BOCA RATON, Fla. — Is the coach's challenge working as well as it should in the NHL?
General managers will discuss the effectiveness of the review process when they gather this week for annual meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., with potential tweaks to the shootout and icing as well as a review of new goalie equipment also on the docket. The meetings will feature a 31st GM for the first time with George McPhee of the newly minted Vegas Golden Knights expected to attend.
Instituted at the beginning of 2015-16 season, the coach's challenge system — which allows coaches to flag goals for video review — has not been without hiccups. Confusion has lingered over the precise definition of goaltender interference when it comes to overturning a goal and there has been evident frustration with the offside element of the review process.
A goal for Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad was notably called back during the playoffs last spring in a game his club ultimately lost in overtime to the New York Islanders.
Only about a quarter of the goals challenged have been overturned this season, including just 34-of-124 on account of goalie interference as of March 3 or about 28 per cent. Twenty-nine of the 92 challenges for offsides (31 per cent) were flipped — all to no goal.
The length of reviews has also not been without scrutiny with the flow of game action sometimes stymied.
Another interesting topic of discussion expected among the GMs this week is a potential change to the shootout, one that would allow teams to choose repeat shooters after three rounds.
Players are currently permitted to shoot just once in the shootout.
Perhaps as a means of increasing scoring — at its highest level in the NHL since 2010-11 — general managers will also discuss an element of icing, specifically whether a timeout should continue to be allowed for the defending team. Coaches often give their players an opportunity to catch their breath with a timeout after the puck is iced.
Slimmer goaltending equipment, introduced at varying steps this season, will also be evaluated. Some, including Mike Smith of the Arizona Coyotes, have voiced concern about having to change up an element of their equipment mid-season.
Smith was also among those concerned with an update to the NHL's concussion protocol this season, which allows trained spotters to have players removed from games if they exhibit "visible signs of concussion" following a direct or indirect hit to the head. Smith told the Arizona Republic last month that there were "flaws in the system," including potential for opponents to intentionally run goaltenders and force them out of the game.
He wondered how the protocol might affect a playoff game.
Also new this season and drawing some pushback is the "bye week", a five-day period of mandated time off for NHL clubs. Players are strongly in support of the time off, but coaches and clubs have expressed frustration both with the varied timing of the week off (some in December, some in February) and the effect it has on scheduling — including a continued decrease in practice time.
The bye week is expected to be altered next season if NHL players don't end up attending the 2018 Olympics, another topic commissioner Gary Bettman is likely to address. To this point, NHL clubs have resistant to sending players to the South Korea Games, which get started less than one year from now.