Fixes To Three-On-Three NHL Overtime Should Not Be This Hard

When the NHL decided to bring in three-on-three NHL overtime, the idea was to try to create more scoring and not have as many games decided in the shootout.

The concept was pretty brilliant, to be honest. Fans were getting tired of games being decided in the skills competition. Early on teams did not switch sides, but numbers showed more goals were being scored in the second period. In 2014-15 the switch was added to four-on-four OT, and in 2015-16 three-on-three was implemented.

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Like the second period and the fourth period of playoff overtime, the teams would switch sides. The idea was that another period of the long change, would open up the game and allow for more scoring chances. Maybe even more odd-man rushes. And the numbers started to back that up.

However, teams, mostly coaches started to figure three-on-three NHL overtime out. It is a concept as old as the game. If one team has the puck, the other team can’t score. Thus we have seen the five-minute high-octane session go to snail crawl because of the circling back and resetting of the puck by teams.

And to be fair, that is the name of the game. It may not be the most entertaining, but teams understand the importance of holding onto the puck and not getting caught changing their players.

It is a concept you see a lot in roller hockey. And a lot of these NHLers come from the roller hockey world, so they understand how important puck possession is.

But the problem is, there is too much circling back in resetting if the players do not like what the opponents are giving them. That is why at the informal GMs meeting earlier this week in Toronto, three-on-three overtime was a topic of conversation. Mainly the circling back and resetting of the play.

The NHL likes the format but does not like what it has become. Thus they are trying to add more wrinkles to this format. However, those trying to make it better might be overcomplicated just a little bit.

As Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet stated on Wednesday on NHL Network Radio, the general managers are looking to solve the problem of circling back and make overtime fun again.

“Well, what I, what basically was asked yesterday was that you know, is it as exciting as it was when it started three-on-three and if not, what can we do about it and the concerns are about regrouping,” Friedman told Sirius XM NHL Network Radio. “You know, the team gets the puck, maybe they get some chances, they gain the blue line, then they go back and they allow everybody to change and, you know, it kills about 30 seconds and all the momentum has been done. And I think number one, they were asking, do you think this is a problem? And number two, if you do what can we do about it?

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The question then becomes how to make it fun again. As Friedman stated there is talk of possibly going to the teams and getting suggestions from them for the March meetings or adding a possession or shot clock.

“So, Scott, I think what they’re going to do is they’re going to go back to their teams and their coaches their players, and just ask, you know, what ideas do you have?” Friedman continued on Sirius XM NHL Network Radio. “What do you think about it? And so we’ll see what comes out of it by in a few months now.

You know, one of the things they said was they liked the format, they weren’t talking about increasing it to 10 minutes or anything like that, but they were talking about you know, again, ideas on what can happen now. I was thinking about it, and if you really want to make it so that if you gain the blue line, you don’t go backwards, you could make it a penalty, but I’m not convinced that they’re gonna want to go that far. And also, I know they don’t want any more whistles. So I wonder if you know like a shot clock or something like that, or possession clock becomes part of this and overtime. Anyway, we’ll see where it goes over the next few months.”

Again, making things more complicated than they need to be. While the NHL and NHLPA would have to collectively bargain adding an additional five minutes to overtime, which makes the most sense, the one thing everyone can agree on is no more whistles.

The idea of a penalty of crossing back over the red line, or a whistle comes and that team loses possession just slows the game down. You could also have a floating blue line, but that gets complicated.

Outside of increasing to ten minutes, the simplest answer is to make it a true period. Most goals were scored in five minutes. No whistles, no faceoffs and at the end of it the team with the most goals in that period wins. It takes the All-Star format and brings it took the regular season.

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Once a goal is scored by Team A, Team B, takes the puck out of their net and tries to score. There would definitely be a winner. And if there is not then call the game a tie and move on. No more shootouts. Overtime then becomes a skills game.

Again we will see, because you know the point structure is not getting changed, which would give teams more incentives to win in regulation or overtime, especially if it was 3-2-1 like International hockey.

Again nothing will come from of three-on-three NHL overtime until the general managers in March. Again even if they decide on a change, those changes do not go into effect until next year.

For now, the fans have what they have when it comes to three-on-three NHL overtime, but the fix does not have to be this complicated. Keep things simple. It is the best way.