When it comes to the shootout, the NHL general managers are like a guy who gets the name of his first girlfriend tattooed in 20-point bold type up his forearm.
Inevitably, he wants to do everything he can after the break-up to cover the ink.
As a gimmick to spark more interest in the sport and bring the attending fans out of their seats after the ’04-05 lockout, the shootout looked like Megan Fox to the league’s powers that be. But over the years, as more people in the game have realized that the shootout is not hockey (thus you’re awarding a win to hockey team for doing something other than playing the actual sport), it has more and more resembled a modern-day Cloris Leachman to those that make their living dedicated to building hockey teams and playing in a team atmosphere.
So every year we hear new ideas of how to devalue the shootout. There’s the popular three-point victory plan, and ideas about extending overtime and reducing the number of players on the ice to avoid too many shootouts. The latest idea comes from Detroit general manager Ken Holland via Pierre Lebrun of ESPN, which is to play eight minutes of overtime and scraping the ice before the extra session.
Of course, before the season the league voted to reduce the importance of the shootout by not counting shootout wins as part of the year-end standings tie-breaker.
So people are spending watts of brain power and valuable time to try to make sure an individual sideshow isn’t determining playoff spots and division winners while ignoring the No. 1 way to end this controversy: get rid of the sticking shootout.
I give the NHL a B for ingenuity when it came out of the lockout with an idea to catch the attention of casual fans. But all the shootout has done is offend purists like myself and make the most important people in the game — the players — feel like their efforts have gone to waste when their game is decided by one guy who happens to own a solid double-deke move.
The argument I always hear from shootout enthusiasts is that it’s so exciting and everyone loves it and no one leaves when there’s a shootout. Well, I don’t remember anyone leaving during overtime — even if the end result was a tie. If you let a couple greyhounds run around the perimeter of the rink to determine who gets the two points, people would stick around to watch. People pay the price of admission and they’re going to stay until the show ends, even if you confuse them with an “Inception” ending.
At this rate, the league is going to water down the shootout until it has no value in the standings and is just a spectacle to wow the masses. The best way to avoid the shootout from messing with the integrity of the game, however, is to abolish it.