Player safety, offense key topics at NHL GMs meetings

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The annual NHL’s general managers meetings took place in Boca Raton, Florida this week and as has been the case in recent years player safety and increased offense were among the major talking points.

Perhaps the most noteworthy proposal is one that would penalize players that do not immediately leave the ice after they have lost their helmet during play.

Helmets have been mandatory in the NHL since the 1979-80 season (players already in the league at that time were grandfathered in, which is how Craig MacTavish, for example, played helmet-less into the 1990s) but there has never been a rule that has forced a player to exit the ice should they lose their helmet during play.

It is something that happens quite regularly in the NHL and is obviously a safety concern.

“I don’t see any reason why we’re waiting around for something to happen in this space,” said George Parros, head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, via NHL.com.

“God forbid something should happen. I think this rule would go on the list right away, so everybody was on board with that. We’ll figure out what that rule will look like, draft up some options and push it through the proper channels.”

Parros also added that the league has looked into making helmets mandatory during warmups. Currently, NHL players are allowed to take part in warmups without their helmets and in recent years we have seen a couple of notable injuries take place as a result.

Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist has been hit in the head by pucks on two different occasions in recent years, while Taylor Hall, back during his Edmonton Oilers days, needed 30 stitches to repair an injury he suffered during a warmup collision.

One of the other proposals that will be up for debate centers around teams having the option of choosing which face-off circle they want to begin a power play on.

Instead of the current rule, which has the location determined by where the puck went out of play or where it was last touched, the general managers are proposing that teams should be allowed to choose which side the initial face-off takes place on. In theory, this would enable coaching staffs to set up plays and get players into their best possible position for a quick strike on the man-advantage. This would allow teams like the Washington Capitals or Tampa Bay Lightning to put the face-off in the right circle to open every power play in an effort to set up Alex Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos for their one-timers right off the draw.

This is one of those rule changes that, from a big picture outlook, doesn’t seem like it will make much of a difference in league-wide goal-scoring rates or style of play, but could have a big impact in an isolated sampling at the end of a game or in overtime.

What might be an even bigger change is the recommendation that the face-off remain in the attacking zone when the puck is shot out of play by an attacking player. Under the current rule the ensuing face-off is moved outside of the offensive zone in such situations. Keeping it in the zone, whether it be on the power play or at even-strength, could make a big difference because it keeps the attacking time in what could be a prime scoring position instead of making them have to not only win possession of the puck, but also regain entry into the offensive zone.

One other idea that was talked about was to forbid teams from making a line change if their goalie covers the puck on a shot that originated from outside the blue line, while others proposed making a two-minute penalty for delay of game.

This is more of a pace-of-play issue would aim to cut down on unnecessary stoppages.

The only time now when teams are not allowed to make a line change is after they ice the puck.

Before any of these ideas can officially become rules they must first be agreed upon by the NHL and the NHLPA, and then approved by the board of governors at the end of June.

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.