Just about anyone will agree that the lockout was a stomach-churning disaster. There’s no sense spinning it, whether you’re the NBA or NFL right now or the NHL in 2004-05.
That being said, there were at least a few good things that came from the lockout as far as hockey is concerned. The most important changes came on the ice. Perhaps out of survival or just after some careful consideration, the league decided to limit the amount of obstruction and interference defenders could get away with. (They made other changes to open up the game again, including eliminating the two-line pass infraction.)
Those rule changes helped hockey rebound from the ugly Dead Puck Era and return to its place as one of the more exhilarating professional sports. Hockey’s upward swing seems to come from a combination of factors including those needed tweaks, an influx of young stars and the beauty of HD television.
One lesson to take away from that situation is that the NHL should be proactive about altering its rules. It shouldn’t take a crisis for the league to ensure that the game is played in a way that allows the most skilled and intelligent players to succeed.
Who knows how much NHL executives actually consider implementing the innovations that are studied at research and development camps, but it’s great to see them take place in general. Last year’s camp provided a look at eventual top prospects such as Ryan-Nugent Hopkins while the league looked at various possible rule changes.*
Last year’s version was the inaugural edition, but information is starting to become available for the 2011 Research Development and Orientation Camp, which will take place between August 17-18. While job-seeking coaches Ken Hitchcock and Dave King ran the last camp, Dan Bylsma and Dave Tippett – the last two Jack Adams Award winners – will run the 2011 edition.
“The National Hockey League is coming off another thrilling season that reinforced our view that our game is thriving on the ice,” said Brendan Shanahan, NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations. “However, we remain committed to observing trends, studying our game regularly and testing new ideas to ensure it keeps getting better. The Research, Development and Orientation Camp provides a perfect environment to do those things while introducing many of our top prospects to pro hockey.”
The camp also provides NHL talent evaluators their first look at some of the best players available for the 2012 draft. Last year’s camp, the first of its kind, showcased eventual top picks Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog and Jonathan Huberdeau.
“While our inaugural Research, Development and Orientation Camp was a great success, we expect to make this year’s event even better,” Shanahan said. “We again will assemble a remarkable percentage of the top talents eligible for the upcoming NHL Draft. And this year, we’re providing them with the guidance of two of our League’s outstanding current coaches, Dan Bylsma and Dave Tippett.”
We’ll share the list of prospects who will be invited to the camp once that is released and keep our eyes peeled for other relevant details. Once the camps begin in mid-August, we’ll be eager to generate discussion for some of the most intriguing (and potentially useful) changes the league might consider.
* – Want to check out a few of those articles? Here’s some discussion for 3-on-3 overtime, adding four extra inches of space behind the net to bring “Gretzky’s office” back to life, moving an official off the ice to get a different vantage point, tweaking the nets and more.