Saturday, March 23, 2013

What is wrong with the NHL point system and possible fixes

Something that really doesn't get talked about as much as it should be in the NHL today is how the points are awarded. Right now you get two points for a win in any fashion and if you make it to overtime you get a point and if it gets as far as the shootout the loser still gets a point. I have never been a big fan of it and on a few occasions I have voiced my opinion and while there has been some talk about making the change it doesn't seem to be like a pressing issue.

First, lets take a look at what the NHL standings look like as of games played through March 22, 2013:

At first look this doesn't seem too bad. The teams that are winning are on top and the teams that aren't winning are on the bottom. That is good enough for people not to really care about what happens with the point system. In the grand scheme of things a lot might not change with a new points system but that doesn't mean the current system is right and/or shouldn't be changed. Because it should.

Here are some of the general problems I have with the current point system:

1) Teams don't get rewarded for winning in regulation. This is my biggest beef with the current point system. Basically the NHL is saying that winning a game in regulation is the same as winning a shootout which is nothing more than a skills competition. Winning in 60 minutes is a big deal for most teams. Some teams are built with more skill players that are very good at the shootout but why should that team get the same number of points for winning a skill competition rather than winning the game in regulation? It doesn't make sense. Sure, a shootout win is still a win but I think that most people would agree that it is not as impressive as a team winning the game in 60 minutes.

2) Teams get a point for a loss. Today's society is moving towards rewarding everyone. Participation trophies and medals are pretty much of common occurrence at anything that deals with kids and I am not OK with that. If everyone wants to feel good about themselves then they should go play in a recreational league, not the National Hockey League. As it stands now a team that just gets to overtime gets a point no matter if they win or lose. Where is the motivation? There isn't any since the winner only gets one more point. If you don't win in overtime or the shootout you lose, but yet you still get pretty comparable points to the team that actually won. The Chicago Blackhawks point streak was amazingly impressive this season but during that streak they lost three games in the shootout. They lost, plane and simple. Maybe it is just me but the "everyone gets a point" thing isn't something I like. If the point system was changed where you got more for winning in regulation then you can reward teams for tying in regulation but the way it is set up now doesn't work.

3) Three point games. This is one that a lot of people don't talk about but is a real problem. Adam Gretz did a nice piece on teams that were pretty much out of the playoff race just over the halfway point of the season. In another piece he brought up a huge stat in another post that stated two big time stats:

-- Going back to the 2000-01 season, a span of 10 full seasons, there have been 62 teams that have been more than five points out of a playoff spot on December 20.

-- Only four of them (or a little over 6 percent) were able to overcome that deficit to qualify for the postseason: The 2010-11 Sabres (eight points), 2008-09 Blues (six points), 2007-08 Capitals (seven points) and 2007-08 Predators (nine points).

Why is it so hard? Because of three point games. Late in the season teams look at where they stand and if they can just pick up one point they are going to be very hard to beat. To make up five points, as Gretz used, all the team that is ahead needs to do is go to overtime four or five times and that requires the team chasing them to win all five of those games plus the other games on the days the lead team is winning. Nearly impossible to make up any kind of point deficit as the season winds down. So teams that win in regulation are barely able to make up ground on teams that are losing in overtime or a shootout. Which brings me to my next point...

4) Teams mailing it in the last minutes of games. This is something that can't really be qualified but I have seen enough games where with three minutes left and the score tied both, or one, team pretty much mails it in so they could get a point. I know I have cheered for the Penguins to do that on occasion but that doesn't mean that is how it should be played. Teams that are successful in shootouts can even do as much in overtime so they can pick up the extra point in a skills competition. This really ties in with my points from above but I just think there needs to be more emphasis on winning in regulation and overtime.

Those are some of my concerns, and there are more, but I think you get the point. So what are the problems with this? Well if you ask me there aren't too many but I think these would be some that come up:

1) Record keeping. If you gave teams that won in regulation say three points that would put a huge uptick in overall points and would basically rewrite the record books. I don't think this is as big of a problem because the NHL has changed the point system and records have been OK in the long run. To be honest I would rather have a more fair point system that rewards winning in regulation over keeping record books nice and tidy.

