The NHL does a lot of odd things. Many hockey fans have long argued for changes to the NHL rule book. The trapezoid, problems with video replay, and the size of goalie equipment are all aspects of today’s game in which fans have supported recent rule changes. It seems to me, however, that the NHL should focus its attention on a far more pressing issue: getting rid of the pity point.
The NHL is the only major sports league in North America where your number of wins or winning percentage does not necessarily dictate your position in the standings. Currently, teams are awarded two points for a win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss. The point for an overtime or shootout loss, or “pity point”, can be a major determinant come playoff time. Changing to a new system where three (3) points are awarded for a regulation win, two (2) for an overtime win and one (1) for an overtime loss could bring a variety of improvements to the game of hockey for teams and fans alike. I took a look at the season’s standings thus far to check out how an adjusted point system might change the NHL playoff picture, and what those changes mean for the Maple Leafs.
Most of the NHL doesn’t see much of a drastic change in the standings from switching to an adjusted point system. There isn’t a rule change on earth that could make Colorado improve. However, an adjusted point system would change some things in the tight Eastern Conference wildcard race. Philadelphia currently finds itself in a wildcard spot with 56 points, but under the adjusted system, Toronto benefits from having more regulation wins, and thus more points. Giving three points for a win in regulation just makes sense, why should teams be rewarded for losing games?
While the adjusted point system is slightly beneficial for Toronto, by and large, the league standings remain the same. The good teams at the top, and the bad teams at the bottom. However, the adjusted point system brings much more than a slight change in the playoff picture; a sensible point structure will make hockey more exciting.
The pity point system gives teams a reason to play for overtime. If you can guarantee yourself a point, why risk losing in regulation with over aggressive play when the game is tied? Under the current system, teams might as well guarantee themselves a point by sitting back passively and waiting for overtime, as there is no benefit standings wise to finishing a game in regulation. By applying an adjusted point system where teams are given three points for a win in regulation, teams will have greater incentive to take risks and push the play in close games, leading to more exciting hockey.
The adoption of a point system that promotes winning games in regulation is beneficial for teams and fans alike. Teams that succeed and win more games are rewarded with a higher spot in the standings, while fans get to enjoy faster-paced, more exciting hockey at the end of games. If the NHL is willing to change the size of the nets, paint new lines on the ice, and force Ryan Miller to stop cheating, they should at the very least be willing to get rid of the pity point.