In every sport, there are certain rules/aspects of the game that fans would often like to see changed/eliminated. For instance, in the NFL, most fans would like to see the overtime rules changed, and would like to see a cutdown in the amount of penalties called. In MLB, some fans would like to see more instant replay. In the NBA, most fans would like to see a season (bazinga!). In the NHL, players, coaches, and some fans would like to see the shootout eliminated.
Let me start out by saying that I do not like the shootout - it is a melodramatic skills competition. However, I do not believe that NHL will do away with it anytime soon.
Here are my reasons:
1) Lack of "common fans" - The NHL tends to have the most passionate fans. This is not a problem, per say, but given that, from a tv viewership and overall popularity standpoint, the NHL fails to draw in "common fans" during the regular season. What better way to do this than by adding a gimmick? Heck, P.T. Barnum did it when he added the sideshows to his circus to raise attendance - so why shouldn't Gary Bettman do the same?
2) The shootout is exciting - Please comment if this is not a factual statement, but I do not believe that anyone on this site can truthfully say that, when they are watching the shootout, they are not glued to every shot. Now, once the event is over, one may sit there and think "we won/lost the skills competition, not the game". This is perfectly acceptable but, the NHL is proving why they should keep the shootout when 18,000 fans are cheering their favorite team on during the event.
3) It promotes what the NHL is trying to sell - In the post-lockout NHL, the league has emphasized the 3 S's - speed, skill, and scoring. The shootout captures all of this.
4) It is not an archaic concept - The shootout has been used in soccer for decades, and though many purists decry the event in both sports, it is an old-school, childhood-memory-inducing event. For me personally, I always enjoyed street shootouts when I was younger as I tried to emulate the moves of the NHL's best.
5) TV time - This is not an insult to the team, but any Devils fan knows that they tend to see the same advertisements multiple times during a broadcast. Lengthening the game (eliminating the shootout and adding four on four continuous ot, or 3 on 3, etc.) means teams would need to find a way to attract more sponsors. The fact that we see the same ads a couple of times during the game means two things: a) there are not enough sponsors b) the price for "air-time" is too high to attract sponsors. Assuming both are at least somewhat true, this means the Devils would need to lower "air-time" prices to find more advertisers. Good luck getting them to do that!
6) 3 on 3 is as silly as the shootout - For a hockey purist, this is a true statement. Though one is still playing "hockey" (as opposed to the shootout), you are trying to "force" someone to score by warping the game.
I hope you enjoyed a quick analysis of why the shootout is here to stay. Hopefully at this time the NHL would have proved me wrong and instituted my personal favorite of all the choices, the continuous 4 on 4 ot.
Thanks for reading!