Giving thanks for shootouts, shields and The Great One

Of all the holidays out there, Thanksgiving is my favorite.

Compared to Christmas and Valentine's Day, the crass commercialism involved is at a relative low; it's usually the last multi-day break you get before heavy snowfall turns the grand majority of drivers everywhere into even bigger twits than they are when the weather is ideal; and turkey is the dietary staple it should be every day.

Best of all, Thanksgiving is a concept that extends beyond societal and religious bounds. Everybody has something they can be grateful for, and that's a wonderful unifier.

Despite the numerous issues it still must overcome, the NHL also has its fair share of things for which to be thankful. Or at least, things I'm thankful for. Here are five:

The shootout
We're well into our third season of deciding ties after one period of overtime, and the most important people in the game -- the fans -- can't get enough of it.

Of course, there are always dissenters. One of them, Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice, is one of the nicer guys you'll run into in NHL circles. But he's still suffering from an acute case of Conservative Hockey Philosophy. Get a load of this not-so-subtle dig:

"The shootout will always be a novelty in our game," Maurice said recently.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. This game needs some novelty, Paul. It also needs a practical, guaranteed manner by which to finish games during the regular season. (No, unlimited overtime doesn't count, and yes, ties still stink.) And it needs as many aspects of the game to show up on highlight reels across the continent as possible.

The shootout delivers on every one of those counts. Novelty, schmovelty.

Continued good health for Saku Koivu, Phil Kessel, Mario Lemieux, Jiri Fischer and Jason Blake
Just because we don't hear many or any updates about the day-to-day well-being of these guys, doesn't mean we aren't still concerned for their long-term health.

Here's to many more years of having all of them happy and enjoying their post-playing days.

Rejuvenated Original Six franchises in Boston and Chicago
Whether it's the impact of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in the Windy City, or The Claude Julien Effect in Beantown, there's no denying the improved state of two of the NHL's most important teams.

The good news continued this week with the Blackhawks' announcement of John McDonough as the team's new president. McDonough already has experience at the top, through his work with Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs and, more importantly, he's a longtime marketing expert. No team needs a man of his caliber than the one that just hired him.

I've always said I'd be happy to write positive stories about the Bruins and Hawks. And I am. Should they actually manage to win a playoff game or two this spring, all the better.

The shield as the law
Rumors abound that, under the leadership of new executive director Paul Kelly, the NHLPA will soon move to grandfather in mandatory visors for all of its members.

Hallelujah for that. We've already had another few instances of serious eye injuries this season, as well as the inevitable "I almost lost my sight, but now that I've been sufficiently frightened, I'll definitely wear a half-shield the rest of my career" story (this time, Vancouver's Sami Salo was the subject).

Decades from now, NHLers will look at the pre-visor era and wonder why workplace safety ever was sacrificed in the name of personal preference. They may or may not agree with the union's move, but least they'll be able to look back at it using both eyes.

The Coyotes playing well enough to keep Wayne Gretzky coaching
They won't soon be mistaken for the Senators or Red Wings in the near future, but Phoenix has a sufficiently decent season, including an astounding 6-3-0 road record, to keep the vultures away from The Great One's career behind the bench.

And now that Ilya Bryzgalov is in town to help boost their goals-allowed average, even better days seem to be ahead for Gretzky and his desert dogs.

Adam Proteau's "Screen Shots" appears every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Want to take a shot at Adam Proteau? You can reach him at aproteau@thehockeynews.com or through out Ask Adam feature. And be sure to check out Proteau's Blog for daily insight on the world of hockey.

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