The modified procedure will have another effect on the game: It will benefit deeper, more talented teams, because it places a premium on having four solid lines. With face-off downtime curtailed, the stalling tactics that allow precious moments for a club's top lines to rest will be eliminated. A middling team with only three good lines won't be able to hide its fourth unit Upper-echelon clubs will capitalize on the mismatch generated by their superior talent, an advantage that is often more pronounced at the bottom of the depth chart.
"I don't think our games are too long, but if we can reduce the length of stoppages, that's a plus for the flow of the game," commissioner Gary Bettman said last week. The plus for flow may be a minus for competitive balance. Still, the hurry-up face-off is an idea whose time has come.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Top Buys for Bargain Hunters
Free agency begins on July 1, but not every team comes to the marketplace with the money to sign prime Group III players such as Maple Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph, who is expected to get a contract worth at least $36 million over four years. For cost-conscious clubs, here are three second-tier unrestricted free agents who can provide immediate help.
? D Luke Richardson, Flyers. This big bruiser (6'4", 210 pounds) is a model of consistency: single-digit points and triple-digit penalty minutes in each of the last five seasons. Still, the 33-year-old would be a top four defenseman on many teams.
? D Bret Hedican, Hurricanes. This speedy 31-year-old showed valuable versatility during Carolina's surprise run to the Cup finals. He played opposite Aaron Ward on the No. 2 defensive pairing, killed penalties and quarterbacked the power play.
?RW Scott Young, Blues. He's coming off a down year (19 goals and 22 assists), but the well-traveled 34-year-old has won two Stanley Cups (Penguins in 1991, Avalanche in '96) and was a 40-goal scorer two seasons ago.