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The Problem With Replay

I suppose the only way last night’s offsides debacle really matters is if the Wild win the division by a single point, and that somehow matters in the playoffs whether the Hawks lose in the first round to an opponent whom they wouldn’t have played or if they lose to the Wild in Game 7 in Minnesota (because that’s oh so likely to a Boudreau team). But I’ve hated the challenge system in every sport since they instituted it, and it’s important to see why.

Both MLB and the NHL went to the “challenge” system to essentially mimic the NFL’s system. But that in itself is ridiculous, because the NFL system was basically adopted so the NFL could abdicate responsibility. It was either terrified of slowing down the game or that it couldn’t make the right decisions, or at least to restrict when they would go to video review. Sure, no one wanted a game where there was a delay of 30 seconds while a video review took place.

But that wouldn’t happen. What takes longer? A video review official taking one look at a controversial play and deciding it needs to be reviewed, or a team employee doing it, radioing down to the coach, who throws a flag, who then has to explain to the ref why he’s hurling laundry onto the field (and from now on they should throw a dildo), only for the ref to then go and review the thing with the aforementioned replay official?

The NFL has already moved to this because there’s a natural break after turnovers and scores, so they go ahead and do it. You’d only be adding three or four reviews per game if it was completely independent, and wouldn’t take nearly as long if the NFL didn’t figure it could stuff more commercials into that break.

As for the NHL, the two challengeable calls are offsides and goalie interference, two things that are easily detected as “fishy” and brought to review. We can all see when a goalie gets run over, and we can all see when something is close at the line.

As for actually arbitrating it for offsides, that gets murky. Because once you put it up to review, it’s black and white, or at least we thought so until last night. But you’ll get the fractional calls that we saw in last year’s playoffs, a margin that usually has no bearing on what happens next. But the rule is the rule.

The problem with it is there’s no flip side. You can’t go back and review a wrongly called offsides, reverse it, and then position everyone where they were to see how that particular rush would have turned out. You can only legislate one half of it. And when does that effect start? If a play is offsides and not called, and that ensuing rush results in an offensive zone draw, and then that team scores off said draw, is that missed offsides just as detrimental to the defending team as if they were scored upon on the initial rush? Is there a time-limit on it? If there was a play that was offsides that wasn’t called and the attacking team keeps the puck in the zone for a full minute, is that the same thing? The defensive team would have had more than enough opportunities to clear but didn’t. How do you weigh that?

Not having review means we are subject to calls like last night without review, or the infamous Matt Duchene goal which got us this whole process in the first place. There doesn’t seem to be a right answer. If they were to change the rule to having the blue line being a “plane” instead of having to have physical contact with the ice, it’s going to lead to the same problems in a slightly different area. Sure, maybe with the cameras on the line you can more easily tell if a player has any body part behind it, and maybe you can’t. But there will be minuscule calls canceling out goals.

However last night went, to me the only way to even come close to threading the needle, and this is true on all replays in any sport, is if it’s not clear in 30 seconds then you go with whatever the call was on the ice. If you have to break it down frame by frame, then it probably doesn’t matter (this goes for runners popping up on a slide in baseball, too). That way you’d rule out the Duchene-level bad calls but leave the other ticky-tacky ones behind. You know when a call is obviously bad after one replay. That’s all it should take.

But that’ll work until one team gets screwed over by a player being fractionally offsides.

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