Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Three Point Game in the NHL is for Losers! (2-28-09)

This is one in a series of "best of " posts that will run while I am in the hinterland of the American desert Southwest where Internet service is sporadic at best. Some are timely and some need to be taken in the context of the date of first publication. Enjoy and comment if you wish.

Why should some games in the National Hockey League be worth three points in the standing and others are worth only two? I contend that the discrepancy should be corrected. A win should be rewarded with points and losers should get zilch and try to do better next time.

Currently in the NHL, when a game is tied at the end of regulation, both teams are awarded a point in the standings. A five minute sudden death period of four on four hockey ensues and a winner gets a second point. If the game remains tied after the sudden death period, the final point is decided by a shootout. Either way, the game that was unable to be concluded in the sixty minute regulation time is worth three points instead of two in the standings.

My contention is that simply because two teams can’t settle the matter during the allotted regulation time, other teams in the title hunt should not be penalized by having their competition rewarded with an “extra” point.

A prime example of my complaint with the current situation was the Predators game against the St Louis Blues on February 21st. Neither team was capable of scoring in regulation and the Predators finally scored during the overtime period. The Blues were awarded a point in the standings without scoring a goal in the game. The fact is that they simply got beat and should not be rewarded for a dearth of offense!

When the Nashville Predators first entered the league in 1998, a very simple formula was in place that had worked well since the league’s early days. Every game was worth two points. If one team won, they got two points. If the game was tied at the end of sixty minutes and it could not be decided in a overtime period, both teams got a point and everyone went home.

The following year, the overtime rules were changed to play four on four in overtime to increase the chance of a team scoring to break the tie, which was a good idea. Unfortunately, the losing team in overtime was first awarded the despised “extra” point, thus the birth of the three point game.

Further modification of that system in 2005, after the lockout, greatly increased the number of three point games. A shootout was added after the overtime period guaranteeing that every game that went into overtime was worth three points.

This season, when the standings for the final playoff positions in both conferences change nightly, the extra point awarded to the overtime losers will have significant impact on who plays on and who goes home in April.

Through Friday’s games in the Western Conference, Vancouver is in fifth place with 70 points and Columbus is in sixth with 68. Four teams (Minnesota, Edmonton, Dallas and Anaheim) were tied for seventh place with 65 points. The Predators are in eleventh place one point back with 64 points. St Louis (62), Los Angeles (61), Phoenix (59) and Colorado (57) round out the final slots.

If the “extra” points of overtime losses were removed, you would have a completely different set of standings. Vancouver and Columbus would be tied for fifth with 62 points. There would then be a four way tie for seventh that would include Nashville, Minnesota, Edmonton, and Anaheim at 60 points. Dallas would be in eleventh with 58 points. Colorado, who is dead last currently, would move up to twelfth with 56 points. St Louis (54), Phoenix (54) and Los Angeles (52) would finish out the conference standings.

One of the league’s arguments in favor of the “extra” point is that it promotes parity and keeps more teams in the playoff hunt. The above comparison disproves that theory. Currently, the gap from fifth to tenth is five points with the Preds another point back in eleventh. Under the “old school” two point per game concept six teams would be within two points of fifth place.

The game of hockey is now, and always has been, about winning and losing. While society as a whole has become soft, rewarding mediocrity and worrying about the self esteem of five year old soccer players who lose a game, there is simply no room for that in the National Hockey League. The time has come to go back to the roots of the game and make every game worth two points!

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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