NHL GMs looking at losing the shootout

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So, after a few years of trying, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland decided to try again. And, thankfully, it appears he is finally making progress in the NHL boardroom.

Holland has long been a proponent of having fewer games decided by the shootouts. Turns out, after the NHL GMs met in Toronto on Tuesday, he now has more of his fellow managers sharing his opinion. Holland has proposed that the league expand the current four-on-four overtime period beyond five minutes.

And that is a great idea.

As exciting as the shootout has been, it has, in the eyes of many, also run its course. Managers, coaches and players alike are tired of seeing too many games decided by a gimmick, however entertaining it may be, especially with playoff races so tight and the stakes so high.

They are right. The solution for the NHL is to extend its overtime period, which is often wildly entertaining itself. If it doesn’t settle the game, then go to the shootout. But give them a chance to end the game playing, not in a penalty shot competition as often as possible. But know this: The shootout is not disappearing any time soon under Gary Bettman’s watch, but we may see fewer of them.

Holland has proposed an additional five minutes of 4-on-4, which is a great idea. Other managers have suggested a few more minutes of 4-on-4, then switching to 3-on-3. Whatever the format, the extension would be a positive move. The managers will reconvene in March to discuss the proposal further, but Holland admits this is the most support and traction his idea has ever received. “There certainly appeared to be an appetite to expand the OT,” he says.

Hopefully that appetite doesn’t change by the spring, though the approval of the managers is still just the first step in the approval process.

In other news: As you would expect the GMs don’t have an appetite to ban fighting, and shouldn’t, though some would like to see stiffer penalties and most don’t like the idea of staged fights. So expect more suggestions for tweaking the rules, as opposed to taking any drastic steps.

But most, if not all, agreed they did not like Ray Emery’s fight with Braden Holtby a few weeks ago. Nothing was resolved in the meeting, but there was a suggestion to perhaps invoke an automatic suspension for a goalie who leaves his crease and crosses the centre line to start a fight with the opposing netminder. Figuring out all the details still must be done, but that appears to be the direction the GMs want to go, knowing any tweaks need board and competition-committee approvals. “We were pretty heavily in favour of going that route,” says Boston GM Peter Chiarelli.

Another good step if they follow it. What Emery did shouldn’t happen without additional punishment. Had Holtby been beating up a Flyer, then Emery would have been within his rights to step in without facing the proposed suspension.

The managers are also discussing expanded video review and possibly instituting a coach’s challenge, but again the logistics of implementing that kind of change are massive. But the prevailing sentiment is they have the technology, let’s use it to get things right as often as possible. That’s a pretty healthy way of thinking.

There is still lots of time before the GMs reconvene in Florida in March, there is still lots for them to consider and fine tune, but the business they put on the table all seems pretty positive.

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