2) There is no two. That is really the only major drawback outside of people not wanting to change.

There is definitely some backlash to this as did a story almost a year ago by Pierre Lebrun and here are a few of the notable quotes from General Managers who didn't like it:

"Because it's a terrible idea," then-Anaheim GM Brian Burke said on Feb. 21, 2007, after the meetings wrapped up. "That's why it didn't have any support. ... They tried this in British soccer and everything I've heard is that it didn't make a difference. Teams would get ahead and then would shut it down.

You mean like get ahead and play defense to keep the lead? Oh my, what a novel idea.

"I used to support it, I used to think three points for a 60-minute win was a great idea, but then after watching the standings the last few years, why would you want to eliminate those races?," veteran Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland told

Oh, you mean being five points back of a playoff spot halfway through an 82 game season and virtually having no chance to make the playoffs? Yea, that sounds reasonable.

So how would things chance with a new points system? I first got into this when I found the guys from a former Rangers blog called 5-hole who did an alternate standings post for the 2010-11 season and for the 2011-12 season. You can click on the respective link to see what came of that.

I wanted to see what this years standings would look like if there were different and I plugged the numbers in and this is what it looked like. These includes games played through Friday, March 22, 2013:

The first is a look at the system that is most likely to get play. It is the 3-2-1 system where you would get three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime/shootout win and then one point for an overtime/shootout loss.

Now this doesn't change the standing a whole ton but it absolutely has an effect in a few spots. First of all Tampa Moves up from 13 to 11 and New Jersey and Carolina flip spots with help from winning regulation games. For instance Carolina has 14 regulation wins while New Jersey only has 11 but has relied on overtime and shootout points to move ahead of Carolina in the standings now. In the 3-2-1 system Carolina would be one point better than New Jersey rather than two points back just by getting points for winning in regulation and not in overtime or the shootout. I think that is pretty justified. In the Western Conference you actually see that Dallas would be in the playoffs while San Jose drops out. San Jose has only eight wins in regulation while Dallas has 11. Should that justify them getting rewarded more for, you know, winning? I think so.

Again this isn't all about where the standings are now and what the differences are because there aren't a ton of differences, but if a team such as Columbus are trying to make the playoffs and they could make up two points from winning in regulation while Dallas loses in a shootout they have a more realistic shot to make the playoffs by winning. Isn't that the way it should be?

Just for fun I did a few more variations. The next one is where teams would get three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime win and one point for a shootout win while the losing team would get no points:

The final one I will post is where the teams would get two points for a win in regulation or in overtime and only one point for a shootout win with teams getting no points for a loss of any kind:

No I realize that not all of these would work and there are problems with any system you are going to have. I just believe that not rewarding teams for winning in regulation and not relying so much on the shootout. Right now it is really tough for teams to move up and that isn't always because other teams are winning, it is maybe because teams are just holding on to get to overtime or a shootout to make it three point games. Teams should be rewarded for winning in regulation and not treat it nearly the same as just getting to overtime and losing. Just my opinion though. In all of these it really treats the Penguins as far and above other teams but that is because nearly all of their wins come in regulation. They have 21 regulation wins which is five more than any other team in the conference. That has to count for something. Teams like San Jose who have a big chunk of their points because of wrapped up in overtime and shootouts (wins and losses) should be taken into consideration.

I am not sure if I will be able to update these through the year. If there is an easy way to do it let me know but I would like to do that. Mostly this was just something that has been on my mind and I thought it might be interesting.

Any point systems you would like to try? Do you like the way things are now? Leave it in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. I have a solution which would make the point system more simple. Winners get two points and losers get no points regardless of regulation or overtime. In the back of my mind, why should a a team that loses be rewarded at all? My case is, when a team that is trailing in the standings and are trying to make a run for a playoff spot, in reality they only gain 1 point if they win in overtime. I believe this will become more important when the new playoff format starts next year, where your standings in the division will impact if you make the playoffs or not.