SUN Hockey Pool

Playoff format on NHL agenda

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

The NHL will have some tough decisions to make tomorrow at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla.

Sources tell the Sun not only will the schedule be a major topic of discussion during the two-day board of governors meeting, NHL owners are also considering a major change to the playoff format.

While NHL GMs decided to put off any discussion about the schedule a couple of weeks ago, it's believed more than 15 owners called commissioner Gary Bettman and demanded he put it on the agenda.

There are seven different proposals on the table for a new schedule next season.

The big complaint about the current schedule is it hasn't created the rivalries everybody expected.

The owners would like to see every team from the East and West play at least once because, under the current format, the Toronto Maple Leafs might not travel to Edmonton or Calgary for a three-year stretch.

And, for the playoffs, the NHL is looking at a bracketed format -- using the NBA and the NCAA March Madness tournament as examples.

Currently, the NHL re-seeds after every round.

"These are very divisive issues and there is going to be a lot of discussion because the GMs couldn't find a consensus," said a source.

BODY CHECKS:

There is a lot of speculation Florida GM/coach Jacques Martin might step down from his role as bench boss at the end of the season. You have to score goals to win and there's some belief Martin's philosophy of playing the game isn't working anymore. Should Martin decide to move upstairs or get moved out, a strong possibility as a replacement is Randy Cunneyworth, coach of the AHL's Rochester Amerks ... Carolina G Cam Ward, who led the club to a Stanley Cup in June, unveiled a new mask Thursday against the Habs. It features the images of his friends with Hanna, Alta., rock band Nickelback ... Trent Yawney didn't listen three weeks ago when Chicago GM Dale Tallon warned him to change his style. Last week, he was fired. There's talk former Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk, a longtime 'Hawk, could end up in the Chicago organization ... Unable to trade D Ric Jackman, the Panthers placed him on waivers yesterday

AROUND THE BOARDS:

Another item on the agenda for the board of governors is the approval of the sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins to Jim Balsillie. There's still no guarantee the Penguins will stay in Pittsburgh. Houston remains the No. 1 candidate if the franchise decides to move ... Buffalo C Tim Connolly, signed to a three-year, $8.7-million contract, still hasn't resumed skating from post-concussion syndrome and there's no timetable for his return. After a hit from Ottawa LW Peter Schaefer in last year's playoffs, the Sabres said Connolly would be out more than five months. That would have meant a return next month but it won't happen ... The Blues are going to retire Brett Hull's No. 16 Tuesday.

RUMOURS DU JOUR:

It's believed Vancouver GM Dave Nonis has talked to the Senators about C Antoine Vermette but the Canucks were politely told he's not going anywhere ... If Habs GM Bob Gainey wants a man in the middle, he could always call his old buddy Doug Armstrong in Dallas. Indications are he's trying to move C Mike Ribieiro, who the Habs dealt to the Stars for Janne Niinimaa in September ... Nashville LW Scott Hartnell is a strong candidate to get moved before the deadline.


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