Offsides has been a hot topic of debate over the past few NHL seasons. The addition of video review has been a huge reason for this debate. Very few people are fans of the offside reviews as they often take large amounts of time for the officials to come to a decision. It is extremely hard for anyone to tell whether or not a players’ toenail was touching the blue line before the puck crossed it.
The addition of the forward pass in 1928 led to a massive spike in goals around the NHL. Offsides was added in 1929 to limit the offense that came along with the forward pass. Fans are now begging to see more offense in the league. The thought of shrinking goaltender equipment or making the nets bigger has come about. The much simpler solution would be to remove offsides from the game.
The video below provides us with an excellent example of why offsides needs to go away. This took place in game one of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Forsberg is receiving a pass at the blueline before entering the zone. Forsberg loses control of the puck but strips it right back from Ron Hainsey. Forsberg is then able to make a pass to Subban who shoots it passed a screened goaltender. Offsides had nearly no effect on the play. Hainsey turned over the puck and Dumoulin failed to clear Sissions out of the shot path. That generally will cost you in the NHL. The offsides call itself is also brutal. How are you able to tell if Forsberg is even offsides or not? I’ll let this guy take it away.
The removal of offsides would obviously change the game completely. Ideally, if offsides were to be removed, the bluelines more than likely would be removed too as they would no longer provide any meaning. It would be an absolute nightmare for defenseman on the defensive side of the puck. Gap control would completely change and there would be nothing to stop an attacking player from simply camping in front of the opposing goaltender hoping for a homerun pass. That would make a defender very cautious of letting a guy get behind him, as he could be off to the races with a long stretch pass. Even simple “zone entries” would become much harder to prevent. Forwards would no longer have to straddle to blueline before the puck enters the zone. They would be able to fly right by the defender as the puck carrier would then have more time to make a play. Defenders who aren’t as good of skaters will have an increasingly tough time due to how much quicker the game would become. Defenders are not the only ones who would fall victim to these changes, but goaltenders as well. Breakaways and oddman rushes are obviously much harder to stop. Many more quality scoring chances would arise from taking offsides out of the game.
On the upside in the case of defenders, they would no longer have to worry about holding the blueline. No longer would they have to make risky pinches in order to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Also, despite the rule changes, defenseman are pro athletes and are more than likely able to adapt the the new challenges on the defensive side of the puck.
Getting rid of offsides is a dream come true for any forward. The ice suddenly becomes much more open as they no longer have to worry about entering the zone properly. More creativity will arise as there will be new ways to score. The pace of the game would speed up as a result of not having to think about stopping or slowing down to enter the zone onsides. Picture a player like Connor McDavid playing without the offsides rule. He’s a guy who opens up ice as is with his speed and all around skillset. The NHL is becoming a faster and faster league each year. Why should that speed be limited by offsides?
Overall, I believe removing offsides would be great for the game of hockey. It would make for a much more high flying and entertaining game. After all, offense is what sells tickets and makes fans tune into the games. When is the last time you heard someone say: “Oh yes my favorite! An offsides call!”? Most importantly, it gets rid of the god awful offside video reviews. Much like the two-line pass, offsides has outgrown the game of hockey. Imagine if two-line pass were still around. We would have been robbed of that fantastic saucer pass play between Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman in the first round of the playoffs last year. I hope to one day see the bluelines removed from hockey rinks across the world.