NHL: The Growing Shootout Problem

Patrick HoldenContributor IAugust 16, 2011

Brad Boyes of the St. Louis Blues on Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins
Brad Boyes of the St. Louis Blues on Tuukka Rask of the Boston BruinsElsa/Getty Images

I can remember playing in the championship game at a tournament in Watertown Massachusetts, with the final game going into a shootout.  

We were Andover B, and of course we had to meet Andover A in the finals.  They were the kids chosen in tryouts for the higher level team, but I felt like we wanted it more.  And when we lost in a shootout, I felt cheated out of a win. 

Shootouts were implemented into the NHL in the 2005-2006 season, people were gripped by the excitement of the shootout.  It was breathtaking to watch, and easy for the casual fan to enjoy.  

A best of three series of breakaways on the goaltender to decide the winner of a game. The art of the shootout has become something to teach to players learning the game.  

Many people disagree about the use of the shootout.  The shootout happens if after regulation time and one five minute sudden death overtime period of four on four the score of the game is still even.  

The shootout will always find a winner, perhaps not justly.  

Hockey is a team sport.  Its about how you play as a team, not individual skill.  If hockey was decided by individual skill, the Stanley Cup would belong to the Canucks right now, and not the Bruins.  No doubt the Canucks had more skill, but the Bruins team wanted it more.  

No surprise the Bruins were a sub-par team in shootouts this past season, yet they stand on top of the hockey world, showing shootouts do not always let the better team shine through.  

Although a win in the shootout only gets you one more point than the loser, that one point can make all the difference.  Just because the shootouts aren't in the playoffs, doesn't mean they don't make a huge difference.

Just ask the Rangers, who lost in a shootout in the last game of the 2009-2010 season to the Flyers, costing them a playoff spot.  Had the Rangers won that game, the Flyers never would have upset the Devils, had a (gulp) historic comeback against the Bruins (don't worry boys, we got our revenge) or advanced as far as Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

One lucky bounce in the Rangers favor could have changed all of that.  One point can mean the difference between a playoff berth and an early summer.  

This would be the equivalent of ending a football game with a field goal contest.  What if your team didn't have a good kicker? Or ending a baseball game with a home run derby, or a basketball game with a 3 point contest.  

Goalies study each players shootout moves, often making rookies the most effective shootout scorers.   

According to Yahoo Sports, there were 184 shootouts in the 2010-2011 season, a record high.  Just under 15 percent of the games were decided by a series of breakaways.  In my opinion, that is way too many.  

The NHL needs to cut down, or completely eliminate, the shootout.  The shootout has helped the sport become more popular, but the game needs to be decided by game play. 

With the number of shootouts increasing year by year, nearly 15% of the games are decided by a display of individual skill.  Hopefully the NHL can find a solution to fix the shootout problem.  

My opinion is that they should remove them altogether.  If the overtimes continue for too long, what's wrong with a tie?

Please feel free to leave comments or questions on your opinion on shootouts.