John Garrett: The overtime debate

Thursday, 14.11.2013 / 3:05 PM / Features
By John Garrett

The Canucks have played 20 games this season - seven have gone to overtime.

Last season they played 48 games and went to extra time 13 times. Eleven of those went to the shootout. San Jose is in a slump and has lost five of their last six. It is not that bad if you get six of the possible 12 points.

But wait there is more than a possible twelve points.

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John Garrett is a former Canuck and currently the colour commentator for Sportsnet.

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I understand why the league likes the playoff races to go down to the wire, but how can two thirds of the games be worth two points and the other 410 be worth three?

I played in the transition era when overtime was first introduced. One of the complaints before overtime was that teams, especially the underdogs, would play the third period hanging on for a tie. Overtime would cure that. Anyone who saw the game in Phoenix would dispute this. The Coyotes have become masters at getting single points and working from there. The last eight minutes of that game, and even the overtime was shutdown mode and then play for the shootout.

I have long been a proponent of the three-point game. Three for a regulation win, two for an overtime or shootout win and one for an OT or shootout loss. The good teams would try and bury teams with regulation wins and teams could come back in the second half of the season by stringing together some 60-minute wins.

But who am I kidding? This is never going to happen so let us improve the model now.

Not enough games are settled in overtime. It seems ridiculous that in such a team sport like hockey the outcome too often relies on an individual sideshow like the shootout. Michael Gillis and Ken Holland have been trying to get the league to go 4-on-4 for five minutes and then 3-on-3 for an additional five minutes. This would work. Anyone who has played in the NHL or been around NHL practices knows how loose play is with only six players on the ice. The 3-on-3 in practice is a bonus usually reserved for skating and scoring exercise. It is no fun for the goalies and is breakaway after breakaway. In moving to this, games would end with a team concept.

Defencemen play more than anybody else during the first 60 minutes but when is the last time you saw Kevin Bieksa in a shootout? They would be an integral part of a 3-on-3.

The San Jose Sharks played in 15 overtime games last year - 12 went to shootouts. Shootout goals don't even count for a player's season total. Overtime goals do.

In the time it takes to do the ice and get ready for the shootout a five-minute 3-on-3 overtime could decide, should decide and would decide most games.