The NHL adopted 3-on-3 overtime before the start of the 2015-16 regular season. Keeping each team to three players opened up even more ice and the back-and-forth action was considered an instant success by fans and players alike. But as time has gone on, players and coaches have found ways to slow the pace down and limit chances against turning overtime more into a game of keepaway.
One primary example is how teams will stop their own forward progress with the puck and rag it back to neutral or the defensive zone if they believe their upcoming offensive-zone entry won’t be successful or the play might go awry. By doing so, the team prevents odd-man rushes to their opposition and allows for safe line changes.
According to Colin Campbell, the league’s current executive vice president and director of hockey operations, team general managers don’t seem to be a fan of that practice as it has led to more games being decided in the less widely-liked shootout. So much so, that they’ve begun brainstorming overtime rule changes to try and end games sooner.
All of the league’s general managers met this week in Toronto. They have plans to readdress their concerns again at further meetings in March.
“The purpose of overtime is to end the game [before the shootout], and we need to make sure that continues to progress,” Arizona Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong told ESPN.
Reporting from The Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli outlines that two of the proposed changes could be taking inspiration from a couple of rules in basketball. The first being that once teams have taken the puck across center ice or the blue line, they cannot just take it right back out a la the backcourt violation in basketball.
Additionally, Seravalli says that a shot clock is being considered. Shot clocks are used in basketball so that winning teams cannot just hold the ball forever to drain the game clock and give their opposition no chance of making a comeback.
“It’s become a puck possession game now. Winning the opening draw is a big thing,” Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill added. “Coaches are very good and players are good, and they’re finding different ways to do things. We just want to make sure that excitement’s still there.”
Violating these rules would likely just cause play to be blown dead for a faceoff. However, Campbell says the league would not really be a fan of that. “We could put a shot clock in there, but we don’t want to stop playing [for violations],” Campbell said. “We don’t want to have more faceoffs.”
According to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, GMs have been instructed to ask their coaches and players for more ideas on changes. Those suggestions will then be presented at the March NHL GM meeting as part of a larger study.
As things currently stand, the NHL doesn’t seem to have any interest in extending the length of the five-minute overtime period or getting rid of the shootout altogether. “We don’t mind the format,” Campbell said.
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