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Complaining About Offsides Reviews Because They Stink

The Bruins are really good. Hockey is fun.

Yet here we are on November 6th, with two regulation losses, upset. In those two regulation losses – both on the road in Colorado and last night against Montreal – the Bruins have had 3 goals taken away. They lost those games by a combined 3 goals (one being an empty netter). 

Last night in a 4-4 game, Zach Senyshyn fed Charlie Coyle to give the Bruins a 5-4 lead, only to be taken off the board because Charlie Coyle’s skates probably crossed the blue line a fraction of an inch before the back of the puck did. That’s not the problem though.

The argument put forward by multiple NHL analysts on twitter, is that Charlie Coyle had possession and control of the puck when crossing the blueline. The pass from Anders Bjork comes from the middle of the ice a bit behind him. Coyle plays the puck off his right skate to his stick, then makes a centering pass to Zach Senyshyn. Looking at the blueline camera, sure, the puck is possibly a quarter of an inch behind Coyle, but the question is, when did Coyle gain possession? Catching a late pass off the inside edge of the skate is a play every NHL player can make, and it happens often, so what’s the difference between catching the puck with the blade of the stick versus the blade of the skate if Coyle has no issue controlling the puck?

Here’s the point where Coyle plays the puck with his right skate. It’s before he completely gains the blueline. If you take the idea that catching the puck with the stick is the same as controlling it with the skate and then possessing it with the stick without any trouble, this play is onside.

But making the wrong call still isn’t the issue. 

Here’s the infamous Matt Duchene goal in 2013 that prompted the NHL to implement offsides coaches challenges:

It’s egregiously offside. A horrible missed call. That’s what offsides reviews were meant to fix. The problem is how the NHL and their referees are approaching these reviews, as they’ve deviated away from finding the egregious mistake and started looking for something to call. From the time Charlie Coyle put the puck in the net to the time the announcement was made that Montreal was challenging the play, 1 minute and 15 seconds passed, so Claude Julien and co. on the Canadiens bench are essentially allowed to review the play themselves before the referees go review the play on their Ipad mini. It’s clearly not within the egregious realm if it takes the coach over a minute to decide if they want to review it or not. The MLB implemented a rule giving teams 30 seconds to decide if they want to challenge the play or not, and it’s been enforced. Managers haven’t been allowed to challenge plays because they took too long to decide. There’s no reason the NHL can’t implement the same rule.

Following the announcement, there was 3 minutes and 23 seconds until it was announced that the call was reversed and it was no goal. Almost 3 and a half minutes to decide if a play is offside or not? It clearly didn’t affect the play, and clearly isn’t egregious.

“What is the purpose of this rule?” Bruce Cassidy asked in his post-game presser, “Either you find something or you don’t. Three minutes, now you’re looking for something, for it to be offside, so you know it’s gonna go the other way. And it did. So that’s where my beef comes from. The intent of the rule.”

October 10th in Colorado – the Bruins only other regulation loss of the season (yes, they’re good), Jake DeBrusk scored on the power play 1:08 into the third period to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead. Colorado challenged for offside on a zone entry that took place 51 seconds before the DeBrusk goal. The announcement came 1 minute and 6 seconds after the goal. This review took a brisk 55 seconds before being overturned.

Notice where the referee is in this situation just a few frames before Pastrnak goes offside. Was Pastrnak a fraction of an inch offsides? Yes. But if the ref can’t make the call standing on the blue line looking at the puck from 5 feet away, then what’s the point of reviewing it? It didn’t impact the play, the goal wasn’t scored until 51 seconds later, and it certainly doesn’t fall in the realm of egregious.

Bruce Cassidy said it best. They’re looking for something to overturn, and that’s not the intention of the challenge.

What positive do these reviews bring to the game? You want to market the sport, right? How do you expect to explain to a new fan why there was an almost 5-minute delay after a goal to decide if a player’s skate was possibly a quarter of an inch in the zone, and then still not be sure that the call is right? More often than not, the review doesn’t impact the play, and the goal can sometimes come 30+ seconds after the zone entry. 

The NHL has acknowledged there’s something wrong with the rule. They keep tweaking the punishments for a wrong challenge – now a 2 minute minor for one wrong challenge and a double minor for two or more wrong challenges – and upgraded the official’s review device from an iPod shuffle to an iPad mini. They publically acknowledged that it hasn’t worked as they imagined it would. If they’re dead set on leaving the review in the game and getting the call right, then why not set time limits like the MLB did? It would cut down on offside challenges, and take a step toward only correcting the egregious calls. They know it’s an issue, but they just kind of accepted it.

It’s not fun for fans, it’s taking away goals when the league wants more goals, and it throws a bone to a team that just conceded a goal. 

Thanks a lot, Matt Duchene.

Follow me on twitter @jIabruins

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