The ‘Coaches Challenge’ Needs Some Changes


(Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

editorial I’m a homer and I won’t pretend to be otherwise. That said, we’ve seen the coaches challenge used four times this season and the Caps are losing at a 75% clip.

The first is probably still the most egregious in terms of bad calls. The disallowed Dmitri Orlov goal had all the makings of a goal upheld except that the refs on the ice (with a little previous history with the Caps) blew the call. It hinged on contact and nothing else. Depending on the camera angle there was either the possibility of minor contact that was at best inconclusive, or clearly no contact at all from another angle. No matter, the goal came off the board.

After seeing how seemingly little it took to get a goal disallowed, coach Trotz challenged a goal where Holtby was clearly run into. In this case however, the mugging of Holtby was allowed to stand along with the goal, and the Caps lost a timeout.


(Photo: NHL)

That brings us to the one win the Capitals have received on a coaches challenge. The strangest thing is, in my book, this was probably one case where disallowing the goal may have been the right call! There was clear contact as the shot was coming in. While it appears there was little chance the goalie (Al Montoya) could have made the save, by rule that one was at least borderline.

In the latest instance, the contact the refs seems to have deemed to be illegal, occurred with Justin Williams clearly outside of the crease and the goalie mostly outside of it as well. Leafs goalie James Reimer actually reached out and pushed Williams initiating the contact. Williams only continued into the crease with the assistance of a Leafs defender pushing him in the back.

Now I don’t want to beat each of these up individually, as tempting as that might be. No, the bigger issue is one of consistency. What is goalie interference in todays NHL? Does anyone actually know? I don’t think Barry Trotz or the Capitals have any idea, and I know I sure don’t. That is the real problem. A rule changed designed to fix bad calls on the ice has only created more ambiguity. Clearly that’s not what was intended.

So how do we fix it? A lot of people just want to do away with the whole rule. That moves us back to where we were before, with bad calls deciding critical games. No, we need to fix the rule instead. When a coach challenges goalie interference, the call needs to be made in Toronto and not by the on ice officials. They’ve proven they can’t do it with any consistency. I would even go so far as to remove this from the coaches challenge in terms of risking a timeout. Toronto is on these things quickly, a simple call asking if the goal should be reviewed would do the trick. It takes seconds and Toronto can either say yes or no to a review after a quick look. It should be no different from checking for a high stick on a goal.

Going further, offsides calls on a coaches challenge should also be reviewed and the call made in Toronto. They have all the views and much bigger screens to see what occurred. In this case, the coach should lose a timeout if he loses the challenge. You don’t want a challenge on every goal slowing down the game.

It can be fixed and we can get consistency. Perhaps the rules on goalie interference need to be tweaked and clarified a bit. Either way, if you want consistency the calls need to be made in Toronto by a single group, with a singular understanding of the rules. For now, it’s simply a fiasco. I doubt we’ll see any changes this season, (we can hope) but before next season begins we should see some tweaking.

By Ernie Mudd

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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5 Responses to The ‘Coaches Challenge’ Needs Some Changes

  1. Rick Tiene says:

    Shouldn’t the reference to the”Jay Beagle goal” actually be the Orlov goal? Bad enough that Orlov got a beautiful goal taken off the books, let’s not mix up who scored in the play. Beagle was accused of the contact, he wasn’t the goal scorer.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I say that if a coach is going to challenge goaltender interference every time a player is in front of the net when a goal is scored, a player might as well not go to the net! It’s a stupid rule!

  3. Aaron Davis says:

    How about a rule similar to the NFL where there needs to be conclusive evidence to overturn the call made on the field. If it’s borderline….then it stays the call on the ice. I feel that some of these refs are overturning just because they can and there was minor contact with no regards of who initiated it….

  4. Carole Cook says:

    My beef is having the refs review any of their own calls. All reviews should be done by Toronto. Unless it’s a flagrant mis-call, who’s going to reverse their own call? In reality, you can find a legal transgression in almost every slo-mo look. The keys are context and neutrality.

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