The NHL’s general managers are holed up in a Boca Raton, Fla., hotel this week to figure out how to change the game to benefit their teams. I mean, the sport. And society.
It’s the exciting GM meetings! They get started on Monday and run through Wednesday. Expect more than a few topics to get discussed while they’re in Florida. We can already guess what they might be.
This might encompass much of the discussions this week.
Since the NHL enacted the coach’s challenge, more and more goals are being waved off each week due to video review to see if the play was offsides. Right now, goals are being overturned at high rates when many of the “offsides” players just have a foot in the air across the blue line.
General managers would like to see the rule tweaked a bit to allow for skates to cross the blue line in the air if the rest of the body is onside.
Or they might just make offsides plays non-reviewable. At any rate, something is going to change. The cameras the league placed at each blue line during the playoffs last year haven’t cut down on the amount of questionable calls.
And imagine if a series-deciding playoff goal is overturned or upheld due to a one-inch judgement call by the referees looking at a skate in mid-air. Mayhem.
Video review time limits
The NHL is running into the same problem MLB did when it instituted video reviews: it completely slows down the game.
And crafty coaches are taking advantage, occasionally challenging a play they know they’ll lose just to create a pseudo-timeout for their team. And if they win, great! They have another timeout left in their pocket.
At the very least, the NHL might follow the MLB’s lead and put time limits on reviews for their officials. No more 10-minute waits.
There’s gotta be a better way to do this.
The bye week experiment has failed in its first season. It’s made the standings a mess, killing momentum midseason instead of regaining team strength. Teams coming off bye weeks are 10-16-4 this season. Most times, teams coming off bye weeks go up against teams rolling without a break yet, and the results speak for themselves.
What if the Eastern Conference takes a week off at the same time, and then the Western Conference takes the following week off? You could divide it by divisions. Grouping a bunch of teams into bye weeks at once might be better than going one at a time for two months.
We’ll see what it looks like next season. But it will look different.
Salary cap news
GMs will get an update on the league’s salary cap projections for next season. Most teams are snug up against the cap, so they’ll want some good news.
They might not get it. NY Post writer Larry Brooks reported last month that the cap might be stagnant for the 2017-18 season:
The NHL apparently anticipates the cap to remain flat next season, with little if any increase projected over this year’s $73 million ceiling. That would mean an increase of a paltry 3.998 percent of the players’ pot since 2012-13, the year before the 50/50 formula went into effect.
So the major-market franchises that drive NHL revenue and successful clubs that habitually are cap teams get hammered again in attempting to maintain — or improve — their personnel while the small market clubs go along for the ride.
Luckily, the addition of the Golden Knights and expansion draft means teams will lose some contracts from their books this offseason, potentially freeing up some cap room across the NHL.
Players have griped about the quick-trigger nature of the NHL’s concussion spotter program all season.
Right now, a central spotter in the NHL’s New York offices watching games will make the call to team trainers to pull players out of games permanently if they suspect a potential for a concussion. Players hate it, and coaches are concerned it might hurt their teams in the playoffs.
It might hurt their lives after hockey, too. But I’m just a blogger.
Playoff format change?
At least one GM might bring this up. Here’s a fun nugget from AP reporter Stephen Whyno’s story on the meetings:
Ken Holland of the Detroit Red Wings has suggested expanding the playoffs to nine or 10 teams in each conference with play-in games similar to MLB, and the strength of the Metropolitan Division this season — where the fourth-place team has more points than the Atlantic Division leader — has generated some questions.
"I don't know that they want to keep changing it, but this is has got to be an impetus for at least a discussion when something happens like this where there's so many good teams in the one division," said Brian MacLellan of the league-leading Capitals, who acknowledged it would be self-serving to propose a change.
It’s been, what, three years since the playoff format changed? Perhaps too soon to tell if it’s not working. But the sport is ever-evolving.
Keep checking in with us all week as news trickles in from these GM meetings.