What better time than after the Hall of Fame ceremony for the GMs to gather and discuss the issues of the day? After all, most of them are already in town for the festivities anyway.
The item on the morning agenda of the meetings? It truly was the top issue of the day: goaltender safety. Spurred by the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller, the rules regarding goaltenders outside the crease have been a hot topic. While the rulebook clearly states a goalie is not fair game anywhere on the ice, it has been a muddy conversation.
“Just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page, that when they’re out on the open ice, that they’re going to be protected,” Armstrong said. “We do want continued play in front of the net, but we want to make sure that when they’re outside the [blue] ice, that they’re protected.”
The best way that people are describing the protection of goaltenders is to draw the parallel to football and the quarterback. In football, the QB has become like an endangered species, seemingly any affront to his safety has been squashed. Drives a QB into the ground after a pass? Personal foul. Same goes for when a scrambling QB slides to the ground.
“In my opinion, I think we have to [protect goalies like QBs],” Penguins GM Ray Shero said. “I’m not talking about plays around the crease, because there will be incidental contact ... We’re talking about a regular season game, we’re talking about the incident with Lucic and Ryan Miller. You get into a playoff series and if these guys are going to be coming out to play pucks, and you can run them over and get a two-minute penalty, then I think you’re going to open up a pretty dangerous set of circumstances.
“Several of the general managers just brought up the fact there’s only 60 goaltenders in the league, and we have to be pretty careful in terms of, if they’re going to play puck outside the crease, what should be fair,” Shero said. “We’ll continue to look at it, and probably talk about it much more at the March meeting, as well.”
Is it a bit reactionary? Of course. The Lucic/Miller incident is fresh and was pretty uncommon. But the reactions after the hit proved the need for some clarification on the matter, even if it was as simple as getting rule 69.4 spread around for everybody to see.
This is where Brendan Shanahan's decision not to suspend Lucic, for the hit comes into play a bit. Many, myself included, believed that if nothing else a token suspension was called for against Lucic, something to make it clear that goalies can't be run over. But Shanahan believed Lucic did not intend to hit Miller and that it was more of an unfortunate collision. He reiterated the point to the GMs that goalies will be protected and offenders could still be suspended. From Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com:
"Shanahan told GMs that players should NOT read into Lucic ruling that goalies are fair game. Quite the opposite, Shanahan warned GMs."
The GMs don't want to see more incidents like it and want to nip it in the bud now before frontier justice like that alluded by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knocks another goaltender out for a period of time. I believe for most GMs it's a matter of self-preservation if anything else (in this case self being their team's interests).
“That’s going to be the message to our team -- the goalies are not fair game,” Shero said. “If the guy’s going to play it outside the crease, you have to be pretty careful.”
Perhaps I'm too cynical, but I believe the root of that statement from Shero comes out of the fear of losing Marc-Andre Fleury for some time.
As for rest of the meetings, also on the schedule was the 1-3-1 trap that caused such a stir last week after the bizarre scene between the Flyers and Lightning which led to a stalemate. To that, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman gave a reasonable response, saying they don't want to overreact to something that has only happened once. Perhaps Flyers GM Paul Holmgren put it best: "I'd like to see us attack the situation a little bit differently than we did last game."
The other big item on the docket was realignment, something Flyers chairman Ed Snider brought up again in Toronto. But right now that's all just chatter among the GMs. The decision on realignment will made at the Board of Governors meeting in December.
All of these conversations and more will get hashed out again in March the next time the GMs gather.
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