The NHL’s GM meetings are next week in Toronto and one thing they’re going to be talking about is how to find a way to cut down on the number of shootouts.
As Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times notes, Detroit’s Ken Holland is firing up an old idea of his and New Jersey’s Lou Lamoriello wants to borrow an innovation from the college ranks. As Klein notes, 57-percent of games that go to overtime have ended in shootouts, down three-percent from last season, but it’s still too many for some GMs.
“I’d like to have a little longer overtime,” Holland said in a satellite radio interview last week, reviving a suggestion he made a year ago for an additional overtime period. “I’d like to see us play four-on-four for four or five minutes and three-on-three for four or five minutes. I’d like to have more games decided playing hockey.”
Some fans love the shootout while many others loathe it as a method for deciding 65 minutes worth of actual team hockey.
Meanwhile, Lamoriello’s suggestion is to have teams change ends in overtime to force the long line change and potentially open up the ice even more. NCAA hockey currently does this and it’s seen things open up a bit there at five-on-five. Perhaps the best way to end a lot of the complaints would be to make regulation wins worth three points rather than two, but that’s another argument for another time.
Although the GMs discussed a number of changes during their recent meetings, such as removing the trapezoid and the potential return of the red line, ultimately there weren’t many alterations to the game agreed upon. Capitals GM George McPhee thinks that’s because, for the most part, the general managers are happy with where the game is today.
“Sometimes you get into this mindset that there are all these things to talk about,” McPhee said. “I’ve been going to these meetings for 15 years and at some point you have to go into these meetings and say, ‘You know what? The game’s in great shape. We don’t have to do much,’ and that’s what we experienced this year.”
McPhee was in on the smaller group meeting to discuss the red line, but he feels the NHL needs two-line passes.
“It adds more creativity and speed to the game,” he said.
McPhee also thinks that strict enforcement of the rules the NHL has adopted in recent years regarding blows to the head should lead to fewer concussions. It’s worth noting that the 30 fines and 38 suspensions that Brendan Shanahan has given this season is a roughly 50% increase compared to what Colin Campbell did back in 2005-06.
With the boogeyman know as the return of the two-line pass shoved neatly back in the closet, NHL fans can turn back to another looming monster: the thought of another lockout.
General managers must wonder about that situation too – or at least how the NHL’s structure might change if a new CBA is hammered out in a timely fashion. It’s unlikely GMs will face a radical alteration on the scale of fresh new salary cap this time around and James Mirtle reports that Gary Bettman echoed such a sentiment by advising teams to take a “business as usual” approach despite the uncertainty.
“We told the clubs to conduct business as usual and the update is there was no update,” Bettman said. “There’s nothing going on [in terms of talks]… The fact is when the union is ready to negotiate, we’ll be ready to sit down. I’m not particularly concerned about the timeline. There’s plenty of time.”
That might be true, but many of us are biting our nails about this as we worry that the two sides will treat the situation like a college student who decides to cram a 10-page paper into one horrible caffeine-soaked night of work.*
Still, it’s not time to panic – yet – and the fact that Bettman is telling general managers to spend away seems like a positive sign. Sure, most of us would love the two sides to be proactive so they don’t end up like the NBA (hashing out a zero-hour deal that results into a ridiculously condensed season), but let’s try to stay positive.
(Starts breathing into a brown paper bag.)
* – Yup, I was one of those boneheads once.