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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Coaches Challenge. NHL Rule Changes Part 2 by @ChicksDigHockey

This part two of a two part series looking at the NHL rule changes for the 2015-16 season.
Part one: looked at 3 on 3 OT and face-off changes.

Video review has been a part of the NHL for years. It offers the ability to slow down a game that happens at breakneck speed and add clarity to on-ice officiating in specific situations. The NHL determined that last season there had been less than 10 goals scored that were incorrectly called. With this new system, they hope to cut that number down even more.

This season, the league is adding what it calls "expanded" video review, initiated by the coach.  This change is really a list of changes – and some get a little complicated – but they all center on video review. The coaches challenge can only be used on scoring plays and must be used before play resumes. The requesting team must still have their timeout. If you lose the challenge, you lose your timeout. 

Effectively, you’re limited to one challenge loss a game but as many winning challenges as you can manage without a loss.

Coaches will have the ability one time per game to utilize a "Coach's Challenge" for two specific scenarios:

  • "Offside" play leading to a goal
  • "Interference on the goalkeeper"

The first instance is in the case of an offsides non-call. A coach can now challenge a goal if he believes the scoring team was offsides on the play. If the video review finds the play was in fact offsides, the goal comes off the board and play resumes with a face-off outside of the blue line. Additionally the clock is reset to the time when the offsides occurred. If the play is offside, it is reviewable for the entire stretch of time that the puck stays in the offensive zone even if the puck changes possession and the play goes on for a long period of time afterward (up until the next stoppage in play).

One limitation of this challenge is that as soon as the puck leaves the zone and re-enters legally, there is no longer a winnable challenge. They’ll only look at the most recent zone entry.

The next challenge involves goalie interference calls and non-calls. In this case the official can look to see if there should have been a call made that wasn’t, if the player was pushed, tripped or otherwise fouled into the goalie by the defender, and lastly, if there was no contact or contact deemed insignificant on a call that was made. They can’t call a penalty that wasn’t called at the time, but they can award or take a goal away. Obviously if a disallowed goal was overturned on review and a goalie interference penalty was also called on the play, the penalty would go away as well.

The referees now have the ability during the challenge to go to the scorer's table and check to see if there was an obvious mistake made. It's now up to the ref who made the call (and only him) to decide after looking at a small hi-def monitor to determine if a different call should be made. Again the rule of thumb: If it's debatable, the call on the ice is probably going to stand.

There are some strategic things to be considered from a coaching standpoint. 

Will a coach be more hesitant to burn his timeout early in a game if momentum is going against him? Or if his team has iced the puck and has a tired unit out on the ice that could desperately use some rest?

It will be up to each team to come up with a system of communication with the bench to determine whether or not to challenge a call. A coach obviously doesn't have TV monitors on the bench. Somebody who does (like the video coach or someone else) has to alert the coach. (NHL) It has to be done quickly and accurately as challenges can only be made in that brief window between the play in question and the next drop of the puck. I think I feel creative stall tactics coming on… many equipment issues.

Be aware, in the final minute of the 3rd period and all of overtime, Hockey Operations  (Toronto) can initiate a review even without a coaches challenge being available. The review in this case has the same review criteria as a coaches challenge would. If a coach challenges and Hockey Operations was going to call for a review anyway, the coaches challenge is basically nullified and the timeout is safe. Earlier in the game, the normal video review criteria of a goal is limited to the same as it’s been in the past without a coaches challenge.

Between 3 on 3 overtime and the new coaches challenge, this season promises controversy and growing pains. The opportunity for scoring will be increased by the wide-open ice in overtime, while all of the nuances of what is or is not deemed interference, coupled with super slo-mo technology, will fan the emotion already hot behind the benches. Let the debate begin!

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