"Let's just get it to overtime."
Since the NHL introduced the automatic point for reaching overtime, how many times have fans said that line? Or how many times have fans lamented the fact that two teams that are chasing their favorite team in the standings play an overtime game, a "three-point" game?
There's no way to figure out the answers, but "one" is too many. (I said the "get it to OT" line Sunday after the Penguins blew a two-goal lead less than two minutes into the third period.)
Now that the league has implemented the shootout, and a game will have a winner one way or another, it is time to change how the standings work.
Do away with points.
Teams shouldn't be awarded for losing. That's what the overtime point does. Now that there is a winner and loser, the NHL should switch to the NBA/MLB standings and go with strictly wins, losses and Games Back of the leader. NBA and MLB teams don't get any bonus for going to overtime or extra innings. When they lose those games, they have to deal with the pain of, you know, losing. There's no consolation prize.
This is where the "traditionalists" say you can't get rid of the points system. Well, these same traditionalists should've been arguing against the shootout and loser point in the first place. Change happens.
Personally, I had no problem with ties. I even classified them as "good" or "bad" (for instance, blowing a third-period lead is a bad tie; erasing a third-period deficit is a good tie.) I enjoy the shootout, but I also had no problem with a game ending in a tie.
Now that there are no ties, however, there is no need for points to be awarded.
"Regulation win" is a new term that developed because of the overtime point. Because now we have to differentiate regulation wins from overtime/shootout wins if the losing team is involved in the playoff picture and ends up with a point.
The Eastern Conference standings, as of 5:36 p.m. EST (or EDT, whichever), Monday, March 9:
2. New Jersey
7. N.Y. Rangers
14. Tampa Bay
15. N.Y. Islanders
With a points-less system, here's how they would look:
1. New Jersey 42-23 .646
2. Boston 43-24 .642
3. Washington 40-27 .597 3 GB
4. Philadelphia 35-29 .547 6.5 GB
5. Montreal 35-31 .530 7.5 GB
6. Pittsburgh 35-32 .522 8 GB
7. Carolina 35-32 .522 8 GB
8. Florida 34-32 .515 8.5 GB
9. Rangers 34-32 .515 8.5 GB
10. Buffalo 33-33 .500 9.5 GB
In the West:
1. San Jose
12. St. Louis
13. Los Angeles
West without points:
1. San Jose 42-22 .656
2. Detroit 43-23 .652
3. Calgary 39-27 .591 4 GB
4. Chicago 36-28 .563 6 GB
5. Vancouver 34-30 .531 8 GB
6. Columbus 33-33 .500 10 GB
7. Nashville 33-33 .500 10 GB
8. Minnesota 32-33 .492 10.5 GB
9. Edmonton 32-33 .492 10.5 GB
10. Dallas 31-35 .470 12 GB
11. Anaheim 31-36 .463 12.5 GB
12. St. Louis 29-36 .446 13.5 GB
13. Los Angeles 28-37 .431 14.5 GB
There are a few changes. Notably New Jersey taking over the top spot in the East, Carolina in and the Rangers out. In the West, Minnesota is in and the Oilers are out (they're 2-2 head to head, and Minnesota's goal differential, the next tiebreaker, is much better.)
Some teams have games in hand on others. Once those are played, there's bound to be plenty more movement. Depending on the results of those games, the standings could look very different if boiled down to just wins and losses. But even now, with 15 to 18 games to play, change would happen.
We can let the division winners maintain their automatic top three standing. Or we can get crazy and just do away with divisions period. Apart from the home-ice advantage for winning, the division standing means nothing nowadays. So just boil it down to the top eight in the conference regardless.
Awarding three points for a regulation win and two for overtime/shootout victories isn't a viable solution. That will cause even more confusion.
If the shootout is here to stay, then it's time to get rid of the phrases "regulation win," "let's just get it to overtime," and "three-point game."