Odd stuff from GMs' assembly line, Stamkos' secret, more notes
The playoff play-in idea for bottom feeders is nutty but merits exploration
Gary Roberts had a big role in the offensive explosion by Steven Stamkos
Chris Chelios looks old in Atlanta and the Coyotes look finished in Phoenix
The big news out of the general managers' meetings this week in Florida involved the decision to clarify the rules so that some, but not all, hits to the head would be subject to in-game penalty and possible supplementary discipline. My colleague Jim Kelley offered up his well-considered views on the subject yesterday. No need for me to stir the same pot, especially since, like Jim, I'm baffled by the GMs' satisfaction over coming to unanimous agreement on what looks to be a limp bit of pseudo-legislation.
Sure, they moved in the right direction, but just once it would be nice to see something bolder than the typical baby step that this recommendation takes. Enough with the tired excuses about the speed of the game being mainly to blame and the unfounded fear of hitting being demonized. This isn't about hitting. It's about the elimination of head-hunting forays like Matt Cooke's assault last Sunday on Marc Savard.
I'm no pacifiist. I've got my complete collection of Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Hockey DVDs in regular rotation. But the next good argument for the validity of the head as a target will be the first. It doesn't need to be part of the game.
The league managed to eliminate bench-clearing brawls and Sean Avery's arm-waving tactics with ruthless efficiency. They could do the same with head shots if only they wanted to. At this point, it's clear they don't. To suggest otherwise at this point would be disingenuous.
But while that fluff job of a rules proposal occupied most of their time in Florida, the group did spitball a couple other ideas that might have an impact on how the postseason plays out in the future.
Islanders owner Charles Wang offered up a proposal through his GM Garth Snow that would see the top seven teams in each conference earn their playoff berths as they do now, but open the final seed to a Thunderdome-style sudden death tournament among the remaining eight teams. The single-elimination format would add seven games to the schedule, starting with the eighth-place team playing the 15th seed, 9 vs. 14, 10 vs. 13 and 11 vs. 12, with the winner in each bracket advancing. The team that won its three elimination games would earn the playoff berth and the right to face the team that had finished first in the conference.
No doubt this concept (described as "nutty" by one attendee) held some appeal for the weak sister clubs that would love a chance to wash away 82 games worth of, um, inconsistency with a three-game winning streak (and maybe fatten their coffers with an extra home sellout or two). But the scope was a little too grandiose to succeed.
First, it would have rendered the regular season all but meaningless. Every slump, be it four games or 40, would have lost its gravity with the knowledge that all a team really needed was to be on a roll during the first week of April in order to have a chance at the Stanley Cup.
Just as important, a pre-playoff tournament would have been a logistical nightmare. Think: the selling and refunding of tickets, travel arrangements, building availability, etc. There's also the issue of timing. If everything fell into place, the play-ins would take six, maybe seven days. What are the 14 teams who already punched their ticket supposed to do during that time?
A couple days to cool their heels while resting aching bones might sound nice, but disrupting their rhythm seems like an onerous penalty on the most deserving squads. And the Cup final is already close enough to July. Does anyone really want to stretch the season any further?
Truth is, Wang's vision didn't stand a chance, but a case can be made for an NCAA-style, one-game play-in between the eighth and ninth-place teams, either on an annual basis or simply when the two were deadlocked in the points race. A single game wouldn't place an undue burden on the schedule and the extra date would make for a nice boost to the bottom line of the eighth-place team.
Too much tinkering for the purists? Maybe...but remember: hockey is in the entertainment business and the potential for an extra Game Seven-style scenario wouldn't hurt interest down the stretch. And hey, everybody likes a Cinderella story.
This might be worth revisiting in the future, especially since the GMs clearly have playoff seeding in mind. One concept that did pass muster, or at least, was passed along for review by the competition committee, was that the first standings tiebreaker should be changed from most wins to most regulation/OT wins.
That's not an insignificant shift because it essentially diminishes the value of a shootout win, one of the most significant elements of the post-lockout NHL.
Consider that the Florida Panthers wouldn't be on the verge of a ninth straight season without a playoff appearance if that rule had been in place in 2008-09. The Panthers and Canadiens finished in a tie for eighth with identical 41-30-11 marks. Well, almost identical. The Habs earned seven of their wins in the shootout, while Florida won just three. Under the new proposal, they would have advanced to play the Bruins. Instead, Montreal's 2-1-1 head-to-head mark gave them the edge.
The recommendation is interesting, but like the headshot wording, it seems like a half measure. There may be some GMs who despise the shootout and want to get their pound of flesh, but they're smart enough to recognize that it's not going away. If they wanted to diminish its value in a real sense, they should simply do what's been proposed since it was first instituted: make it literally worth less by giving three points for a regulation win and two for a victory in OT or the shootout. Or they could simply get rid of the loser point.
But that would make too much sense, right?
NHL Truth & Rumors