Tiebreaker change targets shootout

It looks like the shootout has become a target around the NHL these days, and in a first step the league is going to make a shootout win a little less than important than it used to be. It will still be worth two points, but it won't help teams when it comes to that first tiebreaker in the standings.

E.J. Hradek of ESPN The Magazine broke the news of what's coming:

The league will change its regular-season tiebreaking system for 2010-11, an NHL source told ESPN.

The first tiebreaker will be a combination of regulation time and overtime victories, with shootout wins excluded. In the past, the first tiebreaker had been total wins of any kind.

So, a shootout win isn't a win if two teams are tied in points. Only regulation and overtime wins will count in those scenarios. The standings become a little more complicated - and time will tell how the league will present them - but more value is given to games decided by players in a team situation.

The tiebreaker change is another sign that there is a growing sentiment that too many games get settled in the shootout and that gives the postgame skills competition too much influence on how things shake out in the regular season.

That was evident in last week's NHL Research and Development Camp, where the league tested several scenarios for settling games in overtime. Those scenarios included reducing the number of players over a longer overtime and having the teams switch sides to create the long line change, which can create more mistakes and more scoring chances.

The switching sides to get the long line change seemed to go over well among several people, including former Stars coach Ken Hitchcock.

"You're going to get tired guys on the ice and a little mistake ends up being a big mistake," Hitchcock told NHL.com. "I feel that 4-on-4 (overtime) now is just a stall to get to the shootout where there is more strategy and more control, and I think we've got to look at allowing the players as a team to decide the game rather than two or three individuals."

I like the teams changing sides and creating the long line change. It's a simple and subtle move that could help settle more games in OT.

Time will tell if changes will be made to OT to cut down on the number of shootouts. For now, though, there's going to be a change in the tiebreakers and the goal is to lessen the impact of winning games in shootouts. It won't come into play a lot, but there are a few ties in the standings at end of the season. The new rule could play a role in playoff seeding, who gets in the playoffs or draft position. It's a significant change.