When the NHL implemented a new rule for 2005-06 banning line changes for teams that iced the puck, the idea was to try and take advantage of that tired team and create offense as a result.
But coaches quickly adjusted and began using their one timeout in that specific situation, giving their players on the ice some rest.
So the NHL’s 31 general managers decided Wednesday to counteract their own coaches, agreeing to a recommendation for the Competition Committee that teams can no longer use their timeout during icing penalties, starting next season.
“The discussion really was a genesis of when the timeout came into play,” Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said after three days of meetings wrapped up. “There were several gentlemen that were involved in those discussions back when they put the timeout in, and the thought process was it was a strategic timeout, at the end of a game, trying to increase the goal scoring or heighten the dramatic effect there.
“Over time it morphed into using it as a way to rest. … We don’t see it much anymore, so let’s make sure it just goes out of the way.”
The AHL already went to this rule change this season and the feedback has been positive.
“The notion was if you ice the puck there should be a consequence to it — having players who aren’t rested,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said of the proposed rule tweak. “So taking the decision out of the coach’s hands, as to whether or not to use the timeout, which could impact the coach’s challenge or in-game strategy, I think the managers as a group thought that would be a good change.”
It will be interesting to see what the NHL Players’ Association eventually says about this. Is there a risk of injury for tired players who are forced to stay on the ice and play on without a timeout?
An NHLPA spokesman said Wednesday the news was still fresh, but that players would talk about it and ultimately the players on the Competition Committee would have an important say.
If the Competition Committee approves the rule change, then it needs a final rubber-stamping from the Board of Governors in June.
Also coming out of the meetings, the bye week will return but in a drastically different format. Bettman announced officially what has been rumored for a while now, that all the five-day byes will occur within a two-week period, with half of the NHL’s teams off one week and the other half the following week.
“Different than this year. We don’t think it worked well,” Bettman said. “We’re going to try and do it in two separate segments. … We’ll see if that works any better.
“We don’t want to be shut down as a league for five days. This way teams that were in the break can play each other the first couple of games. If this doesn’t work any better and we still get the negative feedback that we got, then I think we’re going to have to consider getting rid of it.”
Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray voiced his concern over the current bye week configuration in meetings this week.
“They’re going to improve upon it,” Murray said Wednesday. “… You’re probably going to have half the league [off for] a week in January and the other half the following week, so that we’re still playing hockey.”
The Sabres have played poorly since their bye week and it has aggravated their GM.
“We have obviously struggled mightily coming out of it. Is that because we’re a young team? I don’t know. It’s the first time we have gone through this, right? The first time we have experienced it,” Murray said. “The league is obviously going to try to improve on how they do it, and we … have to look at it a little harder and see how we can make our team better coming out of it.”
The division of the bye weeks won’t be among conference lines, either.
“Not necessarily by conference because we want the league in action, so we need East and West coast games,” Bettman said.
If the NHL does sent players to the Winter Games in South Korea, there won’t be any bye weeks next season because the Olympic break would supplant it.