Among the topics discussed by the NHL’s 30 general managers earlier this week when they met for one day in Toronto was the possibility of changing the structure of overtime to conclude more games before reaching a shootout. Of 282 games played so far this season 44, or 15.6 percent, have been determined in a shootout.
Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland has led the charge on this front and the options range from adding time to the current five-minute, four-on-four overtime has been suggested as well as playing five minutes of 4-on-4 followed by five minutes of 3-on-3.
“There seems to be some interest in maybe expanding overtime another couple of minutes,” Holland told NHL.com of the reception to possibly altering overtime. “Whether it remains 4-on-4 or goes from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3, certainly seems to gaining some traction and we’re going to have a long conversation about it in March.”
When the league’s general managers convene for three days of meetings and discussions in Boca Raton, Fla., in March is when the real debate about potential rule changes, including any modifications to overtime, will occur.
Capitals General Manager George McPhee understands the arguments for changing overtime, but he’s not in favor of dramatically altering it.
“I’m not sure 3-on-3 is hockey, because we rarely see that,” said McPhee, who said he would not vote for adding more minutes to overtime. “Your top players are playing anywhere between 20-27 minutes now. You start adding time and now maybe you’re up to 30 minutes a game or 32 minutes a game. That’s more blocked shots, that’s more shifts that could lead to injury. What if you’re playing back to back? These things matter.”
McPhee suggested that a minimally invasive way to promote more game-winning goals in overtime would be to have the teams switch ends before beginning the extra time. New Jersey General Manager Lou Lamoriello reportedly suggested that tweak in this week’s meetings.
“Have a longer change. Maybe that’s the way to go without extending the length of overtime,” McPhee said. “There will be people caught out there on longer shifts, there will be mistakes made, there will be more goals scored. That may be the simplest way to address it without adding time or going down to 3-on-3.”
The Red Wings and Blackhawks were the only two teams that voted against the shootout when the NHL instituted it back in 2005. The debate as to whether the shootout is a cheap gimmick or worthwhile addition to the game has simmered ever since.
At this point there’s no reason to believe the shootout won’t be part of the NHL moving forward, but how many games require one might. Do you want the NHL to change overtime?