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GM’s leave Boca Raton without fixing the most glaring issue

Paraphrased, the principle of Occam’s Razor states “the simplest answer is often the correct one.”

The NHL’s General Manager Meetings ended in Boca Raton, Florida on Wednesday. Among the topics discussed were 3-on-3 overtime, tweaks to face-off violation rules and video review in regards to goaltender interference.

Instead of face-off violations and other frivolous changes like that, the general managers needed to discuss what’s really ruining the league: three point games.

“There’s an appetite to figure out a way to have more games decided in overtime because more games are decided in the shootout than are decided in overtime,” Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland said on Monday.

His counterpart, Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues, agreed.

“If we can see games ended in the 65 or 66 minutes — whatever we decide to go with — that might be a better way for competitive balance,” he said.

Instead of going with the obvious answer, the GM’s are considering everything from a 3-on-3 overtime to switching sides of the ice in order to force long line changes.

Why is this so difficult? The answer is right in front of them.

It’s unbelievable that 30 of the smartest hockey minds in the world can’t figure this out. They’ve identified the issue: games should be decided in regulation or overtime, not in a shootout. That said, a shootout gives the fans a winner and also happens to be a very exciting element of the sport. That’s fair and should certainly be considered. But, in the end, it’s just a skills competition and it should be treated as such.

If the NHL wants to get it right, they’ll abolish the current point system and adopt the correct one.

It’s been asked ad nauseum since 2005 but here we go again: why is the NHL rewarding teams for losing? They don’t give the team who loses in regulation a point, do they? No. But if they go to overtime then all of a sudden they get a point. Likewise for the shootout. If anything, this is an admission by the league that the shootout is a skills competition and, any team who loses in said skills competition, doesn’t lose “the game” so they shouldn’t be penalized as if they did.

By that rationale, if a team wins in the skills competition, they didn’t win “the game.” Instead, they won because one skater scored on one goalie. No passing, no traffic and no set plays. Just one skater against one goalie. That gives the fans a winner and a loser. That’s fine, but why does the NHL give the winning team just as many points as it would have had they won in regulation? You know, when they were actually playing “the game?”

A regulation and overtime win should be worth two points in the standings, a shootout win should be one point and a loss of any kind should be zero.

General managers, you want to fix the shootout problem? There. You just did.

In 1999, the NHL adopted the one-point-for-an-overtime-loss rule. At the time, there were far too many ties. Each team, in the case of a tie, would receive one point in the standings. The league wanted to give clubs an extra incentive to not just “play for the tie” where the overwhelming mentality was “if we tie, we’ll at least get something.” It was thought that, with a regulation win, getting two points in your bank account while preventing your opponent from getting anything was incentive enough to have teams giving it their all in regulation. Instead, teams ended up playing just to get to overtime. And why was that? So they could — you guessed it — at least get something.

The shootout was brought in after the lockout ended in 2005. It would finally put an end to the dreaded tie and send fans home having seen a decisive result, one way or the other. The problem it created, however, was the continuation of rewarding failure. Knowing the shootout was a skills competition, the NHL should have addressed the point system all at one time. Instead, they left themselves with an even bigger monster: the three-point game.

How big is the monster? Doctors don’t use a band-aid when they need to amputate do they? The “SOL” and “ROW” columns, the idea of 3-on-3, adding another minute and long line changes are all band-aids. Stop messing around and do what’s necessary.

If there is truly an appetite to see more games end in overtime like Ken Holland said then amputate. Put an end to three-point games.

What was that Occam’s Razor thing again? Oh yeah…

GRAPHIC CREDIT: Dan Oswald // HR Hero