April 4, 2015

steve laidlaw


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Yesterday's discussion of the loser point led to an interesting suggestion from a reader: make all overtime/shootout wins worth one point and overtime/shootout losses worth none. That certainly would certainly incentivize teams to go for the win in regulation, especially late in the season if fighting for a playoff spot. We could see some desperation scenarios with teams pulling goalies really early, Patrick Roy style.


That gets me thinking about a recent Junior A playoff game that took place in my hometown. Late in a tie game the out-of-town coach decided to pull his goalie and go for the win in regulation while his team had the opponents hemmed into their own zone. This is one heck of a David strategy.


If you are unfamiliar with the term "David strategy" it relates to the story of David and Goliath. David strategies are thus strategies that teams/coaches can employ when they are at a talent deficit to try and give their team a better chance. These are often high variance strategies that pay off big when they succeed but fail miserably when they don't. They make sense when you are at a talent deficit though because if the strategy fails well then you've just achieved a predictable outcome.


We see this all the time in the NHL. The whole concept of suffocating offense and turning the game into a neutral zone battle is to suppress scoring chances and increase variance. If you play a wide-open style then both teams get more chances and the one with more talent will more frequently win just based on the law of averages. Suppress chances and you increase variance.


In the story about the Junior A game the coach decided that he was probably going to lose if he kept going at 5-on-5 so he tried to increase his odds of a quick goal by going 6-on-5. It backfired and the team lost 5-3 on two empty-net goals.


I remarked that this seemed like the actions of a coach who was trying to get fired. Not so. The coach also owns the team. This was a man with ultimate job security so he had no incentive to play safe. He went for the gusto and lost. Mad respect, yo.


How this story relates to the suggestion above is that by incentivizing wins in regulation you could increase the employment of David strategies like pulling the goalie early or simply committing to a more aggressive offensive attack late in regulation when a chance opens up.


I don't actually like the idea of making an overtime/shootout win worth just one point. Ultimately you've devalued a win, which I'm against. It's an interesting notion though.


Another suggestion I'm seeing thrown around a bunch as the "simple solution" is to make every game worth three points. Regulation wins would be worth three and overtime/shootout wins become worth two, while overtime/shootout losses are worth one. I agree that it's simple but it doesn't take away the incentive (points) that comes from getting a game to overtime/shootout. And in this system you've still devalued a win, which again, I don't see why you'd bother.


Keep in mind, all these suggestions are better than what we have now. I just like solution the best. Every win is the same and every loss is the same. Why make it complicated?