|Should the refs add a little video-review time to their huddles? (Getty Images)|
This is 2-on-1, a weekly feature from Eye on Hockey in which Adam Gretz and Brian Stubits debate a topic in the NHL.
There has been more than a few questionable calls early on this season, renewing the conversation about more review in the NHL. Will we see an expanded replay system in hockey? Should we?
GRETZ: It has been a pretty brutal couple of weeks for NHL referees. We've seen phantom goalie interference calls negate goals (important goals), and we've seen major penalties and ejections handed out for legal hits. Naturally, the discussion has turned back to potentially expanding replay and whether such plays should be reviewable.
Renaud Lavoie of RDS mentioned on Twitter on Wednesday night that coaches' challenges will be something that's back on the table for the next round of general managers' meetings in March.
You for that or against it, Brian? Do you believe in the human element? Put me down as being in favor -- 100 percent. And the hell with the human element. I want the calls right. I always hear fans and analysts in other sports talk about how great the NHL's replay system is with the war room in Toronto (I think that's up for some level of debate as to how great it is), so why can't we take advantage of the technology that is at our disposal? It's there, and it's not like these calls have much gray area to them. Plays like the Andrew Desjardins and David Backes hits are pretty black-and-white issues, as are many of the goalie interference calls that take away goals. And it wouldn't take that long to correct them. I'm not asking for unlimited challenges, but give coaches one per game.
STUBITS: First, I have to separate two different issues on this. I would like to see more replay in hockey, but I don't think we should see it and I definitely don't think we will see it. It has little to do with the "human element" of things, either.
I'm just not sure how you can expand review much further in the game. There just are not a ton of things in hockey that are black-and-white rules. Replay works for goals because it's simple; did the puck cross the line, or not? Offsides would fit this bill, too, but it's impossible for that to be reviewable because in most cases the play was blown dead with a premature offsides whistle. What good would a review do then? You'd end up with a faceoff, maybe just in the zone instead of outside. The point is, it would only be one-sided, it would only serve to take away goals and that's probably not very high atop the NHL's agenda.
GRETZ: Well, I never thought about reviewing things like offsides or icing (though there would be some advantage to the latter, I guess). I think the recent plays with Desjardins and Backes are pretty black and white. They were obviously blown calls the first time you watched them. They wouldn't have taken much time to review, overturn and get right. Why can't we review that stuff? The NHL was able to review it after the fact and take away the match penalty for Backes. But a lot of good that did St. Louis when the ensuing Detroit power play changed the game and ultimately resulted in the Blues losing a divisional game.
The same is true for any of the plays that resulted in a disallowed goal over the past three weeks when there was clearly no contact -- or interference -- made with the goaltender. It's not like we needed to watch those plays for 10 minutes to determine they were wrong.
STUBITS: I was only using offsides as an example to show something this is a black-and-white issue.
Because the problem is otherwise you're talking about issues that still require judgment. Yes, in the case of the Backes and Desjardins hits, it was easy to see they weren't hits to the head. But what's the cutoff point here? They aren't all that easy. The league's chief disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan, goes through so much work reviewing these tapes that he has hearings with the player to get his side of things. He reviews the minutiae on plays such as, did the player's skates come off the ice before the hit, etc. Can you imagine the referees stopping play after every big hit to review? It would make a swift game a slog.
The same goes for goalie interference calls. Like it or not, there is judgment in those calls. In fact, by definition in Rule 69, it is a judgment call.
A league source told me the NHL sees this as a purely judgment call and it's not suited for replay. It's akin to football not allowing calls such as pass interference to be reviewed. Yes, there are some black-and-white natures to the call, but there are also some judgmental elements included. It just doesn't work for replay.
You can't get past the fact that, in the video below, you can't completely dismiss the idea that there is judgment involved in the decision of whether Carey Price was prevented from making a save. It sure seems like he wasn't, but that's something that's up for interpretation.
If they were to consider expanded replay on issues such as this -- and that's a humoungous big if -- I think it would have to be with some kind of challenge system. With a third off-ice official or "booth reviews" you'd have way too many stoppages and a brisk, 2 1/2 hour game becomes a 3-hour game before you know it.
GRETZ: I'm fine with a challenge system. And it doesn't have to be unlimited challenges so games are taking three and four hours. Give each coach one for the game, and he can use it as his discretion.
And I understand some plays aren't as clear as the two recent ones that I cited with Backes and Desjardins. But just because the play is challenged doesn't mean it has to be overturned. If there is nothing conclusive, then let it stand as called on the ice.
I realize there is no perfect system or perfect answer to this, and there will always be incorrect calls. But if we can fix some of them, at least the ones that are obviously wrong and negatively impacting the game, I think the league owes it to its fans to do that.
STUBITS: That would be a first, the NHL owing the fans for something.
I'm with you in that I would like to see some way that these issues could be fixed. I am just not sure there is a way because I don't think replay is the answer, and I definitely don't think we will see it coming to the league at all soon. So maybe I am drifting back to the "human element" aspect of it, after all.
But, really, every team gets the breaks to go against them or for them from time to time. I'm sure every fan feels their favorite team is always on the wrong end, but these things really do have a tendency to balance out. You could say that the Desjardins bad call was balanced out by getting his teammate, Brad Stuart, getting nothing on a hit on Gabriel Landeskog.
It ideally would be wonderful to fix the officiating that ails the game, but it isn't going to happen. All you can do is try to train and teach the officials more.
Previously from Eye on Hockey