Friday, October 11, 2013

Fix the NHL: Kill the Loser Point

Evengi Malkin comes up when you Google image search "NHL loser." As an extremely fair-weather Capitals fan, Google knows what's up.
Brendan: As you may or may not know, when an NHL game goes to overtime, both teams are guaranteed to leave with 1 point. To briefly recap the overall scoring structure just in case: 2 points for a win in regulation or overtime/shootout, 1 point for a loss in overtime/shootout, and 0 points for a loss in regulation. It basically goes without saying that this needs to be fixed because teams noticeably take their foot off the gas at the end of regulation to take tie games to overtime, but I only see this as an issue because I hate the way the current overtime is constructed. But taking away the point for an overtime loss is such a minor level of difficulty to change that it’s hard to argue against it, other than addressing the fact that the impact on the game is largely zero. Sure, point records have been skewed since ties were taken away and the OT/Shootout formula was introduced in 2005, but is there any single human being on earth that really cares about end of season point totals for teams?

Patrick: Do points not have a bearing on playoffs/seeding? If not, then stop counting points. Period. That's an additional hurdle to interacting with and understanding the game. If they do, I'm having difficulty finding a way to reward a team for playing well enough to win but falling short on a coin flip in OT/shootout without creating incentive to play for a tie. IIRC, some reader suggested that all games are worth a specific number of points (3 or 4) and how the game is decided determines how those points are split, with there being a reward for making it to OT but still making a win in OT worth less than regulation. That's nice and I like it in theory, but I'm concerned that late in the season, there will be a "Well, we only need two points to win the conference, we don't have to go all out in regulation" scenario, which would be rare but possible and therefore unacceptable. But since I don't know exactly how points work, I don't know the answer to this one. I'd probably go with "A win is a win and a loss is a loss." 2 for one team, 0 for the other.

Is this easily instituted at lower levels? Yeah, it's just changing the off-the-ice math.

We AGREE. Ish.

Observational Studies co-founders Brendan Porto and Patrick Dougherty are debating the merits of the most popular ideas proposed to improve the NHL. The rules for improvements are laid out here. Send us your own ideas to fix the NHL and we'll share our commentary on a new post.

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