They heard the complaints. They disagreed amongst themselves about what qualifies as goaltender interference. But in the end, the NHL's general managers decided to leave the coach's challenge as is for the rest of this season.
"You can get down to the nitty gritty on all these things, but if you look at the big picture, we're in a better place than we were a year ago," Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman explained from Monday's meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. "The whole point of the coach's challenge was to try to get rid of those ones that are egregious."
The decision wasn't unexpected—rules are rarely altered midway through a season—but that doesn't mean the result will be well received. Bowman's own coach, Joel Quenneville, has been one of the most vocal critics of the way the new rules have been implemented, particularly when it comes to the inconsistency of goaltender interference calls.
"I don't know the rules anymore or something has changed," he said after the Hawks had a goal called back in February. "I think everybody has an interpretation, what's a good goal, what's a bad goal. But I can't believe it."
Ultimately, the GMs believed that the current system, which leaves the final decision in the hands of the on-ice officials after a video review, allows for more consistent in-game calls ... even as it leaves room for confusion.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland shared an interesting anecdote from the meetings: Given a chance to review six plays as a group, the GMs came to a consensus decision on three. But there was a wide split on the other three, with the voting going 20-10, 22-8 and 16-14. Holland told the media he wasn't surprised because the challenge is "about the better call, not the unanimous call."
Whether they've accomplished that remains up for interpretation.
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The GMs did agree on a slight tweak to the review of goals that could be challenged on the basis of an offside play. After experimenting with blue line cameras at outdoor games in Colorado and Minnesota, the league plans to equip all 16 arenas that host playoff games with an additional two cameras to expedite offside calls. One will be placed on the boards while a second will be positioned four feet above the glass to provide a direct overhead view in case a linesman is blocking the other camera.
It's likely that reviews for goals that are challenged because of potential offside plays will then be sent to the Situation Room in Toronto. The linesman currently perform the review with the assistance of on-site video.
"The feeling is because the offside is black-and-white, it can go to Toronto because that's the black-and-white call," Holland said.
Beyond that, there was some discussion of the three-on-three All-Star Game format (everyone loved it) and increased fines/suspensions for players who skip the event (sounds like those will be serious).
The group will reconvene on Tuesday to deal with the nuances of an expansion draft in case the league chooses to add one or more teams in the near future. They'll also discuss possible tweaks to the draft lottery, which may include a limitation on how often a team can win the first pick, and the streamlining of goalie equipment to allow for more scoring while also ensuring maximum protection of the athlete.