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GMs meeting: Overtime, fighting hot topics

As expected, the NHL's one-day general managers meeting was more about setting the table for the bigger gathering in March, but there was momentum created on one issue: overtime.

Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland's long-desired wish to extend the regular-season overtime period finally got enough support that GMs appear willing to craft a change to it in March.

"I proposed that we extend overtime, I’ve been pushing for 10 minutes, but there's some appetite to get it to seven or eight minutes," Holland said after the meeting wrapped up at the NHL's Toronto office.

"I’d like to see a 3-on-3 component to it. We’ll discuss it more in March."

It appears now it's a given the five-minute overtime will be prolonged, but now it’s a question of agreeing on the exact parameters. Will the overtime period be extended to seven, eight, nine or 10 minutes?

"(Blues GM) Doug Armstrong likes 4-on-4 for the whole extended overtime, I’d like to go half to 3-on-3," Holland said. "But there's an appetite in the room from all the managers and from Gary (Bettman) to extend overtime."

Holland has been pushing for this for four or five years, the idea being that it would help minimize the impact of shootouts.

"I think there's good traction on the overtime," Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said.

"I think there's a lot of debate around it, it’s been around for a couple of years now, Ken has put forward the idea of trying (as much as possible) to get the game completed before going to a shootout. So we'll see," Canucks GM Mike Gillis said.

Fighting Issue

There was also a discussion on fighting, but certainly nothing was decided Tuesday other than to talk about it again in March.

"There’s still a lot of debate to be had about that issue and the direction it’s going," Gillis said.

"It was a good discussion, it will be had again in March, and it will continue on."

GMs aren’t as dialed in on the issue, however, as the media has been.

"It’s not at the level where it’s been in the media," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said. "I’m for it (fighting), I think it’s deep-rooted in the game. I think it acts as a deterrent. I understand the head injuries, I understand all that stuff, fully cognizant of it. So our discussion is that we know it’s an important issue, but there were other good issues in the game that are prominent.

"Listen, we’re the Bruins, we’ve got guys who can fight, I like the way we’ve built our team. I think our fans appreciate it, too."

The league has continued to chip away at the issue, trying to make fighting safer, such as by imposing penalties for players not wearing helmets in fights this season.

And Chiarelli is OK with those efforts.

"I’m certainly amenable to talking about further regulation of it," the Bruins GM added. "I just think it’s important for our game, from a deterrent point of view. But if there are different ways to regulate it, that may happen, yes, and it probably will."

For example, there was talk about goalie fights Tuesday given what transpired in Philadelphia a few weeks ago when Ray Emery pummeled Braden Holtby. It’s likely when GMs reconvene in March that some type of supplemental discipline will be voted on for goalies crossing the red line to fight.

"I would think that that’s the direction we’re going to go on that one," Chiarelli said. "We discussed it, it was pretty heavily in favor of doing something on that."

The NHL's senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell confirmed the goalie fight issue will come up again in March. But he added that, if a new suspension was put in place for goalies fighting, the league would also have the right to judge whether the suspension was warranted.

"Brendan Shanahan would have to have the right, the ability to rescind something that was practical," Campbell said. "We need more time in March to talk about it but we discussed that fairly extensively today."

Playoff format clarification

Some GMs were still unclear on how the playoff format worked under the NHL’s new alignment, and the league’s hockey operations department cleared that up for them.

To wit, there was some thought that if two wild-card teams came from each division -- so four playoff teams overall from each division -- that those wild-card teams would definitely play within their own division.

Not so, the league clarified to the GMs on Tuesday. The best record in the conference draws the lowest record among the two wild-card teams. So that means, for example, that you could have a fourth-seeded Montreal from the Atlantic playing top-seeded Pittsburgh from the Metropolitan in the opening round, and fourth-place Carolina from the Metropolitan crossing over as the other wild card to play top-seeded Boston from the Atlantic. It all depends on which No. 1 division seed has the best record and which wild-card team has the lowest.

Confusing? It is to some GMs who thought the point of the new format was to guarantee as much divisional playoff play as possible.

Under the example listed above, the Montreal Canadiens could become Metropolitan playoff champs even though they sit in the Atlantic Division.

Sheesh, talk about strange.

Hybrid icing

Stephen Walkom, the NHL’s director of officiating, presented a hybrid icing report, as some GMs have been grumbling this season about how the new rule has been working.

"We did an overview about hybrid icing and showed some stats about it in the game," Walkom said.

"We showed how many icings we have this year compared to last year on a per-game basis and it’s remarkable but it’s almost the same."

There were questions about whether it’s the faceoff dot that players are racing to, or whether it’s a race to the puck decided at the dots.

"We just reconfirmed that it’s a race for the puck that’s decided at the dots," Walkom said. "All the players, coaches and officials have been on a fast-ramp learning curve to get this rule right, and so far we’re getting better at it. And we haven’t had anybody slamming into the boards and we have the same number of icings, so that’s a real good thing."

Oilers GM responds to Yakupov's agent

Craig MacTavish responded to comments from the agent of Nail Yakupov after the GMs meeting on Tuesday. Igor Larionov raised eyebrows with his critical comments about Yakupov's lack of playing time to ESPN The Magazine’s Craig Custance on Monday night at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"The only thing I will say is that adversity in my mind is something that helps spur development," MacTavish said. "Yak’s facing a little adversity. But there aren’t too many players of that age that haven’t."

Asked about Larionov’s assertion that his client needed to play more in order to develop better, the Oilers GM defended the organization’s handling of him.

"I think Yak’s been treated very fairly since he’s been in our organization," MacTavish said. "We like Yak, I’ve said that many times. It’s a much bigger story for you people and it’s becoming a bit of a distraction for us right now because we’re having to answer these questions. But we feel the same way about Yak as the day we drafted him. He’s a dynamic player who is going to need time to develop and get to the level that we all expect him to get to.

"Is it a smooth line from where he is now to where he’s going to get to as a player? No, there’s going to be ups and downs along the way. And anybody that’s been in the game for any length of time will tell you that is the case. There are very few players that are going to be like Sidney Crosby and get to the game and be a star immediately. This is just part of that development and anybody with any common sense would tell you the same thing, so let’s all relax."

No Premiere Games next season

As we told you a few weeks ago, the NHL felt it was too late in the planning stages to fit the Premiere Games into next season and, while the NHLPA wasn’t happy to drop the games in Europe, both the NHLPA and NHL confirm that it’s now a dead issue for next season.

The return of the Premiere Games won’t be before the 2015-16 season now.