Although thrilled with the rule changes and obstruction crackdowns he helped implement, Brendan Shanahan says the NHL's best new initiative is still to come: The playoff play-in.
"I really like the idea of the 10-team playoff play-in and so did the guys on the competition committee," said Shanahan.
"We couldn't put it in the schedule because of arena availability but there was a lot of talk about putting the team finishing seventh and eighth against No. 9 and 10 in a best-of-three series. Timing-wise, we couldn't get it done this year."
Next year it will undoubtedly become a reality. Not only would it increase playoff revenue for several teams, it would also pique fan interest in several cities that would otherwise have given up on their club's playoff hopes.
The race for first and second in the conference would intensify as teams would love the advantage of playing a 'first-round' opponent that just came off an intense play-in series. The race for fifth and sixth would also be furious as teams try to avoid the added round that comes with finishing seventh or worse.
Most importantly, the fight for the 10th and final post-season spot could include teams ranked 11th right through to 14th, giving fans playoff hope right up until the final few weeks of the year.
"We've had 16 teams making the playoffs since we've had 21 teams and now we've got 14 teams not making the playoffs in a 30-team league," said Shanahan, convinced the play-in will become reality next year. "It's one of the only things we didn't add this year I would like to have seen."
AROUND THE HORN: If the hallmark of a great coach is how prepared he is for every situation, Andy Reid is clearly one of the NFL's best. The fascinating transcripts of arbitrator Richard Bloch's ruling on Terrell Owens reveals a) just how brilliantly Reid handled the player's juvenile actions and b) how disturbed and egotistical Owens is. The document, on ESPN.com, is an interesting read, indeed ... Tough guy Ryan Flinn was called up by the L.A. Kings Saturday for a stint that lasted exactly nine seconds. That's how long it took for the 6-ft. 5-in., 250-pounder to find Jim Vandermeer as a dance partner, have his head split open in a fight and be transferred to hospital where he has a severe cranial injury ... Paging Mike Peca. Please report to the league you once earned kudos in.
THIS AND THAT: The only thing sadder than Dick Pound's ludicrous suggestion one-third of NHLers are doped up is the fact the NHL has no data to refute it. The league soon will, which will expose Pound as the shameless opportunist every media type knows him to be. Too bad he was rejected in his bid to become IOC president as he would've been perfect to run that circus. Brendan Morrison had the line of the week when he joked Pound wouldn't have made the statement had he walked into an NHL dressing room and seen some of the players shirtless ... While Peter Forsberg has predictably proven to be the best free-agent signing of the off-season so far, the inevitable string of injuries he began this weekend will ultimately anoint Craig Conroy as the league's best open-market find. It's as shocking as it is fitting given how phenomenal a leader and human being he is.
PARTING GIFTS: Add German Titov to the growing list of Flames alumni choosing Calgary as their home after hockey. The 40-year-old Russian forward, who scored 27 goals in his rookie year, is living in Aspen Estates with his wife and two daughters. Now a Canadian citizen, the man who spent five of his nine NHL seasons with the Flames, was spotted by Dave King while on a Russian touring squad and was drafted at age 27 by Calgary. He went on to win a world championship, score 22 or more goals in each of his first three full NHL seasons and won silver in Nagano. His is a story of triumph after overcoming a three-year stint as a Russian Army gunman and losing his brother and father in separate falls from a Moscow apartment in 2001 ... Paging Sean Avery. Please report to Darcy Hordichuk.
THE LAST WORD: Lanny McDonald on whether he's still gunning for a GM or player-personnel position in the NHL: "It'd have to be the right situation," said the Baker-Hughes employee who left the Flames when Darryl Sutter was named GM. "I'm really enjoying a little freedom in my life right now and I certainly couldn't do that when I was working with the Flames. Hockey Canada has allowed me to jump in and out of programs at different times and right now I'm extremely happy." It marks a change of heart for the Hall of Famer, who once wanted badly to make hockey decisions in Calgary or elsewhere. "Yes, in fact it's one of those things where sometimes things change -- they aren't quite what they looked like or you thought they were going to be. I don't look back, I look forward. And the minute I left it has been, 'Don't look back, enjoy life and that's exactly what I've done.' "