Why the NHL Should Adopt an "All or Nothing" Points System

Robert FischerContributor IMarch 13, 2009

During the NHL meetings that took place in Florida early this week, much was made of going to a "three-point system" for the standings.

This is meant to emphasize the importance of winning in regulation.

I believe the NHL's most crowd-pleasing course of action is to take it back a decade and do things the old-fashioned way.

Two points for a win: be it regulation, overtime, or shootout. And (stay with me, folks) zero points for a loss, no matter how it comes.

Sure, I count myself among fans who take solace in the fact my team did not come away empty-handed when the game continues past regulation.

And that is just my point: This system takes away the feeling of a gut-wrenching loss for fans. That pain is also as much a part of sports as winning.

There should be no prize for coming in second in a two-team race.

This isn't Little League; we do not have to reward a team for doing their best and falling a bit short. This is America, and our policy is "Winner take all!"

There could be no greater evidence that this system should be adopted than watching NHL action at this point in the season.

This is the time when two teams in contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs will go ultra-conservative in the last five minutes to ensure themselves a point in the standings.

This is found especially in inter-conference games since giving the other team a point will not harm a team's playoff position.

Now throw in the fact that the loser of a game gets nothing and things tend to get more interesting.

A team who is not a successful shootout opponent will be more inclined to let it all hang out to get a win in regulation or the overtime period, lest they lose everything in the shootout.

This also takes away the shootout being an anti-climactic way to end a hockey game. 

For example, let's say Phoenix is playing San Jose. There is no question the Sharks are the more talented of the two teams and the odds-on favorite to win the game.

Normally if these teams were to go to a shootout, the Coyotes, with a point in hand, would leave most of their fans content. They just took a point from the best team in the Western Conference. 

Sure, Phoenix fans have a rooting interest in the shootout. But are they that disappointed should they lose? Not really.

Take that point away and you have Coyote fans on the edge of their seat, poised to leave the Sharks with nothing for their efforts that night.

That makes for dramatic television. And, after all, isn't it all about expanding the audience these days?

The "one point for regulation tie" rule was put into effect to let teams be aggressive in the 4-on-4 overtime period and avoid the dreaded tie.

This no longer needs to be the case. You can not tie in the NHL! The shootout fixed that loophole. Now that the game has a clear-cut winner and loser, why do we need points for second place?

This also makes the point race at the top of each conference as interesting as the race for the last few playoff spots. 

For example this year: The Boston Bruins' stumble down the stretch could cost them the top spot had they not picked up points while losing. 

If a team sitting in the fourth seed could string together five or six wins in a row, coupled with the top seed losing nine of 12 over a stretch (as Boston did recently) it is conceivable for that team to make an assault on the top conference spot.

Adding more points to the standings just further confuses the general public. But there is one philosophy that everyone understands:

Win or go home!