Monday, 23 January 2012

Stop bashing shootouts

I ranted on air last night about those who bash the shootout in the NHL's regular season. How dare you denigrate the most sacred of sporting rituals! Okay, I am exaggerating a little. But there really isn't a shortage of shootout bashers and I am sick of it.

The shootout, in principle, is the deciding element of a game. The league instituted it because they realized that ties were ridiculous. I mean, there's no point in even playing the game if there isn't a winner. You may as well give participation awards and loot bags to everyone if you're going to award ties.

Here's how I see it. The shootout is skill versus skill. The top offensive talents and the best goaltender for each team battle until the cream rises to the top. It's the purest showcase of talent and skill in sports. If you don't have skillful players who can score on a breakaway, you're not going to do well in the shootout. Hence why the Canadiens are so poor in this outcome decider (sorry, it's true, Habs fans).

My most perfect example is what transpired in the spring of 2010. The Flyers and Rangers met on the final day of the regular season, with the winner going to the postseason and the loser going home. The Flyers won in a shootout and then went all the way to the Stanley Cup final. Talk about the best team winning the shootout on that day. There is no greater example of the shootout being the best way to decide the fate of a game than that anecdote.

Still, there are those that want to see continuous OT, or some of my callers had all sorts of crazy alternatives to the shootout. Some called for a skills competition, some wanted to see one great fight at center ice, etc...

But the truth is, the shootout is the best and most exciting option the league has. And you just know all of these critics of the shootout, who call it a gimmick and not traditional, are the same ones who stand on their feet when they are lucky enough to witness one in person.

Don't get me wrong. I would never want to see it in the playoffs. But the shootout should be here to stay in the regular season - if for no other reason than it is the best option for the NHL and its fans.

Game Points with Matthew Ross is Tuesday and Sunday nights on TSN 990 in Montreal. Follow @tsnmatthew

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