GMs contemplate headshots, rule changes

Several key issues and new ideas are being tossed around at the annual three-day general managers meeting currently taking place in Florida, with none perhaps more important than rule changes concerning hits to the head.

The headshot issue gained even more attention with the recent hit by Matt Cooke on Boston’s Marc Savard (pictured) that resulted in a Grade 2 concussion for Savard, which will likely end his season. However, headshots have continually been a hot topic in hockey circles this season, starting with the vicious blind side hit that Mike Richards gave David Booth earlier this year. Booth missed half the season recovering from the effects of that hit.

A small group comprised of eight general managers is closely looking at headshots and contemplating recommendations on how to proceed with new rules and regulations and how to classify what is and isn’t a legal hit. More than likely ne59836447w rules will be put into effect along with stronger suspension policies.

“We’d like to leave here — in my mind anyhow — with some clarity or closure going forward,” said San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson. “(I think) we can put something in place to really say `this is how we’re going to play the game.’ What’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable.”

All headshots are illegal in international play and in the Ontario Hockey League, one of the top developmental leagues for the NHL.

Other proposed rule changes include a mini-playoff for the bubble teams fighting for the eighth playoff spot in each conference. Winner of the mini-playoff would move into the eighth seed and into the playoff picture. Another proposed rule change would allow coaches to send players onto the ice for the shootout without having to submit a written list of the first three shooters to the refs and scorekeeper. League GMs are also considering adapting new rule changes for tie-breakers at the end of the season for teams tied in points. The current system looks at each team’s number of wins if they are tied in points, but a new rule change could have officials looking at regulation wins instead of overall wins so that overtime and shootout wins don’t have as much merit on the overall picture.

If the league plans on minimizing the impact of shootout victories, why not eliminate shootouts entirely? As exciting as it is to watch guys like Datsyuk, Kovalchuk and Ribeiro dangle goaltenders in a one-on-one situation, I think there are better ways to handle the NHL’s overtime. Don’t bother with any of this 4-on-4 for five minutes and then 3-on-3 for five minutes before going to a shootout that has been proposed before. Instead, lengthen the overtime period to 10 or 20 minutes of four-on-four hockey before going to a shootout. I would bet that more than half of those games would end on the power play after a tired player takes a stupid penalty.

Or, the league could say that for the first 40 games, overtime will be decided by four-on-four hockey for five minutes and then a shootout. For the next 20 games, 10 minutes of overtime before a shootout. For the remainder of the season, 20 minutes of overtime before the shootout. This would generate a lot of excitement for the games that should be exciting – the games at the end of the season between teams fighting for playoff spots. Imagine if that rule were implemented now and Nashville and Detroit went into a 20 minute sudden death overtime period where the outcome could potentially determine which team claims the eighth seed in the playoff race. Now that’s exciting hockey.

The final meetings for the annual GM conference take place tomorrow, after which we should have a better idea what types of changes may be in store for the league next season. With that being said, I’d like to know what types of changes our readers (and my fellow bloggers) would like to see occur in the NHL? From the basic to the absurd, what do you think would make the game better and more exciting for fans to watch?


  1. I’m a believer that hits to the head should be outlawed. Players who deliver a hit to the head should be severely punished. Give them an indefinite suspension of however long the person who took the hit is out. Booth was out for half the season, its only fair for Richards to miss that time as well. If these guys realize the tough consequences of their unnecessary hits, I think that would put an end to head hits pretty quickly.

    I also think it would be fair to eliminate the shootout. It would be sad to miss out on so many dangles, but teams like the Red Wings would really benefit. Despite having players like Datsyuk, they’ve still lost 12 games in overtime or a shootout, the majority coming in shootouts. If things are settled in a 4 on 4, or 3 on 3, perhaps the Wings win half of those and sit in 5th or 6th place in the west right now instead of 9th.

    My oddball suggestion for deciding ties, how about 2 on 1’s instead. Imagine the Sedin twins against Nick Lidstrom with Howie in net. Wouldn’t that be fun?

  2. If I here Cooke’s hit referred to as a “shoulder” hit one more time, then I’m gonna flip out. The elbow wasn’t extended in a complete 90 degree angle, but it was definitely projected outward and that’s why Savvy was upended. This is the SECOND time the league has shortchanged the Bruins on a dirty play (See Walker’s sucker punch on Ward).

    Regardless, the B’s should have assassinated Crosby in retaliation but instead, they did nothing like the suckers that they’ve been all season.

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