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Rams-49ers tie likely not enough to alter NFL rule

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Rams-49ers tie likely not enough to alter NFL rule

When St. Louis and San Francisco couldn't produce a winner during 75 minutes of play, the complaints came from all corners of the NFL.

Tie games, after all, aren't much fun for the fans or the players, who finish just as unsatisfied as anyone else.

``I never had to think about it until now, and I sure don't like it,'' Rams defensive end Chris Long said. ``I think everybody on the field would have liked to have gone back out and just settled it, but that's where we are. That's the rule right now, so it is what it is.''

The Rams-49ers game Sunday finished at 24-all, the first tie in four years and only the fifth since 1990. So the rule right now that limits regular-season overtime to one period is likely to stay the same for a while.

``It's an occasional event. There is no real concern we need to change the system,'' said NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson, who happened to attend Sunday's game in San Francisco and was also present for the Atlanta-Pittsburgh draw in 2002. The other recent occurrence was Nov. 16, 2008, when Philadelphia and Cincinnati played at 13 apiece.

Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb infamously acknowledged afterward he was unaware tie games were still possible. San Francisco safety Dashon Goldson said the same Sunday.

``When I saw both sides walking onto the field, I was like, `Where's everybody going?''' Goldson said. ``Did somebody quit? Forfeit?''

Goldson, for the record, knew about the new wrinkle that now gives one team the chance to match if the other team gets the ball first in overtime and makes a field goal. (Touchdowns still immediately end the game.)

``But I didn't know there wouldn't be a second overtime if nobody scored,'' Goldson said.

Now he does, due to a rare sequence of events during the extra period that kept the two teams even.

The Rams had an 80-yard pass on the first play negated by an illegal formation penalty. Then stalwart David Akers missed a 41-yard field goal for the 49ers. Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein made one from 53 yards, but that didn't count because of a delay-of-game call. His next attempt from 58 yards was wide right.

By then, the anticlimactic ending seemed inevitable.

``Ties just don't seem to make sense in football,'' said Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who played in that previous draw in 2008. ``There's too much effort, too much sacrifice that goes into this game to end in a tie, that's for sure.''

The 49ers (6-2-1) now have a hard-to-figure-out lead on the Seahawks (6-4) in the NFC West, which makes Sunday's outcome all the more maddening.

``A division game? Oh, wow. I guess that could make it interesting at the end of the year,'' Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker said.

Overtime was introduced at the college level in 1996, and there the teams trade possessions from the 25-yard line until there's a winner. But the time when ties were permitted below the NFL was so long ago that current players never experienced that.

Denver safety Rahim Moore dug deep in his memory bank to Pop Warner ball to recall one.

``I believe we went triple overtime and we ended up winning and I don't remember how it all went down,'' Moore said. ``It was like the 90s, so I forget. Also, I would say it was in the rain.''

Even the NHL has abolished ties, using a penalty shot competition after scoreless overtimes in a regular season game with mixed reviews. (Imagine the NFL switching to a punt-pass-kick contest to settle the score!)

``I would've loved to see a shootout,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said, joking. ``A couple of guys firing the ball at the goal posts. Anything to settle the thing.''

Uh, don't count on that.

Anderson said the NFL's competition committee will consider the overtime rules annually, but in a league where injuries are common the likelihood of a change is slim.

``To have these guys going into an additional overtime period or more, we would be taking on some risk we don't think is prudent to take on,'' Anderson said.

The NFL Players Association didn't respond to a request for comment.

Another factor working against a change is game quality. With the promise of endless overtimes, if necessary to determine a winner, teams could be tempted to play conservatively down the stretch and bog a contest down in safe runs and punts.

There's also the stake the television networks have in this multi-billion-dollar business to consider. CBS and Fox already have to push back lucrative Sunday night shows if games run long during the afternoon. The possibility - even if it's an improbability - of a three-overtime game, then, is not ideal for them even though they'd undoubtedly keep fans glued to their sets for more time in that scenario.

Anderson said the NFL has not sought opinion from the networks on the potential of a format switch, though he said of squeezed programming, ``I am sure those are legitimate concerns.''

Anderson said player health and safety is the driver of such discussions.

