I've never been a fan of the shootout in the NHL or any league or tournament for that matter. I find it an unfair way to determine the better team when regulation and overtime has been exhausted.
First introduced in the 05-06 season, the shootout was a hit with fans, as games no longer ended in infamous ties. There was indeed a 'winner' and a 'loser'. I use quotes because despite there being Ws and Ls in the columns, the shootout is about as unpure a way to settle a game as it gets.
What's worse, and hence comes my primary issue with the shootout as a whole, is that a win in the shootout gets you an extra point in the standings. An extra point which could be the difference between making the playoffs and scheduling tee times at Augusta.
Yes, the newly introduced element of 3-on-3 overtime has reduced the amount of games being settled in a shootout significantly, but it's still not enough. At the end of the day, games can still be finalized as a result of a glorified skill contest.
So, what are the solutions? How do we untaint the shootout so its affect on standings is minuscule? Here's five solutions.
Solution 1: Remove shootouts completely and bring back ties or have continuous overtime
The chances of this getting approved by the NHL is slim to none. The NHL wants games to be decided, but not at the risk of players going on until 2am. Truthfully I only included this option because people seem to always comment on wanting regular season games to go on like it's playoff hockey. It's not going to happen.
Solution 2: Have 10 minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, if no one scores, it's a tie
10 minutes of 3-on-3 would almost surely guarantee a winner. However, in the off chance it doesn't, the game would go to a draw. The fact ties would be so rare, similar to ties in football, might cause the NHL to consider it. The duration of the game should be about that of game that ended in a shootout anyway.
Solution 3: Lower the value of the shootout from an extra point to just a 'win'
Basically, if one scores in overtime, both teams should get a point, however a win in the shootout wouldn't earn you an additional point, and instead a 'w'. Wins are used as tie-breakers when teams are tied for points, so it would still make shootouts mean something, just not as valuable as they are now.
Solution 4: Use the IIHF Points system
In international hockey, a win in regulation is worth 3 points, an OT/SO win is worth 2 and a overtime loss is worth 1. While this isn't exactly ideal, it would be much better than what we have now.
Solution 5: Completely change the NHL point system – Regulation and OT wins are worth 3 points, shootout wins are worth 2 points, an OT loss is worth one point
This solution is rather drastic, but would really encourage teams to play harder in regulation and overtime. It borrows heavily from the IIHF system above, but instead mainly targets shootouts as opposed to overtime also. Shootouts are now valued a point less than an OT or regulation win, which has the power to completely change the standings.
So, there you have it. Five solutions. The shootout is as big of a gimmick as they come and it sucks whenever a game is decided by one. Sure they can be fun to watch, but so are hockey fights, and they have no affect on a team's standings. For those who consider 3-on-3 to be a gimmick keep in mind that 3-on-3 still sticks to the core fundamentals of the game such as teamwork. The shootout has none of that.
Lets hope the NHL can change its rules regarding how games are completed sometime soon. And sound off in the comments on how you would want an NHL game to end.