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Delayed rant: the NHL & PA have their heads in the sand regarding reviewing goaltender interference

When Paul posted the news from yesterday's Competition Committee meetings in New York (the general managers meet on Wednesday), I was angry--really, really angry--and I wanted to weigh in, but...

For the first time in an incredibly long time, my, "Aw, *#$%@& it" instinct kicked in, and that instinct remained strong throughout the night. Hell, the comments made by Colin Campbell and Mathieu Schneider are so...disappointing...That I'm struggling to write this now, because I feel like I'm a crazy voice in the wilderness who won't be heard no matter how hard I try to frame or present my argument.

I believe that each and every instance in which the puck goes into the net must be subject to both video review by the NHL's War Room and overturning of on-ice calls by said war room. That goes for "incidental contact," call-on-the-ice goaltender interference, call-on-the-ice suggestions that players impeded goaltenders' abilities to get into position to make a save, call-on-the-ice instances where the net comes off its pegs, that bizarre Brendan Smith "does a twist-on-a-breakaway-yield-an-automatic-goal" call; you name it, if it isn't reviewable now, I believe that it should be reviewable.

Regrettably, Campbell and Schneider kicked the can, essentially suggesting that any sort of contentious review process (slowing down the game and/or not being definitive, but instead, as subjective as the on-ice ruling) is worse than no review at all, as the Los Angeles Times' Lance Pugmire noted (referencing Dwight King's hump-the-goalie-stick incident)...

"Goaltender interference, I'm telling you right now, if we go there, it's going to be a very difficult review," Campbell said, noting the varying judgments involved in the King-Lundqvist play alone.

"The defenseman pushed him in. No he didn't. The puck was past him. No it wasn't. The goalie's embellishing … he plays the crease…. If it was easy, we would've done it a long time ago.

"It's the bigger picture of reviews: Where do we go? How far do we go? How much do we slow [the game] down?"

Campbell said another play involving the Kings this season is likely to prompt an adjustment.

On Jan. 18, a shot by Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings tied the score in the final minute of regulation when it bounced off the out-of-play mesh behind the goal, and then caromed off the back of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and into the net.

The goal shouldn't have counted, and was followed by Detroit winning in a shootout.

"No one on the ice saw it … that's something we talked about today," Campbell said of expanding a play like that to video review. "We follow rules strictly … but it's just as our managers say, 'Get it right.' That's what we're trying to do under the topic of goalie interference — without causing more problems. It's a difficult thing to get right."

And the Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno also noted:

"I think the underlying fundamental here is that if you're going to go to video review in a given area, there is the expectation of certainty," said Mathieu Schneider, the NHLPA's special assistant to the executive director. "And it's just not there. It's very difficult. The type of things that we're talking about, a possible coach's challenge, are things that we might be able to be certain on. But there's still a ton of grey area."

YES, but that's the whole *#$%@& point!

The Kings' goal Saturday night that helped them build a 2-0 series lead was not the reason goaltender interference came up at the annual meeting, but it's certainly a hotter topic because of it. The league's general managers will discuss it Wednesday as well, but executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell expects there to be more education on the subject in lieu of video review.

"Education that's meant for our players and our referees regarding how to call goaltender interference in various situations, so to be more defined in that area — if it doesn't take another step, meaning some sort of video review on it," Campbell said.

So that will certainly work, like "education" stopped blind-side hits and hits to the head, right?

Nothing was resolved in terms of defining what video review could include next season, something that the GMs could try to hash out later this week. There are many possibilities.

"We talked about pucks over the glass, we talked about offside goals," Campbell said. "Then, it comes to the question if it's an offside play: how much time? Is it five seconds? Is it 10 seconds? Change of possession? On the rush? Puck leaving the zone? What if a minor occurs during that time and a goal was scored but the play was offside? Does the minor come down? Does a double-minor come down? Does a major come down?"

That's your *#$%@& job--to figure that shit out.

A coach's challenge system could be part of that process, requiring a timeout to use one. But coaches would not be able to request a review on goaltender interference.

...

"There's a lot of instances where you have two reasonable people looking at the same video and have two different interpretations, and goalie interference is certainly one of those," Schneider said. "I think the education process is what's going to be most important for the officials, for the players, and I think Colin alluded to, we want to maybe err on the side of the goalie more often. Well, that's the direction we have to give to the officials. The education process is going to be key. And to have certain telltale signs."

