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The NHL should adopt the ECHL OT format
The numbers back it up.
Connor McDavid shares your opinion about the shootout.
After five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, the shootout is a boring, anti-climatic way to end a hockey game.
"I would like that," McDavid said. "No one loves the shootout. It's a crappy way to finish a game. At the end of the day, it's about the players' health and safety. It's a long season. The overtime taxes a lot of guys. Making that longer could have some effects there, but I agree with you in the sense that no one wants to see the game end in a shootout."
And shootouts are actually down slightly this season.
This season, through 726 NHL games, 154 have gone to overtime (31.2 percent). Of those games 106 have been decided in OT and 48 in a shootout, meaning 31.1 percent of the time, or roughly a third of the time, 3-on-3 is just a precursor for a shootout this season.
During the 2021-22 season of the 1,312 NHL games, 288 went to OT. Of those 288, 186 were decided in OT and 102 decided in a shootout. That’s a clip of roughly 35.4 percent of OT games going the distance to the shootout.
If 3-on-3 was longer, as McDavid noted, we’d probably get that shootout percentage to drop.
But doubling OT would likely be a non-starter for the NHLPA. So maybe there’s a compromise here if we add two minutes to the 3-on-3 session and we can use the ECHL as a model.
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Before the 2019-20 season the ECHL changed it’s overtime format from five to seven minutes.
During the 2018-19 season, the last season with five minutes of 3-on-3, of the 200 overtime games, 78 (39 percent) went to a shootout — similar numbers to what we’ve seen in the NHL.
In the first season after the change to seven minutes, the ECHL had 162 games go to overtime, this time only 36 went to a shootout, a rate of 22.2 percent.
Of the games ended in overtime that season, 25 ended after five minutes.
Those trends have continued into this season.
Through Jan. 1, the ECHL has has had 79 games go to overtime this season, 66 have ended in overtime with just 13 (16.5 percent) requiring a shootout. Ten of those 79 games would have gone to a shootout under the old system, but had the score settled in OT after five minutes.
Here is the data from the ECHL on this, again all 2022-23 data is through games on Jan. 1.
In total, this rule change has saved us from 81 shootouts over the past four seasons.
I have a couple theories/thoughts on this and ran them by Idaho Steelheads coach Everett Sheen to make sure I wasn’t too far off base, and he said I wasn’t.
The additional time forces coaches to use more of the lineup, so depth gets tested more.
Players get tired, especially if a team doesn’t use that depth, which creates more openings and rushes as OT progresses.
It can lead to sloppy finishes at times, but it’s still more reflective of the better team as opposed to the better shootout team.
Being conservative in approach almost goes out the window. With an additional two minutes, you also lose that often dull last minute of 3-on-3 OT in the NHL where both teams circle back and are too scared to make a final mistake.
I’ve alway been a big proponent of extending 3-on-3 overtime, and in the past I’ve pushed for that 10-minute mark, but seven seems to be the ideal fit and we have the data to prove it works.
At a minimum, the AHL should start testing this concept as well.