March 14, 2012 1:15 pm

Sutter likes hybrid icing, line-free hockey

The NHL’s general managers are wrapping up their meetings in Florida today. Part of those meetings involve passing along recommended rule changes to the league’s competition committee, and it seems that the GMs were united being altering the way icing is called, and moving toward “hybrid’’ icing. Under the change — the details of which still need to be ironed out — on-ice officials would have the authority to whistle for icing before a player touched the puck, if it became clear that the defending player was going to win the race to the puck. The general goal is to eliminate potentially dangerous hits behind the net.

The general managers also discussed the red line, the goalie trapezoid, line changes and equipment issues. ESPN.com’s Three Amigos — the great Scott Burnside, Craig Custance and Pierre LeBrun — did a piece (story written by LeBrun) capsulizing the topics, which can be found by clicking here. (Incidentally, Custance gave this thoughts on the Kings and NHL topics in a piece that can be found by clicking here.) Darryl Sutter addressed a couple of the main topics, starting with his opinion on hybrid icing.

SUTTER: “To understand the hybrid icing is the bigger part of it, because it’s something that’s been talked about. If you just put your arm up and blow the whistle, then you get five guys who never come back from center. But if you put in some sort of hybrid, where there’s still a foot race, but not a dangerous part of it, it would be awesome. You just have to clarify how you’re doing it.

“We’ve talked about the top of the circle, or the faceoff dot or the bottom of the circle. Which is the imaginary line? We’ve pretty much taken everything away from the officials and we keep putting more of them on the ice. Make the decision and let’s go with it.’’

The subject of the red line also came up. Sutter was the general manager of the Calgary Flames in 2005, when the league “took out’’ the red line in terms of two-line passes. I asked Sutter if he had been in favor of taking the red line out of play.

SUTTER: “I thought we should take them all out, take all the lines out. Throw the puck out there and away you go. [smiles] There are so many different concepts that sometimes it blows you away. If you take the red line out, coaches are smart guys. They figure out, OK, there’s no red line anymore, and they figure it out. The biggest part of that is, they made the offensive zones bigger. They thought that would create more offense. Well, what they learned to do is chip pucks out, and it takes longer to get back out of your zone and then to get back into your zone. They made the zone bigger, so now you’ve got five guys standing in front of the net. You wonder why there are more blocked shots? It’s because the O-zones are bigger. It’s not so much taking the red line out. It’s that when they took the red line out, they expanded the zones. So, the neutral zone is smaller. You plug up the neutral zone and you plug up the front of the net. Just do the measurements.

“There are so many ways around it. You go to Europe and you watch neutral-zone play. They have the `torpedo’ and things they try for a while. Tampa became a highlight film for a while, with the way they were doing it. There are ways to beat it, there are ways to adjust. It’s the type of personnel you have. It doesn’t matter. It’s like driving on the other side of the road. You have to adjust. It might take a couple months, but we adjust. You have to.’’

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