Edmonton has one fewer win than the Vancouver Canucks but are seven points back from them in the standings. Does this make sense to anyone?

The NHL is a constantly evolving league. They are quick to
adopt rule changes, even if they radically change the way the game is played.
Sean Avery stood in front of Martin Brodeur, made faces at him while trying to screen the play, and the league made a rule change over night.
Overtime has been slower to change but the results have been
radical. We now play 3v3 in extra time because it creates scoring chances and
finishes games before the shootout.

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Oh yeah, they instituted shootouts just to kill the tie.

However, despite all those changes the NHL has been holding
onto a points system to determine seeding in the playoffs. Once upon a time the
system made some modicum of sense in sorting out where teams should stand after
wins, losses, and ties. It’s a holdover from a different time.

Keeping points around in 2015, though, is like choosing to
keep your wisdom teeth just because you were too lazy to go to the dentist… and
you’re the dentist.

The most important change to come into the NHL from the
perspective of competition was the death of the tie. There is
a winner and a loser every night. Period.

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However, when this change happened it wasn’t accompanied
by any other changes to the way they determine playoff seeding or point
accumulation. The NHL did half the job then called it a day.


The NHL is set up like all the other major North American
sports leagues so that they have eliminated the tie, except all of the other
leagues use a W/L record instead of points.

The NFL doesn’t give out extra points for OT.

The MLB doesn’t give credit for extra innings.

The NBA doesn’t hand out participation ribbons for OT

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The NHL is the only one that thinks it is somehow more
special to lose five minutes after other teams who do it in regulation time. This
is entirely arbitrary. There is nothing special about losing, whether it is in
regulation, OT, or the shootout.

All NHL games are played under the expressed understanding
that games are 5v5 until overtime, then go to 3v3, and if that fails, to a shootout. To believe in the points system is to believe that some game
states are lesser than others and extra pity points should be handed out for
having to accept a loss when it’s not “real” hockey.

Many NHL fans might believe this to be true, but surely that’s
a strange way for the NHL itself to operate. There is no need to apologize for
overtime or the shootout. Although, I guess there’s always room to do unlimited
5v5 as OT during regulation just as the MLB and NBA do not change the way their
game is played in OT.

But doesn’t the point system create a sense of parity that
keeps teams in the race for the playoffs longer?

I don’t believe the answer to that is “yes.”

Let’s look at the standings today in the wild card race.

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In the East both wild card teams have 12 wins this season.
New Jersey has exactly as many wins but are two points back from the Islanders.
Tampa is only one win out but are four points back. Columbus is only two wins back but
have eight fewer points than the Islanders.


In the West we see a similar story. Here the last wild card
team has just 11 wins on the season. Winnipeg has the same number of wins but
are two points back. Colorado is just two wins off the pace but are already seven points back from Minnesota.

Does this feel like a system where teams feel like they’re
still in races they should very much still be in? Does this feel like a system
that rewards teams for actually winning the game?

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Perhaps it is just the Canadian way to apologize for things
that don’t need apologizing for. Maybe that’s why the NHL is so quick to give
points to losers instead of rewarding teams that actually win games. I think it’s
time to put those days to rest.

The point system should be a thing of the past. Scrap the
whole thing. Don’t change it to give three points for regulation wins. Don’t tweak
it at all. Just rip it out like we do those extra caveman molars.

Losing in overtime isn’t special. Complicating a very
uncomplicated situation isn’t better. We have wins and losses every night.
There’s no reason why Team X with nine wins is seven points ahead of Team Y with eight wins. And the NHL is under no obligation to keep this silly system. All they
have to do is finish the job they started when they killed the tie.

  • Petrolero

    imagine if teams actually felt compelled to win in regulation without expecting consolation prize for playing boring defensive hockey.

    Wouldn’t that solve some of the lack of scoring that’s been complained about lately?

    No Bettman points should also lead to less injuries since teams wouldn’t bring the kitchen sink to their own end on in the last minutes of play and dive to block everything coming their way.

    The Oilers are right now only 3 or 4 wins out of the playoffs but like 10 points behind. That is just dumb.

  • Anton CP

    I like a system which was running at some soccer league before:

    3 points for regulation win

    2 points for overtime win

    1 point for shootout win

    0 points for loss

    This system will make sure the only real good teams can advance and kill off boring style of plays.

  • Serious Gord

    So much wrong and misunderstood in this column.

    All of the other leagues play overtime until a win is achieved. The NHL resorts to shootouts ultimately. The reason is simple – teams could be exhausted after several periods of scoreless overtime and then possibly have to play another game in another city less than 24 hrs later.

