Last week, the NHL announced its new rules for 2014-15. But, there is another project of interest beginning this season, what Senior Vice-President Mike Murphy calls “strictly an internal audit” of both goalie interference and missed offside calls.
Let’s call it “Shadow Replay.”
In its downtown-Toronto replay hub, the league will “build a file of goalie interference,” as Murphy says. Right now, it is too subjective.
“At the end of the week, we’re going to review… to establish criteria internally of what is and what isn’t goalie interference. Then we’re going to report that to the general managers and say, ‘This is what we’ve found.’ We’re trying to discover if it is realistic to have a coach’s challenge for this. It would be a mistake to do it at this point in time.”
The staff will look at collisions in the blue ice, in the white ice, everything it can to try and narrow it down. But Murphy stresses this will not go back to the “toe in the crease days” of 1999, where goals were being disallowed for ludicrous reasons. The desire is to see if “incidental contact” and “interference” can be strictly defined.
“If there was a seventh game being played in the playoffs, a 1-1 game in the third period between two of the best teams and the goalie gets clipped, we want to make sure if we go to video review, we know exactly what we are looking for,” Murphy said. “We want to be making the game better, not making it worse.”
As part of this plan, the on-ice officials were asked to make a change in focus during their recent pre-season training camp. With more cameras around the net, Murphy and NHL VP/director of officiating Stephen Walkom asked the two referees and two linesmen to focus on the action in front of the crease more than normal.
(The NHL is working on adding another camera inside the post. Details below.)
“The most important part of the game is the puck crossing the line,” Walkom said. “Historically, the referees are always looking at the net, but that’s something that’s being looked at by four or five cameras. So, (referees and linesmen) don’t need to determine if the puck crossed the line, we need to determine if the goalie can do his job in the blue paint, so we don’t have goals called under those circumstances.
“We want the referees to know where the puck is, but the priority should be: Where is the offensive player in regards to the goalie? And, is he interfering with the goalie? You can always check where the puck is.”
It will be an adjustment for the zebras, since they are used to a different philosophy. To help with this, linesmen are allowed to help make the call, and the four can conference on-ice to discuss what they’ve seen.
During the playoffs, several referees privately said they support the idea of video review if it would help them get the call right. The league’s concern is that the rule is too subjective at this point. This is a sensible, logical step to try and bridge that gap. “I’m glad we are taking our time,” Walkom said. “If we miss a puck crossing the line, we will be able to get help from the Situation Room to get that right. What we are not going to be able to get help with is whether or not the goalie was interfered with.”
The Situation Room will also detail any missed offsides where a goal was scored. There is large internal debate about this, because of varying opinions about how long a missed call is relevant. “The question will be, ‘How was it scored?’ Murphy said. “Was it on the rush? Was it five seconds later? Was there a cycle after offside? What if the goalie makes a save and then there’s more play before a score? Is there a way to make a rule?”
All of this will be tagged to see if there’s an answer. “My personal opinion is if they don’t score off the rush that’s it, but our legal people disagree. They say the play is tainted,” Murphy said.
Just as the officials were asked to change how they handled net-front play, linesmen were asked to make a change in how they handled offside. “When we looked at footage last year during the Olympic break, we talked about support,” Walkom said. “You would never overrule your partner on offside... very rarely would that happen. If there is a movement to go to video replay, before we do that, let’s optimize the guys we have on the ice.
“Instead of, ‘This is my line,’ we want to change it to, ‘This is our line, this is our call.’ Errors came where a guy far across the ice was offside, but the linesman couldn’t see him, because there were bodies in the way. Now, you might see plays where one guy waves it off, but the other guy across ice blows it dead. It’s OK to do that.
“If we do that on a consistent basis.. We’ll have very few cases of goals on offsides. The numbers will be very low. Our officials are proud guys. They want take ownership of it.”
The other thing this experiment allows is for the league to understand how long it takes to review these calls. That’s a big concern, since the NHL doesn’t want games getting any longer. As Walkom says, “If we can avoid slowing down the game, why wouldn’t we do that?”
1. Did not ask Murphy or Walkom about this, but word is negotiations between the referees/linesmen and the NHL are moving positively. Their CBA is up.
2. The NHL did some on-ice testing (not during games) during last season’s final of a camera that would sit on the post. The idea is to help judge pucks along the goal line, but Murphy was concerned about its setup. “I love them and like the look, but where they were located, they would not survive,” he said. “Pucks would hit it, they’d get a goalie bump... will guys put Vaseline on their fingers and rub it on the camera?” Now, the league is experimenting with putting them inside the post and hope to test it during exhibition play.
3. The first example the NHL showed in its diving video was Tomas Plekanec’s head-snap in the Eastern Conference Final. The league wasn’t so sure about publicly naming those warned or fined, but the players pressed for it. Montreal’s centre is going to be closely watched at the start of the season.
