Lately, the NHL powers that be have been grumbling about the shootout. The recent switch to 3-on-3 overtime was their answer, but that in and of itself has proven to be quite a gimmick. And yet there are still plenty of shootouts happening, anyway, as teams start to figure out ways to not lose in overtime (the way they play to not lose in regulation). I have an idea on how to get more games to end with hockey at the bottom of this article, if you're inclined to read about it. Meanwhile, on to our usual business.
Weekly Ranking of Opinion Polls
|Site||Updated||New Ranking||Prior Ranking||Comments|
|SportsNet||3/9/2017||14||15||[This week is their "That's What He Said" Edition] "If anything, it’s the ultimate respect." —Josh Ho-Sang, on wearing sweater No. 66"|
|ESPN||3/6/2017||18||15||GM Garth Snow was in the market for the Avalanche's Matt Duchene but wouldn't part with the necessary pieces to acquire the highly skilled forward. Instead, Snow remained quiet at the deadline and even held on to goalie Jaroslav Halak, who remains in the AHL.|
|TSN||3/7/2017||17||16||The Islanders have climbed into the playoff picture, though they’re in the midst of nine straight games away from home – so far they are 3-2-1 with Edmonton, Vancouver and St. Louis remaining before they get back to Brooklyn.|
|THN||3/8/2017||12||13||The debate over Joshua Ho-Sang wearing the No. 66 might be one of the silliest in the game over the past little while. Ho-Sang, by the way, scored his first NHL goal Tuesday night in a win over Edmonton|
|Average||15.3||14.8||Can we rank them 66th?|
Two out of the four sites updated prior to the Islanders' win over the Oilers, and those are the two lowest rankings. I'd like to add that TSN shows a "prior week's ranking," despite there being no prior power rankings articles for about a month. I guess some of their rankings are in-house only.
LHH Power Rankings
|3||Columbus Blue Jackets||65||32||17||16||80||119.4|
|5||New York Rangers||67||35||22||10||80||115.2|
|7||San Jose Sharks||65||32||19||14||78||110.9|
|9||New York Islanders||65||27||23||15||69||106|
|13||St. Louis Blues||65||26||27||12||64||102.3|
|16||Toronto Maple Leafs||65||23||22||20||66||100.7|
|17||Tampa Bay Lightning||65||23||26||16||62||98.6|
|22||Los Angeles Kings||65||19||28||18||56||91.3|
|26||New Jersey Devils||66||17||29||20||54||88.9|
|27||Detroit Red Wings||64||14||29||21||49||88.5|
The Islanders may lose big when they lose, but winning all of the other games has been enough to lift them two spots. Four of the top five teams are still from the Metro.
Weekly Reminder That the Loser Point Sucks
Going into the game against the Canucks, the Isles were one point above the 9th place Leafs for the final playoff spot. If all games tied after regulation ended in an even split of the points (AKA the standings system your dad remembers), they'd be three points up.
I've already beaten this issue to death with different possible ways to convince the League to award points differently, such that all games are worth the same number of points. Many commenters have done the same in those prior articles.
But let's say we can't win that fight. Right now, the League seems more concerned about minimizing shootouts, so let's look at that.
How to (Mostly) Eliminate the Shootout
I brought the issue up in last week’s column and asked what you would do, based on a few guidelines. There was some good stuff in there and I suggest going through the comments (there aren’t a lot of them, it won’t take long). North Dakota Red Eagle’s suggestion is closest to my own, for what it’s worth. The following is what I would propose, if the League actually cared to know what fans would want. But first, let’s make a few things clear. We are not the commissioner. We aren’t an owner. We therefore must present something that will keep those parties happy. Therefore, we must still honor the axioms we have heard time and again over the past decade or so:
- The fans want a winner.
- The shootout is exciting.
- Keeping games to two or three points creates parity!*
*(OK they don’t say this, but that’s what they want us to believe)
We could take these sayings, bend them just a bit, and come up with something better than the current way of deciding games. My proposal:
1) Allow ties. Just not many of them. The NFL has ties, but they are so rare, that when they happen, people all over the country talk about it. Buzz is a good thing. Yes, Gary, we know you don’t like ties. Or you say that we don’t like them. But that’s probably because there were so many, back before the League started tinkering with overtimes and the like. What if I told you that we could reduce the number of ties to a really small number? Not as few as the NFL has (after all, hockey teams play 66 more games a year... ok I didn't mean to bring that number up again... honest!), but still quite small? If you could just bend on that little bit, the rest of the proposal could give you what you want.
