As many of you loyal readers--well, the five of you who have stuck around during this annoying lockout--know, the Dallas Stars and three-point games are not on good terms. For the past couple seasons, the Stars have missed out on the playoffs by essentially an inch because they haven't taken advantage of a point system that's been in place since 2005, when the NHL came out of its last lockout.
One could also argue the Stars have been screwed by three point games, and there's some merit to that argument in my opinion, but the Stars should have figured out how to lose their games the right way. Therein lies the problem. Why is there a system that encourages teams to punt overtime and get to the shootout and be content with getting a point? Why isn't there is a system that gives teams incentive to win games in regulation or actually try to win in the five-minute overtime to have wins that count more than shootout wins?
Do you see what's wrong here? Why are some wins more valuable than other wins? Isn't a win supposed to be a win? It is that way in pretty much every sport in the world.
Are extra-inning wins in the MLB less valuable in the standings than a win in a standard 9-inning baseball game? Nope.
Does the NBA place more weight on overtime? Nope.
Or how about the NFL? Nope.
Now, to be fair, and not to digress too much, the NFL's overtime system is still kind of flawed, but it's better than it used to be.
The debate on how to properly come up with a solution to fix this nagging issue in the NHL's standings point system is widespread. I've brought along a close friend, and writer for Fear the Fin, mymclife to discuss two different solutions we feel might fix the problem.
Bring Back the Tie
Why does the NHL have a system that rewards losing? You lost. You take your defeat, go home, and realize you get nothing out of that. Or, to put it best: You get nothing. You lose. Good day, sir. No other sport in the world has this kind of system in place. I hate the loser point more than anything in the NHL. Okay, maybe except for Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr, Steve Fehr, Bill Daly...those guys. But that's a story for another era.
My solution is a rather simple one: The NHL needs to bring back the tie and get rid of the shootout.
Yes, ties are boring because nobody comes out a winner. But, I firmly believe that this will encourage teams to actually play their hardest in every game of the regular season because there won't be that fallback option of a free point that is currently available in the present system. You want to make the playoffs? You've got to win your games. You resort to playing to get to overtime and relying on a point you get from tying.
Yes, this does mean a team can not win a single game in a season and get 82 points. That doesn't mean they'll make the playoffs.
I also believe the NHL needs to bring back the tie because I think the tie reflects a team more accurately in the standings. Case in point: the 2011-2012 Florida Panthers. Their record: 38-26-18. Yes. Eighteen overtime losses. This is a team that took advantage of a flawed system and won their division...and promptly lost to the Devils in 7 games in the first round of the playoffs. But they won their division because the lost their games the right way.
You know another team like that? The Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings. (VOMITS). Their record, for those of you who don't remember: 40-27-15. Fifteen loser points. Look at it another way, they lost 42 games, and got rewarded for almost one-third of their losses. However, this is purely overall record, and the Kings made up significant ground down the stretch, much to our dismay, and played the most dominant postseason the NHL has seen in a while.
I'm not taking anything away from the Kings. They definitely earned the Stanley Cup. I'm just saying that there is a system in place that allows teams like the Panthers and the Kings to lose in advantageous ways, and that's just wrong.
Going back to a Win-Loss-Tie system that was last in place in the 1998-1999 season will more accurately represent how good or bad a team is. It just so happens that 98-99 was the year the Stars won the Cup with that system in place, entering the playoffs with a glorious 51-19-12 record, finishing with 114 points. That team lost only 19 times in an 82 game season, including games in overtime. I don't need to emphasize how awesome that team was, since we all know what happened, but holy cow 19 losses all season? To put that into better perspective, the Vancouver Canucks finished with 111 points with a 51-22-9 record. They actually lost 31 games that season, and got rewarded for nine of those losses. They lost in the first round to the Kings, but then again, they caught fire in March and broke for nobody.
I can also cite the 2005-2006 Dallas Stars as a case for why the NHL needs to revert to the Win-Loss-Tie. Remember that 53-23-6 112-point season that ended in a whimper in five games to the Avalanche in the first round? (Let me say this: It didn't help that Marty Turco was godawful that entire series.) Twelve of those 53 wins were earned in the shootout. What good does 12 shootout wins do besides give you 24 points in the standings? It doesn't prepare teams well for the playoffs, since the system doesn't encourage teams to play as hard as they can in overtime.
Here are the Stanley Cup Champions from 1979-1999, as well as where they finished in the conference standings.
- 1979-1980: New York Islanders, 2nd Clarence Campbell Conference
- 1980-1981: New York Islanders, 1st Clarence Campbell Conference
- 1981-1982: New York Islanders, 1st Prince of Wales Conference
- 1982-1983: New York Islanders, 4th Prince of Wales Conference
- 1983-1984: Edmonton Oilers, 1st Clarence Campbell Conference
- 1984-1985 Edmonton Oilers, 1st Clarence Campbell Conference
- 1985-1986 Montreal Canadiens, 3rd Prince of Wales Conference
- 1986-1987 Edmonton Oilers, 1st, Clarence Campbell Conference
- 1987-1988 Edmonton Oilers 2nd Clarence Campbell Conference
- 1988-1989 Calgary Flames, 1st Clarence Campbell Conference
- 1989-1990 Edmonton Oilers, 2nd Clarence Campbell Conference
- 1990-1991 Pittsburgh Penguins, 2nd Prince of Wales Conference
- 1991-1992 Pittsburgh Penguins, 4th Prince of Wales Conference
- 1992-1993 Montreal Canadiens, 5th Prince of Wales Conference
- 1993-1994 New York Rangers, 1st Eastern Conference
- 1994-1995 New Jersey Devils, 5th Eastern Conference
- 1995-1996: Colorado Avalanche, 2nd Western Conference
- 1996-1997: Detroit Red Wings, 3rd Western Conference
- 1997-1998: Detroit Red Wings, 2nd Western Conference
- 1998-1999: Dallas Stars, 1st Western Conference
Of the twenty teams in that list who won the Stanley Cup, eight finished at the top of the conference, and six finished second in the conference. Those seasons used the Win-Loss-Tie standing system, and featured some very dynastic teams, like the Oilers and Islanders in the 1980s. Yes, there are a few outliers in that list, with some teams finishing as low as fifth in the conference, but 70% of those champions finished either first or second in the conference standings under that system.