4. At the end of a wild and crazy summer for San Jose, here’s what Western Conference opponents believe: There is no way Joe Thornton is going to be a third-line centre. With Brent Burns going back to the blueline, what makes more sense? Is it Hertl-Thornton-Pavelski in your top six with Marleau-Couture-Nieto? Or, is it Hertl-Pavelski-Wingels, Marleau-Couture-Nieto, followed by Thornton between some combination of Andrew Desjardins, Tyler Kennedy or Tye McGinn? Remember Pavelski scored 41 goals last season, most alongside Thornton.
5. Among the biggest stories as we wait for the season to begin will be Mike Babcock’s future. One of the questions is, will someone out there offer him the one thing Detroit can’t—a Patrick Roy-style position with personnel control? Roy owns the Vice-President of Hockey Operations title in Colorado, with Joe Sakic, Craig Billington and Greg Sherman to make sure it works. Would such a setup tempt Babcock?
6. Will pre-season Calder pick Jonathan Drouin begin his NHL career as a winger? He lined up as one at the Lightning’s rookie camp and played there at the tournament in Nashville. We’ve seen that before for defensive reasons (Tyler Seguin, Boston), so it’s not unheard of. With Brian Boyle, Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson and some guy named Stamkos at centre, Tampa can do it.
7. A couple of years ago, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said one of the reasons he drafted Drouin was the left-right balance between he and Stamkos. If this is indeed coach Jon Cooper’s plan, we’ll have to wait a little longer for some of that magic, because the Stamkos one-timer will be much more difficult if he’s in the middle and Drouin is on the left.
8. Including those on try-out contracts, Calgary has five right-handed shooting defencemen heading to camp. That led to some rumblings about Dennis Wideman, but GM Brad Treliving shot down that idea when asked. Wideman owns a full no-move clause.
9. There aren’t a ton of movement rumours right now, but the ones that exist are generally about defenders. St. Louis has nine (counting Nate Prosser), so it wouldn’t be a surprise if something happens. Have heard Jordan Leopold’s name out there. Ottawa has seven blueliners on one-way contracts, plus Cody Ceci. They’d like to exchange one, probably for a forward.
10. Obviously, Boston remains in this category as well, with a need to free cap room. Much of the speculation surrounds Matt Bartkowski and Johnny Boychuk. Two months ago, as talks between the Bruins and Oilers fell apart, it sure seemed like the plan was to try and keep Boychuk for one more run. But there’s more smoke than a Cheech and Chong movie, so you wonder if that’s changed.
11. The last name will be Nick Leddy. There were a few reports in the summer Chicago might deal Johnny Oduya to get under the cap, but if they want to win one more time before the Kane/Toews extensions kick in, well, ask any opponent how good that Oduya/Niklas Hjalmarsson pairing is. Leddy must be qualified at $3.4 million next season, and look at the guys on the Blackhawks roster who make that salary. They let Viktor Stalberg, who (like Leddy) didn’t face the highest competition, walk instead of getting into the $3M range.
12. The New York Daily News’s Pat Leonard reported this week the Rangers were working towards an extension with Marc Staal, who will be a UFA after the season. There’s nothing imminent, I don’t think, but this does represent a change in the team’s methodology. One year ago, New York went into the season with Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist and Anton Stralman all prepared to go free. It was a wild year of negotiations, rumours and distractions that didn’t go away until after the trade deadline. Clearly, the Rangers want to avoid that in 2014-15.
13. One assessment of Johnny Gaudreau at the Penticton Rookie Tournament: “(Bleeping) dynamite. The best player here.”
14. While Calgary fans were positively orgasmic at the goal he scored Saturday against Winnipeg, Gaudreau is one of the older players there. Everyone raves about his skill, brains and compete level, but also agree the AHL is a great place for him right now. People need to get rid of the mentality that playing in the minors at that age is somehow a failure. It’s a tremendous place to learn.
15. Quote of the Summer I: Arizona GM Don Maloney on watching the Western Conference Final, “I thought about asking my former boss [Commissioner Bettman] if we could move to the Eastern Conference.”
16. Quote of the Summer II: You had to understand what was going on the day of the P.K. Subban arbitration hearing. It was unclear if they were still negotiating or if arbitration actually started. So one of the people involved leaves the room and I say to him, “Can I ask you what’s happening?” He looked at me like I was nuts and pointed to the door in front of us. “What’s happening is I’m going to the bathroom.”
17. Last season, there were four 21-year-olds who scored 25 goals—Ryan Johansen and Jeff Skinner (33), Gabriel Landeskog (26) and Jaden Schwartz (25). Two of them have something in common: neither has a contract (yet). My information is the same as everyone else’s with Johansen: They are $2 to $3-million apart on a short-term bridge deal and weren't in the same universe during long-term discussions.
