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Does changing the standings change anything?

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Lots of people were calling for a revamp to the standings system all season. Let’s see how the playoffs would look in those situations.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the NHL introduced six more teams in 1967, there have been complaints about how the standings end up, and how the NHL seeds the playoffs.

Lately a hot topic has been to move to a three point system like international tournaments use. Three points for a regulation win, two for overtime, one for losing in the extra frame, and no points for losing in regulation.

Others want the standings set by points percentage. Some want to go back to seeding 1-8 in the conference, rather than use divisional playoffs.

I’ve been pushing the idea of seeding the OHL 1-16 like the QMJHL, and that’s probably the most fair system, giving the top team the weakest (in theory) opponent.

Today we’ll look at how five different standings systems turned out based on the 2016-17 schedule, and what playoff match ups that would give us.

For mobile users, when I post a table I’ll also share a link, since not all of these tables are mobile friendly.

For a reminder here’s the current standings:

Current Standings

Seed Team Record Points ROW Opponent Seed Team Record Points ROW Opponent
Seed Team Record Points ROW Opponent Seed Team Record Points ROW Opponent
1 Washington 55-19-8 118 53 Toronto 1 Chicago 50-23-9 109 46 Nashville
2 Pittsburgh 50-21-11 111 46 Columbus 2 Minnesota 49-25-8 106 46 St. Louis
3 Columbus 50-24-8 108 48 Pittsburgh 3 St. Louis 46-29-7 99 44 Minnesota
Seed Team Record Points ROW Opponent Seed Team Record Points ROW Opponent
1 Montreal 47-26-9 103 44 NY Rangers 1 Anaheim 46-23-13 105 43 Calgary
2 Boston 44-28-10 98 38 Ottawa 2 Edmonton 47-26-9 103 43 San Jose
3 Ottawa 44-31-7 95 42 Boston 3 San Jose 46-29-7 99 44 Edmonton
Seed Team Record Points ROW Opponent Seed Team Record Points ROW Opponent
1WC NY Rangers 48-28-6 102 45 Montreal 1WC Calgary 45-33-4 94 41 Anaheim
2WC Toronto 40-27-15 95 39 Washington 2WC Nashville 41-29-12 94 39 Chicago
Elim NY Islanders 41-29-12 94 39 Eliminated Elim Winnipeg 40-35-7 87 37 Eliminated
Elim Tampa Bay 42-30-10 94 38 Eliminated Elim Los Angeles 39-35-8 86 37 Eliminated
Elim Philadelphia 39-33-10 88 32 Eliminated Elim Dallas 34-37-11 79 33 Eliminated
Elim Carolina 36-31-15 87 30 Eliminated Elim Arizona 30-42-10 70 24 Eliminated
Elim Florida 35-36-11 81 30 Eliminated Elim Vancouver 30-43-9 69 26 Eliminated
Elim Detroit 33-36-13 79 24 Eliminated Elim Colorado 22-56-4 48 21 Eliminated
Elim Buffalo 33-37-12 78 31 Eliminated
Elim New Jersey 28-40-14 70 25 Eliminated

Seeding teams 1-16

Easily the fairest system, this seeding rewards the best team with the weakest opponent. It has it’s flaws - in the NHL you could have cross continent travel for every round for one team. TV broadcasters wouldn’t allow it, because it’s not TV friendly, with half the series in eastern time and half in central or western. It also doesn’t address the shootout, or overtime. it’s using the current points system.

