Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver And the Art of Losing Well

The Vancouver Canucks are on pace to set a dubious NHL record. With 12 overtime or shootout losses in 53 games, the Canucks are projected to lose 19 games in extra time, eclipsing a league mark (18) shared by the 2008-09 Tampa Bay Lightning; the 2011-12 Florida Panthers; the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils; and the 2014-15 Philadelphia Flyers.

Combine that with the 20 regulation losses that Vancouver has already suffered and you get 32 losses in 53 games. So what, you say? The Canucks are a poor team. It’s obvious.

Vancouver is a poor team. That was our first point. Vancouver is also just five points off the playoff pace in the Pacific Division, and until Anaheim and San Jose reeled off substantial recent winning streaks, the Canucks were even closer. That is the second, more disturbing point.

Vancouver might not make the playoffs — no Canadian teams might make the playoffs for that matter — but what if the Canucks did with such an epically bad record?

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time a poor team made the NHL postseason and the Canucks aren’t even close to setting that record. The 1968-69 L.A. Kings made the postseason with a 24-42-10 record for 58 points, and the Oakland Seals made the playoffs after a 1969-70 season in which they went 22-40-14 for 58 points.

More recently, the 1978-79 Canucks went 25-42-13 for 63 points and the 1987-88 Toronto Maple Leafs went 21-49-10 for 52 points.

Precedent does not make anyone outside of Vancouver feel any better about the current state of the standings.

There are all sorts of debates about what to do with the so-called loser points. Some radicals would like to see a cap on loser points so that you can only earn so many before the provision kicks in (kind of like Edmonton and No. 1 picks).

Some people would like to see the NHL award three points for every game. A win in regulation equals three points for the winner; a win in overtime or a shootout equals two points for the winner and one for the loser, with regulation or overtime wins (ROW) still maintaining their significance for standings tiebreakers. That would help negate the impact of loser points.

Some people want the NHL to go back to ties but those people probably also like soccer and Japanese baseball. Some pacifists are fine with the current format that camouflages teams’ poor records in a lipstick-on-a-pig manner.

In the current standings format, 23 of the NHL’s 30 teams can claim they are above .500, including, of course, the Canucks. But what would happen if those loser points were removed, instead lumping overtime or shootout losses in with losses, using the insane reasoning that losses are, well, losses?

If loser points no longer existed, Vancouver would tied with Edmonton at the bottom of the Pacific Division and Western Conference and ahead of only Toronto in the NHL standings with 42 points.

It’s not their fault — Canucks are simply playing within the current rules. Vancouver’s ability to get to overtime or a shootout 19 times is a testament to something. It just doesn’t quite make sense that Canucks’ lack of success in extra time is rewarded as much as it has been.

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Overtime Art
Four teams in NHL history have reached 18 losses combined between overtime and shootouts. Here they are with their season finish:

Season Team Division Finish Playoffs
2008-09 Tampa Last, Southeast None
2011-12 Florida 1st, Southeast Lost 1st Round
2013-14 New Jersey 6th, Metropolitan None
2014-15 Philadelphia 6th, Metropolitan None
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