NHL Penalty Shot: Changes Coming Soon?

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NHL Penalty Shot: Changes Coming Soon?
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

I don't usually write about hockey, but I was watching a game the other night and one of the commentators made a rather interesting point.

While on the powerplay, a player on one of the teams (I fail to remember which teams were playing) was tripped up on a breakaway.  A penalty shot was immediately called for.

But why not let the team about to have the penalty shot choose between taking the shot or having the defensive team lose a man to the sin bin?

Think about it.

For the sake of example, imagine a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals (see picture above).  Now let's say that while on the powerplay, Mats Sundin (still a Leaf for this example) is hooked or tripped up on a breakaway. A penalty shot is called. But what if the Leafs would prefer to have a 2-man advantage for a lengthy period of time? Shouldn't that be an option for them, rather than being forced to have a player take a one-time penalty shot?

Or, imagine the tables were turned. What if the Capitals, on the penalty kill, have a player hooked on a breakaway?  They might prefer to send the penalized player to the box and create a 4-on-4.

Or maybe the defending goalie is on a roll and seems unstoppable at the moment. Why not give the coach a choice of what road to take?

Now, there would still be times when a team would rather employ the traditional penalty shot. Perhaps the player who was hooked has a great move one-on-one with the goalie. Or if it's late in a tight game, the coach may take his chances on the penalty shot.

Much has been made over the last few weeks about changes to the game of hockey, as the GM meetings recently took place.  I wonder if someday this idea will be tossed around in one of those meetings.

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