Crab thrown onto ice at Capitals game in Baltimore
It’s been only three preseason games but if you take a poll of the Capitals’ locker room, the NHL’s experiment with hybrid icing is a bad one and it won’t get approved by the Players’ Association.
“I hate it,” Capitals veteran left wing Jason Chimera said. “I mean, there’s so much confusion.”
Adopted by the AHL last season, hybrid icing is on trial by the NHL during the preseason and will be voted on by the league and its players sometime next week.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll get it turned down,” Caps defenseman Jack Hillen said. “If it’s indicative of our locker room, it’ll get turned down.”
So what’s the players’ beef with hybrid icing? After all, the whole idea behind it is to protect players from getting injured.
First, a brief explanation. Hybrid icing gives linesmen the responsibility of calling icing or allowing play to continue when opposing players are at the hash marks inside the faceoff circles.
If the linesman deems the offensive player will arrive at the puck first, icing is waved off. If he believes the defensive player will get possession, he rules an icing.
“I appreciate as a defenseman the effort to protect us,” Hillen said, “but it seems like it could cause a lot of confusion.
“If you’re going back for a touch-up, it’s pretty cut and dried whether you’re going to have to make a play or just touch it. With the hybrid, you’re going back for it and you’re not sure until you get the puck whether you have to make the play or not.”
Hillen said it takes only a “split second” for players skating at full speed to get from the hash marks to the end boards and said that’s not enough time for a lineman to blow the whistle and for players to avoid a collision. He suggested moving the area of determination to the top of the circles.
“Right now, it actually makes the defenseman’s job harder and he might be even more vulnerable,” Hillen said. “I personally don’t like it as-is right now. I thought I would like it and I thought it would be safer but I don’t think that now.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates seemed surprised when told of his players’ first impressions of hybrid icing, saying he though there was only one missed call in the first three games.
“I personally like the rule,” he said. “It still makes guys skate and go back for the puck, but if it saves guy from getting hurt. Of course I’m for it.”
Chimera is a player who relies on his speed to wave off potential icings and said many teams chip the puck off the boards and into the offensive zone to promote races for the puck.
He’s afraid those races may be taken away with the new rule.
“I like to get into those races, so I’m not a big fan,” Chimera said. “I think we’re changing too much. Every year we’re changing something but the game is better than it’s ever been. I’m for leaving things the way they are.”
Capitals general manager George McPhee said he and other GMs also discussed no-touch icing, but there was concern of the unintended consequence of teams moving their defensemen up in the play and further clogging the neutral zone.
“I think [hybrid icing] could be a real good thing for us because it still keeps the same race intact,” McPhee said. “We’ve always liked the tag-up, but every once in a while you have one of those bad collisions that can end a guy’s career.
“I think it’s a good move for the league. I don’t know if we’ll go with it this year. The good news is we’ve watched it in other leagues and it’s working pretty well.”
Chimera said that’s not what he’s heard.
“I don’t know if we’ll see it this year,” he said. “I know a lot of guys in the AHL told us they didn’t like it last year. So I think I’m part of the majority that doesn’t like it.”