The NHL’s General Managers, for the past two days, met in Boca Raton, Florida for the League’s annual GM Meetings to discuss the possibility of implementing 3-on-3 OT as a way to reduce the number of games going to a shootout as well finding more ways to resolve the issue of whether or not certain goals should be counted due to goaltender interference.
An idea brought up by Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, 3-on-3 OT as I pointed out in the overview is supposed to be a way to reduce the amount of games going to a shootout since we all know the League and its players are unwilling to eliminate the skills competition altogether. This season, the American Hockey League reformatted its overtime system to include 3-on-3. The way it works is that instead of OT being five minutes, they extended the duration to seven. Once the first three minutes of 4-on-4 hockey have been played, the first whistle would be blown and the remaining four minutes would be played 3-on-3.
According to NHL.com, of all 912 games played in the AHL through Saturday (this past Saturday), 221 were extended to overtime. About half of those games were decided in OT, a 43.1% rate. Last season, 42% of the 307 games that went to extra time were decided before the shootout. Also through Saturday, the AHL had 18.6% of its games decided in OT, up from 8.5% last season. It had 5.6% of its games decided in a shootout, down from 15.6% last season.
As for the NHL, the OT/SO numbers have been static for each of the past two seasons. This season, 10.7% of its games were decided in OT, before the shootout. Last season, it was 10.4%. This season, 14.1% of its NHL games have been decided in a shootout, which is down slightly from 14.47% last season, perhaps due to the changes in the rules this season requiring teams to switch sides for OT to factor in the long-change which also happens in the second period. Still, not much of a difference.
Although we don’t exactly know what the format of 3-on-3 OT will be, this should be interesting should it eventually be approved before next season throughout the NHL. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad idea. A lot of comments I’ve read on social media are split between “yes, it’s a great idea” and “no, I don’t like it but at least it beats having a shootout” and “no, I hate it, bring back the tie”.
I didn’t start following hockey until five years after they started implementing the shootout. At first, being the new hockey fan I was, I didn’t mind it. Of course, I didn’t really know much of what was going on. I just thought it was entertaining as hell to watch. I mean, who wouldn’t? Right? The players get to showcase their stick handling skills and try to deke and dangle their way past the goalie to score, or the goalies would make a great save to keep their team in it and win. It’s tough pressure on them. However, now that I’ve seen more than enough games and plenty of shootouts, I have to admit it’s getting old. I’ve heard constant arguments and complaints against the shootout despite the fact that commissioner Gary Bettman has said before that the fans enjoy the skills competition. In the All-Star Break, I would agree with him. In general, where points are on the line, no I don’t.
Hockey’s a team game. Everyone’s involved in it no matter what. Every shift matters. Every shot counts. Every decision is essentially make-or-break, unless you’re lucky and your team mates bails you out when you turn the puck over unintentionally. The goalies do what they have to do usually, and the players give it their all, whether it be blocking shots, taking away the passing lanes, or winning the races and the battles. That, to me, is a lot of competition and hard work. Again, I’m not going to downplay the efforts by the goalies in the shootouts. I’ve never been a goalie, much less played the sport myself, but I can’t imagine the type of pressure they go through every game in the skills competition, trying to read the player’s every move and make the stop when it matters, especially when they’re dealing with a sniper like the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin. For the players, however, they make it look easy, like a walk in the park. There’s barely any effort except planning their moves and trying to execute them.
Look, I don’t mind skills competitions. I do still think they are fun as it’s amazing to see every time what the players and goalies are capable of. I just don’t think it’s the right way to decide the final score of a game, especially when the points really matter.
Also, I don’t agree with the notion of bringing back ties. At all. Sure, that might be due in large to the generation I was born in. Different generations like and prefer different things. We all have our own tastes. Ending games in a tie does not satisfy mine. What if you have an outstanding as hell game where the players, and goalies especially, have worked their butts off and it’s still a tie game in the final seconds of the third? Do you really want to just have all that hard work to end in a tie? Lame. In my mind, no matter how great a game may be, there always has to be a winner. I like rewards. I like seeing others getting rewarded, and I certainly would love to still see teams who have worked hard to get rewarded with a win. For those who lose the game… well, this is where I kind of fight with myself because this brings up the whole argument that the points system in the NHL is flawed. But that’ll be for another time for when the GMs decide to reformat the points system as well, which will hopefully be sometime in the near future.
