The early returns have been encouraging in the American League for those of you who hate shootouts. We predict there will be fewer than 10 in the AHL this season. Speaking of the AHL, how is it going to deal with all the refugee goons it gets from the NHL?
A compendium of thoughts and analysis for your Tuesday reading pleasure:
SHOOTING OUT THE SHOOTOUT: The first thing we’re going to say about this is we realize the sample size is small, so don’t get all over us for jumping to conclusions. But if the first week of play in both the NHL and American League are any indication, the answer to avoiding the shootout is longer overtime periods with 3-on-3 play and not a dry scrape and changing ends.
The NHL has had seven games go to extra time so far this season and only two of them have been decided before the shootout. The AHL, by contrast, has had six games go to extra time, but all six of them have been decided in overtime and without the need of a shootout.
Overtime in both leagues is preceded by a dry scrape and teams change ends in both leagues, giving one team the disadvantage of the long change in overtime. So that’s a wash. But the difference is this season, the AHL is playing a seven-minute overtime, which is two minutes more than the NHL, with a wrinkle. The first three minutes of the period are played 4-on-4, then the first whistle after the three-minute mark of the period is played 3-on-3.
So far it has been evenly split, with three OT games decided in the 4-on-4 format and three at 3-on-3. Coincidentally, two of the three 3-on-3 overtime goals have been scored by defensemen.
It will be interesting to see how AHL coaches deploy their players in 3-on-3 play. Of the three teams that have scored 3-on-3, two teams were using one defenseman and two forwards at the time of the goal and the other was using two defensemen and one forward. All three teams that were scored upon were using two forwards and one defenseman.
Regardless, expect there to be a lot fewer shootouts in the AHL this season than the NHL. The question is, how many? Based on the first weekend and what I’ve seen of 3-on-3 play, I’m predicting there will be fewer than 10 shootouts this season in the AHL in 1,138 games.
And if it works that well, it will only be a matter of time before the NHL adopts it. And then, voila, the shootout all but dies.
TRICKLING DOWN OF GOONS?: Speaking of the AHL, the 12-game suspension to Trevor Gillies of the Adirondack Flames on the opening night of the season could be the start of a disturbing trend in the minors.
Specifically, with the NHL seemingly phasing out goons as roster players, that likely means those guys are going to filter down to the minor leagues. With more meatheads such a Gillies populating AHL rosters, the higher likelihood you’re going to have ugly incidents such as the one perpetrated by Gillies last Friday night.
You’re probably expecting to see a video of the incident here. But you won’t, because that would simply draw more attention to a ‘player’ who has no business anywhere near a rink where young professionals are trying to develop their games. Suffice to say that Gillies, in his first and only shift of the game against the Rochester Americans, got into a fight and after getting his opponent to his knees, slammed his head into the ice.
On hand, it’s great that guys like Trevor Gillies are no longer in the NHL. Good riddance and don’t let the door hit you on the backside on the way out. But is the best idea really to put them in a league full of professional rookies where NHL teams are sending their prospects to get accustomed to the rigors of the pro game?
With any luck, the phasing out of the enforcer, if it indeed holds in the NHL at all, will trickle down the minor leagues until these guys who can do nothing but fight find themselves out of on-ice jobs altogether.
SIMON SAYS: In a move that would reek of desperation if it weren’t so inexpensive, the Boston Bruins have signed Simon Gagne to a one-year contract for $600,000, which is just $50,000 above the minimum salary.
After scoring just four goals in their first four games, the Bruins are looking for offense. Little did they know how much they gave away when they traded defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders, but that’s a conversation for another day. The Bruins need goals and for some reason they think they might be able to find them from a guy who sat out all of last season and had only five goals in 38 games during the lockout shortened season in 2012-13.
But for a team that couldn’t keep its leading goalscorer from last season and was up against the salary cap with few options at its disposal, it is a low-risk signing. If Gagne can somehow regain his form and even come close to being a 20-goal scorer this season, it will be a steal for the Bruins. If not, it’s both a miniscule salary and cap hit with no repercussions beyond this season…Just when we thought the New York Islanders were on the verge of becoming respectable, they postpone the news conference set for Tuesday to introduce their new owners because of “unavoidable business scheduling.” A business deal worth more than a half a billion dollars gets postponed because of more serious business to attend. Carry on, then.