It sounds like the NHL is inching closer and closer to the
inclusion of 3v3 overtime into their regular season games. The AHL has been
piloting this project all year and the results have been dramatic. The number
of games decided during “regular play” vs decided in the shootout has increased
significantly. In other words, at the AHL level, less games finish in a
skills competition. For hockey fans who feel too much weight is given to the shootout,
this sounds like a major victory. All that needs to happen now is the NHLPA, the
competition committee, and the board of governors must approve it. For the
Oilers, however, this might end up being a mixed bag.
Here’s a three month old infographic that was posted on Reddit showing
the numbers through December 14th. The results are impressive.
Now the sticking points for the NHLPA are primarily based
around the extra playing time in OT. More wear and tear on the players and so
forth. It makes sense that there might be concerns. I’m sure they would like to
know all the injury data for the 3v3 in the AHL and ask their own set of
questions. For the Board of Governors it seems like a no brainer. It’s an
extra layer of potential excitement to sell to the customer.
More Features at almost no extra cost? Yes please.
Ultimately this should pass all the necessary stops and eventually become part of the NHL game.
But how, specifically, might this hurt the Oilers? Fans are
happy and life is jolly with the new format. 3v3 OT is supposed to be exciting hockey that has
everybody on the edge of their seat. That sounds pretty great. Hey, that sounds better than great. Nobody is sitting in their seat that cost them the equivalent of a car payment thinking “I wish this was less fun.”
Sure. Sounds like fun indeed…unless you have a really bad team
with suspect goaltending.
I don’t want to alarm anybody, but the Oilers are actually a
really bad team. Have been for years. I know. I’ll wait a minute while that
sinks in as the truth lingers like a fragrant and unwelcome expulsion of gas
from the business end of your unloved family pet.
Now that I’ve shattered your world view, notice that over
the last three years the Oilers have a record of 67-105-28. If you subscribe to the
theory that overtime losses don’t count as regular losses (that’s a post for
another day), as most people do, then the Oilers are actually 38 games below .500
over the past three seasons.
However, in the shootout over that same period the Oilers
are 11-12. They are closer to being .500 in the shootouts than in any other game
state. Now maybe that’s part of the case against the shootouts, that if the
Oilers can at least be somewhat competent at them then they must not be a good
way to determine which team wins the game.
To boil this down, the Oilers should expect to lose even
more games without the shootout bump they get. If things keep going the way they have been then the Oilers should expect to lose more games if this skills competition has less to do with determining the outcome of the game.
The shootout gave the Oilers a coin-flip’s chance of winning the game in an era where in reality they should have been much worse.
It’s not all bad. 3v3 is by all accounts extremely exciting.
In the Neverending Story that is this Rebuild, the team has managed to find
ways to put the E back in ELPH. The new OT format can only add to that. If the
Oilers are at all to ever come out of the basement they might even one day be
good at the new format. Justin Schultz, for example, is built to wreak havoc in
a 3v3 format. Is he a forward? Is he a defenseman? We’ll never know!
In all seriousness, the Oilers do have players who should be
able to excel with open space. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is coming into his own now
and is so smart on either side of the puck at just 21 years of age that the sky
is the limit for him. Combine that with his skating ability and the results
could be electrifying if he’s given all the open ice that comes with 3v3 hockey.
Then again, we don’t need to hope about players who COULD be
good with extra space. The Oilers have one player who is ALREADY producing at
an elite level under those conditions. They have an Ace in the lineup as it is.
If we look at players who have played at least 100 minutes
of 4v4 Hockey over the last five seasons then Taylor Hall ranks among the best at
point production. And I’m sure I don’t have to explain that picking up a point
in OT means you were involved in winning the game, but I just did anyway.
Taylor Hall’s points per 60 minutes at 4v4 hockey over the
last five years has him ranked 4th in the entire NHL for those who have
played at least those 100 minutes. He creates 4.3 Points per 60 minutes. The
only three ahead of him are Briere, Ovechkin, and Grabovski. He is an elite performer with time and space today. No need to imagine what might be.
When we consider his style of play (the break-neck speed and
offensive creativity) along with his relative age, the 3v3 format could be the
Oiler winger’s playground for the next decade. If he is able to produce as he
already does 4v4, then the added room and chaos of 3v3 might prove to be a
strength for the Oilers as long as they can get Hall on the ice.
So I’m not going to jump for joy as the shootout gets placed on the back-burner since it has helped the Oilers out quite a bit over the last several seasons, but I will try to keep my glass half-full and hope to see #4 flying down the open ice with the game on his stick in the years to come.