We NHL fans all know one universal truth; not all games are created equal. That’s been the case since the NHL declared a war on ties in 1999 and brought in the dreaded loser point. Overtimes in the 90′s began to become brutal to watch as often the case was you had two teams taking no chances, playing not to lose as to ensure they would get at least one point for the tie. Combine that with the trap and overall slow pace of the dead-puck era, and there was no incentive to watching the overtime period. In an effort to combat this, the NHL decided to award one point to a team that lost in overtime, the logic behind this was simple, if teams were guaranteed one point, they’d have nothing to risk by opening up and going for the win.
Fast forward to the 05-06 NHL season, the NHL had just returned from a cancelled season with a brand new CBA, new rules to speed up the game, and brought in the shoot-out to finally kill off the dreaded tie, the loser point of course would be no more, right? After all, with ties no longer being a possible outcome, the incentive needed to reduce ties was also obsolete. Somehow the geniuses at the NHL glossed over this fact, and we now have the absurd reality that some games are worth more points than others, for absolutely no good reason.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever met a supporter of the loser point. I’ve never been a fan of it, but I figured it couldn’t effect the standings that much, could it? After watching the Oilers/Jets game on Monday night, I took a look at the standings to see how things were shaping up in the southeast division race (aka, the only way a SE division team makes the playoffs.) The biggest thing that jumped out at me was the fact that Florida and Winnipeg were leading Washington, despite having fewer wins. (The difference in regulation and overtime wins combined was even greater.) I tabled league wide standings in an excel spreadsheet to figure out how many points each team would have in the pre 1999 system. So each teams wins in regulation and overtime still tabled two points, no teams got a point for an overtime loss, and each team gets one point for each shootout win and loss (as those results would have been ties.)
Here’s how the league standings currently look as of completion of Wednesday night’s games:
And here’s how they would look pre 1999:
We can immediately see that’s it’s having an effect on the President’s Trophy race, and draft lottery positioning, the fact that it has any true effect on the standings is unacceptable. While winning the actual President’s Trophy might not be a big deal to teams, the simple fact of the matter is that is home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. As it stands, right now after playing the same amount of games, St. Louis loses out on home ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs because Vancouver has one more loss in the shootout that St. Louis does. The Rangers should have the lead league in standings, although they still do have three games in hand on the Canucks.
The Islanders also should be looking at the second overall draft pick and bigger odds to big first overall than they currently have. While Columbus is just pretty pathetic no matter what system you look at.
But back to the Southeast Division, on top are the current standings, followed by what it would look like pre 1999:
Instead of leading the SouthEast division by 3 points with Florida trailing with a game in hand, the Capitals are currently sitting in 8th place; 3 points behind the Panthers, who hold that game up on them. And as of the time I’m writing this article the Jets are currently ahead of the Panthers after two periods, and if they hold on to win, will pass Washington for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. There is a very good chance that loser points will cost the Capitals home-ice advantage, and a smaller chance that it might even cause them to miss the playoffs all-together.
The very optics of having some games worth two points and others worth three looked bush-league enough, but when they effect home-ice advantage and might even well cost a team millions of dollars in revenue from missed playoff games, that goes beyond bush-league. It’s completely fraudulent and casts a large shadow on the integrity of the league.
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