Veteran coach Ken Hitchcock was one of the top hockey minds helping lead the NHL's research and development camp on Wednesday and Thursday, and afterwards he offered his thoughts on all of the various tweaks the league is looking at. (Hitchcock himself is currently searching for his next coaching gig after being let go by the Blue Jackets in midseason last year.)
For reference, here's the full list of what they tested out this week in Toronto.
On the second referee watching from over the glass and off the ice:
It's like Big Brother watching. He can see everything and obviously when you're up that high, the game's slower. The players, mentally, are more careful. A couple guys commented that you're not going to get away with anything. So I think that it's interesting. In our game obviously there'd be a little bit more room on the ice but when you've got a guy that's able to observe from that position, the stuff behind the play and stuff like that, you're not going to get away with any of that stuff. So it was interesting. But it did feel like Big Brother was watching all the time.
Should it be used?
I need to think about that one. It was surprising. I wouldn't want to be the guy in seat three and four on the other side (under the ref) -- but it's an interesting concept because if you're talking about cleaning up the dirty work behind the play, you're not going to get away with anything with the guy standing there.
Would it be harder to communicate with the ref?
You wouldn't know who to yell at -- they can just shift the blame. When the guy's 85 feet away, you're not going to get barking at him. It's like two guys trying to yell at each other over the fence. It's an interesting concept.
What potential rule changes did you like the best?
4-on-4 with having to switch sides with having the long change. There were three goals scored in the three minutes (at the camp scrimmage Thursday). I just think that it creates a number of problems, way more odd man rushes. I think there'll be a lot more games decided in that situation.
The other one that really intrigued me obviously was hybrid icing because I think it's a smart, safe way to play. Still creates the competition for the puck that's necessary and it doesn't look any different. If it saves one hockey player from getting hurt at our level, then it's going to be beneficial.
The last one for me and I know I'm probably in the minority, but the big bluelines (24 inches instead of 12) really created offensive opportunities for your power play. We've had to use the width of the ice on the power play to be more effective now but this would finally allow us to use more depth on the power play. If you've got a smart team and two smart point men -- like if you looked at Rafalski and Lidstrom, and they had that extra mileage to work in, then they would be really dangerous.
Will having a long change in overtime make a noticeable difference?
I don't know if the fans would notice but the coaches sure as heck would. I mean we would be barking pretty loud after about two of those because you just can't help (making mistakes on the long change). You've going to get tired guys on the ice. A little mistake ends up being a big mistake, which is to me what you want when you're playing down people. Whether it's 3-on-3 or 4-on-4, you want people, when you make a little error, it always ends up when you've got a long change as a big mistake. That's what you're looking for. I feel 4-on-4 is (currently) just a stall just to get to the shootout, where there's more strategy and more control. I think we've got to really look at allowing the players, as a team, to decide the game rather than two or three individuals. I'd be all for it. I think it has great merit and is certainly worth looking at.
On what he thought of the various rules brought in to change how faceoffs are conducted:
I thought the two line concept over the past two days, where you had the punishment of moving a foot back (if thrown out of a faceoff), was really a good idea. Using that concept to me brought quickness and skill back to taking faceoffs. I think that one for me, of all the faceoff situations, that one with the linesman dropping the puck and if you're in the right position, you're behind the first line, if you're in the wrong position or you cheat, then you go to the second line. I thought it had real good merit. It made quickness part of taking faceoffs.