The Nashville Predators saw a dozen of their 82 games (nearly 15 percent) require a shootout to determine a victor last season. There’s a chance that number could be drastically reduced by the time the next campaign concludes.
The NHL and NHL Players Association Competition Committee met last week in New York City to discuss a handful of potential rule tweaks or changes that could be implemented as early as the 2015-16 season. Made up of a mix of NHL players and League executives, including Predators General Manager David Poile, the Committee discussed changes to overtime, faceoffs and the introduction of a coach’s challenge, with the League releasing a statement upon the conclusion of the meetings.
The revision of overtime rules are perhaps the most intriguing item, with the desired result being a reduction of the number of games decided by a shootout. Instead, the League has discussed different options, one of which was utilized in the American Hockey League last season.
In the AHL, a seven-minute OT session begins with teams skating 4-on-4, the same as the NHL does now. After the first whistle following three minutes of play (4:00 minute mark), full strength is then reduced to 3-on-3 for the remainder of overtime. If the game isn’t decided in the overtime period, a shootout then takes place. Similar to the “AHL OT” option, the NYC meetings also debated using an OT session starting at 3-on-3, and remaining at that number for the duration of the session.
The change in the AHL last season, starting the overtime frame 4-on-4 and then 3-on-3 if necessary, was quite noticeable. During the 2013-14 AHL campaign, 35.3 percent of games that went to overtime were decided before reaching a shootout. At the March 16 mark of the 2014-15 season, 76.3 percent of games had been won in overtime.
When Poile participated in a roundtable discussion at the Music City Sports Festival at the end of May, he posed the two different options to the audience, with an overwhelming majority of the fans in attendance indicating that they would prefer the League to adopt the AHL model used last season.
“I love watching the shootout when somebody else is in it,” Poile quipped to the crowd. “Our thinking as general managers is when you go to 3-on-3, you’re not going to get to the shootout anywhere near as often as you do now.”
Back in March, NashvillePredators.com polled a few of the Preds in the locker room post-practice on what they thought of the potential overtime changes:
“I like the idea,” forward Mike Fisher said. “I’m not the biggest fan of shootouts, so anything that can reduce the shootouts, I think it’s a good idea. I think it’ll be better for the fans too; I know some people like the shootouts, but I prefer to settle it during the game. If it’s 3-on-3, I think you’re going to get more scoring opportunities, and I like it.”
“I’m sure if it’s 3-on-3, it’ll create a lot more room, a lot more 2-on-1’s going back and forth,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “If one player goes down, it’s an odd man rush right away, so I think it would create more offense. As a player, you want as many games as possible to be decided during regulation or overtime playing hockey, not in the shootout.”
Although no final decision regarding overtime for the 2015-16 season was made during the recent meetings, the desire for change exists, and a modification to the current format could still come before all 30 teams ramp back up again in the fall.