A Modest Proposal

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I got this weird idea that’s been brewing in m’noggin for awhile. It has to do with getting rid of the shootout except during special events. Bear with me.

Since introduction of the shootout, the NHL has been in the habit of awarding two points to the team with the best shooters. This provides certain teams a distinct advantage in the ways of winning games. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that sometimes it means the better team gets shafted a point. It came to me this past Sunday when the Blackhawks-Red Wings game couldn’t be solved in 65 minutes. Now it was down to Jimmy Howard and Antti Niemi to see who got the W. I’ll save the drama and tell you that the Hawks won. But it was that shootout that brought the inherent unfairness these decision makers illustrate. First, let’s take a look at Pavel Datsyuk’s SO goal.


That was pretty sweet, wasn’t it? Also, it probably would never have happened in a regular game save for a breakaway. But it was watching that slow-motion-in-real-time shot that made me realize we’re doing this wrong. Then came Todd Bertuzzi’s goal.

Are you fucking kidding me? That knuckle dragger pulls off a Denis Savard patented spinarama and makes Niemi look like John Candy on a trapeze? To his credit, he has scored using that move during an actual game. But still!

The shootout, in itself, is a flawed system: it relies solely on skill and goaltending prowess. What’s more, the losing team is still awarded a point. What purpose does that serve? It’s giving every kid running in a race a medal, even the fat kid that has stress flatulence when he runs. George Carlin put it best in his rant about self esteem:

“You know what they tell the kid who lost these days? ‘You were the last winner.’ A lot of kids never get to hear the truth about themselves until they’re in their twenties, when their boss calls them in and says, Bobby, clean the shit out of your desk and get the fuck out of here, you’re a loser.”

Detroit didn’t lose in the shootout, they were the last winner.

I’m not some purist who thinks the game must never evolve but I truly believe the shootout is the cheapest of all victories, somewhere between a contested goal and the knob sucking Mario Lemieux and Cindy Crysob Sidney Crosby receive from the league. And, yah, ties are dull — especially when the players were resigned to just playing out the five minutes in order to get a point — and the shootout creates a lot of excitement. But is it really Hockey when you let some fleet of foot flashman with a wicked wrister skate one-on-one against the goalie that kept you in the game?

Here’s my proposal. It’s simple and I’ll even list it numerically for those of you who dig that sort of thing.

  1. Eliminate the shootout from regular season games.
  2. Relegate the shootout only to pre-season and All-Star games, yknow, the ones that don’t really matter. In fact, I’d be willing to forgo the five minute four-on-four OT period in these games and just go to the shootout.
  3. Replace the five minute sudden death overtime period with a ten minute sudden death overtime period.
  4. The team that scores during sudden death wins the game and gets two points. The team that loses gets nada. Zip. Nothing. This encourages teams to play to win.
  5. If neither team scores during sudden death, then each team gets one point.

What did I tell you. Simple. It’s logical. It’d work. It’d make the fans happy and keep the goaltenders and their coaches from spending their salaries on Zantac.

That’s why it probably will never be adopted.

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6 Responses to “A Modest Proposal”

  1. Ken Socrates Says:

    It’s a good question. I’m not as opposed to the shoot-out as you are, I don’t think. The original idea was to rid the regular season of the dreary, defensive overtimes you’d get when folks were protecting that one point you’d get from a tie versus the goose egg. The flip side is a playoff bubble team in desperate need of points would have to go all out for that extra point late in the season.

    The problem if they went to your system is that most coaches are going to be conservative and play for the tie to ensure that 1 point more often than not. That could lead to some very dull 10 minutes OT’s.

    Then again, I don’t like the feel of the shoot-out being an intermission side show type event that ends up deciding playoff berths. A grinding, lunchpail team is at a distinct disadvantage there.

    I’m waffling here because there’s no good answer in my mind. Maybe award the one point and go 4 on 4 for the 10 minutes for the extra. Is that any more exciting that the shoot-out, though? I dunno.

  2. Ozzy McGurt Says:

    That would basically be putting it back to the way it was, only with 10 minutes of overtime instead of 5. Like Ken says, more often than not both sides would be content to end it with a tie to get the one point. I’m ok with the shootout. It’s exciting, and there’s nothing wrong with bringing the game down to two skilled players. What I don’t like is the point awarded to the losers. Loser means just that. You lose. Go home. You get nothing. When a better team with a better winning record gets bumped from the playoffs because some mediocre team lucked out with a shitload of OT losses, that’s just plain unadulterated bullshit.

  3. Ken Socrates Says:

    It’s Ozzy! I knew we’d see him over here at some point!

    Barbarian Hockey Forever!

  4. nightfly Says:

    I’ve ranted about this a lot at my place. The condensed version: three points for a win, one for a draw, nothing for a loss. That takes care of sitting back, especially if a team needs those three points. Since going 1-1-0 is better than going 0-0-2, teams will have no incentive to lay back.

    There’s a lot of pixels about this topic: essentially, scoring is waaaaay down in the last five minutes of tie games simply because of the guaranteed point. In other words, more of what the shootout was allegedly created to fix. The trouble is, a draw is sometimes a great result. The other trouble is, extra points for skills competitions (and for losing in overtime) actually hurts the teams trying to chase down whoever’s in front of them. Scraping extra points when none are deserved makes it harder for the trailing team to gain ground – if Detroit wins a couple of OT games against the Hawks, they only gain two instead of four points.

    The real reasons the NHL did this: 1. gimmicks attract the curious, 2. even bad teams can claim to be “above .500” when league-average is .560 or so. Difficulties: 1. gimmicks annoy the faithful, and soon fatigue even the curious; 2. there is no gimmick point in the playoffs to rescue bad teams. Those two OT losses don’t equal one win when the Cup is in play.

    It’s stupidity all around. Sometimes I wonder if Sports Guy’s joking theory is correct, and David Stern foisted Bettman on the NHL intentionally, knowing that he’d submarine the sport at the height of its popularity.

  5. Gonz Says:

    Sport Guy must share the same brainwaves I do because I’ve thought that for many years. Seriously, in ’94, your league is at the top of people’s minds. What’d really tap into that new enthusiasm? I know, lockout the players.

    Bettman’s a fucking genius, I tells ya.

  6. Ken Socrates Says:

    What Stern did to the NHL should be called The Dirty Gary Bettman Bomb.

    It kills off all the fans but leaves the buildings standing.

    Empty.

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