By JD Lagrange – We are hearing more and more that the NHL has had it with the shootout gimmick and many NHL Executives would like to see it gone. The fact that the three-on-three overtime has provided winners and, as importantly, entertainment value for the fans, is a reason why they feel the shootout has lost its appeal. That and I’ve personally always felt like it was a mistake to start with, as it would be like the NFL having quarterbacks throw balls through hoops, the NBA with free throws or MLB ending games with a homerun derby to decide on a winner. Those are skills competitions. At least the three-on-three in the NHL is still a team game.
The NHL’s masterminds knew that already though, as they’re not using it when it really matters: determining the standings in case of ties. That’s right. They are not counting shootout wins in their tie-breakers calculations, having instead created a ROW (regulation and overtime wins) column in the standings, which they use to establish positions when teams are tied in points. So why even have it a shootout to start with?
For over 25 years, I was living in Penticton, BC, watching the BCHL and they had a format that I felt worked very well. For those not familiar with the BCHL, it’s known across Canada as the best Junior A league in the country, one level down from the CHL. If the game was tied after 60 minutes of play, they would play five minutes at four-on-four. If still tied, then they would go to three-on-three sudden death OT. If no team scored after the two overtime, it was a good old tie game with each team earning a point. I did the research several years ago and over a 5-year period, less than 2% of all games ended in a tie. Over an 82-games season, that’s averaging 2-3 tie games per team per season!
New points system
As the NHL isn’t even giving a second thought to shootouts when it matters, why not revamp the points system? And no, I’m not talking three points for a win as some would like to see. As a good old traditionalist, I personally can’t stand that option. No, let’s go simpler than that. If a team wins, whether it’s in regulation or overtime, give them two points, as they do now. But do not give the losing team a “loser point”.
Right now, after the three-on-three overtime, they do what we call a “dry scrape” with the Zambonis, which is the same as resurfacing but without water. That takes a lot of time. Then the shootout also takes a lot of time. Instead of doing all of that, they should do one of the following two options:
1- 5 minutes 4 on 4, then 5 minutes 3 on 3 sudden death OT. Here, you have a couple of options. You can have a buzzer after five minutes like at the end of a period, or you wait until the next stoppage in play after the first five minutes and then, you start the three-on-three. In that second option, the three-on-three would start with whatever time is left to the 10 minutes overtime.
2- 10 minutes 3 on 3. Pretty self explanatory isn’t it? This could force teams to utilize more players during OT which would then have the potential of creating situations with some more uneven matchups.
In both cases, if the game is tied after the OT, each team earns a point and believe me from experience, fans will go home entertained, as the last ten minutes alone will be worth the price of admission.
New 2021-2022 standings
Keeping in mind that teams played only five minutes of overtime, then went to a shootout, here’s what the NHL standings would have looked like by removing the extra point for shootout win and giving each team a point for a tie instead. As we’ve just touched on recently, let’s go with the Conference standings for playoffs’ matchups, forgetting divisions.
As you can see, there are not many differences in points and in the standings. With longer OT, the number of ties would be cut drastically, also adding to the win column for teams winning those games.
So the playoffs would look as follows. On the left, the current playoffs’ matchups. On the right, what it would be with the new points attribution, based on 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, etc… in each conference.