Nashville Predators: New Offside Challenge Rule Helps Predators

(Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The NHL Board of Governors approved a change to the consequences of a failed coach’s challenge for offside. This may just benefit the Nashville Predators.

The National Hockey League Board of Governors announced yesterday that it approved a change to rule 78.7(b), the Coach’s Challenge Rule. The new rule reads as follows:

b) If the result of the challenge is that the play was on-side, the goal shall count and the team that issues the challenge shall be assessed a minor penalty for delaying the game

Prior to this rule change, any unsuccessful coach’s challenge resulted in a lost timeout. Additionally, a team without a timeout is not allowed to challenge a play.

The new change removes the loss of a timeout in the instance of a failed challenge but instead results in the assessment of a minor penalty for delay of game. It also allows a team that does not possess a timeout to challenge a play, albeit at the risk of incurring a penalty.

The Effect On The NHL

Since the institution of the coach’s challenge in 2015, teams have both praised and anathematized the rule. A number of hockey purists especially lambasted the offside challenge and its overturning of very close plays that resulted in goals.

Website tracked coach’s challenge results through January 22 of 2017. Out of 58 offside coach’s challenges, 22 were overturned and resulted in no goal. That means about 62% of the challenges failed and the play stood as called. We can conclude, therefore, that it is more likely than not that a challenge will fail.

Under the old rules, these teams revoked the right to use their timeout and the game continued 5 on 5. Now, these challenges result in a two minute minor. If we assume the referees will continue to call the game in the same manner they have been for the past two years, more than half of all offside challenges will result in a man sent to the box.

Case Study: Game 1 Stanley Cup Finals

In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Nashville forward Filip Forsberg entered the zone with the puck on a possession that led to a goal. Pittsburgh issued a coach’s challenge for the below play:

Pittsburgh won the challenge and the referees disallowed the goal scored by the Predators. Play continued with a face-off outside the zone.

The new rule voted on yesterday will not change the outcome of reviews on plays like these. The referees will continue to follow the same protocol and close calls like these can go either way. What it will change is a team’s willingness to challenge plays like this.

If Pittsburgh challenges this play in the first period of a Stanley Cup Final Game 1 and loses, it becomes self-destruction. The Predators would have gone up 1 – 0 and had a subsequent power play. That’s right. Not only do teams keep the goal if a challenge fails, they have a great opportunity to put another one in the net.

Pittsburgh had nothing valuable to lose by challenging a borderline early. If they lost it, it simply meant no timeout. So what? Team’s don’t always use their timeout in games. It wasn’t a deterrent for bold challenges. The new rule puts one in place.

The Nashville Predators Benefit

Teams like the Nashville Predators will benefit from this rule. Why? Their power play is deadly and their speed crossing the blue line makes it extremely difficult to identify offside. Those two factors potentially create more good goals for Nashville and deter opposing coaches from challenging.

The teams that move the puck quickly over the blue line reduce the risk of a whistle. The modern day NHL referee is good, but observing real time whether or not Filip’s skate dangled slightly off the ice challenges even the best. Nashville moved the puck quickly and they were not initially whistled.

The Nashville Predators power play will also be a strong deterrent. Teams will not be as willing to risk a goal being allowed and have to go on the penalty kill. Suddenly, one bad challenge could leave a team down two goals.

Next: Should Fiala See The First Line?

If the Predators power play threatens and they continue to move the puck quickly into the zone,  a stricter consequence for a failed offside coach’s challenge will actually benefit the Nashville Predators.