This past October we took a trip up to Buffalo and found ourselves spit-balling about the NHL with Katebits and Heather B. Among the topics of conversation were fighting and the shootout. Being the brilliant minds that we are, we quickly got to the bottom of both problems:
1. Staged fighting is stupid.
2. The shootout is here to stay but has grown a little stale.
We have no beef with caught-up-in-the-passion-of-the-moment fighting, like that awesome Getzi-on-Thorton beatdown from the playoffs a few years ago, but there’s really no place for the preening peacock style of staged fight between heavyweights in today’s NHL. Even putting aside the physical and mental health issues they pose, those fights don’t deter other players from taking liberties, rarely have any impact on the momentum of the game, and are, frankly, pretty boring. When you see your team has dressed a heavyweight, you know that it means the coach might as well just flush a roster spot down the toilet for the night. Lame!
Meanwhile, the shootout has become very predictable. Devils fans, for example, know that every shootout is going to go like this: Kovalchuck scores, Parise misses, Elias scores. Ho hum. The only fun part is watching to see if DeBoer has learned the players numbers yet when filling out the form to give the referees. If the NHL isn’t going to replace the shootout with All-Star Game-style super skills (seriously, NHL, we meant it — that would rawk!), it’s got to do something to jazz up the shootout, or else we’ll all get so jaded that we might as well just go back to the five-on-five trapping-to-get-a-tie OTs. ::shifty eyes::
Don’t worry, Gentle Reader, we have a solution! Katebits actually tweeted this at the time, but we feel like the idea is so solid that it deserves a full write up, especially in light of Brian Burke’s rant this week. Are you sitting down? Prepare to have your mind blown and your world rocked. Ready?
Instead of the coaches picking three shooters from their own team… the coaches should pick who shoots for the opposing team!
That’s right, the coaches should pick who shoots for the opposing team.
Think about it — of course the coaches would gravitate towards the worst players. Instead of seeing Kovalchuk, Parise, and Elias shoot for the Devils, the opposing coach would pick Janssen, Boulton, and, well, Tedenby. Sorry, Teddy. But here’s the thing, we want to see zany, little Tedenby trying to score in a shootout. We don’t want to see Janssen and Boulton taking shootouts. You know who else doesn’t want to see Janseen and Boulton taking shootouts? The coaching staff. How could they solve that? By not dressing Janseen and Boulton. You know who else doesn’t want to see Janssen and Boulton taking shootouts? Management. How could they solve that? By not drafting or signing players like Janssen and Boulton.
If for some reason (insanity?), the coaches and management did decide they really need enforcers, the enforcers will have the pressure of knowing the final result of the game could very well come down to their ability to score on an uncontested, staged breakaway. What are said enforcers going to do? Practice harder at being better skaters and shooters! How could that possibly be a bad thing for anyone? There’s a slight chance those skills could bleed into an actual in-game situation. Gone would be the days of ham-fisted goons! Instead we’d have, um, what’s slightly more subtle than a ham-fist? Welcome to the era of prosciutto-fisted goons!
Seriously, though, can you think of any other simple rule change that would do more to encourage teams to win in regulation than this? And if the games do go the distance, imagine how much more fun it will be to watch as a fan? We’ve all seen the best players in the game take breakaways. Won’t it be more fun to scheme over who you think would be the worst player for the other team to be forced to send out against your team’s goalie? Moreover, we all know the long shootouts are the ones that are the most fun. This set-up will undoubtedly lead to shootouts that require five or more rounds. Fans will get their money’s worth!
It’s brilliant. The only possible outcomes of instituting this rule would be any combination of the following:
1. Enforcers being forced to either become more skilled or be replaced in the lineup.
2. More games decided in regulation and overtime.
3. The shootout becoming more interesting for the fans.
NHL, the PA may have rejected your realignment plan, but there’s no way they’d reject this. Do it! You’ll thank us later.