The only thing that made real news at the NHL general managers' meeting on Tuesday was an issue that drew little attention beforehand - wholesale changes to the all-star game.
If the NHL Players' Association agrees in the next few days, the bulk of the teams could be picked by the captains who are appointed for the Eastern and Western Conferences, with the starting lineups still selected in a fan vote. NHL vice-president Brendan Shanahan would not say what the plans are because the approval of the NHLPA is still needed but the league hopes to introduce the changes for this season's all-star game in Raleigh, N.C.
However, the issue of giving the captains a role in picking the teams was discussed at the major general managers' meetings in Florida last March. Talk at Tuesday's meeting was that the fans would still pick the starters with the captains drafting the rest of the teams from a pool of players put together by the NHL's hockey operations department.
Shanahan indicated the NHLPA is in favour of the changes and a union spokesman said the NHLPA "is looking forward to releasing the details soon."
In other business, the general managers quickly rejected Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon's proposal for a coach's challenge to one official's decision per game, generally agreed with a league assessment that the new rule against blindside hits to the head is working, decided a proposal for three-on-three overtime needs more discussion and that all of them need to get up to speed on social networks like Twitter in order to develop a league policy on social media.
"I think the thoughts on social media are that we don't know enough about it," said Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier, who is getting roasted regularly on Twitter by fans unhappy with the performance of his team, some of whom have opened spoof accounts in his name.
"Apparently, I have a number Twitter accounts, none of them my own," Regier said.
So far, only one NHL general manager has a genuine Twitter account - Mike Gillis of the Vancouver Canucks. Gillis plans to start tweeting in the next few days.
"Certainly there should be a policy regarding talking about your club," said Washington Capitals GM George McPhee. "We had a player a few years ago disclose during a playoff game that he wasn't going to be dressed that night. The other team had a pretty good idea of what our lineup was going to be so, you try to discuss that with them, make sure they understand."
Tallon was not happy to see his proposal for a coach's challenge to an on-ice call rejected so quickly but he did not seem surprised. The proposal seemed to have little support going into the meeting.
"I'll move on, that's all," Tallon said. "You win some, you lose some."
Tallon said the coach's challenge "had a little bit" of support "but not very much." The other GMs thought the issue was too complicated, Tallon said, although McPhee saw it in simple terms.
"We don't think it's necessary, the referees do a good job," McPhee said.
Ken Holland had a little more luck with his proposal to increase the regular-season overtime period to eight minutes with four minutes of four-on-four play and four minutes of three-on-three play. The Detroit Red Wings GM thinks this would see fewer games decided by shootouts but his peers want to have more discussion on the matter.
"[The league]put up numbers," Holland said. "Overtimes are down right now. Shootouts are down. We're going to watch the numbers."
So far this season, 41 games have gone to overtime with 16 being settled by shootout. At this point last season, which saw a record number of shootouts, there were 50 overtime games with 31 decided by shootouts.
The NHL's hockey operations department made a presentation to the general managers on how well the new rule banning blindside hits to the head was working. Several GMs said most of them feel the rule resulted in fewer injuries so far and is making more players aware of the need to avoid such collisions, although there have been several cases of concussions so far this season. The situation will be closely monitored and the rule might be tweaked at the March meetings if the GMs feel the players need more restrictions.
NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said implementation of the new rule is similar to the 2005-06 season when several rule changes were made to speed up the game. Things did not go smoothly but the league stayed the course.
"It was a pretty rocky road the first couple of months [in 2005-06]and people thought our game was in trouble and we were crazy," Campbell said. "We said it's similar. We can't forget the big picture, and the big picture is to save careers and reduce this type of concussion."