The NHL's general managers met in Boca Raton, Florida, this week, and if nothing else it reminded us that the league's in a pretty good place these days. Scoring is up. Fighting and suspensions are down. When the only big rule adjustment is getting players to leave the ice when they lose their helmets, it's not exactly the Lincoln-Douglas debates inside that posh hotel conference room.
The GMs did discuss a few things that caught our attention, and here they are, in order to how much attention they caught:
5. Putting clocks in the corners
You see what I mean? The discussions at this year's GM meetings were slightly less intense than a conversation with a significant other about redecorating the den. ("Should we put the clock it the corner? Over the door? Do we even need a clock if there's one on the front of the cable box?")
Clocks in the corners have been used in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the NHL's outdoor games, including the Winter Classic, because players on the ice can't be expected to scan a stadium to find the time remaining in a period. This is a no-brainer for the league -- consider defensemen who will now have the time in front of them rather than above them late in a game. And for those concerned about the potential loss of advertising revenue where the clock will be located, have you ever watched a grand slam event in tennis? Rolex is salivating.
4. Teams on the power play pick their faceoff dot
While they don't need the help this season -- the NHL's power-play efficiency is over 20 percent for the second-straight season, which would be the first time this has happened since 1987-88 and 1988-89 -- I'm all for anything that powers up the power play. That's when you're supposed to score, and the other team is supposed to feel shame.
Now, the awesome thing to do would be to go back to "two-minute majors" in which the team that's up a man can score as many goals as they can without their power play ending, but the NHL knows that the reluctance of its officials to make penalty calls in critical game situations means that its implementation would conversely decrease the number of power plays in a game. There's an equally awesome option, like forcing teams on the penalty kill to skate the puck out of the zone rather than clear it. Like, who cares about leniency for shorthanded teams? Easy solution: Don't commit crimes.
Instead, we'll settle for subtle changes, like this one that would allow the Washington Capitals to chose the dot opposite of where Alex Ovechkin will blast the puck in for a goal moments after they win the faceoff. Fun!
3. Changing overtime penalties
Overtime power plays are fairly rare -- there's been a total of 50 minor penalties in 229 OT games this season -- but there's no question that two minutes of a 4-on-3 power play out of five total minutes of OT is pretty steep. So the GMs have discussed making overtime penalties one minute long rather than two. Maybe this would encourage referees to call more penalties in overtime? Or, perhaps, maybe it's better to keep the 3-on-3 as close to an "NHL Jam" street hockey fun-fest as possible, and allow for some (non-injurious) rules fudging?
2. Down with sucker punches
Frank Seravalli of TSN reports that the Department of Player Safety might seek a language change on Rule 46.23 on fighting, in an effort to decrease the number of sucker punches thrown in the NHL. The new rule could read: "A player who is deemed to have thrown a forceful or violent punch or punches on an unsuspecting, defenseless, or unwilling opponent may be subject to supplementary discipline." The "defenseless or unwilling" part has been added.
This is fine as long as it leads to supplemental discipline with more teeth for sucker punches, which rarely earn significant suspensions. The two games Tyler Bertuzzi received, for example, were for punches thrown while on the bench. Max Domi got five preseason games for that punch on Aaron Ekblad. Say, turning preseason games lost into regular season games lost would seem like a worthy debate for the general managers, huh?
1. Getting the 'O' out of 'ROW'
For many years -- potentially since birth -- I've been ranting and raving that regulation wins should count for more than any other sort of win. Which means in the current standings format, it would be peachy if winning after 60 minutes of actual hockey netted you three points while a victory in overtime or the shootout only got you two points. But that could seriously impact the parity that Gary Bettman so loves about the current NHL, so I know it's not going to happen.
But this rule change, which had some traction in Boca, gives regulation wins greater importance: stripping away the overtime wins from the current tie-breaker if teams are knotted in points. Again, it rewards teams that play well enough to win at (mostly) 5-on-5 hockey, and ones that are built to do so. Which naturally means the NHL will probably never get down with a rule change that might expose teams that are standing with the overtime crutch.
Again, not much happened in Boca. Which means not much needed to happen in the general managers' eyes.
The Week in Gritty
Like many of us, Gritty watched in horror as Colton jumped over a fence on "The Bachelor" into the dead of the Portuguese night when -- in one of the most shocking twists in "Bachelor" history until the next one -- he was rejected by one of his suitors. (Suitresses?)
Anyway, Gritty did the Colton Leap:
- Gritty (@GrittyNHL) March 7, 2019
Meanwhile on the "Late, Late Show," James Cordon reunited the Jonas Brothers, who name-dropped Gritty in a song:
I DID IT. I brought the @jonasbrothers back together.
You're welcome, world! pic.twitter.com/E7w3sFj14O
- Gritty (@GrittyNHL) March 6, 2019
Finally, our friend Katie Nolan has about had it with the mascots who are getting catty with our big orange goofball:
- shaq owes me $12 (@inthefade) March 2, 2019
Glad someone is taking the fight up for poor, underappreciated Gritty who [checks notes] is the single most popular and identifiable thing about professional hockey outside of the Stanley Cup.
