2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp

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


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.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado