NHL GMs looking at abolishing fan-approved shootouts?

New York Rangers centre Brad Richards (19) shoots wide past Washington Capitals goalie Braden...

New York Rangers centre Brad Richards (19) shoots wide past Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby in the shootout after the overtime period of their NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden in New York March 24, 2013. (REUTERS)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:29 PM ET

SUNRISE, FLA. - SUNRISE, FLA - The disdain with which many people in the NHL hold the shootout is expected to be further evident at the general managers meetings beginning Monday.

Talks will continue for the next couple of days on ways to bring a conclusion to games in overtime, including extending the extra period and perhaps going to 3-on-3 play to avoid having games decided by what many in the game consider a chintzy skills competition.

More than a few GMs cringe at the idea of a playoff spot being decided by a shootout.

It has been a talking point for the last year, but the momentum seems to be there this time around for change.

It’s a bit of a tight rope to walk, however, because the NHL’s own polling of fans shows the paying customers are fans of the shootout.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league’s research regularly returns approval of the shootout in the 70-80% range among fans “which on any question is an extraordinarily high number,” Bettman added.

Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon sums up the attitude of most of the general managers who will tackle the issue in their discussions over the next three days.

“It’s a team game and I’ve always been a big proponent of that,” said Tallon. “The fans really like the shootout, so it’s got to be some kind of hybrid, I would think, that would allow the team concept to have more of an impact than an individual. But still, we’re in the entertainment business and we’ve got to sell tickets and get people to enjoy the game and leave with a good feeling about the game.

“The shootout probably has addressed that in a way.”

Since it was introduced for the 2005-06 season, 13.3% of regular-season games have been decided by the shootout (it’s down a touch to 12.6% this season).

There are a few things that can be done to increase the odds of a game being decided in overtime before it gets to a shootout.

Having the teams change ends before overtime would be a start. That would lead to the so-called “long change,” where the net a team is defending is farther away from its bench. That could increase the chances of a team being unable to change players, leading to tired guys being on the ice, or getting caught in a bad change and opening up some ice for the opposition.

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has been leading the charge to expand overtime to 10 minutes with perhaps the additional five minutes being played 3-on-3. With two fewer players and more open ice the thinking is goals will be scored.

“We’ll see,” said Tallon. “We’ve talked about it and it was heavily discussed the last time we met and I’m sure that will be a focus of the conversation moving forward in the next couple of days. It’s just a matter of what’s good for the game.”

The 30 general managers will be divided into groups of 10 for Monday morning’s session and each group will be tasked with debating one of the issues, say expanding overtime, increasing the scope of video review or the issue of a coach’s challenge.

There’s some support for expanding video review to all aspects of what led to the goal, apart from what might be judgement calls by officials on penalties. A play could be backed up to consider whether the puck entered the zone legally.

NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Colin Campbell has said he would like to be able to review missed offside calls that lead to goals.

With the technology the NHL has now, there is a growing feeling video review should be expanded to incorporate common sense. For instance, if a referee blows his whistle because he has lost sight of the puck, but it’s been in the net for two seconds, well, that should be a goal.

A hot point has also been the puck off the netting. A puck hitting the netting was missed in the seconds before Niklas Kronwall scored for the Detroit Red Wings in a game in January against the Los Angeles Kings. His shot hit the net and bounced in off the back of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. It tied the game with 27 seconds left in the third period and the Wings went on to win the game in a shootout.

That play seems to have spurred momentum to expand video review.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


Videos

Photos