2) Start overtime within regulation. Every time there is a play stoppage after the ten minute mark of the third period, check the score. If the game isn’t tied, then proceed as usual. If it is tied, then remove one player from each team. Most of the time, this will mean going from 5-on-5 to 4-on-4. But if a power play is going on, then we’ll go from 5-on-4 to 4-on-3. If a goal is scored before the game is over, then revert back to 5-on-5 hockey. The theory behind this is that, with more open ice, there is a better chance of the tie being broken within the usual 60 minutes. Reverting back to 5-on-5 will mean it is more difficult for the trailing team to tie it up again. Naturally, it’s still possible and happens often. But in that case, we go back to 4-on-4 again, just like the first time.
3) Same as now, a team that wins in regulation gets two points and a team that loses in regulation gets nothing.
4) Overtime remains 3-on-3, just as gimmicky as ever. It stinks but what can ya do? We need games to avoid going to a shootout.
5) That being said, the overtime will be increased to 10 minutes. With the extra time, coaches will be forced to not double shift their best players as often, for fear of them burning out, especially because they played some 4-on-4 hockey for at least a little while near the end of regulation. That means more middle and bottom line players getting involved. That means a better chance for error, or for slower players that others can skate around. And that leads to game winning goals so we can all just go home already.
6) If a team commits a penalty in overtime, it is an automatic penalty shot. If the penalty is a major, the team will get two penalty shot attempts. If the penalty is a trip from behind, or any other foul that would require a penalty shot in regulation, then the team will get three attempts. If we are going to be forced into gimmicks to avoid shootouts, then let’s go all the way. After all, most times when a penalty happens in overtime, it’s out of sheer desperation to stop a golden opportunity, so let’s give that golden opportunity right back.
7) No icing in overtime. Goalies must still observe the trapezoid rules. Let’s see teams dump it into the corner and stretch that ice out. We need as many opportunities to end this to avoid a shootout, as possible.
8) As with current rules, the winner in OT gets two points and the loser gets one. Gary still gets some of his fake parity (but not all of it… see below). We want teams to go for it, without fear of losing out on something if they don’t score. Which brings me to the next point.
9) If the game is still tied after OT, then it’s a tie in the standings. Each team gets one point. Therefore, if you want two points, you’re gonna have to earn them while playing hockey (even if it’s a bizzare form of hockey).
10) Yes, you can still have a shootout to decide a "winner". While it doesn’t affect standings points, a team’s shootout record could be used in the tie breaking format. It must be high enough to actually have a chance of deciding a team’s position (and therefore hold fans' interest), but not be overbearing. Make it the second tie breaker behind total wins (which is the same as ROW now, except you won’t have to call it that, as every win would now be in regulation or overtime). Therefore, it’s still juuuust important enough to have people stay an extra few minutes to see who wins. You’ll still have people standing, Gary, just as they do now (you call it "excitement", I call it "getting ready to run out to beat the traffic", but I digress).
In summary, I believe the number of games going to a shootout would be greatly reduced, to the point where shootouts would be more of a novelty than a chore. The league would still get it’s forced parity, but at a somewhat reduced impact compared to today’s rules. Chances are, with starting a form of overtime within regulation (point 2 above), there won't actually be a need to stretch overtime to 10 minutes, but that could always be scaled back later, after tinkering with the system in the AHL or ECHL.
There are, naturally, drawbacks to any plan. Extending overtime would make the NHLPA weary. There would still be three point games, which many people hate (but then again, the League wants it, so here we are). There would be both OT losses and ties, and shootout records would also have to be shown in the standings. This would add columns, and adding columns is never a good thing.
On the other hand, those added shootout columns would normally not factor into anything (and wouldn't need to be mentioned until the end season is drawing near), so we would really be adding only one important column (ties), for a total of four (W-L-OTL-T). The NHL has had that very same four column system before, so would it be so horrible to bring it back, if it meant most games would end with a hockey goal, instead of a skills competition?
What do you think? Again, I'm not asking people to compare this to an ideal system ("Go back to no overtime at all!", "Give three points for a regulation win!!!" etc.). If the goal is to reduce the number of shootouts, would you be able to live with this system? And if not, what would you suggest? As mentioned last week, though, you have to keep in mind that the League needs to be happy with it, which means you can't do away with the loser point entirely. They want that fake parity, so we have to live with it (at least in my system, a little bit of that fake parity is eliminated).
I look forward to you ripping my proposal to shreds. It's the internet, that's what it's here for. Fire away!!!