The hot topic at this year's meeting of the minds in Boca Raton, Fla., involves the league's regular-season overtime format. At the heart of that debate, of course, lies the shootout, a controversial experiment that has outgrown its usefulness, if it ever had any to begin with.
If you're like me, then this is issue is a no-brainer. Just get rid of the shootout, bring back the tie and use the neuralyzer from the "Men in Black" movies to wipe everyone's memory clean of this misguided attempt to make the game more fan-friendly.
Reports coming out of Boca suggest changes to the OT format are not forthcoming this time around, but eventually the league will have to fix the problem of the shootout. Here's to hoping that day comes sometime in the near future.
The shootout was installed after the NHL returned to play following the lockout of 2004-05 and there was a brief period when it was an exciting addition to the game. However, the novelty wore off rather quickly and the league is currently worried that too many games wind up being decided in the shootout phase and not during the actual flow of play.
Through Saturday's game, 135 of 963 games played, or 14 percent, were decided in a shootout. In addition, 40 percent of the games that went past regulation were decided in a shootout.
Even if those numbers were lower, the shootout would still be a problem for the NHL because it cheapens the game. The analogy that likens the shootout to ending a basketball game with a free-throw shooting contest has become cliche at this point, but it's an accurate description of what goes on at the end of far too many NHL games.
"I think what the challenge is to maybe not have as many shootouts," said Colin Campbell, NHL executive vice president and director of hockey operations. "A lot of people in the game would rather see the game decided (not) in a skills contest.
Before the shootout is wiped out entirely, however, the league would likely make a change to the OT format first. Perhaps to something that would create more scoring opportunities in overtime, like moving from the current 4-on-4 format to 3-on-3 or adding an additional five minutes to the extra session.
In Boca, the GMs have discussed doing something much simpler like requiring teams to switch ends of the ice before the start of OT, bringing longer line changes into play.
"Potentially just changing ends may alleviate some of the issues that we have," St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. "Shootouts are a great part of our game, the fans love it, but if we can see games end in the 65 or 66 minutes, it might be a better way for a competitive balance."
Even a small alteration like having teams switch sides before OT are not expected to be agreed upon this week in Florida, but it seems like a decent bet that some sort of change will come over the next few seasons.
When change does come, it won't be the first time the NHL has opted to lessen the impact of the shootout. Prior to the 2010-11 season, the league's Board of Governors altered the rules concerning postseason tiebreakers, creating the category in the standings known as ROW (the total number of regulation plus OT wins).
The fact that only regulation and OT wins count toward the tiebreaker while victories gained in the shootout are subtracted from the overall total is telling. If the league doesn't think shootout wins are good enough to factor into determining a playoff spot, then why not get rid of it all together? The rule switch seemed to signal the beginning of the end of the shootout, but sometimes change takes longer than expected.
Even if the league eventually scraps the shootout, some of the changes being discussed to increase OT scoring still would be welcome. After all, ties are hardly a perfect solution to the NHL's standings dilemma and trying to lessen the number of games ending in a deadlocks would be wise.
There will come a time when the NHL admits its shootout mistake and gets rid of the ill-advised experiment once and for all. Unfortunately, the time and place for that to actually happen doesn't appear to be this week in Boca.
PEVERLEY OK AFTER HEALTH SCARE
It made for a frightening scene Monday night in Dallas when Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench, but, fortunately, the medical emergency did not turn out to be life-threatening.
After finishing a shift early in the first period of Monday's home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Peverley collapsed while sitting on the bench.
While players from both teams frantically waved for medical personnel to assist the nine-year veteran, one couldn't help but think of former Detroit Red Wing Jiri Fischer and a similar incident involving him during the 2005-06 season. Just like that situation on Nov. 21, 2005, the medics thankfully did their duty and once again potentially saved a life.
Fischer was revived through CPR and the use of a defibrillator, but never played again in the NHL. Similar means were used to aid Peverley on Monday, but hopefully he'll be able to return to NHL game action at some point.
Peverley, who had a procedure performed during the preseason to correct an irregular heartbeat, was able to regain consciousness at the arena before being taken to a local hospital.
"We successfully treated him for a cardiac event with standard therapy," Dr. Gil Salazar of UT Southwestern Emergency Medicine said. "We provided oxygen for him. We started an IV. We did chest compressions on him and defibrillated him, provided some electricity to bring a rhythm back to his heart, and that was successful with one attempt, which is very reassuring.
"As soon as we treated him, he regained consciousness. He was alert and talking to us after the event and quickly got transported to the hospital. I was actually able to talk to him in the back of the ambulance; he was able to tell me where he was and wanted to get back into the game."
The game, which Columbus was leading 1-0 with 13:37 left in the first period, was delayed at first and eventually postponed. A makeup date has yet to be determined.
Stars GM Jim Nill released a statement on Tuesday, saying Peverley was "resting comfortably" at UT Southwestern. He is under observation as doctors try to determine what triggered the "cardiac event."
"The focus of all the testing and monitoring is being dedicated to finding the cause of the event and a long-term solution to rectify the problem," the statement read.
Fischer skated as part of a Red Wings alumni team at the festivities for this season's Winter Classic. Hopefully, the 31-year-old Peverley gets to make his return to the ice in much quicker fashion.