GMs brainstorm ideas around the future of the game

The GMs kicked around ideas that would change the points value of wins. Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire

BOCA RATON, Florida -- Here, in the land of sunshine, the NHL's 31 GMs were asked Monday to blue-sky the game's future, with four groups brainstorming about how the game will look in five to 10 years and what potential changes need to happen with that in mind.

It was a think tank, as New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero put it.

"The bottom line is there are no dumb ideas at all," he said.

This was more about prediction than fixing something that's broken.

"Everything is positive, but we want to be proactive," veteran Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello said. "Where is equipment going? Where will sticks be going? We've seen what has transpired in other sports. Look at baseball: You would have [relievers] go two or three innings. Now [they are coming into games in] the fifth inning. What will we be doing? I think this is a great way to approach it."

Among the ideas bounced around:

Three points for a 60-minute win

Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving said his small group of GMs debated, among other things, the merits of awarding three points for 60-minute wins.

Well, you know this is something close my heart, as I wrote about it earlier this season.

"The whole idea behind it is that with five minutes to go in the third period, is the game better because we're chasing another point, or is it going to make that much difference?" Treliving wondered.

"The standings are tight," the Flames GM added. "A lot of teams [are] in the hunt. We talked about how you'd have to model it out and say, 'How much does it change it?' But we were a little mixed on that."

Lamoriello, who has been attending GMs meetings since 1988, said he is instead in favor of going back to two points for a win and zero points for a loss, overtime/shootout or not. That would mean no more loser point.

Anything would be good to eliminate the artificial parity we have in today's standings. But that artificial parity means some clubs and, most importantly, commissioner Gary Bettman, would not want to disrupt the points system the way it is now.

Unless, of course, enough GMs keep making the case for it.

Legislating defense

Treliving made an excellent point about how for years GMs have debated ways to create more offense. But maybe they've looked at it from the wrong end.

"Should we go about differently? Should we look at ways to legislate defense?" he asked.

Are there ways to take tools out of the coaches' defensive toolbox?

"We looked at everything from congestion around the net, forcing people to forecheck, being more proactive versus a chess match, creating more chaos on the ice," he said. "We talked about shot-blocking. We chatted about whether it would help if you made the zone bigger. So, all sorts of different things."

Penalizing sliding shot blocks

At the 2008 GMs meeting, former Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey proposed a rule requiring players to have both skates on the ice to block shots, in an attempt to minimize what had become a trend and is a staple of today's game: players in full body slides to block shots.

It turns out Gainey was a visionary.

"Everybody thought he was crazy," Shero said. "But that's what you try to do: look 15, 20 years ahead. What is good for the game? The quality of the game is most important."

As Treliving said, there's just too much congestion around the net in today's game.

"Guys collapsing and blocking shots. You need an act of God to get a puck through from the point in to where a goalie has to make a save," Treliving said. "That's something that perhaps can be addressed."

Bringing back the red line

One of the GM groups agreed that there is merit to the idea of putting the center-ice red line back in (when it comes to the two-line pass) to help alleviate some of the speed and physical contact we continue to see in today's game.

It's an idea that the legendary Bobby Orr has talked about for years: putting the red line back in would force players to make more plays in the neutral zone and limit the number of dump-ins and bone-crunching hits in the offensive zone that result from unimpeded forecheckers.

Given the sensitivity of today's game to concussions and head hits, I think this is an idea that will continue to garner momentum, whether it results in a rule recommendation this week or in years to come.

The unintended consequence of taking the red line out has been more physical contact at higher speeds on the forecheck.

Changing the bye week

The five-day bye week has been an issue for many teams this season.

"I had a bad experience with it, so I don't like it, but I can't speak for other teams," Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray said. "We had to fly to Colorado and play a mile in the air after five days off, so it was no good. It was a bad experience for me. Some ... teams [have] came out of it and won. They had no issue with it. I did."

The solution?

Murray suggested that teams stay in their time zone for their first game coming out of the bye week or that a minimum of two teams from a division or conference have a bye week at the same time. He also suggested that teams play when both are coming off their bye weeks.

"Yes, it can be perfected," he said.

... and an appearance by Inspector Bergevin

For you "Pink Panther" fans out there, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin did his best inspector Clouseau impression Monday, when he walked by the assembled media holding a plant covering his face.


For the record, he did come back out and speak to the media.