NHL GMs Meet Today: 1-3-1 System and Realignment on Docket

Tampa Bay Lightning 1-3-1
Tampa Bay (blue) used the 1-3-1 system en route to beating Washington (above) and Pittsburgh in the playoffs. (from TheCoachesSite.com)

Today in Toronto, the first meeting of the regular season between general managers of NHL franchises will meet. And the hot button topic is the controversial 1-3-1 defensive system applied by teams. It came to the forefront last week when Tampa Bay played Philadelphia when the Bolts had a forward by the attacking blue line, three skaters lined up across the red center line and one more player near the defending blue line. There was no attacking by either team; Tampa Bay didn’t apply a fore-check and Philadelphia stalled in their own zone with the puck.

As stated in the NHL rule book, the puck must always be kept in motion. Therefore, the officials whistled the play and conducted a face-off inside the Flyers zone. Interestingly, Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren told NHL.com Monday night from the Hockey Hall of Fame inductions “Coaches do different things and their ultimate job and task is to win the game. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with what Tampa did. They sit back and wait and they have great offensive players so if you turn the puck over they can hurt you. There was a period of time in the first period where we didn’t bite into it and were doing our own thing, but to me it just didn’t sit right.”

With the game being played in Tampa at the St. Petersburg Times Forum, there was certainly a lot of booing coming from the crowd. But Philadelphia was smart because if they were to be caught in the neutral-zone trap the Lightning was trying to apply, it could have resulted in a goal for the home team. To make it even more appalling is that this happened seconds after the opening face-off! Personally I’m not a fan of the system; it’s nothing more than a 2011 version of the mid 90’s neutral zone trap/left wing lock system that Detroit notoriously used to win championships while slowing down the game between the blue lines. The general managers can’t really do anything about it to solve the issue however.

In addition, the issue of realignment will be brought up and discussed. There will not be a vote taken, they will save that for the NHL Board of Governors December 5-6 when they will meet at one of the greatest places on Earth: Pebble Beach, Calif. It is an issue for the Governors, and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly is expected to update and brief the GM’s on the issue as it will affect every team.

If they don’t spend the entire day discussing Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 system, Judge Brendan Shanahan, NHL Senior V.P. of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, is expected to brief the meeting attendees on recent rule changes in regards to boarding and checks to the head. Before the season started the wording of both rules was altered prior to this season along with the addition of a minor-penalty element to Rule 48: Illegal Check to the Head.

Below is a video of the 1-3-1 incident from last week’s game between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.

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