Thursday, February 9, 2017

Keep the Offsides Challenge in NHL Games--JUST FREAKING GET IT RIGHT!

For the last year I've been in the minority about the NHL's decision to use video and a coach's challenge system to review critical offsides calls during NHL games. I like the rule and the use of the video because stuff happens fast in NHL games and players frequently do half-ass tag-ups while joining rushes and the like, and if a play is offsides, I've always felt that it's worth it to get the call right.

My belief in the system remained steadfast during last season when a whole lot of goals got overturned. Now there is some strangeness, when a team enters the zone illegally and proceeds to go on a crazy cycle for like 47 seconds before burying a goal. But you know what? Enter the freaking zone legally if you want your goals to count. That's my take, and I know I'm in the minority on it, but as a former linesman and an anal obsessor about offsides, that's my prerogative.

Anyhow, I digress.

Last night's botched call during Chicago's 4-3 win over the Wild in Minnesota made me wonder about the viability of the offsides challenge rule for the first time, because the officials had the replay and still stubbornly refused to make the right call. (A somehow blinded on-ice quartet of officials (#28 Chris Lee, #10 Kyle Rehman, #78 Brian Mach, #81 Ryan Daisy) let Zach Parise's goal stand even though this play was so blatantly offsides that it boggles the mind (the video is above, do check it out).

Puck Daddy Greg Wyshinski has all the details you need to know about the NHL's reasons for the call here, but I do disagree with Wyshinski's notion that it would be better to scrap the offsides video reviews.

Here's his take:

Kill it now. Kill it with fire.

Human error is part of the game, and there are missed calls on every shift that help result in a goal. (And before you claim that something like interference is subjective and an offside is black-and-white, to that I’d say it’s all illegal.)

Goals should be a bigger part of the game. So the idea that you’re allowing their validity to be determined by a skate blade glancing the blue paint before the puck crosses – literally counting pixels – is dumbfounding. Through Jan. 26, we’ve had 62 coach’s challenges for offside, and 21 times the review took a goal off the board.

The NHL has done a good job up until now of getting the calls right on these offsides reviews. I don't get why they botched this one so badly, but let it be a lesson to them. Get the calls right and you don't have to face a barrage of criticism in the ensuing 24 hours.

This was the easiest, most obvious and glaring misinterpretation of a video review that I've ever seen on one of these challenged offsides. On the actual play, the lineseman on the ice clearly got confused because the puck went out and came back into the zone quickly, and because Coyle's skates were not in the zone while Parise was tagging up. I get it as a former linesman and ref--stuff happens fast out there and if you lose your focus (the linesman was also out of position) the call is easy to miss. That's why the system is there -- to fix these bad calls.

The system was in place, the video was revealing. Everything was as it should be. So how did this go so woefully wrong?

I just can't figure out why the officials who stood on the ice watching video of this couldn't make the right call.

Here is the NHL's explanation (lame):

At 7:15 of the second period in the Blackhawks/Wild game, Chicago requested a Coach's Challenge to review whether Minnesota was off-side prior to Zach Parise's goal. Review was not conclusive in determining whether Parise had had tagged up at the instant the puck touched Charlie Coyle's stick. According to Rule 78.7, "If a review is not conclusive and/or there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether the call on the ice was correct, the On-Ice Official(s) will be instructed to confirm their original call."

Except, how was this inconclusive?

Go to Puck Daddy's post and you will find not one, not two, but THREE conclusive angles of this play being offsides.

Here's my marked-up screen cap from the video that the NHL posted along with it's explanation!

That's the issue here--that the call was botched, not the fact that the call was being reviewed.

My point is that the NHL needs to circle back and retrain its officials so that they don't blow these calls again. Give them bigger monitors. Let New York HQ get involved--whatever it takes. But don't scrap the rule because of one botched call. Just be thankful it happened in February and not in May and double-down on getting these calls right.

That's my take and I'm sticking to it.

Look, offsides is part of hockey. It's a crucial element. It takes proper technique and timing to stay onsides when joining a rush. You have to read your teammate and read the play and oftentimes get your skate blade down and keep it down while waiting for the puck to get lugged over the line.

It takes technical wherewithal and tactical smarts to get it done. Offides is the critical rule of hockey. It's everything. Freaking review it. KEEP REVIEWING IT. Just train the damn officials to use their critical minds and their common sense to GET THE FREAKING CALLS RIGHT!