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How Camp Shanahan can make the shootout less terrible

The NHL overtime shootout is terrific if you're someone that enjoys seeing 65 minutes of a team sport flushed down the toilet in favor of a made-for-television one-on-one gimmick that doesn't have a single pass attempted or a defenseman playing his position.

But even supporters of these artificial finales have to admit that the current format, adopted after the lockout, is getting a little stale.

The NHL's Research and Development Camp is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday outside of Toronto; and along with revolutionizing the power play and about a dozen tweaks to face-offs, Brendan Shanahan's(notes) camp will offer three new spins on the shootout format — including one that, even as skills competition bashers, we're a little intrigued to see.

The current format of the NHL shootout goes a little something like this:

"Each team will be given three shots, unless the outcome is determined earlier in the shootout. After each team has taken three shots, if the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to a "sudden death" format. No player may shoot twice until everyone who is eligible has shot.  If, however, because of injury or penalty, one team has fewer players eligible for the shootout than its opponent, both teams may select from among the players who have already shot. This procedure would continue until the team with fewer players has again used all eligible shooters."

The R&D camp will look at three variations.

Shootout Mutation No. 1: Five-man shootout.

"Five Players from each team shall participate in the shootout and they shall proceed in such order as the coach selects. After each team has taken five shots, if the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to a 'sudden death' format. No player may shoot twice until everyone who is eligible has shot."

Going from three to five shooters is either going to be seen as overkill or more of a good thing, depending on how you view this gimmick. We'll split the difference: Having five players shoot for each team at least brings this thing more in line with the 60 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey that brought us to overtime. But it's still more shootout than we'd like to see.

Shootout Mutation No. 2: Five-man shootout with the ability to have players repeat if tied after five shooters.

"Five Players from each team shall participate in the Shootout and they shall proceed in such order as the coach selects. After each team has taken five shots, if the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to a 'sudden death' format. Players may shoot as often as coach desires in sudden death round."

Again, five players is a bit much for a shootout hater, but the other tweak's a welcome change.

The shootout is essentially a platform for dazzling moves and for star players to directly factor into the conclusion of the game. An overtime game-winning goal can be scored by anyone, from the captain to a plug to a third-pairing defenseman. The shootout will typically put the puck on a star offensive player's stick.

So why not keep it there? Why not allow the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins to go through five shooters and then have Alex Ovechkin(notes) and Alex Semin vs. Sidney Crosby(notes) and Evgeni Malkin(notes) (OK, more likely Kris Letang(notes)) until the game ends?

The Jonathan Toews(notes) Show from the 2007 World Junior Championship tournament is the template; who wouldn't want to see this kind of individual effort in an event created to spotlight individual efforts?

But still … five shooters. If only there was a way …

Shootout Mutation No. 3: Three-man shootout with the ability to have players repeat if tied after three shooters.

"Three players from each team shall participate in the shootout and they shall proceed in such order as the coach selects. After each team has taken three shots, if the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to a 'sudden death' format. Players may shoot as often as coach desires in sudden death round."

Ah, perfect. We could have a painless six shooters and then egregious star-[expletiving]. Shootout hockey like it oughta be.

Now all we need are helmet cams, the ability to use two sticks and allowing the opposing bench to use paintball guns during attempts, to bring the shootout to its full potential …

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