There have been discussions for years regarding potential changes to the NHL's current overtime format, which is of course five straight minutes of four-on-four play followed by a shootout. With the general randomness of the shootout (and with the concept of a glorified skills competition having an honest-to-goodness impact in the playoff race hanging over the league's head), there has been a lot of talk about cutting the number of shootouts down as much as possible without actually getting rid of the shootout entirely.
A change seemed likely to come this summer, one which would likely incorporate some form of three-on-three overtime, and we now have the news from TSN's Bob McKenzie that the league plans on making a shift to an entire five-minute 3-on-3 period in regular season games.
Pending B of G approval, NHL will go to 3-on-3 overtime for 5 minutes in regular season games next season.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 24, 2015
For those asking, no 4-on-4 OT at all. Right to 3-on-3. 5 minutes sudden death. No goal, it goes to shootout.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 24, 2015
This rule, assuming it is in fact approved by the Board of Governors, will of course only apply in the regular season. Postseason overtime will remain unchanged.
The other alternative that had been proposed was the plan the AHL used this past year, which was a seven-minute overtime period that was roughly split between 4-on-4 play and 3-on-3 play. While that method was successful in cutting down the number of shootouts, it sounds like it was one the players were not on board with.
NHLPA was adamantly opposed to AHL-tested model (4 mins of 4 on 4 and 3 mins of 3 on 3) so NHL choice was no change at all or 3 on 3 for 5.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 24, 2015
Surely, if you're a Flyers fan reading this, you're very excited. The Flyers have been, by a not-small margin, the league's worst shootout team since its ill-fated inception following the full-season lockout. Any plan that ends in fewer shootouts is going to be well-received by Flyers fans, and five minutes of wide-open, high-flying three-on-three hockey is going to lead to more goals in overtime.
Travis discussed the possibilities as they pertain to the Flyers' lineup earlier this year:
Unit 1: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds. Gas pedal.
Unit 2 is a little less obvious in my mind, but you could throw an offensively-minded defenseman out there like Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto -- or, since this is next year, maybe Shayne Gostisbehere. Then you can mix it up with Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, Michael Raffl, maybe Sean Couturier, maybe Nick Cousins if he's around. I don't know. There are options.
There are a lot of possibilities, and who knows what Dave Hakstol's overtime lineup choices will be. But assuming these changes go through, Flyers fans should find themselves enjoying overtime much more than they have in recent years this season.
McKenzie also noted that 3-on-3 play could carry over to All-Star Weekend.
Speaking of 3on3, NHL may consider - nothing firm yet by any means - re-formatted NHL All-Star Game that could be multi-team 3-on-3 tourney.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 24, 2015
The All-Star game is already a wide-open game that has no regard for defense, so hey, this would be fun, I think?
And, in other long-discussed rule-change news, some more changes may be coming:
Coaches' challenge on goalie interference/offside goals - with on ice officials reviewing own work at p box monitor - coming, pending B of G— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 24, 2015