Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The natural order is threatened

First of all, America's Hockey Team is in last place in their division, currently just 6-8. But, if you look a little deeper, you'll see that this is because of the strange alchemy the NHL uses to calculate the standings.

For example, tonight's opponent, the New Jersey Devils, are also 6-8. But two of those losses were in overtime, so they get one point each for them. Those two losses thus are considered, by the NHL, the equivalent of a win, and they are two points ahead of the Islanders.

And consider the team sitting in between them in the standings, Pittsburgh. They are 4-11 - a hideous winning percentage compared to the Devils and Islanders (.267 to .429). But FIVE of those losses came after regulation - that means five pity points, a whopping two-and-a-half extra wins in the eyes of the standings. And what reward have the Isles gotten from actually winning their two overtime games?

The league has to cheat to keep the Islanders from their rightful place.

(What's that? Maybe the Isles shouldn't have lost their top two defensemen in free agency, resulting in nearly four goals allowed per game? Blasphemer! Nananananana can't hear you blah blah...)

Seriously - the league abolished the tie because two ties equalled a win in the standings, and replaced it with a system that was even worse. The true solution is really painfully simple - perhaps too simple for a sport whose guardians chose to destroy an entire season rather than cooperate with each other. Wins should be three points each, not two; ties should be one point; one gets nothing for losing. ZERO. Then make the overtime ten minutes. Believe me, to get those extra two points, teams will risk the loss - especially if it means that going 1-1 (for three points) leaves you ahead of the team that simply takes the two ties (two points).

As it stands now, teams that lose get a reward, and could possibly make the playoffs ahead of teams who actually play winning hockey - and what happens in the playoffs? All those losses suddenly equal losses and you're done. That isn't exciting hockey for the folks at home.

PS - my goalie buddy Steve said that the Isles would miss Adrian Aucoin much less because he wouldn't be as good under the new rules. So far he's right on, as Aucoin is -6 with only one goal and three assists. But I still think he's better than at least four of the Isles current top-six.

PPS - updated Nov 9 - Islanders 4, Devils 1. It's one small step for hockey.

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