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Stars have to stop taking the consolation prize in overtime

If there has ever been a glaring example of why the NHL’s points system is messed up, it would be this year’s Dallas Stars.

The Stars head into another important division showdown tonight at the American Airlines Center against the WInnipeg Jets with a record of 19-23 at the season’s hallway point. But it’s not all THAT bad, since they still at least got something from seven of those losses.

Because, you see, hockey for some reason behaves even worse than all those youth sports leagues people complain about for giving “participation trophies.” They actually reward teams with consolation points for losing in overtime.

Yes, according to all the pundits on the radio and on TV, we need to take away small trophies from little leagues that are supposed to be giving kids a chance to have fun and learn teamwork to shove the “winning is the only thing” attitude at them at the age of eight years old, but it’s perfectly acceptable to give an even bigger consolation prize to professional teams where grown men earn millions of dollars.

At the moment, the Stars’ 12-point deficit behind St. Louis for the Central’s third playoff spot would be the equivalent of being six games back. Take away the points and base this solely on wins and losses, they would be 7 1/2 back.

So yeah, the fact that the Stars are currently 2-7 in overtime games is actually a blessing in that, by simply forcing those overtimes, they’re still within some level of striking distance. If they had lost all those games in regulation, they’d be 19 points back. At least they know when to lose.

But say the Stars, aided by even more overtime losses in the games ahead, manage to grab a wild card or even miraculously move into the Central’s top three. Should that happen, their dreams in the playoffs are going to come crashing down on a harsh reality.

Because once the playoffs start, there are no consolation points – only bitter sudden death losses.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are littered with the bones of teams whose dreams of lifting the Cup were dashed by heartbreaking overtime losses. Stars fans know this all to well, having endured such defeats last season as well as 2000 and 1997. They’ve also seen the other end, thanks to Brett Hull in 1999.

Sooner or later, you have to think that the NHL will realize this consolation garbage is hurting the league’s integrity and scrap the whole system. Once they added the shootout, there was no reason to not drop the points system and go to standings based solely on wins and losses. Because the way the system is now, it’s giving a false feeling of security to teams like the one in Dallas that losing in overtime is not so bad. It will be come April.

Already, there is some grumbling among the fanbase as to whether or not Kari Lehtonen has the extra “it” factor to take the Stars to the next level, much like they had with Andy Moog 17 years ago, leading to them going after Ed Belfour. At this point, with only two shootout losses and no owns in the overtime period, they may have a point.

There is still time to get things together, with not even the All-Star Break having arrived. But the Stars, more than anything else, need to start learning how to win those games that go past 60 minutes, and not just to get the valuable second point for the game.

Or else, this hockey team is going to learn the hard way that, come playoff time, you don’t get a participation trophy for losing in overtime.

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