BOCA RATON, Fla. — The coach’s challenge is getting good reviews from NHL general managers in its first year of use, but it’s not exempt from a little tweaking.
Discussion of the coach’s challenge headlined the first day of the NHL general managers meetings Monday, and support was strong amongst the 30 GMs, who see the added opportunity to get a goal call right as beneficial for the game.
The initiative allows coaches to use video review to dispute goals scored on potential offside or goalie-interference plays.
“I think everybody feels fairly comfortable with it,” said Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello. “The whole objective is to get it right.”
Still, the NHL will make one tweak for the playoffs, adding blue-line cameras to the arenas of the 16 post-season teams. The cameras are intended to further aid clubs in determining whether to challenge a goal on account of offsides.
"I think it was a good day to show where we're at with the coach's challenge and where we can get to," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's executive vice president and director of hockey operations.
Forty-two of the 69 challenges (61 per cent) for offsides were upheld entering play on Monday night with 27 overturned to "no-goal."
Video coaches, who advise the head coach on whether to challenge such plays, will have access to the feeds of the new cameras. Campbell said the feeds will help video coaches determine whether or not to challenge in a quicker and more effective fashion.
There will be two cameras set up for the blue lines, one on the glass boards and another four feet extended above the bench. The NHL tested the cameras at the all-star game in Nashville as well as the two most recent outdoor games.
The cameras will be adopted for the start of the next regular season across the league.
"The offsides should be a black-and-white call," Ken Holland, the Detroit Red Wings general manager, said on the subject.
General managers were shown a variety of plays that drew the coach's challenge so far this season and were then asked to vote whether to allow the goal or call it back. On most plays two-thirds were in agreement, Campbell said.
That was evidence of the judgment call which GMs seemed to accept as part of the process, one that improves the bigger picture of determining what is and what isn't a goal.
"You've gotta to look back at the reason we did these coach's challenges originally was to try to take care of the egregious mistakes. We've certainly done that," said Chicago GM Stan Bowman. "There's been no (incidents) where everyone afterwards is thinking 'Boy we got that wrong.'"
Seventy-five per cent of the more than 200 challenges had been upheld entering play on Monday night. Only 21 per cent were overturned on account of goaltender interference.
"The few ones that go against you, you're still better off than you were a year ago," said Bowman, whose Blackhawks have had three goals called back as a result of the process. "My point is if we don't have a coach's challenge you're no better off."
The league wants to take the full season, playoffs included, to fully evaluate the coach's challenge, reviewing it once more at the GM meetings in June. All seem to agree that it's here to stay, though with a tweak here or there.
It's possible the league shifts the final determination for the offside challenges to the video war room in Toronto as opposed to the current format, which sees referees make a judgment while using a smallish tablet device.
Also discussed was the new three-on-three all-star format. There was broad consensus to flip the format after the 2015 all-star game in Columbus, which Campbell said "was so bad we had to do something."
Lamoriello was among those who liked the new format.
"I did because of comparing what the all-star games have been in the past," said Lamoriello.
The GMs touched on notable players missing out on the game for injuries. Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Washington's Alex Ovechkin both played in their team's final game before the all-star weekend in Nashville before pulling out with various ailments -- an illness for Toews, back problems for Ovechkin.
Both were suspended one game each afterward. It's something the league is still trying to address.
"It never is a good thing," said Campbell. "We haven't really addressed that."