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The NHL should get rid of the loser-point

There is only one major sporting league in North America where you can potentially move up in the standings even if you lose: the NHL. In the NHL, the standings are done on a point system. The system awards two points for a win and one point for an overtime loss. In theory, that means you can lose a game in overtime and surpass a team in the standings. 

The first and most prominent issue with the current point format has to do with strategy at the end of games. When games start to near their end and remain tied, a lot of teams will sit back defensively, and wait for regulation time to expire in order to guarantee themselves a point. While this strategy is valid and you cannot blame teams for utilizing this strategy, it is frustrating as a viewer to watch two teams not try to score in the last minutes of a tied game. 

These loser points can be crucial in determining playoff spots. For example, in the Western Conference, the loser point is the reason the Los Angeles Kings are going to make the playoffs while the Vegas Golden Knights will probably miss out. Right now, the Kings sit at 43 wins with two games remaining, while the Knights sit at 42 wins with four games remaining. Reading this, it might seem possible that the Knights can catch the Kings. However, since the Kings have lost in overtime five more times than the Knights have, this puts them a solid seven points ahead of the Knights. The Knights essentially have no chance to catch them unless they win all their remaining games and the Kings lose all of theirs, despite the Knights only having one less win than the Kings.  

While some may argue that the Kings deserve the spot since they didn’t lose in regulation as much as the Knights, it should be noted that a loss is a loss anywhere but the NHL. In the NFL, MLB and NBA, you get nothing for losing beyond regulation. So why does the NHL feel the need to do this? 

One reason is due to the difference between overtime and regulation play in the regular season. Once regulation ends, the amount of players on the ice changes from five vs five to three vs three. If a result is not found after five minutes of play at three vs three, the game goes to a shootout. 

While the NHL is unique for its points system, they are also unique for changing the number of players playing in the game once overtime starts and having some games conclude with a skills competition to determine a winner. Another weird thing is that the overtime format used in the regular season is not used in the playoffs. In the playoffs, they play at five vs five until a winner is found. 

Overall, the whole process is confusing, which is why it should go away. Having to figure out a point system and do the math to figure out where your team sits in the standings is a pain for the casual fan. Rooting for your team to hold on to a tie at the end of regulation, just to then go for the win in overtime is weird to watch, and not in a good way. 

If the league deems their regular-season overtime format as a proper way to determine a winner, they should have no qualms in not giving the loser a point in the standings. The league is essentially self-stating it is not a fair way to determine a winner by giving the loser a pity point. 

There are really only two clear solutions to this problem, since the NHL will not replace the three vs three overtime due to logistics. One solution is to implement a proposed three-point system, and the other is to switch to a traditional win-loss record. The proposed three-point system gives three points for a regulation win, two for an overtime win and one for an overtime loss. While this is a better format due to it rewarding regulation wins more than overtime wins, thus putting incentive on winning in regulation, it is still overly complicated. The easiest way to go is with a traditional wins-loss record that rewards a win as a win, and a loss as a loss. 

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