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NHL coaches' challenges; bright idea or terrible mistake?

The first few days of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs produced some surprising starts, like the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators each scoring a couple of victories on the road to take the early advantage in their respective series against NHL betting favorites Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. However, the discussion regarding offside coach’s challenges has overshadowed individual athletic achievements from the likes of Predators defenceman Shea Weber, New York Islanders captain John Tavares, his Dallas Stars counterpart Jamie Benn and Tampa Bay Lightning centre Tyler Johnson.

Both Tim Wharnsby and Greg Wyshynski have invoked the 1999 Brett Hull incident to illustrate the effect the coach’s challenges have had on the pace of the game. “The NHL made some nifty alterations coming out of the 2004-05 lockout to make the game more entertaining with more skill and flow and far less interference,” Wharnsby wrote. “But the entertainment and drama has been stunted early in this post-season.” Writing about some of those alterations, Wyshynski noted that “It took a decade before the NHL did something to reduce those inane exhibitions of anti-hockey known as shootouts by applying 3-on-3 overtime as the antidote. But in the case of the offside coach’s challenge, it’s only taken one season to see what a mistake it’s been.”

While on the one hand this situation only makes one want to make the game more exciting by doing some NHL betting, there is something to be said about the fluidity of match, on the other. “It’s a mistake to overturn goals on offside plays that hardly affect their outcome, or when a dozen other missed calls on a play aren’t subject for review;” Wyshynski wrote. “It’s a mistake to scrutinize human error on plays that last a millisecond; and it’s a mistake to delete dynamic scoring plays from memory at a time when goal scoring is so tenuous that we’re talking about shrinking goalies and widening nets.”

The two sports writers also quoted NHL vice president of hockey operations using the word “egregious.” “You want to use video replay to get egregious plays, not close calls where it's 50-50. [Coaches] can live with some of the close plays that happen in our sport. It's what makes our sport so great. It travels so fast,” Murphy said last October. “The reason we instituted it was so that we could get the egregious calls particularly right, ones that everybody alive sees and says, 'This is the wrong call, it's a screw-up.'” Wyshynski then goes on to make a distinction between egregious and not egregious; goalie interference is the former, offside calls the latter. Maybe we’ll have some sports betting on whether the coaches’ challenges will go the way of the dodo, but at least for the 2016 NHL playoffs, they’re here to stay.