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Murphy: Coach's challenge could be in NHL's future

by Dan Rosen

Mike Murphy, the National Hockey League's senior vice president of Hockey Operations, isn't ruling out the possibility that one day -- possibly soon -- the concept of a coach's challenge could exist in the NHL.

However, Murphy also warns that the concept is not one that can be adopted without clearly defined criteria for what a coach would be allowed to challenge and what elements of the challenged play would be admissible in the review process.

"Sure, I think that there is a real possibility it could happen, but you'd have to sit down with a group of smart people and you'd have to go through just about every type of play you'd want to allow a challenge for," Murphy told "It can't be used as a tactic. That's a concern. It has to be a legitimate play that has been defined into the coach's challenge rule. Mainly, it's goals."

The concept of a coach's challenge was first brought up by Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon at the November 2010 general managers meeting in Toronto. Tallon proposed allowing coaches one challenge per game in order to contest a disputed goal.

Murphy said there was a long discussion about it at that 2010 meeting; but, ultimately, the concept generated little support.

When Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene scored a goal after he was clearly offside on Monday against the Nashville Predators, the topic became front and center yet again. Predators goalie Chris Mason, who was in goal on the play, said following the game that he thinks the NHL should adopt a coach's challenge to examine such plays.


"As Buffalo struggled, I'll be honest with you, I don't think he had any thought of him becoming the coach there. He talks with Darcy [Regier] on a daily basis about certain players and guys getting called up, so when he got the call from him [Wednesday] he thought it was another routine call until they told him he was coaching in Toronto. At that point I think he was in shock." -- Brian Rolston talking about his brother Ron becoming the interim coach of the Buffalo Sabres

"The recognition of how the game is going, [Patrick Kane] is reading off of that. It's almost like the quarterbacks and their reads, check downs. He's thinking, 'It's not there, it's not there, so I've gotta be there.' That's where I'm seeing progression and maturity and the realization that the game isn't always going to be black and white, up and down. That comes with experience." -- Blackhawks television analyst Eddie Olczyk describing the growth he has seen in Patrick Kane's game this season

Tallon told that he would reintroduce the suggestion of a challenge system when the GMs meet on March 20 if he gets more support for it. He labeled it "a dead issue" when it was initially shot down at the November 2010 meeting.

Murphy thinks challenges will be discussed next month, but is unsure of the amount of traction the conversation will generate because of the variables involved.

"I have no problem if they decided to do it, but I think it would be something that we would really have to have strong criteria on what is and what isn't allowed," Murphy said. "Go through a lot of examples -- offside, icing, goals -- an array of plays that would help us determine what is and what isn't [allowed to be challenged].

"I would think you'd want to challenge the goals. Goals are so important. Right now, we look at all the goals anyway to see if the puck went into the net in a legal fashion."

Murphy said determining if the Duchene goal should have been allowed would be easy with a coach's challenge in place. In that scenario, a coach would have to challenge the play and the refs would then have to get on the phone with personnel in the Toronto video review room to examine the call on the ice before an official ruling was made.

However, without a strict criteria to follow, Murphy said problems could arise in some situations, citing the example of a goal being scored after contact is made with the goaltender.

The disallowed goal in the Ottawa-Montreal game on Feb. 3 -- when Senators forward Jakob Silfverberg was called for goalie interference on Canadiens goalie Carey Price -- was the example Murphy used. That ruling negated a would-be goal by Andre Benoit.

Murphy questioned how the video review personnel would be able to interpret interference.

"If you watch the Silfverberg play in Montreal, there was contact, but was it severe? No, it was a brush," Murphy said. "If they come to video review, I'd say, 'What is my criteria?' Did he touch him? Yeah. Do I think it affected [the goalie]? That's opinion. You have to make sure you can make a decision on this play that would benefit the game.

"It can't be subjective," he added. "It can't be, 'Oh, come on, you know he interfered with him.' You have to have definitive evidence. On the Silfverberg one, they'll go crazy and say, 'How can you call it a good goal, he brushed the goalie?' What are we allowing here? Some contact? Light contact? No contact? It really becomes a delicate matter when you have to define what can you do with coach's challenge.

"There is a lot of contact in the crease. Much of it is incidental. We can't interpret interference."

Murphy also said the infrastructure of the challenge system would need to be determined. Would it be an unlimited-challenge system? Or, would it be a limited number of challenges, similar to the system currently used by the National Football League? Also, would the agreed-upon challenge structure be limited to scoring plays, or would it cover other calls?

Murphy would not be in favor of an expanded scope of reviewable plays, believing it would be interfering with the credibility of the officials on the ice and, "we can't start making judgments from the video room. That would be very wrong."

"[The coach's challenge] is a legitimate subject, but it's a tough one," he later added. "It's easy to sit at home watching a game and say, 'That play is unfair.' When you review it, there has to be very strict criteria as to what you're going to review."

Rolston on Rolston

Buffalo Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston used to talk to his younger brother, former NHL All-Star Brian Rolston, about the good and bad tendencies Brian saw from the various coaches he encountered during his 18 years in the NHL. It was all part of Ron's studies to become a coach in the NHL, a goal he achieved Wednesday when he was named as the interim replacement for Lindy Ruff.

"He's getting thrown into the fire for sure, but he's definitely qualified," Brian Rolston told in a phone interview. "I think that was his ultimate goal, to get to the National Hockey League, and it came sooner than he probably thought. But, I told him he's already prepared for the job. He's got the awareness already."

Brian wouldn't call his brother a defensive-minded coach, but he did say the Sabres should expect to have a coach who will hound them about their defensive responsibilities.

"I know that he knows being responsible defensively wins above a run and gun game," Brian said. "He's a super prepared guy. He'll have his team prepared, and that's all you can ask for."

