Colorado Avalanche: Blown Call Raises Questions

Mar 19, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) scores a goal past Colorado Avalanche goalie Jeremy Smith (40) during the third period of the game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) scores a goal past Colorado Avalanche goalie Jeremy Smith (40) during the third period of the game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche lost against the Chicago Blackhawks after a blown call by NHL officials, emphasizing the need for accountability measures in officiating.

The Colorado Avalanche are not making the playoffs, they’re the worst team of the salary cap era, they gave up four unanswered goals to lose to Chicago 6-3, so on and so forth.

That doesn’t change the fact that the team had a blown call go against them on Sunday evening. Sure, the game was unimportant as far as standings go, but it certainly infuriated Avalanche fans in an already infuriating season.

Why does that matter? Because the NHL has no purpose if the fans aren’t paying money to fill seats, buy merchandise, etc. Naturally the league shouldn’t kowtow to the fanbase. However, it does have a responsibility to provide unbiased officiating during games.

Yet on Sunday evening it seemed the entire NHL colluded against the Colorado Avalanche.

Blown Call Goes Against Colorado Avalanche

There are blown calls. There are calls made out of favoritism. There are blatant mistakes made by the officials.

And then there’s what happened during the Colorado Avalanche game against the Chicago Blackhawks:

That is offsides. Right after that, Jonathan Toews collected the puck and scored against the Colorado Avalanche to make the score 3-2. But the goal should have been disallowed because Toews was offsides when his teammate, Artemi Panarin, took control of the puck.

In case you’re an NHL official wondering what on earth offsides is, here’s the official explanation from the NHL website:

"” Players of the attacking team must not precede the puck into the attacking zone. A player is off-side when both skates are completely over the leading edge of the blue line involved in the play.”"

Here is a visual representation of offsides based on that definition:

See? The puck is completely over the blueline. Toews’ skates — and the rest of him — are also on the offensive zone side of the blueline. Completely. There is no gray area. (Lots of white between the blueline and his skates, though.)

However, the NHL cited Rule 78.7 as rationale for their decision to rule against Colorado’s Coach’s Challenge:

"“If a review is not conclusive and/or there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether the call on the ice was correct, the On-Ice Official(s) will be instructed to confirm their original call.”"

The website explains that the “review was not conclusive in determining whether Toews tagged up at the instant the puck was on Richard Panik’s stick when Chicago entered the attacking zone prior to the goal.”

Actually, as the video and stills that were immediately available to television viewers — and so presumably to NHL officials — show, both of Toews’ skates, and therefore the player himself, are completely over the blueline when Panarin takes possession of the puck. Off. Sides.

Questions from Blown Calls

I’m old enough to know better, but I still believe in schoolyard rules — what’s right is right, what’s fair is fair. The Chicago Blackhawks are going to the playoffs. That’s right, that’s fair. The Colorado Avalanche are at the bottom of the NHL. That doesn’t feel right, but it’s certainly fair given how they’ve played.

Nonetheless, a team’s record should have no bearing on NHL officials’ calls. Offsides is offsides whether the call goes against the winning Blackhawks or even the sainted Pittsburgh Penguins star, Sidney Crosby.

Which begs the question — if it had been Sid Crosby’s skates in a game against the Blackhawks, which way would the call have gone?

That shouldn’t be the question. Yet it is, along with “What’s the point of the Coach’s Challenge and video review if the officials are just going to do whatever they want anyway?”

Does this become a power struggle? Do we ask if the officials would have been less likely to go lie to a seasoned coach like Mike Babcock or Bruce Boudreau?

Nov 5, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy (C) reacts after losing a coaches challenge in the second period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy (C) reacts after losing a coaches challenge in the second period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

I mean, the most entertaining question for me is this: How would former Avalanche coach Patrick Roy have responded? Even the mild-mannered Jared Bednar got a little hot under the collar. You’ve got to wonder if Roy wouldn’t have gotten thrown out of the game because of the severity of his response to the blown call.

