SvoNotes: It's Time for the NHL to Change Its Outdated Standings Format

By Jeff Svoboda on July 27, 2017 at 8:30 am
Shootouts are fun but it's time to change the NHL standings

When I came up with the idea to do these SvoNotes blogs, I said I'd pop in whenever I had thoughts on the Columbus Blue Jackets worth putting in pixels.

This one isn't quite on the Blue Jackets, but it needs to be said: The NHL needs to change its standings system.

The current setup – in which teams receive two points for a win, one point for an overtime or shootout loss, and zero for a regulation loss – is ludicrous. It's beyond ludicrous. The fact that this has lasted as long as it has is an assault on logic, and what Nate Silver calls the "stupidest rule in sports" needs to be changed immediately. 

Here's the biggest problem: With this system, some games are worth three points – two for the victory and one for the loser – and some are worth two.


It's like giving a team that loses in extra innings half a win. It's insanity. It's so far beyond logical that it's something only the NHL would consider.

I understand how we got here. After the first lockout, the league wanted to bring back fans, and that resulted in the creation of shootouts. People love shootouts. I don't love them as much as the fantastic adoption of 3-on-3 hockey, but shootouts are cool. People stand up and get excited. That's cool.

I also understand that the league wanted to incentivize teams to go for it in OT rather than sitting back and coasting into a shootout. That was essentially what led to the creation of the so-called "loser point," so that there wasn't as much to be lost in extra time if a team gave up a goal. But then the league went to 3-on-3, which is almost impossible to make boring, so it's moot anyway.

On top of that, the current setup seems to encourage playing for OT. Trying to add drama to overtime has sapped it from late in games, with many teams content to get to the extra period now in order to assure a point if they're tied in the final minutes. This hurts the product and creates a new problem compared to the original one the league was trying to solve to begin with.

And here's the thing: You can accomplish all goals with a three-point system like the one used in many college leagues, including the Big Ten. A win in that conference is worth three, a shootout win is worth two points, a shootout loss nets one and a regulation/OT loss gets zero.

I'd be in favor of a small tweak in the NHL given the wild nature of 3-on-3 OT. To me, the perfect setup would be that in regulation, you get three points for a win and zero for loss, while an OT or shootout win would net a team two points and a loss one. I think you can argue that in a league as competitive as the NHL, a team deserves a point for getting to overtime, and with 3-on-3 hockey, it wouldn't quite be fair to make the losing team go home empty-handed. 

There's also another reason to change things up: For the drama. Right now, the league standings become pretty well set by Christmas, and with so many games worth three points – nearly 25 percent of games go to OT – it's almost impossible to make up ground in the standings once a season gets going.

In addition, the setup has killed the concept of .500. It seems like a team with a 25-25-7 record should be at .500, but those seven games are actually losses, so it's a lot more like that team is 25-32 in practice. In fact, if you look at last year's standings, just eight teams were under .500 using the the traditional way of viewing standings. This makes no sense.

Somehow, the NHL doesn't seem to think this is a problem. Fans, as well, have gotten used to it and tend to reserve their complaining for the playoff system, which to be fair is somewhat convoluted but at least it tries to stoke rivalries to make its postseason more interesting. 

But it's well past time for a change. It's a dinosaur of a system, one that was created to fix problems that may have existed at one time but clearly do not anymore. So, please, NHL. Do something you rarely if ever do – let logic and good sense win. It's time to change up the standings.

Vegas Likes Us

Well, this is something.

Vegas always knows, right? Putting the Blue Jackets among elite company has to be a good sign going into next season, especially given some of the team's personnel losses and the fact it remains in perhaps the most difficult division in the league.

Of course, there's not much of a gap there between Edmonton at 47.5 wins and Dallas and San Jose at 43.5, with 15 teams in that four-win spread. Columbus could get pretty close to that 46.5 mark, 3.5 less than the team had a year ago, and still be in a dogfight with Washington and Pittsburgh and the rest of the Metro.

But as I've said a few times this offseason, it's always better to be highly rated in these things than not, so Columbus fans should take it.

Hat Tip Matt Calvert

Thanks again to CBJ analyst Bill Davidge for taking the time to talk with us for a series earlier this week, and here's hoping the Davidge golf outing next month brings in as much as possible to aid the fight against multiple myeloma.

And in the spirit of golf outings doing good, how about this?

That money will go to the Brandon Regional Health Foundation in Calvert's home province of Manitoba. That's good stuff, so congrats and great work by Calvert to make that happen. 

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