SUN Hockey Pool

Three-point stance

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:22 PM ET

From the good-intentioned to the goofy, most experiments at this week’s NHL research and development camp stuck to the theme of maintaining fluid play and more offence.

Not that the league dislikes the excitement of overtime and shootouts, but it doesn’t want to see the guaranteed point becoming the night’s sole objective. That’s why the deep thinkers might yet come around to the concept of three points for a regulation win.

Seriously discussed early in 2004 by the 30 general managers, the trey was judged one step too radical after a slew of rule changes came in after the lockout ended in ’05. Now, some teams aren’t just getting to overtime, they’re playing for the shootout where coaches can influence the outcome with their choice of snipers. There were 145 shootouts in ’04-05 rising to 184 this past season.

The Philadelphia Flyers can thank a Game 82 shootout for launching them to the Stanley Cup final last year, but do you think the St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames, with more wins than two other playoff qualifiers, would consider voting for three-pointers now?

“It’s an intriguing concept,” Edmonton Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe said Thursday. “When I was involved in the competition committee a few years ago and we were introducing these rule changes, there was even some discussion whether we would have a flat-out two points, even for a shootout win. To me, there is some merit in that as well.

“I think that in time we will hear some more discussion about three points.”

Such a change would skewer the record book of course (Montreal’s proud mark of 132 points in 1976-77 would fall to the next team that wins 45 games), but Lowe says optics aren’t the real concern for the league.

“The No. 1 reason it hasn’t been pushed through is recognizing that the product right now, from Day 1 to the end of the season, is very good. You have teams in the race to the very end, versus 10 or 15 years ago when teams were out of it by January.

“I don’t think the point structure was developed to achieve parity, but it has been an end result.”

Some fans have called it ‘artificial’ parity. Camp guest coach Ken Hitchcock was very supportive of the experiments this week that would at least end games at the overtime stage and failing that, would support a three-point plan.

“The sense of urgency to get the third point is important and I think it enhances the last five minutes of a game,” he said. “I’d prefer more people on the ice being involved in the decision to win the hockey game.”

Food for thought

The two-day research and development camp wrapped up Thursday at the MasterCard Centre and the strongest push was given for the hybrid icing to avoid injuries. A popular move was the one-foot ‘penalty’ assessed to cheating centres, who must go back a step before the puck is dropped.

“There were a lot less scrums in the faceoffs, with more clean wins and clean losses,” noted guest coach Dave King.

Thursday’s session also featured a new delayed-penalty format, where the team being called not only must touch the puck, but maintain control of it until outside the blue line before the whistle blows.

“It will create more opportunities for offence,” King predicted. “You’ll be able to get your goalie out and create a 6-on-5 in the other zone.”

Vice-president of hockey and business operations Brendan Shanahan was present throughout the two days, watching such offerings as 2-on-2 overtime, three dots with faceoffs in front of the goal, two-foot blue lines and a referee stationed off the ice. A number of NHL general managers who will later be considering these changes in a formal vote, were also present.

The most startling changes to the rink itself were the three giant faceoff dots and the bigger bluelines to help attacking defencemen.

A lot of these ideas may not necessarily be new ones,” Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said. “I remember working with Bobby Clarke in the early 1990s in Florida and he always wondered why there weren’t dots on the middle of the ice and why we had dots on the outside.

“The faceoff dot (32 feet directly in front of the net) was interesting, because it sets up the opportunity for a couple of one-timers from different angles — if you can win it. On the other hand, defencemen are already in a better position in the middle of the ice. But I’m not sure if you can draw any real conclusions.

“But you never know what will come out of these things.”


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