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Memories of the "Foot in the Crease" Rule; The Coach's Challenge Rule is Completely Broken

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An obviously flawed rule is causing the NHL problems in the playoffs. Shocking.

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In theory, allowing NHL coaches to challenge an offside makes complete sense. The league's officials are far from perfect - since they're human this shouldn't come as a surprise anyone - and if they miss a call, then with the benefit of today's technology, that is something that the NHL believes is worth trying to correct. Think about Danny Briere's goal versus the Penguins in the 2012 playoffs, he was obviously offside on the play and that's the kind of mistake that the NHL is trying to correct with this rule. Like I said, it makes total sense.

Unfortunately that's not how the rule is working, it's not just the obviously missed calls that are being reviewed, but anything that is close to offside. It's understandable that coaches are using the challenge in this way because in a league where goal scoring is at a premium if you can take one away from the opposition you have to do it. But this isn't the spirit of the rule and it's quickly becoming a problem for the NHL. In the opening weekend of the NHL playoffs three games had a controversial offside review, and while we've all heard that there is no such thing as bad publicity, I really doubt that this is a situation that the NHL wants to deal with or envisioned when they created the rule.

At this point it's the 1999 playoffs all over again. Back then, as soon as a goal was scored you wondered if a player's toenail had been in the crease, not if the goalie had been interfered with in anyway, just whether or not some part of a player's foot had been in the crease. It led to review after review after review, it killed the flow of the game, and it took away a lot of what I considered to be good goals. Today it's not a foot in the crease but whether or not a player was a millimetre offside. Different rule, exact same result. All we can hope for this year is that the Stanley Cup winning goal isn't scored on a goal that should have been called back but wasn't.

For what it's worth, I think video review of offsides is completely unnecessary. Without video review mistakes like the Briere goal will happen from time to time, and while unfortunate, I don't believe that it's such a common occurrence that it's worth worrying about. I accept that bad calls get made and penalties get missed, and think that over time it all balances out. So if it were up to me I would get of the review completely. It's obviously not up to me though and I suspect that the NHL is going to tweak this rule in the off-season rather than abandon it completely. What might that look like? I see two available options, one easy the other much more difficult.

The easiest way to deal with this is to impose a bench minor for delay of game should the challenge not result in the original call being overturned; essentially treating the coach's challenge the exact same way that an illegal stick measurement is treated. I saw this suggested on Twitter on Saturday afternoon and it seems perfect to me because it'll eliminate the "I might as well challenge that because all I stand to lose is a time-out" challenges that we're seeing today. Clearly coaches feel that the risk of losing a time-out is worth the reward of having a goal overturned, so adjust the risk and make them think twice. Simple.

This is the NHL we're talking about though, so simple is rarely the route that they choose. Instead I expect them to first add more cameras and then to tweak the review process, probably making things more convoluted than they are now. I've heard suggestions of sending all reviews to the NHL's Situation Room or providing the on-ice officials with something better to review the play on than the tablets they're using currently. Not bad suggestions but neither will do anything to address the problem of the rule not functioning as intended.

Others have suggested that plays be reviewed first at full speed to determine if it is reasonable to expect that a call was missed. The idea being that this would address most of the frame-by-frame reviews that we're seeing today, the ones that really shouldn't be reviewed at all. Again, this is fine in theory but I suspect that defining reasonable would prove to be a problem, with everyone interpreting it just a little differently and the NHL eventually having to fix their solution.

By now everyone has their own way of wanting to deal with this problem. Maybe yours is one of the options listed above or some variation of, or even something completely different. I'd prefer the simplest option, but at this point I'm not sure that I care what they do as long as they do something because anything has to be better than what they have right now. The system was obviously broken during the season and should have been addressed then but for whatever reason was ignored. Perhaps with the higher profile of it being used during the playoffs will get it the second look it requires. Or maybe it'll take a Brett Hull moment before it gets addressed.