It was clear what would take center stage at this week’s NHL general mangers meetings well before the group descended upon Boca Raton, Florida. As expected, the majority of discussions centered around ideas to reform the review of goaltender interference, and ultimately, the GMs recommended that the league shift the final verdict away from the on-ice officials to a committee based in NHL’s situation room in Toronto.
The recommended changes were approved by the NHLPA’s executive board and the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee, as noted by Dan Rosen of NHL.com. The next step to solidify the changes would come from a Board of Governors vote, and Blake expressed optimism that would happen in advance of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This proposed reform is not an effort to change the definition of what constituted goaltender interference, but rather a way in which the review process could become more consistently applied.
“If you put all of us in a room right now and watch these goals, I don’t think we’re going to come to a common understanding on what they are looking for,” Kings general manager Rob Blake said Thursday at Pepsi Center in Denver. “We looked at some very difficult ones there at the GM Meetings. Maybe eight-to-10 … that are hard to have a common understanding of whether that’s in or now, because that is a judgement call. “But I do agree taking the next step here to Toronto, have a committee do it.”
The heart of the discussion acknowledges that it’s a difficult judgement call first made in real time by the on-ice officials, who communicate and recognize the opinion from the situation room, but currently have the final say.
“I think finally when you go to video, you can take that emotion out. It’s tough when you’ve got to go look at an iPad with 20,000 people, you have people yelling at you, and you’ve got to make a split decision. It’s difficult. The situation has a good set-up. It can go frame-by-frame, they can enlarge different things and look at different angles,” Blake said.
The situation room would be joined by a retired referee to get “a sense of what they might feel from the ice level,” who would potentially be rotated, as Blake noted.
The on-ice officials are neutral observers trying their best, but they may not be able to maintain the same degree of precedence or consistency that a centralized review system could afford.
“One referee will watch it, and he might not have a call for another two weeks, and all of a sudden he gets it. The situation room has that call every night, so they’re reviewing it, they’re watching it. I just think the consistency factor will be improved because of that,” Blake said.
“If you’re looking for more consistency, probably follow the same path as supplemental discipline. If you leave it to a committee, you might not always agree with the call, because it is a judgement call at the end of the day. But at least if you know there’s a group doing it, you’ll get a sense on how they’re doing it, so you’ll start seeing goals repeatedly and you’ll get a sense of how the call it, so I think that’s why the decision was made to move that to Toronto for the final say.”
“We’ll hopefully get the consistency, and then you won’t have the question from the coaches.”
-The league has been sending goaltender interference explanations to general managers the morning after on-ice calls have been made. Blake described the process. “What it does is it clarifies certain things,” he said. “We started about a month ago, every goal review was sent out the next day to the GMs and coaches with an explanation from the referee and from the situation room. I would envision that being expanded similar to supplemental discipline where they put videos out because it helps educate and it helps you understand what you’re looking at and what their point of view is. I think it’s helped with the GMs and coaches just getting an explanation. You kind of start to understand, ‘that’s what they were seeing on this.’”
-Also discussed, though not in-depth, was the idea to assess a minor penalty for unsuccessful challenges to goaltender interference calls. “It definitely helped [to assess a penalty] on the [unsuccessful challenges of] off-sides to limit the number, but again, that wasn’t the main focus this week. It was more making sure that we get it to the right spot, take the emotions and everything out of it once you get to video, and have a committee decide that,” Blake said. There are also no steps being taken to combine the late-game puck-over-the-goal-line and challengeable goaltender interference calls, such as the recent instances at home versus Edmonton and at Arizona.
-John Stevens is on-board and articulated what many coaches around the league believe. “The problem we have, and I think the reason they’re leaning in that direction, is we maybe played a game last night and a call went one way, we have a game the very next night, a totally different referee crew, a very similar situation where they use the criteria to send it one way and it goes the other way the next night, whereas the people in Toronto, one, they’re removed from the emotion of the game, and two, they’ve seen every play every night so the reference point we have – the referee making the call, he doesn’t have. So, I think they’re just looking for some consistency in that situation with the input of the referee, and again, what I think they’re trying to do is look at it in full speed and not try and micromanage the situation. If it’s clearly goalie interference, then make the call. If it’s just some kind of incidental contact, it’s a good goal, then make that call, too. But I think we really want to get this in order before the games are big now and the playoffs come around, and we’re going to have a situation in the playoffs which could cost a series or a critical time of the game where one game goes one way or the other like it did years ago with the toe in the blue paint. I mean, I think we’re taking steps to just get the right call.”
-Craig Custance of The Athletic reported that salary cap projections for 2018-19 are in the $78-82-million range. That doesn’t really affect how the Kings will go about their operations. “We always base it off a two-and-a-half [million] increase, and I think we’re safe doing that at times, whether it’d be more or less. Lately it’s been very similar to that,” Blake said.
-Lead photo via Norm Hall/NHLI