The NHL is a busy place.
A first round of GM meetings has produced a few immediate changes with others under serious consideration, the World Cup of Hockey is a lot closer to a return than the league's continued Olympic participation, and the NHL just can't quit you, Las Vegas.
Au Revoir, Le #DryScrape
In advance of February's big General Managers meeting in Florida, the league's head executives get together in Toronto to discuss early season changes. At that November meeting held earlier this week, the NHL laid out a few changes to the game -- some now, and some still under consideration.
First and foremost? According to Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo, the dry scrape is dead.
In an effort to end more games in overtime - and avoid the shootout skills competition - the NHL ordered Zambonis to scrape the ice without laying water between the end of regulation and the start of OT this season. The idea was to improve ice quality, making it easier to pass, shoot and score.
Problem was, it was a buzzkill. Here were two teams in a tie game headed to overtime and ... everyone ... had ... to ... wait.
Long live the dry scrape.
That's a change that is going to take effect immediately. Also on the bill were changes to the goalie interference rule, a judgement call that still has referees in a tough spot.
As tough as the call is, making it reviewable may not make it a foolproof thing, according to league exec Colin Campbell. Said Campbell, via Yahoo Sports, "I think with the goaltender interference, if we're going to expand video review, people expect us to get it right and we want to make sure the process is right."
Whatever it takes, as long as we don't have to see this any longer.
Also under review? If a puck is determined to go in the net but play still continues, the league war room can make the call in to officials and stop the play immediately. As of now, a good goal sets the clock back to the time of the goal, wiping out whatever happens between the missed goal and the stoppage.
The meetings also covered expanded or changed overtime (the AHL is still experimenting with a seven-minute overtime that stops to switch to 3-on-3 play) and expanded powers within the Department of Player Safety.
Las Vegas Is Still a Thing, Except It Probably Isn't
The NHL has been mum on its expansion plans, but a cursory look at the league's history is one of total expansion. The NHL has added or relocated 13 teams since 1990 and has grown from six teams to 30 since the late 1960's.
With room to add two more teams due to a 16-14 imbalance between the Western and Eastern Conferences, Las Vegas has been the hot city for some time.
A new arena without a tentpole tenant is being built on the Vegas strip. There is plenty of potential ownership in the city, with the Maloof family (previous NBA owners) and billionaire businessman William P. Foley apparently lined up as would-be owners of the not-yet franchise. Plus, the city is a natural addition to the Western Conference, where a competitive imbalance exists due to the current league aligment, one that a Vegas franchise would help to even out.
All of that makes sense. And as far as a Vegas franchise, that's all that makes sense.
The league has made more than one foray into the American sun belt over the last two decades, and excepting the case of the Cup-Winning, Stamkos-having Tampa Bay Lightning, not one of those teams has had any kind of sustained success, outside of Southern California's two clubs. Las Vegas is a city built on transient citizens and one industry, which is highly questionable to say the least. The Maloof family, would-be owners of the new franchise, have a tepid history with pro sports ownership, and the team's ECHL franchise has had to resort to some pretty creative marketing to help sell their product to a town with a million other things to do if not go watch a hockey game.
Plus, there are better options for starting a new NHL franchise. Quebec City may be to the east, but it's not going to have a problem creating a season-ticket sales base -- no small thing for a league that still makes it buck on gate receipts. Toronto could easily handle another franchise, as New York and Los Angeles do now, and Seattle is a boom city with a new arena in the works and a natural rivalry with fellow West Coasters in Vancouver and San Jose.
Outside of a very sweet deal to get a team started in Las Vegas, nothing suggests the longtime viability of winter sport in one of the hottest places in America.
Those places and others are better bets to sustain an NHL franchise than Las Vegas, and everyone knows it.
However, preening for the Vegas cameras, just enough to create doubt in the minds of other ownership groups in other cities, could sweeten the deal for the NHL in any of those other locations.
With the Canadian dollar down, the NHL is looking for ways to keep its revenue stream nice and healthy. Expansion fees for the next franchise are expected to hit record numbers, perhaps as much as $400 million.
That's a number that will only be reached if potential owners feel like they have to outdo one another, and its exactly the kind of bargaining the NHL does best.
Speaking of Bargaining
The NHL is reportedly very close to confirming all the final details of a rebooted World Cup of Hockey, one that we've covered in this space before.
The league's already got an international best-versus-best tournament in the Winter Olympics, where its players are front and center in the Games' marquis event.
So why the World Cup?
- The Olympics are a money-maker -- for the IOC. The NHL does not get any of the revenue of the games, whether television, gate receipts, merchandise or otherwise. They will be collecting all of that in a North American World Cup of Hockey.
- Insurance is a big issue when you're sending more than a billion dollars worth of guaranteed contracts to someone else's tournament. The IOC covered $8 million in insurance expenses for NHL players at the Sochi Games, and even that was considered a win for the NHL.
- The World Cup would be held prior to the NHL season. The Olympics eat up two weeks in February. That's two weeks of dead air at the peak of the NHL's season, when football is done, baseball has yet to begin and the only other game in town is basketball. NHL owners are not keen on this once-every-four-year stoppage.
- The 2018 Winter Games are set for Pyeongchang, South Korea. Most of the men's hockey tournament will take place when the whole of North America is asleep, save for diehard fans who already spend money on the NHL and will be awake anyway. The only benefit the league gets from the Olympics now is the ancillary "think of the new fans we're creating" that comes from casual viewership of the Games. They won't be getting even that much in Pyeongchang.
Like the Vegas gambit, the World Cup might be a bargaining tactic meant to extract greater favor out of the IOC when it comes to hammering out the details of further NHL involvement. However, there is so very little for the NHL to gain from continued participation that they may not be sending players back in 2018.
Above all, they don't have to. The current CBA does not guarantee Olympic participation, and that's the only thing the NHL needs to stand in the way of their players and the Games.
Unreal news for Pascal Dupuis today, who got word that he is once again likely to miss the rest of the season after a second blood clot was discovered, this time in his lung, earlier this week.
Credit to the Penguins for handling the situation appropriately, and best to Dupuis in his recovery.
Tuesday Slew is a feature that runs Wednesdays throughout the season. Shower James with your praise and adulation on twitter, @SlewFooters.