Tag: 2011 NHL Research Development and Orientation Camp

Jonas Gustavsson

How shallow nets worked in their test run in Toronto-Ottawa preseason game

During last night’s preseason game between Ottawa and Toronto there were a few different things in play that you may have noticed. The NHL tested out a handful of the innovations that were used during the NHL’s Research and Development Camp this summer to help officials and players in regard to scoring and goals.

If you were taking a close look at the nets as well as in and around the goals themselves you noticed a handful of alterations meant to help verify goals. The green verification line was inside the net to help with replays, thin mesh on the top of the goal, and a clear plastic skirt along the bottom of the net were all in play. While none of the replay alterations got a chance to be used, the one that got the most notice were the shallower goals for the goalies to protect.

Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press discussed the nets with both Maple Leafs goalies who played in last nights game. Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens gave their thoughts on the nets.

“People who are a lot smarter than I thought that there was going to be more offence generated from it,” said Scrivens. “You know, they’re the ones who make the decisions and they thought that there would be more chances and more action around the net. I’m sure that’s why they went with it.”

Added Jonas Gustavsson, who started against the Senators: “I guess you’ve got to be quicker post-to-post when they’re going behind the net.”

While the nets will need league approval to be changed, giving them a look in real game action during the preseason when the games don’t count for anything is the best way to show them off and see how well they function. You could argue that Ottawa’s first goal last night got a benefit from the shallow nets as Nikita Filatov had a bit more room to maneuver behind the net (video) to feed a pinching Jared Cowen for a goal.

It’s a very small sample size, but giving guys more room to play behind the net on offense is such a subtle change but a good one. Having more room to create and elude defenders helps the offensive flow. Gustavsson’s point about having to be quicker going from post to post to prevent wraparounds is a great one. The wraparound goal is one that you don’t see happen too often these days because of defensive positioning and having to circle back behind the net far enough to give goalies time to get in place.

After one game, however, the shallow nets look even more like a no-brainer innovation for the league to adopt. Boosting offense without radically altering the game by way of making the nets bigger or anything out of that mold are the kinds of things that should get very strong consideration. Shallow nets don’t do anything to make the game into a circus and if making goalies work a little harder and pay better attention to the play going on around them is the only real alteration, it’s time for the league to go ahead with it.

Brendan Shanahan says removing goalie trapezoid wouldn’t make a big difference

Steve Ott, Jose Theodore

In the grand scheme of things, I think most people in the hockey world would agree that the post-lockout rule changes have benefited the style of play in significant ways. Sure, there’s still a concern that the neutral zone trap will rear its ugly head more often, but for the most part the sport is playing to its speedy, high-skill strengths.

That doesn’t mean that people are happy with every little tweak, though. The most obvious point of contention is the addition of the shootout,* but many find some of the league’s delay of game penalty procedures irksome as well.

We already discussed the much-reviled automatic delay of game penalty that a player (most times a defenseman) receives for sending the puck over the glass in his own zone, but there’s another unpopular application of the penalty that the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp actually did cover: the goalie trapezoid.

To refresh your memory, a goalie will receive a two-minute delay of game penalty if he handles the puck behind his net outside of a designated trapezoid-shaped area. The rule change seemed like a direct attack on the NHL’s most efficient puck-moving netminders (most notably Martin Brodeur) who developed their passing abilities to the point that they could make the dump-and-chase strategy far less successful.

It seems like a rather arbitrary way to try to open up offense and essentially penalize a rare skill, but those penalties have been rare and the effects have been difficult to measure. Former NHLer and current NHL exec Brendan Shanahan provided his own subjective account of the impact – or lack thereof – that would come from removing the unpopular trapezoid.

“We took out the trapezoid rule and yet the goalies still had no time to come out and play the puck,” Shanahan said Wednesday afternoon. “I think the idea of goaltenders coming out and having all day to set the puck up, tee it up are gone simply because of the lack of the defenseman’s ability to hold up the forecheckers now and clutch and grab through the neutral zone. So even though we said to the goalies go play the puck, they had no time.”

Shanahan was quick to point out that it was “just one test and it doesn’t mean it’s the end of that idea.” He also admitted that there may still be opportunities in the game that goalies could have the time to head into the corners and play the puck in order to start the attack going forward, but he firmly believes their opportunities would be few and far between in today’s game.

Then again, if the impact would be minimal, wouldn’t it be better to simply go the organic route by removing the trapezoid? Personally, I think that would be the best option, but it’s not a make-or-break situation considering the current style of play in the NHL.

* – Hatching plans to rid the world of the shootout seems pointless because it’s not going anywhere. That’s not to say I like the shootout, though. It justifies the worst instinct when it comes to competitiveness: the urge to play it safe. Coaches can ask their teams to sit back and just hope to make it through a five minute overtime period so they can try to win what is essentially a coin flip for an extra point. Shootouts are lame, but again, they’re going to be a part of the game for at least the short-term future so it’s best just to begrudgingly accept them like an irritating relative at Thanksgiving.

NHL GMs thoughts on potential icing changes and why hybrid icing is a good thing

Don Maloney

During the  2011 NHL Research Development and Orientation Camp one of the rule changes they again looked into was how to treat icing calls. As it is now, players have to race to touch the puck to get the icing call or to nullify it. During last year’s camp and again during this year’s camp, they’ve tested out different variations on icing including no-touch icing and hybrid icing.

