WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- When the NHL initially introduced the shootout to decide ties after overtime back in 2005, goalies didn’t like it, players were uncertain but willing to give it a try, and fans loved it.
Now it seems, the league’s general managers have come full circle. They feel there are too many shootout decisions affecting the standings.
Not including Saturday, there has been 48 shootouts this season. There were 97 during last year’s lockout-shortened season of 48 games, so we’re ahead of pace here.
League GMs met this past week in Toronto the day after the Hall of Fame ceremonies to discuss extending the five-minute overtime to 10 minutes as a way of deciding games before going to the shootout.
There are several ideas, among them, splitting 4 on 4 to a period of 3 on 3 for at least five minutes; or even extending 4 on 4 to a full 10 minutes.
Scott Hartnell doesn’t like any of this talk. He thinks it unnecessary.
“The league brought in the shootout to show a high level of skill and the one-on-one and people love it,” Hartnell said. “Now they want to take it away.
“It seems whatever side of the bed they wake up on, is what they want to do. Whatever happens, happens."
A lot of goaltenders loathe the shootout. Remember how much Ilya Bryzgalov hated it?
Flyers assistant GM Ron Hextall didn’t have to deal with shootouts during his day in the net.
“I never liked individualizing our sport,” Hextall said. “I am fine with the overtime. I am fine with 4 on 4 or 3 on 3, if it goes to that. I think it’s better than 1 on 1 shootout.”
Some say extending overtime will further tire players and lead to injury.
“Your top players might play a minute and half more,” Hextall countered. “And there’s only three guys on the ice. It won’t burden the players. It won’t be physical because it’s too much space”
Vinny Lecavalier, who has been around 15 seasons, has gotten comfortable with the shootout.
“I kinda like it the way it is,” Lecavalier said. “I guess the league and players are open to it. Whatever makes the game better.
“The shootout, you get used to it. I don’t mind it. Fans like it. Obviously, they call it a skills competition. Overtime and adding five minutes, it would be [tiring].
“There’s another side to it. You don’t want it to end in a skills competition. We’ll see what happens. I’m fine either way.”
Like Lecavalier, Jakub Voracek said he doesn’t care what direction the GMs go, but he also enjoys the shootout. Then again, he’s a skill player, too, although Voracek didn’t get to shoot during the Flyers 3-2 shootout loss to the Jets on Friday (see story).
“I don’t really care if it is five or 10 minutes in overtime,” Voracek said. “Shootouts are fun for everyone if you really think about it. I think for players and fans, it’s kinda fun. You don’t get that in the playoffs.”
The entire matter will be discussed in more detail when the GMs meet again next March in Boca Raton, Fla.
Influential Detroit GM Ken Holland has been pushing for this discussion for a while and wants to see overtime extended.
“We're going to talk again in March,” Holland told NHL.com. “There seems to be some interest in maybe expanding overtime another couple of minutes. Whether it remains 4 on 4 or goes from 4 on 4 to 3 on 3, certainly seems to be gaining some traction and we're going to have a long conversation about it in March.
“… Obviously, I like the idea to expand overtime. I don't have a problem with the game being decided in a shootout, I want to see as many games decided in either a 4 on 4 or 3 on 3 format.”