NHL Should Scrap “Loser’s Point”

The modern era of overtime in the NHL began with the 1983-84 season, of five minutes' duration, after the rival World Hockey Association had used a 10-minute extra session throughout its seven-year existence.

In both cases, the first goal scored by either team won the game — but if neither team scored in the extra period, the game was declared a tie (this of course did not apply in the playoffs).

Starting with the 1999-2000 season, the infamous "loser's point" was added; that is, teams that lost in overtime received one point in the standings as if the game had ended in a tie (however, if a team pulls their goaltender in overtime and allows a goal, they forfeit the "loser's point" — a fact that is often overlooked). The "loser's point" was extended to teams that lost in shootouts as well when the shootout was introduced at the start of the 2005-06 season.

Do any of our other sports do this?

Imagine if any NFL owner proposed counting an overtime loss as a tie at this year's spring owner's meeting in Orlando, to be held for four days beginning on March 24. He would be conflated with Mickey Mouse. But abolishing overtime altogether during the regular season may be another matter entirely — and could even become an issue when, not if, the NFL adds an 18th game to its regular-season schedule.

If a second bye week is added for each team, and that ridiculous idle week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl is eliminated, "Super Bowl Monday" could always be a federal holiday (without creating a new federal holiday). The "Pro Bowl Games" can always be held on the weekend after the Super Bowl (until 2010 the original Pro Bowl was played the week after the Super Bowl).

Eighteen regular-season games plus two bye weeks means a 20-week regular season (the CFL started doing this in 1986), and thus two extra weeks' worth of NFL games for the networks to broadcast — and would give teams that get off to a slow start a better chance of overcoming it: no team in NFL history has ever made the playoffs after starting 0-5, and only one (the 1992 Chargers) has ever made it after starting 0-4.

Or a three-hour time limit on NBA games — and if the game is tied after three hours the game ends in a tie? (The long-term average for how much real time it takes for an NBA game to be played is just under two and a quarter hours.)

And the longest major-league baseball game ever played was the 26-inning affair between the Brooklyn Robins (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) and the Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves) on May 1, 1920. The game ended in a 1-1 tie due to darkness, and no ballpark had lights until 1935.

Plus, in general, it is never a good idea for a sport to have one set of rules in regulation, and another set of rules in overtime, or at least make any difference therein as minuscule as possible — which is why the NFL needs to give both teams at least one possession in overtime in the regular season as well as in the playoffs, unless the team that gets the ball first in overtime maintains possession of the ball for the entire 10 minutes before scoring on the final play of the overtime (which was shortened from its original 15 minutes to 10 minutes in 2017).

Another curse of the "loser's point" is that it creates a situation under which the total number of points earned in the NHL as a whole varies from one season to the next: in 2022-23, the most recently-completed season, the NHL's 32 teams combined for 2,926 points — an average of 91.4375 points per game. But in 2021-22, the total was 2,912 — an average of exactly 91.

It's time for the NHL to get rid of the "loser's point."

Comments and Conversation

April 3, 2024

Jake K:

But giving a full 2 and 0 for the gimmicky shootout doesn’t work for me… A solid thumping shouldn’t be same as essentially a coin flip of the S/O.

And league won’t go back to having teams settle for ties.

So best answer is 3-2-1. it’s by far the best, but league just avoids it since it’ll make some teams actually look as bad as they are.

April 10, 2024

Anthony Brancato:

There is something to be said in favor of 2 points for an overtime or shootout win, and 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss (with 3 points for a regulation win and 0 points for a regulation loss).

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