NEW YORK, N.Y. - NHL general managers made some progress toward implementing a coach's challenge system, but could not finalize plans to do so at their annual Stanley Cup final meeting.
At this point the issue is trying to define what cases would be subject to challenges and how the process would work. Because of that, GMs sounded optimistic something would be agreed on, but there was no certainty about whether it would start next season or in 2015-16.
"It would be related to a coach's challenge and so instead of jumping right into it, maybe everybody understands when the coaches are going to challenge," Jim Rutherford of the Pittsburgh Penguins said. "So maybe just try it internally for a year. These are real tough changes so you want to get it right."
Coach's challenges and the possibility of expanded video review dominated Wednesday's meeting several blocks from Madison Square Garden on the day of Game 4 of the Cup final.
One thing that seemed clear was that goaltender interference would not be part of any such changes because there's so much room for interpretation.
"I think Commissioner (Gary) Bettman says it best: You want certainty, you want black-and-white where we can say, 'This is it' and, 'This is not it,'" Don Maloney of the Phoenix Coyotes said. "Goals going over the line, that's certainty, black-and-white. When you start talking about goalie interference for example, now you start talking about judgment calls. ... That's when it gets grey."
What coaches might be able to challenge includes goals scored on plays that should've been offside, the puck hitting the protective netting, the wrong player getting penalized and the puck going over the glass for a penalty.
Rutherford stressed that coach's challenges won't be there next season, while Maloney said he wasn't quite sure if it was too late for that possibility. That just added to the lack of clarity out of Wednesday's meeting.
Discussions also centred on cracking down on embellishment, and changing the draft lottery for 2015-16 and beyond to be more like the NBA's that allows the first three picks to be attainable. Any draft-lottery changes would not go into effect until 2016, leaving the much-anticipated Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel 2015 event subject to the same system there is now.
GMs gave their approval on those competition committee recommendations, including allowing a more liberal definition of kicked-in goals, expanding the trapezoid, doing a dry scrape of the ice and changing ends before overtime, and making some faceoff changes.
Consensus wasn't so clear on expanded video review out of Toronto's situation room or coach's challenges. One problem is the possibility of delaying games, which Major League Baseball is dealing with in its first season with replay beyond home runs.
"We don't want games to be 3 hours long, 3 1/2 hours long," Maloney said. "I find myself going to football games with the stoppages there, I really can't stand it."
One thing GMs did seem to agree on is the desire to have more correct calls.
"That's all we're concerned about: making sure we get it right," Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers said. "And then if we do further reviews, we've got to make sure that when we do the reviews, it's black and white. There's still a lot of grey areas in all of this stuff."
The discussion will continue. The NHL's board of governors convenes later in June and must approve any changes along with the NHLPA executive committee.
"We're on the right track. We just have to make sure what we're doing is giving us the results we expect," Maloney said. "The coach's challenge, expanding video replay—those are the big topics right now and we're still searching for ways to help the game, not hurt it."
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