SUN Hockey Pool

Take a closer look at shootout system

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

Either hockey is a team game or it isn't.

Only one complaint is possible after Canada's routinely brilliant World Junior performance. The shootout system sucks. If NHL and IIHF brassheads aren't aware of it, they should be.

It was ridiculous to watch Canada and the United States keep sending only its best puckhandlers and shooters to the line. How long before each team names one guy and leaves him out there as long as it takes to win or lose?

In a fair contest, each roster would be aligned from top to bottom, with the last guy on the list getting his chance before the guy at the top has a second attempt.

There's almost no possibility that any shootout would last long enough to let a stay-at-home defender show his skills, or lack thereof, with a game on the line, but it would be fun to watch - far better than letting teams carry a shootout specialist. Prime Minister Harper made a similar point during Friday's final against Russia, proving that politicians get it right once in awhile.

PATIENCE PAYING WITH HEJDA

As Jan Hejda keeps improving for the Oilers these days, it's timely to remember a pre-season prediction from hockey operations boss Kevin Prendergast: "We think he has a chance to be better than Jaroslav Spacek." At first, it seemed Prendergast was dreaming in technicolour; Hejda played almost never. But the organization's patience has paid off. Since his brief conditioning stint in the minors, he has been a standout. The same patient approach is being used with Rob Schremp and Tom Gilbert in the AHL and with a couple of others, including goalie Devan Dubnyk, in the ECHL. Good idea.

One day, all of these kids will be wearing Oilers gear - unless some have to be moved in the trade for a puck-moving defenceman.

SURE, BLAME IT ON THE ICE

Now, the ice at Rexall Place is being blamed for Patrik Stefan's foolishness. Silly me. At first, I thought the Dallas forward's attempt to be "cool" was the reason he failed to score on an empty net from inside the blue paint. And I still feel that way. There was no law forcing Stefan to shift from backhand to forehand with nobody around, especially with the ice as choppy as we're being told it was. It shouldn't surprise anyone if we learn one day that the talented hot dog received a surprise gift at the next practice: a huge jar of mustard.

CONSIDER THIS, MURRAY ...

Some things for Murray Greig to consider before he does another fascinating take on hockey fighters. Former great Bill Gadsby once told me the toughest guy he ever faced, believe it or not, was Frank Mahovlich. Former Oilers defenceman Don Jackson whipped Dave Semenko in a minor-league scrap. Little-known journeyman Con Madigan once challenged Don Cherry a dozen times in a minor-league game at Spokane and Cherry managed, every time, not to see the offer. Pound-for-pound, I'd have paid to see Frank Beaton or Stan Jonathan take on Danny Gare.


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