August 22, 2010
Let's get one thing straight: There are a great many NHL fans that enjoy the shootout in the same way one enjoys, say, a pie fight to end an old Hollywood comedy.
But if these same people believe the shootout is a satisfactory way to determine the victor after 65 minutes of a team competition, there's a very good chance they also enjoyed a screening of "Vampires Suck" this weekend, too ... and probably shouldn't be allowed to operate large mechanical devices.
The good news: Logic is slowly winning battles against the glorified skills competition.
Suggesting it belongs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains sacrilege. The NHL's Research and Development Camp dedicated a significant amount of time to analyzing overtime format changes that would minimize the chances for a shootout. And, beginning next season, the NHL will no longer honor shootout victories as legitimate when it comes to tie-breakers in the standings.
NHL confirms this rule change: Regulation/OT wins (shootout Ws EXCLUDED) now will be first way to break ties in the standings.
This was a rule change proposed by Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson back in March, and it was received warmly by fellow GMs and hockey observers. Howson is proudly waving the battle flag against the shootout, as he told the Columbus Dispatch after the R&D camp:
Howson and former Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock were intrigued by what they saw, including a couple of ways to end more games in overtime rather than extending them to a shootout. Last season, a record 184 NHL games were decided by the one-on-one skills competition, or about 15 percent.
"I want to reduce the impact of the shootout," said Howson, whose team had a league-worst 2-10 shootout record last season. "I know they are great for the fans, but the total is creeping up, which I don't think is the direction we want to go."
Of course, the fact that the Jackets are the fourth-worst team in the shootout (33 losses) since it was implemented probably has nothing to do with it, right?
So what worked at the R&D camp? From the Dispatch:
One proposal is to force teams to switch ends after regulation, making for longer line changes and creating the chance for more odd-man breaks in the 4-on-4 format. A more radical idea is to alter overtimes: playing three minutes of 4-on-4, three minutes of 3-on-3 and three minutes of 2-on-2 before resorting to a shootout.
Howson and Hitchcock like the first proposal. They also agree the second one would need tweaking. "The long line changes made it difficult to defend," said Hitchcock, who coached the prospects who were playing under the proposed rules. "There was a dramatic increase in scoring chances. If you made a bad line change, you were in trouble."
Congrats to Howson and the NHL on the new standings rule change. Although for those who claim the NHL standings are already "too complicated" for casual fans: Welcome to a world in which two teams can have the same points but different win totals, only those win totals won't be the actual win totals because some of them are shootout wins, so taking that into account the teams are actually ...
... you know, some days, we really do sympathize with those who just want a win to be a win and a loss to be a loss.