One of the biggest storylines in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been the state of the officiating and instant replay in the league.
It has been such a dominant talking point because there have been several controversial plays and calls that were allowed to stand because the on-ice officials and the NHL’s situation room were unable to correct them.
Among the biggest calls that have caused the most criticism…
- The five-minute major to Vegas Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin that helped swing Game 7 of their Round 1 series toward the San Jose Sharks.
- The missed call on Columbus where the puck hit the protective netting, was missed by the on-ice officials, and ultimately resulted in a goal for the Blue Jackets.
- The two plays on Wednesday night in St. Louis where a missed puck over the glass call helped later lead to a Blues goal, and then the big one, the missed hand pass in overtime that produced the Sharks’ game-winning goal to give them a 2-1 series lead.
There have been several other plays, but those are the big ones, especially since none of them were able to be reviewed by the league’s current instant replay rules. All of these plays happening in the playoffs, within a very short period of time, has naturally steered the discussion in the direction of increased instant replay.
Count Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour among those in favor of doing more to help the on-ice officials get the calls right.
[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Before Game 4 of his team’s series against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream), Brind’Amour was asked about the latest missed call (Karlsson’s overtime winner on Wednesday night in St. Louis) and whether or not it is time to use more replay.
“It’s been time forever,” said Brind’Amour. “I was sitting at home with my son watching that game, there was a play earlier, think it was one of those [puck] flipped over the glass, and said watch how long this is going to take when we’ll know within three seconds — and we did. NBC showed a review, it’s a penalty. They [the refs] were actually quick to say no penalty, but it’s time. We can go on with this forever. It’s time. It’s time to get the calls right because it’s just too important, the games matter so much. I don’t know, that was tough last night to watch.”
He continued: “Help the refs. These refs are great refs. Live you can’t tell. There are so many calls where I go, I don’t really know, then I look down, I see it, then I lose my mind because I know it’s the wrong call. But they can’t be expected to make those calls like that, it’s way too hard. There’s an easy solution for it, I think. They will get to it because this can’t keep going on. It’s tough.”
Critics of expanded replay will complain of the “slippery slope” it sends the league down, the unintended consequences that come with such rule changes, and also point to the fact that even with review there is still going to be controversy and calls that aren’t as black-and-white as you might hope (see that Gabriel Landeskog offside play in Game 7 against the Sharks as an example of the latter two points).
But at some point you have to be willing to do something more than just shrug your shoulders and say, “there’s nothing that can be done” when one of these plays happens.
Especially when the technology easily exists to right some of these wrongs.
Maybe the solution is an NFL-style format where every scoring play is automatically reviewed for anything that could deem it illegal (like a hand pass setting it up, or a puck hitting the protective netting). The league can already review for whether or not the puck totally crossed the line or a potential high-sticking infraction. It should not be issue to add other elements of the play to that.
Maybe it is giving a coach one challenge per game that can be used on anything (not just offside or goaltender interference, as the current rule allows) at their own discretion.
Maybe all of it ends up on the table.
A couple of egregious missed offside calls over the years eventually resulted in that play being reviewable. Given how this postseason has gone across the league you can be certain that there is going to be plenty of discussion about adding to it, maybe even as soon as next season.
It doesn’t seem to be a matter of if it happens at this point, but simply a matter of what it looks like and how much it changes when it does.
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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.