Monday, May 27, 2013

It’s Time For a NHL Coach’s Challenge

By Mike Chen

Clearly, it's a conspiracy theory. Against your team.

Why else would NHL officials make such a bad call? Or miss a blatantly obvious call against your team?

We're knee-deep in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it feels like the officials have been front and center too many times to be comfortable. Critical calls or non-calls have contributed to key moments in just about every series, leaving fans on all sides griping.

Here's the thing: while some fans like to believe that the NHL, led by the malevolent Gary Bettman, has some reason to secretly force their team out. This, of course, occurs following a loss, as the ebb and flow of fan emotions surges to try and find any logical reason behind the defeat. The problem with this theory is that if you sampled all of it together to create some sort of magic algorithm, it would tell you that the league hates every single team and secretly wants to implode itself.

That would make for a pretty bad business model, and since the NHL is in fact a for-profit enterprise, it could just be that the officials have the most difficult job in the league and they're bound to miss some things, and in the playoffs, those missed things could lead to pivotal moments in games. Is that acceptable? Of course not, but what's the solution?

A coach's challenge seems like the most sensible approach, but there has to be a proper way to integrate it. Too much leeway and you'll be having stoppages at every marginal call. Too strict of guidelines and you'll get blown calls. The following is my proposed solution, one that hopefully strikes a proper balance between the two.

Point No. 1 — A coach can call a challenge on a play related to a goal — either a goal that should be disallowed or vice versa — when he feels that the right call is opposite of what was called on the ice.

Point No. 2 — A coach can call a challenge on a play he feels should have been a penalty or not a penalty.

Point No. 3 — A coach cannot call a challenge on off-sides, icing, hand passes, high-stick touches, etc.

Point No. 4 — If the coach is wrong, the team will be assessed a delay of game penalty. If the call fails to overturn a penalty, the delay of game penalty will be stacked on top of the original call for a 5-on-3 advantage.

Point No. 5 — For challenges on a penalty, a coach will hold up an indicator (card/flag) during the play. Play will be blown dead when his team regains control of the puck.

Point No. 6 — Each coach will have one challenge available per game.

By adding a delay of game penalty, the stakes become very high, and the coach must use extreme judgment when making the call. This may not rectify all blown calls, but it could address some of the more serious missed offenses. If anything, it takes some of the blame off the refs. They're only human and they will make mistakes, but then the onus is on the coaches to catch and correct those mistakes.

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