By: Will Burchfield
When Tomas Tatar was younger and the Red Wings played at The Joe, he checked the standings all the time.
In a way he didn’t have a choice. The standings were displayed on the wall of the team’s dressing room, staring the players in the face. But Tatar would have kept track regardless. He was new to the NHL and didn’t know any better.
A couple years later, it dawned on him: The standings are a swamp.
And there’s no use in wading through it.
“We won, let’s say, four in a row and didn’t move anywhere. That’s when it kind of gets you — it’s almost pointless to look at it. You have to pick up your points and make sure you know what points will get you to the playoffs,” Tatar said.
Part of the reason for the tight standings these days is parity. The league has never been so competitive from top to bottom. It’s also due to a system that gives out points for losing, thus decreasing the value of winning.
For teams that are trying to make up ground, as the Red Wings have been for quite some time, this is a particular problem.
“If you’re picking up points, other teams are picking up points. And not everybody can lose, so that’s the hard thing. In the two-point system it’s just really hard to catch (up),” said Tatar.
The veteran forward wasn’t complaining. He’s well aware the Wings have themselves to blame for their current position. He was simply speaking to a reality of today’s NHL: The point system augments parity that already exists.
It all stems from the loser point, which allows teams the appearance of being above .500 when in some instances they’re several games below. Most people within the game seem to agree: It’s cheap. And they’d just as soon do away with it.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill isn’t one of them. For purposes of fairness, he believes teams that lose in overtime or a shootout deserve a point.
“I think if you’re going to change the game to the levels of which the game has changed, you have to give a (loser) point. I can’t imagine it being the same as a five-on-five regulation loss when you get into three-on-threes and you get into shootouts,” Blashill said.
He’s also fully in favor of the NHL’s mechanisms for breaking ties. The shootout, in particular, has been criticized as a gimmick.
“I think those are great, entertaining ways to end games and I think the crowd likes seeing the game end in a result. I’m a huge believer in that,” Blashill said. “We’re in the entertainment business, number one. That’s a fact.”
The coach allowed there are other ways to doll out points. Tatar, for one, likes the European system that awards three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime/shootout win and one point for an overtime/shootout loss.
“It would make you play more offensive because to win a game in regular time and get three points, that would be huge. It would be an interesting changeup for the fans as well,” said Tatar. “But I’m a player, so I have to play. I’m not making these decisions.”
The Red Wings will almost surely miss the playoffs. They’re 10 points out with 37 games to play. If they don’t get hot soon, they’re fried.
“I’ve said this lots. At some point very, very quickly here, we need to go on a run,” Blashill said.
They’ll look to get one started Monday night in New Jersey. If it blossoms into something real, maybe — just maybe — Tatar will take a peek at the standings.
“It’s almost useless to look,” he said, “unless you get on a roll.”