Evgeny Kuznetsov’s super-slow shootout move has made him nearly automatic in the skills competition. It’s also become one of the most polarizing plays in the NHL.
The loudest detractor of the highly-successful tactic is the game’s greatest player of all time, Wayne Gretzky.
Gretzky discussed the move with TNT’s pregame panel before the Capitals were set to take on the New York Rangers. To put it lightly, he is not a fan.
“I hate it,” Gretzky said as TNT played a highlight of Kuzy’s most recent shootout goal. “Should be a rule, should be a time clock like in baseball. Come on, you never get a breakaway in a game and you do that. You get seven seconds, eight seconds. That’s my opinion.”
Gretzky proposes a "shootout shot clock."
Thoughts on the concept? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/g22XW4ANpx
— NHLonTNT (@NHL_On_TNT) April 2, 2023
Gretzky also didn’t like the pizazz that Kuznetsov showed as he makes his way to the net.
“Even the stick twirl, we would hate that one on the bench too,” Gretzky said. “I know we’re living in a different era but there’s still something about having some dignity for the game in my estimation. [If I did that], 20 guys from the other team would have jumped over the boards and if somebody would have done it against us, 20 guys from our team would have went over the boards. You got to protect the goalies, right? If you can’t get there in eight seconds you don’t deserve to be taking the shot.”
While Gretzky may hate the move, he can’t deny how successful it has been for Kuznetsov. Among all players that have at least five shootout attempts this season, Kuznetsov ranks second in the NHL with his 83.3 percent success rate.
And, he’s used his super-slow move in every single one of those attempts. Most recently, he scored with it on Ilya Sorokin in an eventual Capitals loss to the New York Islanders.
Evgeny Kuznetsov's slo-mo shootout move: Are you a fan? pic.twitter.com/4byPTeRstr
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) March 30, 2023
During an attempt against the Buffalo Sabres earlier in March, NBC Sports Washington’s Craig Laughlin timed Kuzy’s run up the ice and said it took 10.1 seconds and that he counted 21 total stickhandles.
Kuznetsov, for the record, does not even really know why the move is so successful.
“I don’t know to be honest with you,” Kuznetsov told RMNB. “I don’t know what [the goalies] think but I feeling much more comfortable in terms of the timing and stick-handling. In terms of my angle, I feel much more comfortable when I’m coming slower.
“I do look at the goalie for long time and see what he’s doing, how deep he is.”
The NHL regularly discusses potential rule changes at general manager meetings and shootout rules have been talked about in the past. Many players around the league, like superstar Connor McDavid, have advocated for extended three-on-three overtime to have fewer games end in a shootout overall.
A shot clock of sorts for shootout attempts hasn’t been brought up officially just yet but Kuznetsov may force the league’s hand. Especially, if The Great One is talking negatively about it.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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