In the first month of the first season of the NHL coach’s challenge, NHL vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy said it should be used for “egregious plays” and not “close calls where it’s 50-50” in the eyes of the on-ice officials.
"(Coaches) can live with some of the close plays that happen in our sport. It's what make our sport so great. It travels so fast,” said Murphy, via the Canadian Press.
It’s a bit surprising, then, that one of the closest calls during a game – whether or not a play that resulted in a goal was offside – has been challenged 55 times through Friday night’s games, according to Sportsnet.
Perhaps even more surprising is the success rate: 22 of those coach’s challenges were successful in overturning the call on the ice, or 40 percent of all challenges.
That can’t be a number that makes NHL on-ice officials happy. Video review is a check and balance on their work, and 40 percent of the time, that work was shoddy. And that’s just on plays that were disputed – more importantly, it was on plays when the video evidence was clear.
Let’s be honest: On these “50-50 plays,” much of the review's success depends on the available video evidence. It’s long been an issue on reviews used to determine if the puck crossed the goal, and it’s been an issue with the offside reviews because there typically aren’t cameras positioned directly on the blue line.
Look no further than the goal upheld in the Minnesota Wild’s game against the Los Angeles Kings this week – can we say, definitively, what the call should have been with that angle?
Well, the NHL may be seeking to remedy this.
On Hockey Night In Canada, Damien Cox said that the League is testing new cameras at next weekend’s NHL All-Star Game that will be mounted on the boards at either end of the blue line – hopefully eliminating the angle and any obscuring of the puck by a player’s body.
The coach’s challenge is a godsend. It’s righted more wrongs than Auto-Tune. But it’s only as good as the video evidence. Well, that and the Nintendo DS the referees are using to review it. And, well, the referees themselves. So in summary: Baby steps, people.