Gary Bettman: No need to change NHL standings point system

Puck Daddy

Does a three-point NHL standings point system appeal to you? 

Then you’re probably not a Calgary Flames player, coach or fan.

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The Flames would have missed the playoffs under a system that awarded three points for a regulation win, two points for any type of overtime win and one point for an overtime loss. They would have finished ninth in the West, two points in back of the Winnipeg Jets and three points in back of the Los Angeles Kings, whose overtime failures would have been overcome by 37 regulation wins.

In the East, everyone who made the cut would have still made it. Sorry, Boston. 

That’s via Hockey Standings, which has several variations on the current points system.

If we still had ties and no overtime? Boston makes the playoffs over Ottawa, and Chicago would have been a wild card while Winnipeg would be out. If we had ties after overtime? The Penguins would have played the Capitals in Round 1, and Winnipeg would be out again.

But let’s circle back to the three-point regulation win plan. It’s something many, many fans want to see, if only to make the first 60 minutes mean more than the extended five and the shootout; or, more to the point, it rewards the best team playing 5-on-5 hockey, and makes the final few minutes of a tie game something more than two teams playing catch.

NHL Commission Gary Bettman was asked by ESPN’s Craig Custance about the point standings, and Bettman sees changing the points system as something as important as the NHL starting its own Cap Geek – which is to say ‘not at all.’

“The media debates it a lot, but we don’t get a lot of negative feedback from fans,” Bettman said (Insider reg. req.). “In fact, when you see the way the races played out and the importance of every game in the regular season, there are teams that wish they had a couple of points from October and November they would have liked to have down the stretch. The point system is working extraordinarily well.”

If the argument is that three-point games make it easier for teams to catch up in the standings … well, this might not be the year to make it. If Ottawa can erase a 14-point deficit from Feb. 10 to the end of the season, maybe there’s no need for a change.

My argument for the 3-2-1 system is simple: Reward good hockey teams, not ones that thrive at 4-on-4 (or 3-on-3, soon) or in the shootout; and conversely, don’t penalize good hockey teams because they happen to have a season in shootout hell. (Hi, Darryl Sutter …)

But more than anything: Make the 60 minutes worth something more than they’re worth now. Transfer the intensity of the five-minute overtime to the last few minutes of regulation, as teams scratch and claw for that extra point. 

As for the current playoff format … I’m OK with it. The last few days of the regular season were satisfyingly chaotic, with teams like the Kings and Senators having several entry points to the postseason.

My only lingering issue – other than the conference imbalance – is that the top seeds are protected as the playoffs advance. But maybe that’s about making the Presidents' Trophy worth a damn more than anything else.

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