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)

What’s wrong with a tie? It was a perfectly acceptable result for a lot of years, as much a part of hockey as faceoffs and fisticuffs. And it isn’t like they were happening all that much.

Per the NHL release announcing the shootout, 14 percent of the NHL games in the 2003-04 season ended in ties. Is that so bad?

Going into Wednesday, the Caps had been involved in 89 shootouts since the rule was changed (it only seems like all of them have been this year). They’d won in 41 of them, good for 20th among all NHL teams. Pittsburgh, perhaps not surprisingly, is tops with 58 shootout victories in 88 tries.

As for the Caps players, they’re a mixed bag. The choices Oates made in recent games are probably his best options to start the shootout, recent results notwithstanding.

Backstrom is 6 of 12, Fehr 5 of 8. Ovechkin is the real head scratcher. He’s the reigning MVP and leads the league in goals and he’s 2 of 13 in shootouts this season (25 of 81 for his career). Mikhail Grabovski is 5 of 10 this season. Maybe Oates was saving him to be one of the extra shooters if it extended beyond the normal three shots. Brooks Laich is 2 of 2, Troy Brouwer 2 of 5, Martin Erat 1 of 2. No other Cap has a shootout goal this season.

Erat is at 32.7 percent for his career (16 of 49) with 12 game-deciding goals but he’s not much of an option since he spends most of his time as a healthy scratch in the press box, waiting to be traded (along with one of the three goalies perhaps?). Maybe the Caps should have re-signed Matt Hendricks after all. Now an Edmonton Oiler, Hendricks is 9 of 17 for his career in shootouts.

The current career leader in shootout goals, just for the trivial heck of it, is Brad Bowes of Florida with 37 (in 79 tries).

Whatever.

These aren’t decisions Oates, Tortorella or any NHL coach should have to worry about in the regular season. Take your tie, take your point and go home.

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