Over the last decade, the NFL has used a coach's challenge system that allows certain plays to be reviewed if a coach feels that a referee's call on the field was wrong. If the referee determines that the call made on the field was incorrect, and there's conclusive video evidence to support the decision through replay, then the call is overturned.
Adding the coach's challenge to the sport has proven to be a wise decision for the NFL, and it's time that the NHL strongly considered a similar system of its own.
According to John Shannon of Sportsnet, coach's challenges will be among the many topics discussed at Wednesday's GM meetings in Toronto.
NHL GMs in Toronto Wednesday.Expect talk about Coach's Challenge,Hybrid Icing,The Trapezoid,Goalie Equipment and Officiating Standard.— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) March 20, 2013
Since the NHL already reviews scoring plays by contacting the "war room" at the league offices in Toronto, there's no reason why it can't have referees or other league officials in the same room who review plays that coaches challenge.
Should the NHL use a coach's challenge system?
The league does not want to slow the game because hockey is most enjoyable when games are fast-paced, which creates exciting action for fans at the arena and those watching on television.
However, it's very important that the calls made by referees and linesmen on the ice are as accurate as possible, but since these men are human and will get a few calls wrong over the course of a 60-minute game, giving the officials an opportunity to review certain plays and make the correct call would be a positive change for the sport, even if the game is slowed down a bit.
When discussing how coaches challenges would work, there are a number of different questions to answer. Here are some of the most notable ones.
- How long will a play be reviewed for, two minutes?
- What is the punishment for an unsuccessful challenge (loss of timeout, minor penalty for delay of game)?
- How many challenges do coaches get, and do they get an extra one for successful challenges?
- When are challenges allowed? Should the final minutes of the third period and overtime have challenges?
- Should challenges be allowed in the playoffs?
The best scenario for the NHL is to implement a coach's challenge system that doesn't allow coaches to challenge plays late in games just to give their team an additional rest. This is why these challenges should not be allowed in the final three minutes of a game, which would allow the game to flow better in the final couple minutes of regulation, which is often where the most excitement occurs each game.
The next question then becomes: What will happen if a call on the ice in the final few minutes of a game is clearly wrong, how is it challenged? Just like the NFL, referees should be given the authority to stop the game and challenge a play in the final few minutes. The "war room" in Toronto could contact the officials at the arena, who would alert the referees that a certain play must be reviewed.
As for the amount of coach's challenges, giving each coach one per game is a fair amount because any more and the game could be slowed significantly.The NFL awards an extra challenge to coaches that use both of their challenges successfully, but the NHL should not do that because too many challenges would ruin the flow of the game.
If a coach loses his challenge, his team should lose its timeout. Timeouts are very valuable and give coaches an opportunity to rest players or stop an an opponent's momentum, which means that coaches would only challenge a play and risk a timeout if they were confident that the call on the ice would be overturned.
How long should challenges be? One to two minutes should be the amount of time for plays to be reviewed. This would give the people in Toronto plenty of time to review the call but also make sure that the game isn't slowed down too much.
When/if the general managers are successful in crafting the rules for challenges, the next step will be to determine which plays/situations are "challenge-able." Three situations that immediately come to mind are offside calls, goaltender interference and embellishment.
The only time a coach should challenge an offside decision is when a goal is scored that shouldn't have counted because the attacking team was offside. A great example of this kind of play happened earlier this season during a game between the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators (see video below):
As the video shows, Avalanche forward Matt Duchene is clearly offside and even slows up because he expects the linesman to make an offside call, but the whistle isn't blown and he scores on Predators goaltender Chris Mason.
This is a situation where Nashville head coach Barry Trotz should be able to challenge the offside call and have the goal be taken away. He wasn't able to, and his team ended up losing the game by one goal, which could have a strong impact on the Predators later in the season if they miss the playoffs by one or two points in the standings.
In the case of goaltender interference, there have been several instances this season when minimal contact with goaltenders has resulted in goals being taken away, and we have also seen goals being awarded even though a player(s) made too much contact with the opposing goaltender.
Reviewing a play to see how much contact was made and if it should affect the call on the ice (goal/no goal) should be an option for coaches. The video below is one example where a coach's challenge for goalie interference would have been useful:
Another instance where a coach's challenge would help the game is when players embellish or dive to draw a penalty that their team doesn't deserve.
One common example of this is when someone's stick gets close to an opponent's face, and that player acts like he has been hit when the stick blade never touched his face.
In the following video, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang draws a penalty by acting like Boston Bruins forward Rich Peverley's stick hits his face when it doesn't come anywhere close to touching him. This is an instance when Bruins head coach Claude Julien should be able to challenge this penalty.
The NFL does not allow coaches to challenge penalties, which is the right decision, but in the case of embellishment, the NHL should make an exception because this is one part of the game that needs to go away.
Too many players embellish and dive to earn power plays in today's NHL, and one of the best ways to stop these players from acting this way is to review these penalties and give guys guilty of embellishing minor penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Will Coach's Challenges Become Part of the NHL in 2013-14?
When a coach sees something he wants to challenge, he should be able to do so after a whistle when play has already stopped. For the NHL to increase the accuracy of its officiating and help eliminate the amount of incorrect calls, some of which result in goals which never should have counted, a coach's challenge system should be used.
The overall speed of NHL games is much faster compared to just 10 years ago, and this makes it very difficult for referees and linesmen to make correct calls on a consistent basis.
The NHL could test this challenge system during the preseason, which would give the league a few weeks to see how it works and get feedback that can be used to make changes, or eliminate it altogether.
It would be very surprising if there wasn't a lot of support for a coach's challenge system at the NHL GM meetings because it's a change that the league must make.
Putting a coach's challenge system in place for this season wouldn't be a good idea, but starting with the 2013-14 regular season, coaches should be allowed to challenge calls that they feel were incorrect because one goal can ruin an entire season for a team.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.