by PuckStopsHere on 12/18/09 at 03:54 PM ET
The NHL standings are heavily distorted by a ridiculous point system. Games are worth two points, unless they go to overtime. Then they are worth three points. A team that manages a lot of regulation ties benefits in this system. They have more points available to them (as more of their games are three pointers) and are better able to have a higher position in the standings.
An extreme example of this can be found in the West Conference standings right now. The Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks both have played 34 games played. Dallas has won 14 games and lost 20. Vancouver has won 19 games and lost 15. Dallas is ahead of Vancouver in the standings. How can this be true? Dallas has a league-leading 11 games that they have lost after regulation time has ended. Vancouver is last in the league in that department. They have not lost any games that went beyond regulation time. For that Vancouver is effectively being punished. Vancouver is 11th when ranked by wins per game played (a much more logical way to rank teams). Vancouver is 17th in league standings. Dallas is 23rd when ranked by wins per games played and 14th in league standings.
Dallas is on pace to have the most regulation tie losses since the shootout was implemented (which made the last change to this point scheme) and Vancouver is on pace to have the fewest. That magnifies the stupidity of the NHL point scheme. It is possible that Dallas’s overtime and shootout losses will get them a playoff berth at the expense of Vancouver (who didn’t lose in those situations enough). That would be a shame for the NHL. The Vancouver Canucks are clearly the better of the two teams and that is shown by any reasonable metric to rank teams (unfortunately the NHL standings are not so reasonable). The Stanley Cup playoffs could see a Dallas team qualify that is not much of a threat and would likely lose in the first round, while a Vancouver team that has a far better chance at making a significant run misses out. It is in the best interests of fans that the best possible teams make playoffs as they are best able to play in compelling playoff series. This current NHL standings scheme could prevent it in this case.
Perhaps there is some kind of skill that Dallas has that Vancouver lacks that allows them to get to the end of regulation time tied and then lose the game, which Vancouver lacks. If this is a skill, it is not one that carries over into playoffs. Nobody gets credit for losing a playoff game in overtime. It isn’t something the NHL should reward.
In general, rewarding losing in overtime and shootouts rewards teams that lose. Teams that lose more games tend to lose more games in regulation and lose more games in overtime as well. If we rank teams into three groups by their overall wins (breaking ties with wins per game played), we get a top group of (Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Jersey, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Washington) with 32 regulation tie points, we get a middle group (Atlanta, Boston, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, Minnesota, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia and Vancouver) with 32 regulation tie points and a bottom group (Anaheim, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Montreal, NY Islanders, St Louis, Tampa Bay and Toronto) with 69 regulation tie points. Clearly, bottom feeding teams tend to get more regulation ties. This has the effect of making the standing appear closer than they are (as the bottom is not as far back as it should be). It creates a situation where 24 of 30 teams can claim to be “above .500” as they have more than half the available points in the games they play. It generates a false sense of parity. Worse it looks quite possible that it will distort the standings enough that should be bottom feeding Dallas team could make playoffs in place of a much better Vancouver team.
The point for losing in overtime must go. Its only purpose is to distort the standings and as a result manipulate fans.
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