It seems the San Jose Sharks have been gifted Get out of Jail Free cards from the league in these playoffs.
They’ve used three of them so far. The first came in Game 7 of their first-round series against Vegas when the Sharks were gifted a game-changing five-minute power play in the third period. The next one came in Game 7 of the second round against Colorado when the Avs had a key goal taken away due to an offside challenge. And, most recently, the Sharks got away with using a hand-pass to win Game 3 against St. Louis in overtime.
You can tell the league was embarrassed by the call. The official Twitter account cut the highlight so that you couldn’t see the hand pass:
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) May 16, 2019
Each situation has stirred up controversy around both reffing and the way in which calls are reviewed. When Cody Eakin took that five-minute penalty people suggested a game-changing call like that should be subject to a review. Then, in the second round, when Gabriel Landeskog not being able to get on the bench quick enough resulted in the Avs losing a goal, people figured there was too much review. Finally, yesterday’s botched call has people back on the train of the league needing more review.
The big issue here is that some things are reviewable and some aren’t. Landeskog had literally nothing to do with the play, but, since it was reviewable under the rulebook, the Sharks were able to use a Get out of Jail Free card. Timo Meier’s hand pass was just as illegal as an offside, but it isn’t specifically reviewable under the rulebook, so, despite the fact it actually had something to do with the play, the Blues couldn’t challenge it.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday SUNDAY EDITION question. How can the league fix this issue when it comes to reviews? Should more things be reviewable? Or should they scrap the system? Is there a middle ground? Because, as of right now, it isn’t working.
Back in the good old days, we only ever heard the lines “we’re going upstairs!” to take a look at a close play made right around the net. The plays that got reviewed were things like a possible kicking motion right in front of the net or a puck trapped under a goalie’s glove that may or may not have just squeaked over the line.
But since Matt Duchene scored this absurd, clearly offside goal a few years back, offsides have been shoehorned into the review process. Of course, the result has mostly been agitating, long pauses in action in which a guy being a step over the line results in a goal being called back, but, according to the rulebook, they are the right calls.
If you can go upstairs and take back a goal due to a player being a step offside, why stop there? Certainly, Meier’s hand-pass was more egregious than Landeskog standing by the bench, right? Maybe the standard, at least in the playoffs, should be to quickly review each goal no matter what. You’d catch situations like Meier’s hand-pass without having to have a specific thing written into the rulebook about it being a reviewable play.
The issue here is pretty obvious. Reviews are a huge buzzkill. It’s annoying going upstairs for five minutes to zoom in on a guy’s feet. Imagine doing it after every single goal. Also, what things would review people be looking for? Would, say, having seven guys on the ice during a change for a split second result in a too many men on the ice call?
I think the NHL should follow the NBA’s model for reviewing plays. As written in the NBA’s rulebook, Instant replay can be triggered if the officials are not reasonably certain about something happening. The game moves incredibly quickly and there’s a lot for two referees and two linesmen to watch. They’re obviously going to miss things, so give them the ability to admit when they’re unsure of something so it’s called correctly.
That’s much, much better than teams having random Get out of Jail Free cards for certain rules but not others, and it’s much, much better than going to a review on every single goal.