Matt Duchene, right, and Aaron Palushaj of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate a goal against the Nashville Predators last month in Denver. Duchene scored a goal that clearly looked to be offside, sparking a flurry of outrage from the Preds and their supporters.
Photograph by: Michael Martin, NHLI via Getty Images
You’ll have to pardon us, but the opposition to the institution of a coach’s challenge that carried the day at the NHL general managers’ meetings in Toronto on Wednesday is very difficult to understand.
As nearly as can be determined, the leading reason why they don’t want to introduce this new use of video is that the scope of what might be reviewed is too wide and that it may be used as a delaying tactic by coaches.
They don’t want the challenge used as part of a strategy, specifically if a coach has tired players on the ice or the momentum is going against them. And they couldn’t decide what could be challenged.
In the end they struck another group of 10 GMs to look at goalie interference with a view, first, to defining it and perhaps then reviewing it at a later date.
And they recommended reviewing in Toronto all high-sticking penalties of more than two minutes, beginning next season, to make sure which stick cut the victim.
But ultimately it is delay, period, that concerns them with respect to a challenge, hockey operations VP Kris King telling the NHL network Wednesday they want games finished in under two-and-a-half hours.
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.
If delaying as a tactic hasn’t happened in the NFL, where there is more money at stake than the NHL will ever comprehend, why should it be a problem in the NHL? A coach would look downright ridiculous if he challenged a normal icing call, for instance, just because his players were tired. It would be abundantly obvious it was being used as a delaying tactic, and a penalty could be assessed.
After all, the league is already asking the zebras to read minds and instantly assess damage done to a player when they call diving or “embellishment,” as it’s being termed. A frivolous coach’s challenge would be much easier to spot.
While there seems to be great concern for the egos and integrity of the officials, imagine how they might be bailed out by a challenge. That way, they review their own work instead of being vilified and made to look a fool on every Sports Centre show in North America that has the benefit of a slow-motion replay.
These guys are men enough to admit they may have made a mistake, given the speed of the game now. And let’s be clear, they and they alone should review their work, not the people in the review room in Toronto, as may be the case next season with serious high-sticking calls.
There is already the the perception of possible league gerrymandering with respect to what goes on there with goals that are allowed or disallowed. You don’t need to be feeding that fire any more than necessary.
Referees are going to be a lot happier if they get to fix or affirm their own work when a coach has a complaint. And if you like, let them seek consultation from Toronto or the supervisor of officials, if there is one on site. But the referee working the game could and should make the final call.
There has been no end of examples in Canucks games this season alone in which coach’s challenges could have eliminated hilarious blunders, never mind the Matt Duchene offside goal that is so often cited.
Take the last time the Canucks were in Columbus, when Henrik Sedin jammed the blade of his stick right into Sergei Bobrovsky’s mask. A Blue Jacket coach’s challenge could easily have resulted in a penalty being called on the Vancouver forward that could have changed the game and kept the official who missed that call off every sports show in Columbus, Vancouver and around the league that night.
How about that game last month in Detroit when Zack Kassian was given a penalty for goalie interference on Wings Jimmy Howard, when in fact he didn’t even touch the man? (Howard’s own defenceman, Kent Huskins, actually ran him over.) It was fairly early in the game and perhaps that call wouldn’t have been challenged. But if it had, Dean Morton and Dennis LaRue might have liked the opportunity to review their work.
Why not try it in NHL rinks during the pre-season and assess the idea from there? There’s nothing to lose except mistakes.
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