No love for the Shootout
by, 02-21-2013 at 04:24 (3521 Views)
Imagine a tie baseball game after 11 innings. Clearly the only way to settle this boring affair after investing four hours of your life is a homerun hitting contest.
The Spurs and the Lakers tied at 114 each after overtime. Clear the court, its slam dunk contest time.
Absurd right? Ridiculous. Foolish. No way would it ever happen. Why then, does the NHL insist on ending games with a shootout? Why not mix it up a little and next year we can decide a game with a puck relay or maybe a fastest skater competition? Defensive defensemen and checking forwards need not apply.
People who are fans of the shootout usually point to the fact “no one ever leaves the rink during a shootout”. Well no, no one ever does. They want to see who wins. Those same people also wouldn’t leave if you had a second overtime period, played three on three for example.
The penalty shot is the most exciting play in hockey is another reason usually offered up. No argument here. The difference between a penalty shot and the shootout is becoming more and more evident all the time. Simply put, the players don’t take it seriously. Martin St Louis would never try skating backwards towards the goal on a penalty shot. P.M. Bouchard will not try a spin-o-rama on a penalty shot. A penalty shot counts. A penalty shot is real. You get statistical credit for a penalty shot goal. Bonus dollars are sometimes on the line. The penalty shot is taken seriously.
A shootout goal doesn’t mean anything. Don’t get me wrong, some of the most creative, impressive goals ever scored have been scored during the shootout. It’s a chance to show off your individual skill set. That is, if you are lucky enough to be chosen to participate and that is main reason I hate the shootout.
Hockey is a team game. The shootout removes the team aspect from deciding a game. In a recent game, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks played 29 minutes and 28 seconds versus the Vancouver Canucks, arguably their biggest rival. Keith’s stat line includes one assist, plus one, three shots, one hit, one block, three takeaways all spread out over 31 shifts. The Stanley Cup winning, Olympic gold medal winning, Norris trophy winning defenseman plays an integral role every night the Blackhawks play. A fun fact about this award winning defenseman: he has never been called on to participate in a shootout. EVER. Keith has never had a chance to influence the Blackhawks chances of winning a regular season game that has gone longer than 65 minutes.
The numbers do not lie. Here are some of the more interesting ones:
47 of 431 players to have attempted a shootout have a 50% or better average. Of those 47, only 18 have attempted three shots or more.
Ilya Kovalchuk, James Neal, Rick Nash, Evgeni Malkin, Anze Kopitar, Claude Giroux, Jordan Eberle, Alexander Ovechkin, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Martin St Louis, Marian Gaborik, and Steven Stamkos have all scored on less than 40% of their attempts. No one will ever be able to convince me that this group of players do not have the talent to raise those numbers. If they took it seriously.
The most telling number of all: 0. the number of shootout attempts made by the greatest defenseman and arguably the greatest player of a generation: Nicklas Lidstrom. Let me say that again. Since the 2005-2006 season, the first season to use the shootout, Nicklas Lidstrom attempted no shootouts at all. When you take a superstar talent like this, and plant him on the bench to watch the outcome of a game, it’s time to re-examine whether or not the shootout experiment is working.
Thanks for taking the time to read this shootout rant. I welcome your comments and opinions and invite you to join me on Twitter @fiveminutemajor.