BOCA RATON, FLORIDA — Dean Lombardi had his hands on his hips, looked at up the cloud-dotted sky and became the very picture of exasperation. “It’s just a lot more complicated than you think,” he said.
We leave these National Hockey League general managers meetings talking about the same goal that we referenced upon our arrival. A goal that — after three days of haggling — the league is no closer to being able to call off today than they were when these meetings began.
It was the deflection high off the netting that landed on Jonathan Quick’s back and went into the L.A. Kings’ goal — the very epitome of bad goal off a missed call. But when discussion turns to crafting the rule that could correct a goal like that, someone asks about offside, and someone else about high-sticking. And before you know it, a simple fix is anything but simple anymore.
“The irony is, we had this two years ago. I was on the same committee. And it ended just like that,” Lombardi, the Los Angeles Kings GM, said. “The hard part on this one is, when you see something like that that’s so far out in left field, you want to fix it. But as soon as you try to fix it, does it apply to offsides? Does it apply to high sticks or all those other things that aren’t reviewable now? You want to fix it, but then you throw in all the other things, and the meeting ended up like it did two years ago.”
There is, in fact, an option hidden deep in the rulebook that empowers someone in the Video Review Room in Toronto to call off a clearly bad goal, or rule on an obviously good goal. NHL V.P. Colin Campbell recalls the time when a puck was under Roberto Luongo's legs, and both his legs were in the back of the goal. Luongo dragged his legs out without anyone every actually seeing the puck, but Campbell — and everyone else — knew the puck was there. He ruled it a goal.
But on Dec. 18 there were 12 other games going on, and the NHL's Video Review Room was stressed. It was the night John Tortorella charged the Flames dressing room in Vancouver. Goals were going in at Phoenix, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis... And decisions have to be made quickly.
Campbell admits now that he probably should have called the Detroit goal off, despite the fact a puck off the netting is not currently reviewable.
It was common sense then, and should be common sense now. So let's establish a new position inside the Video Review Room.
We'll call him Vice President of Common Sense. He can wear sensible shoes, a grey cardigan, and when something as ridiculous as what occurred that night in Detroit happens again, he should be free to exercise common sense.
Seriously, there isn't a GM — let alone a fan or player — in the game today who thinks that goal should count. Or the famous scenario where the puck is under the goalie's glove, the glove is clearly all the way in the net, but Toronto cannot call it a goal because they can't SEE the puck across the line.
Common sense dictates, that's a goal. We'll give our new V.P. a two-year deal, because these GMs should be able to craft a new rule by then.
Because this isn't down-sizing equipment, where the players' union gets involved and a decade later we've made almost zero progress. It is closer to Rule 48 — the head shot rule — where we arrived here one year after Matt Cooke had blasted Marc Savard, and Campbell had to admit, "Right now, there is no rule against that check."
The fact there was no rule in place intensified the search for one. In the meantime, referees were ordered to crack down the best they could. Today, suspensions under Rule 48 are, if not rare, infrequent.
Who cares about making a rule that encompasses every single, possible bad goal that 30 GMs can dream up at a tony resort? Fix the obvious bad goals — like in Detroit; like when Colorado's Matt Duchene is six feet offside — and the percentage of truly bad goal could be cut in half.
And don't give me the old, "Yeah, but what about if it happened in a Game 7?"
If you're a GM, and you don't have enough pride to throw a goal back that stands as an embarrassment to the league should it be allowed, then you should look in the mirror.
Stop thinking about your team. Start thinking about the game.
Use some common sense.