It’s a system best suited for regional leagues like the QMJHL, which uses it, or the OHL which should. Here it is though, the final standings seeded 1-16:

Seeding 1-16

New Seed Team Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
New Seed Team Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Washington 118 1st Metro Nashville Toronto
2 Chicago 109 1st Central Calgary Nashville
3 Pittsburgh 111 2nd Metro Toronto Columbus
4 Columbus 108 3rd Metro Boston Pittsburgh
5 Minnesota 106 2nd Central Ottawa St. Louis
6 Anaheim 105 1st Pacific San Jose Calgary
7 Montreal 103 1st Atlantic St. Louis NY Rangers
8 Edmonton 103 2nd Pacific NY Rangers San Jose
9 NY Rangers 102 1st East WC Edmonton Montreal
10 St. Louis 99 3rd Central Montreal Minnesota
11 San Jose 99 3rd Pacific Anaheim Edmonton
12 Ottawa 98 2nd Atlantic Minnesota Boston
13 Boston 95 3rd Atlantic Columbus Ottawa
14 Toronto 95 2nd East WC Pittsburgh Washington
15 Calgary 94 1st West WC Chicago Anaheim
16 Nashville 94 2nd West WC Washington Chicago
17 NY Islanders 94 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
18 Tampa Bay 94 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
19 Philadelphia 88 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
20 Winnipeg 87 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
21 Carolina 87 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
22 Los Angeles 86 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
23 Florida 81 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
24 Dallas 79 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
25 Detroit 79 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
26 Buffalo 78 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
27 New Jersey 70 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
28 Arizona 70 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
29 Vancouver 69 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
30 Colorado 48 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated

I put the conference leaders at 1 & 2 seeds, because that’s what leagues would/currently do. In this format we have 5/8 series crossing over between conferences, something I’m sure no one in the NHL would want.

All of the current playoff teams still make it, the only change to the playoffs are the opponents. We don’t get any rivalry match ups, most of these teams haven’t played each other very much so there’s no sense of familiarity. This version of the playoffs isn’t the most fun, though later rounds will be more likely to be best on best. The greatest thing we could see here is a 16 seed upsetting the top team in the league.


Our next format is a classic, and missed by some: Seeding each conference 1-8 would take us back to the most recent playoff set up. Division leaders are seeded 1-2 and the rest fall in line. You can view the seeding below or click here.

Seeding 1-8 by conference

Seed Team Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
Seed Team Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Washington 118 1st Metro Toronto Toronto
2 Montreal 103 1st Atlantic Boston NY Rangers
3 Pittsburgh 111 2nd Metro Ottawa Columbus
4 Columbus 108 3rd Metro NY Rangers Pittsburgh
5 NY Rangers 102 1st WC Columbus Montreal
6 Ottawa 98 2nd Atlantic Columbus Boston
7 Boston 95 3rd Atlantic Montreal Ottawa
8 Toronto 95 2nd WC Washington Washington
9 NY Islanders 94 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
10 Tampa Bay 94 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
11 Philadelphia 88 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
12 Carolina 87 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
13 Florida 81 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
14 Detroit 79 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
15 Buffalo 78 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
16 New Jersey 70 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
Seed Team Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Chicago 109 1st Central Nashville Nashville
2 Anaheim 105 1st Pacific Calgary Calgary
3 Minnesota 106 2nd Central San Jose St. Louis
4 Edmonton 103 2nd Pacific St. Louis San Jose
5 St. Louis 99 3rd Central Edmonton Minnesota
6 San Jose 99 3rd Pacific Minnesota Edmonton
7 Calgary 94 1st WC Anaheim Anaheim
8 Nashville 94 2nd WC Chicago Chicago
9 Winnipeg 87 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
10 Los Angeles 86 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
11 Dallas 79 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
12 Arizona 70 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
13 Vancouver 69 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated
14 Colorado 48 Eliminated Eliminated Eliminated

Aside from the Capitals vs the Maple Leafs, the Eastern Conference sees much different seeding occur, which reflects the better finishes for the Metro Division. This does give us a Boston vs Montreal first round though, and who doesn’t love those series?

The Western Conference is almost the same, with the middle two series swapping partners from Edmonton/San Jose and Minnesota/St. Louis becoming Edmonton/St. Louis and Minnesota/San Jose.


This next one is my preference. With most other sports leagues sorting by win percentage, and giving teams just wins or losses, it gives a simpler record (W-L) and can give you a better picture of just how close teams are.

