Easy there with the shootout PR, NHL.com

I read something today that reminds me how NHL.com must skirt the line between relevant content and PR mouthpiece for the league.

That's in contrast to the NHL Network's "On the Fly" TV show, which is a godsend, where commentators like Larry Murphy and Dave Reid do a nice job of objectively analyzing games, even when their friends and former teammates are deserving criticism. They don't go all talk-radio ranting on anyone ("That guy is just TERRible!") -- which is nice, actually -- but they do call out bad plays or coaches under fire in a measured yet relevant way.

NHL.com, meanwhile, also does a nice job of feeding content to addicted fans. However, the treatment on the league's official site makes you a little more aware that it exists both for general information and to promote the league's various party manifestos. That's just business. Sadly yet necessarily, you're not going to find anyone digging into Phoenix's finances there, nor analyzing Don Waddell's trade history.

But take this wee promo:

Yeah, yeah, I know. You're an old-time hockey fan and simply hate the shootout. OK, Odie Cleghorn, then explain why you can't take your eyes off it? Check out our four-part series on all things involving the shootout...

>>Phil Coffey (or a sidebar editor, it doesn't say),
NHL.com
senior editorial director

Look, I know it was just on a sidebar bit to promote other (shootout-related!) content (in four parts!) around the league's official site, but let me spell this out for you, one more time: Yes, you might call me an "old-time" hockey fan -- if a fan whose formative hockey years were the '80s can be called "old-time" -- but please stop using faulty logic to justify the post-game circus your league created so that Americans (supposedly) would stop complaining (allegedly) about ties.

See, if your league dictated that the Islanders' -- or anyone's, for that matter -- playoff chances depended on whether a puppy hanging from the telephone pole outside my house was rescued or perished, I would indeed "not take my eyes off it" -- for a variety of reasons, none of which indicate that puppy roulette is itself an inherently good event. (Your experiences may vary ... but if so, it's time to hotline you.)

[Continues after the poll/jump]

To be less macabre, if you told me a standings point depended on whether Mark Streit could hit the post when shooting from 195 feet away, I would also not take my eyes away. Doesn't mean either scenario is inherently good in any way. Just means you've appealed to the least common denominator: the gimmick with grand consequences. ("If this dolt you wouldn't otherwise care about guesses right, he wins A MILLION DOLLARS! Tune in tomorrow!")

The shootout is watched with baited breath because it has an inflated, artificial value attached to it. After 65 minutes of hard-fought play, suddenly half of a game's point value (for any one team) is decided by a few guys doing breakaways.

Shootouts: Partially Hydrogenated Breakaways

Except they're not even breakaways. Hell, they're not even penalty shots. As we watch guys casually drift across the blueline -- or even dangle to the sideboards first -- to take their shootouts, we are painfully reminded that this in no way whatsoever resembles a game situation. We'd be better off if they tossed a loose puck at the far blueline, and made a forward and a defenseman skate behind the far net first before racing for the puck to get a chance on goal. That would be a little more relevant to what we saw throughout the other 65 minutes of the game.

Heck, a shootout would be more realistic if you let a defenseman chase the shooter all the way down the ice, hacking at his stick while he attempts a shot on goal. That would taste a little more like the real deal.

But whatever, that's just how I feel about it. Personally, I'm fine with ties and splitting the spoils of a hard night's work where no winner could be found. Or 10-minute overtimes. Other fans disagree -- particularly newer or casual fans, I assume -- and that's fine (on that note, if the shootout must stay, I'd rather we move to a three-point standings system). To each his own. The league must "grow the game."

Just don't insult my intelligence by telling me that if I'm watching, it must be grand. I'm watching because I just invested two-plus hours in this game -- none of which resembled a shootout -- and now you've dictated that the outcome of those two hours hangs on the next Jason Blake spinorama crease crash.

Lots of people watch reality TV because it's prevalent (oh-so-cheap to produce) and contains the carwreck draw of other humans making asses of themselves. That doesn't mean it's quality entertainment, and it doesn't mean people don't feel a little dumber less-than-satisfied after sitting through it.

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