GLENDALE, Ariz. — One of the main topics to come out of last week’s general managers meetings in Toronto involved finding a way to reduce the number of shootouts that ultimately end up deciding games.
This can’t happen fast enough.
I fully understand and accept that shootouts are part of the game. I accept the fact that ties are no longer an option in the game, that a “winner’’ has to be decided.
I still do not like the idea that the “winner” is determined by an individual skill competition. Hockey is a team sport, always has been and always will be. So why should one guy who has mastered a one-on-one skill be the determining factor in the outcome of the game?
This debate is nothing new and will no doubt continue as long as the shootout remains a part of the game. The shootout is not likely to go away anytime soon.
But if there is a way to reduce the number of games that go to a shootout, I’m all for it.
The two main ideas that continue to be bantered around both involve an extended overtime session to 10 minutes.
One of the ideas is simply to keep the 4-on-4 format that has been in place and extend overtime beyond the five minutes to play a total of 10 minutes.
The other idea is to play five minutes of 4-on-4 and if no winner is determined, go to 3-on-3 for the final five minutes.
Both ideas retain the shootout if nobody scores in the overtime.
I’ve long been an advocate for expanded 4-on-4 overtime and I hope it happens soon.
Watching overtime under this format is fun and exciting hockey. There is more than enough open ice for players to work and create scoring opportunities. Under those parameters, one would think a winner would be established during team play with the additional five minutes of overtime. Plus this would make it more difficult for teams that firmly believe they have an advantage in a shootout from sitting back and trying to kill the five minutes wanting to get the game to the skills competition.
Give me this option over the 3-on-3 because I believe that with only six skaters on the ice, there is too much open ice.
“Less guys on the ice does not mean more scoring,” Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I’m not going to say that I’m for or against (3-on-3) but if we are going to do it for overtime, people come to watch a hockey game and I’d rather have 10 minutes of 4-on-4 than a 3-on-3, which becomes one guy logging the puck around. There is more room on the ice but it becomes a one-on-one game, so you might as well just go to the shootout because that’s a one-on-one game, too.
“We would adapt to whatever rule there is, but I don’t consider, personally, for 3-on-3 to be a more exciting brand of hockey.’’
So let’s go 4-on-4 for 10 minutes before getting to the shootout. Sure, it might add additional time to the game and five extra minutes throughout the course of a season could add up, but I’m a firm believer that more games would then end in overtime in a more exciting format and not require a shootout. Because nothing takes the excitement out of a tightly contested, entertaining hockey game than watching the Zamboni come out for a few slow drives up the middle of the ice for a shootout that normally takes only a few minutes to complete.
Let’s get more games decided in the expanded overtime format. Anything to avoid shootouts being the determining element.