The NHL Standings: Surprises, Anomalies and Quirks

 

As the NHL approaches the 1/4 mark of the season, I thought it would interesting to look through and think about the standings a little bit. The main takeaway? That the NHL’s insistence on rewarding three points for some games and two for others and for giving out a loser point makes the standings way closer than they should be and creates massive parity, which is something the NHL, for marketing reasons, probably likes and which explains why they stick with it despite nearly everyone thinking it’s a stupid way to track the standings.

Here’s 10 things I noticed when looking at the standings this morning:

1. If the Playoffs started today New Jersey would make the playoffs ahead of the Bruins despite the Bruins having more points. This is a quirk caused by giving out three playoff spots per division, which can lead to there being more than two Wild Card teams from one division that are better than the third place team from another and cause a superior team to miss the playoffs.

This should be corrected by the NHL, as I’ve said before.

 

2. The Red Wings have five Over-Time Losses. This means that even though their record is 8-8, they sit only four points (or two wins) back of Montreal for the conference lead, despite Montreal having a 12-5 record.  Again, this is ridiculous.

 

(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
The Red Wings have 5 OT Losses already (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

 

3. Nearly 1/4 of the way through the season, the Leafs have more points than Boston, Chicago, Minnesota or Dallas. Who would have thought? The Leafs have been good, but would be advised to remember what happened last year, the year before and basically every year in recent memory.

 

4. Vancouver is tied for the NHL lead in wins, with 12.  This is crazy because nobody even thought the Canucks would make the playoffs, let alone compete for the President’s Trophy. To my mind, the Canucks are the biggest surprise in the NHL so far this year, and that includes Calgary.

 

Would expansion to the Emerald City affect the Canucks' fan base? (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sport)
The Canucks lead NHL with 12 wins (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sport)

 

5. If the Playoffs started today, six out of seven Canadian teams would qualify for the playoffs.  Only the Oilers are doing poorly, and despite being in the Western Basement, they sit only a three-game winning streak out of the last playoff spot.

 

6. That last one really illustrates the parity of the NHL’s standings. The last team in the West sits only three wins out of a playoff spot and 11 points out of first place. The distance between 1st and 8th place is five points.  Almost 1/3 of the NHL’s 30 teams have between 10-12 wins. In the East, Boston wouldn’t even qualify for the playoffs and yet sit only five points out of first place in the conference. Hurray for parity?

 

7. The NHL’s strangest record belongs to the LA Kings who are 7-3 at home and 1-6 on the road. Quite the discrepancy.

 

(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)
(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

8. The Penguins have a goals for/against differential of +24.  What’s crazy is that the next best team is only +15.

 

9. The Sabres – predictably – have the worse goal differential at -43. To put in perspective how bad that is, the next worse team, Columbus, is -16.

 

10. Surprises:  Chicago, Minnesota,,Colorado and Columbus would all miss the Playoffs if they started today, while the Jets, Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and New Jersey would all make it. All this is summed up by the Jets, who  are 9-8 and somehow that qualifies them for a “surprisingly strong” start to the season.  A team barely over .500 should barely make the playoffs, let alone sit three points out of a division lead, five points out of a conference lead and cause people to remark about how good they’re doing.

This leads me to conclude two things: 1) people have very low expectations of the Jets and 2) the NHL tracks and creates it’s standings in a very bad way which creates artificial competition and doubles down on the parity already created by the salary cap.

Thanks for reading.