Column: Loser point

There’s nothing fun about the loser point, starting with its very nature.

You lost and yet you still receive a small reward in the WHL standings, and losing should never be rewarded.

The Red Deer Rebels might disagree.

Since the Rebels were beneficiaries of 13 extra time losses that still garnered them a point, the loser point kept them afloat in the central division over a miserable two-month stretch.

Now they’re winning more, with six victories in their last eight games, plus an extra couple points from two overtime losses in the span have them battling the Kootenay Ice for third in a poor division.

In 54 games, the Rebels have just 16 wins, compared to 23 by the Ice.

The Rebels have played a league-high 19 extra time games as of Thursday, but have a grand total of 25 points from games that went beyond regulation. That is only behind only the Tri-City Americans who have 28 points.

While Red Deer has certainly been helped by the loser point this year, they aren’t the only team in the WHL that has benefited.

The Saskatoon Blades are currently on the outside looking in on the playoff picture, with 55 points and 26 wins. The Prince Albert Raiders currently occupy the final wild card spot in the east, with 22 wins and the same 55 point total.

The solution to this problem has long been debated in hockey circles, ever since the NHL tried to reduce the number of ties back in the 1999-2000 season.

For a brief period of time, the number of ties decreased and everyone was happy.

It worked for a while, then the shootout became the second kicker to award the extra point no matter what.

What all that has done over time, is just created a risk aversion from many teams late in games. They take fewer risks as time winds down in games because one point in that moment is just as crucial as the second.

Now with 3-on-3 overtime, risk aversion is creeping into that space already. Teams take less of a risk on an odd-man rush, because they know if they gamble, there’s a quality chance going the other way.

Many games are ending in a shootout because of it, which the lustre has really worn off for a lot of hockey fans.

So, returning to the loser point I think the most logical solution is award three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout victory. The loser point still exists in this scenario, but its value is much less because of the two-point gap.

That extra gamble to pick up three points in 60 minutes creates a mad scramble in the final minutes and thus– excitement.

You could also go the other way– simply award the team who gets the victory two points and nothing to the loser. That would also significantly affect the end of regulation, but may also not reward teams who battled back and deserved more than just a kick in the teeth for their efforts.

The situation has not reached a tipping point yet in the NHL ranks but the more teams plan and strategize for overtime, the quicker the need for a solution to the loser point problem will need to be found.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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