Is It Time To Scrap The Shootout In Favor Of Continuous Sudden Death Overtime, Or...Ties?

By Will Chase on December 10, 2021 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' Elvis Merzlikins is beat in the shootout versus Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

What do you think about the shootout?

Ever since the shootout was introduced to the NHL for the 2005-06 season, we officially saw the end of ties—which aren't missed by many. 

However, is the shootout really the best method for deciding a winner once teams skate through the entire five-minute, three-on-three overtime period?

On the season, the Columbus Blue Jackets are 3-0 in overtime and 2-1 in the shootout. They had been perfect in extra time prior to their 2-1 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.

Among their exciting wins was a shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils on Halloween, when Jake Voracek ended the game for the Blue Jackets. 

The split-second decisions skaters come up with to fool the goaltender are always exciting, but this is akin to two hard-fought combatants going beyond 60 minutes and then deciding the winner in a glorified skills competition.

Is this really how games should be decided in the NHL?

There's a reason why they don't resort to a battle of field goals or two-point conversions after a deadlocked NFL overtime. While the resulting ties might not be ideal, they're fun because they're rare. The same can be said for baseball, where a home run derby to decide games would cause a global meltdown.

The NBA decides a winner after however many overtimes are deemed necessary. No free throw competitions or ties!

Even Zach Werenski thinks shootouts are stupid. 

Wouldn't it be fun if the NHL settled things with continuous three-on-three overtime hockey? There are arguments against it, primarily the extra game time resulting in more fatigue and injuries, but how many games would actually last as long as some executives fear? The answer is "probably not that many."

We love Stanley Cup Playoff hockey, in part because of the overtime structure. 

Just like teams might be playing for overtime late in a tied third period to guarantee themselves the extra overtime point, or settle for the tie in the old days, teams might be fine with simply getting to the shootout these days. At least continuous overtime makes it all that much more important for teams to bring their best.

The NHL could also adjust how the three-on-three game is played. While back-and-forth firewagon hockey is fun, we've seen teams exploit how they utilize the extra session, such as getting the puck in deep and then slowly skating it out beyond the offensive blue line to regroup and try again. 

Perhaps the league could institute something similar to a backcourt violation in basketball (delay of game penalty?), with the goal of preventing the constant regroups and lack of offense. 

Maybe, for the first overtime, teams skate four-on-four, and then any continuous overtime moves to three-on-three play? There are plenty of options and ideas to be considered, but Gary Bettman has said in the past that, in his mind, the shootout is here to stay (for now).

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