Once upon a time the shootout was a special thing, mostly reserved for international competitions. Every so often we got a taste of the creativity certain players might have brought to a shootout through penalty shots that were few and far between, but the shootout was this rare and exciting thing.
It was worth trying in the NHL, especially since it also meant the end of tie games. The shootout brought us a conclusion. But after so long the shootout feels stale now and, perhaps, a new discussion needs to open.
When Connor McDavid appeared on Tim and Friends last month, he opened the door to this by agreeing with many that ending games in the shootout is anti-climactic. He suggested that we should think about extending the use of 3-on-3 overtime, which is a better showcase of player and team skill.
“I’d like that. I think the shootout, no one loves the shootout,” McDavid said. “It’s a crappy way to finish a game. At the end of the day, too, it’s about the players’ health and safety. It’s a long season. The overtime taxes a lot of guys so making that longer could have some effects there. But I agree with you in the sense that no one wants to see the game end in a shootout.”
The point on player safety is a valid one that can’t be overlooked. Extending 3-on-3 even another five minutes adds up over a full season and could take a toll on some over the long haul. You’re usually not cycling through your whole roster in OT, instead relying on your top guys with so much open ice.
There’s also a question to be asked about the return of ties: if you wish to extend OT and abolish the shootout, do we have to bring back the days where both teams could walk away with a point? That’s something Gary Bettman and the NHL would not be crazy about.
Shortly after McDavid’s appearance on Tim and Friends, Sidney Crosby was asked for his take on the matter, and he agreed that extending 3-on-3 OT would be a good idea. The hope would be that with so much opportunity to score in 3-on-3 play, most games would wrap up before the end of the frame anyway.
“Yeah, I’d play with ties,” Crosby told Pittsburgh Hockey Now. “It’s not great, but with a 10-minute three-on-three, I’d like to think that (somebody would usually win in that span).
“It just gets hard, though, if you put ties back in. Late in the year it’s going to create issues because teams are going to have to make up points, and they’re going to have to pull their goalie in overtime to try to avoid a tie. And then it’s going to throw everything off.”
Perhaps we could discuss changing the point structure, but that’s a piece for another day.
Another thing the NHL might not be crazy about, though, is extending the length of games by expanding OT and still keeping the shootout to avoid ties.
Elias Pettersson also shared his opinion on extending 3-on-3 OT when asked by Canucks Army.
“It’s not really a team effort when you win in the shootout,” Pettersson said. “It comes down to an individual and this is a team sport. I think if you add a 10-minute overtime, usually there should be a goal by then because there are so many good players in this league that can make plays, but obviously we can’t play three-on-three until one goal goes in because it’s an 82-game season. It would be hard, but also, you wouldn’t max out the first five minutes, so maybe teams would play smarter.”
There might be no perfect fix here, but as the novelty of the shootout has faded, the idea of more 3-on-3 OT is an interesting one to kick around. That, after all, is the better showcase of star players and their talent — and more representative of team play.
So, with the NHL descending on Sunrise, Florida this week, we asked a collection of all-stars to share their opinions on extending 3-on-3 overtime to 10 minutes.
Should the NHL consider extending 3-on-3 overtime to 10 minutes and getting rid of the shootout?
“I think the shootout serves its purpose. I don’t have too much to say about it. It’s a big extra point. Sometimes when you lose in a shootout, [it feels like] it’s not a great way to end a game, but everyone knows — whether you’re shooting or not shooting — how important that extra point is.” – Detroit’s Dylan Larkin
“I think it’s a great idea. It’s a little more interesting, maybe. I’m a big fan of three-on-three, so I wouldn’t mind the extra five minutes. I’m sure a lot of people have different opinions, I think a lot of people like shootouts, too. But for me, I wouldn’t mind the 10 minutes.” – Columbus’ Johnny Gaudreau
“It could be worth a shot. It’s obviously tough for some guys who play 25, 30 minutes a night; now you’ve got to play eight out of 10 minutes in overtime. I’d be for it just to see if it is better, if it is different [and] go from there. [Rules] have been changed [before], maybe we can change it again.” – Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson
“I wouldn’t be opposed to that. Maybe a bit more opportunity to score.” – NY Islanders’ Brock Nelson
While some of us might first think of the impact this has on the top skaters who already play 18-plus minutes a game and then will be relied on to play most of the open-ice overtime, we can’t forget the impact this kind of change would have on goalies.
So we turn to one of the league’s best netminders for some important insight as well.
“I would go to shootout right away, right after the game. No overtime. It will save us some time and [goalies] goals against. [laughing].
When they play three-on-three it could be two-on-1, odd-man rush, three-on-two, three-on-0; when you’re just one-on-one with a player it’s [more fair]. – Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy
With files from Ryan Dixon