When the NHL's general managers gather on March 21 in Toronto for an abbreviated version of their annual meetings one thing is certain – they will recommend increased use of video replay in overturning or confirming the decisions of the on-ice officials.
The appetite for more replay use than the current standard, which sees the league's hockey department review only goals and only whether or not the puck entered the net, is much greater than it was in November, 2010, when Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon saw his suggestion of giving coaches one challenge a game, like the NFL, quickly rejected. Now the debate will concern just how intrusive the war room at the NHL offices in Toronto will be with the referees and just how those rulings will be applied.
"I'm more open than I was when Dale Tallon brought it up," Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland said Sunday. "The big thing in our game is goals, so we have to try to make sure goals are right, that we're not scoring goals on offsides or maybe goalie interference."
Tallon, who made his proposal shortly after his team lost a game to the Toronto Maple Leafs when forward Colton Orr knocked down Panthers' goaltender Scott Clemmensen and put the puck in off his skate, saw his argument boosted last week by Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene. He was offside by a metre when he scored to help the Avalanche beat the Nashville Predators.
"But the question will be where you draw the line and what to include," said Maple Leafs vice-president of hockey operations Dave Poulin. "I think it's got its place because you always want the right call."
The change in attitude probably came with the growing sentiment you hear behind the scenes now, that the game is too fast for the officials to call properly. This is not an indictment of the referees and the linesmen, simply the realization that the rule changes of the past eight years designed to speed up the game have done their job too well along with the players' dedication to training and fitness.
With today's technology, every decision by the referees and linesmen could be subject to video review. However, the main concern with the GMs is the game is already subject to enough momentum-killing television timeouts and cannot stand much more.
"The problem is, if you try to take human error out of this we're going to slow down to a crawl," Holland said.
The most popular solution appears to be what Tallon suggested back in 2010 – give each coach one challenge and limit it to goals. If an offside goal is scored or a penalty was missed just before a goal then it can be reversed.
"You could be over-saturating [the game] but I think in some situations, if it's the right call or the wrong call, let's go to it," said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle about more use of replay in general. "There's no reason to have a bunch of mistakes determine success or failure."
Also up for discussion will be injury prevention, particularly as it relates to a couple of serious cuts to Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Zach Redmond of the Winnipeg Jets. However, do not expect the GMs to recommend the mandatory use of Kevlar socks under their uniforms to prevent skate cuts, as resistance from the players is always a problem.
But Poulin thinks an enterprising manufacturer may solve this problem. He thinks it's only a matter of time before someone figures out how to make the uniform socks out of Kevlar or some other material that will protect players from cuts.