Friday, 20 May 2016

Thanks For Nothing, IIHF

If there's one thing I hate more than anything, it's the decision by the IIHF to play one overtime period followed by the shootout. For round-robin games, I understand the importance of finding a winner in an allotted amount of time since there are multiple games planned each day in one or two venues. However, once the medal round begins, the shootout shouldn't even be an option yet we've already seen the Czech Republic eliminated via shootout in the quarterfinal. Today, the IIHF made some changes to its overtime format that really amounts to no change aside from trying to generate more offence in the extra period prior to the shootout.

As it stood yesterday before the announced changes yesterday, the overtime rule being used at this year's World Championship is as follows,
In case of a tie at the end of regulation in a quarterfinal, semi-final and bronze medal game, there will be a 10-minute, sudden-death overtime period, following a three-minute intermission. The teams will defend the same goals as in the third period. The team, which scores first is the winner.

In the gold medal game there will be a 20-minute sudden-death overtime, following a full intermission during which the ice will be resurfaced. The teams will change ends. The team which scores first is the winner.

All sudden death overtime periods are played four skaters on four.

If no goal is scored during the sudden-death overtime, there will be game winning shot (GWS) competition "shootout". Each team must select three shooters to compete in the GWS. If the score is still tied after the teams have had three attempts each, the teams continue to shoot in pairings until the shooter of one team misses and the shooter of the other team scores.
Basically, the IIHF states that all games needing overtime except the gold medal game will be played 4-on-4 in a ten-minute extra period. If no winner is found, it's off to the shootout to find a winner. If overtime is needed in the gold medal game, the two teams will play a 20-minute overtime period four-on-four. If no one scores, it's off to the skills competition.

Pretty simple, but a completely dumb rule in which the team element of the game of hockey - the importance of which we hear in every interview - is tossed out the window for a one-on-one breakaway challenge. If medals are on the line, let the teams play!

There was hope that the IIHF would consider the team play factor at some point, but they made their announcements today that amount to virtually no changes when it boils down to the empirical level. The IIHF announced today,
In the preliminary-round the overtime period will be played up to five minutes with three-on-three skaters. If still tied, a shootout with three rounds and if necessary tie-break shots will take place.

In playoff games (except for the gold medal game) the overtime period will be played up to ten minutes with four-on-four skaters. If still tied, a shootout with five rounds and if necessary tie-break shots will take place.

In the gold medal game the overtime period will be played up to 20 minutes with five-on-five skaters. If still tied, a shootout with five rounds and if necessary tie-break shots will take place.
These new rules will be take effect immediately following the IIHF Men's World Hockey Championship, and will be put in place for all IIHF men's, women's and junior categories at all levels. Prepare yourselves accordingly for what amounts to one less player in round-robin overtime games to try and find a winner while the gold medal game gets an extra skater for the full five-on-five experience in overtime.

Dramatic changes, IIHF. Excuse my sarcasm.

Look, I have a hard time with saying that Finland is better than Sweden if Mikko Koivu scores on Jacob Markstrom in the shootout. I struggle with awarding anyone full credit as a team when one player out-duels the other team's goaltender in a one-on-one challenge. So it's in this idea that I'd like to introduce a new team element to the shootout: the hunter and the hunted.

If the IIHF wants to do something crazy where there is a greater team element to the shootout, this is the idea. The shooter still starts at center ice, but an opposing player starts at the opposite blue line from the goalie. The shootout starts with the same whistle, but the whistle now allows the opposing player to chase down the shooter, thereby making it an actual breakaway competition, not some lazy meandering towards the goalie while exploring the majority of the offensive zone.

If the player chasing the breakaway catches the player and knocks the puck away legally or forces the player to shoot and the goalie makes the save, the shootout attempt is unsuccessful. If the shooter successfully converts the shot whether the chaser catches him or not, the shootout attempt is successful. By introducing the chaser, the shootout is now more like a real game situation rather than some skills competition in which Linus Omark can dangle for three minutes before taking a shot.

With the rule changes announced today, there might be more games finished in the preliminary round in overtime, but the medal round results will change little when it comes to teams looking at their rosters and trying to determine if they have the skill to win in the shootout. If a game in the medal round goes to overtime, teams are happier to sit back and protect rather than risking a loss in going for broke.

The rule changes will change little in how games are determined in the medal round, IIHF. And we're still stuck with the possibility that the gold medal will be determined by a skills competition. That shootout is a helluva team element, don'cha know.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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