With two important points in the Eastern Conference playoff race at stake, Ottawa Senators forward Kaspars Daugavins attempted a unique shootout move on Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask during Monday night's game at Scotiabank Place.
Daugavins failed to score and help the Senators earn two points, which has resulted in him receiving plenty of criticism for attempting that kind of move in such an important situation.
He has also rekindled the passionate debate involving shootouts, and their place in the game.
While Daugavins' move was creative and fun to watch, it further proved why there's absolutely no reason for an extra point in the standings to be awarded to a team that wins a shootout, which is essentially a skills competition.
Determining the outcomes of games that are still tied after an overtime period by having a shootout is just an all-around terrible idea, and none of the other three major North American sports leagues settle regular season games using an event from the All-Star Game festivities.
How often do we see shootouts? Well, they might be more common than you think (a regular 82-game season includes 1,230 games).
|Year||# of Shootouts||% of Games Decided in SO|
|2012-13||52||13.9 (375 games)|
Having over 13 percent of an entire year's worth of games being decided in a shootout shows how important it is in the playoff race, especially for the multitude of teams that miss the playoffs by five points or less each season.
Why do we see so many shootouts? Teams who are playing against better competition probably like their chances of getting lucky in a shootout more than playing actual hockey and scoring against a superior team.
Teams should never have the option of sitting back and playing conservative hockey just to end up in a skills competition to earn an extra point. That's not real hockey, but unfortunately we see it quite a bit, especially late in the season when teams feel like a shootout is the best way for them to take two points against a more talented opponent.
In November of 2011, Boston Bruins president Cam Neely spoke to local radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub about shootouts.
"I'm not a huge fan of the shootout," said Neely.
"I know some people like it, a lot of fans particularly enjoy it when it happens, it is entertaining, but I wouldn't say I'm a fan of it. It ends up going from a team sport to deciding a win by an individual."
"It ends up being an individual deciding if you're going to get the extra point. I personally would like to see us go to maybe four minutes of 4-on-4 and four minutes of 3-on-3, you'll get plenty of scoring chances."
Neely's idea is a good one, and I would take it one step further.
- After a regulation tie, teams play five minutes of 4-on-4.
- If no goals are scored after 4-on-4 play, teams play a five-minute 3-on-3 period.
- If no team has scored after two OT periods, both teams are awarded one point and the game ends in a tie.
To be honest, there's really nothing wrong with ties. In fact, it's better to give both teams one point for playing a hard, competitive game than awarding a second point to a team who was able to perform better in a one-on-one scenario that maybe happens only a few times per game.
If two teams are unable to score any goals after five minutes of 4-on-4 and five minutes of 3-on-3 play, they don't deserve more than one point in the standings.
Monday night's matchup between the Bruins and Senators was a great example of why having ties and giving both teams a point isn't a bad scenario. Neither team deserved the extra point, but the Bruins got the two points because they were able to outclass the Senators in an All-Star skills event that rewards individual play in a team sport.
Ties are obviously not the most exciting way for a game to end, but the amount of quality scoring chances that would result from two overtime periods (one of 4-on-4, another of 3-on-3) would provide plenty of entertainment value for fans.
If the NHL eliminated shootouts, they could just go back to giving two points for a win, one for a tie, and none for a loss.
The worst possible scenario for the league happened on the final day of the 2009-10 season, when the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers' playoff hopes were decided by a shootout after an intense, exciting game between the two Atlantic Division rivals.
Having playoff spots determined by shootouts is a huge disservice to the game, and allows the successes of a few individuals in a silly skills challenge to determine the outcome of an entire regular season.
The shortened, 48-game schedule used for the 2013 season will likely result in a very close playoff race, which will make points earned in shootouts much more important than they are in a normal 82-game season.
For example, the Nashville Predators are currently in 11th place in the Western Conference and sit two points behind the eighth and final playoff spot. Since the Predators are 2-5 in shootouts this season, it's entirely possible that they could miss the playoffs by two or three points because they failed to be successful in a one-on-one skills competition. That would be an awful scenario for Nashville and the league as a whole.
If the NHL is unwilling to use the shootout to decide actual playoff games, it shouldn't be used to determine who makes the playoffs, either.
Unfortunately for diehard, old school hockey fans, the shootout is unlikely to go away anytime soon. It helps bring in causal fans, and whether or not you want to admit it, if you see a game that's about to enter a shootout, you usually change the channel to check it out because it's exciting.
Nearly every fan in the arena stands up when a shootout is in progress and the cheers and boos every time a goal is scored or a goalie makes a save helps show that fans do enjoy the entertainment value that the shootout provides.
Since the NHL is trying so hard to improve its television ratings and grow its fanbase by adding more excitement to the sport, the shootout is likely going to be part of the game for quite some time.
With that said, the league should at least change its overtime rules so the chances of a game being decided in a shootout are lessened.
There are a few simple ways to do this:
- Five minutes of 5-on-5, then five minutes of 4-on-4 with a shootout after if needed.
- 10 minutes of 5-on-5 then a shootout if needed.
- 10 minutes of 4-on-4, then a shootout if needed
If the NHL increased the length of overtime from five to 10 minutes of 4-on-4 action, the likelihood of games not being decided in a shootout would likely increase quite a bit.
This would satisfy players and teams who don't like the shootout having too much of an impact on the standings, while also giving fans the excitement of a shootout when teams are unable to score in the overtime period.
The NHL has two options to consider. It should either get rid of the shootout, or change the overtime format before the shootout. This is the best way to ensure that the most deserving teams make the playoffs each season.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.
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