Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Just shoot me

Here's yet another case of the world probably being right and me probably being wrong:

The NHL shootout.

Others seem to like it, a lot, while it just seems silly and contrived to me.

A tie used to be a respectable result in an NHL game. I could see why it didn't thrill newcomers to the sport, but half a loaf sometimes is better than none. One time the first-year Washington Capitals, who were truly terrible, hosted the mighty Montreal Canadiens, and tied them. The Caps fans were thrilled. Overtime and a shootout probably would have led to a loss, so a point was pretty darn good. The first three stars of the game, unsurprisingly, were Capitals.

In the early 1980's, overtime arrived. There was plenty of drama -- someone scored, and the game was over. One team got two points, one team got none. There's nothing better than sudden death in hockey.

During the next 15 or so years, NHL teams figured out that they could go into a defensive shell if the game were tied in the final minutes of regulation, and ride it out to get a point ... even with overtime a possibility. Heck, it was only five extra minutes to kill, and this was the Dead Puck Era. The NHL reacted oddly to that situation -- turning overtime into a four-on-four game in terms of skaters. Teams were guaranteed a point once reaching overtime.

This led to some strange circumstances. Teams could kill off the final minutes of regulation when tied by playing very defensively. Then they could go crazy and take a ton of chances in overtime, knowing they had at least one point in the bag. When they played a team from another conference, they really didn't care if the other team scored because it didn't affect their playoff race. Oh, and 82 points in 82 games didn't mean you were a .500 team any more. You could get a point in a loss, so a breakeven record could be close to 90 points. The won-loss records became really ugly, something like 45-25-6-6.

And how many sports change their rules in the middle of a game? Does the NBA turn to 4-on-4 in overtime?

After the lockout, the NHL added a shootout. This is something like ending a tie baseball game after 10 innings and declaring that the winner of a home run-hitting contest gets a victory. If the team wins after regulation in one form or another, it is thrilled. If it loses, the standard quote is, "At least we got a point out of it."

When you go to a game or watch one on television, the fans seem to enjoy the shootout. It's a climax to the night's action, because it does demand your attention.

But that doesn't mean I have to love it.


Glenn Locke, The Tall Thin Guy said...

they need to make a win in regulation worth 3 points, but an OT win only 2. Then there would be a lot fewer OT's and shootouts. It would also correct the mathematical inequity of an extra point being created in a tie game. I do enjoy the OT and shootout, despite agreeing with Budd that it is contrived.

Suzie said...

I remember Art Wander's objection to the shootout - you could end the year with 82 points and never win a game. I'd be all for sudden death until someone wins, but I hardly ever have to get up early in the morning, so my vote probably isn't getting counted.