The Sporting News's Sean Gentile was at least brave enough to call a spate a spade:

Why presuppose that a process eminently capable of cutting back on mistakes is a net negative? Why say video review — constant replays, high definition, slow motion — makes referees look worse than they deserve, then opt out of providing them with that exact technology? And most of all, why expect 100-percent consensus from NHL fans? Short of "hockey is cool," that's not happening. Ever.

That seems to be the operating theory, here, just as the NHL didn't want to make goal judges "look bad" by reviewing their calls some twenty years ago.

It's still a head-in-the-*#$%@&-sand philosophy: "LEST WE SPITE OUR DEAR REFEREES!" As Ken Daniels, Mickey Redmond and Mike Babcock so often point out, the game moves incredibly fast, and while the referees do the best dang job they can, they don't have the benefit of video replay.

Why not give them a monitor, like they do in NCAA Division I hockey, instead of doing nothing?

At one point, Schneider brought up how separate TV crews deal with controversial plays: "You've got two different opinions, two different announcers, looking at a play two separate ways." Aren't a lot of local TV crews comprised of the sorts of guys you'd want out of the process?

If you're not seeing the disconnect, look at the proposed plan in lieu of video review: Officials and players, over the summer, would get an education on what constitutes goalie interference. Schneider mentioned "the tell-tale signs" Brendan Shanahan brought up during his suspension videos. Exactly. There are tell-tale signs. After you teach them to the refs and players, teach them to the officials who'd watch the video review.

Uh huh. The theory that it's only the referees and players who need "educating" is silly.

And while we're at that, doesn't Shanahan's (former) group work in gray areas, too? Do they get everything 100-percent right? No. They're still around, though, building consensus among themselves and generally doing good work. Why that's not an option with goalie interference — or other subjective calls, really — is tough to figure.

This is where we say that both guys, and the groups they represent, are dealing with a difficult, thankless task. The game is better for a lot of the committee's implementations over the past few years, and it'll keep getting better because of them moving forward. That said, this is a weird one.

I fully agree with the concept that the Competition Committee is a positive force, but passing the buck on an issue that decides games, playoff spots, playoff series and the Stanley Cup is just stupid.

The Hockey News's Ken Campbell offers this take on the situation...

[T]he power brokers in the NHL have come to the conclusion that even with video evidence, there is no guarantee of certainty. Of course there isn’t. But isn’t there a better chance you’re going to get a call right if you have the benefit of watching it on super slow-motion several times? And even if there’s disagreement among those watching replays, isn’t that superior to having just one look at it in real time?

Not according to the competition committee, a body that recommends rule changes and has equal representation from both players and team management. The committee met for five hours on Monday and while it’s likely that a coach’s challenge will be on the horizon after the GM meetings Wednesday, it won’t include goaltender interference. And that’s largely because nobody can agree on what goaltender interference is in the first place.

But here’s the thing. Hockey fans look to these people to show leadership on these issues. Is it fair that goaltenders get interfered with and often have no chance to stop the puck? Of course not. And we all know it’s happening, but it’s not an area of the game that is subject to video review. It’s difficult and it’s controversial and it’s full of potential landmines, but is that not what these people should be charged with navigating?

The worst part of the "education process" for fans is that we don't know whether a play is reviewable or not half the damn time because the rulebook can be as clear as mud regarding which types of interference or types of net-off plays are reviewable and which ones can't be overturned.

Mathieu Schneider of the NHL Players’ Association and member of the board, said it was a “split room” on the Dwight King call from Game 2, a goal that made the score 4-3 and was a pivotal factor in the Los Angeles Kings winning Game 2. The Rangers were liviid about the non-call by referees Dan O’Halloran and Wes McCauley and it could not be reviewed. So just because there can’t be a consensus on video replay, the league and players seem intent on staying away from it. There will likely be expanded video review for things like offsides, the puck going over the glass and the goalie playing the puck in the trapezoid, but not for the one thing that is one of the most controversial and impactful.

How much sense does that make?

None.

“We felt in a lot of areas, it might create more problems than it would solve,” said Colin Campbell, the NHL’s executive vice-president and director of hockey operations. “How are we going to get it right without creating more problems? If we go there, it’s going to be a very different review to make.”

Schneider, who represents the players’ interests, was in lock step with Campbell on the goalie interference issue. “There’s an expectation of certainty (with video review),” Schneider said, “and we don’t have it right now.”

The War Room gets calls wrong. The refs get calls wrong. There are 5-minute majors and game misconducts handed out for minor penalties or non-infractions, there are times that the War Room already gets reviewable goal calls wrong, there are times that blatant and vicious penalties are missed and not reviewed for baffling reasons.

