The Shootout Has Done Nothing To Help The Game

The other day, I wrote a post that the shootout needs to go.  I made the comment that the shootout ruined what could have been a great last game between the Rangers and Flyers and that it took away from the actual game of hockey overall. Many pointed out that the Rangers had plenty of opportunities earlier in the season to win games to not be in the position that they were, to which I agreed. But, then I got to wondering – would they have been in better position if the shootout didn’t exist? It was a lucky wonderment on my part. Let’s take a look at the standings for this season:

You can see that the Rangers missed out by one point due to the current point system in the NHL. But again, what if there was no shootout? What would have happened. Well, Hawkeye and I were discussing this and I ordered him to put together the standings while considering every game that went to a shootout as a tie, whereas both teams only receive one point. Basically, the final product results in the standings the way the NHL used to do it:

Will you look at that!? The Rangers made the playoffs. Not only did they make the playoffs, but they grabbed the 7th seed and bumped the Canadians out of it. Over in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames made the playoffs, knocking the Colorado Avalanche out. To see how it impacted seeding, see the bar graph below:

The top five teams don’t have any change to their seeding in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins see the biggest fall amongst the playoff teams, as they would move from the 6th seed to the 8th seed. The Flyers move up a spot from 8th to 7th. Again, this illustrates the Canadians falling out of the playoffs while the Rangers move in.

The Western Conference is similar with the top seeds remaining the same. The Kings and the Predators would flip-flop, while again, the Avs drop out and the Flames slide in.

The only other thing we can see from the data is that the point totals drop off, because there aren’t as many wins. If the NHL returned to the old standings, the integrity of single season wins and points records would be held intact as well.

The problem we ran into with the assuming ties exercise is how teams would have played OT. It is evident that some teams were outstanding in shootouts. Take the Phoenix Coyotes for example: 14 wins via shootouts this season. Why wouldn’t they have played for the shootout in games this season? They excelled in them. Would they have lost OT games or played for just ties if there was no shootout? That change of strategy consideration is the big problem with trying to make a conclusion from the data. The Coyotes may have ended up with many more losses. Then again, they could have won those games in OT and other teams would not have received a point. The standings may have changed drastically.

But, we can conclude that the shootout has worn out its welcome. It has elevated point totals to ridiculous totals. Granted, nobody has of yet broken the single-season point record (132) or win record (62), but teams have a much greater chance of doing so with the shootout as the deciding factor in a game. Many have commented that it has taken away the excitement of a penalty shot, something that rarely happens in games. It’s also arguable that it takes away a team’s competitiveness in OT. Luckily, we don’t have the skill competition deciding OT games in the playoffs. It was assumed that the shootout would bring in casual fans, it hasn’t. This is the worse thing to happen to the NHL since the glowing puck on Fox. Let hockey go back to being hockey. Let the actual game play decide the race. Also, rewarding teams with a point in a loss is pathetic. You lose, you lose. Failure doesn’t deserve a reward.

Let’s turn back the clock. We have HDTV now that has solved the puck problem. Let’s get rid of the shootout, and then work on restoring hockey to above the Mason-Dixon Line only.

Note that loss totals are not accurate under old system. There was confusion between OT losses and regulation losses when originally posted. However, point totals are correct based on wins and ties.

  • cbh49er

    Damn, this post must have been a lot of work. Impressive.

  • john

    Nice charts and graphs Miz sae Sparty(?!).

    • HawkEye19

      Nice charts and graphs Miz sae Sparty(?!) HawkEye.  

      /credit whore

  • HawkEye19

    This is the worse thing to happen to the NHL since the glowing puck on Fox.

    Lets not be too hasty there. Nothing will ever come close to that puckmortion

  • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

    my idea, hawkeye did the stat gathering. miz made them into graphics.

    /editor-in-chief’d

  • fetch

    Could not agree more, Sparty. Nice work.

