Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Your Real NHL Standings & Their Impact on the Playoffs and Draft

You play to win the game – not to not lose the game. This is fundamental to pro sports. Herm Edwards would agree I’m sure.

Awarding NHL teams a point for losing in overtime distorts the standings. It misrepresents a team’s won/loss record, awards teams for losing and ultimately results in teams with fewer wins making it into the playoffs over teams with more wins. Divisional seating also distorts things.

How can a team that finished the season 38-44 be allowed to finish 3rd overall in the East?

The Loser Point

Entertainment is at its highest when drama is at its highest. By awarding a consolation point for losing undermines drama and by extension the raw entertainment value of a game. If fans know they will be rewarded even if they lose, the suspense and drama is diminished. Fans don’t feel the same level of elation or agony when their teams win or lose.

The NHL represents the highest and finest level of hockey on the planet played by the best of the best. Why on earth reward losing? It’s unfair, intellectually offensive and not in keeping with the principles that govern the highest levels of competition.

This isn’t summer camp – everyone isn’t a winner. There are winners and losers. To award a loser point suggests the NHL is not fully committed of its overtime format. If you implement it believe it and own it. Don’t waffle. Except for IHOP, no one likes wafflers.

There should be winners and losers, and not winners, losers and sort-of-losers-but-not-really-high-five.

Some Perspective

Let’s put things in perspective - if a team lost all 82 games this season in overtime, it would be in 12th place in each conference.

The NHL Standings

Your Real NHL Standings

The NHL standings have been adjusted to more accurately reflect a team’s success. A few things were done. First, the loss column has been consolidated so that overtime losses are now included in the loss column. That means that won-loss records accurately reflect team success.

The second adjustment relates to the loser point. Each team’s point total has been revised so that a point is not awarded for losing in overtime – be it in the shootout or 4 on 4. A win is a win is a win.

Finally, divisional seating has been eliminated.

Ties in the standings were broken by head-to-head record then goal differential.

Who’s In/Who’s Out

After the adjustments are made, things change dramatically. The clear beneficiaries of the current NHL standings are the Panthers and the Jets.

The Panthers and Kings are out of the playoffs, and the Sabres and Stars are in the post-season. The Panthers record drops to 38-44, one win worse than the Sabres, while the Kings lose two more games than the Stars.

The Panthers drop is most dramatic. With the help of 18 overtime losses and divisional seating, it finished 3rd overall. However, without that help, they drop to 9.

Agreed – the Panthers and Kings deserve to make it under the existing system. However, that is not the point as the criticism is not directed to these teams. Rather, it is directed to a system that allows teams with fewer wins to make the playoffs.

The Playoff Matchups

Here are your current playoff matchups:

East: Rangers/Senators; Bruins/Capitals; Panthers/Devils; Penguins/Flyers
West: Canucks/Kings; Blues/Sharks; Coyotes/Hawks; Wings/Predators

When the adjusted NHL standings are applied, things change dramatically.

East: Penguins/Sabres; Rangers/Senators; Bruins/Capitals; Devils/Flyers
West: Canucks/Stars; Blues/Coyotes; Wings/Sharks; Predators/Hawks

If I’m the Wings and Devils I’m not too happy. Teams generate significant revenue from playoffs games and for that reason they prefer home ice advantage. However, the current NHL standings award home ice advantage to the Panthers (38-44) and Coyotes (42-40) over the Devils (48-34) and the Wings (48-34).

The NHL would have preferred that the Flyers and Penguins both have a chance to advance to the next round. Under the adjusted standings, they do.

NHL Draft

The only clubs with the opportunity to receive the first overall selection in the 2012 draft are the five teams with the lowest regular-season point totals. Those teams are as follows:

(1) Blue Jackets, (2) Oilers, (3) Canadiens, (4) Islanders and (5) Leafs

However, with the NHL standings adjusted, the top five changes to the following:

(1) Blue jackets, (2) Canadiens, (3) Oilers, (4) Carolina and (5) Islanders

So the Leafs (35-47) are out of the top 5, and the Hurricanes (33-49) are in. As well, the Canadiens move up and the Islanders and Oilers slide down in the draft order.

The Adjusted Standings Are Closer

We’ve heard that the loser point keeps the standings close, thereby ensuring that fans stay interested. However, as you will notice, the adjusted standings remain close.

In fact, they are closer where it matters – at the bottom.

Without the adjustments, the Sabres are 3 points out of a playoff spot, and Tampa and Winnipeg are 8 points out. With the adjusted standings, Tampa and Florida are 2 points out, and the Jets are 4 points out.

In the West, the Flames are 5 out, the Stars are 6 out and the Avalanche are 7 points out. With the adjusted standings, the Avalanche are 2 points out, the Kings 4 and the Flames 6.

Overall, the adjusted (or real) NHL standings make good sense. They are intuitive, reward merit and keep the standings close. As a sports fan, that’s all you can ask for.


Scott A. said...

Nice work on the stats to illustrate the point.

In my opinion, regardless of whether or not the race to clinch a playoff spot is more or less exciting, awarding a point to a team that loses makes no sense.

I don't buy into a loser-point concept for kids as they will grow up feeling entitled and not knowing how to win or lose gracefully. Why would I want the top paid professionals to get that treatment. I understand it's not the players that decided this, but the league should see how ridiculous this is.

Eric Macramalla said...

Great comments Scott