    And parity – iow closeness – in the standings is much greater with this system. That has been discussed and analyzed at length by many including Friedman and they all agree. And it was the intent of the league. Far more teams remain hopeful that they can make it into the playoffs far later into the season.

    The author only notes a few exceptions that really prove the general rule.

    The flip side is that it is far harder to move up the standings.

    All of that noted,

    I too think the system should be done away with. My biggest objection to the current system is that some games are worth three points whilst others are worth only two. Ridiculous on the face of it. Compounding that is the inability to know whether a time is .500 and how many games ahead or behind a team is.

    And that said I think the overtime/shootout system makes sense and does add satisfaction and excitement but should not be given as much weight as a regulation win for the reason noted above.

    The format should be as follows:

    Regulation win: 3 points
    Overtime/shootout win: 2 points
    Overtime shootout loss: 1 point
    Regulation loss: 0 points

    Thus all games are worth 3 points
    .500 status and games (regulation wins) ahead and behind can be calculated.

    The parity/closeness factor would not be as good as the current system but it also would not be as severe as an old time win/loss/tie arrangement.

  • Oilers4Ever

    With the stupid loser point a team could theoretically have zero wins all season but end up with 82 points if it took every game to OT or SO. I know a highly improbable scenario but shows the absurdity of the loser point. Bettman is a Fcuking idiot!

  • Reg Dunlop

    For everyone’s information, the NFL does have regular season ties if 15 minutes of OT fail to produce a winner.

    I think that keeping score is archaic and should be abandoned in favor of corsi.(that’s for the archeologist guy)

  • CapeBretonOilers

    The league should be played exactly like proline. No points for a tie until you make it to the shoot out. Both teams get a point then the shoot out is for the extra point only. As I said in another thread, Vancouver being so far ahead playing garbage hockey makes me sick. They lost to Calgary in the playoffs last year because they are not a good team but get rewarded for losing. I think that is why I support every NHL team except for Vancouver, and their fan base are a bunch of panzies lol What is a panzie ? I have no idea either.


  • bradleypi

    Is this what oilersnation has come too? Complaining about a rule that’s been in place for 5+ years???? How about if instead of losing the oilers maybe tried winning some games? Then they’d be in front of Vancouver. Or instead of complaining about rules and refs that are “screwing” over the oil, why doesn’t someone from the media/blogs go ask Chiarelli why he’sso content to let us faithful oiler fans suffer through another season of pain without making one single move besides stripping people of captaincies and sending huge contracts to the ahl instead of finding a way to get rid of them? Isn’t that his job to figure these things out instead of using the famous oilersnation excuse of “well that bum Mact tied his hands”…. and don’t give me the 20 game nonsense either. I knew from day 1 of this season that the oilers were gonna be bad. Isn’t it his job to know these things?!?! So sick of being in last. *facepalm*

  • bradleypi

    I’ll bet if the oilers had ever benefited from the loser point to squeak in the playoffs all these comments would never be made. It’s the rules. Live with them! And then figure a way to use them to your advantage…..just like Vancouver is doing

  • bradleypi

    All it means is that Vancouver (unfortunately) is a slightly better team than Edmonton as they are able to get games to OT (only to promptly lose them) rather than lose them in regulation.

    The actual difference between these two teams is likely less than the point difference indicates, but the location of this difference unfortunately lies right on the point determining threshold, so we are unduly punished.

    If we win games in regulation this wouldn’t be an issue, so the point is moot IMO. Win more, end of story.

    If you really want to end games in regulation, you remove the incentive of being in overtime. Win in regulation = 2 point. Tie after OT, neither team gets points. Basically seeding based on # of wins.
    All the OT point does is slow down the end of the game.

    Now, I agree that this would be a werid way to go about classifying teams from best to worst, but the transformative change to gameplay would outweigh its shortcommings. Games during the stretch run between two teams fighting for a playoff spot that are tied in the 5 minutes of the 3rd would be INSANE if a tie meant neither get any points. Games would be a sprint all the way though, instead of the endurance race between the middle of the 1st and middle of the third. If two teams are tied after regulation, they are equal. All those extra points do is distinguish them from the teams they are not playing, which doesn’t make sense.

  • passenger

    Vancouver is sitting out of a playoff spot. All these loser points are getting them is a worse draft pick. I’m sure that their fans are happy about this on their quest for another President’s Trophy, but here in Edmonton we know that losing in regulation will get you closer to your goal.