I was with a friend the other night watching the Canada – Sweden semifinal of the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships. He is a big fan of NHL hockey, but he has never been really exposed to the play from international hockey.
I was explaining to him all the facets of the tournament; how there are two divisions, how the top four make the playoffs while the bottom teams play in a best-of-three relegation tournament, how there is a three-point system, etc.
Talking to him about the three-point system got me thinking; is it better than the current two-point system of the NHL?
Besides the point system, I was thinking about other ways to make the NHL more exciting. Do I think I would truly want these ideas in the game? Maybe not. But why not take a look at certain ways to radicalize the game to make it more fun? After all, it doesn’t hurt, right?
NOTE: If this does hurt you, you are most definitely named Gary Bettman.
1. The Three-Point System
The NHL is the only major top division in the world of hockey to go by the two-point system. The way it works is that you get two points for a win, one point for a loss past regulation, and zero points for a loss in regulation. The system is, in my opinion, a terrible one to go by.
Many teams decide to turtle last in the third period to ensure that they get the loser point. And this makes sense; why would a team risk the chance of losing the game and get zero points when they can play defensively and get at least one point? There is no incentive to win in regulation with the current system.
Now, the NHL likes to be the special snowflake in the game of hockey. From the World Cup to the rink sizes, the IIHF and the NHL have many differences in opinion over the rules of the game. Mostly, the revolves around money (which is why the World Cup was made). The point system is no exception to this. Mostly every single IIHF or international hockey event uses the three-point system.
This system is miles ahead of the two-point system in terms of the excitement of games. The way it works is that you get three points for a regulation win, two points for a win past regulation, one point for a loss past regulation, and zero points for a loss in regulation. This means that a team will try their hardest throughout the entirety of the end of the game to win in regulation. This makes games more exciting, as there is now an incentive to win before the overtime period.
2. Bring Back Ties, But With a Twist
Ties were the way to get one point with the two-point system in the NHL before the 2004-05 lockout that destroyed an entire season. The introduction of the shootout destroyed the tie. Now, there always has to be one winner in a game.
But to that, I say why? Yeah, having a winner of every game is a great thing. But what if tying was a negative thing for both teams?
Here is a strange proposal: use a two-point system. Award two points for a win in regulation. Award one point for a win past regulation. Award no points for a loss of any type. If there is a deadlock after the overtime period, the game will end with both teams receiving no points. If a team does not win, they would receive no points. This puts an incentive on playing to win. There would be nothing to lose if you lost as compared to tying, so offensive play would go all-out for the win in that overtime period and regulation as well.
Would this fly? Probably not, but it is a fun idea to think about.
3. The Draft Standings
Let’s look at European soccer (or football, for you Europeans and American Euro-wannabes like myself) for this example. Some of the best games to watch involve the teams who are last place in the league. In the English Premier League, the bottom three teams get relegated to the Championship. This leads to intense times for the teams who are, well, not good, especially late in the season. The excitement of the relegation battle is almost as (some may even say more) exciting than the title battle.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to spend my Saturday night watching a Colorado Avalanche game. I’m not a fan of them, but if you are a fan, I can understand your frustration.
Let’s make the bottom battle exciting. First, take away the lottery. Second, create a new standings list called the “Draft Standings”. Basically, once a team is eliminated from the playoff chase, every point they get from that point on is put into their place in the Draft Standings. The teams that would usually finish last in the league would get the most opportunities to get points towards the Draft Standings because they will be eliminated earlier than other teams. By the end of the season, the 14 teams and the number of points they get within the “Draft Standings” are ranked in order of the most points to the least. Whoever finishes on top gets the top spot in the draft and so on.
This makes sure that teams will not tank. They will need to continuously work towards a goal. Failure in a season is not an option. The lottery already can screw over teams that were worse than others, so why not put skill at a forefront instead of luck?
4. Return to the Old Playoff System
Let’s be honest, the new playoff system creates a repetitive set of playoff match-ups. The goal of the new wild card system was to create exciting playoff series, but it has failed to keep fresh teams in the mix. Yes, rivalry match-ups happen more frequently, but repetition can make the rivalry stale.
It isn’t really a radical idea, but returning to a top-eight playoff system would be exciting. Hell, keep the two division structure instead of returning to three divisions. That doesn’t have to change.
What do you Think?
I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions on these ideas. Yes, they may be just a tad radical, but they are fun nonetheless.
Dylan Coyle is the “Global Puck” columnist for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @10phillyphan.