No-touch icing means blowing the play dead immediately upon the puck crossing the end line on a dump from behind the red line by the offending team. This is the rule that exists under IIHF rules and what we’ve seen called in the World Championships and Olympics the last couple years.

Hybrid icing differed from conventional icing in that once the puck was past the end line, the first player to the face off dot in that end would either get icing waved off or get it whistled down immediately. It’s a rule that’s currently in place in college hockey and the USHL and after seeing it in effect up close, it’s one that works rather seamlessly.

NHL general managers, however, mostly disagree with no-touch icing as NHL.com’s Dan Rosen shares from R&D Camp in Ontario.

“I am not for no-touch icing whatsoever,” Phoenix GM Don Maloney told NHL.com. “Watching enough other leagues that have the no-touch, what I don’t like is when the play stops. The puck is still moving but all the players stop and wait for it to go over the goal line. It’s a speed game and you’re supposed to play to the whistle. I just don’t like that. It just aesthetically looks poor.”

“The National Hockey League has an intense game that pushes speed,” added Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini, “and you want to reward the team that is aggressively trying to get the puck back.”

That said, Maloney, Tambellini and many of their fellow general managers remain intrigued by the concept of hybrid icing, which is a mixture between touch and no-touch icing and gives the linesman the discretion to call icing or wave it off.

The possibility of seeing hybrid icing in the future exists as many of the GMs said they’d like to see it tested in the AHL first before getting a chance to examine it for the NHL. A move to hybrid icing away from the current way it’s called would make for a sensible change to the game.

After seeing the rule used up close and personal in college hockey during the past year, it’s one that makes sense to use as it still keeps the aggressive play involved and the speed is still there, just the risk of having a player getting crunched needlessly into the end boards is eliminated and fans still get the race for the puck that many coaches, players, and GMs like with how icing is currently called.

Since player safety is such a major issue in the league, switching to a brand of icing that takes the discretion on icing plays from whether or not a guy should’ve hit an opponent and changing it to whether or not one guy beat the other to the face off dot to confirm or nullify icing makes a ton of sense. After all, the only time we see guys racing each other down the rink is at the All-Star Skills Competition for the fastest skater. Making this one change could add another thrill (albeit a bit of a drier one) to the game.


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

Brendan Shanahan

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.

Oren Koules contemplates future NHL ownership while son participates in Research and Development Camp

Screening of Lionsgate's "Saw 3D" - Arrivals
1 Comment

Around Hollywood, people know Oren Koules as the guy behind the Saw movie franchise and a producer for Two and a Half Men. Around hockey circles however, people know him as the guy who joined forces with co-owner Len Barrie to make the Tampa Bay Lightning the laughing stock of the league over the last few years. Ownership disagreements, financial problems, and a sale to Jeffrey Vinik later and Koules is out of the game of hockey.

Well, out of hockey as an owner.

The former Lightning owner has accompanied his son Miles Koules to this year’s Research and Development Camp in Ontario to show support. At 5’10,” the younger Koules managed 3 goals and 4 assists in 26 games for the U.S. National Development Team. Even though Miles is from Los Angeles, he went to the legendary Shattuck St. Mary’s to hone his craft before making the trek to Ann Arbor and Team USA. He’s committed to play next season with the University of North Dakota and the Fighting Sioux. He was good enough to earn a spot on International Scouting Services’ Top 50 players eligible for the 2012 Entry Draft.

Being around an NHL team at such an early age helped Miles as he looked towards taking the next step in his hockey career. By all accounts, he’s right on track to maximize his talent and possibly earn a spot in the NHL one day. From scout Dan Sallows:

“The experience was awesome to be able to see how professionals go about their business at such a young age. It mainly helped my game to be able to learn things on and off the ice on the ways to make it because they have already done so.”

It wasn’t Miles play on the ice that grabbed headlines this afternoon. While talking to a few reporters, Oren admitted that he had spoken to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman regarding a possible return to ownership. He went on to talk to Greg Wyshynski at Yahoo! Sports about his time with the Lightning and even hinted why his next ownership venture would be more successful than his last:

“I had two problems. I had a partner that went bananas and the second problem is that the economy kicked us in the balls,” he said. “We went from 38 million in tickets to 17 million.”

As for his time with Barrie: “I signed documents to say I wouldn’t talk about it.”

Clearly the economy played a huge role in the downturn in ticket sales. At the same time, it probably didn’t help that the Lightning were the worst team in the Eastern Conference over a three year stretch from 2007-2010. When people have less money to spend, they’re less likely to spend their hard earned cash to head out to the rink—especially when the team is awful. Between an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and a renovated building in Tampa, new owner Jeffrey Vinik won’t have the same attendance problems next season that plagued the previous regime.

A quick look around the league shows that Bettman would be open to an infusion of new money. The Dallas Stars look like they should be in the final stages of their sale, but both the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes could use a legitimate ownership group to step up to the plate and kick down some serious money. Len Barrie and Koules originally bought the Lightning for a reported $200 million; only to sell the team to Vinik for $170 million.

Depending on the deal he can work out with the Glendale City Council, he could probably get a team in Arizona for a relative bargain.