Brendan Shanahan

NHL’s first big change from Camp Shanny could be to the nets


While the  2011 NHL Research Development and Orientation Camp continues on today in Etobicoke, Ontario there are a couple of changes that are catching the eyes of those in charge right off the bat.

While the league looks to find ways to improve offensive chances and keep the flow of the game rolling along to keep the excitement up, a couple of the methods to switching things up that were tested are earning high marks and could be implemented soon.

While the league is trying out all sorts of potential alterations, the two that are getting very high marks have to do with the net and the goal line. As Chris Johnston reports, making the nets more shallow and adding a second verification line to help with replays are two ideas that are earning high marks.

If you’re wondering how long it could take to implement alterations like this, change could happen a lot sooner than you think as Johnston notes with a quote from the guru of the RDO camp, Brendan Shanahan.

Since the changes being discussed won’t impact the rulebook, the procedure for implementing them is still being ironed out. They’ll likely be used during training camps and exhibition games before the hockey operations department makes a decision on whether they’ll be used during the regular season.

“We’re talking about the process and the steps that would go forward for that,” said Shanahan.

Adding shallower nets seems like a no-brainer kind of move. Giving the players more room behind the net to work and play the puck is a great move that doesn’t have anything to do with moving the nets themselves. In the past we’ve seen how far back the nets go altered to give players more or less room there. Reducing the depth of the net makes far too much sense. To help make replays easier, they’ll make the top part of the net clear plastic so cameras can see straight through.

Adding the verification line along with the clear net tops makes too much sense as well. Having the second line just three inches behind the main goal line means that the puck won’t touch the second line unless it’s fully across the red goal line. By doing that, it eliminates the debate that can erupt on goal replays. While replay can still be foiled on occasion by on-ice official hardheadedness, being able to clear up any and all issues when it comes to debates on goals is a change that makes so much sense it hurts.

While the NHL looked into other things like calling icing on the penalty kill as well as introducing “bear hugging” to try and prevent terrible hits from behind, increasing the flow of the game and keeping the entertainment level high are important things for hockey. After the “dead puck” era of the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s, introducing anything that means more whistles and slowing down the pace of the game should be an immediate non-starter.

These potential net and goal alterations, however, should get a stronger look during preseason games to see how they play out during a live game. Preseason games don’t count for anything other than getting the guys in shape for the season, and if those new tweaks can work out without issue, there’s no need to hold back from going fully ahead with simple switches that can help get the NHL where they want it to be.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.