GMs think outside the box on first day of annual meetings

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Monday March 6th, 2017

NHL general managers were thinking outside the box on Monday.

On the first day of their annual meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, the NHL's 31 general managers were tasked with thinking up ideas for the league for 5 to 10 years down the road.

These weren't discussions about near-term realities like last year when expansion was being debated and slimmer goaltending equipment chatter was making the rounds.

One such idea would see the two faceoff circles in each zone removed for one in the slot area—or right near the front of the net.

''I thought it was a really cool idea,'' Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving said.

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Some resisted the concept, which would eliminate post-faceoff puck battles around the boards in favor of those around the front of the net.

That would, at least in theory, boost scoring, an area of concern for the NHL.

Another change contemplated with the goal of increasing offense was a rule preventing shot-blocking. Almost 17,000 shots were blocked last season, led by the Philadelphia Flyers, who turned aside nearly 700.

''We always talk about creating rules to create offense, create offense,'' Treliving said. ''And we give it to our coaches and 10 minutes later they've figured out a way to kill that idea.

''But if you find a way to limit defense and instead of giving them tools for the toolbox take a few out. We spent a lot of time on that today.''

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A shift of the point system was also discussed, one that would see clubs awarded three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss. The concept would push teams to end games before they get past regulation and beyond that, before a shootout.

Clubs get the same two points for winning in regulation as they do in overtime or a shootout. An extra ''loser point'' is awarded just for getting to overtime or the shootout, an enticing proposition for parity that keeps more teams in the playoff mix for longer.

''I'm not one who is personally in favor of three-point games,'' Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said. ''But I'm also not in favor of getting a point if you don't win. I'd rather see the game be 2–and–0 or end up in a tie 1–and–1. Just end up in a tie the way it used to be.''

New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero thought the game would be played differently if the stakes for points were changed.

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''If it's going to make the game better or more interesting I'd be all for it,'' Shero said.

The annual meetings this week are featuring a 31st general manager for the first time with George McPhee of the Las Vegas Golden Knights in attendance. The former Washington Capitals GM, McPhee opted to keep quiet and listen on his first day back in the fold.

Any ideas that gained some traction would be discussed further on Tuesday.

''The game's in pretty good shape right now,'' McPhee said, ''so this is more about what the game might look like down the road.''

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