Shootout Mentality

My coworker from the team 1260, Dustin Nielson is down in the Oilers dressing room after every Oilers game. He finds out how the guys are feeling right after the game. After the loss in the shootout to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday I shot him the following text….

Strudwick: How was the mood in the dressing room?

Nielson: They said they need to learn a lesson from this game but not as ticked off as I expected.

He goes on to say he thinks shootouts mess with teams’ emotions. If they lose the game in overtime, the team is more upset. Not sure why they seem less upset after a shootout loss.

I have been thinking and looking back at that text since I got it late Wednesday night. At first my gut reaction was to say Dustin is wrong, a loss is a loss, no matter the shape it comes it. After some thought and going through my own experiences I knew he was on to something.

When a game would remain tied after sixty minutes I always knew I would most likely get one shift, right in the middle of the overtime period. I needed to stay mentally focused and engaged in the game. There was no drifting off.

If the other team scored a goal during the four versus four portion of over time the whole team would take it hard. It felt like a real loss, a regulation loss. It was a team loss because we were all grinding it out as a group to try and get that one extra point.

I am not sure how many shootout games exactly I was a part of but it was many. When I think back I realize that once it got to the shootout I felt like my work was done for the night. The win or loss of a game was out of my hands. It had nothing to do with the whole team. No one would be getting a plus or minus. There would be no video of a defensive breakdown to watch with a coach the next day. Most often it was decided by six shooters, three from each team.

It really became an individual showcase of ability, a little luck and confidence. I remember joking many times with all the coaches about what number I was in the shootout order as the Zamboni was cleaning the ice. That kind of joking around would never happen during the four on four portion of overtime. The whole "TEAM" was still engaged in playing, not so in shootouts.

How many times have we all seen a team that is struggling with shoot out wins put their helmets on backwards to change their luck? Has that ever happened during the four versus four portion? Not that I have seen and never will!

After a loss in a shootout it feels different. Right or wrong, it almost feels like you tied the team portion of the night and lost the individual competition so it isn’t a real loss. Don’t get me wrong, the guys aren’t going back into the room laughing and cheering after a shootout loss but I don’t remember it hurting as much.

Funny how the outcome is the same, the loss of a point, but the feeling afterward is different. At least for me it was. It may not be that way for players that shoot often in the shootout. There is a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. They carry the pressure and expectations for the team as they skate in to dingle dangle a goalie.

Look at the Oilers. So far this season they have been involved in five shootouts. They have won two and lost three. If the Oilers shooters had been a little bit more deadly and they were undefeated, the team would be tied for a playoff position. Does that not make those three shootout attempts more valuable or important? Should there be more importance placed on them?

I have been trying to work out who is to blame for this more relaxed attitude. Is it on the players themselves for not understanding how valuable these points are? Maybe the coaches for not spending the practice time required sharpening both his shooters and goalies’ skill in this one vs .one battle? Maybe it is the league for putting this skill sideshow into effect?

I heard the answer from the Oilers head coach Ralph Kreuger that made the most sense. He called the shootout "a lottery". You nailed it, Ralph. You really never know who will be the winner, you just know you have a chance.

The best way to know exactly how a shootout will play out is to not get to one. Maybe teams should be more aggressive in the four vs. four, especially if you have a week record in the breakaways. That is probably a tough shift in thinking for any coach to do but wouldn’t it be fun to see?

I like the shootout. I find it enjoyable to watch the great skill of these players and goalies on display. I also think it is okay for players to feel like it isn’t a real loss when their shooters don’t come through for them. Why should they? They battle the other team to a draw after sixty five minutes then just leave it up to a lottery from there? Not a "real" loss in my books.

What can you do?

Last night Marty Brodeur scored the third goal of his career. I don’t think he will be telling the story of this one to his kids though.

Ugly, real ugly. I have only ever seen this once before. It was in a game I was playing in. The other team had a delayed penalty. Our center went to pass it to the point man who wasn’t there. BOOM. Goal against. Good news was that we still got the PP.

Check out the reaction from the Hurricanes coach, Kirk Muller. I love it! But really, what can you say when your best player and captain shoots it into his own net.

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  • Minister D-

    The problems are not from the shootouts, in OT Oilers already has 1 point so might as well kept attacking to get the win. They played not to lose instead of playing to win. Against Detroit and SJ Sharks, Oilers had 2 goals lead in the 3rd, they stopped attacking and tried to protect the lead. If Oilers won those 2 games then they have 31 points (Detroit has 33 points and Sharks has 30 points), with 20 games left those points they gave away will bite them in the ass.
    Also in shoot out if I m the coach I would look into my players eyes and ask who want to go first. Instead of picking the first 3 shooters from the list, Hemsky was not ready for the shoot out and he was as flat as the pancakes I had for breakfast. Go with the guys that hungry to score the goal in the shootout, they will want to win the game then.
    With all the young guys why are the Oilers are so bad in 3rd period when they are tied or with the lead? All 4 lines should be rolling and play short shifts and attack, go for the win.
    Look at the Habs this year, they play hard as a team. Columbus is doing the same, they have points in 12 straight games. No more excuses, no more we did some positive things out there, no more losing. The fans are fed up!
    Just win!
    I m a die hard fan in Toronto, I moved here from Edmonton 20 years ago. 1990 was our last cup, let’s bring the cup home. Bring the cup back to Canada!

