Next week, the NHL will hold its second annual research and development camp in Toronto as the league looks to continually “massage” the sport. Some would say “improve” but considering how the taste of every single hockey fan differs, we all know this is impossible. So the sport that is constantly in a state of change will once again try out some new concepts using elite-level junior players.
Here are my thoughts on a few things the league will look at:
Full two minutes served on a penalty. This was originally called, “the Montreal Canadians rule”, and up until 1956, players had to serve the full two minutes of each minor penalty. Problem was, the Habs dined out LARGE on the rest of the Original Six, (a horrible misnomer that I’ll blog about at some point,) and was subsequently changed by a league vote of 5-1. Yes, Montreal was against changing the rule — surprise, surprise. I like this one. Make a penalty a penalty. You do the crime you do the time. Score as many as you can boys, fill your boots.
No line change for teams who go offside. Not a big fan of this one as it discourages risky, creative plays at the blueline as teams will fear leaving a tired line on the ice if they mess up entry to the zone. A variation of this in my mind would be to not allow teams to change after deliberate offsides but a carte blanche policy on all offsides is a little much.
Disallow icing the puck while shorthanded. I’ve always found it odd that hockey changes a basic rule in order to help lessen a punishment for an infraction. I like this one. One danger here though if a team is in trouble and needs to alleviate pressure the only safe place (i.e. non-penalty) to fire it is in the bench area.
Extending overtime to four minutes with four-on-four and then three minutes of three on three. This is essentially like saying, “let’s just get rid of the shootout.” Look, there are many in the NHL establishment who can’t stand the “skills comp” as it’s called and I get that. The shootout has been under attack since it was first introduced and now it’s no longer part of the tie-break criteria in the standings. I think the league needs to have a frank discussion about what it wants to do with the shootout and then quit whining — in for a penny, in for a pound.
Speaking of the shootout, I’m all for expanding it to five shooters before heading to single-goal elimination. It works for both camps too. If you don’t think three shooters is a fair way to settle shootouts, since it’s near impossible to have a comeback when you are down two, then this addresses that issue. If you like the shootout then it’s more of what you like. The AHL does it this way (and doesn’t force teams to work through the entire roster allowing a player to shoot twice) and it works wonderfully.
Line changes permitted only on-the-fly. Not for me. I like line-matching. It’s a game within the game. It’s not like baseball, which needs ways to speed up the sport, I say leave line changes the way they are. On a side note, when pro hockey was introduced in Birmingham, (with the Bulls of the WHA), fans cheered loudest not for goals or fights but rather… wait for it… on-the-fly, wholesale line changes. Sports fans in Alabama had never seen a sport that allowed that.
News and notes
The New York Rangers signed defenceman Brendan Bell yesterday. Two of the best defencemen I’ve seen in junior hockey signed deals this week (the other being Danny Syvret with St Louis). The best blueliner I ever saw in junior was easily Bryan Fogarty who could take over and dominate games at will.
Robbie Schremp, former Oiler, Islander and Thrasher, has signed overseas and will play for Modo of the Swedish Elite League. Ulf Samuelsson will be his coach and Markus Naslund his GM.
Congratulations to John Walton, new radio play-by-play voice of the Washington Capitals. Walton had previously called games in the AHL for the Caps chief affiliate, the Hershey Bears. I feel, however, for Steve Kolbe who is not being brought back after acting as the team’s radio voice for 14 seasons. Kolbe bled red for the Caps and it too talented a broadcaster to not be in the league.
Today in Hockey History
1981: Toronto Maple Leafs obtain Don Luce from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Bob Gladney, a sixth-round pick and cash. Luce was one of the people responsible for bringing Alex Mogilny to the NHL, (a story that really deserves its own book). Gladney was from, wait for it, Come-By-Chance, Newfoundland. Great name. Gladney suffered a horrific eye injury while playing for Baltimore of the AHL in 1983 and retired.
1987: The New York Rangers signed free agent defenceman Peter Laviolette who played exactly 12 games for the Blueshirts. While he didn’t have any sort of NHL career, Laviolette was an accomplished AHLer who was never drafted and earned everything he achieved the hard way. He played on the US team in the ’88 and ’94 Olympics.
1993: The Anaheim Mighty Ducks made their first trade picking up tough guy Todd Ewen and Patrick Carnback from Montreal for a third-round draft pick (Chris Murray). Ewen was named alternate captain for the Ducks inaugural season. He also wrote and illustrated a children’s book called “A Frog Named Hop”. Carnback played three years for the Ducks before heading back to Sweden.
1994: The Dallas Stars were awarded Peter Zezel and Grant Marshall as compensation for signing restricted free agent Mike Craig (whom Toronto signed to a four-year, $2.3-million contract). Craig was supposed to be “the guy” for Toronto and in junior he looked to be the real deal. Mind you he was helped greatly by playing on a line with Eric Lindros in both Oshawa with the Generals and with the national junior team. Craig never reached double-digits in goals for the Leafs.
The Sheet reader profile
Name: Greg Thomson
Twitter: @Greg_Thomson – Website: www.leafsnationonline.com
Earliest hockey memory: Winning the house-league championship in my first year of hockey and wearing the medal around every day the following summer. I remember skating out to centre ice prior to the game when my name was called and feeling as though I was on top of the world. Earlier that season I also attended my first Leafs game, against the Atlanta Thrashers, and remember idolizing Mats Sundin as he powered his way down the ice and lifted the Leafs to victory.
Favourite YouTube moment: There are a lot of great Leaf moments captured online, but my favorite right now is this Colton Orr montage. With training camps opening up in just over a month, this video gets me excited for the upcoming season. It’s full of energy, passion and excitement.