BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The coach's challenge faces a detailed review from the league's 30 GMs when they gather here early this week for their annual three-day meeting.
Rule 48, which focuses on hits to the head -- as in, whether it's time to further adjust the definition -- will also generate conversation. And GMs should get their first official look, even if cursory, at potential expansion-draft rules.
I suspect that the coach's challenge will be the hot-button issue. A main point of contention among some teams is that the rate of overturned calls is too low. According to numbers that the NHL provided last week, only about 21 percent of goalie-interference reviews have been overturned this season, while the number is around 39 percent for offside reviews. There's also frustration among some teams as to what exactly goalie interference is.
"I think we're going to review it, there's going to be discussion. Who's going to handle it? Will it stay the same way?'' said Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill. "This isn't new to us; we've had a lot of discussions about this before it came in. We knew where maybe it would end up.''
When Nill says "Who's going to handle it?" he's referring to the narrative among other managers who are wondering whether it should be Toronto's war room handling video reviews on a coach's challenge instead of the on-ice officials. (Nill is in the camp of leaving it within the hands of the refs.) Some wonder whether the rate of overturned calls would be higher if it wasn't the on-ice officials doing the reviews on tablets but rather the guys in Toronto.
Several GMs I've spoken with over the past few weeks favor switching to the Toronto war room for review next season, although a few GMs, such as Nill above, feel it should stay within the hands of the refs.
Another point of criticism of the coach's challenge, which is in its first season, is that there are simply too many challenges, period: that some coaches in the third period are simply using 50-50 goals to use a glorified timeout regardless of whether they feel they truly have a chance of overturning a goal.
One Eastern Conference GM, who shall remain nameless for now because he wasn't sure if he would bring this up or not at the meetings, floated the idea to me last week about whether there should be an automatic two-minute delay-of-game penalty to the team that loses a coach's challenge. The GM's thinking here is that it would reduce the number of challenges because then coaches would be so willing to toss out all those 50-50 calls because all that is at stake is a timeout. They might think otherwise if there's a penalty attached to a losing decision.
I kind of like this idea. I think it's at least worth discussion this week. But we'll see whether the GM in question decides to table it.
Other expected talking points this week:
The league is expected to share with GMs some general parameters of proposed expansion-draft rules. Again, the league hasn't said yet whether or when it will be ready to expand. But given the possibility of expansion, GMs have been growing impatient wanting to know what these expansion-draft rules -- which aren't finalized yet -- would look like so they can plan ahead. "We're excited to find out the rules if there is expansion," St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. "It's certainly nice to get those rules so you can make your business decisions short- and long-term based on making players available -- if there is expansion.'' Or, as an Eastern Conference executive said: "The sooner you know the rules, the sooner we figure out a way to abuse them, to work them to your advantage.'' Remember, as we've written, the league wants to have the deepest expansion draft ever: It wants Las Vegas and/or Quebec City to hit the ground running and be much stronger than expansion teams of the past. After all, I guess you should get something for paying $500 million to get into the league. But I think it's also because commissioner Gary Bettman wants any potential expansion team to better mirror the league's parity of today's salary-cap era. The crushed-beer-can standings need to include the expansion team(s), too. Again, that's if the league decides to expand.
Rule 48 for hits to the head will be on the agenda. Damian Echevarrieta of the player-safety department in the New York office is expected to presents GMs with a number of hits from this season that weren't called under the current definition of Rule 48. Think, for example, of Anton Stralman's check on Bryan Little in February that ended the Winnipeg Jets center's season. It didn't fit the description of Rule 48. But some GMs are pushing for Rule 48 to be extended so that hits to the head are penalized regardless of the principal point of contact definition. As one Eastern Conference GM said: "A blindside hit is a blindside hit, even if it's shoulder to head. We should penalize those hits, too." I'm not sure there's an appetite to go all the way to the IIHF rule where all hits to the head, deliberate or not, are banned. A zero-tolerance rule is what international hockey has. I think too many GMs would fear that would take out too much physicality from an NHL game that's already less physical today than it was 10 years ago. Still, there's a push to extend or tweak the current definition for Rule 48.
Some GMs want to chat about the draft lottery yet again. The specter of the Edmonton Oilers' winning yet another lottery (they have picked first in four of the past six drafts, including three in a row) has some managers wondering about the logic and fairness of the process. There could be a push this week from some GMs who want to tweak the rules so that teams can't win back-to-back lotteries or win two lotteries within a certain number of years. This has been talked about before at these meetings, but it never seems to produce the desired rule. I'm not sure why this week would be any different. We shall see.
As always, there's lots more on the agenda, but that gives you an idea of what to expect this week. The meetings start at 8 a.m. ET Monday.