Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fix the NHL: Longer Overtime, Fewer Shootouts

Jonathan Toews scoring on what amounts to the most exciting coin flip in sports.
Brendan: I totally agree with the idea that hockey should extend overtime in an effort to see fewer shootouts, except by “totally” I mean “everything except the Fewer Shootouts part.” Even stating the phrase “Fewer Shootouts” implies that there are ANY shootouts, which to me is unacceptable. I think you and I may have touched on this subject before regarding casual fan interest in the shootout. I still have my doubts that there is much marginal revenue gained from having the possibility of a shootout at the end of every game, but before we get there, I definitely think longer overtime is a great idea. A 10 minute overtime with 5-on-5 sounds like the perfect solution for how to address the “problem” of ties.

Of course, McIndoe is proposing that at the end of his version of overtime, the game would then fall into a shootout, which I don’t necessarily agree with. Regardless of what happens when the overtime concludes, I think it’s worth noting that while I prefer 4-on-4 in overtime (as a differentiator from regulation play and because it generally means more ice to skate in/more open play, etc.,) I would ultimately prefer 5-on-5 because it doesn’t exponentially increase the importance of power plays as 4-on-4 does. Without looking at the exact conversion statistics, it certainly seems like a 4-on-3 scenario in overtime leads to a goal more often than 5-on-4 opportunities, noting of course that there is a far larger sample of 5-on-4 opportunities than any other power play scenario.

Patrick: Here's the thing about shootouts: they're awesome. I know they're not really indicative of who is a better team and are instead a glorified coin flip, but they're so damn cool. I don't believe that a 10-minute overtime will solve the problem of ties. What's to say that additional time on the clock doesn't produce an extra couple of minutes of stifled, risk-averse play?

And yeah, ties are a problem. If you let teams tie, you get into a points question. You have to say that a win is obviously worth more than a tie, and a tie is obviously worth more than a loss, which means teams will have incentive to go for a tie and not a loss. I don't like ties, and I don't like them in soccer, where they allegedly work. Lesser teams should go all out when they have a chance to beat Manchester United or the Blackhawks instead of playing for a tie. So a 10-minute OT: these teams couldn't outdo one another in regulation, why would they be able to now?

I'm okay with overtimes as long as they keep going until someone scores, like the golden goal format in soccer. Triple overtime is more exciting than a shootout, so let's have that. Keep it 5-on-5 because it should be the same game in OT that it is in regulation. So, really, I'm not necessarily for an extended clock in overtime, but I am for extending the number of overtime periods.

Is this easily instituted at lower levels? Sort of. At peewee levels, you'd have to cap it to protect kids and precious, scarce rink time. At the college level, let them play. Remember how exciting it was to watch Syracuse win in six overtimes?

We DISAGREE on the main points, but we're both for 5-on-5 overtime.

Observational Studies co-founders Brendan Porto and Patrick Dougherty are debating the merits of the most popular ideas proposed to improve the NHL. The rules for improvements are laid out here. Send us your own ideas to fix the NHL and we'll share our commentary on a new post.

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