In theory, reviewing a play, goal, or other event in sports is a great idea; the whole point is to get things right and determine a true winner, right? As you’ve noticed from interminable waiting periods for marginal calls – in the NHL, but also in plenty of other sports, with the NFL providing some of the funniest optics over the years – it can be excruciating in practice.
It’s basically that old saying about good intentions, only with way more instant replays.
Fans and media aren’t the only ones annoyed by some of these ticky tacky reviews. In particular, offside goal reviews continue to annoy, and Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid vented last night about a would-be 2-2 goal that didn’t survive because Jujhar Khaira was “an arm hair” offside.
After acknowledging that the subject was a little more sensitive considering the Oilers’ 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators last night, McDavid said what many of us have been thinking.
“Ultimately I think they should just take the rule out,” McDavid said, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.
McDavid adds that the marginal offside also didn’t have much of an effect on the would-be goal itself. TSN provided a helpful screengrab to show just how marginal the call was on Khaira:
Sportsnet also gave this moment something of a Zapruder film breakdown:
Now, it’s fair to note that it was still technically the right call, but such tiny differences betray the real aim of reviewing an offside or onside goal. (See: Matt Duchene‘s offside-by-a-mile goal from many moons ago.)
It starts to feel like the NFL’s crisis when it comes to what is or is not a reception, as officials might be making the right decisions, only fans shake their heads at the seemingly unnecessary complications.
Speaking of which, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun caught up with NHL exec Colin Campbell about the “skate in the air” element of these reviews (sub required). Campbell had already said that GMs couldn’t come to a consensus. In addressing the lack of consensus, Campbell makes a great point about the nature of sports fans: if a call seems unjust in a big moment, these small details suddenly become huge.
“I’ll try it again at the March meeting,” Campbell said to LeBrun over the phone Wednesday. “I think I’ll try to buy the managers over again as a group. People might say, ‘Who cares about one inch?’ A whole city would care in the playoffs about one inch if it was offside. That’s why we have the offside Coach’s Challenge …”
One point McDavid made in saying offside reviews should be eliminated is that fans want goals, and it does seem like the reviews are instead eliminating them.
According to TSN, there have been 33 offside challenges. In 13 instances, the original call was upheld. In 20 others, it was reversed to no goal.
The NHL is already discouraging offside review challenges, to some extent, by adding a two-minute delay of game minor for a failed challenge. While that can be a harsh punishment – the Predators would have seen their lead dissolve and would have needed to kill a penalty late in the third period – it’s not always often to deter Peter Laviolette and others from challenging what was a marginal call.
Pekka Rinne praised the assistant who recommended the challenge, saying he had a surgeon’s eyes.
Hey, it’s great to see attention to detail paying off, but it’s not as fun when all of this violates “the spirit of the rule.” Especially when that means halting the flow of play, wasting time, and losing goals.
Just as Connor McDavid, and probably plenty of other hockey players, media, and fans.
(Interestingly, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has been OK with the way the offside process has been going, but maybe that’s changed after this moment?)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.