I might be a little late to this party. Maybe it’s not even a big party, but regardless I’m a late arriver. I’ve heard people complaining that the 3-point game was screwing everything up. No, I’m not talking about field goals on Sunday or Jason Kapono making it rain in an NBA game. But I’m AM talking about the way the standings are calculated in the NHL.
Usually, they were the people that were lower in the standings and figured that if the system was different; their crappy team wouldn’t look so crappy. So I listened to them—kind of like the same way I listen to the conspiracy theorists that talk about how NBA refs throw games. I listened, I smiled and I walked away.
But something is different this season. I’m not sure if it’s because of the number of 3-point games, the number of shootouts or just that MY team is actually in the playoff hunt this season. Whatever the case, I’m increasingly annoyed when I watch a team win in a shootout receive the same treatment that a team that wins 5-0 in regulation. Not all wins are created equal—so why are we counting them the same in the standings?
Obviously, people will get into the question whether the NHL should get rid of the shootout or not. I’m not even about to get into the pros and cons of the shootout—that is a discussion for another day. I will say that love it or hate it, it brings a ton of excitement to the arena. At the end of the day, hockey is to entertain us and the shootout is entertaining. So for our purposes today, let’s assume that the shootout isn’t going anywhere.
I know that a change in the way the NHL calculates the standings would bug people because it would completely screw up what we know about stats. All statistics are relative–and if you change their value then fans have nothing to compare them to. One of the best things about baseball is that you can compare records and statistics from the last 100 years. Major League Baseball increased the amount of games played from 154 to 162 in the early 1960’s. What does that mean for fans? That means you can look at the Dodgers’ record in 1965 and easily compare it to their record in 2009. The continuity is comforting.
For the record, here are the current NHL standings:
|2||New Jersey Devils||48||33||14||1||67|
|6||New York Rangers||50||24||19||7||55|
|8||New York Islanders||50||22||20||8||52|
|13||Tampa Bay Lightning||49||19||20||10||48|
|14||Toronto Maple Leafs||51||17||25||9||43|
|1||San Jose Sharks||51||33||10||8||74|
|8||Los Angeles Kings||49||27||19||3||57|
|9||Detroit Red Wings||49||24||17||8||56|
|12||St Louis Blues||49||22||20||7||51|
|14||Columbus Blue Jackets||52||19||24||9||47|
But while the tradition is baseball’s strongest sales point, its resistance to change is quite possibly MLB’s worst trait. Are we really at the point that we’re not changing the point structure in the NHL because people fear change? I’m all for rewarding a team that makes it to overtime and a shootout, only to lose the game on the scoreboard due to a skills competition. But for the team that wins in a shootout, should they receive the same reward in the standings as a team that legitimately wins the game?
Here’s the structure that seems to be the BEST/most popular alternative out there.
3 points for a regulation win
2 points for an OT/Shootout win
1 point for an OT/Shootout loss
0 points for a regulation loss
If we went with this kind of point structure, here’s how this year’s standings would look:
|Team||Reg Win||Reg Loss||OT/SO Win||OT/SO Loss||Pts|
|1||New Jersey Devils||26||14||7||1||93|
|5||New York Rangers||22||19||2||7||77|
|11||Tampa Bay Lightning||16||20||3||10||64|
|12||New York Islanders||12||20||10||8||64|
|14||Toronto Maple Leafs||16||25||1||9||59|
|Reg Win||Reg Loss||OT/SO Win||OT/SO Loss||Pts|
|1||San Jose Sharks||27||10||6||8||101|
|8||Los Angeles Kings||19||19||8||3||76|
|9||Detroit Red Wings||19||17||5||8||75|
|13||St Louis Blues||16||20||6||7||67|
|14||Columbus Blue Jackets||14||24||5||9||61|
I’ll go out on a limb and say that people in Long Island wouldn’t be a huge fan of this system. But as you can see, the final result is very similar to the system that we have now—with more of a premium for regulation wins.
But let’s take a step back and use some common sense. Obviously, this isn’t the cleanest way when you’re talking about rattling off someone’s record—but if the NHL wants to keep games the way they are, this would be the best way to adequately reflect the way a team has played throughout the season. I’m going to go with some simple assumptions here…
A win in regulation is better than,
A win in overtime,
Which is better than a win in a shootout
Like we said earlier, not all wins are created equal. But by the same token, not all losses are equal either. When a team loses 4-0, they don’t deserve a point. But when they lose in a skills competition because 3 of their 20 players couldn’t score in a shootout, is that really comparable?
Let’s be honest, when we’re talking about a team losing in a shootout, we’re not talking about a hockey team winning a hockey game anymore. I understand that the NHL wants the excitement (and for the record, I love watching shootouts), but there’s no way that it’s the same as a team actually winning a game on the ice. It’s just not.
As far as losses go:
A loss in a shootout is better than,
A loss in overtime,
Which is better than a loss in regulation
If we’re going to go with those assumptions, then wouldn’t it be right to award them accordingly? If that were the case, here’s what the records and standings would look like:
- Win in regulation: 5 points
- Win in overtime: 4 points
- Win in shootout: 3 points
- Loss in shootout: 2 points
- Loss in overtime: 1 point
|Team||Reg Win||Reg Loss||OT Win||SO Win||OT Loss||SO Loss||Pts|
|1||New Jersey Devils||26||14||1||6||0||1||155|
|6||New York Rangers||22||19||0||2||4||3||125|
|11||New York Islanders||12||20||5||5||3||5||105|
|13||Tampa Bay Lightning||16||20||2||1||4||6||103|
|14||Toronto Maple Leafs||16||25||0||1||7||2||94|
|Reg Win||Reg Loss||OT Win||SO Win||OT Loss||SO Loss||Pts|
|1||San Jose Sharks||27||10||1||5||2||6||164|
|8||Los Angeles Kings||19||19||2||6||2||1||126|
|9||Detroit Red Wings||19||17||2||3||3||5||122|
|13||St Louis Blues||16||20||2||4||4||3||109|
|14||Columbus Blue Jackets||14||24||3||2||1||8||99|
Again, I doubt that Islander fans are going to be a huge fan of this formula. In the West, the Canucks are rewarded for winning a lot more of their games in regulation than in OT or shootouts. But again, by and large the results are similar. It might SOUND like a huge change—but really it’s just fine tuning the current formula.
The more I looked at different possibilities, the more it became clear that the current system is inherently flawed. Winning a game in a shootout is NOT the same as winning the actual game. So why are teams rewarded the same?
What do you think would be the best way for NHL to figure out the standings? Would you use one of the ideas above? Would you keep it the same? Do you have a completely different idea? Let us know in the comment section what you think! I’m curious to hear the different ideas/opinions on this one…
(Note: Standings as of January 21, 2010)