With the NHL GMs getting away from snow, rain, and what little winter weather you can find in this unseasonably warm March in Florida this week (though it appears the weather report for Boca Raton is rather overcast and rainy - tough luck!), one has to wonder what Scott Howson might bring home to offer both his team and the fans.
Earlier this season, the GM and Board of Governor's meetings were a source of major interest and excitement for the Jackets and their fans thanks to league re-alignment being on the table.
With the NHLPA having slapped that down, the focus of this meeting is more about rule changes - a seemingly pedestrian topic that might have Scott Howson more active than you'd expect.It's worth considering that since arriving in Columbus, Howson has been a proponent of the NHL's R&D camps and making changes to improve the on ice product for both players and fans. Author of the rule change to reduce the value of the shootout in playoff seeding, Howson has also been interested in hybrid icing and the goal verification line, along other changes.
With his job on the hot seat, this could be his last chance to make an impact at this level for some time.
Boring? Perhaps. But it's worth pointing out that either move could result in slowing the game down, something that could improve player safety. Both combined would make a major change to how the NHL game is played, perhaps the most radical shift since the lockout.
What an interesting time to be an organization looking to overhaul their team.
A somewhat slower game would play into Columbus' favor rather well, given the team's focus on a defense that tends to play up on the offensive game, but has some difficulty responding to some of the league's speed demons. Knowing what the rule book is likely to hold in September might help to guide Howson (or his replacement) in their moves as they work to shift the roster around in Columbus.
The meeting is likely to also be a start preliminary trade discussions, and if the team is looking to make big shakeups, expect the first threads of discussions to begin here, or for talks cut off at the trade deadline to be reopened.
Realignment, as mentioned, is off the tale for next season, but don't be surprised if some alternative proposals get floated as part of the discussions while the NHL seeks new options to present the NHLPA once serious negotiations on the CBA begin later this year.
Finally, more for the team itself, GMs have been making player safety a highlight yet again. After addressing hits to the head much of the last year, this time the focus turns to other areas of concern. Don't be shocked if we hear about new rules for shoulder pads and elbow protection, perhaps more enforcement of goaltender interference, and other tweaks to current rules in hopes of finding better ways to protect the players from injury - a subject of major interest for a club that has lost 322 man games so far this season.