NBC's ``Sunday Night Football'' producer Fred Gaudelli said he didn't see the need for a change because of the rarity of ties and echoed Anderson's concern of greater injury risk with longer games.

But, Gaudelli said, ``from a TV perspective, I don't know what the downside would be.''

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AP Pro Football Writers Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colo.; and Barry Wilner in New York; and AP Sports Writers Tim Booth in Renton, Wash.; Rachel Cohen in New York; R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis; Joe Kay in Cincinnati; and Janie McCauley in Santa Clara, Calif., contributed to this report.

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, expected to be named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, expected to be named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz did not remain unemployed for very long.

Trotz, who led the Capitals to the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup title, resigned from his post less than a week after the team's championship parade in Washington, D.C.

But the former bench boss appears to be headed to New York to become the Islanders new head coach, according to Darren Dreger of TSN.

Trotz's contract was expected to expire at the end of the 2017-18 season, but upon winning the Stanley Cup, an automatic two-year extension was triggered, raising his $1.5 million yearly salary by $300,000. But Trotz wanted to be compensated as one of the top five coaches in the NHL.

While the terms of his deal have yet to be finalized, according to Elliotte Friedman, Trotz's deal could be in the 5-year, $20 million range.

With the Islanders, Trotz inherits a team that finished 35-37-10 last season under head coach Doug Weight, despite having John Tavares, one of the best centers in the NHL, and several young studs like Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Josh Ho-Sang. But Tavares enters the offseason as a free agent, and many teams will be looking to pay top-dollar for his services. 

Trotz will report to Lou Lamoriello, who was named the Islanders' president and general manager in May after spending three seasons in the same role with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft

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USA TODAY Sports

The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft

Every year, the Stanley Cup-winning team shows the importance of building through the draft. This year, that team is the Washington Capitals.

With the NHL Draft starting on Friday, let’s break down the Capitals roster from the playoffs to see just how it was put together.

Acquired by the draft: Nicklas Backstrom, Madison Bowey, Travis Boy, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Shane Gersich, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Tom Wilson

Acquired as a free agent: Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson, Brett Connolly, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Devante Smith-Pelly

Acquired by trade: Lars Eller, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, T.J. Oshie

The first thing to note is that the vast majority of Washington’s roster is made up of draft picks. Specifically, the majority of the Caps’ top six on offense, three of its top six defensemen and both goalies were drafted by the team.

Of the free agent signings, only two were big money players in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. In 2014, defense was a major question mark for the Caps and Brian MacLellan made a splash as the new general manager by signing both blue liners to big deals. The majority of the signings, however, are cheap, low risk and high reward players.

Finally, the trades include players who filled obvious needs. The Caps needed Oshie to shore up the top six, Eller was brought in to be the third line center, Kempny stepped in as a top-four defenseman and Jerabek was brought in for defensive depth.

So what does this show us?

First, the draft is absolutely critical to building a team’s core. True superstar players are hard to come by. Once a team gets one, they do everything they can to keep them. The draft is a team's first opportunity to acquire a certain player and, if they have superstar potential, sign them long-term. John Tavares this season looks headed to free agency and the buzz around him stems from the fact that he is very much the exception, not the rule. The base of the Caps’ Stanley Cup team was built by drafting star players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Carlson, Holtby, etc.

This also shows the importance of the draft for depth. In the salary cap era, teams need to find enough cap room for their stars and their depth players. Having young players is absolutely critical because their low cap hit allows for the team to sign the expensive stars and make the important addition in free agency  or by trade. This is a formula that only works if those young players are productive as well.

Players like Vrana and Burakovsky, for example, played big roles in the playoff run, but also carried low cap hits.

So the Caps built a core through the draft and filled key roles with trades and mostly cheap free agent signings.

There is no formula for how to win a Stanley Cup, if there was everyone would do it, but this is about as close as you can come to one. A team has to draft very well and then build around those draft picks to be successful. You cannot hope to build simply through trades and free agency because of the cost. Trades always require sending an asset the other way and very often that asset turns out to be prospects or draft picks. Free agency, meanwhile, requires team overpay for top targets leading to serious cap trouble down the line.

There are always trades and free agent signings that prove to be important, but those are only pieces to a much large puzzle. To win a Stanley Cup, you have to build through the draft.

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