In his excellent 30-second shot clock column this week, Teddy Jenner mentioned that if the league used points rather than games behind to decide the standings, they’d look a little different. Then he went so far as to say:
Maybe it’s because the league doesn’t have ties that it’s gone with this system but maybe it’s time to go the route of the NHL and give points for wins and maybe even an OTL point.
Over twitter, I expressed my disagreement with this idea and Teddy asked why, and the best I could come up with on the spot was that I didn’t like rewarding teams that lose. If you lose, you lose. You don’t get a partial win for losing in 18 innings, nor do basketball or football teams gain anything for losing in overtime. So why hockey?
Well, we kind of know why: it’s because hockey used to have ties. Once the NHL initiated the shootout, they should have scrapped the points system since there was no longer the possibility of a tie. For unknown reasons they didn’t. But the NLL never had ties in the first place, so a points system makes no sense.
Here are five reasons (in no particular order) why this is a bad idea. This assumes the NHL system: a win gets you 2 points, an OT loss gets you 1, and a regulation loss gets you 0.
- This kind of points system makes sense if there are wins, ties, and losses. A tie isn’t as good as a win, but better than a loss. But if there are no ties, there are just wins and losses. Why are the points necessary? Teddy says “maybe even an OTL point” – what if you don’t include the OTL point? If you just give two points for a win and nothing for a loss, then you’re just ranking teams by wins. This means that a team that has won more than another team but has also lost more is still ranked higher. In the points system a team that’s 5-4 is ranked ahead of a team that’s 4-3. In the current system, they’d be tied. At the end of the season, it won’t matter but during the season, the points system is less fair.
- If you lose a game in regulation time, you get 0 points. But if you lose in OT, you get one point. You are rewarded for keeping the score tied for 60 minutes – making it to OT is somehow “less” of a loss. Does a team really need to be rewarded for taking slightly longer to lose? So shouldn’t winning in OT be “less” of a win? It seems that if we’re going this route, we should give 3 points for a regulation win, 2 for an OT win, and 1 for an OT loss.
- It’s near the end of the season and a team is on the threshold of missing the playoffs. With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the score is tied. The team realizes that if the 4th quarter ends tied, they get a point. They decide it’s in their best interest to play as defensively as possible, making sure that they get the single point, and then fight over the extra point in OT. As a result, we have play-it-safe boring lacrosse. And what if both teams are in the same situation and desperately need that single point? We end up with the most boring five minutes in lacrosse history as both teams run out the clock and take a token shot every 29 seconds.
- If you lose a regular season game in OT, three points are awarded. Since the losing team gets one of them, they sort of get 1/3 of a win. What if you lose game 3 of the Championship series in OT? Do you get 1/3 of the Championship? (SPOILER: no)
- Related to #4, even the NHL doesn’t use this system in the playoffs. If you lose after 15 seconds of OT in the regular season, you get a point. If you lose after 3½ periods of OT in the playoffs, you just lose. Consistency.
The ironic part is that many NLL players talk in interviews and on twitter and such about a win giving them “two points”. That’s how ingrained the NHL is in Canadian culture.
BTW just to clarify the title of this article, I’m not saying Teddy is wrong or hasn’t thought it through. This is just all my opinion. He’s a very knowledgeable guy when it comes to sports in general and knows more about lacrosse than I ever will. I just thought it was a clever pun.