Toronto, Canada – It's for times like this that appointing Brendan Shanahan as NHL's senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, made a whole lot of sense.
The ex-player will oversee the league's second annual research and development camp next week in Toronto where tweaks on the game will be put to the test, and there couldn't be a better man for the job. After a Hall of Fame worthy 21-year career spent terrorizing goaltenders with a pin-point accurate wrist- shot, Shanahan will help usher the game into a new era with his extensive knowledge and experience in tow.
The camp, which will put some of the game's top junior players through scrimmages, will test new rule changes and tweaks with many of the leagues general managers sporting a keen eye. Here are a few of the more interesting rule changes that will be tested.
THE "HYBRID" ICING RULE
The hybrid icing rule maintains the exciting race for the puck the fans love, while taking the danger of the end boards out of the equation.
Under the hybrid rule the linesman determines whether a play will be called icing based on which player reaches the faceoff dot first. If he believes the attacking player will be the first to the puck, icing is waved off. If he believes the defending player will eventually win the race to the puck, the whistle is blown and the play stops dead at the faceoff dot, instead of inches from the end boards.
This one is a no-brainer and should be implemented into the game as soon as possible.
NO ICING PERMITTED WHILE SHORTHANDED
Let's think about this one for a second. If icing isn't allowed in even strength situations then why is a team on the penalty kill, a situation in which they are being penalized, allowed to ice the puck?
This rule would not only make minor penalties more prohibitive, it would also enhance the effectiveness of the powerplay by increasing the amount of time spent in the offensive zone. The NHL is always conscious of boosting scoring and this would be a great way to do it.
OVERTIME VARIATION: FOUR MINUTES OF 4-ON-4 FOLLOWED BY THREE MINUTES OF 3-ON-3
It's no secret the shootout is widely disliked in NHL circles, but short of getting rid of it altogether, this tweak might offer some relief.
While asking NHL players to play in a 3-on-3 format seems kind of hokey, if a higher percentage of games could avoid going to a shootout as a result of this rule change, then it should be implemented. Speaking of the shootout, they will also test a five shooter format as opposed to the current three shooter format. The three shooter format makes coming back from a deficit near impossible, so if the shootout is here to stay then the move to a five shooter format should be welcomed.
NO LINE CHANGE FOR TEAM COMMITTING AN OFFSIDE
Penalizing teams for going offside would force players to be more careful upon entering the offensive zone. This would reduce the number offsides along with whistles and play stoppages that go along with them. It may also have the unintended effect of reducing creativity. If teams knew that they could be penalized by going offside then they would be more likely to simply dump the puck in the offensive zone. One thing the league wants more of is creativity and excitement, so they should be careful with this one.
AFTER OFFSIDE, FACE-OFF GOES BACK TO OFFENDING TEAM'S END
What's with the aversion to the offside call? Here's yet another rule aimed at making an offside a penalized offense. This would have the same negative effect as the previous rule discussed. If teams are scared to go offside due to the fear of a faceoff in their own end, they'll simply dump it in. Ask fans how exciting dump and chase hockey is and you have your answer on whether this rule makes it off the drawing board.
REMOVING TRAPEZOID BEHIND NET
The trapezoid rule should never have been implemented in the first place. The thinking was that if the goalies couldn't leave their net to play the puck in the corners it would increase the opposing team's time in the offensive zone, leading to more goals. What it's done is reduced quick breakouts and hampered the ability of goalies to help in the transition game. It's also slowed down the game by forcing the defenseman to skate all the way back to the corner to retrieve the puck.
The league needs to remove the trapezoid and bring back the old days where goaltenders served not only as puck-stoppers, but a helpful sixth-man on the ice. Being able to play the puck efficiently as a goaltender is a skill that should be taught and celebrated, not penalized.
IN-NET GOAL LINE CAMERA
On almost any given night during the hockey season there will be controversy surrounding whether a puck crossed the goal line or not. Well, why not give the boys upstairs another tool to help figure that out. A high definition camera pointed at the goal line would provide an invaluable angle for NHL headquarters when deciding whether a goal is in fact a goal. The technology to do this is out there and has been for a while; there is no reason to wait any longer.