Beginning next week, former NHL player Brendan Shanahan will again oversee the league’s second annual research and development camp where the league brings in some of the top junior players for scrimmages that test out new ideas and tweaked rule changes that range from highly enlightened to zany and far out there in an attempt to put the best possible product on the ice night in and night out.
Most of the proposed changes and tweaks that will be tested at this year’s camp seem pretty down to Earth and should benefit the speed of the game and health of the players. Some of them have even been tested previously and will be revisited this year.
One such rule change would be a “Hybrid Icing” rule. Under this provision, referees would have discretion over a player’s ability to reach the puck and negate an icing. The rule would still allow players to chase down the puck, but when the players reach the face-off dot the referee determines which player will likely reach the puck first. If the referee believes a player can reach the puck to enact the icing, the referee will whistle the play dead before either player can touch the puck. However, if the referee believes a player can reach the puck to negate the icing, he can allow the play to continue.
The “Hybrid Icing” rule is a middle-ground solution for those clamoring for safety and those who like the thrill of the chase. The notion is that this rule would eliminate many of those dangerous chases that sometimes result in serious injuries when players collide with each other or the boards at extremely high speeds.
The potential problem with this rule is how the referee will determine the right call if both players racing for the puck appear to be neck and neck. Do you err on the side of caution and whistle the play dead or do you allow the chase to continue to see who arrives at the puck first? Most serious injuries in this scenario seem to stem from the latter where players are both racing hard and jockeying for body position. If the rule change allows this to continue, is it really going to be beneficial to the players’ health and prevent injuries? That’s what the research and development camp is for, however, to test each rule and ensure that activating new provisions will benefit the health of the players and the overall game.
Another big potential change that will be tested could have huge ramifications in league scoring and on the power play. This rule change would implement icing calls for shorthanded teams on the power play. Currently, shorthanded teams are allowed to sling the puck the length of the ice to clear the zone and force the team with the man advantage to regroup without being assessed an icing infraction. By forcing the shorthanded team to adhere to typical icing rules, the league could not only ramp up scoring but also the effectiveness of the power play to “discipline” the team that took the infraction.
Other simulations that will be tested include a 3-on-3 overtime period after the initial 4-on-4 overtime period to allow more time to decide the game on the ice instead of during a shootout. However, Shanahan and Co. will also test advancing the shootout from three rounds to five rounds, allowing teams a better chance of coming back to win the shootout.
The shootout has come under heavy criticism since it was implemented after the lockout. While it\’s fancy and entertaining to watch, it’s also a cheap way to win the game and has been rendered largely ineffective since the league ruled that extra points secured during a shootout win cannot count toward the point total in a playoff tie-breaker.
The research and development camp will also look into eliminating the trapezoid behind the goal, something that should be implemented without having to test it, as well as setting up a goal-line camera within the net, which would allow officials a better view of the puck on the goal line during video reviews. This one is a no brainer. If the technology is there and it can help get the call right, why would you hesitate to include it?
Give us your feedback! Which rules do you think the NHL should change and which should they leave alone? Should overtime be changed again to include a 3-on-3 period? Will Hybrid Icing help eliminate player injuries? We want to hear from you!