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Olympics, Coyotes, and Expensive Suits: Recapping the NHL GM Meetings

This week, NHL GMs had their annual meetings. What important things were accomplished? You can probably guess.
Photo by Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, the National Hockey League general managers meetings. The gathering of sport's leading minds … well, minds. They conjure the best ways to improve or maintain the game's excellence, all while nobly avoiding the distraction of the nearby golf course they will tear up once this stupid work session ends.

Sometimes good things happen at these meetings. They brought us three-on-three overtime and I'm sure some other stuff. But these get-togethers have also helped birth things like the rule change that requires the player in the defensive zone to place his stick on the ice first during face-offs in an effort to increase…


Yeah, I fell asleep, too. Sorry.

At this year's meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, there were issues both meaningful and meaningless. Some were discussed. Some were ignored. Let's look at these issues and see how the GMs are screwing them up.

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The issue: Changing the offside review or even the definition of offside

Was it discussed? Yes!

What do the GMs want to do? Nothing!

This is usually the part of the column where I make jokes about general managers taking their philosophy on making trades—"It's too hard"—and applying it to making rule changes. But I am staunchly pro-offside review and don't care who knows it. If you enter the zone illegally and score a goal thereafter, I'm all for overturning it.

But a good compromise would be requiring coaches to issue challenges in a more timely manner. Or allowing Toronto to review offside as part of its standard review on all goals, thus taking it out of the hands of linesmen. And by "it" I mean really small tablets that can't possibly help determine a definitive conclusion.

Still, so far, so good, GMs! What's next?

The issue: Scrapping the current playoff format

Was it discussed? Of course not!

What do the GMs want to do? Nothing!

This issue wasn't even on the agenda, which is crazy, because this is a huge problem right now and the GMs are known for overreacting to small sample sizes (more on this later). But this wild-card system is horrendous and it's setting up to be a real problem in the East this year.


If the season ended today (it doesn't), the first-round matchups in the East would be:


(1) Montreal (84 points) vs. (4) N.Y. Rangers (88 points)

(2) Ottawa (78 points) vs. (3) Boston (74 points)


(1) Washington (95 points) vs. (4) N.Y. Islanders (73 points)

(2) Columbus (90 points) vs. (3) Pittsburgh (88 points)

There is no shortage of stupidity involved in this system. Let's count the ways:

• Montreal, which has the fifth-most points in the East, will have home-ice advantage in the first two rounds.

• The N.Y. Rangers, which have the fourth-most points, are on the road against Montreal in the first round despite having more points.

• Ottawa, which has the sixth-most points in the conference, has the second-easiest matchup in the first round.

• Columbus, which has the second-most points in the conference, faces the team with the third-most points in the East.

Fans and media complain about everything the NHL does, but nobody complained about the old 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5 playoff format with reseeding. And yet, here we are with this mess. Somehow this does not concern GMs, many of whom are being screwed by this. The NHL is adding a 31st team next year, which makes the East-West imbalance negligible for 2017-18 and is the perfect chance to dispatch the wild cards, but this will be the playoff format next year.

The issue: Bye weeks

Was it discussed? Yep!

What do the GMs want to do? Let's call this a tweak


The new bye week instated this year as a trade-off for having players skate three-on-three at the All-Star Game has received mixed reviews. Teams haven't fared well coming off the five-day break. Some players would rather just plow through it instead of playing a more condensed schedule. Coaches wish they could hold a practice or two during the break. It's a new thing, so clearly everyone needs to adjust.

Since GMs hated this after one year, instead of spreading the byes over six weeks, the league will spread them over two weeks. It will be 15 teams one week and 16 teams the following week, all in January. This they change but the playoff format is somehow not a problem.

This is … fine. It's weird that GMs hate this more than the playoff format, but it's also weird so many ex-players are GMs.

The issue: Calling timeouts after icings

Was it discussed? Yes, and I'm not sure why

What do the GMs want do? Change the rule

This is another confusing one. As of now, if you ice the puck, you can't make a line change. If your players are exhausted, you can call timeout and let them catch their breath for 30 seconds. Again, another thing fans didn't care much about, but these timeouts were so irksome that the GMs will send the recommendation to the competition committee.

Again, this is fine. If there are fewer opportunities for a stoppage of play, this is good. If this forces coaches to save timeouts for challenges, this is also good. This is like wanting to lose weight and cutting one thing from your diet that has barely any fat, but hey, it's something.


The issue that never goes away: whether the Coyotes will stay in Arizona. Photo by Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The issue: Keeping the Coyotes in Arizona

Was it discussed? When is it not discussed?

What do the GMs want do? Probably talk about literally anything else

This is more Gary Bettman's thing than the GMs' thing, but after the Arizona Legislature said it will not ask taxpayers to sink more money into the team (good for you, elected officials!), Bettman again stated the NHL's commitment to getting the Coyotes entrenched in the Phoenix area.

Just let the Coyotes die already. Move them to Seattle or Quebec. We're all tired of this.

The issue: Sending NHL players to the 2018 Olympics

Was it discussed? With all the excitement of middle-aged man discussing a prostate exam, probably

What do the GMs want do? Squeeze every ounce of joy from fans' bodies

Bettman's quote says it all: "There's somewhere between fatigue and negativity on the subject."

Bettman is right. Fans are worn down with this talk of not letting the NHL's best play in the Olympics.

Hang on. I'm being told Bettman was saying the GMs are exhausted and down on the idea of sending players to Pyeongchang.

Sure, the GMs are wrong on letting their best players get Olympic exposure (while their other players get a much-needed break) midway through an endless regular season, but at least they're getting that timeout thing remedied. That was the real issue facing the NHL.

Not all heroes wear capes, but 30 of them wear expensive suits and fly to warm locations every February to keep North America's seventh-most popular sport on track.

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