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What to do with that shootout thingy?

Last Thursday's Avalanche and Maple Leafs game may have given us a key into what the future may hold for NHL overtimes.

Doug Pensinger

Anyone who caught last Thursday's Avs and Leafs game also got a big treat when it came to overtime. An avalanche (pun somewhat intended) of penalties at the end of the third period and into overtime made for an interesting arrangement of hockey that featured multiple 3-on-3 situations. And to be honest, it was kind of fun. Seeing so much open ice made for a lot chances and a lot of excitement. Even though the game was ultimately decided in a shootout, the overtime may have given us a glimpse into the NHL's future plans with overtime.

For awhile now the NHL has expressed interest in trying to keep games from ending in the shootout. With upwards of 60% of overtime games ending in the shootout, it seems to make sense that a change is needed in order to make that happen. This year the NHL tweaked a couple things in terms of overtime (teams switching sides for longer changes and freshening up the ice), but still almost 200 games into the season, over 50% of overtime games have needed the shootout to be decided. Clearly something more needs to be done in order to make the drastic change NHL officials are looking for.

Enter the 3-on-3 idea. Several years ago, Red Wings GM, Ken Holland suggested an expanded overtime that featured a 3-on-3 section to help end games in the overtime period. It's taken four years, but that system is now in effect in the AHL. So far in the AHL this year, shootout frequency has decreased to less than 20% in overtime games. Now that's a change. Should the NHL implement this? I think so.

I've never been much of a fan of shootouts. I think games should be decided by a full roster, not just a shooter and a goalie. But does 3-on-3 open things up too much? Would all that open play just end up punishing teams that went for the win?

As much as I love the idea of watching 3-on-3 overtimes, I think the only way to truly keep games from going to shootouts on a regular basis is to restructure the standings to reward regulation and overtime wins over the shootout win. I wrote an article on this concept on my own personal Avs blog, Avaholics Anonymous last year.

The concept I suggested was a three point win system. This system would reward teams three points for every regulation and overtime win, but only two points to shootout wins and one point for taking the game to overtime. With more incentive to win in overtime, I believe that more games would ultimately be decided in the overtime period rather than the shootout. This system would have rewarded the Avalanche of last year, but the Avalanche of this year would find themselves in a deeper hole still. Rather than sitting nine points behind Nashville in first place and five points out of a playoff spot, the Avs would be 15 points behind Nashville and eight points out of a playoff spot. Despite what this would do to a current Avs team, I'm in favor of this system coupled with a 3-on-3 expanded overtime to help diminish shootout endings in the future.

What do you guys think?