The other day, I wrote a post that the shootout needs to go. I made the comment that the shootout ruined what could have been a great last game between the Rangers and Flyers and that it took away from the actual game of hockey overall. Many pointed out that the Rangers had plenty of opportunities earlier in the season to win games to not be in the position that they were, to which I agreed. But, then I got to wondering – would they have been in better position if the shootout didn’t exist? It was a lucky wonderment on my part. Let’s take a look at the standings for this season:
You can see that the Rangers missed out by one point due to the current point system in the NHL. But again, what if there was no shootout? What would have happened. Well, Hawkeye and I were discussing this and I ordered him to put together the standings while considering every game that went to a shootout as a tie, whereas both teams only receive one point. Basically, the final product results in the standings the way the NHL used to do it:
Will you look at that!? The Rangers made the playoffs. Not only did they make the playoffs, but they grabbed the 7th seed and bumped the Canadians out of it. Over in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames made the playoffs, knocking the Colorado Avalanche out. To see how it impacted seeding, see the bar graph below:
The top five teams don’t have any change to their seeding in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins see the biggest fall amongst the playoff teams, as they would move from the 6th seed to the 8th seed. The Flyers move up a spot from 8th to 7th. Again, this illustrates the Canadians falling out of the playoffs while the Rangers move in.
The Western Conference is similar with the top seeds remaining the same. The Kings and the Predators would flip-flop, while again, the Avs drop out and the Flames slide in.
The only other thing we can see from the data is that the point totals drop off, because there aren’t as many wins. If the NHL returned to the old standings, the integrity of single season wins and points records would be held intact as well.
The problem we ran into with the assuming ties exercise is how teams would have played OT. It is evident that some teams were outstanding in shootouts. Take the Phoenix Coyotes for example: 14 wins via shootouts this season. Why wouldn’t they have played for the shootout in games this season? They excelled in them. Would they have lost OT games or played for just ties if there was no shootout? That change of strategy consideration is the big problem with trying to make a conclusion from the data. The Coyotes may have ended up with many more losses. Then again, they could have won those games in OT and other teams would not have received a point. The standings may have changed drastically.
But, we can conclude that the shootout has worn out its welcome. It has elevated point totals to ridiculous totals. Granted, nobody has of yet broken the single-season point record (132) or win record (62), but teams have a much greater chance of doing so with the shootout as the deciding factor in a game. Many have commented that it has taken away the excitement of a penalty shot, something that rarely happens in games. It’s also arguable that it takes away a team’s competitiveness in OT. Luckily, we don’t have the skill competition deciding OT games in the playoffs. It was assumed that the shootout would bring in casual fans, it hasn’t. This is the worse thing to happen to the NHL since the glowing puck on Fox. Let hockey go back to being hockey. Let the actual game play decide the race. Also, rewarding teams with a point in a loss is pathetic. You lose, you lose. Failure doesn’t deserve a reward.
Let’s turn back the clock. We have HDTV now that has solved the puck problem. Let’s get rid of the shootout, and then work on restoring hockey to above the Mason-Dixon Line only.
Note that loss totals are not accurate under old system. There was confusion between OT losses and regulation losses when originally posted. However, point totals are correct based on wins and ties.