After the Islanders went beyond regulation for the 10th time in 20 games, the loser point conversations really started popping up in hockey world. Cue the talk... Whats with these Islanders? The Islanders "don't deserve" to be where they are in the standings! The Islanders have so many "loser points" I can't believe it! [insert team name] would be ahead of them if those darn loser points weren't being handed to them for absolutely nothing! There were some convos going on over at TheNHLArena after the panthers game and on the Islanders board talking about it, and I've seen them plenty of other places as well.
The whole "loser point" concept and the notion that the Isles are somehow "less deserving" than other teams to be sitting right where they are (in a playoff spot for the time being) has annoyed me so much that I thought I'd share how I feel about it here.
First of all, let me make it clear that I do NOT like the current points system. What was so wrong with ties? Ties were perfectly fine for the entire existence of the NHL, and then suddenly in 2005 they were horrible? But, the lack of ties is only one part of the whole problem- the other part of this problem is the mythical yet omnipresent notion of the "loser point".
Since the start of the NHL (and long before that) hockey games were games that you won, you lost, or you tied. Five-minute sudden-death OT was introduced 1983-84... but you still won, lost, or tied. The "loser point" on the other hand has not been around very long at all- it started in 1999-2000.
-regular season games tied at the end of three periods will result in each team being awarded one point in the standings.
-there will be a five minute sudden death overtime when the score is tied after three periods, but each team will play "four on four", with four skaters and a goaltender.
-a team scoring in overtime will receive one additional point in the standings.
So, you have a tie at the end of regulation- just the way it was before 83-84- and each team gets a tying point. Sounds alright so far, right? But that's where things went awry. In 99-00 they ALSO made up a brand-new magically invented bonus point to bestow upon teams when they win in overtime AFTER after what had been an NHL tie.
And, for a couple of years, that is how it went. Teams could win (2 pts), lose in regulation (0 pts), tie after regulation (1 pt each), tie after OT (1 point each), or win in OT after tying in regulation (1 brand-new magically-invented bonus point.) Please notice that the brand-new magically invented bonus point (aka "loser point") is actually going to the winner, after both teams play to an NHL tie. That's why they call it the "additional point" here... and it is one of the main reasons that the term "loser point" is such a misnomer.
A shootout is introduced if the game remains tied after the 5 minute overtime.
Ah, the shootout... a skills competition that follows a full 60-minute regulation hockey game and the 5-minute sudden death overtime. (Howie Rose made how he feels regarding the shooutout quite clear right here. And for the record, I pretty much agree with Howie... even if I dont think that ranting about NHL policy when you work for an NHL team is particularly brilliant and I expect we will not see such a rant again.) Once this thing was introduced in 05-06, teams could win in regulation (2 pts), lose in regulation (0 pts), tie after regulation (1 pt each), win after tying in regulation in OT (1 magically-invented bonus point), or "win" in the shootout after tying in regulation AND tying in OT as well (1 magically-invented bonus point).
So where are these mythical "loser points"? Most hockey fans point to the OTL slot for teams and they, "Uh, there they are! Right there!" However, Im contesting that notion right here and now. "Loser points" are points people feel a team did not really earn fairly. What I want to know is, what is "unfair" about a tie at the end of regulation? Nothing, unless you think that every game before the 83-84 season where one team did not score more than the other was "unfair". What IS unfair in my opinion is which particular points people are identifying and calling "loser points" in the NHL.
Let me explain with a specific example: The Islanders @ Panthers game last night. When I was talking to people about the game, many expressed the notion that the Isles were the recipients of a "loser point". However, when you look at exactly what happened in that game, it is simply not true! The Isles played regulation to a tie, then they played OT to a tie, and they got 1 point for the tie. That is the same as it has always been. If the NHLs rules were exactly like they were before shootouts AND before OTLs, like they were 10y ago, the Islanders STILL would have walked away with that exact same one point last night! What's "loser" about that?
So if the Islanders got the one point that teams have ALWAYS received after a tie game, who got the "additional point" or so-called "loser point"? The Panthers did, that's who. They got the "additional point" for winning a skills competition shootout after playing to a tie with the Islanders. But, for some reason, nobody wants to SEE that. Instead, everyone just calls the Isles getting one point for a tie the recipients of a "loser point." And, they act like the Panthers earned 2 points in that game- even though, IF they protest the system so much, it's the very point that the PANTHERS "earned" that is the magically-invented point they should be contesting! The Panthers are the ones who got an invented point last night in what would have been at any other time in history before 2005-2006 an NHL tie.
Why does this mistake happen? I think it is because of the way the points are reported in the NHL. OTL points and SOL points should not be in the same category- even though they are. It cannot be overstated that they are NOT the same thing! In fact, they are the exact opposite. When an OTL point is administered, you could make a case that the team that lost in OT after tying is the recipient of the magically-invented bonus point... IF you reject the notion of a regulation tie. HOWEVER, when it is a SOL point, it is the WINNER who gets the magically-invented bonus point!!! It's not the same team getting the invented point! Adding to that- if you DO accept the notion of a regulation tie, then it is STILL the WINNER who gets the "additional point"! OTL points and SOL points are not the same thing- but, they are put into the same category anyway- and it absolutely annoys the snot out of me. In one scenario (2 teams tied and going into OT) the magically-invented bonus point or "additonal point" can indeed be described as a "loser point" if you ignore the circumstances of games before 83-84 and personally insist that a tie can only exist after OT is played. BUT, in ANY other scenario, its the winner who gets this mythical point! In the shootout, the magically-invented bonus point or "additonal point" goes to the team that played to a tie and won NOT a team-oriented hockey game by any reasonable definition, but a skills competition!
I'm not sure what can reasonably be done to solve this problem... I am putting some real thought as to how this can be resolved. I have some ideas, but I have to do stats crunching to see how it plays out. In the meantime, hockey fans are just going to have to continue hearing people state things such as how the Isles supposedly got the "loser point" for playing to what is by anyone's definition a tie hockey game... and, in saying so, implying that the Panthers won a 2 point hockey game when by the objectors' own definitions they really didn't.
For the time being I will end with this- every team in the NHL plays under the same points rules, so every other team is free to avoid losing in regulation, as well. The Isles are where they are in the standings for the exact same reason every other team is where they are in the standings- because of the points they earned under the current rules of the NHL. To separate them out and point to the Isles and NOT to point at the teams who gained magically-invented points from SOWs is both inconsistent and wrong.