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While the NHL Considers Realignment, Let’s Just Fix the Standings

Mar 4, 2013, 2:33 PM EDT

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The Flyers aren’t .500. They’re 11-11-1.

Eleven wins and 12 losses do not equal a winning percentage of .500.

This is likely why you’ll never find winning percentage calculated in the NHL standings, because unlike in the NFL, MLB and NBA, it doesn’t matter. It’s also probably why the NHL’s game recap didn’t mention that the Flyers were “.500″ anywhere in its text, as news outlets who cover the league put it in their headlines.

The NHL is sort of like the anti-Who’s Line Is It Anyway? — everything is made up and the points are the only thing that matter.

We’ve actually been going through this same exercise season after season for longer than you may remember. The addition of the overtime loss is sometimes misattributed to the introduction of the shootout following the 2004-05 lockout but actually came into the league during the 1999-2000 season. For five seasons, NHL records were split into four categories: wins, losses, ties, and overtime losses.

The Flyers’ persistent difficulties with the shootout aside, the postgame breakaway contest actually isn’t the problem. That the NHL has operated under the belief that overtime losses are qualitatively better than regulation losses and therefore deserve a quantitative reward also isn’t the problem.

It’s that they’ve never extended that logic to regulation and overtime wins.

An extra point is awarded to a team that forces overtime presumably because that team could not be defeated in regulation. So if merely forcing overtime is an achievement, why isn’t winning in regulation worthy of a greater reward than the standard two points?

For 13 seasons, point inflation has corrupted the NHL standings, making some games worth only two points and others worth three. From the league’s perspective, that’s a positive, as it keep more teams in the playoff hunt for a longer stretch of time.

But it’s also devoid of logic. As long as the league is attempting to reshape its travel concerns with realignment, it should also take a look at fixing the standings. This particular suggestion is not new, but making every game worth three points (as in the model below) would alleviate all the concerns above while still rewarding teams who reach the extra five minutes.

Win = 3
OT Win = 2
OT Loss = 1
Loss = 0

Or we could just go back to having ties, even though the league thinks its fans are emotionally incapable of watching a game that doesn’t decide a winner.

Some final notes related to winning percentage, it is semi-correct to call the 11-11-1 Flyers a “.500 hockey team,” because they have won 50 percent of all the points possible. Consequently, a club could lose every game in an 82-game season, go 0-0-82, and still be .500.

Of course, no one ever makes that distinction. You’re as likely to see an 11-11-1 team called .500 as you are to see an 11-11 team called the same. (But what about a team that opens a season 1-0-1, 2-0-2, 3-0-3 and so on?)

The Flyers play the Rangers tomorrow night in New York. If they win, they’ll be 12-11-1 at the halfway point of the season.

After that, if they lost every game in overtime for the rest of the year, would they be a .510 hockey club at 12-11-25?

If the league won’t fix its standings, the rest of us should at least change the way we look at a team’s record.