams are getting a penalty for just crappy luck.

How things play out during this camp should be interesting and the rule that seems to be getting the most testing is the icing on the penalty kill as it’ll be tested on both days. Whether this is coming because of the actions of the NCAA to try and force it through there is unknown, but don’t be surprised if this is a change that comes to all levels in the not-so distant future.

(photo: Jim McIsaac – Getty Images)

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.

 

 

Ducks say they’ve allowed Draisaitl too much freedom, too much fun

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Given the nicknames bestowed on Leon Drasaitl recently — the German Gretzky, Certified Duck Killer — it’s safe to assume the big Oilers forward is having a pretty good time.

That’s something Anaheim wants to put to an end, starting tonight.

“He’s a power forward and we’re allowing him too much freedom. He’s having too much fun,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told the Journal, after Drasaitl went off for four points in Wednesday’s series-opening win.  “I don’t know how I can put it any simpler.”

The 21-year-old has made a habit of tormenting Anaheim this season. He has goals in five of seven career games at the Honda Center and, in his last 11 tilts versus the Ducks, has racked up an whopping 17 points.

Coming into this second round series, most of the focus was on how Carlyle and company would shut down Connor McDavid.

But now it appears they have another matchup issue on their hands.

Carlyle’s most logical choice is to put out the Ryan Kesler line against McDavid, given Kesler’s stout defensive play and ability to shut down opposing centers. But in terms of straight matching, that puts plenty of responsibility on Kesler’s wingers — especially Andrew Cogliano — to deal with Draisaitl. He has good size (6-foot-1, 216 pounds) and has been bolstered by McDavid’s playmaking ability.

As such, there’s a fascinating game-within-a-game to watch this evening. Carlyle has the benefit of last change. The forward matchups will be worth monitoring, but so will the defense — veteran blueliner Kevin Bieksa is doubtful after exiting Game 1 with a lower-body injury, but Sami Vatanen could return after sitting out since Game 1 of the Calgary series.

 

 

Canucks could really use Patrick or Hischier

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The Vancouver Canucks are hoping for better luck in tomorrow’s draft lottery. If they receive it, they may get a player who can step right into their lineup, and stay there for years to come.

The top two picks in the 2017 draft are expected to be centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.

It remains to be seen who will go first overall. Patrick was the consensus pick for a while, but Hischier started to gain ground with an impressive showing for Switzerland at the World Juniors.

“I think the top two players in this draft have the potential to maybe step in and play next year and be productive players at the NHL level,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning. “But I think the next three players, whether you’re looking at a play-making center, or potentially a power-play defenseman, there’s good choices there too.”

Gabe Vilardi, Casey Mittelstadt, and Cody Glass are centers the Canucks could select if they fall out of the top two. Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, and Timothy Liljegren are options on defense.

But getting Patrick or Hischier would be a huge win for a team that will soon have to replace Henrik Sedin, who turns 37 in September.

Benning says Patrick offers a combination of size (6-3, 198), skill and hockey sense, with “no real weakness in his game.”

As for Hischier, it’s his speed that really stands out.

“He’s built for today’s game,” said Benning. “His speed going through the neutral zone is fun to watch.”

The Canucks have the second-best odds to win the draft lottery. The furthest they can fall is to fifth.

Last year, Vancouver fell two spots from third to fifth, with Winnipeg and Columbus moving up. The Canucks drafted Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi with their selection.

Draft lottery odds

Colorado Avalanche 18.0%
Vancouver Canucks 12.1%
Vegas Golden Knights* 10.3%
Arizona Coyotes 10.3%
New Jersey Devils 8.5%
Buffalo Sabres 7.6%
Detroit Red Wings 6.7%
Dallas Stars 5.8%
Florida Panthers 5.4%
Los Angeles Kings 4.5%
Carolina Hurricanes 3.2%
Winnipeg Jets 2.7%
Philadelphia Flyers 2.2%
Tampa Bay Lightning 1.8%