Monday, November 27, 2006
With more crashes in net, is 'challenge' in order?
By Scott Burnside
This isn't quite Jonathan Swift, but it is a modest proposal brought to us by veteran Phoenix netminder Curtis Joseph. And it is one the NHL might want to seriously consider when the board of governors meets in Florida the first week of December.
During the Coyotes' 6-4 loss to Anaheim last week, Ducks forward Chris Kunitz led a rush. After making a pass, Kunitz continued into Joseph, jostling him enough that the netminder could not react across the net to stop a wide-open shot by Andy McDonald. No penalty was called and the Ducks went up 2-1 en route to a victory in which the Coyotes blew leads of 3-1 and 4-2.
Why not have a video monitor in the timekeeper's booth and allow each team one challenge on a goal per game. In this case, if the video replay showed that Joseph was interfered with, then the goal would be wiped out and a penalty would be called against the Ducks. If the review showed there was no foul, then the Coyotes would be assessed a delay of game penalty.
"That was absolutely goaltender interference. Absolutely," Joseph told ESPN.com after the game. "Give us one challenge. They do it in the NFL and they're a pretty successful league."
The referees are only human, Joseph said, "But it's the fastest game in the world, isn't it? We all have to be accountable. I have to be accountable for that goal. Why don't they do it?"
It's a fine question. Why don't they?
The NHL already reviews goals to ensure that the puck crosses the line or that it was directed legally into the goal. Why not add a challenge component that would allow officials on the ice or back at command central in Toronto to quickly monitor the replay to see if a foul resulted in a goal?
You could argue that a foul at the opposite end of the ice may have set the stage for the rush that led to a goal, but for simplicity's sake, the challenge could apply only to plays inside the offensive zone and plays that are involved directly in a goal being scored.
One GM told ESPN.com he thought the idea of a formal challenge would slow down the flow of the game, but said he would be amenable to opening up criteria under which officials review the legitimacy of goals.
As for comparisons to the NFL, the GM said NFL games now appear as though they take entire days to play, in part because of their cumbersome challenge system.
Still, with the speed of the game now, and specifically the speed at which players crash the net, it might be another way to safeguard the integrity of all-important goals. Given the tightness of the standings, where the difference of a goal here and there might mean the difference between making the playoffs and not (and hence the collection of millions of dollars in playoff revenue), it seems a small price to pay to get it right.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.