Death To The Shootout Update: Support for 3-on-3 overtime increasing for NHL GMs

At the Traverse City prospects tournament, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland decided to test 3-on-3 overtime in a game between the Dallas Stars and the Minnesota Wild.

According to Craig Custance of ESPN ($), the reviews for the format were uniformly positive.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher declared that “every line change was an odd-man rush,” and wondered what it would look like if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin shared the ice during it. New York Rangers assistant GM Jeff Gorton said, “The three-on-threes were pretty fun. It was good, especially when they had fresh ice. The kids were racing up and down, trading chances.”

Custance writes that the positive reviews are part of the momentum building to have the format become part of NHL overtime:

The comments from his fellow executives echo conversations Holland has had in private. There's an appetite among the decision-makers in the NHL to change the current overtime solution. The biggest reason is that parity has made things so tight around the NHL that one point can make or break a playoff berth. More GMs would prefer that the deciding playoff spots be earned by something more closely resembling hockey, rather than points gathered by winning shootouts.

It's safe to say he'll be making his proposal again this year at the GM meetings. Now there is momentum building for it.

Holland has been pushing for 3-on-3 overtime for years. In 2012, he proposed a 10-minute OT period in the regular season with the first 5 minutes in 4-on-4 hockey and the last 5 played 3-on-3 – all sudden death, all designed to avoid the shootout.

This is all tremendously good news for those of us who are fans of equity, fairness and actual team play.

That said, it’s still a gimmick. I get that. Dave Lozo and I had a Twitter debate about 3-on-3 hockey and he labeled it as the evil of two lesser: That at least the shootout features something (a penalty shot) that you might see during the game with more regularity than a freak show like 3-on-3 hockey.

But here’s how I see it: 3-on-3 is a significant improvement on the shootout, to the point where I can overlook its flaws.

Passes being attempted! Defensemen playing defense! Games – and thus, playoff qualification – being decided by something that at least resembles the 60 minutes that preceded it!

But above all else: Unpredictability.

The shootout has gotten stale, which is something even an early adopter of skills competition bashing like yours truly could have never guessed would happen. But we’ve seen almost every move, almost every scenario. We’ve seen too many games that seemed destined for the shootout because one team or the other believes it has the advantage there to earn the extra point.

I’ve found it tedious for years, but I’ve grown increasingly aware that I’m not alone.

My perfect world scenario has always been teams trading sudden death 4-on-3 or 5-on-3 power plays in OT, with the home team having first crack. At the very least, 3-on-3 satisfies my desire to see games decided with something resembling hockey and the NHL’s desire to dish up sexy offensive highlights to SportsCenter.