    The guy at Behind the Net did some work where it showed that teams (especially bad teams) basically pack it in in the last 5 minutes of regulation to try to get to OT, and then keep with it in the OT cause the shootout is a crapshoot.r

  • Johnny

    Listen the shootout isn’t exactly bad the frequency that they occur is. Lengthen the 4 on 4 time to 10 minutes and the frequency will plummet

    • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

      Listen the shootout isn’t exactly bad the frequency that they occur is. Lengthen the 4 on 4 time to 10 minutes and the frequency will plummet

      the frequency that they occur? they happen at the same frequency, if not more, of an nhl game that normally would end in a tie.

      • Johnny

        the frequency that they occur? they happen at the same frequency, if not more, of an nhl game that normally would end in a tie.  

        I still argue that ties are stupid. I’d rather have a winner

    • HawkEye19

      Listen the shootout isn’t exactly bad the frequency that they occur is.Lengthen the 4 on 4 time to 10 minutes and the frequency will plummet  

      I’m all for extending the 4 on 4 overtime. That’ll be great. Fact of the matter is the shootout was put in to make the end of the games more exciting. It really has not done that. If it was pulled out, would anyone even miss it?

      • Johnny

        I’m all for extending the 4 on 4 overtime.That’ll be great. Fact of the matter is the shootout was put in to make the end of the games more exciting.It really has not done that.If it was pulled out, would anyone even miss it?  

        I wouldn’t miss it, but it’s a way to an end since you can’t play indefinitely in the regular season

  • Johnny

    Wait and where did you get that Phoenix had 19 shootout wins. This pdf from the NHL has their record at 14-6 in a shootout this year

    • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

      Wait and where did you get that Phoenix had 19 shootout wins. This pdf from the NHL has their record at 14-6 in a shootout this year

      14 is still a lot.

      • Johnny

        14 is still a lot.  

        Yes which is why I keep trying to say increase the period length to 10 minutes of 4 on 4 and you’ll have a winner more often than not before it gets to a shootout

        In OT games ending before the shootout Phoenix was 5-1 and New York was 1-4. The rangers were bad in OT period

  • Johnny

    http://www.nhl.com/stats/shootout_report.pdf

    there’s the pdf. forgot to link.

    /lazy’d
    /sleepy’d

  • Johnny

    Listen all games should be three point games. 3 for a win in regulation. 2 for an OT win. 1 for an OT lose. That’s it

    • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

      I still argue that ties are stupid. I’d rather have a winner

      having a winner decided by a skills competition is more stupid.

      Listen all games should be three point games. 3 for a win in regulation. 2 for an OT win. 1 for an OT lose. That’s it

      points for a loss is even more stupid.

      • Johnny

        having a winner decided by a skills competition is more stupid.
        points for a loss is even more stupid.  

        The point for the lose is purely so that the teams don’t play “not to lose” in OT. if you don’t award them and have ties there’s a chance a team will play for the tie especially against a more talented team

  • Yosh

    Great read….I was with you until the little Mason-Dixon Line jab at the end. Now you appear to be just another homer as not only have teams from the South had as much success as teams from the North, but you’re also implying hockey should only be on the east coast.

    • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

      .I was with you until the little Mason-Dixon Line jab at the end.

      that was a little joke. i just had a hard time getting into hockey when i was living in florida.

  • http://capsnut.blogspot.com Caps Nut

    I’m with you up until the Maxon-Dixon jab.

    But before I go any further, let’s face a few facts here, #1 in order to get a significant TV contract, the NHL MUST reach all corners of CONUS. #2. Yes, the Bettman point creates point inflation but it also allows more teams to stay competitive longer, creating bigger races for playoff spots. That’s higher ratings as more games have more meaning. #3. Hate it, but the gimmick gives the league the ability to say that a hockey game will last “X” length of time. TV networks hate the uncertainty of game lengths and when the comment “it brings in the casual fan” this is exactly what they’re talking about.

    Yes the gimmick stinks. Yes the Bettman point is a loser. But they make the league much more attractive to TV networks in the US. And let’s face it, Canada is a tapped out market and if the NHL wants to survive and be on par with the NFL, MLB, and NBA, it must grow the US market.

