The NHL GM’s are meeting in Boca Raton, Florida this week and one of the many things they are discussing is a change to the overtime rules for the regular season. The two main ideas are expanding the time of the current 4-on-4 sudden death format, and adding a 3-on-3 segment after the 4-on-4 and before the shootout. While I do not think having close to 14% of games decided by a shootout is a problem, I like that regular season games don’t take all night, it did get me thinking. What could the NHL do to overtime to drastically overhaul it but make it very interesting? Here’s what I came up with:
Dueling Power plays: This is by far the most interesting idea I had thought of. Basically this is an adopted version of the college football overtime rules. First the ice would need to be scraped and/or cleaned after the end of regulation. Each team would get a two minute 5-on-4 power play. This showcases offense and creates a lot of excitement with many scoring chances. It would be possible to score a shorthanded goal in this scenario, which would essentially end the game. If they’re still tied after 3 chances for each team it changes to a two minute 5-on-3 power play for each team. I can see an argument to this being that some teams are just good at the power play or much better 5-on-5 than with a man advantage. My argument back for that is that currently overtime is 4-on-4, which is somewhat removed from regular hockey. If they change to 3-on-3 that is even further removed from regular hockey. Also this is just for fun.
4th Period: This one doesn’t do much to solve the problem but it is an option; make the overtime 20 minutes long. It can be 4-on-4 or 5-on-5, but personally I don’t like this one so I’m just going to move on.
1-on-1 battles: It is close to the shootout but it provides a little extra defense to the current model. Throw an offensive player against a defenseman, one on one. To make sure that the offensive player has a chance the defenseman can’t go below the faceoff dots lets say, and can only use his stick such as a poke check. If the offensive player can get past the defensive player then he’ll have about one move before he shoots on goal. This one is a little ridiculous but it would be quite entertaining to see Crosby go up against Chara and then have to beat Rask for the goal.
Classic Soccer overtime: I’m borrowing this idea from the world of soccer. In soccer they do two 15 minute overtime periods that are not sudden death. For hockey this would have to be 5-7 minute periods. Basically each team can score as many goals as they want during each period. If it is still tied at the end of the game then they go to a shootout. I still like my first idea the best, but this allows more hockey to be played without making it 4-on-4 or 3-on-3.
Just a shootout: First of all I must say I love the shootout, because it ends the game. Only in the playoffs should overtime take forever, but when there are 82 regular season games we just need to get each game over with and move on to the next one. I hate that baseball has never ending extra inning games for 1 of 162 games. I don’t know what the alternative would be in baseball, but there’s no reason game 35 in baseball needs to take 6 hours and 17 innings. While I do like the 4-on-4 overtime I really like the shootout. It’s exciting. It showcases the best players on each team and has an easy to understand outcome. They either score or they don’t score. If they score more times than the other team’s shooters then they win. While this seems obvious it helps hockey to get new fans by keeping attractive and entertaining aspects of the game simple.
Overtime/power plays/shootout: This is the last idea and I think is the best hybrid of what the NHL is talking about adding, and what I have come up with. First there will be a five minute 4-on-4 overtime, exactly the same as what exists now. Then if it is still tied we move to my dueling power plays scenario; however each team only gets one power play. This will increase the chances of scoring without taking away true hockey elements. Sure it’s contrived but so is 4-on-4, which normally happens when a player on each team is in the penalty box. And finally if it is still tied after the 5 minute 4-on-4 period, and the dueling power plays, then you go to a shootout. The shootout would be the exact same way it is now. I do like this idea but I highly doubt it will happen.
I also think that an easy way to increase scoring in overtime would be to clean the ice before it starts. There’s a reason teams can score a lot early in periods. When the ice is smooth and fast the players can make better passes, setup, and execute their plays more effectively. These are just some ideas, I’d love to hear any other crazy ideas anyone has.