Maybe the NHL and NHLPA's biggest problem is that they assume what they're already doing is "definitive," and that they make the "correct" decision simply because everybody in a room agrees that something did or did not happen.

But for *#$%@&'s sake, as a fan of Tomas Holmstrom's Red Wings, having seen at least thirty or forty legal goals waved off and another thirty or forty instances in which Holmstrom did indeed interfere with goaltenders deemed legal...

There's got to be a better way than pulling the Talking Barbie, "MATH IS HARD!" and passing the *#$%@& buck. That's chicken-shit cowardly by the NHL and NHLPA, and it's DUMB.

In terms of other recommendations, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun noted that the following items will be presented to the GM's on Wednesday (as did USA Today's Kevin Allen and Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski, among others)...

The NHL-NHLPA competition committee met Monday in the Big Apple.

Players in the meeting: Mike Cammalleri, Daniel Winnik, Ron Hainsey and Kevin Shattenkirk.

League side: Flyers owner Ed Snider plus general managers Ken Holland (Red Wings), Don Maloney (Coyotes), Peter Chiarelli (Bruins) and David Poile (Predators).

And of course, chairing each side were NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell and NHLPA executive Mathieu Schneider.

The recommendations from the committee:

  • For the trapezoid to be expanded by four feet overall (two feet on each side of the goal line). That would give goalies more room to play the puck.

The theory here is that increasing the size of the "trapezoid" (which I believe should be eliminated) would provide goaltenders with the ability to bail out their defensemen on a more regular basis and reduce those predatory hits in "the valley of death" next to the goalposts...

  • Changes to regular-season overtime: Have teams change ends after regulation to force long line changes, which in theory should help create more offense. They also proposed a dry scrape after regulation to clean up the ice.

Ken Holland's a big proponent of both of these changes...

  • Faceoffs in offensive/defensive zone: Adopt IIHF hashmarks, which are five feet apart (NHL currently has them three and a half feet apart).

The NHL had initially proposed that players who are "cheating" on draws be shoved back from NHL to IIHF hashmarks...But I can assure you that my Olympic and World Championship viewing indicates that no amount of pushing players back from the dot will curb "cheating" on faceoffs.

  • The committee also wants more done to curb embellishment and diving in the NHL, perhaps via fine or additional penalty.

You can expect the GM's to insist that this is their latest big-game animal that needs to be killed, just as they thought "staged fights" were the scourge of the league two years ago.

  • Kicking pucks: Committee wants to see more leniency and allow a bit more when it comes to kicking motion.

??? Is this socccer or hockey?

  •  And the meat of it: More discussion of expanded video review, particularly when it comes to goalie interference. There was no real resolution on this on Monday -- simply the agreement that it will be further discussed.

NHL.com's Dan Rosen took note of Campbell and Schneider's comments regarding the non-interference recommendations...

[T]he Competition Committee is recommending the arena ice crew dry scrape the ice before overtime. The goal is to give the players clean ice to play on during the five-minute overtime session. Currently the ice crew does a dry scrape before a shootout.

"The theory is to increase goal scoring within regulation or 4-on-4 -- trying to not allow teams to play to get to the shootout is the goal here," Schneider said. "We're trying to end more games 5-on-5 or 4-on-4 in overtime."

The Competition Committee is recommending the hash marks on the outside of the in-zone faceoff circles be extended from 3 1/2 feet to five feet apart, which is the dimensions used by the International Ice Hockey Federation.

"There's a feeling that this will create more offense, that forwards on a won draw in the offensive zone will have more time to make plays, more room to make plays," Schneider said. "On the flip side, it's going to reduce the amount of scrums that we have on faceoffs by separating those players a little more."

In addition, the committee is recommending that only one player is eligible to take a faceoff after an icing. He would be allowed one faceoff violation, but a second violation would result in a two-minute bench minor penalty for delay of game (Rule 76.6).

(so they're going back to the old rule)

Schneider said the dimensions of the trapezoid along the end boards (28 feet) would remain the same, but adding two feet to each side of the net will give the goaltenders more room to play the puck.

"It will allow the goalies a little more room to go out and give their defensemen some help," Schneider said.

Campbell also stressed that the NHL will start issuing more warnings and fines to players guilty of embellishment. He said punishments could extend to coaches and the organization as well.

"We feel embellishment in the game is a real problem today," Campbell said. "We understand players are trying to draw penalties. We feel it's out of control."

