NHL Needs To Quit Coddling Losers

This one’s been bothering me for a while, so excuse me if I sound a bit harsh.

I don’t mind the shootout – on the contrary, I think it’s pretty damn entertaining.

After sixty-five minutes of battling for pucks in the corners, momentum swings back and forth, and countless missed opportunities, your top players have the chance to steal a win for the team with a couple dazzling moves.

After all, pressure like that can really bring out the best in an athlete. (Or worst, see: Ilya Kovalchuk)

That being said, I love overtime even more. It’s infinitely better than the ass-on-the-edge-of-your-seat feeling.

In fact, I can’t even sit down during the extra stanza. I feel like I’m going to puke every time my team coughs up the puck, and breathing is an insignificant afterthought.

It doesn’t get better than this—one play ends a game.

It can be ugly. Just look at Dan Boyle’s own goal in last year’s playoffs or Patrick Kane’s weak-angle shot that captured the Stanley Cup.

It can be beautiful. Search “NHL overtime winner” into YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.

It can take five extra periods to decide a game.

Ultimately, I don’t really have a problem with tied games going to a shootout.

Would I like to see a slightly longer overtime during the regular season? Sure, but that’s not why I’m pissed off.

I am absolutely infuriated (and have been for years) that when a team loses in overtime or a shootout, they get a point.

Does it tighten up the standings? Of course, and who doesn’t love competition?

Is it completely absurd? Ohmygodyes.

When you were a kid, did you get a point for choking in the 9th inning of your t-ball game and giving up the game-winning home run? No, your entire team hated you and refused to share their lunch with you the entire next month at school.

When you lose, it sucks, it hurts, and it’s OVER.

You move on with life, and start preparing for the next game.

No other major sports league gives the losing team a consolation prize for making it to overtime. Only the NHL.

Ever wonder why teams dump-and-chase for the last ten minutes of the third period in a tied game? Especially inter-conference games? It’s because they rather leave with one point than none.

Is that bad sportsmanship? Not really, it’s a smart strategy.

So while awarding a pity point for an overtime loss tightens up the standings, it ultimately weakens the level of competition in tight games.

Get the puck deep, go for a line change, and take no offensive chances. Staff five guys at your blueline to thwart your opponent’s breakout.

It’s boring hockey, and the truth is people paid good money to go see two teams compete for sixty minutes. The NHL is robbing their fanbase by encouraging teams sit back and play for a tie.

Do me a favor and stop worrying about changing the overtime format.

Get rid of the consolation point and see if that doesn’t make for drastically more competitive third periods.

You win or you lose, that’s it. There’s no in between, there’s not “A” for effort, or any of that touchy-feely business.

I cringe every time I hear “at least we got a point” or “we’re happy to earn a point” after a loss. It’s an excuse for losing, and excuses don’t belong in pro sports.

After all, Herman Edwards said it best:

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DeeRawk's picture

I myself, prefer the euro soccer standings way of handling it and think it could easily be modified to the NHL. Give out 3 points for a regulation win and 2/1 points for an OT or Shootout Win/Loss. Giving out MORE points for two teams who make a game longer (in a league complaining about game pace and length) doesn't make sense to me as it is. At least this way, you would have incentive to try and end a game in regulation.

As it stands now, teams in a tie won't press to ensure getting minimum 50% of max points from a game for simply bringing it to OT. Give out the additional points for wins and high scoring teams might be tempted to push the pace for regulation wins, making for a more exciting ending to games as well as a balancing point for teams making the playoffs with losing records, getting in with OT loss accumulations ?

Patrick Storto's picture

"After sixty-five minutes of battling for pucks in the corners, momentum swings back and forth, and countless missed opportunities, your top players have the chance to steal a win for the team with a couple dazzling moves. "

That's exactly why the losing team of a shootout deserves a point. The shootout isn't hockey, for the most part it comes down to luck. Why should a team that battled hard for 65 minutes get no points for losing a skills competition?

I would fully support not giving the point to a losing team in overtime. So if the game ends in OT, no point for the loser. But no point for the loser of a shootout would be unacceptable.

"No other major sports league gives the losing team a consolation prize for making it to overtime. Only the NHL."

