GMs talk 3-on-3 play, extending OT to minimize shootouts at meetings

The frequency of shootouts could be going way down in the future. (Getty Images)
The frequency of shootouts could be going way down in the future. (Getty Images)

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For the legions of hockey fans that despise the shootout, the news coming out of the Tuesday's General Mangers meetings in Toronto should be music to their ears.

While the GMs discussed a wide range of topics including bullying and what if anything needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen in the NHL, the biggest seemed to be renewing the conversation about the NHL's overtime structure and specifically trying to determine more games before the shootout. Specifically, the idea put forth by Red Wings GM Ken Holland in the past about extending overtime and going to 3-on-3 if 4-on-4 play doesn't yield a goal.

From the sounds of it, Holland is gaining more traction. Dan Rosen of NHL.com was on hand in Toronto:

You can add Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen as another one who likes the 3-on-3 idea.

Pretty clearly there is a movement toward reducing the role of the shootout in hockey something I'd say about 95 percent of people around hockey are in favor of, whether they be fans or people with vested interests.

However nobody is suggesting the abolition of the shootout, they just want to decrease its role in determining the standings. Ties aren't going to be returning to the game anytime soon.

There is no disputing that a 3-on-3 format would be incredibly entertaining and would likely lead to more goals and thus fewer shootouts. On rare ocassions we get a glimpse of 3-on-3 hockey when players take penalties in the current OT format and it's a ton of fun with action going up and down with all of the free space on the ice.

While it's a departure from the normal hockey we see in games it's still not as much distortion as the shootout is even though shootout situations (penalty shots) occur much more often than 3-on-3 hockey. At least in Holland's suggestion there remains a team aspect and an offense/defense component in play.

Nothing is going to happen immediately but this is going to be a discussion that will continue especially since the interest seems to only be rising across the league and not the other way around. When the GMs reconvene in March for three days worth of meetings there could be some real traction, but they all have to get on the same page first. As noted above, they aren't all there yet as Blues GM Doug Armstrong right now would just like to see more 4-on-4 time instead of 3-on-3.

However they do all seem to be working toward the same goal: Anything to reduce the role of the shootout.

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