The Watering Hole: Shootouts are entertaining, but shouldn't decide the game

By Michael Waterloo
Of The Spirit

It's something that I never thought I'd find myself saying or typing.
But the fact is, I agree with John Tortorella.

Following the Vancouver Canucks shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last week, Tortorella voiced his displeasure with the shootout in the NHL to decide games.

"You just can't simulate game situation like that. We did it, whether it helps or not, some guys can introduce or experiment with certain things," Tortorella said during his press conference. "It is what it is. It's impossible to simulate game situation in a shot. It should be out of the league. That gimmick should be out of the league."

And you know what, he's right.

From a fan's standpoint, it's absolutely entertaining, and when I attend a game as a spectator, I find myself pulling for a close game with the hopes of a shootout.

As a paying customer, I want to leave satisfied and entertained.

That's what sports are all about.

But riddle me this, from a competitive standpoint, how can a team game, which just wrapped up over 60 minutes of team play, suddenly become a one-on-one competition?

When the NHL adopted the shootout in the 2005-2006 season, it was a way to rid the league of the dredded tie, which I'm all for.

However, there has to be a better way to decide the game, or at least prolong the use of a skill's competition.

Because in reality, that's all that it is.

As a fan, you've surely adjusted to the rules by now, and it seems like it's just part of the game.

But let's explore what this "gimmick," as Tortorella so eloquently phrased it, can be compared to.

At the end of an NFL game, instead of just having it result in a tie game (Yes, Donovan McNabb, there are ties in football), why not just have the two quarterbacks go out and see who can throw the ball the farthest.

Or, why not have each kicker line up on the five-yard-line, and back up five yards each time they make a field goal until someone misses.

Instead of going triple overtime in the NBA, why not just have LeBron James and Kevin Durant have a slam dunk contest or a three-point shootout?

Sounds extreme and exaggerated, doesn't it?

The thing is, this is exactly what the NHL has done.

They implemented a way to decide meaningful games by turning it into a skills competition.

And you can't say that it doesn't mean anything, either.

On April 11, 2010, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers squared off in the final game of the season, with the winner making the playoffs, and the loser going home.

Remember what happened during the game?

The two teams went into a shootout, with the Flyers prevailing, while the Rangers went home.

A team's postseason fate decided by skill players going up against Henrik Lundqvist and Brian Boucher.

Seems sensible, huh?

But for any complaint to fix a flaw, there needs to be a solution.

But in this case, what is it?

If the shootout stays, the winner shouldn't be rewarded the same amount of points for a regulation win.

They just shouldn't.

The solution here would be to have a regulation win worth three points, a shootout/overtime win worth two and a shootout/overtime loss worth just one point.

Or, better yet, prolong the shootout during the game by having the players skate four-on-four for five minutes, and then go three-on-three for five minutes, and if a winner isn't decided, then go on with the shootout.

It's added wear and tear on the players, yes, but the open ice from the three-on-three would make even more entertaining hockey.

I'd sign up for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang against Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith over a shootout any day.