  • Minister D-

    Thank you Jason that was an very well written article and it truly brought home the dynamic reality that teams face when the shootout is introduced as the catalyst to a hockey games final outcome.

    The pressure is distributed in a completely inequitable manner on everyone in the lineup, it is a very dyslexic solution to whatever the problem was again that resulted in bringing in the shootout.

    The points really need to go the the players scoring them, we dont delineate between PP and 5 on 5 goals when we consider the overall scoring title or stats in general so why not make these points real and tangible just like the game results are?

    I say ditch the shootout and go back to four on four then go to 3 on 3 and them 2 on 2 and then if needed one on ones with the last men standing until its over, imagine Crosby and Ovechkin going toe to toe for four or five attempts, whew. Two minute sections so six minutes of hockey and then one on ones, this would be a very fast format and wayyyyy more exciting than just going to the shootout the way we do.

    First faster and faster river style hockey as the numbers on the ice decrease and then after three minutes its Last Man Standing time. Last Man standing, ha ha ha, I would love to see Gagner standing out there all alone with a grin on his face and an Oilers jersey on his back, ha ha ha. Just him and their guy over and over till someone misses, thats wayyy more of a dramatic windup to a games end than the way we do it now.

    What would probably help is to get one of the officials off the ice during games, we need to lose one of the refs so they can be our onsite video judges and correct and increase or correct already made calls in realtime from the pressbox.

    Just in support of things we all see on the big-screen ,it looks reallly bad for the NHL when we see our refs look like fools when they get it wrong and then the wrong calls are replayed twenty times on the bigscreen and millions of times at home. So if you get four for highsticking and the guys bites his lip to draw blood and we all see it on the bigscreen and at home the refs have a chance to stop the play and consult with the onice officials and correct it and preserve the integrity of our game. No more diving because the off-ice official can intercede and because they have both realtime data acess AND video replay acess from many feeds, they dont get caught in bad protect your fellow official dynamics, they have the real facts to deal with and cannot be cornered into supporting a collegues marginal call. Besides with the size of players and speed of the game and critical importance of ever inch of space out there we need to reassign one referee to the off-ice area and open up the ice surface more to the players. The reason we got the 2nd ref was to be more accurate to combat looking like idiots on TV, well now we can remove the body from theice and use technology and an office official with onice power to do the same job and give the fans a better product on the ice snd the players more room to move out there.

    The presence of two refs on the ice by proxy produces to many penaltys in NHL games and this reduces the quality of the final product, if every team is forced to man their rosters with special teams defensive guys just to survive in the league then we lose overall skill and talent in the lineups we see iced, there MUST be an inequity in how many penaltys different teams take for gods sakes, we cant see league wide parity in penalty numbers for christssakes, entire teams are built around tough talentless hockey and they intend to take more penaltys and other teams spend their organisational resources icing talented skilled rosters so if we do as we have done in the past and aim for this type of artificially catalysed league penalty parity we undermine the quality of hockey we sell the fans every night.

    Both the shootout and the 2nd ref on the ice are in a dynamic sense counterproductive to creating league wide offense and excitement and utimatelty a superior onice product.

    There are better ways to incorporate both concepts and we have had a long enough trial end error period to be validated in making adjustments and changes to support NHL leaguewide evolution.

    And we might be surprised at the men we see out there if it goes 4on4 to 3on3 to 2on2,1on1 there will DEFINATELY be defensive guys worked into that formula . Imagine Shea Weber and Sam Gagner out there till the puck goes in hell or highwater, ha ha ha, great stuff every night.And with linechanges we will get to see different looks.

  • Minister D-

    Struds, when are you getting into management or coaching? Seriously man, with your knowledge and cous..cough cough…connections you should do it.

    On the other hand, I’d hate to see you leave 1260 as the station is just on fire since they added you..and Inspecta Deck along with the in-situ T2S All-Stars – CG, Gregor, Bronte, Wil-One-L Fraaaaaaaaaaaaaser, Dusty “as tall as 3 Amigos” Bottoms, the Layin’ Pipe All-night long boyz, Meg “mommy dearest” Storms, Ally Kat, LT, Magic Marc Majeau, and the Producerz of each and every damn show that is locally produced!

    Love the Team. Just gotta shout it. Maybe it’s the 2 beer buzz and it’s not early in the morning..when the sun comes up over..

  • Mumbai Max

    The best teams in my opinion, don’t let it come down to a shootout on a nightly basis. The end result is the same. We got 1 point and they got two. We need to win games like that in regulation, plain and simple. Play to win, not to not lose. It’s easier said than done from my couch, but I just wish that more coaches would embrace that mentality.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    If the shootout is a lottery, why not give different guys a look.

