The Sabres are still in discussions to host the NHL Scouting Combine. It appears that’s the only way draft prospects will get to work out in Buffalo.
During the past three springs, the Sabres supplemented the league’s combine in Toronto with one of their own. They brought in more than 75 prospects last year for workouts, including on-ice testing. Because the draft-eligible players don’t skate at the NHL’s combine, the on-ice work was an added look.
Opposing teams, especially those in the Western Conference or without the Sabres’ funds, felt this gave Buffalo an unfair advantage. The practice was discussed at the general managers’ meetings this week, and the NHL plans to strengthen the penalties against teams that conduct their own workouts.
“The GMs overwhelmingly feel that this is an area where clubs should be put on a level playing field with a common set of rules,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The News via email Thursday.
The vote was 23-6 in favor of abolishing team combines. Sabres GM Tim Murray pushed hard to keep the personal workouts.
“My argument was that drafting players is hard enough,” Murray said by phone Thursday. “It’s your future. It’s a huge part of the organization, drafting the right players. Every piece of information you can get is helpful.
“Certainly, the majority didn’t agree. I think a lot of them it was financial, and I think a lot of them it was geographical. … I can see them coming to an end.”
Rules were already in place to prohibit teams from working out prospects, but the penalty was a small fine. The board of governors will vote on bigger penalties, and they will be in place by the time the NHL Scouting Combine is held May 25-31.
“After the combine, you can bring a player to your city, interview him, take him out to dinner, medically test him, MRI him, whatever you need to do,” Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said at the GM meetings. “But you can’t physically test him. You can’t put him on the ice.”
The NHL would like to add on-ice testing to the combine, which is where Buffalo comes in.
The Sabres are bidding to host the league combine, beginning next year. HarborCenter and its dual rinks will be completed, which would give scouts a facility to test the prospects on and off the ice.
“We have been in discussions with the Sabres and are certainly seriously considering moving the league combine to Buffalo, perhaps as early as next year,” Daly wrote.
The GMs proposed only three rule changes at their meetings – two involving faceoff spacing and another that would have teams switch ends for overtime – and Murray’s subcommittee talked about relaxing the rules on pucks that go into the net off skates. It will be discussed further.
“We talked about being a little more lenient on kicked-in goals if they’re steered in,” Murray said. “The rule states that it’s a kicking motion, so we’re all thinking a field-goal kicker or a soccer player, and the league judges a slight movement as a distinct kicking motion. That’s where there’s some confusion, and we’re just trying to take the confusion out of it.
“If it’s gray area, it’s a goal. … I hear lots of people say we need more scoring, therefore this is the way I think the kicking rule should be.”