NHL’s new coach’s challenge riddled with flaws

Louie DiBiase, Reporter

If you believe that the Buffalo Sabres are a cursed team, this argument will backup that notion.

The NHL implemented a new rule this season which gives head coaches the power to challenge a goal if they believe the play resulted from a missed offside call, or if there is goalie interference. This new rule isn’t something the fans were demanding.

The challenge rule has its flaws, but the most obvious problem is this: it slows the game down and takes away the few goals that are scored each game.

Since the end of the lockout in 2005, the NHL has lacked the offensive firepower that it used to have in the 1980s-90s when Wayne Gretzky was tallying 200 points and Teemu Selanne was scoring 76 goals as a rookie. Fast forward to modern day and we see the top stars in the NHL tallying 76 total points.

The NHL is a different game, and not for the better. According to hockey-reference.com, the average goals-per-game has gone from 3.08 goals-per-game in the 1990s to 2.68 goals-per-game today being scored on average, an all-time low.

There are many reasons for the decline in scoring, including the fact that goalie play has risen to a new level. However, this new rule isn’t helping the cause. It is hurting the entertainment value of the NHL.

Since Tuesday of this week, there has been 44 challenges by a head coach. 28 goals have been upheld and 16 have been taken away. Three of those goals taken away cost the Buffalo Sabres. Two of those goals would have resulted in Buffalo forcing overtime.

As for challenging based on goaltender interference, I have no issue with that. However, challenging a decision on a goal based on the fact that a linesman missed an offside call is simply frustrating.

If the refs whose jobs are to call the play dead if a forward goes into the offensive zone before the puck does cannot consistently make the right call, then the NHL needs to evaluate its training and hiring process for referees.

The refs have also been dreadful at making the right penalty calls this year because they simply aren’t calling them, but that is a topic for another day.

Another major hole in the coach’s challenge call is that even if the player was indeed offside and the goal is brought back, the time that was spent in the offensive zone is not put back on the clock.

Against Dallas Tuesday night, the Sabres power-play goal from Sam Reinhart was taken back after Tyler Ennis was called offside. What cost the Sabres dearly was the fact that 90 seconds on the power play were lost in space. The play never counted, yet the time it took to make it, for some reason, did.

It doesn’t seem fair for a team on the man advantage to get punished for a referee’s mistake.

In theory, a team could essentially be in the offensive zone for 5 minutes and score, however if there was a player that went offside, or a goalie was interfered with in his crease, those 5 minutes are lost and so is the goal.

The coach’s challenge is a new aspect of the game that fans and players alike will have to adjust to. It does correct mistakes that referees miss, and although it does catch some goals that shouldn’t count, the rule still has major holes that the NHL needs to fix.

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