Wednesday, November 15, 2006

a point on points

Disclaimer - I know this is not an original argument, but I had to vent. It’s only November, but this argument will be raised as the NHL season goes on (especially close to the end) and I just want to be a part of the collective voice supporting it.

I’ve been trying to get my head around this, and for the life of me, I can’t figure the logic behind why some games in the NHL are ending with 3 points being allocated to the participants, and some others are ending only having 2 points allocated to one team? Is it because some games are worth more than others? If so, why don’t they tell the viewers before hand, so I can plan to watch the more valuable 3 point games?

In the NHL, regular season standings are determined by how many points a team has gained throughout the season. Points are allocated thusly:

2 points for a win
1 point for a loss in overtime or in shootout.
0 points for a loss in regulation.

Based on those standings the top 8 teams from each conference (all teams being divided into two conferences) make the playoffs and chase the Stanley Cup. So even though the regular season is quite long, it does have some importance to it. My beloved Maple Leafs, missed out on the playoffs last year, despite gaining 90 points in 82 games.

The answer to my own questions lies in the fact that the NHL wanted to stop having games being ended in a tie, and therefore started to allocate a ‘bonus point’ to a winning side in overtime or shootout, and at the same time, didn’t want to penalize a team for loosing in overtime or a shootout and so it let them gain one point. But this has created a situation where teams (especially those playing games against teams outside their conference) perhaps are playing with the goal to get to overtime and the safe point; making the objective of the participating squads to tie, not to win. Once you lower the standards of competition to a tie, the level of play deteriorates. You have teams sitting back and waiting for other teams to make mistakes. Offensive chances go down at the ending of games with teams sitting back waiting for mistakes. I don’t need stats to tell me that the last 10 minutes of regulation time in games that are tied see a noticeable decline in offensive chances being taken by either squad.

Quite frankly, that’s fine by me. Strategy is strategy. You can’t plan excitement. What you can plan is an even schedule slowly building to a crescendo as playoffs arise. Late in the season, games take on a little extra intensity as teams in the playoff hunt are playing for a shot to go for the cup.

But if you make wins in regulation time worth 2 points, and still give some teams one point in overtime loses, you create an unequal playing field. It becomes incredibly hard for any playoff races to actually develop. If you’re crediting a losing squad in overtime or shootout, you’re devaluating the winning squad, but by giving the winning squads the same amount of points (in overtime, shootout or regulation) you’re also devaluating the team that wins in regulation. How can some games be worth more than others?

Why doesn’t the NHL see this inconsistency? A simple solution would be to allocate 3 points to a team winning in regulation, therefore equalizing the point distribution. The concept of a ‘bonus point’ has gotten out of hand.

Mercurial n 1 : of, relating to, or born under the planet Mercury
2 : having qualities of eloquence, ingenuity, or thievishness attributed to the god Mercury or to the influence of the planet Mercury
3 : characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood [a mercurial temper]
4 : of, relating to, containing, or caused by mercury
synonym see INCONSTANT

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