GMs meeting wrap-up: All-Star tweaks, Rule 48 talk and social media

November, 9, 2010

TORONTO -- The All-Star Game is getting a facelift and overtime might get one, too, but the meatiest part of Tuesday's NHL GMs meeting was once again head shots.

"It was probably the most important aspect of [the meetings]," Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier said.

An air of frustration and confusion has surrounded the NHL's new rule banning blindside hits to the head (aka Rule 48), but the consensus message from the 30 GMs and assistant GMs to the league's head office was, "Stick with it."

"Definitely," Atlanta Thrashers GM Rick Dudley said. "In general, we feel the league is doing the right things to protect the players in that situation. You have to protect them and you have to do it without changing the basic structure of the game, and I think that's been done."

The message from NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell to GMs and players?

"Live with it," Campbell said after the meeting. "We're trying to keep hitting in the game and make the game safer; it's not an easy thing to do.

"We understood there would be criticism," Campbell added. "It's like 2005-06 [with the obstruction crackdown]. It was a pretty rocky road for the first few months. Now it's similar, but we can't forget the big picture. The greater good is we want the players to learn."

Not only is Rule 48 here to stay, but there was discussion Tuesday of furthering talk of tweaking or expanding the scope of the rule when the GMs reconvene in March.

"I think the rule will evolve and without any new rules [being made]," Regier said. "It can be moved to the appropriate stage based on what happens over the course of the season."

On Tuesday, the NHL's hockey operations department showed GMs video clips of players who pulled up from blindside hits, the kind of hits they might have carried on with in past seasons before Rule 48. The league believes that shows the rule is having an impact.

"There are instances where it looks like players are aware that other players are vulnerable, and they impede their progress by not taking advantage of the situation," Regier said.

All-Star Game changes

NHL executive Brendan Shanahan, who took over the All-Star Game makeover project last season, presented his ideas for a format change to GMs. Shanahan did not want to divulge the changes to the media after the meeting, preferring to wait for a formal announcement in the near future in conjunction with the NHL Players' Association.

But one GM, on the condition of anonymity, told on his way out Tuesday that the possible changes would include the captains of both All-Star teams selecting the rosters from a pool assembled by league hockey ops after fan balloting would select the starters. I think that's something fans would find quite interesting. Look for an announcement on that soon.

"I think that if you look at the All-Star Game, we know what it is and we know what it's not," Shanahan said. "It's an entertaining, fun game, and fans like to be entertained by the players, showing their competitive spirit with a big smile on their face."

Overtime format change?

Red Wings GM Ken Holland led the discussion on a possible format change for overtime. As discussed before, he's proposing an eight-minute overtime period, half played 4-on-4 and the second half played 3-on-3. The theory behind the idea is a record number of shootouts decided games last season, which GMs as a group think is too many. Holland's format change would introduce a more traditional way to end games.

However, five weeks into this season, shootouts are down, taking a little steam out of Holland's proposal. But the GMs didn't kill the idea, instead deciding to re-examine it at their meetings in March.

"We're going to continue to watch," Holland said. "I basically told Colin I want to keep it on the burner. ... I just want to see as many games as possible decided in overtime. That's happening this year. Is it a trend? I don't know. ... Let's look at this year's numbers, and you can have a better comparison."

"We all want games decided, preferably by teams rather than individuals, so that's what we're looking at," Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray added.

Coach's challenge

Dale Tallon's "coach's challenge" idea was snuffed out Tuesday.

"It's a dead issue," Tallon said. "That's the way it goes. You win some, you lose some, right?"

The Florida Panthers' GM raised the idea after his team lost on a controversial goal by Toronto's Colton Orr, in which the Maple Leafs tough guy bowled over the Panthers' goalie. But the idea, similar to what coaches can do in the NFL, received very little support.

"We have the best officials in the world, and they get it right most of the time," Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said. "I think it's a pretty dramatic change to review with a coach's challenge or however it would work. I think it requires a great deal more discussion, and it didn't survive the first test where it will be on a future meeting, so I'm pleased with that."

Tallon understood the pushback.

"I just think there's so much involved in it," Tallon said. "It's a pretty involved process. When do you do it? Timing. What if it goes four minutes beyond? Do you for offsides? There are some issues. Or high sticking? It could expand into a bigger thing than it should be. They were concerned about taking more time and adding more minutes to the game."

Social media policy

As expected, Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney led a discussion regarding players' participation on Twitter and Facebook.

"Really, the point of talking about it, for all us 50-somethings in there, this whole Twitter/Facebook, we don't quite understand it," Maloney said after the meeting. "Yet this was more a discussion on how do we get ahead of it? We don't want to discourage the personalities; we want the personalities. Paul Bissonnette is a great story and a great personality, but there [are] certain lines that you can't cross. It's more just for us to talk about it.

"Did other team have issues with it? We went to the NFL and what kind of policy did they have. This was our first blush at just talking about maybe just a general policy without discouraging the personalities of the game, which we all like."

Bissonnette is a colorful Twitter personality, who might sometimes push the envelope. The Coyotes have talked to him about it.

"Yeah, we've had a couple of those conversations," Maloney said. "And, on record, it wasn't us last summer who told him to take it down; it was his agent. We had nothing to do with it. But, you know, Paul is an interesting character, and every once in a while, you just have to say, 'No, no, no, no, stay on the good side of the ledger.'"

The consensus among the GMs moving forward is some form of guidelines, whether it's at the team level or league-wide, should be looked at. The NHL Players' Association will want to have a say in that, too.

"Should we have a league-wide policy? Should we have a policy with clubs?" Washington Capitals GM George McPhee said. "It's all about trying to educate the players of the benefits of having those accounts, and the pitfalls if they're not doing the right things."

Maloney's concern is also when it's appropriate for players to tweet.

"Last thing you want to see is him sitting in the penalty box tweeting about the three lefts he just threw," Maloney said.

"We had a player a few years ago [Donald Brashear] disclose during a playoff game that he wasn't going to be dressed that night," McPhee added. "The other team had a pretty good idea of what our lineup was going to be, so you try to discuss that with them, make sure they understand."

Just don't ask Burke about Twitter.

"I don't even understand it [Twitter], so I don't know how to draft rules. I am lost when we discuss this," the Leafs' GM said. "We don't have any rules [in Toronto]."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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