Parise starting to see a familiar forecheck

Wild forward Zach Parise is beginning to see similarities between his current team's forecheck and the one that took his former squad, the New Jersey Devils, to the Cup Final last season. (Courtesy: Minnesota Wild)

Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise is very much aware how far an aggressive, attacking forecheck can take a team. He played in the Stanley Cup Final last season partly because his former team, the New Jersey Devils, suffocated the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers with that type of forechecking system.

Parise told that he's starting to see a similar type of forecheck produce similar results for the Wild, who are 4-1-1 over their last six games.

"When I was there [in New Jersey] we had it down to a T, where we knew every time our route and where we could go," Parise said. "I think we're getting there here. We try to forecheck pretty similar. That's just how we do it. I don't think we're at the point where we're doing it as well as we can, but I think it's getting better."

Parise said earlier in the season the Wild were guilty of still being in summer hockey mode.

"We didn't want to dump the puck; we wanted to try to skate it in and we were turning it over a lot," he said. "When you're doing that you never generate anything. You keep turning it over and they keep coming back at you. You're chasing the puck."

He's noticed a change over the last several games, in particular the last two, wins against the Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers. Minnesota scored three goals in each game; enough offense, according to Parise, for the Wild to win on most nights provided they continue to play their stingy brand of defense.

"When you've been a part of something that you know works so well, you want to try to share some of that experience you had," Parise said. "I know it's not always fun, constantly rimming the puck, but it works. For us, now we're starting to see those results. It's hard when you're not generating anything. You want to play fancy hockey and think that's the answer, but it's not. You have to see those results and we're starting to."

Pietrangelo: Blues need to balance

St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo used the term "as close to perfect" to describe the Blues' recent 3-0 road trip through Detroit, Calgary and Vancouver -- when they combined to outscore the Red Wings, Flames and Canucks by a 12-8 margin.

Alex Pietrangelo
Alex Pietrangelo
Defense - STL
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 12
SOG: 29 | +/-: -3

The Blues have since lost two in a row despite giving up only a combined three goals to San Jose and Colorado. The Avalanche beat St. Louis 1-0 on Thursday by scoring with 16.4 seconds left in overtime.

"Now that we've sharpened up defensively we have to find a way to use that strong defensive game and channel it toward the strong offense, creating more offense, the 'D' jumping up, things like that," Pietrangelo told "Right now we're trying to find that balance."

It isn't coming easy, and Pietrangelo said it's difficult to pinpoint why, but at least the Blues appear to be on track defensively -- a trademark for this team last season after Ken Hitchcock took over 13 games in.

The Blues allowed four or more goals in only six of their 69 games under Hitchcock last season; they allowed four or more in six of their first 12 games this season, but haven't surrendered that many in any game since.

Pietrangelo said now their job is to figure out how to turn that good defense into enough offense to win -- something they did so well last season, when despite finishing 21st in the NHL in offense (2.51 goals per game) they still put up 109 points because they were by far the best defensive team in the League (1.89 goals against per game).

"It's the little things -- stopping in front, banging in rebounds, putting more pucks to the net, us D-men getting pucks in easier," Pietrangelo said. "When we're playing real well we're putting up 40 shots a game and we might only score two or three goals, but with our defensive game that's enough to win. Once we're able to piece it together I think we're going to do pretty well."

Boyes finds new home on Long Island

Brad Boyes understands his role with the New York Islanders, and it's helped him find a new lease on his career. It's quite different feeling from what he experienced with the Buffalo Sabres last season, when Boyes was nothing more than a bit player who wasn't sure what his role was -- or if he had one at all.

Brad Boyes
Brad Boyes
Right Wing - NYI
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 13
SOG: 35 | +/-: -9

"As soon as I first got here I felt comfortable; I felt like I had a role and I felt part of the team and that was something that was a big change," Boyes told "I knew, for the most part, where I stood. It's definitely been a big change from last year.

"I was just more in limbo [last season], didn't know exactly where I stood."

Boyes was promised an opportunity to play a top-six role when he signed his one-year, $1 million contract with the Islanders this past summer. He's making good on it largely because he hasn't squandered the chance to produce on the top line alongside John Tavares and Matt Moulson.

Boyes has 13 points through 17 games after scoring only 23 points in 65 games last season. He is, however, a minus-9.

"I feel like I have an opportunity again," Boyes said. "That's one of the reasons why I came here and it's working out. I'm really just trying to take advantage of it. I'm having fun again, feeling the puck, feeling like I can make plays."

Odds and ends

With Lindy Ruff out in Buffalo, Nashville coach Barry Trotz takes over as the longest-tenured coach in the NHL. Trotz is the only coach in Predators history and got the job on Aug. 6, 1997. He is the only coach still in his job from the 20th century.

Mike Babcock (July 15, 2005) is second behind Trotz, followed by Vancouver's Alain Vigneault (June 20, 2006), Boston's Claude Julien (June 21, 2007 and San Jose's Todd McLellan (June 11, 2008). Rounding out the top-10 in longevity are Chicago's Joel Quenneville (Oct. 16, 2008), Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma (Feb. 15, 2009), New York Rangers' John Tortorella (Feb. 23, 2009), Colorado's Joe Sacco (June 4, 2009) and Phoenix's Dave Tippett (Sept. 24, 2009).

A total of 17 coaches are in either their first or second seasons with their current clubs.

The Chicago Blackhawks announced Friday that they sold all the tickets to their sixth annual summer convention in a matter of hours. The convention takes place July 26-28 at Hilton Chicago, but getting a ticket is obviously going to be difficult now.

Four of the top five scorers in the NHL entering play Friday are former No. 1 draft picks -- Sidney Crosby (2005), Steven Stamkos (2008), John Tavares (2009) and Patrick Kane (2007).


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