This is Part 2 of a two-part story looking at the difference between trying to overcome a slump at the beginning of a hockey season as opposed to one mid-season, or later.
If you missed Part 1 yesterday, please read it first here: http://flyers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=704692&navid=DL|PHI|home
So, what does it mean?...
It means that teams that aren’t necessarily playing as well as others can still stay relevant in the standings if they employ a game plan to get close games past regulation.
And if you don’t think it’s a strategy, you’re fooling yourself.
As mentioned in Part One, the Washington Capitals have had 21 games with the extra point, but have an additional 11 games that were decided by one goal in regulation and four more that had an empty-netter scored in the final minute. That’s 36-of-59 (61 percent) that either got to the extra point or were one shot away from getting there.
The New Jersey Devils numbers are even more staggering. They’ve had 15 games decided by one goal in regulation and an additional two with an empty-netter in the final minute to make 38-of-59 (64.4 percent) that either got to the extra point or were one shot away from getting there.
There are other teams doing the same thing too, and that’s too often an occurrence to be considered a coincidence. Teams are playing for bonus points because they are there.
So what are the options?
The shootout isn’t going anywhere. As many detractors as there are for it, it’s still a popular part of a hockey game, but more and more people are climbing on board that it needs to be devalued.
The only ways to do that are to eliminate the bonus point for losing altogether, but add an additional element of overtime to make shootouts less frequent.
This season, 14.7 percent of games (129 so far) have reached the shootout. That’s the second-highest percentage in league history. At this rate, the NHL will finish with 181 shootouts this season. The record is 184, so there’s a very real possibility that this will be the season with the most shootouts ever.
Some have suggested extending overtime to 10 minutes. Others have offered a 3-on-3 element for a portion of time before it gets to the shootout. Frankly, anything that continues a team aspect of the game rather than the shootout to try and determine a winner is a plus at this point.
The other option would be to make all games worth three points.
Make it three points for a win in regulation or overtime and then cut it to two points for a win and one for a loss in the shootout.
That makes the most sense.
The argument is that teams would obliterate long-standing team records for points. But the reality is, leagues evolve. The NFL expanded their season from eight to 10 to 12 to 14 to 16 games and is now considering an 18-game slate.
Records from players in the pre-16 game season were broken easier, but no one complains about that now, and likely if the season is expanded to 18 games, no one will complain about more records falling.
The NHL shouldn’t worry about that either, because each season can be put into context anyway.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how the standings would look right now in a season where each game’s value is three points instead of 25 percent of them being three points and 75 percent being two points, it’d look like this:
1. Boston 113
2. Montreal 96 (more regulation wins)
3. Tampa Bay 96
4. Toronto 91
5. Detroit 82
6. Ottawa 81
7. Florida 64
8. Buffalo 43
1. Pittsburgh 117
2. NY Rangers 94
3. FLYERS 92
4. Columbus 84
5. Carolina 81
6. New Jersey 80 (more regulation wins)
7. Washington 80
8. NY Islanders 64
1. St. Louis 113
2. Colorado 111
3. Chicago 108
4. Minnesota 91
5. Winnipeg 84
6. Dallas 82
7. Nashville 81
1. Anaheim 125
2. San Jose 107
3. Los Angeles 91
4. Vancouver 84
5. Phoenix 81
6. Calgary 65
7. Edmonton 60
A lot of the standings would stay the same. The switches would have Montreal move ahead of Tampa for home ice in the Atlantic, while Columbus (a more deserving team at this point) stealing the final playoff spot from Detroit.
There would also be some jockeying in the bottom of the Metropolitan Division but more importantly, teams doing well over long stretches of time would have a more comfortable spot in the standings – like the Flyers, who would be 10 points up on the highest non-playoff team. That’s the difference between leading a division in baseball or basketball by 3 ½ games or 1 ½ games. Makes a difference, no?
Out west, Colorado would leap frog Chicago (another team taking advantage of the loser point despite being such a good team. They lead the NHL with 14 loser points this season). Winnipeg would also jump ahead of Dallas, while Vancouver would move ahead of Phoenix. The Canucks would, surprisingly, have a playoff spot based on regulation wins, and this would seem to fly in the face of the argument presented.
However, the difference being with Phoenix and Dallas each having two games in hand on Vancouver, they can easily move three or four points up Vancouver with the Canucks having no opportunities to pick up bonus points any longer.
In closing, this epic analysis was offered to verify the following hypotheses:
1. The Flyers have been one of the best teams in the NHL for quite some time.
2. The Flyers have not been rewarded as well as other teams have for their continued strong play because they struggled at the wrong time of the season.
3. Under the current scoring format, the NHL season unintentionally puts more weight on the beginning of a season (harder to overcome a slow start) than on any other point.
4. The Flyers will have to maintain a continued, consistently positive effort to get the needed outcome to make the playoffs (26 points in 23 games ought to do it).
5. The point system is flawed and could probably use a revamp sooner, rather than later.
6. Devaluing the shootout, while keeping it as part of the possible outcome of a game, would be a marked improvement in the fairness of the standings in the league.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
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