Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announces that starting in 2017, whenever a game is decided in extra innings, the losing team will no longer be charged with a loss. Instead, they will be credited with a half-win in the standings.
An absurd concept? Absolutely. But welcome to the National Hockey League model. As opposed to the NFL, CFL, NBA and MLB, that is exactly what happens when a hockey game goes to extra time. The loser gets a pat on the back, a hearty 'thanks for coming out' and a single point.
What if this was the case in football?
If the NFL awarded a point for losing in overtime, then it's Tampa Bay that makes the playoffs in the NFC this year instead of Detroit. Each team finished with 9-7 records with the Lions getting the last wild card spot based on the tie-breaker. But viewed through the more charitable lens of Gary Bettman, the Buccaneers would have been 9-6-1 as their week 8 loss to the Oakland Raiders came in OT.
Win for You, Half-Win for You...
No, the NHL doesn't refer to the point awarded to the losing team as a half-win like I do, nor do they describe it as a loser point, which is the popular expression with fans. Their carefully crafted spin is the victorious team gets a bonus point. Semantics aside, if you are getting half as many points as the winning team when you lose, I feel the description 'half win' is, well, on point.
One thing for certain is an overtime loss in the NHL is not viewed as an ordinary loss -- far from it -- and we know this because of the way it's uniquely categorized.
In hockey, all wins are created equal. Whether it happens in regulation time, in overtime, or in a shootout, they're all proudly lumped together under the category of win -- no questions asked.
Awkwardly and inconsistently, the same cannot be said about losses.
Lose a hockey game in overtime or a shootout and the league feels sorry for you and essentially doesn't count that as a loss. Instead, those types of setbacks get their own column in the standings way over to the right called 'overtime loss', which is code for participation ribbon.
Inequality Kills Credibility
It really is an asinine concept that some NHL games only have two points available yet randomly in some other games, there are three points up for grabs. The latter represents a 50 percent mark-up in the overall value of a game.
The idea of a professional sports league having a floating value for every game is ridiculous.
Last night in San Jose, the NHL handed out its 150th loser point when Los Angeles beat the Sharks 2-1 in overtime. It's insane that the season is not yet at the halfway mark and the league has already handed out that many bonus points. This is the sports equivalent of printing money.
NHL handed out its 150th loser point tonight. On pace to award over 300 this season. Some games worth 2 pts, some worth 3 pts. Makes sense.— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) January 4, 2017
At this pace, 323 extra points will be given out by season's end. That would be a new high. The most since the 2004-05 lockout was 307 in 2013-14. Last year there were 275 bonus points awarded. You get a point and you get a point and you get a point... Is Bettman the NHL's commissioner or is it Oprah Winfrey?
That brings us to the NHL's fake .500 mark. Seriously, is there a bigger scam going? Ginsu Knives have more credibility.
By counting all wins as wins but not counting all losses as losses, you end up with standings that don't add up. The result is this notion of a .500 mark that isn't a .500 mark at all, despite it being touted as such by coaches, players and media.
Depending on what happens in other games the next couple nights, if Winnipeg (18-19-3) and Buffalo (14-15-8) each win their next game, it is very possible that a glance at the league standings on Friday morning will reveal only two teams below the so-called .500 mark. Two! Arizona (11-21-5) and Colorado (12-24-1). Viewed another way, that would mean 28 of the NHL's 30 teams would be at or above .500. Alrighty then.
It's dumb, dumb, dumb and highlights the farcical nature of this dreamworld the NHL has concocted where potentially every team could be above .500.
Parity? How about parody. Do they really think fans are that stupid?
It's for this reason I refuse to reference the .500 mark in my writing and I invite you to boycott it too, because it's inaccurate. If you're at .500, that should mean you have won the same number of games that you've lost. Simple. Yet that's not what it means in the NHL.
Solution is Right in Front of Us
Quickly, name the only two Pacific Division teams that are truly above .500?
While the Flames sit fifth in the Pacific standings as viewed today, Calgary (20-17-2) at 20-19 joins first place San Jose (23-13-2) at 23-15 as the only two teams that are truly above .500. Anaheim (19-12-8) is actually 19-20. Edmonton (19-13-7) is also 19-20 and Los Angeles (19-15-4) is 19-19.
One argument for the extra point is it keeps more teams in the playoff races for longer. That's probably true, but that doesn't make it right.
Now I'm not advocating getting rid of the loser point, because I know that will never happen, but there is an obvious fix right there in front of our eyes and it's not a new concept either.
The obvious solution is to adopt the three-point model that the IIHF uses at international competitions like the Olympics and the World Junior Championships going on right now in Toronto and Montreal. For what it's worth, this same point system is also in place in the KHL.
- Win in regulation - 3 points
- Win in overtime/shootout - 2 points
- Lose in overtime/shootout - 1 point
- Lose in regulation - 0 points
Would this point system result in teams being more spread out and the perception of less teams in the playoff race? Maybe, but there are advantages too. With three points up for grabs for a regulation win, teams would have the ability to close the gap quickly when playing teams in front of them in the standings. Also, think of how important divisional clashes would become. Forget about the four-point game, now they'd be known as six-pointers.
It's time to quit this charade that makes the NHL look like a Mickey Mouse league.
Regulation wins are different than overtime wins and should be categorized and compensated differently, just like overtime losses and regulation losses already have different values.
It's not that difficult of a concept to wrap your head around.
To the outrageously weak counter-argument we've heard over the years that a three-point system likely wouldn't have made much of a difference in the past anyway, don't view that as a reason not to change the current system, but view that as every reason to change the system.
While it may not impact the standings, it would impact the league as a whole, as it would make the NHL look far more credible.
Come on NHL, clean it up.
By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.
Recent Flames Reading:
- From First to One of the Worst: Theories Behind Flames Extreme Increase in Penalties - For 130 games they were the NHL's most disciplined team. But starting one night in late January 2016, it all changed. Conspiracy theorists, go nuts! (December 30, 2016)
- Quietly Making Noise: Garnet Hathaway Lets His Actions Do His Trash Talking - Leading the league in penalties drawn, Hathaway has been an effective fourth line player and I spoke to him, as well as his linemate and the coach to find out his secret. (December 29, 2016)
- Good Vibrations: Arrival of Barrie Boys Has Provided Boost to the Stockton Heat - Forget the Beach Boys, now Northern California has its own act. Ryan Huska and Brad Pascall chat about Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson's strong starts. (December 27, 2016)
- Ho Ho Ho! Eight Presents For Flames Fans Found Under this Year's Christmas Tree - I examine eight gifts fans received that came from a variety of people including Eric Staal, Glen Gulutzan, Dave Cameron, Garnet Hathaway, Jim Benning and others. (December 24, 2016)
- FF80F Podcast: Episode 10 - World Junior Championships Edition with Aaron Vickers - Talking Flames prospects at the WJC with NHL.com's Calgary correspondent. Also revisited recent drafts from a Flames perspective and tackled reader questions. (December 23, 2016)