    This fringe mindset is the biggest hindrance to the growth of the league and leads me to believe that many of these self appointed hockey purists don’t really want the growth that they talk about.

  • Doug

    Nice post. I’m with the “extend 4 on 4 to 10 minutes” movement, but I suspect that TV would say no (at least as long as there’s still a shootout). I’d gladly take 5 more minutes of game action over the skills competition, but it seems that the NHL doesn’t want to listen to the fans it actually has.

    Assuming that the NHL is keeping the shootout, I’ve been thinking for a while now that they should incentivise a win by the end of OT by giving a shootout winner 1 point and a shootout loser nothing. Now you’ve got a real reason to play for the win, since if you lose the shootout you’re in the same boat as if you lose in OT, but if you win the shootout you don’t do as well as if you win while actually playing hockey.

    • Johnny

      Assuming that the NHL is keeping the shootout, I’ve been thinking for a while now that they should incentivise a win by the end of OT by giving a shootout winner 1 point and a shootout loser nothing.Now you’ve got a real reason to play for the win, since if you lose the shootout you’re in the same boat as if you lose in OT, but if you win the shootout you don’t do as well as if you win while actually playing hockey.  

      As of now you are in the same boat if you lose in OT or the shootout. Both nets you a point

      • Doug

        As of now you are in the same boat if you lose in OT or the shootout.Both nets you a point  

        Right, but winning a game of hockey now gives you no advantage over waiting it out & winning the skills competition. Under my proposal it would (and there’s no charity point, so there’s no reason not to play for the win at the end of regulation).

  • kevin

    “and then work on restoring hockey to above the Mason-Dixon Line only”

    err, quit whining about teams being in the south…my stars stunk it up this year but they’re a great franchise that have been hobbled by a jackass owner completely inept guy who had no business owning sports teams…i agree that some teams need to go elsewhere but just cause hockey’s a northern based sport doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its fans down in the south.

  • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

    IT WAS A JOKE!!!!!!

    /kinda

  • Brian

    You say that attendance is down. While that is correct that yes this year attendance is down, but the previous years since the lockout the average yearly attendance has consistently increased not decreased as you seem to argue. Obviously the economy has had an impact this season as well as the terrible play of the Canadian teams.

  • Greengitters

    I suppose we should get rid of the penalty shot, too, right? Just give them a penalty. Because we need to take away the exciting parts of the game.

    Deciding a winner by a “skills competition” is better than not deciding a winner at all.

    The greatest inclusions in the game have been,

    1. 4 on 4 in overtime
    2. No change on an icing
    3. Allowance of two line passes
    4. Shootouts deciding (regular season) games.

    No one will convince me differently.

  • MadMan

    I think your numbers are off under the “old way” standings, you’ve got teams playing different numbers of games for the season, at least how its reflected in the record.
    You need to look at regulation and OT wins as “W” (keeping in mind the 4 on 4 nature). Reg and OT losses as “L” and anything to the shootout as a “T”.

    Or am I missing Something?

    • HawkEye19

      I think your numbers are off under the “old way” standings, you’ve got teams playing different numbers of games for the season, at least how its reflected in the record.
      You need to look at regulation and OT wins as “W” (keeping in mind the 4 on 4 nature). Reg and OT losses as “L” and anything to the shootout as a “T”.Or am I missing Something?  

      The number of losses is incorrect. Ties and wins are correct.

    • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

      I suppose we should get rid of the penalty shot, too, right? Just give them a penalty. Because we need to take away the exciting parts of the game.

      no. the penalty shot is extremely rare, and it is rewarded to a player that is fouled while on a breakaway.

      I think your numbers are off under the “old way” standings, you’ve got teams playing different numbers of games for the season, at least how its reflected in the record.
      You need to look at regulation and OT wins as “W” (keeping in mind the 4 on 4 nature). Reg and OT losses as “L” and anything to the shootout as a “T”.

