Led by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, the league will be holding its second annual research and development camp next week in Toronto to test out a few tweaks on the game.
There's a great big long list of what they'll be looking at, but below I've listed a few of the more interesting items with thoughts on what these changes may mean.
First, here's what Shanahan had to say on the camp, which will run some of the top junior players through scrimmates using the different rules under the watchful eye of a lot of NHL GMs.
"Last year's camp was immensely popular with the players who attended and we learned a lot of things," he said. "We feel that some ideas don't need to be tested again and others need more testing.
"From the outset, we conceived of the camp with the belief that our game has never been better. And we wanted to collect information and data and learn about our game at one of its highest moments, so that, if a trend we didn't like started to develop, we already had years of information to better prepare us for making any adjustment we need.
"It's staying on top of the game and, at the same time, preserving the integrity of hockey."
Eight of the more interesting rule tweaks to be tested
1. Changes only permitted on-the-fly - This would eliminate all line changes after whistles save for the end of a period, after a goal is scored or a penalty is called. It's a pretty novel idea, one designed to limit line matching and have more tired players on the ice, but it would likely detract from the game given so many players would be taking faceoffs and immediately changing.
2. No line change for team committing an offside - Two rules make going offside a far bigger offence, with this one equating going offside to icing the puck in terms of the "no change" penalty that comes with it. This takes aim at cutting some of the whistles out of games and forcing players to enter the zone on-side more often.
3. After offside, face-off goes back to offending team's end - This tweak goes one step further, moving the play all the way back into a team's defensive zone if they go offside while trying to enter the offensive zone. There are some advanced statistics out there that suggest having more faceoffs in your own end can be a big disadvantage, so this would obviously add to that.
4. No icing permitted while shorthanded - This has been discussed at length in recent years as a way to make power plays more of an advantage. Players killing penalties would have to chip the puck out or skate out of the zone rather than simply hammer it the length of the ice.
5. Overtime variation (four minutes of 4-on-4 followed by three minutes of 3-on-3) - This would expand the extra frame by another two minutes with the goal of settling more games without a shootout. Some leagues, like the BCHL, already have 3-on-3 portions to their overtimes and almost every single game is decided before a tie because of it. For those that hate the shootout, here's one way to wipe most of them out of the game.
6. All penalties to be served in their entirety - Another tweak that would make power plays a far bigger advantage. The average power play was roughly 1:30 long last season, often ending when a goal was scored, but another 30 seconds on each man advantage could potentially increase the power play goals scored in the league by another 20 or 30 per cent. (Given what took place in the first year after the lockout with so many penalty calls, that isn't always a good thing.)
7. Verification line (additional line behind the goal line) - The yellow line shown here is what they're talking about and it'd be set exactly a puck length away from the goal line. If a puck touches the verification line, it would be ruled a goal, giving hockey ops another tool to evaluate whether or not pucks crossed the line.
8. In-net camera: a mounted camera with view focused on the goal line to help verify goals - Hard to believe they haven't added something like this already with all the new technology that's out there. There are still too many calls made where officials simply don't have enough camera angles.
Others new rules on the agenda
- No-touch icing - Face-off variations (penalty line for center committing an infraction; all face-offs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs) - Shootout variation (5-man shootout precedes sudden-death format) - Shallow-back nets - Face-off variations (both centers must come set on whistle; all face-offs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs) - Delayed penalty variation (offending team must exit zone in possession of puck to stop play) - Strict enforcement of goaltenders covering puck outside crease (Rule 63.2) - Remove trapezoid - Allow hand passes in all zones - Overtime variation (switch ends) - Shootout variation (5-man shootout with repeat players if tied after 5 shooters) - Thin-netting nets - 'Hybrid' icing - Offside variation (offending team can't change and face-off in its end zone) - Face-off variations (player encroaching can't replace thrown-out center, all face-offs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs) - Bear-hug rule - Overtime variation (switch ends for four minutes of 4-on-4, followed by three minutes of 3-on-3) - Shootout variation (3-man shoot out with repeat shooters if tied after 3 shooters)
- All-Star Skills competition (fastest skater, breakaway challenge, accuracy shooting, skills relay challenge, hardest shot, elimination shootout)
- On-ice officials communication using ref-to-ref wireless - Overhead camera to assist hockey operations reviews of various initiatives (verification line/goal netting/in-net camera) - Robotic camera to test camera angles for coverage closer to ice - Video replay application review - Curved glass protection options at players bench areas