A mere 11 days after its s long, long season ended, the National Hockey League will be back at work on Monday.
Owners, general managers, other club officials and a few elite players will be in Toronto this week for six intense days of activity that will include a televised awards show, a series of meetings and the annual entry draft.
This will be the first time since the draft was inaugurated in 1963 that it has been conducted outside Montreal. Last year, the inaugural awards show, featuring the top two finishers in each category, was held in Toronto, then the NHL entourage moved on to Montreal for the meetings and draft.
Center Doug Jarvis, bidding for a second straight Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward, is Washington's only representative in Monday's awards. He is opposed by Craig Ramsay of Buffalo.
Last year, the Capitals took three prizes, with Bryan Murray winning the Adams Award as coach of the year and Rod Langway earning the Norris Trophy as best defenseman. Additionally, Langway was a finalist for the Hart Trophy as most valuable player, which was won for the fifth straight year by Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky.
Four major topics of discussion will highlight the meetings of the NHL governors. They include officiating, the bargaining agreement with the players, the Pittsburgh Penguins situation and changes in the playoff format.
Never have there been so many complaints about the officials, whose thankless task is compounded by the NHL's inability to determine whether it wants strict or loose enforcement of the rules.
"It is healthy and necessary to have a philosophical discussion of the officiating," said Washington General Manager David Poile. "It's time for the governors to vent their feelings to the people in charge of policy in the NHL, to let them know what interpretation and standard of enforcement we want."
"There was a great deal of public criticism of officials this year and the thought has occurred that we are asking our officials to do more than they're capable of," said NHL President John Ziegler. "The skill of the player and the speed of the game has increased markedly in the last five or six years and that has made the officials' job more difficult.
"We may have to provide some assistance to the referee, either another man on the ice or off it. But the question is, do we want more observation of what is going on? The game may become more officiated and less entertaining."
The players have invoked a clause in the bargaining agreement that will terminate it a year early, in June 1986. They have let it be known that they want both some form of free agency and a chunk of money to help retiring players adjust to new careers.
"I believe we will have a request from the players to go to a baseball-type of free agency," Ziegler said. "But when Fortune projects a $155 million loss for baseball in 1988, based on the present system, it's easy to understand why we don't want to follow the baseball system."
Pittsburgh has asked to move from the Patrick Division to the Norris Division, either unilaterally or as part of a package that would put Toronto in the Adams Division and Hartford in the Patrick. Also, the Penguins are in the midst of a "save the team" campaign and a group in Hamilton, Ontario, reportedly has offered the Penguins $24 million to buy the franchise and move it to a new arena in that Canadian city.
It would take a two-thirds vote of the owners to shift Pittsburgh to another division and, with the schedule 99 percent complete for next year, a change would require substantial revisions.
The Hartford Whalers, after a fourth straight year out of the playoffs, want to institute a wild-card playoff setup. There are other suggestions for changes, such as intraconference play rather than intradivisional in the opening round. Also, nobody is satisfied with basing home ice for the conference finals and Stanley Cup final on regular-season play involving whole divisions or conferences.
"I'm not in favor of changing the playoff format unless we're almost unanimous and are willing to make the change for a long period of time," Poile said.
"One thing I do want is to see home ice based on regular-season points. The league has attained a fair degree of parity, so even with an unbalanced schedule, I think the team with the most points should have home ice -- period."
Possible changes in the playing rules will be discussed, and one item that figures to gain support from just about every club except Edmonton is the recommendation that coincidental minor penalties be treated as coincidental majors, without reducing the number of men on the ice. Edmonton, with Gretzky and Jari Kurri, has been devastating in four-on-four situations.
There also will be considerable discussion of stick penalties and the widely varying criteria for determining whether violators should be assessed majors or minors.
Saturday's draft has aroused less interest than usual, because of the absence of truly outstanding young players, such as Mario Lemieux and Kirk Muller a year ago.
Central Scouting rates center Craig Simpson of Michigan State No. 1, followed by defenseman Dana Murzyn of the Calgary Wranglers, defenseman Wendel Clark of the Saskatoon Blades, right wing Jim Sandlak of the London Knights and center Dan Gratton of the Oshawa Generals.
An interesting possibility is center Keith Gretzky of Windsor. Although rated 59th, Wayne's brother should go much earlier simply on the basis of genes.
Washington will pick 19th. Jack Button, the Capitals' director of player personnel, said, "We'd love to get a big left winger, but so would every other team in the league. We have to make sure that we get useful players at 19 and 40. The way the draft is, some players we consider at 19 may still be there at 40."