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The long and short of shootouts

Jordan Eberle, shown here in a shootout against Calgary last season, is one of the top shootout...

Jordan Eberle, shown here in a shootout against Calgary last season, is one of the top shootout scorers on the Oilers, potting 53.8% of his attempts. (QMI Agency)

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:37 PM ET

They didn’t know it at the time, but Edmonton Oilers fans were experiencing a milestone moment Wednesday.

It was the 1,000th shootout in NHL history.

Funny the way it’s worked.

There have only been 31 Edmonton Oilers games with the horrifying concept of cheerleaders for a Canadian franchise and there’s already virtual total acceptance with the Rexall Place crowds.

But in 1,000 NHL shootouts since the penalty shot concept was added in 2005, there still is nowhere near the acceptance here or anywhere else around the NHL.

Take a 12-year-old kid to a game and it’s the best part of the experience. But to a traditionalist, it’s still as repulsive as the day it was brought in.

I’m from the keep-it-but-get-rid-of-the-loser-point school.

Having three points available for two teams in some games and only two points available in others is just absurd.

The worst part of this shootout business is what it’s done to what should be the absolute best part of the hockey game with the score tied and five minutes or less remaining in regulation. That so many teams play the last five minutes or more to protect at least a loser point makes it the most pathetic part of the game.

The fact that the NHL has played its 1,000th shootout game so soon is an indictment in itself.

That all said, the shootout has provided a whole new set of statistics to contemplate. And in there somewhere is the evidence to support my keep-the-shootout, lose-the-loser-point philosophy.

With the NHL noting that the Minnesota-Edmonton game was the 1,000th, your correspondent reached Bob Waterman of the Elias Sports Bureau who produced some extensive expansion on the subject statistically.

You should know that the Oilers and New York Rangers have been involved in the most shootouts — 80 each. The Rangers are 47-33 and the Oilers 42-38.

Forty of the shootouts have been in Edmonton, tied for second with Los Angeles behind Washington with 43. (Calgary has had the fewest home shootouts with 19 and only won five of them).

Brad Richards has taken the most shootouts at 63 but Jussi Jokinen has the most goals with 28 and Henrik Lundqvist most goalie wins with 38.

The most important thing the statistics appear to prove is that the shootout is nothing more than a coin flip.

The home team has won 490 games and the team choosing to go first, as most home teams do, has won 474. (For the really mathematically challenged that’s 49% and 47.4%.)

And as for my main complaint, teams desperate to tie a game in the last five minutes this year have done so 36 times to teams scoring the go-ahead goal only 24 times. Last year it was 109 teams getting the equalizer in the last five minutes compared to 66 getting a go-ahead goal.

The Oilers shootout statistics are interesting, as well.

In goals, Ales Hemsky has scored 17, Shawn Horcoff 10, Sam Gagner 9, Ryan Smyth 8 and Jordan Eberle 7.

But when it comes to percentage, it’s a different story.

Eberle (53.8%) and Horcoff (52.5%) are your go-to guys, or should be. Indeed, if Tom Renney had used Horcoff second instead of fifth, the Oilers would have won the 1,000th shootout game instead of lost it.

Hemsky, who went second and didn’t score, has a mere 33.3% and sometimes has the body language that he’s just not into it and couldn’t care less.

Smyth, who gets all his goals from within six feet of the net, is 25.8% at trying to dangle from the red line in.

Gagner, an early shootout sensation as a rookie, had dropped to 23.7.

While Eberle is doing just fine, thank you, the rest of the young talent, which you’d figure would make the Oilers an awesome shootout squad, has been firing blanks.

Taylor Hall has scored just two on eight tries and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Magnus Paajarvi are both 0-2 and Anton Lander 0-1.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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