Vancouver Canucks: How parity tricks the worst teams

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 27: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during media availability prior to 2018 Geico NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Amalie Arena on January 27, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 27: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during media availability prior to 2018 Geico NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Amalie Arena on January 27, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) /

The loser point is bridging the gap between the best and worst teams in the NHL. Each game does not have the same value and a more appropriate points system would expose the worst teams for what they are.

The National Hockey League rewards losing. I’m sure you have heard it before. No matter where hockey is professionally played, the team that loses in extra time collects a point. Shootouts were brought in to remove ties. Every game would have a winner, even if some fans despise it (count me in that camp).

Losing gives the worst teams the best odds at picking first overall. The lottery is a convoluted mess that is a whole separate can of worms. Worst of all, the value of each NHL game is not the same. The games that end in regulation only award two points to the winner. When it gets to overtime, both teams get a point and the winner gets an extra.

It makes zero sense that some games during the season are worth two points, while others are worth three. The loser point creates parity, making it seem as any team can make the playoffs in any given season. This does not mean that those teams are good, especially if they can’t win a round in the postseason (the Vancouver Canucks have yet to win one since 2011).

The gap between Vancouver and the playoffs

As of writing this, the St. Louis Blues hold the second wild card in the West with 92 points.  Ignoring the number of games that remain for each team, that gap isn’t much of a mountain to climb as the Canucks currently have 69 points. Keep in mind, the blues have four games left on the schedule while the Canucks have three.

Let’s say that the Canucks end up around 22-24 points out of a playoff spot when the regular season concludes. Jim Benning could look at that as being only 11-12 wins from the playoffs. He could easily convince himself that if injuries did not happen, the team may have had those wins.

This flawed kind of thinking, combined with making the postseason in 2015 has reinforced that idea. Benning’s primary goal for every season is to make the playoffs. He assures us of the depth that the team will have for next year, as Daniel Wagner notes. Benning made the same promise last season and look where the Canucks ended up.

Forgive my skepticism, but I do not expect any different results next year, especially if most of this season’s team is brought back. In my opinion, the gap is farther than he realizes. It is not as simple as being a handful of wins away.

A simple solution?

There isn’t anything complicated to solve the problem with the standings. The NHL should simply adopt the IIHF three-point scoring system updated on their World Championships page. My suggestion of using these rules is nothing new, but is still important.

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Simply put, teams get three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime/shootout win and one point for losing in extra time. Unfortunately, the league would still reward losing, but perhaps it would force teams to try and win in regulation with the risk of throwing away a point.

Honestly, you have seen it before. The Vancouver Canucks coast into overtime when the score is tied since that extra point is already there. They are not alone. Every team is guilty of this at one point or another during the season. Chris Hine from the Chicago Tribune is well aware of that fact from both players and coaches around the league.

Let’s go back and compare St. Louis to Vancouver again. Under IIHF rules, the Blues have 32 regulation wins, 11 OT/SO wins and 6 loser points. That adds up to 124 points. For the Canucks, they have 26 regulation wins, 4 OT wins (none in the shootout) and 9 loser points. Their new total would be 95 points. It sounds a lot better, except the gap between them is greater at 29 points.

10 regulation wins fixes that, right? That’s a lower number than what is required in the current system. However, those 11-12 wins in the current system can be in any fashion. Using IIHF rules, if the Canucks make an error and head to overtime, like they did against Columbus yesterday, that could be their season right there.

Long term success over myopia

My biggest issue with the current system is that three-point games would push mediocre teams closer in the middle of the standings. With a little luck, a bad team makes the playoffs only to be quickly disposed of in the first round. What’s the point?

The plan can’t simply depend on luck and that the only goal is the playoffs. There is an element of long term planning and team building to achieve this. I believe the gap between the best and the worst would increase. It does not show parity, but it will prevent bad teams from believing they are close to the playoffs when they are not. Players and coaches could no longer sit back during tied games because it could cost them later down the road.

This should increase the entertainment value of the NHL. Speaking as a hockey fan and not just a Canucks fans, conservative play is sucking the life out of this sport. There may be more goals this year than last, but it’s a far cry from what it was in the ’80’s.

I understand that the season is a grind, but if teams can’t handle it, then they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. You can no longer blame the coaches or the players if both are doing everything they can to win in regulation. The game goes back to playing to win instead of playing to not lose.

This will expose poor general managers. The team’s shortcomings and successes will ultimately fall on them, which it should about 90% of the time. It’s time for bad teams to stop lying to themselves. Stop believing that they are so close to making the playoffs or being proud of catching another non-playoff team (I’m looking at you, Brandon Sutter).

Next: Vancouver Canucks lose a lot

No one in this league should be able to hide from scrutiny when hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line. NHL games have not been worth the same value since 2005. The way teams are operated has drastically changed with the salary cap. At the very least, there should be a level playing field for the standings. Put in the three-point system.