NHL GMs discuss ways to increase goals

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TORONTO (AP) Scoring hasn't necessarily taken a nosedive in the NHL, but it's enough of a concern that general managers are debating how to generate more offense.

Through Monday, an average of 5.32 goals are being scored this season, down slightly from 5.5 through Nov. 10, 2014, but down significantly from the 6.16 goals a game in the 2005-06 season.

It's not the numbers, but the causes of the decline that made it a hot topic at Tuesday's general managers' meeting.

''When you talk about scoring, where do you want to start?'' David Poile of the Nashville Predators said.

''Do you want to start with the goaltending equipment, do you want to start with all the congestion in front of the net, all the shot-blocking? How about taking out the trapezoid? We can go on and on and on.''

Ray Shero of the New Jersey Devils called scoring a ''never-ending'' subject at these meetings, whether it's in light of reducing the size of goaltending equipment, making the nets bigger or changing some other part of the game.

Maybe it's not the goals, but the opportunities for them.

''Basically for me it's scoring chances,'' Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers said. ''Is the game better off with more scoring or is it fine the way it is? Those are the things we have to discuss and figure out. I think that's what we're going to discuss in-depth in March.''

Very rarely are decisions made at this time, during the GMs' post-Hall of Fame induction weekend meeting.

It's a time to set the table for the board of governors in Pebble Beach, Calif., next month and then the March GMs meeting in Boca Raton, Fla.

This was a chance for GMs to review a couple of major rule changes: three-on-three overtime and coach's challenges. Three-on-three overtime has been overwhelmingly effective, as 70 percent of games that go past regulation have been decided before the shootout.

''The players enjoy it, and three-on-three to me is less gimmicky than one-on-one,'' Chuck Fletcher of the Minnesota Wild said.

Coach's challenges are new to the league this season for goals scored on goaltender interference and offside plays. The first impression of the new system is good, even though GMs would like to fine-tune the system.

''I think just taking less time, that's probably it, and making sure that there aren't any egregious errors,'' Tallon said. ''It's just a matter of everyone getting communication down better and quicker.''

One complaint so far is that too little contact on goaltenders is getting goals taken off the board. GMs looked at several examples of goaltender interference and were asked to decide whether the goal should have counted.

Setting the standard for what goaltender interference is will be part of the ongoing process.

''We don't want to go back to foot in the crease,'' NHL senior vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said. ''We've had some issues where we might want to see the other decision, but the referees are adapting pretty well.''

Campbell said beaming video replays to officials on the ice is something new, and he expects that to continue to improve. The more practice the league has, the less time it should take to make a decision.

One theory is giving the responsibility on coach's challenges to the situation room in Toronto. That won't be decided until the March GMs meeting, at the earliest.

A determination could come much sooner on the coach and executive compensation policy, where teams must give up draft picks to hire from rivals. It has come under fire because teams have been forced to give up second- or third-round picks to hire coaches or GMs who were previously fired.

''What was intended when it was first brought up and discussed for a couple years probably and the way it's ended up, not sure that's kind of what we all wanted,'' Shero said.

''The consequences and some of the things that happen for terminated employees and draft-pick compensation, I think that makes a few of us feel uneasy, so we'll see exactly what the commissioner and ownership wants to do with this.''

Commissioner Gary Bettman opposed the policy from the start. The earliest it could be eliminated or changed is Jan. 1, a full year after it was instituted.