Indulge me for a moment...
There has been some shoot-out debate in Toronto today (yes, largely because the Leafs are awful at them). The consensus is that the breakaway contest doesn't belong in the game, it's wrong to have it decide playoff teams, etc., etc., etc.
One thing I've never heard suggested is this. If you think that the shoot-out is entertaining--and it's clear that there are some powerful people in the NHL that do--but you think it has too much of an impact on the standings then maybe the answer is to have more shoot-outs, but have them count for less.
Keep with me for a minute...
Have a shoot-out after every game played. Immediately after the 60 minutes if there is a winner, following five minutes of overtime if the game is tied. The winner of the shoot-out doesn't get an extra point like it does now (wins are still worth two points, ties one each. I think we are all smart enough to handle the odd tie game). Instead, the shoot-out gets recorded in a separate statistical column that is only used to break ties in the standings--instead of wins, or goal differential, the first tie breaker would be shoot-out wins.
Such a set-up doesn't make the shoot-out meaningless, but it reduces its impact by eliminating the dreaded three point games. It also would keep people in the building in blow-out games. Even if the home team was losing 6-0, it could still win the shoot-out, which could be important (but usually wouldn't be).
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