The Bettman Point: originally a friend of our New Jersey Devils during the Kovalchuk/Parise era, it has become the bane of our team's existence since their departure. The shootout has been a polarizing conclusion to hockey games in recent years. There are some fans who see it as an entertaining way to have a decisive victor at the end of a hard-fought game; others (myself included) see it as an unfair gimmick that rewards teams with individual players of a high skill level. For those of us who frown upon the shootout, we may be seeing less of it at the conclusion of this NHL year.
At the recent NHL general managers meeting, it was suggested for the NHL to change their overtime format as early as next season. The major suggestion as of now would be to introduce 3 on 3 into the overtime period in an attempt to have more games end with a deciding goal revolving around team play rather than an individual skills competition. There are a couple of options in the works according to NHL.com:
One option would have overtime start 3-on-3 and continue for five minutes, unless a goal is scored, before going to the shootout.
The other would mimic the model instituted by the American Hockey League this season, with 4-on-4 play for the first three minutes of a seven-minute overtime, followed by 3-on-3 play after the first whistle past the three-minute mark.
The article provides enough data from the AHL to support this change as well; while only 35.3% of AHL overtime games ended before the shootout last season, the number has jumped exponentially to 76.3%.; 42.6% of those games ending in overtime have been settled during the 3 on 3 portion. While the last number may not be eye-popping, the one before it certainly is; more than 3/4 of games going to overtime in the A have been settled without a skills contest. I would rather see 3 of every 4 games end in overtime rather than (approximately) 4 out of 10.
What Does This Mean for New Jersey?
I would say this is completely new to us, but it isn't; as Devils fans, we have been treated to this scenario once before, courtesy of offsetting penalties given to Jaromir Jagr and "Divin'" Dustin Brown:
I have to admit I was excited when the coincidental minors were called due to how rare 3 on 3 hockey is; watching the action was as much if not more fun than I thought it would be. The amount of open ice available for the players resulted in quite a few scoring chances for each team; while the penalties expired before the game winner, I firmly believe that the ice available from those two being in the box is what led to Jagr's goal.
It's not an NHL secret that the Devils have stunk up many arenas in the shootout; we all remember the painful ride from March 10, 2013 all the way through October 29, 2014. We would finally end the futility with a Halloween present given to us a day early courtesy of Jacob Josefson and Cory Schneider. While it might be partly true that I want to go to 3 on 3 so that hopefully we see fewer shootouts, there's more to it than just that reason, which leads to my take on the overtime change.
Again I have to say that I'm not a fan of the shootout; even when we were winning them, I wasn't a fan! When 3 on 3 was being discussed and initially implemented in the AHL, I thought it might be a good alternative to try and settle more games through team play rather than individual effort. The statistics don't lie either; there are a lot more games ending in overtime one way or another this year in the American League rather than progressing all the way to a shootout. I feel this scenario is more in the spirit of the game than the shootout is; 3 on 3 still requires team play, awareness of time on ice, changing defense/the forward while there's a chance, and some great goaltending. While the last point is involved in the shootout, it just has too much of an all-star weekend gimmicky feel to it; teams stacked with great individual players (or that are just plain lucky) will succeed in the shootout, while teams that stress the crest on the front of the jersey over the name on the back (or conversely are just terribly unlucky) might stumble a bit.
Our Devils fall into that latter category mentioned about. While New Jersey has certainly had its fair share of big name players over the years, they never put an individual's needs over those of the team; if you don't believe me, just look at what happened with Martin Brodeur last year. Even when winning shootout due to a combination of Brodeur, Parise and Kovalchuk, I never felt the shootout was a resolution; I felt we just earned an extra point, rather than truly winning the game. If implemented next season, 3 on 3 overtime will be just fine by me, because it leaves the game's fate in the entire team's hands, rather than just those of a select few individuals.
As we usually do at the end of these articles, I would like to open the floor up to you my fellow Devils fans; what are your thoughts on either 3 on 3 format mentioned by the NHL? Do you like the shootout? Do you prefer going to the shootout after 4 on 4 rather than seeing any 3 on 3? Am I biased because we're just so bad in the shootout? Leave any and all comments below and as always thanks for reading!
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