      Or am I missing Something?

      you are correct that the games totals are not correct. but the wins and ties are. therefore the point totals are correct. when the graphic was put together, the focus was making sure the wins and ties were where they should be and the loss totals weren’t recalculated. i noticed that after the fact as well, but realized that it wouldn’t impact the graphic. we’ll probably update that soon.

  • Joe

    this math is way off. The second chart shows that the Capitals only played 69 games. 49 wins + 9 losses + 11 ties = 69 games.

    Maybe I’m looking at it wrong.

    • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

      this math is way off. The second chart shows that the Capitals only played 69 games. 49 wins + 9 losses + 11 ties = 69 games.

      Maybe I’m looking at it wrong.

      nope. read the disclaimer.

  • Paul

    If your going to dish out 3 pts. for a shootout (2 pts. for win and 1 pt. for lose) why don’t the league just give 3 pts for a straight up win. That way a win would actually mean something more.

  • Tom

    Nice work trying to make your argument, but I pretty much disagree with everything.

    (1) The shootout is not the problem. I consider myself to be a hockey “purist” and “diehard” (I watch probably 10 hockey games a week either in person or on TV, at all levels) and I love the shootout, because nothing is worse than a tie. The problem is the “loser point” system. Go to a three-point system (a la the Olympics). Yes, this would inflate point totals even more, but that brings me to point (2): who gives a damn about Detroit’s point total record? The game has changed substantially over the decades, so you can’t even compare individual stats of today’s players to those of even Gretzky’s era. What’s the difference? Lastly, (3): I couldn’t disagree more with the short-sightedness of your last sentence. I root for non-traditional markets all the time, because although I’m an Avalanche fan, I’m a hockey fan first and foremost. Success in the non-traditional markets does nothing but grow the game.

    Go Avs and Go Blue,
    Tom

    • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

      Go Avs and Go Blue,
      Tom

      Turtle. That’s all I have to say to you.

  • Paul Savage

    All that your have proven is that there is a need to revamp the point system so that regulation wins have a higher weight than OT/SO wins. Your data definitely does not prove that the SO has “worn out its welcome,” or that it hasn’t brought in the casual fan.

    If you wish to be taken seriously as a writer, then your conclusion should be based on the points you brought up in the body of the article, not on speculation and opinion.

  • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

    All that your have proven is that there is a need to revamp the point system so that regulation wins have a higher weight than OT/SO wins. Your data definitely does not prove that the SO has “worn out its welcome,” or that it hasn’t brought in the casual fan.

    why should a regulation win be worth more than an OT win? that’s ridiculous.

    the fact is that the shootout hasn’t impacted the standings enough to warrant its use. that is what the data is there to prove. the NHL would tell you that they instituted it to have a clear cut winner. but it really doesn’t. it’s a gimmick.

  • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

    oh, and teams that have benefited from the shootout victories, usually suck in the playoffs (save carolina in 06). just sayin.

  • fair_n_hite_451

    I’ve posted this in a few places around the tubes over the years, but not in a while, so here’s my proposal.

    Keep the shootout, but devalue it to “secondary tiebreaker” status and not have it impact the primary tiebreaker – that is, “points earned”.

    If OT ends with no scoring, it’s a tie in terms of each team played equally well (or were equally lucky) for 65 minutes … therefore each TEAM earns a point (hockey being a team sport after all).

    Then, you have the shootout. Exactly the same format as now. Or, to spice it up – and if insurance regulations allow it – allow the skaters to go helmetless. No points on the line. Increases the “casual fan” and “getting higlights on ESPN” factor because players are more recognizable, and they have more freedom to try re-donk-ulous moves.

    Track teams win/loss records in the shootout (as a percentage of course since teams will play different numbers of them) … or, have a shootout after every single game if they are that much of a fan draw. (Which I don’t believe).

    At the end of the season, if two teams are tied on points earned, and tied on total number of wins … then go to the shootout record as the next tiebreaker before GF/GA.

