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April 19, 1999
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April 19, 1999

The Nhl

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7. Mark Parrish, 22, Panthers. Parrish, the top goal scorer among first-year players (22), saw his production slow in the second half, and he needs to improve his play without the puck. Many observers believe that Parrish's 20-year-old rookie teammate, forward Oleg Kvasha (12 goals), will become the better of the two.

Four-on-Four in OT
It's Not a Worthy Idea

Overtime can be a riveting period that ends with a dramatic victory, but in today's defensive-minded NHL, sudden death more often is a plodding five minutes that expires limply with the game still tied. In fact, through Sunday, 75% of the games that were tied at the end of regulation this season remained deadlocked after overtime, the same high percentage as last season. Hence the two-month-old experiment whereby the NHL asked the American Hockey League to have its teams play overtime with only four skaters per side, instead of the usual five.

Since the experiment began, 60% of the AHL's overtime games had ended with a victor, up from 33% when teams skated five-on-five earlier in the season. Shots on goal had increased from .93 to 1.36 per minute of OT. "There's more room, and it's more exciting," says Cincinnati Mighty Ducks coach Moe Mantha. "You put your most skilled players on the ice and open up." The NHL will review the results over the summer and consider implementing four-on-four play in its overtime games.

However the AHL's success at spicing up overtime has had less to do with the four-on-four rule than another change: Both teams are guaranteed a point in the standings for tying in regulation, and the club that wins in the extra session earns an additional point. "This system works because you know you have nothing to lose," says Kevin McCarthy, coach of the Beast of New Haven. "If both teams weren't assured a point, playing four-on-four wouldn't be worth doing—you can still play defensive hockey four-on-four."

In any case the NHL shouldn't think about going to four-on-four. Even if having two fewer players on the ice enhances the flow of the match, it artificially changes the game. Four-on-four isn't as bad as a shootout, but it's still a perversion of the rules.

If the league wants to generate more aggressive play in overtime, the best thing to do is follow the AHL example and not penalize a team for an OT loss, but with this twist: To ensure that clubs wouldn't play cautiously in the third period of deadlocked games in hopes of sewing up a point, follow the plan of Oilers general manager Glen Sather. He suggests: "Give no points for a tie. Play overtime, and if the score is still tied when time runs out, neither team gets a point. If you win, you're rewarded; if you don't, you're not."

General Managers' Poll
Who's the Better Top Cop?

The job of NHL chief disciplinarian—the über umpire who reviews player transgressions and metes out fines and suspensions—isn't for the thin-skinned. As Brian Burke, who held the position for five years before stepping down to become the Canucks' general manager last June, says, "Whatever you do, someone's going to get mad at you."

Apparently some of the grudges are lasting. When we asked general managers who they would rather have in the disciplinarian's chair, Burke or his successor, Colin Campbell, 15 of 16 participants chose Campbell. "We may not always agree with his opinion," said one general manager of Campbell, "but we always respect it."

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