Photo Credit: © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Three Ways The NHL Can Improve The Offside Review

Tuesday night it happened again. The Winnipeg Jets scored their second goal of the first period against the Vancouver Canucks thanks to a booming Anthony Bitetto slapshot that just trickled its way through Jacob Markstrom’s pads, only to have the goal removed because seventeen seconds earlier, the Jets were perceived to be offside as they entered the Canucks zone.

The Jets and Canucks had actually lined up for the face-off and were mere seconds away from the puck dropping and everything moving on when Canucks coach Travis Green requested a review.

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Out of that, NHL officials figured they had more than enough proof that a Jets forward entered the Canucks zone before the puck did, and thus: no goal.

Enough of this madness already. The offside rule is fine, but the review has to change and I have three ideas that the NHL could roll with:

1 – It has to be blatantly offside and directly lead to a goal to be waved off

My biggest problem with the offside rule and the reviews in general is that it’s all very disingenuous to the heart of the rule. The idea behind stopping players from entering the zone well before the puck does is to prevent players from getting a jump on the defending team with what would be an unfair advantage. If a player was able to get behind the defense and wait for the puck to get to him for an offensive scoring chance, well it would look something like this:

Remember this goal? This example of brutal officiating is why we have an offside review process in the first place. Back in the 2012-13 season, offside reviews weren’t a thing, so when Matt Duchene scored a breakaway goal on the Nashville Predators that was obviously offside to everyone that saw it except for the linesman that was right there, the NHL figured it had better make ALL scoring plays review-able for any kind of offside play.

Every. Single. Play.

So while on this play, while Duchene was a good five feet ahead of the puck when it entered the zone, a lot of plays will see a player offside by a foot if not less and those are called no good because we can’t possibly let game officials make judgment calls on if an unfair advantage was gained or not because their inability to think properly is how we got to this point to begin with.

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And while the Duchene goal happened as a direct result, seconds after he gathered the puck after going offside, a lot of the goals that are called off now happen well after the initial zone entry is made. In the case of the Jets waved off goal on Tuesday, it was a 17 full seconds from zone entry time to the point where the puck crossed the goal line.

When the puck and the Jets entered the zone, there were already three Canucks right there ready to defend. None of the three Jets ready to go on offense with the puck were the eventual goal scorer. The puck and first Jet forward (in this case Jack Roslovic) to cross into the offensive zone practically happens at the same time.

So, simple fix: Plays like this where there is no dramatic or obvious advantage gained from being ever so slightly ahead of the puck when you enter the zone, or any goal that happens more than 10 seconds after the initial zone entry, are officially good goals.

2 – You got 15 seconds to challenge

I feel like this is an amendment that could apply to all review challenges. Referees don’t get the benefit of watching replays before making calls, why should coaches?

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As I mentioned, the Jets had celebrated, both teams changed players and lined up for a faceoff at center ice, and the ref was crouched and ready to drop the puck when finally a call was made to review the play. That’s way too much time, so no more of this looking for a TV monitor to see a replay, or getting word from eyes in the sky that a play should be challenged. The head coach of each team gets 15 seconds from the time the ref signals a goal to challenge a play. Give coaches a red flag just like in football so it’s obvious the moment they wish to challenge.

The goal here is to correct obviously blown calls that any person could see with their own two eyes in real time that was a missed call. Hockey has plenty of those all the time. Again, taking the Duchene clip into consideration, everyone knew right away that was an offside play even before the goal was scored.

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When a play is offside and it’s obvious, you know right away. Those are the types of plays that should get reviewed, not the ones that need to be looked at six times over in super slow-motion replay.

3 – Just get rid of the offside review altogether

The offside review was a knee-jerk reaction to one or two badly missed calls. NHL referees miss calls all the time, but because these missed calls directly affected the final score, the NHL did what the NHL always does and overreacted and went with a shortcut answer of just leaning into video review instead of more practical solutions like better training for officials or, ya know, just getting better officials.

Just scrap the whole offside review thing completely. There is no bigger buzzkill in hockey than seeing your team score a goal and then after 30 seconds of celebrating, hearing the words “the play is under review” … Even if the review works out in your team’s favor it still kills any excitement fans may have had for the goal. Much like the foot-in-the-crease rule from the late 1990’s, it’s a well meaning review that is robbing all of us of goals due to plays that are too close to call and in some cases don’t even have any bearing on how a goal was scored.