BOCA RATON, Fla. -- NHL general managers on Tuesday discussed the merits of changing the offside rule to potentially allow for fewer overturned goals. But when they dug into the specifics and analyzed the numbers, the consensus was to keep everything status quo.
"We think offside is working," Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said.
Before reaching that conclusion, the GMs discussed changing the offside rule (Rule 83.1) to allow for a player to be considered onside as long as one of his skates has broken the vertical plane of the blue line regardless if it is in contact with the ice.
The basis of the offside rule, which dates to 1929-30, dictates that a player is judged to be onside when either of his skates is in contact with or on his own side of the blue line at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line.
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The skate-off-the-ice offside play typically shows up in video review conducted through the coach's challenge. The GMs learned Tuesday that it rarely happens and even fewer times does it result in a goal being overturned.
Through 972 games this season, 29 goals have been challenged because the coach felt a player had his skate off the ice and was offside, according to NHL Hockey Operations. Of those 29 goals, nine were overturned.
There have been approximately 5,700 offside calls this season.
"I really don't think it's a big deal," Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said. "We have the rule. We've had it forever. In my mind you don't have to change anything.
"You grow up as a kid and you know the rule and it is what it is."
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Other than the numbers, the GMs listed two reasons for not changing the rule.
First, officials still would have to determine if a player's skate in the air was over the blue line, which can be as subjective as determining if a skate is on the ice.
"It's just changing the dynamic," Chiarelli said. "Now you have to determine the dynamic if the leg is breaking the plane or not if it's in the air. So you've got a number of calls that were reversed because the leg was in the air. But if you allow it, you still have to decide if it's breaking the plane. So there's uncertainty on both sides."
Second, it could encourage players to lift their skates, which could impact player safety.
"Skate cuts can be nasty, so we're trying to keep the players' skates on the ice at all times," Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said.
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NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said there's concern in his department that a skate-off-the-ice offside play will result in a video review that could change the outcome of a Stanley Cup Playoff game or series.
"We always go into the playoffs nervous," Campbell said.
Campbell also said the League didn't think offside calls would be an issue when the coach's challenge system was instituted at the start of last season.
"We thought when we introduced high-definition cameras on the blue lines that we would solve a lot of issues," Campbell said. "It's almost worse because it's so minute, it's almost like a hair, is [the skate] up or is it not up? It hasn't made it any easier [to make the call]."
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The GMs rejected the idea that video reviews for offside and goaltender interference take too long.
Reviews on offside challenges are taking on average 2:18 from the time the coach issues the challenge to the time the official delivers a ruling. It was 2:35 last season. Reviews on goaltender interference are taking 2:05, down from 2:27 last season.
Those times do not take into account how long it takes for the coach to decide if he's going to challenge, but the GMs said they feel coaches should be given a significant enough window of opportunity to decide because of the importance of the play.
"You're talking about a goal," Fletcher said. "The players and the coach, they want to get it right, so you've got to give them enough time to make the decision that they're going to use their challenge. And if you're wrong on your challenge, you lose your timeout. I think we have to be a little bit careful. I don't think there should be a clock. The referees want to be fair to the players and fair to the coach."
The GMs said the officials can speed the process at the end of the review by not going to each bench to explain to the coaches how and why they came to their conclusion.
"Once the call is made, let's just drop the puck and get going," Fletcher said. "We don't need the ref to explain it to the coach. He knows what he's going to hear."