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LHH Power Rankings: How to Avoid Shootouts Edition

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The Isles climb into the top 10 of our rankings, and we tackle yet another hot button issue that the League will certainly botch.

The Isles are up to 9th and wait that's Gordie's number where's your honor, rook?!
The Isles are up to 9th and wait that's Gordie's number where's your honor, rook?!
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

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

LHH LHH
GP W L T Pts Rating
1 Washington Capitals 65 36 14 15 87 124.2
2 Minnesota Wild 64 35 16 13 83 122
3 Columbus Blue Jackets 65 32 17 16 80 119.4
4 Pittsburgh Penguins 64 32 16 16 80 116.4
5 New York Rangers 67 35 22 10 80 115.2
6 Chicago Blackhawks 65 31 18 16 78 111.7
7 San Jose Sharks 65 32 19 14 78 110.9
8 Ottawa Senators 65 30 22 13 73 109.8
9 New York Islanders 65 27 23 15 69 106
10 Montreal Canadiens 67 27 21 19 73 105.7
11 Anaheim Ducks 65 29 21 15 73 104.4
12 Edmonton Oilers 66 26 23 17 69 103.5
13 St. Louis Blues 65 26 27 12 64 102.3
14 Nashville Predators 66 28 24 14 70 101.5
15 Boston Bruins 66 29 26 11 69 101.4
16 Toronto Maple Leafs 65 23 22 20 66 100.7
17 Tampa Bay Lightning 65 23 26 16 62 98.6
18 Calgary Flames 66 25 26 15 65 98
19 Carolina Hurricanes 63 20 27 16 56 93.6
20 Buffalo Sabres 67 20 28 19 59 93.3
21 Florida Panthers 65 18 25 22 58 91.9
22 Los Angeles Kings 65 19 28 18 56 91.3
23 Dallas Stars 67 24 30 13 61 91
24 Philadelphia Flyers 65 19 26 20 58 90.5
25 Winnipeg Jets 68 25 32 11 61 90.3
26 New Jersey Devils 66 17 29 20 54 88.9
27 Detroit Red Wings 64 14 29 21 49 88.5
28 Vancouver Canucks 66 18 30 18 54 83.4
29 Arizona Coyotes 65 14 35 16 44 77.7
30 Colorado Avalanche 65 12 44 9 33 68.2

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!!!