How Parity Killed the NHL Shootout

Nelson SantosCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2008

When the NHL resumed play after the lockout, changes came to the game we knew and most loved.

The "stretch pass" was introduced, and no longer could goalies play the puck freely.

Quality changes, all in all. And as a traditionalist, I was willing to live with the sideshow attraction that was the "shootout." Anything to get the NHL back on the ice and out of the boardroom.

I'll provide my reasons for not liking or willing to accept the shootout initially.

First, hockey is a team game in the truest form, and should not be won with a one-on-one display.

Second, I see nothing wrong with the good ol' tie game. Tie games were usually pretty exciting, and for the most part two teams leaving the arena with one point aside sort of skewed the standings.

But alas, the NHL didn't want ties. The NHL claimed the paying customer wanted to see a decision—a winner and a loser. So the NHL abolished the tie game, although they still award a point to the "losing" team. 

I guess the paying customer doesn't want to see a loser—they want a winner and a team that didn't win.

Really, what the NHL was trying to achieve was parity in the league. They wanted the playoff races to come down to the last week of the season, and they hoped that 28 teams in the league would have a chance to make the postseason so that their arenas would have asses in the seats until the very end.

I get it. It's a business.

Again, however, Bettman and his lackeys have erred, as they've done so often in his tenure as Commissioner. With artificial parity—in my opinion, parity is always artificial—the NHL has subsequently killed a true playoff race.

Any fan that takes the time to do the math, and combine that with all the divisional play in the last month and over the second half of the season, can see that it's as impossible to leapfrog the team(s) ahead of you as it was in the "old days"—just that picture looks brighter as the point gap is not as large.

The NHL promised a new and exciting league, and for the most part the hockey is substantially better than it was just prior to the lockout. But tight playoff races really intrigue only the true fan. The "casual" fan wants entertainment—and that was the main reason for the spectacle called the shootout.

At first it was okay. The players looked a little nervous and seemed to just concentrate on getting it on net. After the first few weeks, we had shootout experts, surprises, and some really creative goals and outstanding saves.

But with the first ever post-lockout postseason race came the beginning of the end for any excitement in the shootout.

At the beginning of the 2006-07, season coaches were demanding that extra point. Some teams were even practicing it. Why? Because of parity.

It took a missed playoff appearance for NHL teams to realize that although the shootout was concocted to generate excitement, losing them meant a lost point. So gone were the "try whatever deke you want" and in was "make sure you get a shot on goal."

I don't have stats to back me, as I don't believe this is even tracked. But I would estimate upwards of 80 percent of all shootout attempts are simple shots on goal. No matter how you slice it there's nothing that exciting about a player coming down on the goalie at whatever pace he chooses and picking a spot and trying to hit it.

So once again, Bettman and his crew prove to not have the foresight to see the impacts one rule change will have on another, and thus are slowly killing the shootout—or at least what its desired effect was supposed to be.

If I was commissioner, I would abolish the shootout, and up the OT period to 10 minutes of fpur-on-four. If someone is introduced to the game of hockey played for 10 minutes with only eight skaters on the ice and can't appreciate it, then NHL should not waste its money and time trying to sell the game to that "fan" anyway.