Friday, December 21, 2007

Bettman's Latest Bad Bargain.

It seems to me that this has been the Half-Season of the Hockey Shootout, and I, for one, have had it just about up to here with that.

Now, I don't claim to be a statistician or an analyst or even someone who usually cares about the numbers outside of PIM and goals/assists, but take a look at just the stats for the Penguins. As of their game against Boston, 12/20/07, they had been in SEVEN shootouts out of 34 games. That's close to 1/4 of their games that have ended in a glorified rookie training game.

The way I see it, going to shootout is almost a punishment for being too evenly matched with your opponent. Seriously, why is that a punishment? Isn't the NHL looking for a series of non-lopsided really good hard hockey games with all of their teams working as hard as they can? Sure they are, because that's what fans want to see. So why then, do they penalize them by forcing them into the shootout at the end?

As a fan, I detest the shootout with a burning passion usually reserved only for people who talk at the movies and take up more than one parking space with their giant gas-guzzling cars. If I wanted to see guys shoot one after another, I'd go watch a practice. The entire idea of a shootout really defeats the concept of enjoying hockey as a team sport. Instead of emphasizing the skill of the team as a whole, it breaks it down to being "player X" won the game. I don't care how big a fan you are of Player X, there was an entire team behind him, and there's no reason he should be the do-or-die of the entire game.

Also, the poor already-slightly-neurotic-goalies. The guys have already faced 60 minutes of action and stuff flying at them from all over, and now they're expected to pull out all the stops against the top three shooters on each team without any backup? Even though it may not look it, I'm sure those goalies rely on every single one of their teammates to keep the puck away at any given moment, and I'm sure there's still at least a minor feeling of dread when faced with a shootout. If Player X can win a a game for the entire team, Goalie Q will almost undoubtedly shoulder a good amount of the blame if his team loses.

Honestly, the shootout has got to go. I don't care if we replace it with playoff-esque continual periods until someone scores, I don't care if we just let them tie, hell, I'd be okay with some sort of skills competition that took into account the whole team, but if I came to see my entire team play, goddammit, I want my entire team to win together, not on the basis of how skilled one guy is at deking, faking, and finding the five hole. That's not a hockey game, that's training camp.

Also at Talk Hockey To Me


Shan said...

I don't think that you can argue a team is being penalized by going to the shootout. They still walk away with at least 1 point that they would get from a tie. It's a frivolous, unnecessary contest for that extra point, but people find it entertaining. I'm not fond of the shootout either, particularly the way it has been implemented in the NHL. However, I don't think you can fault Bettman for it because overall fans enjoy it and he's giving them what they want, and his job is to market the game. I never had a problem with ties, but some people detest them.

On the standings board, the better teams are not necessarily up top, and even the teams with the superior talent aren't necessarily the ones climbing. But compare to soccer tournaments where the penalty kicks come in to break ties... yes, it's a test between individuals - player and goalie - in a given moment. Can that truly be written off as not a part of this game? The reality is that individuals having to rise to the occasion at key times is a part of the game so what's so different about it. Breakaways, dekes, accuracy are all elements of the game. Can we simply say it's not hockey just because your 4 other skaters aren't on the ice with you? If that's the case, penalty shots are entirely bogus. I don't think the answer to this is as clear as we'd like it to be.

Ellie said...

there is also something to be said for a team that lets a game get to a shootout in the first place.

there was no good reason for the pens to lose that 4 goal lead. perhaps losing a point (regardless of what kind of overtime it is) is their punishment for that.

Kerriberry7228 said...

I agree with you. I hate how the whole game (which consists of complex offensive/defensive transitions among the 10 players on the ice plus goalies)is reduced to one against one. A team with an amazing "team dynamic" might have a better record than another, but lose in a shootout because the other team has a sharp shooter who never misses, or etc. etc.

In response to Shan: The way I see it, the difference between a penalty shot and a shootout is this; the team on the defensive end of the penalty shot had done something illegal that hindered the other teams ensuing breakaway. Thus to make all right with the world, the team is given a "mock breakaway." So the team aspect of hockey has not been denied because it resulted from 1) the team's defensive breakdown of allowing the breakaway and 2) the team member's infraction that prevented the breakaway from continuing. Whereas shootout's completely ignore hockey's "Team-ness."

However, you cannot deny that people love the shootout. On top of it, as Shan said, people hate ties, and this is the only "big four" sport who allowed ties up until recently (besides football, who continues to allow ties, but it's quite rare, whereas hockey ties were pretty common).

Anyway, the thing I really dislike about the shootouts has to do with the point system. If you cannot win in regulation time, as a team, you are NOT worthy of claiming equal status to those teams who have. You have 60 minutes; do with it what you can. Which is why I support the 3-2-1-0 point system. Which is a completely different subject I'd love to rant about.