November 23, 2009
Once more, with feeling: You're never going to convince us that a skills competition, which doesn't feature a pass attempt or a defenseman on the ice, is an equitable manner by which to determine the victor of a professional hockey game; or, indirectly, the teams that eventually make or miss the postseason.
But our therapist keeps asking us to learn to live with the shootout, so we've offered some suggestions here and there to improve it.
Sometimes it's about increasing the fun factor, like the "superstar provision" discussed recently. Other times, it's bringing some level of competitive fairness to the proceedings, like our contention that the NHL should increase it to five shooters for each side.
But there's a complete, total, absolute, change the League should have already made to its overtime format but hasn't; something that was on display in the Columbus Blue Jackets' game against the Nashville Predators over the weekend.
Why are players serving penalties at the end of the 4-on-4 OT allowed to participate in the shootout?
Puck Buddy Cory S. explains:
Now, I am by no means a fan of team games being decided in a shootout (that's another ongoing debate), and of course the fans/League want to see their stars on the ice for the shootout, but I have to say I think its highly unfair for a player who has been penalized to still be allowed to have a turn in the shootout when his penalty has not yet expired. In this case, it had no impact on the outcome, but surely it would have left a rather bad taste in the Preds fans mouths had Nash scored the winner. It would be interesting to see just how many penalized players with time remaining to serve have then gone out to score in the shoot out.
Well, until we find some poor college kid to be a Puck Daddy intern, no dice on that research project. But Cory's main point stands: Why should Nash, one of the Jackets' most lethal shootout performers who ended up scoring against Pekka Rinne(notes) on Saturday night, be allowed to participate if he's technically still in the box? It's just another oversight that pushes the shootout from a reasonable mechanism for determining a winner into a sideshow.
Why hasn't this been addressed by the League? As Cory notes, the NHL wants Rick Nash in the highlight reel, so why endorse something that would keep him out, right? Stu Hackel of the New York Times wrote about this loophole in our "5 Ways I'd Change The NHL" feature last summer, and suggested a compromise:
The offending player could end up being a shootout hero who has escaped serving a full penalty because, chances are, the guy who committed the penalty is pretty good or he wouldn't be on the ice in that situation. So if a minor penalty occurs inside the last two minutes, the offending player and his team should still be penalized by making the fouling player be the last guy in line to take part in the shootout for his team.
How about this instead: If a player is serving a minor penalty at the end of the 4-on-4 OT, he has to sit out the first three rounds of the shootout but can participate if it goes beyond that. If he's serving a major (a rarity in OT), he can't participate at all.
Either way, it's a simple change that should be made; but since neither the players nor the GMs have any intangible reason to lobby for it, we're guessing it won't be made.