    Maintains some value.
    Doesn’t materially impact standings (I’ve seen the post with standings under the old system every year … and every year somebody falls out of the playoffs).
    Still exists to be packaged in highlight show sound bites.
    Game still ends at a predictable time for TV purposes.

  • ben

    i’ve always hated the ot point, but i could at least see the argument when ties were in play. you could make the argument teams will try to score more in ot instead of play for the tie. however, when one team HAS to win the ot point is (sorry for the terrible pun) pointless. it doesn’t serve any purpose, but it arbitrarily inflates point and win totals. its a relic of a failed experiment. needs to go.

  • Ann Bosch

    > But, we can conclude that the shootout has worn out its welcome.
    Based on what? A few marginal teams’ places may have changed positions in the standings? Insufficient to draw that “conclusion”. You could make the same argument about overtime, which, as I’m sure you’re aware, didn’t always exist in the NHL. Games that were tied at the end of regulation were ties; no OT for the extra point, which would change the standings. Face it. The Rangers are out. Boo hoo.

    > It has elevated point totals to ridiculous totals.
    Not really relevant. Lots of things affect that, including the length of the season, which crept as high as 84 games at one point. It’s a meaningless statistic in terms of “all-time” records

    > Luckily, we don’t have the skill competition deciding OT games in the playoffs.
    The WHOLE SEASON is a skills competition. It’s as valid as kicking a football between 2 uprights for a point after a touchdown. Maybe more so. Only about 13% of games make it to a shootout.

    > It was assumed that the shootout would bring in casual fans, it hasn’t.
    Huh? Not sure what you base that on. Certainly nothing in your post supports it. But absolutely nothing. Nada. In fact, look at the attendance data on ESPN:
    Compare to 2003-04, the last season before the shootout. It’s hard to argue that this one facet of the game has had all the positive effect on attendance, but it’s even harder to argue it hasn’t helped.

    > This is the worse thing to happen to the NHL since the glowing puck on Fox.
    NOTHING was worse than that. C’mon.

    > Let’s get rid of the shootout, and then work on restoring hockey to above the Mason-Dixon Line only.
    Locally, it’s referred to as the “Smith & Wesson Line.”

  • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

    it doesn’t inflate point totals, ann? go look at the point totals between the two graphics and get back to me. The Caps have 12 more points. They received 6 points for losing games!

  • Sens Fan

    There is nothing worse than watching 2 crappy teams play to a 1-1 regular season tie! Keep the shootout so the paying customers actually get to see some excitement. Would you pay $50 to watch a Panthers/Blue Jackets game on a tuesday night that ends up in a 1-1 tie? I wouldn’t.
    If a team gets screwed because another team got lots of points for losing, then the other team should simply win more games….I’ve also found that many ‘novice’ hockey fans actually want to see a shootout…

  • Ann Bosch

    > it doesn’t inflate point totals, ann?
    Never said that. Please learn to read, re-read what I wrote, and then get back to me. You had stated, “It has elevated point totals to ridiculous totals. Granted, nobody has of yet broken the single-season point record (132) or win record (62)…” and I replied that it was not relevant, meaning: the concept of the shootout giving teams the opportunity to break the single-season point or win record, as per your comment, is not a relevant argument against the shootout. Nor have you addressed any of the other deficiencies in your “arguments.” I accept your surrender. The only rational argument you make is, “You lose, you lose. Failure doesn’t deserve a reward.” This is a valid argument against the shootout. Logically, then, I would assume you are also against overtime completely, or getting a point for a tie.

    In any event, I can see the argument against giving out a point when another team gets 2 points, making some games worth 3 points and others 2. This mathematical inconsistency is irritating to me. But I doubt the NHL will change. They’re trying to balance some conflicting goals: Make the games more exciting; Every game has a winner; Games last a reasonable amount of time; Even marginal teams have an outside chance of making the playoffs longer into the season.

