NHL watching 3-on-3 OT in the AHL closely

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Much of November’s NHL general managers meetings in Toronto is used to set up a list of topics to discuss further, and more seriously, for meetings, which take place in March in Boca Raton, FL.

One of the items surely to be discussed in the new year is 3-on-3 overtime.

The American Hockey League is currently using the format and seeing excellent results.

As of Monday, only nine of the 45 OT games have required the shootout.

“We’ve always talked about the desire to get more games decided prior to the shootout,” said Blackhawks GM, Stan Bowman. “I think it’s trending that way. We’ll see how it plays out over the whole year.

“In the American Hockey League they’ve obviously had a bigger change in their numbers, but they have a little bit different format than we do.”

Hockey insider Bob McKenzie believes the league is heading in that direction:

Ken Holland is the brains behind the 3-on-3 format. He first introduced it during the Traverse City prospects tournament. Though he admits his suggestion of a dry scrape prior to the start of overtime was a bad idea, it seems like 3-on-3 may just work.

The AHL adopted the rule prior to the start of this season. Now any game going into overtime is played 4-on-4 for the first three minutes.Then at the first whistle following the three minute mark, the teams switch to 3-on-3 for the final four minutes or until a goal is scored.

“I saw it Saturday night in Grand Rapids. I thought it was fabulous,” said the Red Wings GM.

Where did the idea come from?

“Up here I guess, “ said Holland pointing to his head. “I don’t know… there’s a lot going on (in my head). Some funny stuff. We were one of two teams that didn’t vote for shootouts in 2005. I understand that we need to bring the game to a conclusion.”

Holland’s not the only one in favor of the format.

“I’ve always liked the idea,” said Blue Jackets GM, Jarmo Kekalainen. “I loved it in Traverse City. I haven’t seen it in the AHL, but the 3-on-3 at the Traverse City tournament was awesome in my opinion.”

The league does have its share of concerns surrounding the idea of 3-on-3 overtime.

“The hardest part to that is (the AHL) is playing, 3-on-3 or not, they’re playing an extra two minutes of overtime,” said NHL Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations, Colin Campbell. “We’ve got to take that into consideration. We’re playing five (minutes) they’re playing seven now.

“We’re watching and we didn’t want to make any decisions based on a fifth of the season. Our managers would like to see games come to completion more in overtime.”

In the AHL, early reaction has been positive from both coaches and players.

“I couldn’t imagine as a fan watching the game, seeing so many (scoring) opportunities,” said Rockford IceHogs defenseman, T.J. Brennan. “It’s a good way to determine the game through action and I think it’ll be good for the league.”

Added Toronto Marlies coach, Gord Dineen: “At least its decided in play and its not just a 1-on-1 situation. It’s a team game and so 3-on-3 is certainly brings a lot more of the team aspect of it than a shootout.”

There certainly won’t be any rule change this season, but next season, it appears overtime could feature 3-on-3 action.