Monday, November 23, 2009

What If? ... EVERY NHL Game Was a 3 Point Game

For some time readers here have heard me muse that I don't like the "extra point." Lots of folks call it the loser's extra point but I have and continue to maintain the team getting the extra point is the team that wins either the OT period or the gimmick. I make this assertion since "back in the day" when a game could end in a tie after regulation, the two teams split the points each getting one.

For lots of reasons, the biggest being one I can't fathom but apparently some folks do indeed feel as Mr. Butt oops I mean Bettmann does and like the current OT/Shoot Out format, I've given up hoping the "gimmick" will go away. However I continue to hope things get changed so teams winning in regulation get more points than teams who don't.

From my perspective, the solution is quite simple make every game worth 3 points - a win in regulation and the winner gets all three points; a win in OT or the SO and you split the points, 2 to the winner and one to the "looser". A loss in regulation and you have the current status quo, "a no point night." Don't you think that would make more sense? Especially with the growing parity in the league due to the salary cap and the increased number of games going beyond regulation. As of the end of last night's games there have already been 85 games this season where an "extra point" has been awarded, and the extra point is figuring in the standings in interesting ways. For example, in the Eastern Conference as of this morning, the Washington Capitals are in first place by one point, interestingly that one point, the Boston Bruins are in Eighth place by one point, and because of the parity I'm talking about just two points separate the 5th place Philadelphia Flyers and the 12th place New York Islanders. In the West, just three points separate the 6th place Columbus Blue Jackets and the 11th place Vancouver Canaucks. Clearly having some games where an extra point is issued and others where it is not, regardless of who you feel is getting the "extra point" does now have a significant impact in the standings. Those 85 games with "extra points" are just shy of 26% of all games played to date.

To give you an idea of how different the Conference standings would look if every game to date were "a three point game" like I propose I put the standings together based on such a change and here's how things look in each Conference:

Eastern Conference:

Western Conference:

See anything different from the current official standings?

First off, if you look at what happens with the teams with the largest amount of Wins in regulation vs. the teams with the largest amount of "Overtime Wins" in their Conferences, you get a slightly different picture then the current standings and seeding if the playoffs were to start tomorrow. Of course that's not a real definite thing to do, but here's my first supposition looking at these modified standings, this system would mean that both the "bubble teams" as well as those fighting for their divisional leads would play harder for the regulation win, in every game down the stretch, not just the ones against division rivals.

The differences by Conference as of today are as follow.

Eastern Conference:

The Capitals would still be in first one point ahead of the team immediately behind them but that team would be New Jersey and not Pittsburgh. Buffalo would still be in third as the Northeast Division Leaders. Pittsburgh (basically exchanging positions with NJ and given that NJ has two games in hand that still might be how things play out) would be in fourth and Philadelphia would also be where they today 5th. Below that things change markedly though. If we were on an every game is three points plan the 6th, 7, 8 & 9 teams would be: 6) New York Rangers, 7) Ottawa Senators, 8) Atlanta Thrashers, and 9) Boston Bruins instead of where they are now: 6) Ottawa, 7) Tampa Bay, 8) Boston and 9 Atlanta. Also instead of being one point out of 8th, the Thrashers would be 2 points in front of 9th and Tampa Bay would be in 11th.

In the Western Conference, the top 5 teams and positions would remain as they are. However the 6 & 7th places would be reversed with 6th being Phoenix and 7th being Columbus one point behind the 'Yotes, 8th place Detroit would be one point ahead of both 9th place Vancouver and 10th place Dallas and Nashville would be in 11th place 2 points behind Detroit instead on in 9th one point back. While this might not matter to many, it will clearly matter to the "bubble teams" and their fans and I simply ask - if you don't do something like this what does a regulation game of Ice Hockey mean?

Another interesting thing to look at is what does this mean at the very bottom of the standings where the bottom 5 teams finishes impact their chance of getting the first round draft choice next summer? Well again it would matter. Today the way the standings are 26th place goes to St. Louis, 27) Minnesota, 28) Anaheim, 29) Carolina, and 30) Toronto. If they all were three point games the bottom 5 places in the league standings would look like this: 26) Montreal, 27) Minnesota, 28) Anaheim, 29) Toronto, 30) Carolina. In a game where parity is truly making every little delta matter, these things will start to add up and should be addressed sooner rather then later.

I'll say it again, if a regulation game of three 20 minute periods is to mean anything, winning in regulation should count more over the course of a season then wining in Overtime or via the shootout, just as finishing a game in regulation tied should be worth than loosing outright. The changes to the finishing placings impact home ice advantage throughout the playoffs and that shouldn't be underestimated, The changes in who gets what draft choice the following summer and that can mean the difference between having a shot at a Crosby, Malkin, Oveckin, or Tavares or not. It all does add up, and when a team is fighting for inches like Al says, shouldn't we reward the ones who win those battles more then the ones who don't? The simple, easy way to do that is to just make EVERY game worth a total of three points. If a silly guy like me can see that why can't the NHL Board of Governors?

Next up for the Washington Capitals, Ottawa tonight in Ottawa.


No comments: