NHL GM Meetings Wrap Up: Goalie interference review recommendation; salary cap expected to rise

The NHL’s general manager’s wrapped up three days of meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. and came away with a recommendation for the league’s Board of Governors and the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee.

As we wrote yesterday, the GMs want all decisions on coach’s challenges for goaltender interference centralized and the final say to come from the Situation Room in Toronto where a retired referee part of the NHL Officiating Management Team will be included in the process.

“At their annual March meeting, that concluded today, the general managers overwhelmingly voted to adopt this change to bring an added level of consistency to goaltender interference rulings and add the input of experienced former on-ice officials to the review process,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “While, since the adoption of the coach’s challenge, there have been relatively few controversial calls on goaltender interference – perhaps half a dozen of approximately 170 challenges this season – the objective is to be as close to perfect as possible. However, goaltender interference ultimately is a judgment call.

“The video review process was designed to enable our referees to determine, upon viewing video replays, whether to overturn their original calls. In the vast majority of cases, their final decision has concurred with the Situation Room’s view.

“The recommended change is intended to help resolve the rare cases in which the Situation Room and the referees might have different opinions of a particular play and is intended to produce more predictability for our players and coaches.”

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

The core of the issue here is still the interpretation of what goaltender interference is. Sure, there’s a standard in place in the rulebook, but clearly that’s become a subjective issue depending on who’s officiating that night’s game. According to Bettman, that retired referee in the Situation Room won’t be the same one every night, meaning different eyes will see different things.

The definition of the call is still what many are seeking. How many NHL head coaches have publicly said they don’t know how goaltender interference is defined these days? Phil Housley, Mike Sullivan and Mike Babcock, for starters.

Should the BOG and the Competition Committee approve the recommendation, it will be enacted by the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next month.

According to the NHL, through Tuesday night’s games there have been 172 coach’s challenges for goalie interference (152 have been initiated by head coaches) with 120 calls being upheld and 52 overturned.

UPDATE: The NHLPA reviewed the recommended changes with the Competition Committee and has given its approval.

Per a release from the NHLPA on Wednesday:

The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has reviewed the NHL General Managers Recommended Change to Rule 78.7 (ii) Governing Coach’s Challenges for Goaltender Interference with our Competition Committee Members – Michael Cammalleri (Edmonton Oilers), Ron Hainsey (Toronto Maple Leafs), Kevin Shattenkirk (New York Rangers), Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils), and Daniel Winnik (Minnesota Wild) – along with many other Players in our Membership.  Based on those discussions, the NHLPA has decided to approve the proposed change.  The rule change will now require further approval by the NHL’s Board of Governors.

“First and foremost, the players want consistency in the application of the rule, and therefore support this proposed change in order to help accomplish that goal,” NHLPA Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider said in a release late Wednesday.

Offside review change fails to garner support

For the second straight year, the GMs failed to support any decision to revise offside reviews. According to Colin Campbell, head of the NHL’s hockey operations department, there were only 10 GMs were supported a change, with a two-thirds vote needed to move it to the governors and competition committee.

Head hits down, boarding up

George Parros, head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, told the GMs that hits to the head have declined but hits from behind are increasing.

“Particularly with boarding, we do see a lot of younger players these days that turn their backs to the play at the last second, whether they’ve grown up that way not expecting to get hit, whatever it may be,” Parros said. “Those are the tough ones to determine where the fault lies. If a player can essentially get out of the way before making contact before he’s done seeing the numbers, we take that into consideration.”

Seattle gets same rules as Vegas

As has been said for months by the league, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly reiterated that should Seattle be granted an NHL franchise they will have the same expansion draft rules as the Vegas Golden Knights did a year ago. For $650 millon, you certainly would hope so.

Salary cap still expected to rise

The projections of next season’s salary cap ceiling remain on point with the range to land between $78 and $82 million. The current salary cap ceiling is $75 million, with an expected increase of at least $3 million for the 2018-19 NHL season. If the Players’ Associations uses its inflator, the ceiling could increase to $82 million.

Miscellaneous

What do you think about the idea of a period beginning with face-off in the offensive zone should a penalty carry over? The GMs apparently had no appetite for such a change. Nor did they see any need to do something about fights that begin after legal hits.

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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.

Some GMs are looking to tweak overtime rules

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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.

Caps GM McPhee thinks there’s not much the NHL needs to change

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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.

Bettman tells GMs to take “business as usual” approach as CBA talks loom

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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.

GM meetings: Ringette line doesn’t sound much fun either

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The GM meetings gave us the scary possibility that the red line would be reintroduced, bringing back the two-line pass. Thankfully, GMs couldn’t support that idea and it’s been turned down, but there’s another plan that’s piqued their interest that essentially does the same thing.

Legendary coach Scotty Bowman once had an idea to introduce a “ringette” or a line above the faceoff circles and NHL.com’s Dan Rosen tells us about how it’s gaining popularity at the meetings and might get tested out in the future.

The ringette line, which comes from the Canadian game of ringette — a derivative of hockey — would be painted across the ice at the top of the faceoff circles at each end of the ice. The team with possession of the puck in its own end would have to gain the ringette line in order to make a legal pass across the center red line. Passing the puck across the center red line from behind the ringette line would be considered an illegal pass.

In essence they want to bring back the two-line pass but don’t want it to look as obvious. Considering how poorly the two-line pass played out while it was a rule, it doesn’t make much sense that this mutant version of it is going to play out any differently.

Coaches will always figure out a way to defend against everything. Finding a way to guarantee more whistles, not turnovers, doesn’t do much to make the game entertaining.