The Wild might have had a slow week with only one game on its schedule before returning to action Saturday night, but a significant change was put in motion during that time that could affect the team.
During the NHL general managers’ annual March meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., the group proposed to have the final verdict on goaltender interference reviews decided by the league’s hockey operations staff stationed in the situation room in Toronto along with a retired official.
Currently, rulings are determined by on-ice officials. Those referees, however, would still be included in the discussion under this tweak.
This change was approved by the NHL Players’ Association executive board and the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee but still requires the green light from the Board of Governors to become verified, which the NHL hopes happens before the end of the regular season.
“I think it would be beneficial to have somebody of the group that has played goal before because then you get both sides,” said goalie Devan Dubnyk, who mentioned he has been calling for one entity to make the decision for the past two years. “You have somebody looking at what the player did and somebody looking at what the goalie’s doing and how does it affect what he’s doing.”
Controversy over goalie interference has hung over the league this season, with the confusion over interpretation reaching a fever pitch in January when two of the game’s brightest stars — Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid — had goals overturned.
The league later sent out a memo to officials remining them reviews were used to determine if an infraction was missed rather than to search for evidence that would overturn the initial call. But it’s still been tough to predict what constitutes goalie interference and with the playoffs looming, this next step could help provide clarity.
“The biggest problem I had with the previous language when they sent the memo out was they didn’t want to look for something off the original call,” Dubnyk said. “But the problem with that is that’s the entire point of the review. You might as well take the review away and just tell the referees they’ve got to watch closely on the ice. That’s basically what they said is there’s no point of the review then if you’re going to look for something you didn’t see. So that was kind of strange, but hopefully this will kind of help out those decisions.”
This time a year ago, center Joel Eriksson Ek was on the brink of rejoining the Wild after playing in the Swedish Elite League, making a return to the NHL after the youngster detoured to Europe to help continue his development.
Now, Eriksson Ek is in a regular role with the Wild as the team gears up for the playoffs and he’s an active contributor to that pursuit — another example of the 21-year-old’s growth from 2016-17.
Eriksson Ek notched a career-high fourth goal Monday against the Kings, a tally that helped the Wild secure a valuable point in an eventual 4-3 overtime loss. He added another goal in Saturday night’s 4-1 victory over the Predators.
“He’s bigger and he’s stronger, and I think he has more confidence,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’m hoping that goal did a lot for his confidence. [It] did a lot for my confidence in him, but I’ve always been a big fan of his. So I think he’s still going to be a really good player.”
Defenseman Nick Seeler played under Don Lucia for only one season at Minnesota, but that was enough time for the Eden Prairie native to bask in the chance to learn from the legendary Lucia.
“When you think of Gophers hockey, I think one of the things you think of is Don Lucia,” Seeler said.
After 19 years as coach of the Gophers, a run that included two national titles and 13 NCAA tournament appearances, Lucia stepped down from his post Tuesday — capping off a storied stint that briefly overlapped with Seeler, who sat out 2014-15 due to transfer rules before suiting up in 2015-16.
“What a career he had,” Seeler said. “I was looking at some of his statistics and win percentage and all that, and pretty incredible career he had. He gave me the opportunity to be a part of that for a couple years, which I was extremely grateful for.”