It’s been talked about all weekend long and generating conversation everywhere this weekend. Linus Omark’s shootout goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning where he added a little spinorama twist to the start of his approach and ultimately scored on Dan Ellis to win made the Lightning very upset and got all of the talking heads to weigh in on what they think about it.
After the game, various Lightning players sounded off about how they thought Omark’s approach lacked class and was ultimately disrespectful. Hockey Night in Canada’s Hot Stove panel touched on it last night and got fascinating takes each from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Calgary Sun writer Eric Francis, and NBC’s own Mike Milbury.
LeBrun preached to see the cutdown of the shootout while Francis and Milbury each said it was great to see a “gimmick within a gimmick” put to good use. Francis spoke about how showing personality is frowned upon, a point that was spoken about beautifully by Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy today. As for taking the Lightning to task over their seemingly whiny opinions, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks pulled absolutely no punches in ripping the team and Dan Ellis in particular for voicing their complaints about Omark’s goal.
Ellis wasn’t alone among the crybaby Lightning in condemning the move, which only goes to prove that Tampa Bay lacks more than quality goaltending, it lacks a measure of class despite the presence of Steve Yzerman in the executive suite and Marty St. Louis in the room.
Our view on this is simple. Omark’s move is the exact sort of thing that the shootout was approved for. The NHL brought the shootout in to put an end to ties because teams were tanking out in games in overtime so as to not lose a point in the standings and they wanted to give the fans something entertaining in which to provide each game a winner and a loser. It all seemed like a good idea at the start until the shootout became a staid, boring skills competition in which it’s rare to see a player try something anything new and different in which to score a goal.
What Omark did, for all intents and purposes, is just get a little flashy with the skating. He didn’t try anything ridiculous directly in front of Dan Ellis in order to fake him out of his breezers and embarrass him. He just started his approach with a little something extra to get a “wow” from the home fans. If Ellis stops Omark on his attempt, Omark gets dressed down for it by head coach Tom Renney for “not taking things seriously” and Omark gets ripped in the press for flubbing his chance to win the game for his team.
Instead, Ellis failed to do his job in stopping the shot and Omark adds another highlight reel shootout goal to his résumé. Yeah, he’s done things like this before, some even more flamboyantly, in Sweden and in the minor leagues. Coming up with something creative is something the Lightning should’ve known about already. Apparently these are the sorts of things you’re supposed to stop doing when you get to the NHL. Ridiculous.
The NHL has been looking for their version of the NBA’s slam dunk for years now. Highly skilled goals on the ice don’t get the highlight replay the way vicious hits and fights do and that’s something the NHL wanted to change. The shootout was the perfect answer for that because, let’s face it, the shootout is the perfect breeding ground for instant highlight material. A one-on-one battle between shooter and goalie that puts the game on the line? It’s ideally made for creativity and gratuitous flamboyance. Instead, some old school line of thought bottles all that up because no one wants to be the guy that ruins the game for their team.
This is where that antiquated line of thought has to end and the shootout is treated like the gimmick that it is. You want to end a team game with a circus, then break out the bearded lady and the fire eaters already and let Linus Omark do all the spinoramas he wants to do. The free points given away by reaching overtime is candy enough for the teams to digest, so why not give the fans a show for all the money they plunk down on tickets, cable packages, jerseys, and other merchandise. Gimmicks beget gimmicks and Omark’s shootout goal was like a breath of fresh air in a part of the game that desperately needed it.
If the NHL wants to rope in the regular shmoe to be a fan, they’ll want more guys like Linus Omark doing insane things in the shootout, not less of them. They’ll also want to hear less complaining from other players who think that such creativity is an insult to them and the game. The only thing insulting to hockey is to hear hockey players getting upset about another player doing his job.