To get the call exactly right? Or to keep the integrity of the game? What’s more important?
That’s currently the hottest debate among the hockey world. Frustrations are starting to boil over with the NHL’s review system and particularly with the coach’s challenge starting to become a headache, factoring in several close games. Fans are split almost evenly on whether the league should keep or can the coach’s challenge.
It’s a knee jerk reaction to simply say that the review system should be out of the game entirely. Allowing for a coach to challenge a specific set of plays is a neat tool that if tweaked, could work well for the game of hockey. While it’s good to have a review system featuring camera angles from every single view of the ice, it shouldn’t be overused.
Imagine if Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final went to overtime. A team wins and the celebration begins and the place is going wild. But, after a lengthy delay the goal is overturned due to the losing team challenging the play for offside. Coming down to a matter of millimeters, the fact that the goal was scored ever so slightly offside could take away the Stanley Cup from a team that thought they had won it all. How big of a mess would that be?
That’d be lots of gloves, sticks and helmets to clean up.
Offside calls shouldn’t be challenged. Offside is supposed to be handled by the linesman – that’s why they are there. With the current coach’s challenge in place it takes away the trust and responsibility of the linesman. It should be the linesman’s judgment call and if they screw up with a matter of inches (or less), so be it. It happens. Nobody’s perfect and especially in officiating there are going to be some calls that are off about a few inches or missed entirely. Just like Major League Baseball has recognized that the human element can still be present in calling the strike zone, so too it should remain with the offside call for the purity of the game.
What’s the point of letting a coach review it just for the sake of doing it, especially when the incidental offside play didn’t have any impact on the actual goal? The coaches have nothing to lose. Sure, if they get it wrong they lose their timeout. But how valuable is a timeout in hockey? There are plenty of commercial breaks throughout the game and while a timeout can help a team during crunch time late in a game, losing it isn’t the end of the world.
In hockey we don’t see every single slash, cross-check or roughing penalty called. You’ve got to let the game go on and not let the officiating become too much of a factor in a game.
It’s not like the offside being called back this year have been anything remotely close to what prompted this entire spectacle.
In the video above you can see a horrendously missed offside call that resulted in this goal by Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene. That clip is a reason that many thought that offside should be something that coaches could challenge.
A case like the brutal no call of Matt Duchene being more than a few feet offside was a rarity. Fans would probably prefer to have one of those every so often rather than offside being reviewed and sometimes overturned on a nightly basis on inconsequential sequences.
It’s not just a matter of an offside being overturned for a slight reason. It’s also because almost every goal seems to be reviewed for offside, even if it’s clearly onside. It slows down the game and puts a halt to the players, the team and the arena for celebrating a goal.
The coach’s challenge allows for offside calls at the blue line to be as closely officiated and scrutinized as pucks crossing the goal line. Maybe even more closely scrutinized as the issues on the goal line still persist which is why the NHL is still talking about puck-tracking technology. There is a huge difference between making sure the puck crosses the goal line than seeing if a skate was less than an inch past or above the blue line.
The coach’s challenge and the constant reviews after an exciting playoff goal have became an annoyance to all and need to be refined, but not taken out of the game entirely.
We must remember the good that a coach’s challenge could do. For starters, allowing for a coach to challenge goaltender interference should still be allowed. If a goalie is illegally interfered with, they usually can not make a save and it could lead to a goal being scored against them. Goalie interference directly impacts the play and should be overturned if necessary. The NHL needs to clearly define what goalie interference is and have it called consistently, but it makes sense for that type of play to be reviewed.
Getting a call precisely right is the correct thing to do in some cases. But in regards to offside calls that come down to a matter of millimeters, it’s hurting the game more than helping.