2011 NHL RDO Camp: Today’s schedule, curved glass, faceoff tweaks and the green line

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As we’ve discussed before, the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp kicked off this morning and will also take place on Thursday. A rather large amount of different tweaks (both big and small) will be tested in the next two days, so we’ll keep you informed about what’s being examined and reactions to the possible changes.

To give you a quick summary of the event itself, 30 prospects for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft formed teams with Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Phoenix Coyotes bench boss Dan Bylsma leading separate squads. Those teams will test out that wide variety of different changes, giving the NHL brass (such as Brendan Shanahan, the executive most often connected with the event) something to chew on.

So far, the RDO camp’s biggest waves came in two innovations: curved glass near player benches and a different spin on last year’s yellow line used to verify goals. We’ll also take a look at today’s schedule and a tweak to faceoffs.

Curved glass next to player benches

It’s hard not to see the curved glass experiment as a reaction to that bad luck hit Zdeno Chara landed on Max Pacioretty, which sent the Montreal Canadiens forward into the turnbuckle (or stanchion, depending on your word preference). NHL.com has a full explanation of how exactly the curved glass would work.

After hundreds of hours of testing that included the use of crash-test dummies, the NHL has developed a curved-glass system that will replace the padded turnbuckles, which were set on the stanchions at the end of each player bench.

The curved glass flows from the glass above the boards and runs away from the ice. It is designed to eliminate the solid termination point that used to be in place due to the 90-degree angle that was created by the two sections of glass coming together at the end of each player bench.

(snip)

The curved glass will not be padded because the physics of it declare it doesn’t have to be. The glass is designed to deflect any player who skates into it back into the field of play.

“That’s because it’s free-flowing,” Craig said. “The curve itself is a continuation of the straight line from the glass and then it bends around. There is no place to put a pad. If you put a pad there, you create a hazard of having a shoulder stick and twist because this is a free-flowing system. If you’re coming down the wall at the players’ bench and there is contact, your shoulder will deflect off of that and you’ll continue into the play.”

Definitely follow that link if you want even more details about the curved glass. Let’s move on to a smaller tweak that might make help goal reviews become just a little bit more accurate.

Green goal verification line

Like I said before, adding a solid line to clarify that a goal was scored isn’t a new idea; it’s something that was bandied about last year. To catch you up to speed, the tweak is that a line is placed approximately three inches behind the red goal line, with those three inches representing the width of a puck. If a puck touches that line, that should erase doubt that the puck traveled far enough to be a goal (if other infractions like goalie interference aren’t under consideration, of course). The difference between this year and last year appears to be merely superficial: while the 2010 edition was a yellow line, this year’s one is green.

The green line won’t solve every goal review problem, but whatever color the NHL chooses, I’m all for the idea. Puck Daddy has photo evidence of the aesthetic differences:

source:  Green Line (2011)

source:  Yellow Line (2010)

Which color do you prefer? (The green does “pop” a bit more, I’d say.)

Faceoffs

As the Toronto Star points out, all faceoffs will take place in a faceoff circle only; none will take place at a “neutral zone dot.” I’d be surprised if that tweak gets much traction (at least from the sound of it).

Schedule

Finally, here’s today’s schedule of testing via NHL.com.

Wednesday, Aug. 17
(all times ET, subject to change)

10:00 a.m – Noon
• No-touch icing
• No line change for team committing an offside
• Faceoff variations (penalty line for center committing an infraction; all faceoffs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all faceoffs)
• No icing permitted while shorthanded
• Verification line (additional line behind the goal line)
• Overtime variation (four minutes of 4-on-4 followed by three minutes of 3-on-3)
• Shootout variation (5-man shootout precedes sudden-death format)
• Shallow-back nets

2:30 p.m to 4:30 p.m.
• After offside, faceoff goes back to offending team’s end
• Faceoff variations (both centers must come set on whistle; all faceoffs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs)
• Delayed penalty variation (offending team must exit zone in possession of puck to stop play)
• Changes only permitted on-the-fly (except after goals and upon manpower changes)
• Strict enforcement of goaltenders covering puck outside crease (Rule 63.2)
• Remove trapezoid
• Verification line
• Allow hand passes in all zones
• Overtime variation (switch ends)
• Shootout variation (5-man shootout with repeat players if tied after 5 shooters)
• Thin-netting nets

Do you see anything you really like in that group? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Hurricanes remain ‘hopeful’ for a Justin Williams comeback

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When Justin Williams announced in September he would be “taking a break” from hockey, he didn’t shut the door entirely on a possible comeback at some point this season.

“Because of my current indecision, and without the type of mental and physical commitment that I’m accustomed to having, I’ve decided to step away from the game,” wrote the 38-year-old Williams.

With the Hurricanes sitting in an Eastern Conference wild card and only two points away from a top three spot in the Metropolitan Division, adding a veteran goal scorer like Williams would only help. What he brings on and off the ice is immeasurable, and it was clear last season just how valuable he was to a budding young team. The team is hopeful he’ll return to play and are keeping the lines of communication open.

“We continue to talk with him. I think he’s working out a little bit more on his own right now,” Hurricanes GM Don Waddell told the team website this week. “I think he’s going to start coming to the gym a little more. That’s a positive sign. What that end result is yet is still a mystery to all of us, but we’re hopeful that maybe there is an opportunity there to have him come back.”

Waddell isn’t the only one who’s unsure of a Williams return. Williams himself sounds like he’s been back and forth on what his future holds, according to head coach Rod Brind’Amour.