And this morning, ESPN's Craig Custance weighed in on the goaltender interference issue via an Insider-only blog entry, adding a new voice to the mix:

“We spent quite a while on the coach's challenge and video replay and all that. That was by far our longest topic. No question,” Hainsey said during a Monday phone conversation. “At the end of that, and we had a great group in there, we hadn’t come to anywhere near a conclusion. We just hadn’t.”

That's funny, because everyone outside of hockey’s decision-makers apparently have come to a conclusion. There’s a resounding call from fans and a large contingent of hockey media to expand instant replay, and include goalie interference as part of a expanded replay package, especially considering some of the high-profile goalie interference calls of this postseason.

...

“The first time I thought about it, I was like ‘Yeah, a challenge. Like the NFL. Do it,’” Hainsey said. “What could go wrong?”

He’s since learned that there’s a lot that could go wrong.

“It’s much more complicated than I ever would have given it credit for,” he said.

Also:

When the general managers meet on Wednesday, don’t be surprised if there’s a recommendation to allow for replay to overturn an incorrect delay of game penalty when a puck is flipped over the glass or when a penalty is called on the wrong player. Replay will eventually be expanded to include when a puck hits the netting and isn’t called before a goal. They’ll likely find a way to include replay for when a goal is scored shortly after a play is offside. But even that one has it’s challenges, because it may have to come with a time element. For instance, it can only be reviewed if the goal is scored a few seconds after the challenged offsides call.

So they're going to review puck-over-glass calls, which apparently won't slow down the game, netting calls, which apparently won't slow down the game, and offsides goals, which apparently won't slow down the game, but goaltender interference?

IT'S TOO HARD WAAAAAH. angry

Stupid!

The NHL's teams, players and fans have far too much invested in the game--emotionally, figuratively and financially--for the NHL to take the chicken's way out. Or in this case, the ostrich's.

The NHL still gets quite a bit "wrong," but it's apparently far too embarrassing to show up the referee and still get a "goal call" wrong after availing the War Room of the video and TIME available to give disputed goals a second, third or fourth look. Instead, the NHL and PA want to let the refs, who don't have access to any videos, to get things egregiously wrong for the sake of not being perceived as wishy-washy, or worse, weak.

That's just dumb.

Update: If you care, Wyshynski is SUPER EXCITED about the concept that the NHL may fine coaches and teams for their players' dives.

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Comments

TreKronor's avatar

Really great write-up GM.  I agree with you on this topic.

I’d like to see video review for all goals - I just want to see the correct team win, without controversy. 
This fear of “slowing the game down” can be mitigated if they do it right.  Remember when the NFL first began video review?  The ref would run over to a screen and watch a replay for 2-3 mins, then come back and out give the ruling - it was a poor process.  I’d like to see the NHL handle this from their War Room where they have a few individuals watching the various games and available to “rule” or officiate on all goals.  They do this to a degree already - it would only need to be expanded. 

There is such a double standard being argued here though: the NHL doesn’t want to have to review plays because they find that sometimes interpretations are different between two individuals.  Yet, they want to go with the interpretation of a single ref who is calling the game live in real time.

Posted by TreKronor on 06/10/14 at 01:45 PM ET

Avatar

Yeah, there’s a bit of overreaction from George here.

Granted, when it comes to goaltender issues that’s kind of par for the course, but come on.

Let’s step back a moment and think about this on a larger scale.

1) Yeah, it’s almost impossible to do reviews on every goal without destroying in-game momentum.  We know how these things roll.  A team scores a goal, the home crowd gets pumped up, there’s the faceoff 30 seconds later and the momentum from the previous play runs almost seemlessly into the current play.  Toss in a (conservatively) 2 minute review to look at a goal from 4 different angles?  It’s like giving every team in the league a timeout after a goal.  I know, I know “figure it out’.  Suggest something, because there hasn’t been something I’d be happy with done in any sport yet, and some of those sports have a whole lot of time and money invested in replay already.

2) The only reason right around 75% of goals are scored now is because of traffic in front of the net.  If the NHL got draconian on enforcement of things like goaltender interference they’d run into the very real issue of having ES scoring go dry in a big hurry in the league.  Yes, that creates a sub-optimal situation for goalies, and George having the bias he does regarding that position I can see why it sets him off, but them’s the breaks right now.

