The one rule the NHL Research & Development Camp should be testing but isn’t

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With the NHL rule book being deep enough to cover most instances of play that go on, trying to find new ways of doing things makes sense. With everything they’re working on at this year’s camp, however, there’s one rule tweak that isn’t being examined closer and we’re curious why Brendan Shanahan and company aren’t looking it over.

You’ve seen it happen during a game too many times. A team is trying to play the puck out of their defensive end and a player tries to bounce the puck off the glass and send it down the ice. Instead of putting the puck off the glass and clearing it down for a likely icing call, they miss the glass completely and put the puck in the stands. In the days before the NHL lockout, that would just result in a faceoff in that team’s end while both teams could make changes. Now it’s a minor penalty for the offending player that put the puck off the rink and that’s not right.

Punishing players that do it on purpose to relieve pressure with two minutes in the box and making their team have to kill off a penalty is something we agree with. If you bust a guy that’s absolutely doing it on purpose, then by all means put him in the box. Our issue with the way it’s called, however, lies with how it’s a blanket call. No matter how it ends up over the glass, it’s a penalty. How many times can you count during the season where it’s a player doing it unintentionally that gets booked for a call? Too many to count for our liking and handing out power plays like candy does nothing to solve the issue with flow of the game.

Our solution to this is to treat the puck over the glass as if it was icing. The team dumping the puck into the crowd wouldn’t be allowed to change lines while play is stopped and the faceoff would end up in their end of the ice giving their opponents the offensive starting place they would get whether it was the old rules or the new rules. Since teams that would be putting the puck out of play on purpose would be doing it for the same reason a team would ice the puck, why not just treat it the same way?

Giving out penalties to help boost scoring is something that helped the NHL come flying back out of the lockout. Penalties were at an all-time high thanks to the NHL reemphasizing the rule book and teams piled on the goals at the man advantage. Giving out needless penalties for plays that aren’t even meant to get an edge feels counterproductive to keeping the pace of the game going.

The other side of this is how it works in the playoffs. We know the officials swallow the whistles more in the postseason and we’ve come to accept that. The one time they don’t do it, however, is on plays where the puck is put over the glass. After seeing players get interfered with all over the ice, high sticks missed, and all sorts of other malicious and purposeful illegal activities without a call the puck over the glass call is made every time.

That makes things a bit screwed up and if it’s those calls that officials need to have happen in order to give a team a power play in the playoffs, that’s got more to do with how they’re calling the game and not the rules themselves. Instead of having the added nonsensical controversy, we can just have it treated the way we do icing and call it a day. After all, the last thing anyone wants to see is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals end up in overtime only to be decided because a defenseman missed hitting the glass with the puck by an inch on an attempted dump out of the zone.

Stop the madness, get rid of this foolish penalty.

Cullen signs with Wild, opting against retirement (and Penguins)

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Matt Cullen is going home, but that doesn’t mean that he’s retiring from hockey.

Instead, the Minnesota native decided to sign a one-year, $1 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. It’s unclear why, precisely, Cullen didn’t ink a deal to try to “threepeat” with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Wild note that his deal also includes $700K in potential performance bonuses.

This will be the 40-year-old’s second run with the Wild. His first run came from 2010-11 through 2012-13, where he appeared in 193 regular-season games and five postseason contests for Minnesota.

Cullen managed back-to-back 30+ point seasons with the Penguins while providing useful all-around play as a veteran center. If he can maintain a reasonably high level of play, this gives the Wild quite the solid group down the middle, even with Martin Hanzal gone.

Oilers ink Draisaitl to monster eight-year, $68 million deal

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The Edmonton Oilers have locked up their cornerstone players for the foreseeable future.

They didn’t come cheap.

Just weeks after signing Connor McDavid to a eight-year, $100 million deal, the Oilers signed fellow forward Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year, $68 million deal. The contract carries a $8.5M average annual cap hit and, combined with McDavid’s $12.5M, will now cost the Oilers $21M annually through 2025.

McDavid certainly warranted his payday. The same can be said of Draisaitl.

The 21-year-old just wrapped his three-year, entry-level deal, and couldn’t have done so in finer fashion. Draisaitl enjoyed a terrific season, platooning between the second-line center position and the wing alongside McDavid, and finished with 29 goals and 77 points.

Then, the playoffs happened.

