Day 1 of NHL research and development camp sees hits and misses with rules

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Day one of the NHL’s Research and Development Camp has come and gone now and folks are sounding off about just what it was they were seeing, innovation-wise, on the ice in Toronto. With such a huge list of things to run through in the two days of the camp, times figure to be busy and intriguing.

With a host of NHL authority figures and media on to watch the proceedings, curiosity as to how these potential rule changes could play out in reality is sky high. Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press had these observations, including how warmly received the test run for “hybrid” icing went.

The proposed change gives linesmen the ability to make a ruling on whether a play will be called icing based on which player reaches the faceoff dot first — rather than who is first to touch the puck.

“Anything we can do with icing to protect our players we should do,” Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray said Wednesday. “If the linesman can make the call earlier, then obviously it will benefit the good players in our league.”

Ken Hitchcock is coaching one of the teams participating in the camp and believes the hybrid icing rule belongs in the NHL.

“It’s a competitive and safe way of playing,” said Hitchcock. “You would almost completely eliminate those big injuries that come and yet you’re still creating the competition for (the puck). … For me, it’s a real good idea.

“There’s no worse feeling than what happened to a guy like Kurtis Foster.”

Kurtis Foster, then of the Minnesota Wild, infamously had his leg broken grotesquely in pursuit of a puck with Torrey Mitchell of the Sharks on a potential icing call. Since then, the league has instituted penalties for hitting players into the boards on icing calls to help player safety.

What “hybrid” icing would do is institute a brand of no-touch icing where if the defending player beats the opponent to the face-off circle chasing a puck down for icing, it would be called immediately without touching up the puck. If the opponent beats the defending team to the puck, icing is waived off and play continues.

One intriguing thing tested out was altering the face-off circles in the attack zones, making it so there was only one circle in the zone and it would be set right in the slot in front of the net. The thinking of doing that there is that it would make teams think twice about freezing the puck in their own end. It also has the crazy effect of making the attack zone look like the portrait of a Cyclops. Panthers GM Dale Tallon was not a fan of this innovation.

“You lose the intensity and the strength,” said Florida Panthers GM
Dale Tallon. “There’s got to be more to it than just finesse. Guys are
going to cheat on that anyway.

“I just like the way it is.”

One thing that was played around with a bit today were different variances of how to play in overtime. David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail divulges that these were not quite as big a hit with coaches.

Also drawing some praise was a twist on the NHL’s regular-season overtime. The session started with three minutes of four-on-four play, followed by three minutes of three-on-three and then three minutes of two-on-two. There was more offence created in the three-on-three session but the two-on-two looked gimmicky. [Sens GM Bryan] Murray agreed.

However, [Ken] Hitchcock, who is even more renowned for his love of defensive hockey than Murray, disagreed. He thinks NHL coaches have managed to slow down regular-season overtime because they would rather take their chances in the shootout.

“Too many times in our league we have ways of making sure we keep four-on-four a non-scoring event so we get into a shootout,” Hitchcock said. “Two-on-two was a little bit gimmicky but when it went three-on-three it was in the net. In the NHL in overtime three-on three, I don’t think you would get to many shootouts. It would be in somebody’s net for sure.”

Whether you enjoy the shootout is a matter of personal taste, of course, but having seasons decided on what amounts to be a practice ritual and pastime during the All-Star Game skills competition is a bit maddening. As for what NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Development and man in charge of the two-day event, Brendan Shanahan thought about the first day of action, here’s a video with Shanny discussing how he saw things.

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed.swf

Day two of the camp proves to get more interesting on its own as we’ll see the controversial rule enacting icing on the penalty kill tested out among other things. We’ll have more reactions and video tomorrow from day two of the camp.

(Photos: Matthew Manor – Getty Images)

Report: Panthers trade Dave Bolland, Lawson Crouse to Coyotes

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 27:  Dave Bolland #63 of the Florida Panthers looks on during a game against the Colorado Avalanche at BB&T Center on October 27, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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It’s Florida Panthers day at PHT so it’s only fitting that they would start the day by completing a trade, which they did on Thursday morning by reportedly sending veteran forward Dave Bolland and 2015 first-round draft pick Lawson Crouse to the Coyotes in exchange for two draft picks, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

As part of the deal the Panthers will get a 2017 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 second-round pick. Additionally, ESPN’s Craig Custance reports that 2018 second-round pick will become a third-round pick if Crouse does not play in Arizona this season.

The key to this deal for Florida is, obviously, dumping the remainder of Bolland’s contract and clearing a significant amount of cap space both this year and in the future. Bolland’s deal still has a salary cap hit of $5.5 million per season for another three years. Since signing the five-year, $27 million deal in free agency before the start of the 2014-15 season, Bolland has played in just 78 games for the Panthers and scored only seven goals.

At the time of the contract Bolland was just one year removed from scoring the game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup Final for the Chicago Blackhawks, while his injury the following year was looked at as a costly blow to a Maple Leafs team that fell apart in the second half of the season. So even though his overall production throughout his career didn’t really match the hype or the interest, he was still able to get a huge deal in free agency.