Can you name which other major sports league changes their game once the regulation periods end? You would never see baseball decide a game in a home run derby, or basketball in a free throw competition. And you can bet if they did, there would compensation to the loser somehow.

You're looking at it as if the NHL is handing the loser 1 point, which isn't the case.

Once regulation ends in a tie, each team is awarded the tie, which is one point each. Both teams then have the opportunity to win 1 more point.

You can't have the loser of the shootout getting nothing. To fix the situation, they'd have to go back to the tie and honestly, that's fine with me.

Adam Pardes's picture

Thanks for the comments guys, I appreciate the feedback.

@DeeRawk I'm not totally opposed to a soccer-like scoring. I've thought about it before but I'm not sure it'll fit the NHL. A reasonable idea though, and it fits my overall point -- the way the league does it now just doesn't work. Teams need an incentive to win in regulation.

@Patrick Like I said, I would like to see some change made to the current system, including a longer overtime. I didn't propose an actual solution because the truth is I don't have one haha. It's a complicated issue but overall I really hate that teams get points for getting games to overtime and then losing. For the "other major sports" comment, I totally agree. I don't think the shootout is necessarily the solution to tied games, but as it stands the NHL is the only league that offers such a system. I wouldn't mind having ties again either, but what I'd really like is a longer overtime.

Patrick Storto's picture

I agree. I don't buy the NHL's argument that the players can't play longer games during the season, due to back to back games and what not. Of course they can't have sudden death overtime, but you're telling me they can't play one more full 20 minute period of 5-on-5 regular hockey? It's rare as it is that a whole period is going to go by without a goal.

20 minute overtime 5 on 5. Game then ends in a tie

George Prax's picture

Are you kidding Pat? You're asking the players to play an extra 15 minutes of hockey? Considering the game would be on the line, the top players would likely get the most minutes, so you could see a lot of defensemen playing 30+ minutes a nice. It's hard enough for players to play 1-2 minutes more a night, and now you're going be asking a lot of them to play 5-6-7 maybe even 10 minutes more during a lot of games. On an 82 game schedule it makes no sense to increase the game time by that much. There's also considerations to be made for broadcasters and advertisers, who would have to clear nearly another hour of broadcast time if a game goes to OT. What about double headers like Hockey Night in Canada, who already go long sometimes with just a 5 minute OT + shootout?


In terms of the loser point itself, I don't really have a problem with it. Generally speaking over the course of the season the standings have a way of correcting themselves. The teams with a lot of OT loss points generally don't make the playoffs, and most of the time the rest don't really differ all too much in terms of standings.

More do I have a problem with the shootout itself. It's skill more than it is luck, and if you've ever been to a game that's gone to a shootout, I doubt any fan there live is complaining about the excitement factor. Some of my best post-lockout memories in terms of live games that I've been to have been games that have gone to shootouts.

Where Adam is right is when he says that some teams play different when they know they can be guaranteed a point after 60 minutes, win or lose. I've seen the Canadiens sit on one goal leads since they get another shot to win even if they get scored on, not to mention coast through OT to get to the shootout. If you gave them an extra point for winning in regulation like the soccer system, it will give them an incentive to play 60 minutes of hockey properly.

But in the end I think there are more important things for the NHL to deal with like getting rid of headshots etc. But it's always an interesting topic to see how it progressing as the years wear on.

Adam Pardes's picture

Shootouts are exciting, but I'd kill for ten minutes of 4-on-4 overtime. I loveeeeee all that open ice.

Mark Trible's picture

Doesn't the NFL change their rules for overtime?

Adam Pardes's picture

How so? Unless you mean that overtime is sudden-death as opposed to a full quarter?

Mark Trible's picture

Yep and college football goes to a completely different layout entirely. Just saying, the NHL isn't the only league that changes rules after regulation ends.

Adam Pardes's picture

I hear you, my point is that at the end of an NFL game, you either won, lost, or tied. There's no consolation shenanigans.

Alex Mueller's picture

There's about 10 different ways you could "fix" it. Simplest is no point for loser in overtime but 1 point for shootout loss. Because like Patrick said, it's just a skills competition at that point and a tough way to lose and get nothing after 65 minutes of hard work.