NHL coaches have challenged offside plays nearly a hundred times this season. No challenge, though, will come from their general managers on the offside rule.
The league’s GM meetings are underway this week in Boca Raton, Florida, with the execs opting not to modify the existing rule.
“I don’t think we have to change anything,” said Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic. “You grow up as a kid and you know the rule and it is what it is.”
Here’s the current language for Rule 83:
Off-side – Players of the attacking team must not precede the puck into the attacking zone.
The position of the player’s skates and not that of his stick shall be the determining factor in all instances in deciding an off-side. A player is off-side when both skates are completely over the leading edge of the blue line involved in the play.
A player is on-side when either of his skates are in contact with, or on his own side of the line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line regardless of the position of his stick. However, a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered “off-side,” provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line.
It’s that “in contact with” portion of the rule that was, well, up in the air.
“It’s changing the dynamic,” said Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli. “Now you have to determine […] if the leg is breaking the plane or not if it’s in the air. So you’ve got a number of calls that were reversed because the leg was in the air. But if you allow it, you still have to decide if it’s breaking the plane. So there’s uncertainty on both sides.”
There’s also concern that removing the skate from the ice would make it challenging for the officials, as they’d no longer have the ice surface as a point of reference when making the call, subjecting them to issues of perspective that often plague goal reviews. Minor leagues who model the NHL’s rulebook – and help train those who will eventually become NHL officials – would also likely have a hard time maintaining that standard, especially without the ability to leverage video reviews.
According to the NHL, through 972 games, 29 goals have been challenged for offside with a player’s skate in the air. Nine of those were overturned.
Overall, there have been 92 Coach’s Challenges for offside plays this season with 29 of those calls overturned, resulting in a goal being waved off.
“We talked about it a lot,” said Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka. “It always comes back to the fact that there are over 5,000 offside [calls made this season] and there were nine goals that were disallowed that would have been allowed if we change the rule.”
In addition to a minimal impact from the change, permitting skates to be onside while off the ice may introduce additional risk.
“I know there is some concern that if you have the skate in the air so long as it’s breaking the plane now you have skates in the air and skate cuts can be nasty,” said Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher. “So we’re trying to keep the players’ skates on the ice at all times.”
The general managers’ meetings run through Wednesday.