It’s time for the National Hockey League to get rid of the loser point.
While it may help to keep lousy teams “above .500” and helps to tighten up the standings so more teams have a shot at a playoff berth, the loser point given to a team that loses a game in either overtime or a shootout is an abomination.
Fans of the Calgary Flames, for instance, think their team is performing decently because it had won five more games than it had lost in regulation time.
Twelve other losses, however, came in overtime or a shootout, and the Flames benefitted with 12 extra points, tied with Dallas for most in the league.
Those extra points are loser points.
Or maybe it’s a bonus point. Supporters of the current system say that if 60 minutes of hockey winds up a tie, each team legitimately earns one point, just like it was in the old days before the three-point games came into effect for the 1999-2000 season.
An overtime or shootout win then awards an additional point.
Let’s examine the Flames situation a little closer. As of Feb. 26, the Flames had 27 regulation-time victories and 20 losses. They also had 12 OT or shootout losses, giving them 63 points and a third-place standing in the Western Conference’s wildcard race, two points out of a playoff spot behind wild-card leaders Edmonton and Minnesota.
In essence, though, the Flames had won 27 games and lost 32 and with a record like that, coach Darryl Sutter would be expecting to be fired. But the standings show the Flames have a .559 winning percentage thanks to their league-leading loser point total.
The loser-point system is also an excitement killer and people who run the league should be concerned about that. The last half of third periods of tie games often turn into kitty-bar-the-door snoozefests as teams look forward to getting at least one point and then a chance for a second point in the carnival games they play after 60 minutes.
The NHL is the only professional sports league with such a system. A better setup would be to award three points for a regulation-time win; two points for an overtime win, one point for an overtime loss, and zero points for a 60-minute defeat.
At least that would require teams to go all out in the dying minutes for a win in regulation.
Overall, the loser point offers teams a false sense of success. Fans may be happy with their team’s 30-26-12 record, but a general manager needs no reminder that his team has lost eight more games than it has won.
Loser points are for losers.
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by Bruce Penton