By Allan Muir
Safe to say, yesterday's GM meetings in Toronto achieved little of note. They made some headway in the effort to further shrink the size of goalie equipment -- although really, how much smaller can it get before we recognize the goalies themselves aren't getting any smaller and we need to take a serious look at increasing the size of the nets? They moved toward increased use of video review in the shootout to determine if forward motion has been derailed and to double-check high-sticking calls.
Surprising they had time to get all that done and still eat lunch...
But even if they failed to get it together on much-needed items like hybrid icing and the coach's challenge, the trip to Hogtown was hardly a loss, especially from the Olympic perspective.
Both the American (yesterday) and Canadian (today) brain trusts met to further discussions ahead of Sochi. And with fans waiting for the NHL and NHLPA to commit to the 2014 games, any news/rumors that come out of those gatherings will be welcome.
Steve Yzerman, the executive director of the Canadian men's team, convened today with his management team -- St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong, Detroit GM Kenny Holland, Edmonton Oilers president Kevin Lowe, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland and Hockey Canada vice president Brad Pascall -- to discuss players contending for roster spots. Although it's thought that as many as eight forwards and five defenseman are inked in, there's plenty of action on the fringes that the group will have to ponder.
Boston's Brad Marchand put himself in the mix by adding a deft touch around the net to his existing package of speed and grit. He might not be a popular choice in Vancouver and Montreal, but as a natural winger who has proven chemistry with likely checking line center Patrice Bergeron, his candidacy is gaining steam.
So are those of St. Louis forward Chris Stewart and Colorado's Matt Duchene. Both players are enjoying breakthrough campaigns after committing to strict offseason regimens that have highlighted their strengths. Stewart would provide a big, physical presence with soft hands down low. Duchene brings speed, creativity and finish.
The way the Avs are going, Duchene will have a chance to make his case at the World Championships, starting May 3 in Stockholm and Helsinki. The Worlds are another topic being discussed today, and that event is expected to be a key stage for young players like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Jamie Benn and other hopefuls who might miss out on the NHL playoffs.
There's no word yet on Canada's coaching staff, although, as Bob McKenzie noted, Detroit's Mike Babcock is expected to be named once the official Olympic commitment is made. Look for Ken Hitchcock, Joel Quenneville, Claude Julien and Paul MacLean to be in the mix for assistant spots.
After yesterday's meetings, McKenzie suggested that Team USA was looking for a current NHL GM to guide the squad to Sochi, which would, presumably, preclude Brian Burke from retaining the position. Is it possible the Americans would walk away from the man who built a team that got within goal of gold? Sure it is, although I'm not sure I buy the read. If they do go in a different direction -- say, Nashville's David Poile -- it would be due more to an appreciation of his expertise and years of service to the organization than his employment status. Whoever gets the gig will face tougher roster decisions than any previous U.S. GM with players like Blake Wheeler, Brandon Saad and Nick Leddy working themselves into what's become a very crowded pool of talent.