3) Picking out goalie interference to go full NSA on seems to almost absurdly miss the point.  The degree to which goalies are or are not casually to maliciously obstructed can’t rank very highly on a list of things the NHL has to straighten out with regards to on-ice play and officiating, can it?  I mean, get illegal hits figured out, get pace of play issues figured out.  Get game flow issues figured out.  Get on-ice day to day competence from the officials figured out.  Get scoring figured out.  Again, George’s bias notwithstanding, NHL goalies rank second behind only NFL QBs as far as a position that’s gets a whole heck of a lot of cushion in an allegedly contact league relative to their teammates.

Finally, the reason replay works better for the puck over glass and correct penalty issues is that it’s an obvious fix that can be done quickly.  Goalmouth scrums are complete carwrecks where even two or three angles can provide insufficient or incorrect analysis to what actually happened.  I know, ‘figure it out’.  The reality is, it’s a super messy and pretty imprecise area where even if replay were to be implemented I doubt we see much substantive improvement in the accuracy of the calls.  We’d just get hair trigger overreaction calls instead like we had back in the say where if you had a skate in the crease a goal was waved off.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 06/10/14 at 02:11 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

“The theory here is that increasing the size of the “trapezoid” (which I believe should be eliminated)”

AGREE!!

??? Is this socccer or hockey?

The art of drawing penalties and not getting diving calls is getting out of hand, as per the SCF and the playoffs, JMO

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 06/10/14 at 03:19 PM ET

Crater's avatar

My thoughts. Lets either video review or not video review. This current proposal would be like Cops using their radar on every who isn’t driving a red sports car. It wont affect pace or goals scored if they simply do coaches challenge and take away their timeout or some other cost. Thats been talked about for years.

Posted by Crater from SoCal on 06/10/14 at 03:50 PM ET

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It seems to me that the competition committee is letting perfect be the enemy of good. That’s a shame, because these things are never going to be perfect, but there’s no reason that they can’t be better.

As for the interpretation problems with goaltender interference, if it’s this subjective, how do we allow the rule to stand? It comes across like the NHL is admitting to itself that the language of the rule is too weak to actually separate out example cases of goaltender interference. The next logic step is to admit that asking referees to enforce it is a completely arbitrary thing. I’m surprised that the NHL isn’t re-examining the rule itself, which is the real problem here. If a rule cannot be decisively exercised, then it’s not much of a rule.

Posted by Slabby on 06/10/14 at 10:37 PM ET

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“Goaltender interference, I’m telling you right now, if we go there, it’s going to be a very difficult review,” Campbell said, noting the varying judgments involved in the King-Lundqvist play alone.

“The defenseman pushed him in. No he didn’t. The puck was past him. No it wasn’t. The goalie’s embellishing … he plays the crease…. If it was easy, we would’ve done it a long time ago.

“It’s the bigger picture of reviews: Where do we go? How far do we go? How much do we slow [the game] down?

So the clear counterpoint is: wouldn’t you rather give the referee and the “War Room” the ability to see the play a few times from different angles without restriction of what can or can’t be reviewed? Let the officials make the best call they can after reviewing it a few times from different angles. There will never be a such this as exactness in execution. So forget about that, it’s stupid to even consider it as a point against.

That said, I do not support automatic review of every goal by on-ice officials. I’d be fine with letting coaches challenge plays (player was offside on a play that resulted in a goal, goaltender interference was missed or was inappropriately called, etc). The coach should have the ability to challenge the play without restrictions. One challenge in regulation (if it is a successful challenge, the coach keeps the challenge) and the same rule for overtime.

I’d also be cool with on-ice officials being able to say “this was a really close play, I couldn’t tell if it was interference or not, offsides or not, so I want to review the goal.”

I’d also even be comfortable with - for playoff games - an off-ice official or War Room official being in position to immediately review the goal in its aftermath (during the time it takes for the broadcaster to show a few replays before the puck drops next). Should a play look close to being a missed call or blown call, the off-ice official could signal a stoppage for further review. I realize this is an inexact science but I believe giving officials a chance to see close plays a few times from different angles raises the probability of making the correct call.

Again, there is no way it will be perfect. There might be a missed offsides call that stands up without being flagged for additional review. The idea is to find ways for the refs to get a chance to look more carefully at close plays and make a call - without restrictions of what they’re allowed to review or not review.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 06/11/14 at 09:24 AM ET

Avatar

Video replay should only be used on plays where it’s a black & white call, not a subjective call.
The refs are the refs. They’re on the ice for the entire game. They might have warned a guy about banging into the goalie the 5 shifts ago. And you know what, that guy was warned, so call goes to the goalie.
That’s life. You want robots to ref? How robots play, too? And robots can watch and blog about it while you’re at it.

Posted by Captain Bob on 06/15/14 at 03:29 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.