NHL fixing its dumb coach’s challenge offside problems

CHICAGO – At some point since its inception, the NHL’s coach’s challenge for goals scored on potentially offside plays went from a good intentioned rule to a tedious, counterproductive parsing of pixels on a video review screen.

“The players don’t like it, like the fans and media,” said NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell on Thursday, at the League’s general manager meeting in Chicago. “We’re trying to temper it a little bit. We want to take care of the obvious offside.”

That was, in fact, the spirit of the rule when offside plays were allowed to be challenged beginning in 2015. The catalyst was the still-baffling blown call in 2013, when Matt Duchene was basically in Aspen when the puck finally crossed the blue line:

But as we’ve all seen, the rule has been abused. It went from being a correction for egregious mistakes to a myopic carnival of inconclusive guesswork.

The NHL has decided to correct the correction.

One option would have been to rewrite the rulebook on offside, allow for more close calls to fly by. But the GMs had no appetite for that.

“If it’s offside, it’s offside. We gotta make the right call,” said Jim Nill, Dallas Stars general manager.

So they went with a more interesting, and potentially game-changing, solution: If a team challenges a goal for being offside, and that challenge fails, then they’re assessed a minor penalty for delay of game.

Teams would no longer need to have a timeout to challenge offside plays, as the penalty for wasting everyone’s time was deemed punishment enough.

Please note that this is strictly for offside coach’s challenges – the challenges for goalie interference still require a timeout anted up by the team.

Credit where it’s due: This is an ingenious fix. It raises the stakes for those borderline challenges that are far from sure-things.

Imagine it’s a tie game and then one team scores a goal. The other team considers a challenge on a close call at the blue line … and then it considers the fact that if the challenge fails, the scoring team would have a chance to follow this goal with another power-play goal. Kick, wham, stunner, and it’s a two-goal deficit because you used the challenge.

This is a nice deterrent.

The NHL also looked at the amount of time that goes by between the offside play and the goal being scored in a challenge. How many goals were scored in first five seconds after the zone entry? How many were scored in eight seconds, or 10 seconds or one minute or two minutes.

Turns out two thirds of the goals scored that are challenged are after five seconds.

“For example with Nashville, the offside had nothing to do with the P.K. Subban goal. It was a minute and a half later,” said Campbell of an infamous goal called back in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The NHL decided not to make changes to that aspect of the rule.

As for the delay of game penalty, they still need approval from the competition committee, which is likely, and the NHL Board of Governors. But it could be added to the rulebook for the 2017-18 season.

“It had resounding support. Like, only one team disagreed,” said Campbell. “If you want to make a challenge, you better be sure.”

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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