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Coach's Challenge a real possiblity


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Mike Murphy, the National Hockey League's senior vice president of Hockey Operations, isn't ruling out the possibility that one day -- possibly soon -- the concept of a coach's challenge could exist in the NHL.

However, Murphy also warns that the concept is not one that can be adopted without clearly defined criteria for what a coach would be allowed to challenge and what elements of the challenged play would be admissible in the review process.

"Sure, I think that there is a real possibility it could happen, but you'd have to sit down with a group of smart people and you'd have to go through just about every type of play you'd want to allow a challenge for," Murphy told NHL.com. "It can't be used as a tactic. That's a concern. It has to be a legitimate play that has been defined into the coach's challenge rule. Mainly, it's goals."

The concept of a coach's challenge was first brought up by Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon at the November 2010 general managers meeting in Toronto. Tallon proposed allowing coaches one challenge per game in order to contest a disputed goal.

Murphy said there was a long discussion about it at that 2010 meeting; but, ultimately, the concept generated little support.

When Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene scored a goal after he was clearly offside on Monday against the Nashville Predators, the topic became front and center yet again. Predators goalie Chris Mason, who was in goal on the play, said following the game that he thinks the NHL should adopt a coach's challenge to examine such plays.

Tallon told NHL.com that he would reintroduce the suggestion of a challenge system when the GMs meet on March 20 if he gets more support for it. He labeled it "a dead issue" when it was initially shot down at the November 2010 meeting.

Murphy thinks challenges will be discussed next month, but is unsure of the amount of traction the conversation will generate because of the variables involved.

"I have no problem if they decided to do it, but I think it would be something that we would really have to have strong criteria on what is and what isn't allowed," Murphy said. "Go through a lot of examples -- offside, icing, goals -- an array of plays that would help us determine what is and what isn't [allowed to be challenged].

"I would think you'd want to challenge the goals. Goals are so important. Right now, we look at all the goals anyway to see if the puck went into the net in a legal fashion."

Murphy said determining if the Duchene goal should have been allowed would be easy with a coach's challenge in place. In that scenario, a coach would have to challenge the play and the refs would then have to get on the phone with personnel in the Toronto video review room to examine the call on the ice before an official ruling was made.

However, without a strict criteria to follow, Murphy said problems could arise in some situations, citing the example of a goal being scored after contact is made with the goaltender.

The disallowed goal in the Ottawa-Montreal game on Feb. 3 -- when Senators forward Jakob Silfverberg was called for goalie interference on Canadiens goalie Carey Price -- was the example Murphy used. That ruling negated a would-be goal by Andre Benoit.

Murphy questioned how the video review personnel would be able to interpret interference.

"If you watch the Silfverberg play in Montreal, there was contact, but was it severe? No, it was a brush," Murphy said. "If they come to video review, I'd say, 'What is my criteria?' Did he touch him? Yeah. Do I think it affected [the goalie]? That's opinion. You have to make sure you can make a decision on this play that would benefit the game.

"It can't be subjective," he added. "It can't be, 'Oh, come on, you know he interfered with him.' You have to have definitive evidence. On the Silfverberg one, they'll go crazy and say, 'How can you call it a good goal, he brushed the goalie?' What are we allowing here? Some contact? Light contact? No contact? It really becomes a delicate matter when you have to define what can you do with coach's challenge.

"There is a lot of contact in the crease. Much of it is incidental. We can't interpret interference."

Murphy also said the infrastructure of the challenge system would need to be determined. Would it be an unlimited-challenge system? Or, would it be a limited number of challenges, similar to the system currently used by the National Football League? Also, would the agreed-upon challenge structure be limited to scoring plays, or would it cover other calls?

Murphy would not be in favor of an expanded scope of reviewable plays, believing it would be interfering with the credibility of the officials on the ice and, "we can't start making judgments from the video room. That would be very wrong."

"[The coach's challenge] is a legitimate subject, but it's a tough one," he later added. "It's easy to sit at home watching a game and say, 'That play is unfair.' When you review it, there has to be very strict criteria as to what you're going to review."

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