Leafs’ Babcock: NHL puts heat on coaches with new penalty

Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock says obviously the league wasn't happy with all the offside coach’s challenges last season, and the new rule will put a lot of head on coaches and the poor guys in the video room.

TORONTO – Mike Babcock believes the National Hockey League is making head coaches take the heat as it tries correct a rule that got abused.

The NHL’s board of governors gave final approval for a rule change Wednesday, replacing the lost timeout for a failed offside challenge with a two-minute bench minor.

“The league made the rule. The league didn’t like it. So what they did is they put it on the coaches now,” said Babcock following Toronto Maple Leafs practice Thursday. “Whatever, doesn’t matter to me.”

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Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is steepening the cost of the video review requests in attempt to discourage use of the challenge on borderline offside goals.

In 2016-17, the first season in which the NHL instituted the much-derided offside challenge, coaches called for an offside review 117 times in the regular season. On 78 occasions, or 66.6 per cent of the time, the official’s original call was upheld.

“Sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen once you install a rule. No one would’ve predicted that every quarter-inch blade off the ice at the blue line would [result in a challenge],” said Leafs defenceman Ron Hainsey, a member of the competition committee that suggested the adjustment to the board.

“I think this will ease the super-close offside, which wasn’t the intent of the rule. The intent of the rule was the five-foot offside where everyone in the stands was like, ‘Holy cow! How’d they miss that?’ That penalty is going in to satisfy what was an unintended consequence.”

Babcock’s bench has been quick to adjust to coach’s challenge rules. In October 2015, the Leafs became the first team to dispute a goal with a successful goaltender interference challenge.

But this new wrinkle will test the eyes of video analysts Adam Jancelewicz and Jordan Bean.

“You gotta think about it, right? You’re trying to get that right and your game’s on the line, it’s going to be a tough decision. You imagine how much heat it’s going to put on the poor guys in the video room? You have no idea,” Babcock said.

“Obviously they thought it happened too much in the league. They wanted to find a way to put it on us, so they put it on the coaches.”