SUN Hockey Pool

NHL commish taking notes

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Commissioner Gary Bettman says today's general managers meeting in Toronto will "take the temperature" on some controversial issues in the National Hockey League.

The Maple Leafs are in favour of some changes in everything from officiating to scheduling, but how much the 30 GMs influence matters down the road remains to be seen.

While agreeing the on-ice product generally has improved since last year, many Leafs hope the GMs discuss the plethora of power plays that continue to disrupt the flow of games.

"Sometimes you think they're not out there to referee, they're out there to call penalties," veteran winger Jeff O'Neill said. "I tap a guy's stick and it breaks -- you know, they break easily these days. To me, that's not intentional."

Wade Belak says Bryan McCabe's penalty for tripping against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday looked bad because the Leaf's stick was stuck in his opponent's skate blade, but was totally accidental.

"I can see a trip being a trip, but there has to be a lot more discretion," Belak said.

Bettman met the media between periods last night at the Air Canada Centre and said the "state of officiating" would be broached today. But he did not sound any alarms.

"The flow of the game is good," Bettman insisted. "There are fewer penalties than this time last year and fewer power plays."

Belak also would like to see more leeway given defencemen fighting for position in front of the net -- and he speaks as a converted forward.

"You're barely allowed to push them," Belak complained.

Bettman did say that restoring those battles was something to be examined, but disputed the notion that the game's physical reputation has suffered since last year, claiming the league's statistics show hits on the rise.

As for scheduling, the Leafs are urging more games outside the Eastern Conference and less than eight games per team now played within its boundaries.

"It would be nice to play everyone in the league once," Belak said. "Some teams stay in the same crappy division. If we had the schedule a team such as Detroit had (playing St. Louis, Columbus and Chicago), maybe we wouldn't have missed the playoffs by a couple of points."

Bettman said there is support for change in certain cities, but isn't sure if the required two-thirds majority of governors will pass it.

"Some clubs are in favour of seeing certain teams, but not all teams," he said. "Nothing would make everyone happy."


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