TORONTO - “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” was the theme song from the old cop show, Barreta.
Something to keep in mind for NHLers, if the idea of serving a full two-minute minor, regardless of multiple power-play goals, catches on. Law breakers stewed the entire 120 seconds on Thursday during the final scrimmage of the league’s research and development camp at the MasterCard Centre. The first three penalties all produced power- play goals. Perhaps unprepared for the bonus time, the 2012 draft eligible juniors on both teams didn’t pop a second one, though they came close, including a later 5-on-3 that lasted 1:40.
In the league’s infancy, minors had to be served in their entirety, but some disapproving general managers in attendance this week thought the idea could only work today if penalties were reduced to one minute in duration. Even league vice-president and camp director Brendan Shanahan seemed skeptical, despite the potential of more goals and a change in the balance of power that now favours surgical penalty killing proficiency.
“I don’t think it improves a bad power play, it just gives more reward to a good one,” Shanahan said. “(Two minutes) seems pretty punitive, especially when it’s a 5-on-3. I liked it more (in Wednesday’s session) when you couldn’t ice the puck when you were short-handed. That improves all power plays.”
Andreas Athanasiou of the London Knights was the first offender to be called on Thursday to discover he was trapped in the box for the duration.
“I can see where they’re coming from with the idea,” said defenceman Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67s. “But if you’re sitting there and the other team scores, it’s kind of painful.”
Preventing teams from icing the puck during power plays — and not letting them change lines when they do — has merit, but teams could find a loophole. The possibility of short-handed clubs brazenly shooting the puck down and taking their chances with more own-zone faceoffs has been raised with Shanahan.
“Some coaches have suggested they would ice it 10 times,” Shanahan said. “Especially when you’re the visiting team. You kill the momentum in the power play and the momentum in the arena. How is it for 20,000 people if you just keep icing the puck because you have the best faceoff man in the league?”
The remedy to that could be allowing teams a certain amount of icings before assessing another penalty, like the way fouls are compiled in basketball.
“Maybe icing it five times is enough,” offered Shanahan. “But now on that 50-50 long-bomb pass that people will want to see, the guy passing will be afraid to burn an icing. Maybe (Hall of Fame defenceman) Ray Bourque does that, maybe Phil Bourque doesn’t.
“Those were some of the conversations we had while watching it today, trying to figure out the yin and the yang.”
Two items covered at the camp will be fast-tracked for this season, the shallow-back nets and the green or yellow goal verification line.
“We’ve seen shallow nets for two years and it’s time to try them in exhibition games,” Shanahan declared. “Some offensive players felt that it improved passing lanes. I saw a player able to score on a wraparound Wednesday that was a split-second faster. But I don’t know if goalies will like it when the offensive guys can get post-to-post quicker.”
The shallow nets also have a transparent strip across the top to let new high definition cameras overhead zoom inside the cage to the new line, set three inches back of the red line.
“Goal reviews are going to make a big difference with the verification line,” Shanahan added. “Is it a distraction to the goalie? The feedback we’ve had is (no) and it’s of really good assistance to hockey operations (on replays).
“We’re discussing now if it’s a rule change or an enhancement (the latter can be implemented immediately).”
There were new wrinkles this week with everything from line changes, to faceoff etiquette to 3-on-3 overtime.
“We introduced (10) new things this year,” Shanahan said. “Some have potential to one day improve the game, other things you might want to test to destroy a myth. But that’s what this camp is for, to take some of the conversations that go in the boardroom to the ice.
“For example, a lot of people said for decades that having just three faceoff dots with one in front of each net would improve offence. It did the opposite (when tested last year), it congested the front of the net. The same with 2-on-2 overtime.”
Coaches Dan Bylsma of Pittsburgh and Dave Tippett of Phoenix got into the spirit, such as pulling the goalie to further enhance their power- play chances.
“I think it’s important that you just try to improve,” Bylsma said. “If you stay the same, it’s like going backward. The NHL has done a great job trying to stay ahead of the curve.”