A variety of tie-breaking formats examined at RDO camp

Wednesday, 17.08.2011 / 5:24 PM / Features
By Adam Kimelman
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A variety of tie-breaking formats examined at RDO camp

Different formats for overtime and the shootout were among the issues examined during the first day of the NHL Research and Development Camp on Tuesday.

When regulation ended, there was a four-minute session of 4-on-4 hockey, followed by three minutes of 3-on-3 play.

It was met with mixed reviews from those in attendance. 

"I liked the 3-on-3," said NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, who oversees the camp. "I enjoy the way overtime currently is … but I think 3-on-3 is certainly an interesting alternative if we ever need to go there one day."

St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong told NHL.com he saw 3-on-3 play as an interesting concept -- one that he even could envision replacing the current 4-on-4 play.

"I think it's certainly interesting to get to the 3-on-3," said Armstrong. "I think if we want less games ending in the shootout, it's certainly an avenue we should explore, going right to the 3-on-3 and eliminate the 4-on-4. When I come to these events, I say what's the goal you're trying to achieve and work your way back. If our goal is to achieve less shootouts, the 3-on-3 makes a lot of sense."

Others weren't so sure fewer players would make for better hockey.

"I prefer 4-on-4," Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman told NHL.com. "I'd like to keep 4-on-4. If we're going to extend it, keep it at 4-on-4. Three-on-three is not enough players on the ice, in my opinion."

Armstrong, however, believed fewer players could lead to more excitement and entertainment.

"I think it could work," he said. "It certainly opens up a lot of ice and you're going to get a lot of scoring opportunities. You'll have players poaching. It certainly would be entertaining. I think the games would end a lot quicker than 4-on-4. Just the magnitude of the ice available."

Another option being worked on at the camp is a change in the format of the shootout -- extending it from three skaters per side to five, and allowing teams to use the same shooter multiple times after the fifth skater takes his turn. Under the current format,  all available skaters have to have shot once before any player can take a second shot.

Armstrong said he wasn't in favor of any increase in the number of skaters due to the increased time it would take to play the game.

"I like the current format right now," he said. "Five skaters, it just prolongs the game. I think that my own opinion is I like the format we have now. … I think three skaters, you can see the end in sight and every shot matters. When you get to five, the math equations start to come in, and the timeliness."

Yzerman said the number of skaters involved in the shootout didn't matter to him, but he believed leaving the rules in place regarding the same skaters shooting multiple times was the best course of action.

"I don't like the idea of guys going twice," he said. "I believe you should go through your whole team. I like to see … whether it's three or five (shooters), doesn't make a big difference to me. I'm OK with either way, if they want to extend it to five shooters, I'd be fine with that. But I don't like the idea of one player going over and over."

Dudley was in agreement, saying the current format where every player has to shoot once is something he would like to see stay in place.

"I think it's incredibly fascinating to watch a team go through its roster in a very long shootout," he said. "I can remember, I'm in the International Hockey League coaching and we won it when a defenseman, Ian Herbers, who happened to score on about the 20th shooter and we discovered he was really good in shootouts. We actually moved him up the list, but we had never really thought about him because he wasn't a high-scoring defenseman, he just happened to have great poise and he was a great guy that had reach and he scored about the 20th shooter into the thing. That, to me, I just like to see … I'd love to see when you get down to the lower end of the roster. I think it's wonderful."

While Dudley thought of Herbers, Armstrong went back to Marek Malik, who famously scored in the 15th round of the shootout for the New York Rangers on Nov. 26, 2005.

"Sometimes it is interesting you get to eight, nine skaters, who's going to be on, who's going to be the hero that given night," said Armstrong. "I remember that Rangers game when Malik scored, I'm still talking about it five or six years later. And I'm not talking about many shootouts. That's one area you wouldn't have that."

Pro or con, Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told NHL.com the best part of the tests is seeing so many different managers watching and taking notes.

"The thing that's pretty encouraging for me is I'm looking around and seeing a lot of different GMs here that are seeing a lot of different things," he said. "The League is constantly asking us what would you like to see changed, so this is a good form to implement them. At some point we'll be able to discuss them as a group. I think it's great because you'll see something with your eyes and the person sitting next to you will see something different. When we get into the group setting, we'll be able to fully discuss them."