The Edmonton Oilers were on the wrong side of an offside review Tuesday night, potentially costing them a valuable point in the standings and leaving a frustrated Connor McDavid questioning the NHL’s policy on offside challenges.
Down 2-1 with approximately five minutes remaining in the third period, Edmonton entered the Nashville Predators‘ zone. Mark Letestu was carrying the puck with Ryan Strome to his left and Jujhar Khaira on the right flank. The linesman, standing within a few feet of Khaira at the time, waved his arms to indicate the Oilers had remained onside when crossing the blue line. Seven seconds later Mark Letestu buried a rebound past Pekka Rinne.
Predators bench boss Peter Laviolette issued a coach’s challenge and upon review it was determined Khaira’s left skate briefly came off the ice a fraction of a second before the puck fully crossed the line resulting in a retroactive offside call and no goal.
“We battle that hard and found a way to tie up the game and the guy’s an arm hair offside and they call it back,” a vexed McDavid told reporters at Bridgestone Arena following his team’s third consecutive loss. “It’s obviously hard to not agree with the rule and the video challenge because obviously it didn’t go our way, but if we were on the other side we would obviously love the rule, so it’s tough to comment on it right now but ultimately I feel they should just take the rule out.
“I think the number of calls that are a millimetre offside 45 seconds before the play, it doesn’t have very much of an effect on the goal itself. I think the fans want to see offence and if that’s going to hold back from offence it’s obviously frustrating.”
According to Rule 83.1 in the NHL rulebook: “A player is offside when both skates are completely over the leading edge of the blue line involved in the play. A player is onside when either of his skates are in contact with, or on his own side of the line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line regardless of the position of his stick.”
Although Khaira’s left skate had broken the vertical plane of the blue line and upon first glance it looked as though he stayed onside—just like the linesman had initially ruled—he was technically offside because that skate was not making contact with the ice and his other skate was already fully across the line.
This exact skate-off-the-ice offside scenario was discussed at the NHL general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., in March of 2017. Team GMs debated whether or not to tweak the definition of what constitutes a player being onside/offside but ultimately decided against it.
Ironically, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said at the time, “We think offside is working.”
The two main concerns of GMs were (a) that determining whether or not a player’s skate was onside or offside would still be a grey area whether a skate was contacting the ice or in the air and (b) that it could become a safety issue if players began intentionally lifting their skates off the ice in an attempt to stay onside.
“It’s very hard to sit here and question the rule right now because it’s obviously a little sensitive with it going against us but I think it’s something I hope they take out,” added McDavid, who scored the Oilers’ lone goal in the game to snap his seven-game goalless drought.
The oft-criticized review system has shown its flaws this season. Back in October the NHL was forced to admit it incorrectly called back a goal in a game between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues.
If the Oilers are going to turn the season around and make the playoffs they’ll need to catch as many breaks as possible down the stretch. Edmonton, currently nine points back of a playoff spot, visit the Arizona Coyotes Friday and Vegas Golden Knights Saturday to finish off a five-game road trip before heading into their bye week.