Going back to the 3-on-3 suggestion, like I said, it’ll be interesting to see how it’ll work and how the players, coaches, and GMs like it. I’m certainly open to it.
Video Review & Goalie Interference
The reason why I put these two topics together is because they kind of should go hand in hand along with other calls that involve video review, and the GMs are talking about expanding it for goalie interference calls.
The topic of goalie interference has been marred with controversy, not necessarily because of the rule itself but more so the calls being made on the ice. Like 95% of all penalties called in the NHL by the referees (although they are hard working individuals as well), a lot of the goalie interference calls are — pardon my French — absolute bullshit. My team, the San Jose Sharks, has been victimized COUNTLESS and I mean COUNTLESS of times, especially last season. I’ve seen sure goals waved off because of just one slight contact to the opposing goalie. Even the slightest contact. Now, I’m not accusing the officials on the ice of blowing every single goalie interference call, but there’s a good amount of them that have been either called incorrectly, or should’ve been called but they for some reason either decided to put their whistles away or didn’t see a penalty that happened literally a feet or two away from where they’re standing (more likely the latter).
According to the NHL Rule Book, Rule 69.1 (Interference on the Goalkeeper) clearly states the following:
69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper – This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgement of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.
For purposes of this rule, “contact,” whether incidental or otherwise, shall mean any contact that is made between or among a goalkeeper and attacking player(s), whether by means of a stick or any part of the body.
The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.
If a defending player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player so as to cause the defending player to come into contact with his own goalkeeper, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, and if necessary a penalty assessed to the attacking player and if a goal is scored it would be disallowed.
I forget what I’ve heard people say, but there’s been confusion as to whether or not players can be in the blue paint in order to screen the goalie, deflect the puck, and basically just attack the net. According to the first paragraph of that rule, it doesn’t matter if the player is in the blue paint or not. The positioning itself should not matter so long as it does not impair the ability of the goaltender to move around freely and make a save when needed.
Okay, now that we’ve established that, we move along, still in the paragraph but the second instance of the rule which says “(2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgement of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.”
That, my friends, is the issue here. Keep in mind that every penalty and every call called in the sport is at the ref’s discretion, although in various cases the final call is made by the Situation Room up in Toronto. The ref can only keep track of so much, although there are cases where they do miss and get the calls wrong. Basically, it’s a judgement call. Whether or not the fans, players, and coaches like it is another story, but that story is something the GMs are working to improve on, because obviously the refs aren’t going to get it right half the time. That’s where the video review comes into play. With video review, Toronto can make whatever call they deem is correct per the Rule Book, just like they do with other calls in the NHL that require video review such as whether or not the puck enter a net off a high-stick (above crossbar level) and whether a goal was scored off a kicking motion. Also, they get a better vantage point than the refs do at ice level. They can have a better look at whether or not a player was only slightly touching the goalie (which should not count as goalie interference, in my opinion) or if he was pushed into the goalie, or if the goalie’s teammate fell onto him, etc.
Also, a Coach’s Challenge could be implemented for goalie interference. Basically, if the coach has a timeout or two, they can use it to challenge a ref’s call and they can go to video review to determine whether or not the call was right. If the call on the ice still stands, the coach will lose the timeout. If it’s overruled, then he keeps it. If the coach does not have any timeouts remaining, he can’t challenge the call. This system, if adopted, will also be used for the puck-over-glass (Delay of Game) penalty.
The Bottom Line
A few other topics such as diving and embellishment are also in discussion, but let’s just say it’s going to be a busy five months in the League moving forward. Will these changes harm the League and the sport or help them? A lot of people have varying opinions. I’m definitely looking forward to see what the consensus will be when the time comes.
Do you agree with these changes? Feel to give us your thoughts in the comments below! We’d love to hear what you think.
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