Now it goes without saying that where a team finishes in the standings does not predict how it will do in the playoffs. But in the win-loss-tie system, those teams in first or second place earned those spots through winning an overwhelming majority of their games, and losing very few games, and tying even fewer. It's a simple system that encourages winning more than anything, and it's why the NHL should go back to it.
While I think I've made a strong case, let's hear from Fear the Fin writer mymclife.
The 3-2-1-0 System
Maybe it’s because I don’t watch sports that have a lot of ties. Maybe it’s because I like the idea that there has to be a winner and a loser, I don’t know. But what I do know is that seeing a hard-fought game, intense end in a tie is annoying, and feels like the game was somewhat of a waste of time.
I mean, I’m a fan of the 49ers, and watching them tie the Rams was kind of a joke (of course, that also had to do with the fact that it was the Rams - don’t even get me started on the overtime loss later in the season).
The 1969-70 Philadelphia Flyers had 24 ties in only 66 games - 36% of the time the game ended with no winner or loser. Yes, that is the league record for ties, but it’s still entirely possible for a team to be similarly futile in ending a game with a clear winner and loser.* There is no way I want to watch a team tie 20+ games.
*On the other side of things, the 1992-93 San Jose Sharks had 2 ties in 84 games, which means there wasn’t a clear winner in only 2% of their games. However, they lost 72 games that season, so not winning was a familiar occurrence for Sharks fans that year.
This is where I think the NHL has it right: there is always a winner and a loser at the end of a game. But everything else is kind of crap.
Under the current system, some games are worth two points, and some games are worth three points. The lack of consistency in points means that only SEVEN teams in the 2011-12 season were below what should be considered .500 (82 points). 77% of the league had a “winning” record under this system.
A team could go 15-0-67 and likely make the playoffs with 97 points. Hell, last season, that would have won the Southeast division and tied the Pacific. A fifteen win team should not be able to make the playoffs, much less win the division. A team that has zero wins can go .500. Obviously, there is an issue here.
This is why I propose adopting the system that virtually all European hockey leagues, as well as international tournaments, already utilize: the 3-2-1-0 points system. Three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime/shootout win, one point for an overtime/shootout loss, and zero points for a regulation loss.
With every game worth three points regardless of overtime status or not, .500 becomes .500 again. The overtime games don’t screw up the actual midpoint, because there will always been the same number of points given out every season.
This system rewards teams more for winning in regulation, which means teams will play with a greater sense of urgency late in the third in a tie game. I’ve seen teams coast with a few minutes left in the third, trying to get a guaranteed point rather than risking getting zero points. There’s no incentive to win in regulation if you’ve got a tie late, barring late-season playoff position jockeying. The points are the same no matter how you win. And I’m sorry, it’s not right that a dominant regulation win is worth the same as a glorified skills competition decision.
And yes, I believe the NHL should keep the shootout. Yes, it’s basically a skills competition and yes, it’s cheapened the penalty shot. But with the unique way the NHL is set up compared to the other Big 4 sports - teams are simultaneously on offense and defense with relatively low scoring (barring a Flyers-Penguins playoff series) - overtime periods have no guarantee of scoring within a reasonable amount of time. So in order to avoid an inordinate number of ties, the NHL either has to extend the overtime period or introduce an even more decisive way to end the game. Hence, the shootout.**
**Believe me, I HATE the shootout. Hate it. I am on record many times, on SBN and elsewhere, with my hatred of the shootout. But I do believe it is a necessary evil, because I hate ties even more.
I admit, my perfect system would be based solely on wins and losses, much like how it currently is in the playoffs - and yes, that means 5-on-5 sudden death overtime that doesn’t end until someone scores. However, with an 82 game schedule and back-to-backs with travel (which tend to be especially brutal on Western Conference teams), that system is simply not feasible. Which is why overtime gimmicks such as 4-on-4 and the shootout are necessary to avoid the tie.
However, I do propose new overtime rules in addition to the new standings system. Instead of 5 minutes of 4-on-4 and then a shootout, it will be 5 minutes of 4-on-4, 5 minutes of 3-on-3, and then a shootout. The 10 minutes of OT along with more open ice will increase the chances of scoring and ending the game, thus leading to more games ending via actual hockey rather than a skills competition. And if the game does end up being decided by a skills competition, it no longer feels quite as cheap.
I think we all can agree that the NHL’s current methodology of calculating standings positions is flawed, especially in regards to overtime/shootout losses compared to regulation wins. This is why the NHL should move towards the system that most other leagues are using, the 3-2-1-0 points system. It encourages games to finish in regulation. It no longer cheapens wins. It brings back the true meaning of .500. And, most of all, there are still no more ties.
Well there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. I propose that the NHL should go back to the Win-Loss-Tie system, while mymclife proposes the NHL should adopt an entirely new standings system. Feel free to provide your own solutions in the comments, and maybe, somebody important will be reading this and we could change the game for the better.
Hey, one can dream, right?