NEW YORK -- We’re not going to call it a "hockey summit," but there is enough concern about recent trends in how the game is played that a select group of hockey officials will meet this summer to discuss ways to further open up the game.
The meeting, which will take place in Toronto in August, will include a handful of coaches, general managers, officials and players, NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell told reporters after the general managers met in New York in advance of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Campbell said general managers were especially critical of what they perceived as an upsurge in interference of players trying to enter the offensive zone on the forecheck, so the meetings will revisit the issue of how games are called by officials.
“Instead of an R&D camp, that’s what we have scheduled,” Campbell said.
A number of GMs expressed concern about the stifling nature of hockey this spring.
“Everybody would love to roll out the Edmonton Oilers or the New York Islanders of the 80's and whatnot, but it’s virtually impossible to build that kind of a team so you try and figure out a way to be successful,” Tampa Bay GM and Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman said. "And teams have done that. There’s two different teams in the finals this year than last year. I think most people would say, hey, that’s a good thing. Next year everybody’s got hope of winning now.
“But it’s definitely a different league. All the rule changes we made coming out of the lockout were designed to promote skill and whatnot; it hasn’t necessarily done that. It’s made a different game but it’s not necessarily about skill. The teams that compete the hardest and can stay healthy generally are going to win most of the time.”
The former Red Wing great wouldn’t go as far as suggesting a ban or restrictions on blocking shots as some have in the past.
“But I think it’s worth looking into further, how we can generate shots and more offense and scoring chances in the game through skill, through nice plays,” he said.
Vancouver GM Mike Gillis agreed that he’d like to see more offense injected into the game.
“There was some discussion about the style of play we’re witnessing and what’s happened, and my perspective is I want offense in the game and I want to see scoring (opportunities), and I think a lot of people feel the same way. But coaches are coaches, and they’re coaching to survive, coaching to coach another day, and they’re coaching the players they have,” Gillis said.
The question is how to legislate more offense into the game.
“The only analogy I can think of is in the NBA, where they fought with zone defenses and ... shot clocks, to try and make sure offense was in the game, and I don’t think we’re at that point yet,” Gillis said. "These things go in ebbs and flows, but I think if it continued over a long period of time you’d have to address it."
Hold on hybrid icing
Although it looked like a sure bet after the GMs met in March that they would move to introduce hybrid icing to the NHL next season, they have retreated from that position and will instead ask the American Hockey League to test the new method of calling icing plays.
Hybrid icing is designed to prevent cataclysmic injuries that sometimes occur during a race for the puck on an icing play.
“I think coming out of March there was a little more aggressive reaction to it, let’s get it in right away,” Phoenix GM Don Maloney said. "I think everyone took a step back and said let’s put it in the American (Hockey) League and let’s see."
“I think the consensus is it’s a good rule. It’s been used successful in other leagues but I think there’s also a thought process; let’s see it in more live action, let’s collect a little bit more data and see what it’s like at the pro level,” added Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher.
One of the reasons for the more conservative approach to hybrid icing is that not all GMs believe it’s a change that needs to be made.
“There was one injury last year on an icing call -- I think the players are responding well and respecting one another and trying not to create injuries, Gillis said. "So rather than make a fairly radical change, might be better to try it at the American League level, see what else comes out of it, and then if it’s thought well of, then move to this level.”
It’s possible the AHL could also test out the so-called ringette line that would force teams to skate over a line at the top of the faceoff circle in the defensive zone before they could pass it to the far blue line.
“That’s another thing that was talked about,” Maloney said. "I would think the hybrid icing has a very good chance of being in next year (at the AHL level), the ringette line I’m not sure"
One interesting concept discussed Wednesday was carrying penalties over into the next game during playoff series as a way to prevent late-game nastiness, which has been an issue at times this spring.
The GMs discussed implementing a preventative measure for an incident that didn’t warrant a suspension but warranted some sort of league response.
“We want to discuss it further,” Detroit GM Ken Holland said.
The carryover would only take place within a playoff series and wouldn’t carry over from one series to another.
“If an incident occurs at the end of the game giving hockey operations -- again, it’s still in the initial stages -- giving somebody the authority to determine whether you can push a penalty into the next game to start the next game,” Holland explained.
“Obviously it’s radical, to take something from one game to carry over into the next game.”
Toronto GM Brian Burke said he thought it would be “bizarre” to start a playoff game short-handed.
“I think that needs some study,” Burke said. "I do think within a playoff round there are actions that it probably makes sense to have a penalty that carries forward if it happens late in a game, but that requires a great deal more thought, I think."