As a current television game show suggests, fifth graders can be as smart as adults. Yet, there are some things that fifth graders do not understand.
That’s because we as adults have the remarkable, and fruitless, ability to twist simple things into complicated ones that defy logic and explanation. Such is the case for the NHL standings.
In simpler times, the NHL standings reflected a team’s wins, losses and ties. Once the NHL replaced ties with overtime, and later shootouts, that left teams with wins and losses. So logic suggests the standings would show two numbers (wins, losses) for each team. But no, this is where the adults had to complicate things.
So now the standings maintain a third number for those games that are not wins, but aren’t necessarily losses either. The third column is for the sort-of-a-loss, in the same way that a woman would be sort-of-pregnant. The fifth grader in our household, being smarter than us adults for the moment, would surely point out that a woman is either pregnant or she isn’t, with no middle option available.
The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season, but managed to find some silver linings in the cloud. One was its season series record against the Western Conference’s No. 1 team, Detroit. The Blues compiled a 4-3-1 record against the Red Wings, capped off by a 3-2 shootout win March 24.
The game recap, courtesy of NHL.com, noted it was the first time since the 1997-98 season that the Blues won the season series against Detroit. Or was it?
The Blues earned nine points in the series (two for a win, one for an OT/shootout loss). However, three of the Blues’ wins came in extra time. Thus, Detroit’s record was 4-1-3, giving the Red Wings 11 points. So it would appear that Detroit actually won the series.
Then again, each team won four games in an eight-game series, so maybe neither team won the series. Confused? You’re not alone.
The simple thing for the benefit of NHL fans is to eliminate the gray area, to acknowledge that a team either wins or loses a game, with nothing in between. Thus St. Louis and Detroit would each have a 4-4 record in their season series.
Yet, the NHL insists on awarding consolation points for losing in extra time. Professional sports has always been about competition, having a winner and a loser, which was the NHL’s rationale for eliminating ties. If teams feel a need for consolation points, have them play in youth leagues where standing are not recorded, or trophies are awarded to everyone for participation.
If the NHL feels that strongly about consolation points, why not go several steps further? How about awarding a point to those teams that lose in the final minute of regulation? Surely, that is as much a moral victory as losing in the first minute of overtime.
Or awarding a point to losing teams when the winning goal is scored on a deflection off a defending defenseman. Surely, a losing team can not be faulted for its effort or execution when the deciding goal results from such a freakish bounce of the puck.
Or awarding a point to the losing team if it manages at least 40 shots on goal. One could describe such scenario, familiar to Panthers and Canucks opponents, as being “Luongoed.” The losing coach would mutter, “We got ‘Luongoed’ tonight, but at least we picked up a point in the standings.”
The consolation point creates confusion not only with the team standings but also the NHL record book. The Philadelphia Flyers hold the league record for longest unbeaten streak, 35 games in 1979-80, which means they picked up a point via win or tie in each of those games. The Flyers did not lose a game during that streak going 25-0-10.
If a team today were to go unbeaten in 34 straight games and then lose the 35th in overtime, should that team be credited with tying Philadelphia’s record of 35 games with a point? Should that team be credited with tying Philadelphia’s record of 35 games without a loss, considering the team’s record on paper would be listed as 34-0-1?
Thus, the consolation point diminishes the value of statistical comparison between teams of today and the past. The NHL should consider abolishing the consolation point and decree that a win is a win, and a loss is a loss, with nothing in between. Then fifth graders will be able to comprehend the league standings.