Playing to Win, and never…Not to Lose: Why the NHL Point System is Bogus

Lynsey Kitching

Let’s just come right out and be honest here people; giving points for a loss in a sporting match is just wrong, even if it did take the team an extra few minutes to lose.

This system rewards teams for losing, something that shouldn’t exist in sports.

Competition is healthy, natural and even those who say, “oh, I’m not competitive’ are, just in different ways. Competition isn’t just about sports, it’s about trying your best no matter what and this reflects in all aspects of life.

As most NHL fans know, the current point system is two points for a win and one point if you lose in overtime or a shootout, there are no ties.

The NHL is the only professional sporting league that awards losing. The NBA, MLB and NFL look strictly at your Ws.

Imagine if because a professional tennis match went five sweaty hours and five grueling sets the tournament decided the losing player got an extra kick at the can somehow? This would never fly because in tennis you either win or sadly, you lose.

Imagine if in baseball teams went into a sudden death pitching and hitting match after a nine inning tie, first team to get five hits wins? No, the game goes on until someone wins.

The only other pro sport league that gives points for not winning is the MLS. This league awards three points for a win and one point to each team for a tie. This encourages teams to win!

Let’s look at this year’s standings in the NHL and see how awarding points for losing is effecting the positioning of teams.

As of today (April 4, 2013) the countdown is on for play-off time. Though as the season went on, the overtime wins for the top teams seem to not be of that much significance, the oh-so-dear eighth spot—that last position given to those who get to move on—belongs to the New Jersey Devils with 39 points. The New York Islanders also have 39 points but are in ninth place, putting them out of the play offs.

The kicker here is that the Islanders have three more wins than the Devils. Something ain’t right there.

Same goes for the eighth spot in the West. Edmonton (though it would be great to see them get through) holds the precious spot with 39 points. St. Louis is currently out of the playoffs, again in ninth, even though they have two more wins than Edmonton.

There are those who think this system works just fine.

The argument to keep the current point system is that it would seem there would be too big of a point differential between the top and bottom teams, thus making fans of losing teams, lose interest earlier on in the season, thus making franchises’ loss money.

The question remains, why is this only a concern for the NHL and no other professional league?

The NBA is the worst for having the same teams get through regular season (the Lakers making the final round seven times since 2000), but you don’t see the NBA fan base dropping off.

All of this aside, let’s say that a ‘taking longer to lose point’ will continue to be awarded. This means that some games are worth three points and some games are worth only two. Teams are not rewarded for winning in regulation but rather rewarded for not losing?

Doesn’t this go against the basic premise of competition in sports, ‘playing to win’?

For this system to keep things kosher across the board, all games should be worth the same amount of points.

On top of this, there are no points for losing in OT in the playoffs. Doesn’t this make the playoffs unbalanced when there are teams who get into the playoffs because of OT losses, rather than teams who had more wins?

What’s one possible solution? Well, if teams were awarded three points for winning in regulation, it would make for some very exciting hockey, as getting three points for a w instead of only two no matter what, would make teams really try to win in regulation, thus playing to win, not, not to lose.

Would this cause there to be huge gaps between the playoff teams and the lower half? Who knows, but if anything it would make it so the teams with the most wins in regular season, make the playoffs.