Draisaitl had a terrific postseason, racking up six goals and 16 points in 13 games. At the time of elimination he was sitting second among all scorers — trailing only Evgeni Malkin — and was downright brilliant in Edmonton’s seven-game loss to Anaheim, finishing with 13 points.

More to follow…

 

Report: Vegas among teams in on Pens draftee Byron

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Will Butcher isn’t the only college free agent garnering interest in free agency.

University of Maine senior Blaine Byron, Pittsburgh’s sixth-round pick in ’13, has passed on signing with the club and can now ink with a team of his choosing. Per The Hockey News, the four “lead suitors” for Byron are Vegas, New Jersey, Ottawa and Buffalo.

Byron, 22, is coming off a great year. He racked up 18 goals and 41 points in 36 games, finishing tied for 18th in the country in scoring. It’s unclear where he would’ve fit in the Pittsburgh organization, though, and one has to think the signing of Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese might’ve played a factor in his departure.

In a recent Tribune-Review piece, Byron did make a list of the club’s top-20 prospects, coming in at No. 17.

Yesterday, Butcher — the reigning Hobey Baker winner — announced that he wouldn’t sign with Colorado, the team that drafted him four years ago. Instead, Butcher will parlay a successful senior campaign at Denver University into interest on the open market.

Under Pressure: Barry Trotz

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This post is part of Capitals Day on PHT…

When the Capitals hired Barry Trotz three years ago, they said he was “the only coach we coveted,” calling him “an ideal fit to help lead our club.”

And in many ways, Trotz has been an ideal fit. He’s led to the club to consecutive Presidents’ Trophies, racking up 156 wins over the course of three seasons. He won the 2016 Jack Adams as coach of the year. Players have performed exceptionally well on his watch: Braden Holtby won his first-ever Vezina, Alex Ovechkin racked up a pair of Rocket Richard trophies and both Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov were named All-Stars.

Despite all this, Trotz is now coaching for his job. Essentially.

A string of disheartening playoff failures — each more painful than the last — have put him in an uncomfortable and pressure-packed situation. He’s heading into the the last of his four-year deal with no contract certainty beyond.

Yes, it’s true Caps GM Brian MacLellan didn’t make any changes with Trotz or to his coaching staff following the Game 7 loss to Pittsburgh.

But MacLellan didn’t offer an extension, either.

Brian Burke once likened this scenario to being a lame duck. Trotz refused to see it that way, insisting that he wasn’t worried about the spot he was in.

“No,” he told CSN Mid Atlantic in June, when asked if not having a contract changes his approach at all. “It has 0.0 effect on me, actually. Not at all. I think it might have [had] an effect 10, 12 years ago for me. Not now. It has zero effect.

“I’m not worrying about that at all.”

This is pretty much on par with Trotz’s messaging from the moment Washington crashed out of the playoffs. While his players were visibly dejected and downright hurt during locker clean-out day, the 55-year-old was upbeat.

Defiant, almost.

Trotz talked about how the team’s window wasn’t closed, and how it would eventually “break through that barrier.” He suggested “laughing at the past” could “ease us into the future.”

The assembled media took note of this, which contrasted the vibe of his visibly distraught players. So it was asked — why did he seem more upbeat than his players?

From the Washington Post:

“Put it this way — I haven’t slept in two friggin’ days. To say that I don’t feel very distraught, that really sort of angers me, because talk to my family to see if I’m distraught.

“I have to be positive in terms of, ‘do I think we’re going in the right direction?’ Yes, and I’m positive of that. But we haven’t broken through. That’s why I’m probably the way I am. I also said we didn’t get to where we wanted to get to.

“That angers me. When something doesn’t go your way, you can roll up in a ball and feel sorry for yourself. I don’t.”

That Trotz took this approach isn’t surprising. Coaching is a leadership role, and there didn’t seem to be any point to piling onto what was already a fairly miserable day in D.C.

So hey, why not keep that vibe going when it comes to contract uncertainty?

Trotz will likely continue to do so, even in the face of growing pressure. And pressure will continue to grow. Remember, there’s one final and very important dynamic at play — right next to Trotz behind the Washington bench is assistant coach Todd Reirden. The same Todd Reirden who’s thought to be a head-coach-in-waiting, and has been tied to previous openings in Colorado and Florida.

Fun times in Washington. As they always are.