GMs meeting wrap: Goaliegate, realignment, Shanahan makes good impression
TORONTO -- The league and its 30 general managers agreed during their five-hour meeting Tuesday that protection of its goalies has to be a priority. That doesn't mean any new rule changes, but simply a greater awareness of the issue and the full employment of the current rulebook.
Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier had hoped the issue would be on the agenda in the wake of Ryan Miller's injury after Saturday night's collision with Boston's Milan Lucic, and the league obliged when player safety executive Brendan Shanahan brought it up early in the meeting.
"I think it was important," Regier said after the meeting. "He deemed it important, the league deemed it important, my counterparts deemed it important. When you consider that the league is made up of 360 forwards, 180 defensemen and 60 goaltenders, and 30 of those play on a regular basis, the significance of the position means it's important when the goaltenders are outside the net playing the puck that they're going to be protected."
Shanahan said the agreement Tuesday was there should be a heightened sensitivity on the safety of goalies when they leave the crease to play the puck.
"The message going forward is that goalies are not fair game. They're not, and I'll view each and every case on a case by case basis," Shanahan told ESPN.com. "But it would certainly be a horrible idea for anybody to think that this is a tactic to use and that the decision has been made that this is an allowable offense regardless of what people feel about my decision on this last one.
"The room was split on it. The greater message going forward, which everybody agreed with, was that there certainly had to be a great sensitivity to goaltenders and when they venture out of the net."
"Visually, I didn't like it, I don't want my goaltender to get hit like that," said Poile. "Maybe we don't have the proper wording in the rules right now; we can't change rules today, but I would like to look at it again in March."
Red Wings GM Ken Holland looked at the Lucic/Miller incident, but didn't see a suspension.
"The way that played out, there's really nothing in the rule book to suspend him," said Holland. "Now, I think for the most part it's a unique play; that doesn't happen every day. So we just have to be more sensitive to it."
Shanahan came armed with video clips during a presentation that several GMs called impressive.
Shanahan would have known that some GMs were griping about suspensions or non-suspensions six weeks into the season, and the NHL discipline czar was proactive by bringing up some of the most controversial plays of the season and having the group discuss them candidly.
One of those plays was Wojtek Wolski's hit on Daniel Alfredsson. The Ottawa Senators captain suffered a concussion on the play and the club was upset there was no suspension. Shanahan asked the GMs for their opinion.
"Even among our group, there wasn't a unanimous decision. Half were 'no suspension' and the other half were 'maybe there should have been,'" Senators GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com. "So that's the dilemma [Shanahan] has every day, I think."
Murray was impressed by Shanahan's presentation.
"He also was proactive in a few others. He showed clips, like the Chris Neil interference on Mikhail Grabovski in Ottawa, so there was discussion about that," said Murray. "They were very open about that. I also shared in the meeting that I told Shanahan I was disappointed with the ruling [on Wolski], but I hung up the phone and kept quiet. That's the way it is."
Shanahan knew his audience would be prepared. This was the first time he faced the GMs as a group since taking over as discipline chief.
"He was good and very thorough," said Poile. "It's always going to be a process in supplemental discipline and I think he did a fabulous job of educating us more on his thinking. Is it one of these things where do you agree on absolutely everything? The answer is absolutely not. But he's the man in charge and he's very thorough. He's looking at it with his staff from 100 different ways, whereas maybe we're just looking at it with blinders on from our own perspective. We're making headway."
Last week's Philadelphia-Tampa Bay trap controversy fueled a discussion, as expected, by the GMs.
"We went around the room on this," Leafs GM Brian Burke said. "I think it was Colie [Campbell] who said we've played 8,000 games since we started playing [after the lockout] and this is the first time it's happened, so no one wants to overreact to one game or one experience. We'll keep an eye on it and make sure it isn't a problem. But certainly no one wants to see a rash of this."
Poile, among the more veteran GMs in the group, said the key was to keep an eye on it.
"I didn't like it, personally, from a visual point of view," he said of last week's controversy when Philadelphia decided not to advance the puck in response to Tampa Bay's trap early in the game. "We really need to monitor that. No matter what we do in terms of tweaking the game, the coaching outweighs that. We just need to monitor it. I'll be concerned if it's a repetitive situation, but I'm not so sure it's going to be.''
In the end, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said the conversation is larger than what happened last week.
"It's not a 1-3-1 issue, it's the way the game is played today as a whole," he said.
The GMs got a brief realignment update from the league as the meeting neared its end, but didn't get a chance to ask questions.
"We did not get a choice to voice anything, that's an owner-level issue anyway," said Burke. "That's going to be resolved at Pebble Beach."
The NHL's board of governors will vote on realignment Dec. 5-6 in Pebble Beach, Calif. The Detroit Red Wings are chief among the clubs that are hoping for a change to their respective situation.
"We'd like to go East or we'd like to play more games against Eastern teams. Nothing's changed from that point of view," Holland said.
Ideally, the Wings would like to move to the Eastern Conference, but the club has also indicated to the league it could also live with having the NHL schedule matrix revamped so each team plays every other team in the league at least in a home-and-home. That would guarantee more games in the East for Detroit and less in the West to minimize some of the travel.
Western Conference clubs aren't too keen to see the Wings move to the East.
"Of course, we would love to stay with Detroit and I know they want to go to the East because travel is a lot harder in the West," said Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. "We like playing the Red Wings. I don't know where it's going to end up and I don't know if there's a right answer."
Unsigned center Kyle Turris remains at home while the Dec. 1 deadline approaches for him to either sign or miss the entire NHL season. Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney reiterated the status quo on his team's position.
"For the 15-hundredth time, we have no intention of trading him, regardless of the offer, at all whatsoever," Maloney told ESPN.com.
Maloney said the one-year and two-year offers the club made to the player remain on the table.
"He's absolutely welcomed, we'd love to have him back," said Maloney.
• The buzz at the GMs meeting was word that the Columbus Blue Jackets had intensified their efforts to trade for a goalie. Nothing was imminent as of Tuesday night, but a few NHL clubs confirmed to ESPN.com that Jackets GM Scott Howson was making calls.
• One netminder that may be available later in the season is Antero Niittymaki. He is still injured and won't be back for another 3-4 weeks, but sources told ESPN.com Tuesday that teams have inquired with the Sharks to see if he'd be available. He might be given the solid play of backup Thomas Greiss.