Rumblings: Wayne Gretzky at Winter Classic? 1-3-1 debate at GMs meetings?

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
3:57
PM ET

It should surprise no one that the New York Rangers have reached out to Wayne Gretzky in an effort to change his mind about participating the Winter Classic alumni game Dec. 31 in Philadelphia.

Gretzky told ESPN.com two weeks ago he didn't think he would play, citing previous family plans for the holidays and adding that no one wanted to watch a 50-year-old on skates.

But the New York Rangers have lobbied The Great One in the form of veteran GM Glen Sather, Gretzky's old boss from their Edmonton Oilers days.

"Glen called and we talked for 45 minutes," Gretzky told ESPN.com on Wednesday night. "I really respect the Rangers doing that. That's classy of Salts, Mike Keenan [who is coaching the Rangers' alumni team] and the Dolan family. So I told Glen I would think about it."

We're not betting on Gretzky changing his mind, but stranger things have happened.

More 1-3-1 fallout

The Tampa Bay Lightning aren't apologizing for what happened Wednesday night in their 2-1 overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers. The hockey world was set abuzz with the Bolts' 1-3-1 defensive system and the way the Philadelphia Flyers reacted.

"We're trying to win games," Tampa GM Steve Yzerman told ESPN.com on Thursday. "Our coach [Guy Boucher] is going to make his decisions based on our personnel and our performance. We're not going to be influenced, he's not going to be influenced by the media or anybody. He's going to coach the way he has to do to win games."

Besides, why the fuss all of sudden, wondered Yzerman?

"We've been playing that since Day 1 last year. It's nothing different. We didn't do anything different," Yzerman said. "Honestly, 29 other teams in the league play the 1-2-2. We could have sat back playing a 1-2-2, as well, and the Flyers could have sat back like they did [Wednesday] night. They chose a strategy. ... Every other team plays a 1-2-2.

"It's the same philosophy as us: if you can get in on the forecheck, get in and go and put pressure. If you can't get in, then retreat into the 1-2-2. We retreat into a 1-3-1. That's the only difference between us and the other teams in the league. Philadelphia chose to sit back and try something different. I'm not criticizing them for it, and I don't think we should be criticized for the way we play."

The Flyers entered the game as the league's highest-scoring team, led by Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr. The Lightning have been hammered by injuries on the blue line and needed to tighten up.

"We were worried they were going to come in and run-n-gun and we weren't going to be able to keep up with our guys that our out and the fact we haven't played particularly well defensively," Yzerman said. "We were worried that Jagr and Giroux were going to tear us to shreds, so it was almost a relief for us."

Agenda for GMs meeting

The reaction around the hockey world to Wednesday night's controversy in Tampa was enough that the NHL's 30 GMs will discuss it Tuesday at their meeting in Toronto, a league source confirmed.

"I think it's worthy of discussion. I look forward to it," said Yzerman.

My TSN colleague Bob McKenzie polled GMs around the league and asked them which team they blamed for Wednesday's controversy. As of 7 pm ET Thursday, 18 GMs responded; 13 blamed Tampa, three blamed Philadelphia and two stayed neutral. Eight of the 13 who said it was Tampa Bay's fault said they were in favor of instituting new rules or penalties to combat the 1-3-1 trap.

But don't expect any rule changes or anything concrete to come out of that GMs discussion. A source told ESPN.com the discussion would be more along the lines of a big-picture conversation relating to the state of the game, using Wednesday night's controversy as a spring board to discuss the health of the sport and how everyone feels about trapping in today's game.

One executive shared this concept of a new rule with ESPN.com on Thursday when specifically referring to Tampa Bay's 1-3-1 trap: once a player reaches the top of the faceoff circle in the defensive zone, coming out of his own end, he can clear the puck all the way to the other end of the ice and it's no longer icing. The thought is it would ignite his team's forecheck and force the trapping team to react.

Not a bad idea. It's believed legendary coach Scotty Bowman first thought of this years ago. But again, don't expect any actual rule changes Tuesday. With the expiry of the collective-bargaining agreement in September, the prevailing thought is any changes will be put on hold until a new CBA is in place.

The GMs will also get a report from the league on the current state of realignment talks. The GMs will be free to express their opinions on the subject; but, ultimately, as a source said Thursday, it's a board of governors matter. The owners will discuss and vote on it during their meetings Dec. 5-6 in Pebble Beach, Calif.

Privately, the league espouses a four-conference set-up, which would be a drastic remake of the league. Some governors and GMs remain unconvinced, so Tuesday might provide a lively discussion on the matter, even if the GMs don't have the final say.

Another important agenda item: Brendan Shanahan will address the GMs on how supplemental discipline has gone so far this season. The GMs will be free to ask questions, so this could lead to an interesting conversation.

Stars' new owner almost in place

If all goes swimmingly in the next little while, Tom Gaglardi could be sitting in the owners' box as soon as a Nov. 21 game in Dallas. That's if everything goes well. So far, so good.

A source told ESPN.com the Vancouver businessman has already been successfully vetted by the executive committee of the board of governors. That's a huge step. Next, as reported by Mark Stepneski of ESPNDallas.com on Thursday, the bankruptcy court hearing to award the team to Gaglardi has been moved up to Nov. 18.

The final step is for the full board of governors to approve him as owner, a process that is currently happening via fax vote.

Again, unless there are any unforeseen delays, he should be the new Stars owner within the next two weeks.

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