David Booth of the Florida Panthers lies on the ice after a hit by Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers Nov. 24. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA – The NHL is a huge step closer to coming down hard on blindside head shots, but it looks as though we’re going to have to wait until one occurs before we know how long the suspensions will be.
GMs unanimously approved a motion during meetings Wednesday to have an in-game penalty component to blindside head shots starting next season and will recommend to the competition committee and the NHL’s board of governors that they carry a five-minute major and automatic game misconduct along with any supplementary discipline that might follow.
And good for them. This corner and many others have been critical of the league for failing to police itself and too often leaving that to on-ice vigilantes. If the referee throws a predatorial hitter out of the game, at least the rest of it won’t be spent trying to exact some sort of retribution. Just as importantly, the penalty will be called and there will be a suspension whether the player is injured or not.
“This group decided that there should be a five-minute penalty assessed if the referee is sure on the ice that this is exactly what we don’t want,” said NHL director of operations Colin Campbell, “and it’s not that easy. It’s not that easy when you’re watching it on video replay seven different ways in high-def. It’s not something we want our referees guessing at, but it’s something we’ll have to describe them exactly what we want.”
The recommendation will now go to the competition committee and, if approved there, on to the board of governors. Given that the rule was changed unanimously mid-season to give the league power to suspend players for blindside head shots, it’s expected the rule will pass without any objection.
The one thing to which Campbell would not commit was the length of suspensions. Like every other aspect of supplemental discipline, there are no across-the-board standards that apply and each case will be dealt with separately.
“There are so many variables in supplemental discipline,” Campbell said. “Are we dealing with a guy that’s had three or four incidents before? There are so many variables to consider.”
At the meeting, Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney was named the inaugural winner of the GM of the Year Award for his work in transforming the Phoenix Coyotes from bottom feeders to Stanley Cup contenders under the most difficult circumstances.
“There was so much unrest last summer and to be able to stick with it, stick with a plan, and have some relative success, at least in the regular season, was rewarding,” Maloney said. “We had a lot of things go our way and a lot of the things we tried worked.”
Maloney now goes into the draft and free agency with the status of the organization still in flux and will likely head into July 1 with the NHL still owning the team and approving any financial moves.
“The nightmare continues,” Maloney joked.
KABERLE ON THE MOVE?
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke confirmed there has been plenty of interest in defenseman Tomas Kaberle, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be moved. In fact, Burke said there’s a possibility Kaberle will be offered a contract extension on his deal that ends after next season.
There is a window of July 1 to Aug. 15 when Kaberle can be traded without his approval and Burke said he’s listening to offers. Burke said any trade for Kaberle will have to bring in return a scoring winger, preferably with size, and secondary toughness.
“There is significant interest in Tomas Kaberle,” Burke said, “but it goes back to the fact that we like him. He’s a good player and he wants to stay in Toronto, he’s a good person and he’s at a good wage.”
Burke said he is not intent on using a Kaberle trade, if it happens, to replace the first-round pick he dealt to the Boston Bruins for Phil Kessel.
“There seems to be this misconception that I’m dying to get a first-round pick,” Burke said. “We paid the price tag for Phil Kessel and we’d do it again tomorrow. We didn’t envision the pick would be where it is. The reason I would want to get a first-round pick is not to get the media off my back, it’s so my scouts don’t sit there with their thumbs up their butts for three hours.”
Burke said the GMs also discussed what to do about reducing the number of shootouts after games that have not been decided by overtime.
“I think I can say safely for the group that when we approved the shootout, we never thought we would get this many shootouts,” Burke said. “I know our fans like it, but it’s a skill competition. I think more games are being decided by shootouts than we envisioned when we voted for the rules. I don’t know what the answer is. Longer overtime? Play part of the overtime 4-on-4, then go to 3-on-3. I don’t know what the answer is, but an unreasonable number of games are being decided by the shootout.”
Since the inception of the shootout in 2005-06, a total of 808 games have been decided by shootouts for an average of 162 games per season. With the exception of one year, the total has gone up every season and this season there were an all-time high 184 shootouts.
New Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon was scheduled to attend Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, which would be his first game back in Chicago after being fired as GM last summer.
He said there are no hard feelings toward the organization, despite the fact he built much of the roster that is playing for the Cup and will not be recognized formally if they win it.
“I’m excited for them, I wish them all the best and I hope they go all the way,” Tallon said. “I’m really proud of everybody involved. I got my position in Florida because of it and I’m moving on. I’ll try to duplicate that feat in Florida. I had 33 wonderful years with that organization and I’ve got nothing but great things to say about them.”
Ken Campbell is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily blogs until a champion is crowned.
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