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Monday, March 10, 2014
Changes in air at GM meetings?

By Craig Custance
ESPN The Magazine

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- On the first day of the NHL's GM meetings, the debates began.

Divided into three breakout groups, general managers started to tackle the hot topics at this year's meetings -- changing overtime to reduce the number of shootouts, cutting down on goalie interference and expanding video replay.

No consensus was reached -- that would come later in the week when they reconvene as a group -- but the GMs are being careful not to make changes that might have unintended consequences. The prevailing sentiment is that the game is in a good place and change for the sake of change probably isn't a good idea.

"With every rule, you've got to be careful," Stars GM Jim Nill said. "It's a great game. When you start making changes, you think you've got all angles covered and something else seeps into it."


Or, as Rangers GM Glen Sather put it, "We've had a track record of making it worse in some cases. It's still a great game."

There's a growing movement to make changes to overtime in order to avoid the high number of shootouts that result. According to Red Wings GM Ken Holland, more games are ending in shootouts rather than in overtime, which isn't necessarily something GMs want.

One minor change suggested was switching ends for overtime, a tweak that got a favorable response from many of the GMs asked. Another is expanding overtime to end games before a shootout. The notion of playing 3-on-3 for a session if the game doesn't end after 4-on-4 continues to be debated, although there are growing concerns about it.

"When it comes to extra minutes added, you're talking about your best players playing more," Capitals GM George McPhee said. "They may play enough already. It might be back-to-back games, three games in four nights ... how much are you using those guys?"

Again, Sather was blunt in his assessment, saying: "It was tough enough to get 4-on-4 -- 3-on-3 is a bit of a pipe dream in my opinion."

General managers also debated ways to protect goalies more and make sure they're not being interfered with on goals.

"I don't think it's a big, big issue, but every goal is so big in our game now," Senators GM Bryan Murray said. "Every goal that you can get right, you want to get right."

A review of goalie interference might be part of an expanded replay package that could also include everything from a coach's challenge to the expansion of what the situation room in Toronto can call. But even that comes with complications.

"What if it's offside?" Kings GM Dean Lombardi said. "You enter the zone offside, you end up on the cycle and you score 30 seconds later. Technically, you could say, yeah. I don't know where you draw it. That's what happens when we get in a room."

Smaller issues that also were kicked around included the possibility of being more liberal on kicked-in goals. As one GM pointed out, there are goals where he can't say for sure there was a distinct kicking motion and often guesses wrong on the calls, and so he understands fans' frustrations.

There's also a movement to limit the amount of prospects teams can bring in for personal workouts before the draft. According to Tim Murray, the Sabres brought in 85 prospects last year for personal workouts. By comparison, his former team in Ottawa brought in five or six.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong proposed moving the hash marks in faceoff circles from three feet apart to five feet apart, which is the Olympic model. The motivation there is to clear up congestion on faceoffs.

"I liked it," Islanders GM Garth Snow said. "Means less B.S. on faceoffs."