HARRIS: Time for NHL to cut ties with shootout gimmick

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) stops a shot by Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8), from Russia, in the shootout portion of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Washington. The Sabres won 2-1. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) stops a shot by Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8), from Russia, in the shootout portion of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Washington. The Sabres won 2-1. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It is a bit unsettling to be agreeing with John Tortorella on anything. “Torts” is the king of crusty, the man who led the New York Rangers team that eliminated the Capitals from the past two Stanley Cup playoffs.

But when the man is right, he’s right.

The NHL’s shootout “should be out of the league,” Torts, now the coach of the Canucks, told reporters in Vancouver as quoted by the Canadian Press. “That gimmick should be out of the league.”

The Canucks were 2-6 in shootouts this season at the time of the remarks, so maybe that had something to do with it. Likely not. Even if they’d been 8-0, Tortorella’s point would stand.

Shootouts are fun to watch. They can be exciting, they can be tense.

They’re also a gimmick and they have no place in deciding the actual outcome of a game.

Imagine if the NBA or college basketball decided one overtime was enough. Let’s just go to a free-throw shooting contest.

Or if baseball said hey, after two extra innings we’re going to turn this into Home Run Derby!

Bogus. Gimmick. Any other synonym that comes to mind.

If you’ve watched much of the Caps lately, you can’t help but think about shootouts since it seems like they’re in one every game. Their 14 shootouts thus far lead the league, and they’re 8-6 in them.

In the two previous games before Wednesday’s matchup at Pittsburgh, the Caps went to shootouts against Buffalo and then San Jose. Caps coach Adam Oates sent Eric Fehr, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom out in that order in each game. None scored. None really came close. Six cows on skates, maybe even blindfolded cows, might have come closer to scoring, actually. Poor Philipp Grubauer gets beat once and the Caps earn only one standings point while the other team gets two.

But the opinion wouldn’t change even if the Caps were perfect in shootouts, even if the great Ovechkin could actually manage to score in one of them (he has at some point, though it hasn’t happened very often lately).

They’re a gimmick. They should be out of the league.

Shootouts are relatively new. The league adopted them for the 2005-06 season, part of a way to ignite some interest in the league following a season lost to lockout. Ties used to be a part of regular-season hockey. But who wants to see a tie? Let’s figure out a way to have an actual winner, even if we have to cheapen the game!

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