18. It is believed that Columbus is willing to go a touch over $4 million at the highest, while the player ask is $6 million-ish, down from where things started. It sounds like the Blue Jackets talked to the Coyotes about what they went through with Kyle Turris, another Kurt Overhardt client. The agent took a tough line with Arizona, as he did with Vancouver while the Canucks tried to trade Ryan Kesler. Johansen’s strongest leverage is missing games. Is he willing to do that? It would be an unpopular stance, not always an easy thing for a young player.
19. Would we see Johansen traded? Talking to other teams, it seems unlikely. You get the sense Columbus knows what it has, but wants to wait before rewarding to the max.
20. When it comes to Schwartz, understand Blues GM Doug Armstrong’s history. He went long-term with Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, but played bridge-deal hardball with everyone else. Erik Johnson and T.J. Oshie did not have a $3-million base salary until season five. David Backes, Patrik Berglund and David Perron waited to season six. Chris Stewart signed a contract with Colorado that paid him $3.25 million in his fifth year and took a $250,000 cut from St. Louis next season. Vladimir Sobotka went to the KHL over $300,000.
21. Johansen and Schwartz don’t have the NHL pedigree of Landeskog and Skinner at the same age, but one of the things we learned in the off-season is “Beware how hard you wield the hammer.” P.K. Subban never forgot his skirmish with Montreal. If the Canadiens went long-term with him in January 2013, how much would they have saved?
22. An RFA’s other choice is following Tyson Barrie. In the summer of 2012-13, the Avalanche offered him a new contract with some term, but Barrie bet on himself, thinking he could do better on performance and salary. He did, with 13 goals and 38 points. That led to a nice raise. Barrie was fifth on Colorado in ice-time per game, so imagine what his next number will be if he keeps this going.
23. Could definitely see Justin Schultz following that route in Edmonton. He couldn’t get a long-term deal with the Oilers, but if he has any kind of season, the leverage starts moving his way. And, if he really bursts through, will he crack the $6 million ceiling set by Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
24. Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment president Tim Leiweke launched a grenade when he told Ryerson University students, “There are players we have in our organization today whose numbers are off-the-chart good, and whose character is just terrible.” That led to speculation he was talking about Phil Kessel, but I’m not sure. According to a couple of sources, Kessel had an end-of-season meeting with Brendan Shanahan where he re-iterated he wants to stay in Toronto and be part of the solution. (Shanahan declined comment.) The other thing here is, does any Maple Leaf have “off-the-chart good numbers?”
25. Taylor Hall had nine points in his first 10 games last year, but began skating one month earlier than normal this off-season because he thinks he’s too much of a slow starter. Hall said he worked hard on his “stops and starts” coming back into the defensive zone, “because you’re not as fast if you are circling.” He added he wants to improve his goal total and shooting percentage.
26. Meanwhile, Tyler Seguin’s hands looked ridiculous at the BioSteel camp, where he made opponents look silly. He finished playing last season at 183 pounds, but is now back up to his regular 198. He said he tried skating at 202 for a little bit, but felt awful with the extra four pounds. He’d be a terrible sports reporter.
27. Earlier in the summer, Stars GM Jim Nill said he envisioned Seguin and Jamie Benn with Ales Hemsky, because he thought the two shooters needed a passer. Seguin added something else to the equation, that he wouldn’t be surprised if Lindy Ruff uses him on the wing a little for some added flexibility.
28. Another player who made sure to stay a little leaner is Nashville’s Seth Jones. After last season, Predators GM David Poile noted the strong physical comparison between Shea Weber—who is listed at 234—and Jones. But the second-year defender made it very clear he doesn't want to be that big because he’ll lose mobility. He said he isn’t within 10 pounds of Weber.
29. The late Don Baizley told a great story about two of his former clients, Dave Gagner and Saku Koivu. The agent told Gagner about this good, young Finn, so when they lined up across each other for a faceoff at the 1993 World Championships, Gagner decided to test his opponent. He jabbed at him before the puck was dropped, only to have Koivu jab back even harder. Annoyed, Koivu kept it up the rest of the shift. Gagner reported back to Baizley that his 19-year-old prospect would be just fine in North America.
30. On the off-day before Canada faced the U.S. in the semifinals of the Sochi Olympic tournament, Ryan Suter was asked about his father’s last-minute decision to fly to Russia for that game. “I told him he didn’t need to,” Ryan said, but then he smiled and added, “He told me he was doing it and that I didn’t have a choice.” Bob Suter, who won gold in 1980, passed away last week at age 57. Best to Ryan and his family.