Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three points

Think about a baseball game. Imagine that when two major-league teams moved into extra innings, the squads had to play eight players each. If teams didn't settle matters in 12 innings, a home-run hitting contest decided the game. And, a loss wasn't really a loss, but rather a partial win.

Welcome to the wacky world of the National Hockey League, which more or less does something like that.

Some years ago, it was determined that new fans to the NHL didn't like ties. They wanted to have an outcome to their games. Ties had been an acceptable results in non-playoff games for decades, but the NHL was all about growing the fanbase. Understood.

It still surprises me what was done. First, a five-minute overtime was adopted with each team short a man so it was four-on-four for skaters. That opened up the play quite a bit, as you could imagine. Then, if there was no winner after overtime, the teams took part in a shootout to determine a winner.

For all games, the team that scored in overtime or won the shootout earned two points. The team that lost in overtime or the shootout picked up one point. In other words, teams could play conservatively through the final minutes of regulation, make sure to get a point, and then play like heck in overtime in order to grab the extra point. It also makes the standings really ugly looking. Right now, an unlikely 10-5-6 record looks like a fine season when it really is the story of a sub-.500 team.

It's easy to sit back and say, does this make any sense?

It's particularly true right now because teams are only playing within their conference. If a team (let's use the Sabres as a really far-fetched example) is trying to gain ground in the standings, they have to watch other teams ahead of them play each other. Somebody is getting two points, and the loser is possibly getting one. That means the points keep accumulating throughout the league, making it more difficult to climb up the ladder. The Sabres not only have to win games, but they have to win them in 60 minutes to avoid giving points to their opponents.

I've got two options for the powers that be here. The easy one would be to call a win a win and a loss a loss. But it's not really fair to have a team make it to a shootout and not get some sort of reward.

Fine .Let's make every game worth three points. Win in regulation, and you get three points. Win in overtime or a shootout, you get two points. Lose in extra time, and you go home with one point. Lose in regulation, and you get no parting gifts.

I'm not completely sure what this would do to the flow of games, but it at least would make more sense than the current system.

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