Coach's challenge to be discussed at NHL GMs meetings


A recent NHL rule change will be front and center when the league’s general managers meet in Boca Raton, Florida this week.

The coach’s challenge, which has become a controversial process at points this season, and tweaks to the system will likely be addressed as the main topic of conversation.

During the offseason, the coach’s challenge was added as a way to correctly rule on offside and goaltender interference calls. It has to some degree, but the system has seen its share of issues in its first year.

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There have been grumblings about the size of the tablet referees use to look for challenged plays and how the challenge disrupts gameflow, essentially making it a strategic timeout.

The tablet size appears to be the biggest issue, and some around the league have been vocal about referees using such a tiny screen to possibly determine a game’s outcome.

"You can’t have a play like that on a 6-inch tablet. You better put it on a big screen and look at it, and then have the people who are making those decisions make that decision, to me that was a good example of that. Anyway, I don’t agree with it,” Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after he lost an offside coach’s challenge in December.

Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville huffed away in a press conference after a goal was overturned in a February game against the San Jose Sharks for goaltender interference.

Still, some coaches have adapted to it as a way of life in today’s game. New Jersey Devils coach John Hynes said his team has a certain protocol that even includes looking at different referees and their tendencies with the challenge.

“I think you want to study the referees in the game and what their track records are,” Hynes said. “I think the offsides are easier than the ones around our goal crease, so for us it doesn’t change our protocol but sometimes it might change if you challenge or not.”

The rule probably won’t go away, but expect some talk about fine-tuning.

Here are some other topics that could get some traction this week.


At the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting in Pebble Beach in December, Commissioner Gary Bettman noted that a discussion on goal scoring could happen during the general managers meetings in March. That time is here and goal scoring is still a big topic around the NHL.

Currently NHL teams are scoring combined 5.38 goals per-game, which is the worst total since the 2004-05 lockout.

The general managers may look to be proactive in trying to address fewer goals before the problem bottoms out, though it's unclear as to how. Bigger, or altered, goal nets have been mentioned in the past.

“We used to be close to a seven goal per-game, game and now we’re close to five goals per-game and I think that’s a little bit of a red flag and we as managers – who are sometimes called the caretakers of the game – we need to do whatever we can to make sure that’s enough goals,” Predators general manager David Poile said last December. “I think that is the question. That’s the first question we need to decide amongst all hockey people. Are we happy with the game, are we happy with the amount of offense in the game and goal scoring specifically? If we are – carry on. If not, we have to take the next step, which is to look at different areas, and I think there’s lots of different areas.”

The size of goaltending equipment also falls under this umbrella, and has been a topic recently.

Expansion draft

Expansion won’t be decided this week. But the league will probably check in with their general managers about other particulars about expansion, such as an expansion draft and how it will affect teams and their rosters.

There are a lot of scenarios on this that need to be decided first – such as whether the league will expand, and whether it will expand by two teams or one.

There have been rumblings the past week that Quebec City’s expansion bid is in trouble. Regardless, NHL general managers like to plan out as long-term as possible with their personnel and salary cap. The earlier they know about how the expansion draft will work, the better.

Either way the general managers will have a clearer picture of how to prepare for any expansion scenario by the end of the meetings.

The appeals process

Calgary Flames president Brian Burke has been vocal about how the appeal process that lessened Dennis Wideman’s suspension from 20 games to 10 games took too long. The process overall lasted almost a month and a half and Wideman missed a total of 19 games.

Wideman hit linesman Don Henderson from behind on Jan. 27. He was suspended 20 games on Feb. 3. Then Wideman went through the appeals process with both Bettman and then a neutral arbitrator and didn’t get closure until March 11.

Not only were the Flames down a defenseman for nine games longer than was eventually ruled, Calgary GM Brad Treliving had to navigate the NHL’s trade deadline while having to deal with Wideman’s hearings, along with the uncertainty about the player’s availability.

This was the first time a player went to a neutral arbitrator for an appeal, so there could be some talk about how to streamline the process.

Salary cap

In December, the NHL said their preliminary salary cap projection for the 2016-17 season would increase a total of $3 million.

At that point the Canadian dollar was trading at 74 cents per one US dollar. As of last Friday it was at 76 cents per one US dollar. In December, Bettman said league revenues were up and were expected to remain up, “notwithstanding the decline of the Canadian dollar.”

Again, league general managers like to be as prepared as possible for the future and any clarity on the salary cap would be beneficial.

NHL Draft

The Edmonton Oilers have held the No. 1 pick in the draft four times since 2010. This fact seems to have hit a tipping point with Edmonton winning the draft lottery last season and taking generational talent Connor McDavid with the top overall pick.

The Oilers are again fighting for last place and are six points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the worst record in the NHL.

Poile told that he would be open to discuss rules where a team could not repeat the No. 1 pick or in the top-five. Will other general managers also take a look into this?