BOCA RATON, Fla. — Blame quantity — not quality — for the inconsistent standards regarding goalie interference.
The 170 challenges NHL coaches have issued through 1,100 games this season have already surpassed the 166 from last season. That’s a lot of chances to get a call wrong. Meanwhile, offside challenges have dropped from 118 to 68 in that same span.
The reason? Since the start of this season, a wrong offside challenge results in a penalty, which has acted as a deterrent against frivolous claims.
While there was some discussion Monday at the league’s general manager meetings of applying a similar punishment to wrongful goalie interference challenges, the subjectivity of the calls makes it a bit trickier. Still, it would cut down on coaches challenging goals simply because they have nothing to lose.
“We talked about that, but black-and-white and subjective are the two areas that you’re concerned with,” said Colin Campbell, the NHL’s Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations. “But still, it’s not out of the picture. It’s something to consider, because if it’s not a guaranteed goal in the third period, why not throw up a flag and see what happens.
“And the goalie’s like, ‘C’mon, stick up for me.’ They look to the bench and wonder why it’s not being challenged.”
The league invited three referees — two retired and one current — to the GM meetings on Monday to get a better perspective on what the on-ice official is looking for when it comes to goalie interference. There is also talk of having one in the situation room to help communicate with the on-ice official during a video review.
One suggestion that didn’t get much traction was either shrinking the goal crease or adopting the IIHF rule by making the blue paint completely off limits for anyone but goalies. The reason is there would be far too many whistles — and potential headaches.
“You really want to complicate things today, don’t you?” said Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello. “There hasn’t been any discussion on that as yet, but there’s always discussion as to what you can and can’t do to make the game better. But I think right now the focus is on the challenges.
“I know in my past, in college, you couldn’t go in the blue paint. It was a whistle and a power play. That’s the way it was.”
A week ago, the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association voted to make public their ballots for end-of-season awards. Now, the league’s GMs are expected to discuss whether they should also have transparency.
The GMs vote on the Vezina Trophy, as well as the NHL General Manager of the Year Award.
With Edmonton’s Connor McDavid tied for second in league scoring with 89 points — just four back of Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov — there is some debate as to whether last year’s Hart Trophy winner can be an MVP candidate if he is playing on a non-playoff team.
Just don’t ask Lamoriello for his opinion on the matter.
“You are asking the wrong guy, because I think the most valuable player is the team, so I don’t even think about anything other than that,” said the Leafs GM. “I wouldn’t even have a thought process.”
Unlike the Ted Lindsay Award, which the players vote on and which goes to the “most outstanding player,” the Hart Trophy is awarded to the player judged “most valuable to his team.” In each of the last four years, the winner of one has also won the other.
When Kevin Cheveldayoff acquired Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues at the deadline, he hoped the 31-year-old veteran would come in and provide a calming influence for 19-year-old Patrik Laine. But he never thought it would be like this.
Since the trade, which cost the Winnipeg Jets a first-round pick in this year’s draft, Laine has exploded with 12 goals and 17 points in 10 games. Stastny, who has missed three of those games, has 10 points and linemate Nikolaj Ehlers has nine points.
“Certainly there has been great chemistry right off the bat,” said Cheveldayoff. “But he’s come in as billed. He’s a real student of the game and a real competitor. As a young player, you see if you’re going to get from this level to this level, this is the type of seriousness or dedication that you need to have happen.”
As of Tuesday, Colorado is holding down the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. It’s a far cry from where the team was a year ago, when the Avalanche had a league-worst 48 points — 21 fewer than the next-worst team.
“What a difference a year makes,” said GM Joe Sakic, who looked to be in for another long season after trading forward Matt Duchene to Ottawa in November. “It’s just been fun to see this group of kids come in — not only our kids, but our veterans — with a totally different attitude and competing.”
A big reason for the team’s success has been forward Nathan MacKinnon, who is tied for second in league scoring with 38 goals and 89 points in 64 games. Since March 1, he and linemate Mikko Rantanen are tied with a league-best 18 points in nine games.
“When he’s going, the whole team is going,” said Sakic. “MacKinnon’s playing at a whole new level. He’s really taken it upon himself to be that leader and has really carried the group. There’s not a whole lot of players in the league who can do what he’s done and what he’s doing for our club.”
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