Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Does the NHL have a loser point or a bonus point? Here’s why it’s not just a question of semantics

This piece is about a debate, and debates can get contentious, so let’s start with the part we can all agree on. Everything in this next paragraph is indisputably true, and no reasonable person would argue with even one word of it.

The NHL’s standings system sucks. It’s ridiculous that a professional sports league gives out more points for some games than others, especially when those points are awarded in a way that encourages teams to play it safe and keep it close instead of trying to win outright. The league says they do this to keep the playoff races closer, but the system very clearly doesn’t actually do that, and is really about inflating everyone’s records so that the GMs who vote on this stuff can look like they’re having success they haven’t earned. Maybe the system made some small amount of sense in 1999 when the league was overrun with ties, but the shootout ended that issue. Today, these extra points are dumb and awful and embarrassing, a symptom of a league that’s more interested in coddling the egos of the old boys club in charge than on delivering a product that makes sense. The best time to change the system was 17 years ago. The second-best time is right now.

Everyone nodding along? Of course you are. Now comes the contentious part.

What exactly is that extra point that the NHL gives out for some games and not others?

No really, which one is it? When a game ends in regulation, the winning team gets two points in the standings and the loser gets nothing, for a total of two. But if the game goes to overtime, it magically becomes worth three points, with the winner still getting two and the loser now getting one. But which of those three points is the extra one?

If your answer is “it doesn’t matter” then you’re wrong, and we’ll get to that. For the rest of us, there are two camps to choose from.

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