August 19, 2011
By now, most of us have let our feelings be known on how we think the NHL should settle up its ties. I'd like to explain my stance with a little more depth than Twitter's 140 characters has allowed me in the past, so let's get it on the table, then I'll explain why I'm right:
I'm a fan of going 4-on-4 for five minutes, then 3-on-3 for five minutes. I'd even be OK with a shootout if teams are still tied after that.
Before I elaborate, let's talk about some of the alternatives:
In every conversation, comment section and message board, the "just let the game end in a tie" group is always well represented. They're our old-school, purist friends that we love despite the fact that they're quite capable of getting on our nerves with their adherence to the mantra "everything used to be better."
Message received, guys.
But in the end the NHL runs a business, and wants to satisfy its fans. There is nothing satisfying about watching a two hour movie with no conclusion, and the same goes for any sporting event. We're invested in tonight, so let me go home with an outcome. I would prefer the shootout to wasting two hours watching nothing get settled.
Then there's the group of fans who actually like the shootout.
You'll never hear from this group, because they're the folks who just like to be entertained, and generally aren't the type of diehard hockey fans that care enough to spend their time on hockey blogs on the internet (let alone in August). As far as the diehards know, just about everybody hates the shootout. It's just not the case.
These people, as we diehards have come to agree, are flat-out wrong. The shootout has very little to do with hockey, and should be excused from having to be a part of the game for the rest of ever.
("But…..what if we made it MORE rounds? Ehh? Eh? Yeahhhhh." — The NHL)
There are folks who suggest we just make overtime longer, which isn't all that awful an idea.
The only difference with my preference is that taking the second half down to 3-on-3 gives us an increased chance of finding a winner before having to go to the metaphorical coin flip. And that, one would think, is a good thing.
Joe Yerdon of ProHockeyTalk has mentioned to me that he figures coaches would make their players play conservative in this format. This is simply not an option, fortunately. It only takes one player to make one error (no matter how they're trying to play) to create a legit scoring chance with so few players on the ice, and players make errors every shift. With nifty NHLers like Datsyuk, Crosby, Ribiero and a ton of others out there, they'll force more errors than you'd believe. There's no advantage to make your goal "not lose" when you know the game is going to be decided one way or another anyway. You might as well go for it.
Your whole goal as a forward is to eliminate numbers. A 2-on-1 is better than a 3-2 is better than a 4-3. By starting with 3 guys each, you only need one guy to get beat to make fans stand up out of their seats.
I played this exact format in the BCHL and we never once left a game tied after Overtime No. 2. It's wide open, and because of that, possessions last longer. Guys have time to get creative and try to roast players, and because of that, you get to see them do things they normally couldn't try.
For anyone who claims it's a "gimmick," that's nonsensical — 3-on-3 is a legitimate hockey situation that can naturally occur during game play. It just happens to be one of the situations that leads to the most scoring chances, which is precisely why we should put teams in that situation when we need to settle a game.
I don't exactly like that in the second overtime period, penalties become penalty shots … but that's exactly how they decide games now. At least a game won on a penalty shot there would come on one that was earned.
We have purists that cry "quit trying to change the game!" which is a fair statement.
And that's the point — I'm proposing this (once again) because I want to change the game back to where defensemen are relevant again, goalies have to read passes, and players have to beat other players.
There's not going to be some magical solution to deciding a winner in close games that's going to pop up and makes everyone say "hey yeah, that's perfect, can believe we didn't think of that until now." And, we certainly can't ask players to endure multiple full-length overtimes at 5-on-5 in the regular season if we don't want to see twice as many injuries.
So give the boys a chance to wrap the game up in a wide-open game of pond hockey.
Isn't pond hockey where The Game's true roots took hold, purists?