Three prayers for the playoff races
Oh Hockey Gods, please bestow thine good fortune on Matt Duchene and lift the hex placed upon him. Team "Shoot Your Shot" is getting a little nervous about the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are gripping their sticks tighter than an arcade jockey trying to take down a Billy Mitchell Donkey Kong record in 1984.
They're two points out of the wild card with a game in hand on the Canadiens after their trade deadline splash, and 10 of their next 13 games are against playoff teams. Their coach is scratching their best goalie (Sergei Bobrovsky) because he plays poorly against the Penguins, and then doesn't play the goalie (Keith Kinkaid) that has historically played well against the Penguins. Duchene, the prize of the deadline, has a goal and two assists in eight games. He's a plus-10 in shot attempt differential, but on the negative side of scoring chances (minus-6). He's skating hard, but not getting results. Yes, Colorado Avalanche fans, it is 2019. You're not stuck in a time loop. He's still that guy when the pressure's on.
Oh Hockey Gods, please continue blessing Bruce Boudreau. I don't really want or need the Minnesota Wild in the playoffs to be a sacrificial lamb for the top seed, but I do need Bruce Boudreau to once again exhibit his (regular season) coaching mastery in getting this broken-down, deadline-selling team into the playoffs one more time before GM Paul Fenton inevitably brings in his own guy to coach the team next season.
Oh Hockey Gods, please maintain thine blessing of the San Jose Sharks so we made avoid the calamity of thine Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights matchup. It's bad enough that the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are locked into the Atlantic Division semifinal, with the winner getting spoon fed to the Lightning. It's worse that arguably the West's most compelling teams might have to meet in the Pacific semifinals. Luckily, San Jose is making a push for the division lead and Calgary forgot how to score at an inconvenient time. Keep doing what you're doing, Hockey Gods. And if you can throw in a four-goal game for Joe Thornton this season, even better.
From the Vegas Golden Knights' fandom:
If you are going to turn around and mock me, at least don't have a jersey foul pic.twitter.com/7Cr3WVxAnx
- Richard (@elpostman77) March 3, 2019
Pretty sure this is the reaction from Capitals fans when they see his numbers in Vegas.
Keep it weird, NHL teams
The Chicago Blackhawks' marketing department has some time on its hands this season, and they put it to good use with this truly, truly bizarre promotional video for the team's fan convention:
Tommy Hawkman's got something for YOU!
- Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 7, 2019
While the inspiration for this might seem based in psychedelia for the rest of us, for Chicago natives it's the greatest parody this side of "Weird Al" Yankovic. I played this video, with the sound on, and my wife -- who grew up in the Windy City 'burbs -- literally sprinted out of the other room shouting "EAGLE MAN!"
This is the original local ad:
It's a parody of this terrible commercial that used to be on Chicago TV all the time so PLEASE APPRECIATE ITS GREATNESShttps://t.co/3WCSTDbbIL
- Andrew Fair (@_AndrewFair) March 7, 2019
We've seen teams keep it weird through the years -- normally around the holidays, with spoofs on Christmas sweaters and bad singing -- but rarely this ... specifically weird. It reminds me of the gold standard for NHL non-holiday promotional videos:
I still can't believe this was a thing an NHL team produced. https://t.co/DuEJo1HPY5
- Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) March 8, 2019
Please, more commercial parodies that are relevant to my interests, NHL teams. GO KIIIIIINGS!
Listen to ESPN On Ice
Huge episode this week as we spoke with Ryan O'Reilly about the St. Louis Blues' turnaround (you can read that interview here) plus Shea Theodore of the Golden Knights on their season and the weird faceoff "win" he had as a defenseman. Plus, Emily Kaplan and I rant about the playoff format. Stream it here and grab on iTunes here.
Channel 45 news anchor Doug McLeod was pulled from play-by-play duties on the Minnesota high school hockey state championship tournament after making a reference to "lynching ropes."
We would love to see a second NHL chapter to Ralph Krueger's story. He should have never been fired in Edmonton, and he was the best thing not named Team North America at the World Cup.
Hey, hey , hey ... inside a Wisconsin hockey tradition with a super fan.
Arpon Basu with a long read on Carey Price and his journey with the Montreal Canadiens: "Canadiens fans should feel lucky to have a man like Carey Price representing their beloved team, because through it all, through the booing and mock cheers and fake rumors about his personal life, the one thing Price has never wavered on is his desire to win a Stanley Cup and parade it through the streets of Montreal. He's never wanted to leave, never said he was fed up with the noise, never sought out a quieter place to play."
Handy guide here on how to watch the NWHL and the CWHL playoffs in the coming weeks.
Ryan Lambert on the wacky Metro race: "As much as this felt like a runaway for the Islanders even a few weeks ago, reality has caught up to results in a number of ways, and it's likely to continue. The argument around the Islanders was never that they were bad, but rather that they weren't this good."
Finally, Jon Hamm calls a Blues goal!
Jon Hamm calls Ivan Barbashev's goal!
4-0 STL pic.twitter.com/oIFBAiIsY1
- Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) March 8, 2019
Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn't read)
For many girls, figure skating loses its edge to hockey (subscription required)
In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN
If you haven't read Emily on weed and the NHL, what are you waiting for?