As we approach another season, I would be kidding myself if I said all was right with the league. Read Drew’s piece just before this one. It sums up exactly how I feel about the shootout, and how I think it’s the biggest farce in all of sports. However, it’s not the only thing wrong with the way things are settled in hockey. If the on ice product (ie the shootout) isn’t going to change, then something else has to give. Continue on for my idea on what can be done to counteract the shootout.
My biggest problem with the shootout is that winning in a shootout counts the same as winning in regulation. As a matter of fact, the league has put MORE value on OT and SO games than on ones that end in regulation. Games that end after 60 minutes are worth 2 points. Games that go into OT are worth 3 points. That’s ridiculous. You can’t have a league where one game is worth more than another. On top of that, you’re telling fans that the individual aspect of winning for your team in the shootout is worth as much as playing a great team game. A guy like Alex Semin can spend an entire game getting lost in his own zone, coughing up the puck multiple times, and go a -4. But if he scores the winner in the shootout, where all of the teamwork and sacrifice of hockey is thrown out the window, then he’s the hero. If the NHL is going to put a stop to this, and honestly I don’t think they want to, then they need to change the standings.
Look, I get that the shootout isn’t going anywhere. Fans love it, the market research is there. However, in 2007/08 the Oilers almost made the playoffs, even though 30 of their points came in the shootout. 30 points! Last year, the Rangers made the playoffs after winning 9 shootout games. The year prior, the Rangers missed the playoffs because they lost a shootout to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia Flyers. So the league needs to look to soccer standings to make the game more fair. My disclaimer is that soccer leagues are NOT perfect. They too have games that are worth more than others. However, it’s the opposite of the NHL. In soccer, a win is worth 3 points, and a draw is worth 1 for each team. At least games where a team wins are worth a point more. It makes a huge difference in the standings and rewards winning. Hockey can do a similar thing which will make winning in the shootout much less glamorous.
Regulation Win: Winner 3 points, Loser 0 points
Overtime Win: Winner 3 points, Loser 0 points
Shootout Win: Winner 2 points, Loser 0 points
End Result? All games are worth 3 points.
An argument against that system would be that once into OT, teams would play for the shootout. However, I disagree. The lure of 3 points will get teams playing in OT. Especially in division or conference games, teams will want to win in regulation or OT, because you’ll gain 3 points on the team you’re playing, as opposed to the possibility of only gaining 1 point on them. Going to a shootout is almost like losing 2 points, because you’re losing one point for the win with 2 versus 3, and you’re giving a point to the other team which the loser would not have gotten in OT or regulation.
One last thing I would do is bump OT up to 10 minutes of 4 on 4. You’re only adding 5 minutes to the current format, and with the way things usually go in OT, you’d see many less shootouts. There’s already enough chances in 5 minute periods. Doubling that would most certainly get us a winner. I’m not going to elaborate on this. It’s pretty simple. 5 more minutes means more goals.
This system would prevent teams from making the postseason based solely on the shootout. It would create further separation in the standings between the great teams and the mediocre teams. Finally, it would make OT more exciting, as there’d be a lot more chances because of the added time. The NHL would have a more fair standings system, reward winning, and make the shootout much less relevant. The league would keep their gimmick that the casual fans love, and the die-hards would complain a lot less. Win-Win-WIN.