Gary Bettman answers a question about integrity with a gesture. Photo courtesy cbc.ca

On Pity Points, Shootouts, And Ties

I love this game.

I love just about everything it entails.  I love the sound of skates cutting into a fresh coat of ice.  I love the sound when a stick makes contact with vulcanized rubber.  I even love the smell of vulcanized rubber.  The game is art.  The ice is the canvas.  Needless to say, I’m ready for training camp to open.

With all of this love in the room, we’ve got to make a little room for hate.

Overtime. Let’s talk about it.

The modern incarnation of overtime was introduced to the NHL in 1983. The formula was simple – whenever two teams both had the same amount of goals scored at the conclusion of sixty minutes of play, a five minute overtime period was played.
Should a goal be scored in overtime, the game was over. Two points in the standings go to the victor, none to the defeated.

Should the teams remain tied at the end of the overtime stanza, some crazy gimmick would be implemented in order to get casual fans of the game to watch it more the two points would be split – one point for each team.  And for about sixteen years, it worked pretty well.

Over the last ten years you’ve seen this format change – and not for the better.  In 1999, the overtime loss rule was introduced to the NHL.  Should the game be decided in the five minute extra period, the winner would collect two points while the defeated would now receive one point.  The idea was that a more entertaining flavour of hockey would be played if both teams knew they’d skate away with at least one point.  And, it’s wrecked havoc on the standings.

Remember the lockout of 2004-05?  Yeah?  Good times.  In 2005, another blisteringly amazing idea was introduced into the NHL’s overtime format – the shootout.  And while shootouts are very entertaining themselves, they should in no way be a means to an end of an NHL contest.

Let’s recap – a game goes into overtime, and regardless of the conclusion we’ll have  THREE GUARANTEED POINTS getting put in the standings.  If Ottawa is playing San Jose, it may appear to be no big deal, but when teams are playing the teams in their respective division six times a year, you can see where these ‘extra points’ can dilute the standings.

Let’s hop back into the Delorean for a quick recap of the Eastern Conference 2009-10 standings.

Stats from NHL.com

Atlantic GP W L OT Pts GF GA DIFF Home Away L10 Streak
82 48 27 7 103 222 191 +31 27-10-4 21-17-3 5-2-3 Won 2
82 47 28 7 101 257 237 +20 25-12-4 22-16-3 5-4-1 Won 1
82 41 35 6 88 236 225 +11 24-14-3 17-21-3 4-5-1 Won 1
82 38 33 11 87 222 218 +4 18-17-6 20-16-5 7-1-2
82 34 37 11 79 222 264 -42 23-14-4 11-23-7 5-4-1
Northeast GP W L OT Pts GF GA DIFF Home Away L10 Streak
82 45 27 10 100 235 207 +28 25-10-6 20-17-4 5-5-0 Lost 1
82 44 32 6 94 225 238 -13 26-11-4 18-21-2 7-2-1 Lost 1
82 39 30 13 91 206 200 +6 18-17-6 21-13-7 6-3-1 Won 3
82 39 33 10 88 217 223 -6 20-16-5 19-17-5 3-4-3
82 30 38 14 74 214 267 -53 18-17-6 12-21-8 4-4-2 Won 1
Southeast GP W L OT Pts GF GA DIFF Home Away L10 Streak
82 54 15 13 121 318 233 +85 30-5-6 24-10-7 6-1-3
82 35 34 13 83 234 256 -22 19-16-6 16-18-7 3-5-2 Won 1
82 35 37 10 80 230 256 -26 21-17-3 14-20-7 5-3-2 Lost 1
82 34 36 12 80 217 260 -43 21-14-6 13-22-6 6-4-0 Won 3
82 32 37 13 77 208 244 -36 16-16-9 16-21-4 2-6-2 Lost 1

There are a few problems with this system, but I’ll leave you with two real big ones.

* The Stanley Cup runners-up got into the playoffs on a shootout victory. Should the game have ended in a tie and both teams split a point, Philadelphia would still have gotten in based on more total victories in the season. But could you imagine if the Rangers got in on a shootout victory? Philly would have ended with 87 points, and the Rangers would’ve gotten in with 88. On a shootout.
* 50% more points are GUARANTEED to be distributed in a game that goes into overtime. If you add up all the overtime or shootout loss occurrences in the East, you come up with 95 frivolous points being redistributed in the NHL because someone’s got to win.

Anybody else got a problem with that?

If you can provide me a compelling reason as to why overtime losses and shootout losses have any place in the standings, I’m all ears.

Get rid of frivolous points. Bring back ties. Bring integrity back to the standings.

Tags: NHL

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