The Edmonton Oilers: shooting for shootouts?
Here's an article, a couple of weeks old, from hockey author Jeff Z. Klein on the prevalence of regulation ties in the NHL.
Klein notes that since there is now an incentive to proceed to overtime – the teams split there points between them instead of two – teams are playing for the tie. Specifically, the Edmonton Oilers, who had 13 ties in their first 35 games – a huge number. Klein argues that the Oilers are even playing for the tie in overtime, hoping to proceed to the shootout, where they are 10-2. He says that none of the 13 ties was broken in overtime – the equivalent of 65 minutes of 0-0 hockey. (However, the Oilers did indeed lose in overtime on December 10.)
Since the article was published, the Oilers have three more ties in nine more games. Two ended with a sudden death goal, one in a shootout.
So in 46 games, the Oilers have 16 ties. They are 1-2 in OT, and 10-3 in shootouts.
Klein suggests removing the incentive by awarding three points for a regulation win, instead of two. But he quotes Anaheim's Brian Burke as calling that a "terrible idea."
“If something ain’t broke,” [Burke] said, “there’s no reason to try and fix it.”
But it seems to me that when teams are deliberately trying not to score because of incentives the league has offered them, something is definitely broke. And people are starting to talk about the problem. I'd be surprised if the NHL doesn't change the system sometime over the next few years.
P.S. My previous study on regulation ties is described here.