Monday, February 24, 2014

In defense of the shootout

First off, I don't like the shootout anymore than anyone else.

I do, however, believe its a necessary evil.

I watched 11 years of hockey which included ties.  Ties are terrible, and I don't think that people remember how empty it feels investing 3 hours of your life in a game only to walk away with as if it never happened - there is no winner.  You wanna go back to ties?  No thank you.  The "kissing your sister" quote always stuck with me.

One of the main criticisms of the shootout is that it is a one on one format in the context of a team game, and that's a valid point.  Breakaways are part of the game, but they don't occur in alternating instances of 6+ in the course of a night.

I don't like how we drop down to 4 on 4 for overtime - we just spent 60 minutes of 5 on 5.  If we are so exited about goals, and the 5th player is a detriment to scoring, why do we have him out there for regulation?  Some say the shootout is a gimmick, but what about changing the number of players who are eligible to take the ice, just 'cause its sudden death?  Seems gimmicky to me.

Sure, you see 4 on 4 most nights, but its usually brief and in the context of overlapping penalties, or is the result of coincidental minors.  What percentage of the season is played 4 on 4?  If you play 3 minutes of 4 on 4 per night, that's 5% of the game.  Seems about as far from regular gameplay as a series of penalty shots, if you ask me.

In life, as in outside hockey, I'm big into the concept that if you are critical of X, and argue that it needs to go away, then you have to present an alternative in order to do so.  I don't like paying taxes:  no one does.  The alternative to all of us paying no taxes means no roads to drive on, firemen to do their thing, or law enforcement to prevent us from being robbed.  That's not a realistic alternative.

So we've established that ties aren't acceptable, but we don't like the shootout.  Lets look at the alternatives.  You see 3 on 3 thrown out there - often in an unlimited format.  Again, I don't like ditching one player for minutes 60 through 65 - then you really wanna blow the horn and leave another guy on the bench for an additional 5 minutes?  The 3 on 3 advocates among us don't feel that its gimmicky, yet in the 20 years I've been watching the game I've never seen 3 on 3 play, yet I've seen quite a few penalty shots.

What would football look like if you took 40% of the players off the field in an effort to induce a score?  In the 10th inning of a ball game you take the shortstop, 3rd baseman, and left fielder off - in an effort to keep it a team game: would we accept that?  We're already benching the shortstop, which I think is bad enough.

What are you gonna do if no one scores when its 3 on 3?  Aren't you getting dangerously close to 1 on 1 there?  I've heard one staunch shootout critic throw out an idea of a series of alternating 2-on-1's, which satisfies my criteria of having an alternative to suggest.  I'm not sure if I like that idea, but its at least something to think about.

As an American voter, I've learned to live with a lesser of two evils approach, which is why I back virtually anything that gets us away from ties.  Now, if you want to be critical of the "loser point" - you'll get more traction with that argument, in my opinion.  Gregg Drinnan will point out that 17 out of the 22 WHL teams have a .500 or better record right now, which seems statistically impossible.

We just witnessed an Olympic tournament where a regulation win was worth 3 points, an OT win 2, and an extra time loss earned a single point.  Personally, I could get behind a points system like this, as it incentivizes winning in regulation, yet doesn't strip you of a potential tie point.  This system seems to work well in MLS, which is prone to ties.

Like I said, I don't like the current system any more than you do - but I'll take it over one with ties.  I'd take a coin flip VS a tie.  I would prefer that both captains engage in a duel at center ice before I see another tie.

If you have any better ideas, I'd love to hear 'em.  In the meantime, I'm fine with a series of penalty shots and someone walking out of the rink with a "W".

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