    Ebs, Gagner, Hemsky, etc. are not statistically good in the shootout.

    Who would have thought Horc is the best? Find the guys on this team who are better than the guys taking the attempts now.

  • SuntanOil

    Sorry about the off-topic post. but the Oilers sign Travis Ewanyk to an ELC today, the same day that other teams are waiving players like Jeff Halpern. I am just curious what the big hurry is?

    As for the original topic: This is a real interesting perspective, and I wonder how much of it comes from the mentality of playing for the point – playing not to lose rather than playing to win – that creeps into almost all such games with about 10 minutes left in the third.

    It must be difficult to feel like you lost when you accomplish what you’ve been trying to do for the last part of the game

  • 2004Z06

    Keep the 4 on 4, keep the shootout, but get rid of the “loser point” See if it feels like a REAL loss then?

    Teams have absolutely no incentive to go all out in the last few minutes of a game or in OT because they can coast there way to a point.

    Part of the culture problem with the Oilers is just this mentality. No killer instinct and the have become accustomed to and comfortable with the statement “at least we got one point tonight”.

    We don’t play to win, we play not to lose. This team seems to think a loser point is a victory!

  • SuntanOil

    Shootouts are ridiculous, purely a gimmick, and don’t belong anywhere except All-Star Weekend. That being said, I understand how unfulfilling a tie can be.
    My solution is 5 minutes of 4on4, then 5 minutes of 3on3. If nobody has scored at that point, then it’s a tie. Or a shootout if the NHL insists. But 5 minutes of 3on3 should produce a goal the majority of the time.

  • MarcusBillius

    After watching Hemskys the other night there was zero intensity in his attempt.I agree they should give Yak a shot atleast he will go in balls to the wall.

  • RyanCoke

    Gotta admit that when I seen jason writing about shootout mentality, my first thought was how the hell does he know. Then I realized he has a career 100% shootout percentage.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Where would we be without that lovable loser point.

    Don’t care if the shootout is a little on the hoakey side. Anythings better than leaving the arena after a tie game.

    • Minister D-

      Couldn’t disagree more. The teams have 60 minutes to determine a winner. If they aren’t able to – why add 5 more minutes or a shootout?

      If 4-on-4 breeds so much more excitement or chances – make the entire game 4-on-4.

      If you truly want a winner, play sudden dealth just like they do in the playoffs. I know that isn’t pratical for TV programming, etc, but “time restraints” shouldn’t be a determinning factor for points in the standings.

      If after 60 minutes the teams are tied, they stay tied…

      • Quicksilver ballet

        When you go to a hockey game, you’re usually interested to seeing who the better team is that night. If there isn’t a better team that night then what’s the point of pitting teams against one another?

        It wasn’t much of a problem when the Oilers were lead out by Dave Dryden back in those days, but at 500.00 for a pair of golds nowadays, it’s probaably a wise thing to not waste the fans time with a no decision outcome.

        The game has changed for the better with the most important element being satisfying the ticket buyers. The NHL,NBA,MLB,NFL are all in agreement, ties suck.

  • Light, Sweet, Crude

    Even as a fan, watching an OT loss is more painful than a shootout loss. Losing in the shootout doesn’t come with that feeling like you have been punched in the stomach.
    Conversely, I find winning the shootout to be less exhilarating than winning on OT or regulation.
    I don’t care for the shootout personally, save it for the skills competition at The All-star break. That’s fun. I understand why they exist though. Not much you can do to get around TV schedules.

    • Ducey

      They should go with the OT they have for minor hockey in Edmonton for playoffs and MH week.

      They go 5 on 5 for one minute, 4 on 4 for a minute, 3 on 3 for a minute, 2 on 2 for 1 minute and 1 on 1 for as long as it takes.

      It is unbelievably exciting and requires a whole team effort. There is a ton of coaching involved as you need to save your best players for later on.

      Imagine Crosby vs. Giroux 1 on 1. Teams often pull their goalie if there is an offensive zone faceoff so its 2 on 1 with an empty net.

      Games usually end pretty quickly so it would still fit for TV.

        • Hair bag

          I like this idea but stop at 3 on 3. I would bet that this would be extremely exciting and would end the game in a hockey fashion rather than a skills competition.

        • Ducey

          How is that “less like real hockey”?

          Its “real hockey” all the way down to one on one. Then you still have all the rules of hockey and skating, checking, shooting, etc. There is real competition and effort. Players get tired, goalies make passes, stars have to play defence and offense.

          One on one worked pretty good for the gladiators (or at least their owners), boxing and the MMA.

          • Ducey

            Ya, great, and if there is no score on the one on one, them the two goal tenders meet at center ice and arm wrestle.

            Give me a break!

            I am not a fan of the shoot out. Its a team sport, and should be won and lost that way.

            Perhaps extending the overtime to 8 or 10 minutes?