    Now that would be an interesting exercise: How soon would teams like the Islanders, Florida, Tampa Bay have been eliminated from the playoffs under the old scoring? I suspect it would have occurred earlier under the old rules, and that’s IMHO the real reason it will hang around, for good or ill. Parity, or the illusion of parity, via the bonus point. If the league went to 3 points for a win, 2 for an OT/SO win, 1 for an OT/SO loss and 0 for a regulation loss, all games would be worth 3 points but I suspect that marginal teams would be further behind in the standings.

  • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

    Logically, then, I would assume you are also against overtime completely, or getting a point for a tie.

    a tie isn’t failure, i tie just isn’t a win.

  • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

    The WHOLE SEASON is a skills competition. It’s as valid as kicking a football between 2 uprights for a point after a touchdown. Maybe more so. Only about 13% of games make it to a shootout.

    a hockey game and a shootout are two completely different things. you know that, don’t be foolish. there is the all-star “game” and the “skills competition”. so yeah, same thing.

    It was assumed that the shootout would bring in casual fans, it hasn’t.
    Huh? Not sure what you base that on. Certainly nothing in your post supports it. But absolutely nothing. Nada. In fact, look at the attendance data on ESPN:
    Compare to 2003-04, the last season before the shootout. It’s hard to argue that this one facet of the game has had all the positive effect on attendance, but it’s even harder to argue it hasn’t helped.

    ticket prices have gone down, especially in the last year. think that has more to do with it.

    > This is the worse thing to happen to the NHL since the glowing puck on Fox.
    NOTHING was worse than that. C’mon.

    did i say it was worse? no. just the worst thing since.

  • Ann Bosch

    > ticket prices have gone down, especially in the last year.
    Huh? Do you just make this stuff up as you go along? Prices went down initially after the lockout, then up every season until this one, where prices remained flat.

    2007-08

    This season

    “The poor economy has forced professional sports team to re-think major price increases, and the NHL is no different. This year saw a dramatic turn from recent NHL FCI surveys. In the three seasons since the league’s return from a locked-out season, average tickets rose 3.7 percent (2006-07), 7.7 percent (2007-08) and 5.1 percent (2008-09).”

    > think that has more to do with it.
    Again, based on what? And “more to do with it” implies that you agree that the shootout has something to do with it. Look, I have no problem with, and totally understand, philosophical aversions to the shootout, but the lame “arguments” you present are a just a series of non sequiturs.

    >a tie isn’t failure, i tie just isn’t a win.
    Yeah. A failure to win.

  • http://spartyandfriends.com sparty

    comparatively to the increase in ticket prices to say the nba, they are still lower. so if you are a casual fan and have a choice, you would choose the cheaper of the two, no? next season should be interesting, because many teams are expecting to slash prices on season tickets in the nba.

    as for overall attendance. the attendance figures are misleading, because that measures paid attendance (which is mostly season ticket holders). the fans aren’t at the games. watch any red wings home game and you will see that.

    but giving up on the skill competition argument?

    And “more to do with it” implies that you agree that the shootout has something to do with it.

    i am sure the shootout has brought in a very small fraction of the casual fan. so sure, i’ll concede that.

    Yeah. A failure to win.

    but successful in not losing, which in the old system, netted you nothing no matter how you lost. hence a tie gives you 1 point and not 2. makes perfect sense.

  • Ann Bosch

    > ticket prices have gone down, especially in the last year.
    becomes
    > comparatively to the increase in ticket prices to say the nba, they are still lower
    So, by ticket prices went down, you mean they went up. Just less than the NBA.

    Q.E.D.

  • Ann Bosch

    >but giving up on the skill competition argument?
    Nah, it’s a semantic argument. We’ll agree to disagree.

    >a tie isn’t failure, i tie just isn’t a win.
    But the point of the shootout is to have a winner. I’d prefer a 3-2-1-0 method of awarding points, but I also prefer the shootout. I agree with SENS FAN earlier. 1 – 1 ties aren’t as exciting as the shootout. And it seems to have gotten some casual fan attention.