NHL offside calls are up, but should coach’s challenge get the blame?

NHL offside calls are up, but should coach’s challenge get the blame?

Alex Ovechkin has scored two goals in his last two games. Well, he would have scored two goals were it not for the new coach’s challenge, which was used to wipe away both of those goals, leaving him tied with Sergei Fedorov for the most by a Russian player in the NHL.

Justin Williams, Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals teammate, was the culprit both times.

“I think I’m up for the Selke. I’m shutting Ovi down pretty good right now. That’s two disallowed goals because of me,” said Williams.

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If it seems like there are more offside calls this season than there were on average last season, you’d be correct: According to Hockey-Graphs, there was an average of 5.5 offside calls per game last season; this season, through 225 games, it’s at 7.2 per game, an increase of 31 percent.

Wow, right? A few observers, including John Garrett of Sportsnet, wondered aloud if it was actually the threat of a coach’s challenge that caused this early season burst of offside calls in the NHL. The theory was that linesmen would rather err on the side of not being exposed for having blown a call upon video review, since making the call means no video review.

An interesting thought … but one that doesn’t hold up thanks to the nice debunking work by @petbugs13 over at Hockey-Graphs.

Here’s what the first 225 games of the last several seasons looks like:

Via Hockey-Graphs
Via Hockey-Graphs

So rather than some nefarious aftereffect from the coach’s challenge, it’s just the same disjointed lack of offensive cohesion we see in the first month of every season.

For what it’s worth, the NHL’s general managers are fairly happy across the board with offside video review on goals because it’s a cut-and-dry call.

The goalie interference thing is a little more nebulous, given the different standards for referees, but the ones we asked had no beef with the offside rulings – even if, we imagine, Alex Ovechkin isn’t really a fan.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.