Kukla's Korner

Making sense of the NHL standings

The Numbers Guy at the Wall Street Journal (Carl Bialik) gets on board with what should be a no-brainer of an idea to make the game more accessible to the general public.  His “Modest Proposal for NHL Standings” (gotta love a guy who gives a nod to Jonathan Swift) strikes a blow for common sense:

At any given time in any sports league’s season, some teams will have played more games than others. But other leagues take that into account in the standings. The NBA’s New Orleans Hornets are listed as one game behind the San Antonio Spurs, who have played two more games and won two more games. Similarly, last May 31, the Philadelphia Phillies had one more win than the Florida Marlins but stood in second place in the National League East because they had two more losses.

It’s a little more complicated in the NHL, where the winning team always gets two points but the losing team also gets a point if the game goes to overtime, and in soccer, for that matter, where winners get three points and teams that draw get one apiece. Here’s a fix to that problem: Rank teams by points per game played, rather than total points. That system would have shown Rangers fans that their team really ranked fourth in the East a month ago.

Yes, regular NHL fans can sort this stuff out, but for the casual sports fan flipping through and looking at standings, ranking teams by Points Percentage would make the picture much clearer. Of course, if we got rid of the ridiculous OT/SO “loser point”, the NHL could just use Winning Percentage, a crystal-clear measure of team success that everyone can relate to.

Filed in: NHL Statistical Analysis, | On the Forecheck | Permalink


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