NHL looking for ways to create more offence
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|The NHL is highlighting special teams and faceoffs at its annual research and development camp in an attempt to create more offence in the game. (Todd Korol/Reuters)
Doug Armstrong won’t dismiss such radical concepts as shallow nets, liberal hand passes or panting penalty killers who defend for the full two minutes of a power play.
“In my experience in the NHL, it can be better to start with the end result and then work your way back,” Armstrong said Monday, prior to the league’s annual research and development camp. “This camp will at least create some dialogue.”
Armstrong, general manager of the St. Louis Blues, will join many colleagues in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday at the MasterCard Centre, where several experiments will get a trial run. More offensive opportunities is the end game of new league vice-president of hockey and business development Brendan Shanahan. This year, the hockey-operations boys are highlighting special teams and faceoffs.
Two teams of 2012 draft propects must skate through a penalty killing minefield. Getting puck possession on a delayed call won’t be enough to stop play, the penalized team must also exit the zone, possibly down six skaters to five. During the penalty, they’ll be charged with icing (sans substitutions) and the man in the box is stuck there the whole 120 seconds, no matter how many goals against.
“I’m not sure if it’s the bigger equipment or good (PK) strategy, but everyone’s blocking shots and filling up the middle of the ice,” Armstrong noted. “These ideas could put the advantage back in the power play’s hands or cut down on penalties.”
Armstrong is also keen on seeing consistency returned to the faceoff circle. The same linesman will be dropping the puck during camp, with the dots cut from nine to the five with defined outer circles and hashmarks. When a centre is waved out, the other team can pick the replacement on the draw and there’ll be another look at leaving the puck on the dot and whistling play in.
“It’s just looking for fairness,” Armstrong said. “There are a lot of ‘Ts’ and ‘Ls’ marked out there (where players are supposed to set up), but it could be tidier.”
Toronto general manager Brian Burke will get to see his pet project, the bear-hug rule, where a player can steer another into the boards while briefly wrapping him to lessen impact.
“I think it can reduce and/or eliminate the ‘billiard ball’ hits we see now five or six feet from the boards,” Burke said. “Especially in light of the widespread tactic used by forwards protecting the puck while exposing the numbers on their backs. And I believe our officials can handle this without the bear hug itself turning into a tactic.”
Sid not yet 100%
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a great opening night road test against the Stanley Cup finalist Vancouver Canucks.
But no one can say for sure if Sidney Crosby will be there.
While Penguins GM Ray Shero was quick to refute an on-line report that Crosby has halted summer training because of recurring concussion issues, he did not deny that the star forward continues to experience some related symptoms whenever he ramps up his exercise regimen. Shero didn’t go into detail about Crosby’s problems when asked by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
“He’s pushed himself pretty hard this summer, which is the good news,” Shero said. “He’s never had to get to the point where he’s had to shut himself down or anything.”
Crosby, out of action since January, is working with trainer Andy O’Brien near his home in Cole Harbour, N.S. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said that once Crosby gets clearance for camp, he won’t be held out of any pre-season games.
“Sidney is not going to shy away from contact or competitive situations when he’s ready to go,” Bylsma said.
But if Crosby isn’t 100% prior to camp, Shero vowed he won’t be rushed.
“I want to make sure a year, three years, five years from now, that he’s still the best player in the league and take the appropriate steps,” said Shero.
Peddie makes splash
Richard Peddie and the hierarchy of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment are easy targets for disgruntled Toronto pro sports fans and they’re putting themselves on the firing line for a good cause this Saturday at Maple Leaf Square.
As part of the company’s ‘Sports Day In The Square,’ fans can tweet nominations of the MLSE execs they’d like to put in a dunk tank and the outgoing president and CEO is expected to get plenty of votes for a soaking. The event, in aid of MLSE’s Team Up Foundation, runs 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with appearances by Darryl Sittler, new Leaf Cody Franson and members of the Raptors and TFC.
Forward Fabian Brunnstrom, who finished last season with the Toronto Marlies, is getting a tryout in Detroit ... Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was released from an Arizona tent city prison facility during the weekend after serving half of a 30-day sentence for impaired driving. He remains under house arrest, must pay $1,500 US and join an alcoholic recovery program ... The Montreal Canadiens have added defenceman Jeff Woywitka on a one-year deal. Woywitka was most recently with the Dallas Stars, tallying 11 points in 63 games.