NHL players' solutions to replay review controversies

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BOSTON -- After a postseason beset by officiating controversies, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league will explore expanding replay review.

Considering how candidly Bettman vented on Monday -- "It would be good if I kept my head from exploding," the commissioner said of his reaction to the uncalled hand pass that led to a game-winning goal in the Western Conference final -- it would be shocking if change isn't implemented for the 2019-20 season.

Though general managers and the competition committee will meet next month to discuss any alterations, Bettman said the league will gather ideas and feedback "from all the constituent groups." That should include players. To take the pulse of how they've felt about the controversies, ESPN asked several players in the Stanley Cup Final for their preferred solution.

"Get rid of video reviews, that's the problem," Bruins winger Brad Marchand said, sternly. "When you start bringing in all the video reviews, the refs are getting crucified. They're out there to do a job. Start taking it away from them, little by little, then it's going to escalate. Now they're going to want video reviews for pucks hitting the net or hand passes, so how much are you going to take away from the refs? The only way to do it is to do all of it with video review or none of it."

When asked which side he leaned toward, Marchand said: "I don't care either way. Just pick one. We're in between right now."

Indeed, a large issue for players is the gray area in which they're currently living. Some plays can be reviewed, such as goalie interference or offside. Others -- such as the hand pass in the Sharks-Blues game, or the uncalled puck off the netting that led to a goal in the Bruins-Blue Jackets game in the second round -- cannot. Frankly, it feels arbitrary.

"We've all talked about it, being such a hot-button topic," Bruins defenseman John Moore said. "The issue with video replay is: Where do you draw the line? If you allow it, and you don't allow certain things, then you have situations like we've seen all throughout the playoffs. You look at certain sports like tennis, right? It feels like they've really perfected the video review. You know the technology is there, so it's frustrating. It's a conversation that needs to take place with the powers that be moving forward. It is an imperfect system."

Moore went further.

"If there are individuals seeing this happen and they're stuck in a neutral location, then it's frustrating they can't step in and make a wrong call right," Moore said.

That leads to one popular player suggestion: an off-ice official who can see things from a different vantage point and interject. During the Eastern Conference final, Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour suggested taking a referee off the ice and putting him in the penalty box. St. Louis Blues winger Chris Thorburn thought the press box would be better.

"People have brought up having someone upstairs," Thorburn said. "It's a fast game. It's tough to keep up. Even I'm sitting there, watching stuff, and I miss things -- and I'm sitting where I can see everything. So for them to get it right all the time is almost impossible. Maybe have an eye in the sky. Whether it's baseball, football, basketball, it's part of the game. There's calls that are going to be missed, we understand that."

Uniformly, players expressed their respect for officials and praised them for doing the best they can. Officials are typically not allowed to speak with the media, though it should be noted they have made great efforts over the past few years to keep up with the faster, more skilled NHL, including new fitness mandates.

"It's a hard job, especially when they don't have the video replays," St. Louis defenseman Joel Edmundson said. "So many moving bodies on the ice, they don't always see everything."

"Obviously the refs are the best at what they do in the world," Blues center Brayden Schenn said. "But they also have it tough."

Added Thorburn: "You almost wish there was an element of a safety net because we're hanging them out to dry."

Bruins defenseman Torey Krug also sympathized with the refs, saying: "As athletes, we make mistakes, that's why goals are scored in the first place. Officials make mistakes too."

Players don't get the luxury of do-overs. Officials -- in theory -- can.

"My only suggestion would be to be able to review anything that immediately affects a scoring play," Krug said. "So if, for example, a hand pass was part of the scoring play, as a secondary assist or a primary assist, that should be reviewable. If it's outside the primary scoring event, then I don't think that should be reviewed."

On if it would slow down the game too much, Krug said: "I don't think it matters. We play such a fast game, I think it's more important for the guys to get things right."

While the NHL has made conscious decisions to keep the length of games palatable, some NHL players interviewed said they wouldn't mind a few more breaks, for accuracy's sake.

"I think there could be more video replays," Edmundson said. "Not to slow down the game, but maybe just to go over to the penalty box and check it out for a minute. It's not that hard if you see it on video."

Though it's hard to exactly nail down in a rule, what mattered to players most was controversies that directly affect the outcome of the game.

"There's been some ideas tossed around, and it's not really up to me, but I think for a game-winning goal, like what happened to San Jose, that should be overturned," Schenn said. "You just want the game to be officiated right."

Added Bruins center David Krejci: "Maybe the league should look in to have some other plays reviewable. We got scored on in Columbus, where the puck hits the net. There's the play in Vegas-San Jose. Those things can change games, they can change series, like for Vegas. Those type of game-changing, series-changing moments, they should be reviewable. I don't think as refs they can make the call on the spot. I think the league should look into it -- I'm sure they will at some point."