SAN JOSE – In the first year of the NHL implementing the coach’s challenge rule, no team has been involved in more reviews than the Sharks.
Coach Pete DeBoer has challenged a play a league-leading 13 times, and has been successful on three of them. Opponents have requested reviews nine times with just one Sharks goal getting overturned on Nov. 5 against Florida, when Joe Thornton was barely offsides on a Joonas Donskoi marker.
The debate is ongoing as to whether the rule is a good one or has to be tweaked. If you’re unfamiliar, NHL coaches are allowed to challenge just two situations – whether a goal-against came on a play that should have been whistled offsides, or a goalie interference call.
The more controversial calls have come on goalie interference (or lack thereof). Take last Tuesday in Chicago, for example, when DeBoer successfully had a Brandon Mashinter goal overturned in the first period. The referees ruled that the Blackhawks’ Dennis Rasmussen came into illegal contact with Sharks goalie Martin Jones before the puck deflected in off of Mashinter’s lower body.
DeBoer’s successful challenge loomed large, as San Jose went on to a 2-0 win, including an empty-net goal. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was so steamed over the reversal he stormed out of his postgame presser after taking just one question about the controversial play.
Sharks defenseman Paul Martin suggested there are still some details to iron out as to what should and shouldn’t count when it comes to goalie interference.
“There’s still that ambiguity of – is it inference? Did he touch his glove? Was he out of the crease? There are still so many things that go into it for it to not be an easy call for the official. I don’t know. Maybe after the year we can kind of judge it a little bit better,” Martin said.
Jones agreed that the goalie interference was “a little bit vague,” but was a tad more positive on the rule than Martin.
“It’s been alright so far,” he said. “A lot of time spent looking over video in the middle of a game, but it’s been good. It’s good they are getting most of the calls right, I think. We haven’t had too many that I think they’ve really botched, or anything like that. I think it’s been good.”
After that Chicago game, DeBoer credited video coach Dan Darrow for suggesting that the Sharks challenge the Mashinter goal. It’s not always Darrow, though. He and assistant coaches Steve Spott and Johan Hedberg are all connected, and sometimes it's Hedberg who spots a potential offside play thanks to his view from above. The Sharks successfully had a goal overturned in Calgary on Dec. 8 on a play that was deemed offsides after a video review.
“They’ve got a routine kind of worked out between the three of them,” DeBoer said.
Other times, DeBoer simply challenges a play because he was planning on using his timeout anyway (If a review is unsuccessful, teams are charged their only timeout).
“There have been instances before where they’ve said ‘I don’t think that we’ll win that’, and I’ve decided to challenge it anyway just because of situation or time in the game or I was going to burn the timeout anyway. There’s been a few of those situations, but for the most part I leave it to them.”
As much as DeBoer has been willing to challenge, he’s going to let it play out a little longer before passing judgment on the new rule.
“I want to give it the entire season and let it sink in before I make a decision on that,” he said.
“I like the idea of getting things right. Every point is so critical in this league, that there’s nothing worse than losing a point on a play that’s been missed. If that takes a little bit of extra time to make sure that we get more of them right, I’m for that.”