Friday, 6 April 2012

New NHL Point System Proposal

This year's playoff race, especially in the Western Conference, is the tightest it's been since the lockout. With only two games left for most teams, no seed in the West from first to tenth is secured and Washington and Florida could finish either third, eighth or ninth in the East. This allows more and more teams to play meaningful games long into the season which benefits both fans of these teams and the league as whole. Or is it? While parity means a greater number of teams have a shot at the playoffs, it also makes the NHL lose integrity as a league. The NHL is the only one of the top four North American sports leagues that reward a team for a loss in the form of the so-called "loser point".

The loser point was instituted with the shootout the first year after the lockout. Before this, as I'm sure everyone will remember, games had a system in which there could only be a total of two points handed out to either team. If there was not a winner after regulation and overtime, the game would end in a tie with each team splitting the points. The shootout was created so that there would be a decisive victor at the end of each game to "save" fans from a game that ended in a draw. It was controversial move at the time and it remains so. I mean, who wants to lose a team game because of an individual skills competition?  The NHL, recognizing this, added an extra point to the mix by rewarding teams for making it past regulation. This three point system changed the whole complexion of the standings. With an extra point up for grabs, it eliminated the previous system which had a pre-determined number of points available for teams to compete for. This is what has created such parity in the league. Instead of every team vying for a piece of the pie, the pie can grow with each game.

Now, I am not suggesting a change back to the times with only two points given out for each game. I am not sure there is a possible scenario in which that would work without reverting back to ties - and the NHL won't do that in the foreseeable future. My suggestion is that instead of rewarding teams for simply making it past regulation, they reward teams for succeeding at the shootout - yet still treat it as an inferior win. The solution: a 2-1-0 point system. Two points for a regulation or overtime win, one point for a shootout win, and zero points for any loss.  This system would eliminate the "loser" point, and benefit those teams that are able to win in overtime or a shootout, rather than those teams who go into a suffocating defense in the third period just to gain a point. In theory, teams would push harder later in the games, and in overtime, to earn an extra point in the standings and thus leading to fewer shootouts. Even if the game does go to a shootout, the NHL saves face by making them worth only half of a regular win.

There is no flaw I can find with this system; in fact I think it suits the current tie-break formula much better than the current system. Below, I have adjusted the current NHL standings to match my point system and reward the teams that have celebrated the most amount of victories this season.

EASTERN CONFERENCE                                                      
                             W      L      P     ROW                    
NY Rangers       51     30    100     47
Boston                48     33     88      40
Washington      41     40     78      37
Pittsburgh         50     31     91      41
Philadelphia    47     34     90      43
New Jersey      47     34      82      35
Ottawa               41     40     76      35
Tampa Bay        37     44     71      34
Buffalo               39     42     71      32
Winnipeg          37     44     70      33
Florida                37     44     68     31
Toronto              35     46     66     31
Carolina             33     50     65     32
NY Islanders     34     47     61     27
Montreal           30      51    55     25

                             W      L      P     ROW         
Vancouver        50      31    96       42
St. Louis             48     32     92      44
Dallas                 42      39     77      35
Nashville          47     34     89       42
Detroit               48     33     87      39
Chicago             44     37      82      38
San Jose            42     39     75      33
Phoenix            40     40     74       34
Los Angeles       40      41    74     34
Colorado           41      40     73      32
Calgary                36      45    69      33
Anaheim            34     47     65      31
Edmonton         32     49     59      27
Minnesota        35     46     59      24
Columbus          28     53    52       24

As you can see, this provides for some interesting playoff implications. In the East, Florida suddenly drops from third to eleventh (Wow!) and Tampa Bay, who is currently 8 points out with the current system, would be sitting in eighth place battling with Buffalo and Winnipeg. At the bottom of the conference, there would be some minor shifting with Toronto and Carolina swapping seeds. As expected, the West is full of changes. Dallas, who currently sits in ninth place, eliminated from the playoffs, jumps to the division lead with a 2 point cushion on San Jose while Los Angeles and Colorado would still be battling for the last two playoff positions. At the bottom, there is some minor shifting with Minnesota making the largest plunge from twelfth to fourteenth. This may not seem like much, but an Edmonton team who sits 7 points back of them with the current system would now overtake them. Sorry Dallas, Tampa Bay, and fans of the other teams that would still be alive if it wasn't for the dreaded loser point. Parity in the league remains high with this system, and at the very least, it's some food for thought.