NHL shouldn’t award points to losers

John Becker

Ever since the NHL adopted the shootout after the 2004-2005 lockout, effectively ending the tie game, there has been the questioning of the points system. Currently, any team that wins a game earns two points for the victory. Losing teams earn zero points for a loss at the end of regulation game, but they earn one point for a loss in overtime or in the shootout. Losers who lose after regulation basically earn half of a win.

On Sept. 14, 2010 the NHL Board of Governors decided to exclude the counting of points earned by shootout losses for the standings, so while a team may have more points, it may not actually be ahead in the overall season standings. For the 2010-2011 season, if two teams have the same amount of wins, points earned by shootout losses won’t count to determine who is ahead in the standings. It was a good decision because the shootout is popular and could help to garner more fans, which the league needs.

The diminished value of the shootout allows it to remain an exciting part of hockey while not really counting in the scope of an entire season, but there’s another issue: losing in overtime still earns teams one point in the standings, whereas wins count for two points. It seems a bit unfair that losers get half of a win, especially one that still counts in the standings.

The standings decide the order of not only the playoff berths, but also the NHL Entry Draft order and the waiver-claim priorities during the season. Any NHL player with a one-way contract who is going to be sent to the minors must go through the waiver-claim process where each team in the league has the opportunity to claim the player for their own roster.

The NHL currently has an 82-game schedule. During the 2009-2010 regular season, the Edmonton Oilers had the worst win/loss record at 27-47-8. They earned 62 points and were far behind the nearest competitor, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had 74 points.

However, if the Oilers had lost every game in overtime (27-0-55) they would have earned 54 points for wins and 55 points for the OT losses, for a grand total of 109 points. This would have put them at fourth in the entire NHL in points, and gotten them into the playoffs with ease. The odds of all season games going beyond regulation are slim, but 24.7 percent of all games last season went beyond regulation. This percentage is also up from previous seasons where 22.9 and 22.1 percent of games respectively went beyond regulation.

Rewarding teams for an overtime loss will probably never be revoked, but there is one way to diminish the power of points for the losing team; the three-point system.

Using the three-point system and the scenario that the Oilers had 55 OT losses, they would earn 136 points (out of a new possible 246) and end up 14th in the adjusted standings.

Awarding three points for a win might open the gap of how behind all of the losing teams are, but it would help close the possibility of a terrible team earning a spot they don’t deserve.

I’m all for the shootout, as long as the league uses them only for the regular season (the league rules call for continuous overtime during the playoffs). This is America, and we don’t like to see a tie. The shootout may negate an entire game by its own design, but continuous overtime is too encumbering when the offense is cold or the goalies are hot. The NHL Board of Governors did well to exclude the shootout, now the league needs change to a three-point system to make sure that the winners are properly rewarded instead and diminish the power of the OT loser’s point.