The good news out of the NHL general managers’ meeting in Toronto this week is that there was palpable enthusiasm for the coaches’ challenge, which would give teams a chance at technologically advanced redemption after being robbed by the on-ice officials’ flawed humanity.
The problem, it seems, is that they’re too enthusiastic: Many wanted to expand the scope of the idea to include dozens of different scenarios during the game, and the idea was crushed by the weight of those desires.
There’s a growing movement among the GMs in favour of allowing coaches to challenge the officials’ call on the ice, vis-a-vis the NFL. Goals scored on missed off-side plays, and goals scored after whistles weren’t blown when the puck bounced off the netting — officially out of play — were the impetus here.
“There’s just too many situations that different guys brought up that would potentially slow the game down,” said Kris King, vice president of hockey ops.
“We also made it apparent, the way we see it in video review, if we rule on goalie interference plays, there’s a good chance we’re going to take more goals down than we’re going to add in a game where we want more scoring, more scoring chances. “Once we played devil’s advocate with a lot of their questions, they just didn’t feel now was the right time to implement a coach’s challenge. We want to look at it further.”
Isn’t that maddening?
The idea that the NHL would be resistant to a logical, integrity-fueled way to challenge imperfect officiating because it might take goals that shouldn’t have been allowed off the board?
Then again, it’s entirely keeping with the other illogical innovations that exist solely to artificially inflate goal totals and create SportsCenter highlights. We’re looking at you, ‘puck over the glass’ and the trapezoid and the overtime skills competition …
Offensive implications aside: Why the hesitation on the coaches’ challenge?
This concern about scope and delay is completely bogus. For starters, NFL teams frequently have a tired defence on the field with the opposition driving, yet you never see challenge flags dropped unless there is genuinely something contentious the teams wish to challenge.
They want to keep the potential for as many challenges as they can, so they ask for a review only when they feel their team has been genuinely and unjustly ruled against. Why should that be a problem in the NHL? Let the referees review their own work, all of it.
For us, the scope of penalties and the time taken away from the game through a coaches’ challenge is rather simple to fix: Limit the challenge to plays that lead to a goal or a goal taken away; give both teams one challenge per game; and if you lose the challenge, you get a 2-minute delay of game minor, because that’s the only way you’re going to deter abuse – taking away a timeout won’t do it.
But if the coaches’ challenge is still problematic for the GMs, the good news is that expanding video review is something they seem to agree on.
Like for high-sticking, for example. From Shawn Roarke of NHL.com:
There was, however, an appetite to review the assessment of a four-minute high-sticking penalty to make sure it was made correctly. There is a belief it is a potentially momentum-shifting call that can be easily reviewed to make sure the infraction was not committed by a teammate.
"If you are going to review anything, you should review a four-minute high sticking where his own teammate's stick cuts him," Campbell said. "That's something we should review. If you are going to have a four-minute high stick where the referee thinks it is the opposition's high stick and it was his teammate's high stick when you looked at a video review. That is the one that they said, 'Yeah, you can go down the path on that one.' That would be a hockey ops review, not a coach's challenge."
So maybe the solution is to expand the powers of the War Room; to have NHL hockey ops review high-sticking incidents or egregious offsides.
Which would be fine. Save for the fact that we won’t get to see a red-faced Bruce Boudreau hurl a flag or shoot a flare to dramatically challenge a call. Boo.
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