It has been an extremely costly contract for the Panthers, and the price became even steeper on Monday when they had to give up a prospect that was the No. 11 pick (Crouse) in the draft just last year to get rid of it.

And that is what makes the deal worth it for Arizona.

The Coyotes are pretty much buying a top prospect, and adding to an already deep pool of young players, for the price of taking on another contract that has almost no value to anybody else in the league. They picked up a first-round pick from the Detroit Red Wings earlier this summer for taking the final year of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract after he left the NHL to play in Russia, and last year made a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers to take on the remainder of Chris Pronger‘s contract. Because the Coyotes are so far below the league’s salary cap they are able to take on these deals without much of an issue and use them to keep adding young talent to a fast improving team.

It’s Florida Panthers day at PHT

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Nick Bjugstad #27 of the Florida Panthers reacts to the game winning goal by Alex Petrovic #6 against the Florida Panthers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 20, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  The Panthers defeated the Islanders 2-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers have a new look, a different general manager and heightened expectations following an ambitious offseason.

After claiming the Atlantic Division with 103 points, the Panthers were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. But with a young, skilled nucleus of players mixed with productive veterans — including 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr, who had 66 points last season — the Panthers have served noticed to the Eastern Conference that they are an emerging force.

Their summer has consisted of re-shaping the front office by promoting Dale Tallon to president of hockey operations and Tom Rowe to general manager. They also fired their director of player personnel Scott Luce, which was a controversial move for the team, as it shifts to a more analytics-based approach. They also completely revamped their scouting staff.

During the height of the playoffs, the Panthers and Vancouver Canucks made a trade, as Florida acquired 20-year-old center Jared McCann — a former first-round pick — and sent defenseman Erik Gudbranson to Vancouver.

The Panthers also freed up a substantial amount of cap space by trading Marc Savard‘s contract, and a draft pick, to New Jersey.

And that’s when things really started to pick up. The Panthers acquired the rights to puck-moving defenseman and pending UFA Keith Yandle — a “risk worth taking,” said Rowe at the time of the deal — and eventually signed him to a seven-year deal. The Panthers also traded defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, while Brian Campbell signed as a free agent in Chicago.

The signings continued from there:

— Stud defenseman Aaron Ekblad signed an eight-year contract extension.

Defenseman Jason Demers signed as a free agent.

— Forward Vincent Trocheck, 23, emerged last season with 25 goals and was rewarded with a six-year deal.

Reilly Smith got a five-year contract extension.

So, yeah, a busy offseason in Florida.

Now, can the Panthers live up to the heightened expectations?

Red Wings approach training camp with an expensive goalie situation

Detroit Red Wings' Petr Mrazek (34) replaces goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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This post is part of Detroit Red Wings day at PHT…

There was a stretch in January when Petr Mrazek wasn’t unbeatable, but it may have felt that way. He allowed only 12 goals during a nine-game stretch. Subsequently, he posted a 7-1-1 record that month.

Then, there was a stretch in February and into March when he gave up 24 goals in eight appearances, including a trio of five-spots and that got people talking. His coach, Jeff Blashill, said at the time that such a run in January — citing a .956 save percentage — simply wasn’t sustainable and that Mrazek’s struggles a short time later were part of the ebb and flow of a season.

When the playoffs began, Jimmy Howard started the first-round series versus Tampa Bay but gave up seven goals in two games, before giving way to Mrazek for the final three games.

Over the summer, the Red Wings and Mrazek were able to come to an agreement on a two-year, $8 million deal just before the two sides were to have a scheduled arbitration hearing.

That is a large raise from the $737,500 average annual value Mrazek was making on his entry-level contract. The Red Wings now have more than $9 million dedicated to both Mrazek and Howard in the salary cap.

Howard, 32, is signed for three more years at $5.29 million. He posted a 14-14-5 record, with a .906 save percentage, which is well below his career average of .915.

General manager Ken Holland — he’s under pressure — has offered conflicting takes on Howard’s future prospects in Detroit, saying he had thought about trading the veteran goalie but then he made the case to keep Howard almost as insurance in goal, as Detroit continues to develop Mrazek as the true No. 1.

“Some teams have goalies that make $8 million, $7 million,” Holland told the Detroit Free Press. “We’re on the higher end in terms of the money we’ve got in net, but we see goaltending as a strength for us.”

Blashill told MLive.com during the winter that he went into last season with a three-week plan to alternate between Howard and Mrazek, to see which of those two goalies could separate themselves and take charge of that No. 1 position.

The plan this time around will be one to keep an eye on when the season begins. It’s shaping up right now to be an expensive one.

Coyotes hire skating guru Dawn Braid, believed to be first full-time female coach in NHL history

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares.

From NHL.com:

“Dawn has wanted to put me in to make myself a more powerful and efficient skater,” Tavares told NHL.com in 2012. “Dawn always says, ‘If you didn’t train properly and do the certain things you need to do, you’re not going to be strong enough to do the things I want you to do.'”

Braid’s hiring continues the trend of full-time female coaches in men’s pro sports; she follows Becky Hammon of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs (2014) and Kathryn Smith of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills (2016) as the first full-time women’s coach in their respective leagues.