But then, would the officials have felt comfortable skating up to a Hall of Famer and award-winning coach to lie about the video review? Did Bednar get the shaft because he’s the rookie coach of the NHL’s worst team?

What if the game had been on a bigger stage? What if it was a playoff game? What if we’re talking an overtime goal — one that can determine the result of that series? What if it’s OT in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Hawks and Pens? What if it’s Hawks vs Columbus Blue Jackets (underdogs) or Pens vs Nashville Predators (underdogs)?

Where does the favoritism end and the unbiased officiating begin?

Habitual Blown Offsides Call

Turns out, this isn’t the first time even this year the officials have blown a call exactly like this. Last time, Chicago was on the receiving end of the bad news when it was deemed the Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise was onsides when teammate Charlie Coyle took possession of the puck:

That call almost makes this whole situation worse. After seeing a call go against the Colorado Avalanche, the last thing Avs Nation wants to see is a blown call go in favor of the Minnesota Wild.

Well, that’s ok, because here’s a time we see a call like that go against the Minnesota Wild:

I’m sure a little cursory research will show a time a call like that goes against the St. Louis Blues, and a time it goes against


opponent and


opponent and



In other words, it’s veritable nesting dolls of blown calls.

Now, that doesn’t justify the Colorado Avalanche collapsing right after the blown call like it was the third period of a winning game against the Minnesota Wild on opening night. (Convoluted simile, but I’m speaking of last season’s opening night when Colorado gave up four goals in 5:07 against the hated Wild.) But that does justify fans’ fury.

Colorado’s season is bad enough on its own. The team rebuild seemed to have gotten caught with its pants down. The Avs are the worst team in the salary cap era, yadda, yadda, yadda. That doesn’t mean the entire NHL has to pile on.

However, according to Terry Frei of the Denver Post, that’s exactly what happens:

So, it’s not that the NHL hates the Colorado Avalanche specifically — just any bad team.

And that’s not right. That’s not fair.

Need for Official Oversight

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Ultimately, this all leads to one big question: Where is the accountability in NHL officiating?

Mistakes happen, I understand that. However, the goal of video reviews is to decrease the possibility of mistaken calls during games. The NHL implemented the Coach’s Challenge last season for just that reason.

Yet the call in the Colorado Avalanche vs Chicago Blackhawks game shows that the video reviews are not being implemented properly. There needs to be oversight of the officials and the NHL to emphasize that favoritism isn’t allowed, no matter the stakeholders in the game.

I can remember back in the wild days of 1990s NHL that a lot of games were often called in tandem. Team A got a penalty. Soon after Team B got a penalty. Now, naturally, games were a lot rougher back then, so penalties were happening almost every shift.

This tandem calling was especially used when officials knew they’d blown a call to help keep the game “fair.” So, in a case like this, one of the Blackhawks players would have been called for a seemingly nothing penalty soon after. And that would have helped stem the momentum caused by an illegal goal.

A part of me still waits for those makeup calls whenever the officials are riding the Colorado Avalanche especially hard. But they don’t come anymore. As Terry Frei pointed out, bad teams just get the shaft.

So, if the officials aren’t going to self-regulate, and the NHL isn’t going to self-regulate, there needs to be some other form of accountability. Here’s where I think the biggest stakeholders can come into play — team owners. If officials might be embarrassed to walk up to Mike Babcock with a call against him, imagine how much worse it would be to explain to a billionaire why they were shafting his team.

Or bring in an outside source. Create a consortium of retired coaches and players. Make sure there’s a retired coach or player from most of the teams represented to keep it unbiased. Heck, bring in a group of statisticians, accountants or some other analytical, disinterested party. Teach them the rules, and let them make the final decision.

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Because what’s going on right now isn’t working. The Colorado Avalanche had a call go against them that arguably turned the tide in the game. All teams have had that happen to them. But there’s no guarantee that, at the end of the season, the ledgers are balanced.

Therefore, the NHL needs an oversight committee to hold officials both on the ice and in the war rooms of Toronto and New York accountable.