The NHL’s general managers spent the better part of the first day of their annual meetings in Boca Raton discussing the issue that was on the minds of many: goaltender interference.
The subject was initially supposed to take about 90 minutes of conversation, but the 31 NHL general managers spent three hours scouring video clips of coach’s challenges and searching for clarity.
The discussion left little doubt as to the nebulousness of the issue, which is to say that a concrete solution to what is and what isn’t goaltender interference may not be coming anytime soon.
The findings according to NHL.com’s breakdown of the first day’s discussions suggest the problem of subjectivity. When asked to look at 14 clips of coach’s challenges and to determine if the call was “goal” or “no goal,” the results were often split among the 31 in attendance.
This has been apparent since the outset.
“You were never going to satisfy everybody, and that’s not the goal,” Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said. “The goal is to hopefully make the better call and avoid some of the big mistakes that maybe have been made in the past.”
Despite the chatter, the NHL largely believes the existing coach’s challenge system is working. Video review, too, is working.
The average time for a video review for goaltender interference has fallen over the years as the league hammers out the details. In the first season of its implementation, the average time to get the call was 2:22. Now it takes less than two minutes, on average, for video review.
Coach’s challenges are happening more frequently, with 170 through 1,100 games this season thus far. That’s up from the 144 calls in the first season of implementation.
For the most part, the calls on the ice seem to stand. Out of 17 challenges this season, 119 have sided with the officials. 51 have changed calls. Nine calls were “controversial” and four calls featured strong disagreements between those in the video review room and those on the ice.
“There should be change and there will be,” Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “It’s just making sure it’s the right thing. I think we also have to be very careful and dwell on [whether] something is majorly wrong. We had several isolated incidents that were flagrant, and they overshadow everything else.”
There are particulars that bear discussing, and the general managers will have some decisions to make as the meetings carry on this week.
Of the possible changes, a clearer set of terms is on the table. Something akin to how the Department of Player Safety handles suspensions is a possibility.
The inclusion of a referee in the Situation Room is also something that was discussed, but another possible change involves steering the final call away from referees and to a dedicated group in the Hockey Operations department.
The scrapping of the coach’s challenge in its entirety was also up for grabs, with the final decisions on all goals and potential goaltender interference left to officials in the Situation Room.
The general managers will come up with some sort of path forward on goaltender interference and video reviews, but the suggestion from the league seems to be that this isn’t exactly a major problem. Looking at the cold numbers, this seems to reflect reality.
But in the idiosyncratic reality of hockey’s extensive fandom, every “bad call” is an inexcusable disaster.