Dolloff: How NHL’s Penalties For Failed Offside Challenges Could Backfire

By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — NHL coaches will no longer be able to challenge offside without real repercussions. Obviously, the “threat” of losing a timeout wasn’t enough for them to avoid challenging that a player’s toe was a millimeter behind the blue line four minutes into a game in October. So the NHL has tweaked its offside review rules to give a delay of game penalty to teams who fail their challenges.

The NHL announced the new rule change in a press release on Wednesday. Here’s how rule 78.7(b) regarding offside challenges will read moving forward:

If the result of the challenge is that the play was on-side, the goal shall count and the team that issues the challenge shall be assessed a minor penalty for delaying the game.

Additionally, teams will no longer lose a timeout for failed offside challenges and do not need to possess a timeout in order to make the challenge.

Coaches could at least be more hesitant to challenge offside plays this season, especially if they are going up against a strong power play or their penalty kill unit is lacking. A two-minute minor is, at least, far less desirable than giving up a timeout that you may never need at all.

dl nhl referees review goal Dolloff: How NHLs Penalties For Failed Offside Challenges Could Backfire

Referees Evgeny Romasky and Dan O’Halloran discuss a video replay of a goal during a game between the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

However, the removal of timeouts from the equation also means that coaches now have unlimited offside challenges, which TSN’s Travis Yost confirmed via Twitter on Wednesday.

This is where the rule change could blow up in the league’s face.

If a team goes down by two in the closing minutes of regulation, what do coaches really have to lose by challenging offside pretty much every time it’s close? Might as well risk getting the penalty at that point. You’d already be down two with the clock running out anyway. Bogging down the end of games is arguably even worse than grinding the game to a halt in the beginning or middle.

The rule change is well-intentioned and will likely force coaches to only challenge offside calls that are obvious – in the first two periods. The closer games get to the end, the more incentive coaches will have to send referees to the tablets to stare at a skater’s toe for eight minutes, while TV viewers are forced to stare at replay after replay. Of a toe.

The NHL desperately wants to keep offside challenges in the rulebook rather than get rid of them entirely, as this modification would plainly show. Games may end up moving faster in the early-going, but it’s worth keeping an eye on how it affects the end of games. Because that’s when the scale will start to tip in favor of the rewards rather than the risks, and the league may end up seeing more challenges than they expected.

There are few things more exciting in pro sports than a close hockey game in the final minute. This tweak to offside challenges threatens to sap those situations of momentum and energy, which has been the No. 1 complaint of offside challenges in the first place.

Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.

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