NHL Changes Tie-Break Procedure

Published by Mark on Tuesday, September 21, 2010 — View Comments

Last week, the NHL approved another in a long series of changes to its rule book.

The change, specifically, was to the tie-breaking procedure used to determine the final standings. Whereas 2 teams finished the regular season with an equal number of points, the first tie-break went to the team having the most total wins. The rule has been changed so that the tie-break will include only regulation and overtime wins, not shootout wins.

I never liked the shootout. Not in soccer, not in hockey. I never agreed with the mentality that a game ending in a tie score was not an acceptable result. Someone decided that the shootout drove fans crazy, and traditionalists be damned, it would attract thousands of new fans to the game. To me, it’s a gimmicky show, a limited skills competition, and a poor way to make a final decision on a game.

Now it seems the NHL has decided that a win gained through shootout is not the same as a win in regulation or in overtime. They stress that this does not in any way mean the shootout is on its way out. No word if the 3-point regulation win system is coming or not. But it would seem that some wins are simply going to be more valuable.

When the NHL discussed eliminating the tie, the argument was simplicity: a game must end in a win for one team, a loss for the other. As a result, we now have more stats and columns than we know what to do with. Wins in regulation and overtime, wins by shootout, losses in regulation, losses in overtime or shootout in which a point was awarded. To add some confusion, goals scored in the shootout do not tally in a player’s stats, though we’ll note who scored the shootout winner. And we’ll keep stats on goals scored versus shootout attempts. The wins and losses will however count in the goalie’s stats, though not in the GAA. Potentially, a team could play 82 games, lose each in overtime or shootout, resulting in an 0-82 season, in which they played .500 hockey and had 82 points. Think about that… a team could lose every single game, and potentially not finish last in the standings.

Obviously, there is something ‘wrong’ with the shootout. It is not used to decide playoff games, though it is used to decide games to determine who makes the playoffs. A shootout win will get your 2 points, but too many wins by shootout will cost you playoff seeding and draft position. Ultimately, I am not sure any fan goes home feeling better that anyone won by shootout than they did when a game ended 2-2.

The time has come for common sense to re-emerge in the NHL. Bring back the truly ‘simple’ system. A game is 60 minutes, and full strength is 5 skaters a side. If the game is tied after 60 minutes, play an overtime period (I suggest 10 minutes rather than 5, as games tend to end earlier anyway with the previous new rules). If it’s still tied after 70, then that’s it, it’s a tie. There’s nothing wrong with them. Soccer has them, and it’s the most popular sport in the world. Even the vaunted NFL has ties, you just rarely see them.

The NHL should stop tweaking the rules, and return to awarding 2 points for a win (any win), a single for the tie, zero for a loss. And please, get rid of the ‘loser point’. Simple, easy to understand, easy to decipher.

And if you must have the shootout… please, bring back ‘Showdown’. Do it as a lead-in segment on HNIC, or between the 2 games on Saturday night. Now that was good hockey.