BOCA RATON, Florida - It will be minor tweaks, not major overhauls, to come from this week's general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.
While a number of more radical ideas, including the implementation of three-on-three play in overtime were discussed, none gained much traction. Instead, the GMs intend to put forth recommendations that they believe will enhance the product without dramatically overhauling it.
"The big take away from this meeting is the managers are really happy with where the game is right now,"said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
Throughout the week, GMs have expressed an interest to lessen the number of games decided in a shootout. To that end, a recommendation is expected to be put forth to have teams switch sides to begin overtime (the same as in the second period), hoping that a team's bench being further from their defensive zone will lead to more goals.
"I would say that's going to be recommended for sure," St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong confirmed.
So far, 18 of 30 teams have scored their largest number of goals under these conditions in the second period.
Also given consideration was doing the dry scrape of the ice prior to the overtime period to provide for better ice conditions instead of waiting until before the shootout; however, due to the potential of lengthening games, that item will continue to be discussed.
"Do we dry scrape the ice after the sixty minutes or can the ice crew (with shovels) accomplish the same thing, saving two or three minutes? One of the concerns of the dry scrape is the continuity in the game," said Armstrong. "We want to keep the fans attached to it and we're not sure if we want to slow the game down four or five minutes to get that dry scrape in."
Armstrong indicated that the NHL will consult with Senior Director of Facilities Operations, Dan Craig, regarding the most optimal course of action to enhance the ice for overtime while mitigating the amount of time spent on the task.
The GMs also intend to table a recommendation to widen the hash marks on faceoff circles to IIHF standards in an effort to separate opposing wingers, preventing immediate scrums along the boards after draws.
"Everyone thought that was a good idea," said Armstrong. "It eliminates the scrums along the boards and it allows the quicker player to get to loose pucks to generate scoring opportunities."
Additionally, it is expected that a recommendation to alter the face-off procedure somewhat will be put forward. As it stands currently, if a player is removed from a face-off, another teammate will come in to take the draw. If a second infraction is committed, a team will be assessed a two-minute minor penalty. The intended recommendation provides tha,t instead of replacing the offending player, he would simply be forced to move back 12-18 inches (exact distance still being considered), lessening his ability to win the draw.
"By doing that, the player loses leverage," explained Armstrong. "We think the referees will be more comfortable calling a (two-minute) penalty on the same guy (who has now cheated twice)."
The NHL will also table a recommendation to redefine what a "distinct kicking motion is" allowing for pucks to be directed in by skates where the blade remains on the ice. Daly indicated, though, that the interpretation won't be implemented until next season so that the relevant people can be educated as to the change to avoid confusion.
A lot of discussion regarding expanding video review took place, as well, largely focused on whether to allow for the review of plays where goals were scored that may have been affected by goaltender interference. Adding video monitors in the penalty box to allow for officials to review calls impacted by goaltender interference, an item that Calgary Flames President and GM Brian Burke expressed on Monday he would be in favour of, will not be recommended at this point, though Daly suggested it is something the league will further consider.
"One specific thing that was talked about, not necessarily recommended but certainly studied further, is adding monitors to penalty benches to allow on-ice officials to review potential interference calls for good goals versus not good goals," Daly confirmed.
He also explained that there was an appetite among general managers for the Toronto hockey operations situation room to be given expanded latitude in ruling on situations like the one that occurred on January 18 in a game between the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings. In that example, a puck clearly went into the netting and out of play but was missed, leading directly to a Red Wings goal and, subsequently, a Red Wings win after the game was being led by the Kings in regulation prior to the missed call with less than thirty seconds left in the third period.
"I think the managers feel something that's egregious and obvious like that, there should be some latitude to make those calls and get the calls right," said Daly.