McKenzie: Brace for on-ice changes
Everyone knows changes are coming to the NHL's on-ice product, once
it gets back on the ice, of course. Whether it's in the form of wider
blue lines or more penalties being called or the introduction of the
shootout or smaller goalie equipment, all these changes are coming,
of that there is no doubt.
The big question, though, is how much further will the changes go.
That's something to be discussed by NHL general managers, when they
meet next Thursday at a Detroit airport hotel. Some radical notions
will be explored and some of them could very well be introduced in
the post-lockout NHL.
Such as removal of the centre ice red line for the purposes of a two-
line pass. Within the last couple of years, general managers voted 30-
0 against taking out the red line, but more and more are thinking
it's the way to go and it's now thought a majority of them would be
in favour of no red line, thinking it will create the desired effect
of opening up the game. Don't be surprised if this one flies.
The same could be said for the restrictions on goaltenders handling
the puck in a designated area behind the goal line, which is being
test driven in the AHL this season. It's not a slam-dunk but the
feeling is there may be enough support to limit the goalies puck play.
The issue of automatic or no-touch icing continues to be a hot-button
topic. It, too, could be adopted. Hockey purists like the idea of
racing for the puck but when weighed against injury considerations,
well, safety should win out. Some would like to see shorthanded teams
not able to ice the puck, but it's questionable how much support
there is for that.
Another debating point will be the concept of giving teams three
points for a regulation time victory, two points for an overtime win
with no points for an overtime loss or a tie that goes to shootout.
But some will argue that three points for a regulation time win could
actually promote ultra-defensive hockey, the opposite of what they're
looking for, because once a team gets a regulation tie lead, they
would play a shut-down brand of game.
Perhaps the most radical notion is that of increasing the size of the
nets. Three prototypes of larger nets will be on display for the
general managers to look at and while it's an interesting concept, no
one actually believes the league is ready to take that giant leap.
With a six-hour meeting set for next Thursday to discuss all of this,
and more, there are a lot more issues than time allotted for this
session. Think about the laundry list of items out there...the pros
and cons of the instigator penalty, what to do about diving, when
and/or where teams are able to make line changes, colored ice,
composite sticks and the size of the curve, roster size, schedule
length, how television covers the game...
The truth is hockey people could go on for months about this stuff,
and undoubtedly will, but for the general managers, six hours next
Thursday is all they've got on the subject of "changing the game."
At least for now.
The meeting on Friday will be all about the collective bargaining
agreement and isn't that a return to the stark reality of where the
game is at right now.