April 13, 2009
Before we all skip with euphoric glee to the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it's important to remember those who aren't here to experience them: the regular-season losers.
Especially when, depending on how you feel the NHL should calculate its standings for wins and losses, those losers may have actually made the cut under different circumstances.
Jeff Klein of the New York Times Slap Shot blog offers alternative standings for the two conferences based on the following format: "If 3 points were given for regulation wins, 2 for overtime or shootouts wins, 1 for OT or shootout losses, and 0 points for 60-minute losses."
While not as ideal as, you know, straight up "winners" and "losers" in a competitive athletic event, the format does put an emphasis on victory in the first 60 minutes of action before the overtime carnival games begin.
So who would benefit the most from that 3-2-1-0 format change this season?
As you can see in the alt-standings in the right, the Philadelphia Flyers would have home ice, the Florida Panthers would not only make the playoffs but finish seventh and the Montreal Canadiens would been out of the postseason picture.
In the Western Conference, Klein also discovered a slight change in seeding:
Minnesota may have belonged in the playoffs instead of Anaheim, depending on what tie-breaker would have been used under 3-2-1-0. Perhaps Jacques Lemaire would still be working as Minnesota's coach.
However, one thing is clear: under 3-2-1-0, the Boston Bruins would have won the Presidents' Trophy, not San Jose.
Outside of a desire to see regulation victories mean more than overtime wins, there hasn't been a groundswell of support for any particular variation on the current standings.
It's hard to make the case for a 3-2-1-0 format when the change it would affect isn't all that transformative from the actual seedings. In a roundabout way, it also argues for the competitive fairness of the current format ... which is insane, because games are being decided by a skills competition that doesn't involve a single pass being attempted to a teammate or a defenseman playing his position on the ice.
One more note about alternate universe NHL standings. Steven Metzger, a radio network engineer for the San Jose Sharks, puts together a massive collection of "What if ..." standings that range from using a soccer-style points system to a five-point victory standard.
Check out this one (and flip-flop the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers):
So even without charity points or 4-on-4 or shootouts, the "1982" playoff picture has at least a passing resemblance to the 2009 one.