Had Ken Holland gotten his way, 3-on-3 overtime could have arrived in the NHL by next season.
The widely discussed issue, which seemed to have had a chance to become reality last year, died at the hands of NHL general managers during this week’s latest round of GM talks in Boca Raton, Fla.
Holland, from the Red Wings, was pushing 3-on-3 overtime in some form to eliminate the growing number of NHL games being decided by the shootout.
Shootout points are not counted in determining playoff tiebreakers.
Wednesday, the GMs are expected to vote on whether to make teams switch ends at the start of overtime to force longer line changes. That may be the only adjustment made to overtime this year.
Nonetheless, the idea of 3-on-3 overtime will assuredly arise again in the future and players have some feelings about the matter.
“That would add more scoring with so much more room,” Kimmo Timonen said. “Why do we make these changes all the time? I don’t get it. Twenty years ago, were there a lot of rule changes.”
This is Timonen’s 15th NHL season. He said he's seen too many rules changes.
“I just feel we keep changing our game every year, and I don’t know why,” he said. “That is my opinion. Why do we change it? Who is complaining? I am sure there are a lot of teams that don’t like the shootouts, don’t get the point, but you got to end the game some way. Is 3 on 3 right? Maybe. Good for the fans, but not the players.”
The New Jersey Devils apparently favor 3-on-3 overtime.
“Any change in the shootout is a good thing for our team,” said Jaromir Jagr, who’s been around 23 years and seen more rules changes than Timonen.
“We are 0-8 in the shootout. Anything they do would be good. But if they make it 3 on 3, it doesn’t matter because I am going to be sitting on the bench, anyway.”
Jagr, who is 42, was laughing because he doesn’t have the speed anymore to play 3 on 3.
Michael Raffl grew up in the world of the shootout.
“A little more ice would mean more goals I am pretty sure,” he said. “I would prefer playing to shootout. I would play 4 on 4 until someone scores -- 3 on 3 is too much room. But I think it would be more goals because it is so tough to defend.”
The GMs talked about extending overtime from five minutes to more, but rejected that idea as well.
Most goaltenders loathe the shootout. Steve Mason is one of them.
“I prefer to see a game won with players on the ice and not a skill competition, like the shootout,” Mason said. “[This] gives a game a chance to be won in a game setting rather than individual performance. It validates your victory more. It'd be almost like shinny hockey with lots of open ice, but at the same time, players have to make the plays to get open, rather than come in on a clear cut breakaway.”
Like Timonen, fellow Flyers defenseman Mark Streit prefers leaving things untouched with the current 4-on-4 set-up.
“I like 4 on 4,” he said. “Three on three is going to be a lot of room out there. It’s great for the fans and skill game and be very entertaining but would the end game sooner?
“Personally, I like the 4 on 4, maybe it is worth testing somewhere in the American League. That is what usually do. Test it first in the minors and see how it goes.”
The GMs have not recommended that either. Testing would be a precursor to a rules change.
Flyers coach Craig Berube wouldn’t object to 3-on-3 overtime.
“I don’t mind it,” he said. “Personally, I’d rather see the game play 4 on 4 or 3 on 3 than go to a shootout. A lot of more room. You would see a lot of partial breakaways with 3 on 3. It depends how you approach it. Two forwards and one defenseman? Different ways you can look at it.”
Alas, the GMs decided not to look at 3 on 3 any further, but to merely suggest switching sides to make the players more tired on line changes.
Today, the GMs will discuss changes on faceoffs in terms of player positioning to avoid player jousting before the puck is dropped.