NHL Column: The loser point

Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux, right, scores past Boston Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin during overtime to win an NHL hockey game Sunday, April 1, 2018 in Philadelphia. The Flyers won 4-3. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux, right, scores past Boston Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin during overtime to win an NHL hockey game Sunday, April 1, 2018 in Philadelphia. The Flyers won 4-3. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

One of the worst feelings in hockey is when you see the opposing team find the back of the net for an overtime crusher. My heart drops at the sight of these devastating goals, as they leave an awful pit in my stomach until the next game. If you watch the reactions of fans in the crowd when the road team gets a sudden death winner, you are bound to see plenty of heads drop into palms of dismay.

It is one of the most terrible feelings that a sports fan can experience, as sudden death truly epitomizes its name. This feeling of sickness, though, is what makes the joy of witnessing your team score a game-winner in overtime so great.

But despite the sour taste that an overtime loss leaves behind, teams are still rewarded with a standings point each time this occurs during the regular season. They are given compensation even though they failed to win the game.

It almost makes it seem as if an overtime loss is not that bad, or like we can forget the terrible feeling that such losses create. Teams still accumulate points and even have the opportunity to move up the standings.

Why is this so? Just because a team takes a little longer to lose does not mean they should be rewarded. By giving teams loser points, that devastating shock that comes from an overtime loss seems unwarranted.

Prior to the 1999-2000 NHL season, teams would receive two points for a win, one point for a tie, and no points for a loss of any sort. But starting that season, the league changed the point system to two points for a win, and one point for a tie or loss beyond regulation.

This change completely altered the outlook of the standings and reduced the value of winning the game.

Once the league instituted the shootout following the 2004-2005 lockout, teams started to approach each contest differently. When some games resulted in ties, teams were not guaranteed the opportunity to gain two points. But with the shootout, at least one team is fully rewarded every night.

Because of this, teams are less inclined to press aggressively during the third period of a tied game. They are more likely to sit back and accept going to overtime, knowing that they will at least get one point if they do so. This ruins the integrity of the game and decreases the quality of what would otherwise be one of the most exciting portions of the game.

Mathematically, the modern system does not add up either as some games become physically more valuable than others. On some nights, a total of three points are bestowed upon the competing teams in a game, rather than the usual two points. This skews teams’ records, as each game should yield the same total number of points.

Having three-point games makes it nearly impossible for teams to make up significant ground on other teams in the standings, diminishing the excitement of playoff races. It also misrepresents teams in the standings, as clubs with a plethora of overtime losses will appear high in the ranks despite having fewer wins than teams below them.

Two overtime losses should not be equivalent to a win, and the system should operate in a way that allots the same number of points for each game. It would make more sense to receive three points for a regulation or overtime win, two points for a shootout win, and one point for a shootout loss. Teams could still get loser points for shootout losses since they essentially replaced ties, and are not a strong representation of the game that was played. With this, shootout winners would get fewer points. This would ensure that exactly three points are given out for each game.

Putting greater emphasis on winning would restore urgency for teams to try to score before reaching the shootout and increase the quality of close games.


Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at dylan.barrett@uconn.edu.