Getting it Right: Why the NHL Needs a Coach’s Challenge
Let’s first set the scene.
The Colorado Avalanche were up 2-1 on the Nashville Predators. The Preds had scored a power play goal right before the end of the first period, and were most likely hoping to ride that momentum to tie the game after trailing 2-0.
With a little over three minutes into the second, Matt Duchene received a pass from P.A. Parenteau about 4 feet inside the Preds’ blue line. Everyone relaxed except Duchene, who did what anyone would do without a whistle; he buried the goal uncontested, giving his team back the two-goal lead. Everyone watching knew the pass was offside, but all four on ice officials, referees Dan O’Rourke and Ghislain Hebert, as well as linesmen Anthony Sericolo and Derek Amell, were apparently looking the other way when the pass occurred, and Duchene and the Avs got away with it.
An idea that has been proliferating in certain circles in the NHL of late is the idea of adding a coach’s challenge to sort out ridiculous plays like this. The National Football League uses it with success, at least to the unbiased eye. Even baseball and soccer have been jumping on the bandwagon. In this coming season, baseball will be using video review for certain plays, and FIFA announced earlier today that “goal-line technology” will be used in next year’s World Cup.
Why shouldn’t the NHL, with its use of the much ballyhooed War Room in Toronto, have a coach’s challenge? And moreover, how does the league handle its addition in order to make sure coaches don’t over-use it, and kill the flow of the game?
Think of this: In the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, there was a questionable game 7 goal that was called back. If the goal was reviewed today, it could have sent the Devils to the finals over the Rangers. The Rangers eventually won that game, and won the Stanley Cup roughly two weeks later. Imagine if there had been a coach’s challenge then? Would the phantom goal have counted? Would the Devils have won the Stanley Cup, or would the ruling on the ice stand? I was at that game. As a Rangers fan, I would have been heartbroken, however, isn’t it more important for the call to be right?
In the NFL, if a ruling on the field stands after a challenge, the challenging squad loses one of three time outs. In the NHL, each team only has one timeout, and most games, the timeout isn’t used. Instead of burning a timeout, why not assess a 2-minute bench minor for delay of game? That way, the challenge is only used in times of dire need, or simply to save a bench boss from having an aneurysm or a coronary, or some other stress related event. In addition, the NHL should limit it to one challenge allowed per game, otherwise coaching staffs would be challenging even the most obvious of calls just to give their team a break, and to restrict the opposition’s momentum.
How much of a difference could it make?
Let’s head back to that Colorado-Nashville tilt on Monday night. The final score of that game was 6-5, with the Avs coming out ahead of the burn burner. Take that Matt Duchene non-goal away, and you have a tied game. Would the Preds ultimately have won? Who knows how the puck would have bounced, but that non-call may have been a difference maker. As interesting as it was to watch how many different colors coach Barry Trotz’ face could turn, and as much fun as it was reading his lips, I think it’s more important to get the call right. Hockey is a game of momentum. Anything can start the momentum swing in your favor, and a blown call could turn the tide against your squad. Maybe the NHL should get the call right.
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