The American Hockey League announced some rule changes for 2014-15, most significantly to how overtime will be handled, and the logical next questions with this announcement are:
- Whoa, how's that gonna work?
- Wait, will this come to the NHL?!
The most notable changes have been bandied about in NHL governor discussions over the years. They would certainly have an impact:
Rule 85 ("Overtime")
- During the regular season, the sudden-death overtime period will be seven minutes (7:00) in length, preceded by a "dry scrape" of the entire ice surface.
- Teams will change ends at the start of overtime.
- Full playing strength will be 4-on-4 until the first whistle following three minutes of play (4:00 remaining), at which time full strength will be reduced to 3-on-3 for the duration of the overtime period.
- If the game is still tied following overtime, a winner will be determined by a three-player shootout.
They're all built around reducing the frequency of shootouts to decide the extra point* awarded in an overtime game. (*Oh, sorry, I mean "winner.")
Changing ends is an easy one: You've made line changes on the fly harder, creating more opportunities for mistakes, exhaustion, and odd-man rushes.
Extending OT to seven minutes seems a compromise move, to increase the chances of a winning goal without extending time too long. (Prior suggestions had been 10 minutes.)
Changing to 3-on-3 midway feels...aesthetically awkward, much like the shootout itself.
Reducing the shootout to three shooters (instead of five) conforms the AHL with how the NHL shootouts are currently conducted.
What Say You?
Our question to you: What do you think? Do you want this (e.g. 3-on-3, in any form) in the NHL? If you see a lot of AHL games, does this bug you?
Some people who cover the AHL -- often scrambling for post-game quotes between a deadline and the team hitting (or already on) the bus -- sure aren't thrilled:
ECHL would be brilliant if it bucked the trend. 60 minutes. No OT. Ties. There isn't an appetite for more regular season hockey in minors.— Jason Guarente (@JasonGuarente) July 10, 2014
I've opined plenty about my distaste for the shootout, and my acceptance of the beautiful simplicity of splitting the points when a game is tied -- i.e., no deserving "winner" has been determined -- after 65 minutes. So I won't repeat that soapbox further.
But all of these changes are little cuts at the thousand-cut dilemma hockey faces these days: (Some) people demand a winner, yet the team that wins a breakaway drill coinflip never quite looks like a "winner," and the team that loses that shouldn't really feel like a loser after a good night's work.
And so they tinker, tinker, tinker again.