Is the NHL standings format screwing up the playoffs?

No one likes the NHL standings.

OK, mediocre teams who have played more games than the teams they’re chasing, so it looks like they’re closer to the wild card than they actually are, they like the standings. Which in turn means the NHL likes the standings, because then Winnipeg Jets fans still think they’re in the thick of the wild card race on Feb. 24.

So perhaps it’s the vast majority of hockey fans and pundits that don’t like the NHL standings.

It started when the NHL broke what didn’t necessarily need to be fixed in the conference playoff format – forcing early-round rivalry games to the detriment of earned playoff seeding – and it continues this season, as the imbalance in the Eastern Conference becomes far too evident.

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(Let’s park the logical, justified and righteous calls for a new points system for a moment. Yes, the three-point regulation win makes a lot of sense despite some reservations. But there’s not enough support from the Board of Governors to change it because many of them have bad teams being propped up by the illusion of parity. Keep fighting the good fight, though. Maybe they’ll hear us like they did on the shootout.)

Here’s what the wild card standings in the East and West look like entering Friday night’s games:

Now, does this format yield some awesome first-round matchups, as it stands? My gawd yes. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers! Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs! Rivals!

Does it, in any way, offer a fair shake to several teams that are much better than their forced seeding here? Well, no.

OK, so what if we dumped the wild card and went back the halcyon days of the conference standings format? Two divisions, and the division champions get the top two seeds?

The Penguins earn the right to avoid Henrik Lundqvist in an early playoff round and three dozen Marc Staal sticks to the back of Sidney Crosby’s head. The Capitals draw the super-green Toronto Maple Leafs rather than the New York Islanders. That’s who the Montreal Canadiens would face, rather than a 79-point Columbus Blue Jackets team, which would be their wild card foe.

In the West … well, nothing changes. Like, at all. But pipe down, we’re talking about the conference with 16 teams right now.

Now, we know what you’re saying: Those aren’t the REAL standings. The real standings can be found by using point percentages.

Well, via Hockey Reference, and using a conference format rather than the wild card, here we go:

As you can see, the big change is that the Senators are actually ahead of Claude Julien’s Montreal Canadiens in the Atlantic, although they would still match up with the Leafs as they do in a wild card format. The Habs, meanwhile would draw the Penguins in the first round.

And the West is still the rest. God you guys are boring this season.

Look, like Whyno said yesterday: It’s not a great look when four teams in the Metro have more points (and a higher points percentage) than the every team in the Atlantic. But it’s not like this didn’t happen under the old school four-division format all the time, and it’s not like certain teams weren’t the beneficiary of weak divisions during the conference format days. (See: Division, Southeast.)

Honestly, we don’t totally mind the wild card. It makes the last few weeks fun because there are more paths to the postseason than there were under the conference format. It’s less equitable than the previous format, for sure, but that ultimately comes down to whether you’re a fan of decadent first-round matchups against rival teams or teams getting the advantages they’ve earned in the playoff seeding.

In the end, the only thing that matters to the NHL is home ice for good teams and bad teams looking like they’re in the hunt for the playoffs when they should be flipping assets at the deadline.

What standings format do you prefer?

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.