It’s been almost a decade since ties were part of the NHL standings formula. The draw was eliminated following the 2004-05 cancelled season, at the same time post-overtime shootouts were introduced.
Before I go any further, I must say I enjoy the shootout. It’s introduced an additional bit of drama to a moment that used to feature fans heading home or turning off their televisions. It also puts spectacular offensive and goaltending talent on center stage while providing countless breathtaking highlights for media consumption.
I’ve advocated in the past for overtime and shootout wins to count for less than a regulation victory, similar to the 3-2-1-0 point system used in many international hockey competitions. But other than that, I think the shootout has been a net positive for the NHL and hockey in general.
However, with a 48-game season on our doorsteps, handing out critical points based on an elevated skills competition seems inappropriate. We will hear over the next several months about how much more important each game is in a shortened season, so some compensation for that fact is in order.
My proposal: bring back the tie, if only for the next 48 games. The goal of any league should be to have its best teams make the postseason, and keeping the shootout out of the equation this year would reward prowess during actual game play.
If two teams battle for 65 minutes and haven’t settled things, give each side a point and move on to the next game. The 2013 season promises to be extremely intense, which should make up for any entertainment value that shelving the shootout would stifle.
Teams could even agree to have a shootout after a scoreless overtime just for the fun of it. The NCAA currently employs this formula when teams from different conferences face off, as opposing coaches can agree to have a consequence-free shootout following a tie. Robert Morris and Ohio State did just that last month at 84 Lumber Arena.
In fact, RMU coach Derek Schooley (a two-time guest on the Gospel of Hockey) has said that he doesn’t think shootouts should factor into the NCAA standings because of how short the season is. The Colonials are scheduled to play 34 regular-season games this year, a typical college slate. Schooley doesn’t want a competition that has little to do with regular game play influencing playoffs and championships, and we can assume he isn’t alone among his college coaching peers.
Appeals to authority aside, the logic for shunning the shootout is solid, if only for one season. 2013 will be an outlier in the NHL’s history, so why not try to take an unorthodox measure to ensure greater fairness?
For everyone involved, the postseason holds precedent. We can afford to sacrifice some artificial excitement in order to make sure the right teams get invited to the playoff party.