“I don’t know. I think we’re getting closer to a time where if he doesn’t, then he’s not,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s got to get in game shape and do all that, so there’s a time frame for that. There’s still time for that. … We talk quite a bit. We mostly talk about kids and how’s coaching going. I’ll ask if he’s staying in shape or getting in shape, and he’ll some days say, ‘Yeah,’ and then say, ‘Ah, maybe.’ So, we’ll see.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kessel returns to Pittsburgh trying to find his game for Coyotes

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When the Arizona Coyotes acquired Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins back in August (for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph) it gave them the type of player the organization had been lacking for years: a bonafide star forward, and one that was capable of scoring at a level that no Coyotes player had reached in close to a decade.

For a team that was just a couple of games away from the playoffs a season ago — despite an absurd season-long run of injuries that consistently decimated the roster — it was the type of move that could not only generate excitement within the fan base (it did, and they have the season ticket sales to prove it), but also give the team the last extra push it needed to get over the hump and end what is currently a seven-year playoff drought.

With Kessel set to make his first visit to Pittsburgh since the trade on Friday night, the Coyotes have put themselves in a great position to end that drought, sitting on top of the Pacific Division after 30 games thanks to their 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

What is perhaps most surprising about their current spot in the standings is they have done it while getting minimal offensive impact from Kessel, even with his two-goal effort in Thursday’s win.

The early numbers are kind of staggering given the high bar Kessel has set for himself over the years offensively.

  • His six goals are his fewest through 30 games since his rookie year in 2006-07 (five goals).
  • He has been held without a goal in 26 of the team’s first 30 games.
  • He has just one even-strength goal on the season, with the other five coming on the power play (including both goals on Thursday — one of which was also an empty-net goal).
  • He is on pace for just 16 goals over 82 games. If he does not improve on that it would be his lowest total since his rookie year (11) and the first time since 2007-08 (his second year in the league when he missed 10 games) he did not top 20 goals in a season.

Some decline in his overall production should have been expected.

Not only because he is another year older (32) and another year away from his prime, but because he went from playing on a veteran, star-laden roster in Pittsburgh that plays one of the most up-tempo styles in the league, to a young Arizona team that, while talented, does not have Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in the middle of its lineup.

Even with all of that in mind this is still a pretty significant drop across the board, but it does not mean all hope is lost for him this season. Like any elite goal scorer Kessel can be notoriously streaky and score goals in bunches (this is not a knock on Kessel; it’s a reality for all players across the league), and it’s also not the first time he’s started a year slow. In his first year with the Penguins back in 2015-16 he had just nine goals through 30 games before getting hot in the second half, then catching fire in the playoffs on the way to the first of back-to-back Stanley Cups.

While Kessel has not exactly lit the world on fire for the Coyotes, the trade has not exactly been a rousing success for the Penguins.

For all of Kessel’s flaws as a player, the Penguins absolutely miss his presence on a power play unit that been mostly dysfunctional this season. A lot of their power play the past few years ran through him, from his ability to gain entry into the zone (a problem for the Penguins this year), to his playmaking, to his ability to finish. Even with all of his struggles in Arizona offensively his five power play goals are more than any player on the Penguins.

They also have not received anything close to what they hoped they would from Alex Galchenyuk, which is starting to become a pretty big issue. He has just two goals through his first 20 games and has mostly been relegated to fourth-line duty. Even with the Penguins missing several regulars in their lineup he has not topped the 10-minute mark in three of the team’s past four games, while general manager Jim Rutherford on Thursday (via The Athletic’s Josh Yohe) that Galchenyuk is not a lock to remain in the lineup when everyone is back. Galchenyuk always seemed like a one-and-done player in Pittsburgh from the very beginning — Joseph is the key long-term piece — but they probably expected more than this.

The funny thing about all of this is the trade has not really done much for either team through the first quarter of the season, but both teams have still managed to put themselves on solid ground.

The Coyotes are healthy and in first place and still have the hope that a Kessel goal-binge is lurking somewhere in the not-too-distant future.

The Penguins are overcoming their injury issues, playing the way they want to play, and finding ways to collect points while they wait for their regulars to return.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Laila Anderson meets bone marrow donor

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Laila Anderson has made us shed a tear or two (or several) over the last year, and she was involved in another touching moment on Thursday night.

It was special to witness the 11-year-old’s journey. We got to see her ups with the St. Louis Blues and we also got to see the emotion behind her battle with a rare auto-immune disease, HLH. Last night, Anderson got to meet the person who helped her get better, as she got to interact with Kenton Felmlee, who ended up being her bone marrow donor.

“I felt a bond with her before we ever met. I think the second I look at her on the stage and saw her face,” Felmlee, who is a sophomore at the University of Kansas, said, per Fox 2 Now St. Louis. “Every emotion that I was feeling all exploded into so much more.”

As you can tell from the above video, their first interaction was incredibly emotional.

“I don’t care if we go to dinner or if we go to Disney World. I don’t care what we do, I just want to spend time with you,” Laila told her new friend on Thursday night.

And, of course, Anderson and Felmlee will be attending Saturday’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Calgary Flames sign deal for new downtown arena

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CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — The Calgary Flames have a deal for a new downtown arena, a 35-year agreement that keeps the NHL club in the city for that time.

The team, the city and the Calgary Stampede rodeo signed an agreement Thursday to replace the 36-year-old Scotiabank Saddledome.

The 19,000-seat arena is to cost more than $417 million. Construction is expected to begin in 2021, just north of the Saddledome. The arena will be demolished between 2024 and 2025.

The project is part of a downtown revitalization. The building will become the home of the Flames and part of a planned entertainment district bordering the Stampede grounds.

The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp., which owns the Flames, and the city will split the costs. The Stampede is a not-for-profit community group.