December 16, 2008
Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times Slap Shot blog offered a scathing critique of the NHL standings point system today, playing off a quote from Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson in the Dispatch ("It used to mean something, but .500 is now mediocrity in today's N.H.L.") before taking the knives out and dissecting the New York Rangers' record (20-11-2) this season:
The reality, of course, is that 9 of those 20 wins came via overtime or penalty shootout, and those 2 "ties" are actually losses in OT or PS. And y'know, in the playoffs there is no four-on-four overtime or penalty-shot contest ... just hockey, with five skaters a side and no guaranteed points for being tied after 60 minutes.
So the Rangers, when playing actual hockey during the 60 minutes of five-on-five with no points guaranteed for making it to overtime, have really won 11, lost 11 and tied 11. Hey, Scott Howson, isn't that mediocrity? Yes, it is - and anyone who's watched the Rangers will tell you that's a far better reflection of reality than their official record, inflated as it is by their luckiness in penalty-shot contests this year.
This plays into the Sidney Crosby all-star record meme: that the NHL is willing to distort history, ignore context and warp its numbers for the sake of public image.
Take the San Jose Sharks march to regular season history: with last night's shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings, they're now 5-2 in overtime and 3-0 in the shootout. That's certainly a footnote to history, no?
Klein's solution is the one many others have seconded:
So yet again we wonder why the N.H.L. doesn't just do what everyone else in the world does: make every game worth 3 points, so that a regulation win is worth 3 points, an OT or penalty-shootout win is worth 2, an OT or PS loss 1, and a regulation loss 0 points - 3-2-1-0 instead of 2-2-1-0.
But his final thought is, ultimately, the only way to level the ice for all teams and get rid of these charity-point cases:
Or, if that's too distasteful to the N.H.L. brass, just make it wins and losses and scrap the guaranteed point; that would be far inferior to 3-2-1-0, but way better than the current mess.
Not sure about that inferiority thing. Wins and losses seems to work pretty darn well for ... well, the majority of other competitions in life.