June 25, 2015 By Paul Gackle

Three Stars: What Was The Stupidest Move That The NHL Made This Week?

The NHL didn’t waste any time before it made a trio of bonehead moves at its annual Board of Governor’s meeting in Las Vegas this week.

While the decisions to open the expansion process, introduce a coach’s challenge and shift to 3-on-3 overtime won’t compete with the lunacy of Commissioner Gary Bettman’s claim that there isn’t clear evidence linking concussions to CTE, all three moves will eventually wind up in the NHL’s storied Hall of Stupid.

So in honor of the game itself, which refuses to be overrun by the ineptitude of the NHL’s decision makers, let’s countdown this week’s Three Stars of Stupid.

Third Star: Expansion

Why is the major sports league with the shallowest talent pool, the smallest audience and the highest number of troubled franchises now looking to become the only league other than the NFL to expand beyond 30 teams?


I usually prefer to explore more nuanced arguments than simple greed, but the potential to collect an expansion fee of at least $500 million is the only logical reason why the NHL would look to add teams when others are treading water.

While the NHL clearly appreciates the value of a buck (or $500 million), it doesn’t seem to understand basic economic concepts, like supply and demand. For some reason, the league insists on forcing itself into non-traditional hockey markets while ignoring fans with a true passion for its product.

At this point, the NHL clearly needs to give up on the Arizona Coyotes and the Florida Panthers. The Coyotes have been a mess since they arrived from Winnipeg (a fervent hockey market that the NHL had no interest in for 15 years) and the Panthers routinely play in front of less than 10,000 fans.

Still, the NHL stands by these markets, forcing square pegs into round holes, when Quebec City is ready to go and Seattle is willing to explore the possibility of building an arena for hockey without an immediate commitment from the NBA.

Move the Panthers to Quebec City, the Coyotes to Seattle; problem solved (I know it’s never quite that easy). But Instead, the NHL is looking to expand to another risky market, Las Vegas, diluting its talent pool while prioritizing unlikely growth over common sense.

On its face, opening the expansion process is the dumbest move that the NHL made this week. But the owners know exactly what they’re doing: cashing a big check. So ultimately, this decision is more a reflection of greed than stupidity, which makes it the third star rather than the first.

Second Star: Coach’s challenges.

After nine months of hockey, it’s tough to flip on the TV and watch a nine-inning baseball game.

With lapses between every pitch, multiple bullpen moves and mid-inning meetings on the mound, the pace is grueling compared to the speed, continuous flow and edge-of-your-seat excitement provided by hockey.

But now the NHL is choosing to compromise its most attractive attribute by introducing a coach’s challenge for goals scored on potential offside or goalie interference plays.

While the NHL has a penchant for stupidity, it executes instant replay better than any other professional sports league.

The purpose of instant replay should be to eliminate the egregious mistake. No one wants a game determined by an obvious botched call, especially the referees.

The brilliance of hockey’s instant replay system, in its previous form, was that when there was a controversial goal (or non-goal), the referees received help from Toronto and reversed the call if an egregious error had been made. Time wasn’t wasted by coaches challenging ambiguous calls that couldn’t get overturned because of inconclusive evidence.

This is the problem with the NFL’s instant replay system. Head coaches impulsively throw challenge flags, and consequently, the game gets interrupted for several minutes to review a call that every fan watching at home knows is irreversible due to lack of conclusive evidence. It kills the momentum of the game.

The NHL didn’t need to introduce a coach’s challenge to eliminate egregious mistakes related to goalie interference and offside plays. These situations should be handled by an eye in the sky. If it’s fairly obvious that a mistake was made, the eye in the sky alerts the officials, the game is stopped and Toronto does its work. If not, there’s no reason to go upstairs and interrupt the pace of the game.

The problem with goalie interference is that it can be somewhat ambiguous, like pass interference in football. By introducing a coach’s challenge, the league is creating more opportunity for the flow of the game to be disrupted while fans sit at home watching replay after replay as the referees try to figure out the what viewer already knows: there isn’t enough conclusive evidence to overturn the call.

For some reason, the NHL is trying to fix what isn’t broken with the coach’s challenge and it will cause unnecessary interruptions, slowing down the fastest game on earth.

First Star: 3-on-3 overtime.

The NHL absolutely murdered the potential for excitement in the third period of tie games this week by switching to 3-on-3 overtimes during the regular season. The league wants fewer shootouts, and apparently, less late-game drama, too.

The biggest problem with the NHL’s overtime format is the single point that’s guaranteed to the loser of the extra session or the shootout. With so much parity in the league, teams are content to play conservatively late in the third period of tie games because they know they’ll be awarded at least one point by going to overtime.

Five minutes of three-on-three will only cement this strategy.

Shootouts are unpopular because the league is using a skills competition to determine winners and award points in the standings. Now, the NHL is expanding its use of gimmicks into overtime.

Three-on-three is no closer to resembling real hockey than the shootout. And with one point guaranteed and an opportunity to grab a second, it makes more sense to enter the lottery in overtime than opening things up and trying to earn wins in regulation.

By trying to reduce the number of shootouts via 3-on-3, the NHL guaranteed that more and more points will be awarded by a roll of the dice, sinking its overtime policy further in the depths of human stupidity .