Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Shootout

This is something I have been meaning to write about for some time, however today's hockey results have brought things to a head.

Firstly I am not a Leaf's fan. I would rather they got in the playoffs than the Habs who I hate, however it is not a big disappointment that the Islanders and not the Leafs got into the playoffs. In fact it is probably better for all of us, as it will assure that every game of the Ottawa series is televised nationally (because you know the geniuses who schedule the playoff games would have had Toronto and Ottawa playing the same night).

However the Islanders who blew a 2 goal lead in the last 4 minutes, got to the playoffs by virtue of winning in a shootout. Now I know that over the 82 game season everybody wins or loses by shootouts and that fact that it happens in the 82 game with a playoff position on the line, shouldn't be used for or against shootouts.


What a crappy way to break a tie.

Firstly during the regular season do you really need to break a tie? Soccer which is the world's most popular game doesn't. (They do unfortunately use a shootout in playoff games and two World Cups have been decided by penalty shots.) College football allows ties, NFL and CFL football allow ties after an overtime period. Basketball and baseball have overtime but play until somebody wins.

So if you need to break a tie why, not play until somebody wins. That is of course what happens in the NHL playoff which occasionally results in 2-3 periods of overtime which is clearly impractical in the regular season.

There is a simpler solution which most Canadian NHL players are already familiar with because it is used to break ties in minor hockey. The NHL already uses a version of it in that they start 4 on 4.

My solution, start 4 on 4 and play until the first stoppage in play after 2 minutes. Then each team takes off one player and plays 3 on 3 for 2+ minutes and so on. They can either keep on taking players off or just play 3 on 3 until somebody scores. Some of the most exciting minor hockey games I saw went down to one on one. Imagine Crosby and Ovechkin one on one. A lot more interesting than watching them taking penalty shots?

The whole problem with the shootout is that it brings the whole game down 4 players, the shooters and the goalie. Now hockey is unfair in that the best team often doesn't win, however usually when a badly outplayed team ekes out a tie after 60 minutes it is usually because of the play of their goalie and of their star players who are able to score against the flow of play. So, who do you now let decide the game?

The other problem I have is that the team who wins in a shootout gets 2 points, same as a team that wins 8-0. Stupid. They should make it 3 points for a win, 2 for an OT/SO win an one for an OT/SO loss. (I know, I saw an analysis in the Globe and Mail where such a system really wouldn't make much difference to the standings but fair is fair).

But say the supporters of the SO, "the fans love the shootout". I suppose the fans who buy the 2 for $9.99 tickets the American teams use to fill their stadiums do. Probably the people who attend the odd game with their company's season tickets do. I doubt the individual fan who shells out $3-5K per season for a season ticket likes the shootout. And if "the fans love the shootout" why not use it in the playoffs? I could actually do with not coming to work bleary eyed from April to June.