There’s at least one definitive thing coming out of this year’s General Managers Meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, the coach’s challenge is here to stay. With a moderate amount of grumbling and controversy surrounding the new rule everyone around the NHL was looking to the GMs to take a stand and they have clearly done just that. The 30 GMs in attendance stood by the new rule unanimously, though some small changes might be in order.
The coach’s challenge was adopted during the off-season as a way to use video reviews for goals that may have come about from goaltender interference or offside plays. A coach may challenge a ruling on the ice at which point the officials will review video footage of the goal and make a decision to overrule or not.
In general the move has been seen as a positive step in correcting the most flagrant, game-changing errors but it hasn’t been free from controversy. Many coaches and players have argued that the tiny 6” tablet the officials are using to review the video is too small to be effective. There are also complaints that challenges are being used as a “strategic time out”, allowing a team to regroup and rest while the officials are engaged in a review. Some simply state that the game stoppage at such crucial junctures interrupts the game flow.
Despite the controversy, the GMs felt strongly that the system was working. Of the more than 200 challenges this season nearly 80% of the on-ice decisions were upheld. There were very few challenges where the group disagreed with the officials. “You’ve gotta to look back at the reason we did these coach’s challenges originally was to try to take care of the egregious mistakes. We’ve certainly done that,” said Chicago GM Stan Bowman. “There’s been no (incidents) where everyone afterwards is thinking ‘Boy we got that wrong.’” Edmonton Oilers GM Pete Chiarelli agreed, “For all of us the coach’s challenge has been a very useful tool.”
No system is perfect, however, and the GMs agreed on a few areas where changes might be made to strengthen the review process. One seemingly simple idea is to get a larger screen for the officials to watch the video on. There has also been discussion of sending the review decision back to the NHL war room in Toronto but most GMs seem to think that’s overkill. Said Chiarelli, “We talked about that a little bit but I don’t see that happening. I think we’re getting it right for the most part.” One change that everyone agreed should be immediately implemented is the placement of two cameras at the blue line to help clear up any off side ruling challenges. “That’s the one in-season tweak we can make. It’s not a rule change, it’s just helping make the process better,” said Colin Campbell league director of hockey operations.
In the end the consensus was clear, video reviews of controversial goals are a good thing and despite a few minor issues the rule is accomplishing what it set out to do. The Coach’s Challenge looks to have a long and prosperous life in the NHL.