Vulgar Opinions: In Which We Ponder Extra Time And I Directly Contradict Myself (SFW)
Every once in a while I find myself studying regular season data and extrapolating it to postseason expectations for Vulgar Statistics. There is an obvious problem here: extra time is completely different in the two entities. Poop.
I tend to go by winning percentage rather than points percentage because that’s what matters come playoff time. But some wins are more applicable than others. And some losses…well…should they really even count as losses if we’re going to have our playoff hats on? It’s a conundrum, one that no other sport has. The most egregious other offender is the NFL, and even then there’s still a good chance that postseason overtime games will play out exactly the same as regular season overtime games. That is not possible in the NHL.
There has to be a better way, right? There has to be a happy medium between keeping the game a reasonable length, staying away from ties, and also staying away from gimmicks. The MLB and NBA both have “play until someone wins” formats, but that’s not really realistic in the NHL where the stresses on the body are far and above any other sport. So let’s go through the issues in equalizing playoff and regular season formats step by step.
Problem #1: Playing another period would take too long because you would be adding another intermission for the ice to be zamboni-ed as well as up to 20 extra minutes. And there’s still the possibility of the game ending in a tie. And as we all know, ties suck. (Except for @LindyRuffsTie)
Problem #2: Four on four play and shootouts are too gimmicky and instances of similar play are rare in the playoffs.
Problem #3: Shootouts are exciting and a lot of fans love them.
It’s pretty clear that unless the NHL is suddenly okay with adopting a MLB format (play on until someone wins), the regular season and the playoffs will never line up exactly in terms of extra time. Personally I think the best thing to do would be to play an entire fourth period of five on five and then call the game a tie if necessary. But I think that’s also the worst thing to do because I am violently opposed to games ending in a tie. In the NFL it’s funny because it signifies ineptitude, in the NHL it sucks. This is my solution (which I’ve laid out before):
Play ten minutes of five on five, then go to the shootout. Why the NHL has refused to do this is beyond me. Five extra minutes of hockey is not enough for anyone to whine about the game being too long. I find it hard to believe that five extra minutes of skating would make the ice that much worse and be a safety concern. The sponsors would probably love it because it would mean more airtime for their products and services. AND my research has shown that it would take the current OT-SO split from 50-50 to around 80-20, which feels about right. The shootout stays, but it becomes significantly more rare (and in that more exciting), and we have a regular season overtime format that straddles a good line between being close to the playoff format, and eliminating ties.