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Time for change

Some good arguments for adding the playoff shootout

Posted: Thursday April 19, 2007 2:56PM; Updated: Thursday April 19, 2007 4:31PM
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End of a long night: Henrik Sedin beat Marty Turco in the fourth OT period on April 11.
End of a long night: Henrik Sedin beat Marty Turco in the fourth OT period on April 11.
Richard Rees/Getty Images
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The topic of debate for the day: Stanley Cup overtime.

The proposal: After three overtime periods, the NHL should consider going directly to a shootout.

The advice to traditionalists who assaulted Allan Muir's pro-shootout blog entry of last week and choose to read further: Take a chair and a valium.

The arguments in favor of keeping the current system:

1. Don't change a winning game. The formula has been in place forever and works reasonably well, even if some longer overtime games drag on to the point of attrition on the ice and the den. (You have to be an insomniac or unemployed to stay up late enough to watch some of these games until the end.) Notes Ottawa Senators coach Bryan Murray, who grudgingly accepts the shootout during the regular season but will brook neither four-on-four nor shootouts in overtime: you mess with the history of the game at your peril.

This is how the NHL always has done it, which is solid argumentative ground.

Of course, it also used to do business with a red line and, if you care to go back far enough, six skaters a side.

2. The OT game, no matter how long it lasts, produces "the fairest result" because it involves the entire team rather than just a goaltender and a designated number of shooters. If hockey is the ultimate team game, the final score should reflect nothing less.

3. Despite the four-bagger between Vancouver and Dallas that opened the 2007 playoffs, the lengthy overtime game might be an endangered species. Nashville Predators general manager David Poile has suggested that with more power plays being awarded in OT, goals will come earlier. When I tried his theory out on a pair of referees this week, one said, "Yeah, but players don't take penalties in overtime." His partner demurred, noting that refs have been mandated by the NHL to call some hooks that would have been unthinkable OT penalties three years ago.

The arguments for revamping the system:


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