As the end of the season approaches, games become closer and closer as the playoff race heats up.
This creates very tight, exciting games that often go to overtime or shootout.
This is great for the fans and for the teams that are currently in playoff position, but teams on the outside looking in have a hard time catching up.
The current NHL point system favours teams that are trying to maintain their position. The best way to stay put in the standings is to take the game to overtime and guarantee yourself at least one point.
This makes it very hard for teams trying to catch up at the end of the season because the abundance of overtime games, which distribute a total of three points rather than the usual two, make it so that more points are being handed out and therefore there is a larger margin that they must be overcome.
This limits teams' potential rise in the standings and leads to conservative hockey during regulation. Once overtime starts and both teams have gained that one point, the game opens up as they try to steal that extra one and if all else fails, they'll play it out in a shootout.
Over the years, the NHL has made it more and more appealing for teams to push for overtime as the season draws on. First the overtime loss point was introduced in 2000, back when ties still existed. That meant that in overtime, there was a potential for a three point game, but if no team were to score, the game would end in a tie with both teams obtaining only a point.
After the lockout, the NHL added the shootout. This guaranteed that as soon as overtime started, the game became a three point game. There were no more ties and therefore no more chances that both teams walked away with a single point. Now, if the game was tied after overtime, the teams settled it with a shootout and one team would always walk away with two points while the loser still got one.
There are a couple of solutions to this problem. First, you could get rid of the shootout and reinstate ties, thus limiting the amount of three point games being played, but I'm sure that everyone has grown the love the excitement that the shootout brings and nobody would want to see a season without it.
Secondly, you could altogether get rid of the extra point for the overtime/shootout loss, and just have a winner takes all point distribution, but I, along with many people I'm sure, am a fan of the extra point. I feel that if a team manages to score within the last couple of seconds, it makes it that much bigger of a goal and thus more exciting if they guarantee themselves a point with it, rather than just having obtained an extra five minutes to win the game.
The solution that I have come up with, is this. Initiate three point games all the time. Three points for a regulation win, no points for a loss. Then overtime and shootout wins count for two points and a loss in the extra frame counts for one. I was also thinking about having an overtime win also count for three points, and having no points for an overtime loss, thus reserving the 2-1 point distribution only for the shootout.
I believe that the five minute overtime period always has been a integral part of the sport and should be considered as much a part of the match as regulation. Shootout, on the other hand, is only used to separate teams that are so evenly matched on the night that you need to go down to individual skill to decide a winner. That eliminates the team aspect of the game, and as exciting as it might be, should not be worth as much as an overtime goal.
The three points per game setting would eliminate the runaway effect that teams lower in the standings have to overcome. All games would be worth the same amount and teams trying to catch up will earn as many points with a win as would be handed out to the teams ahead of them. Also, I am a supported of the shootout, but would like to see its role be reduced to a last resort tie break that resembles a tie in the standings by having a more even point distribution than a victory in regulation or OT.