BOCA RATON, Florida - NHL General Managers convened for the first of three days of meetings and picked up on a discussion that has been ongoing for the last few years and picked up traction the last time the group met back in Toronto in November: namely how to reduce the number of games that are decided in a shootout.
“The shootout, there's nothing wrong with it, I think it's an exciting part of the game but it's just one small aspect,” said Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. “It's a skill exhibition. If you can get it back closer to regular hockey and have it decided that way; that would be my preference.”
“I don't think it's a knock on the shootout, I think more of the managers would like to see it end in overtime,” added Washington Capitals GM George McPhee. “Shootout's fun though, people like it, kids love it.”
In 2011, 14.7% of games were not decided by the end overtime. While it fell to 13.5% in 2012, the number has been on the rise again, climbing to 14.1% in 2013 and 14.3% so far this season.
Collectively, the sentiment among the group continues to trend towards the desire to see more games end in regulation or overtime but the methods to go about achieving that are being disputed.
Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland has long been an advocate of featuring three on three play after five minutes of four on four overtime. While he pushed for it back in November, the concept appeared to have little support this morning. The problem is that because it occurs so rarely in games, it's difficult to truly understand what impact it might have on the game before implementing it.
“You see three on three for maybe a minute or forty five seconds and the one team might just be waiting to get their power play so they might attack a little bit differently than if it was a full two minutes,” said Blues GM Doug Armstrong. “To see it, you have to see it for the full two minutes with everyone at even strength.”
So far, the ideas that appear to be gaining the most support are more subtle by nature, avoiding a drastic alteration in the game the way extending overtime or shifting to three on three would. Potentially changing ends to start overtime so that teams would have to stray farther from their own end to change as they do during the second period of regulation and doing a dry scrape of the ice after regulation instead of waiting until before the shootout seemed to pick up some traction.
While it wouldn't be a radical difference, Stars GM Jim Nill pointed to the inclusion of the rule preventing players from changing after icing the puck prior to the 2005-2006 season as a subtle tweak that had a positive impact.
“It's amazing how some little things can have a big impact,” Nill said. “Years ago if you would have said if you iced the puck and had to stay on the ice, everybody would have said it's not that big of a deal. But it is a big deal. It's amazing how little things can change the game.”