Around the League

NHL Adjusts Tiebreaker Rules

Regardless of your personal feelings towards the shootout, it looks like it will be here to stay. It isn’t the best way to end a hockey game after 65 grueling minutes, but it is very fun to watch. We will never see continuous OT in the regular season, although I think that would draw more fans than the shootout because of “this shot can end the game” feeling every 30 seconds. However, the NHL is taking steps to reduce the influence the shootout has on the standings.

Over the weekend, the NHL ruled to adjust the rules for tiebreakers. Originally, the first tiebreaker was number of wins. This has now been changed to number of regulation/OT wins. The second tiebreaker will be overall wins. This gives more incentive for teams to win in regulation/OT, which should make the last 10 minutes before the shootout much more exciting. This doesn’t address the bigger issue of the three point games, but this is at least a step in the right direction.

What this does do, however, is make it more difficult for the casual fan to follow the standings. This will either add another column in the already crowded W/L records (W-Reg/OT W-L-OTL), or it will be available online somewhere. It is an interesting situation though, as this decision is clearly designed for the best interest of the NHL, but it actually may deter some casual fans from becoming hardcore fans. Regardless, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

On a more humorous note, for those following NHL players on Twitter, Cam Janssen of St. Louis and Krys Barch of Dallas have scheduled a fight via Twitter for their October 16th game. I wonder how soon before there’s a “Cam Janssen” rule, in which you cannot schedule fights via social media. I give it 10 hours after their October 16 fight.

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  • Of course, the League could also award NO points if a game reaches OT, reserving a single magic point for the ultimate winner of each game. This would certainly alter the dynamic of OT. But by awarding a point for a tie, many teams are incentivised to play conservatively late in the game. Teams with great shooters and/or great goalies know that the odds favor them in a shootout – if the game is tied after two periods, why work too hard in the third and OT? At the same time, teams struggling on offense know that anything can happen in a shootout – they might be better off taking their chances in a shootout rather than struggling to score an unlikely goal while the clock is ticking. Hockey is one of the few sports that will award a team for reaching the end of a game without scoring – as long as neither team scored. It makes no sense. It also makes little sense that every game has the potential to generate two OR three league points, depending on whether or not OT is reached. Until this flaw is fixed, the game of hockey will be the worse for it.

    • I think that by making regulation/OT wins worth more in tiebreakers, teams in the middle of the pack will “go for it” and try to set themselves ahead of the rest of the middle of the road teams.

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