This was never about the points. It's a misconstrued notion that the NHL and Gary Bettman added the infamous OT loser point to create parity across the league. The point was added only as a by-product of the Board of Governors' decision to add the shootout to the NHL game to increase viewership. Their reasoning? Since in the old system, after the five minute overtime, each team would gain a point for a tie, so it's only fair to award a point to each team for making the shootout.
But with that logic came an extra point for the shootout winner. It followed with a loser point for all overtime losers, shootout or not, which still to this day doesn't make any sense. The result has been inflated point totals for teams, with fans and critics alike condemning the point system.
But does the extra point really create the parity some claim? Does it create an unfair advantage for some teams to sneak into the playoffs over a more deserving team? Tweets by yours truly, TSN's Aaron Ward, and regular LHH visitor Francesca got me focused on getting down to the bottom of the loser point effects.
I went through the current Eastern Conference standings and each team,s 2011-12 results (as of Wednesday evening) and counted all shootouts as ties and 1 point earned. I counted all OT losses as losses and deducted the loser point from their total. I then took all shootout wins and deducted them from the teams win totals and a point for each of those (the second point would be the point earned for the tie).
In doing this I came up with each team's record had the NHL stuck with it's old format post-lockout and never enacted the loser point. Below are the current standings, along side what they would be if the NHL had kept the tie system:
|Rank||11-12 Actual Standings||Pts||Pts Behind||Rank||11-12 Old School Standings||Pts||Pts Behind|
If you notice, under both point systems, the same 8 teams would make the playoffs and the same 7 teams would find themselves on the outside looking in. Also the amount of points the team finds themselves out of a playoff spot isn't all that significant. While the 7 teams out of the playoffs are a combined 44 points behind with the loser point, they're only 55 points behind under the tie system.
Parity? Not quite. False sense of accomplishment? Very much so. For a team like the Islanders, who have lived in OT this year, the loser point has somewhat skewed their 'success', as they would see an 11 point drop if there had not been the extra point awarded.
The amount of NHL .500 clubs also decreases by a whopping 33%, down from 12 to 8. The Sabres, Maple Leafs, Lightning, and Jets all find themselves below .500 using the tie system, and the Northeast's second place Senators barely sneak in with a 29-29-7 mark.
The biggest problem with the loser point hasn't been playoff entrance, but seeding, bot for the playoffs and the draft. For the Islanders, while the loser point has us 5 points closer to the 8th seed and dreaming of a miracle run into the playoffs, by season's end it may actually end up screwing us royally. If the season were to end right now under the new system, the Isles would have the 5th pick (again) in the draft. If the loser point didn't exist though, the Isles would be holding the number 2 pick (Columbus is awful in any system) with an outside chance at moving up to number 1 in the lottery.
Playoff seeding has also been shaken up by the loser point. For a team like Washington, the loser point has forced them to watch Florida lose their way into the division lead, but in the tie system, the Capitals would find themselves the 3 seed in the playoffs, as opposed to their current 8 seed. While all 8 teams make the playoffs under both systems, only the Rangers and Bruins keep the same seed in both.
The solution? Well that's what I propose to you in the comments section. Do you think they should keep it the same, go back to the old system, or maybe implement a new point system that would be more fair?