Sorting by win percentage

Tampa Bay Team W% (W/L) ROW Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
Tampa Bay Team W% (W/L) ROW Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Washington 0.670 (55-27) 53 1 Metro Tampa Bay Toronto
2 Columbus 0.610 (50-32) 48 3 Metro Pittsburgh Pittsburgh
3 Pittsburgh 0.610 (50-32) 46 2 Metro Columbus Columbus
Seed Team W% (W/L) ROW Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Montreal 0.573 (47-35) 44 1 Atlantic NY Rangers NY Rangers
2 Boston 0.537 (44-38) 42 3 Atlantic Ottawa Ottawa
3 Ottawa 0.537 (44-38) 38 2 Atlantic Boston Boston
Seed Team W% (W/L) ROW Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1WC NY Rangers 0.585 (48-34) 45 1st WC Montreal Montreal
2WC Tampa Bay 0.512 (42-40) 39 2nd Elim Washington Eliminated
Elim NY Islanders 0.500 (41-41) 39 1st Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Toronto 0.488 (40-42) 39 2nd WC Eliminated Washington
Elim Philadelphia 0.476 (39-43) 32 3rd Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Carolina 0.439 (36-46) 33 4th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Florida 0.427 (35-47) 30 5th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Buffalo 0.402 (33-49) 31 7th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Detroit 0.402 (33-49) 24 6th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim New Jersey 0.342 (28-54) 25 8th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Seed Team W% (W/L) ROW Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Chicago 0.610 (50-32) 46 1st Cent Nashville Nashville
2 Minnesota 0.598 (49-33) 46 2nd Cent St. Louis St. Louis
3 St. Louis 0.561 (46-36) 44 3rd Cent Minnesota Minnesota
Seed Team W% (W/L) ROW Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Edmonton 0.573 (47-35) 43 2nd Pac Calgary San Jose
2 San Jose 0.561 (46-36) 44 3rd Pac Anaheim Edmonton
3 Anaheim 0.561 (46-36) 43 1st Pac San Jose Calgary
Seed Team W% (W/L) ROW Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1WC Calgary 0.549 (45-39) 41 1WC Edmonton Anaheim
2WC Nashville 0.500 (41-41) 39 2WC Chicago Chicago
Elim Winnipeg 0.488 (40-42) 37 1st Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Los Angeles 0.476 (39-43) 37 2nd Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Dallas 0.415 (34-48) 33 3rd Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Vancouver 0.363 (30-52) 26 5th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Arizona 0.366 (30-52) 24 4th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Colorado 0.268 (22-60) 21 6th Elim Eliminated Eliminated

This method had very little change from the current standings. The Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs, and sat behind 9th place New York Islanders. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s surge at the end of the season made them the Capitals opponent. Columbus and Pittsburgh swapped home ice, and out west, the Pacific Division was redone and gave us the opening round series that we wanted: Calgary vs Edmonton and San Jose vs Anaheim

This set up is more regular season focused than playoffs. A single win can jump a team up or down a couple spots, and a team that is far back can benefit more from a winning streak (Tampa Bay) than they currently could. Alternatively, a team that loses a few of their final games (Toronto) can see their playoff hopes crumble just days before making it.

One downside to this format that’s been brought up to me is that it doesn’t make the shootout less significant other than a tie breaker. Still using regulation/over time wins re-seeded a few teams, but yes, this format doesn’t downplay the shootout at all.


The next format has been brought up more often this season than I’ve ever seen. Keeping the current point rules, we’ll sort teams by points percentage. Teams can get a maximum of 164 points in a season, and we’ll compare their final point totals to that number. Link is here.

Seeding by points %

Seed Team Record Points Points % ROW Opponent
Seed Team Record Points Points % ROW Opponent
1 Washington 55-19-8 118 72.00% 53 Toronto
2 Pittsburgh 50-21-11 111 67.70% 46 Columbus
3 Columbus 50-24-8 108 65.80% 48 Pittsburgh
Seed Team Record Points Points % ROW Old Opponent
1 Montreal 47-26-9 103 62.80% 44 NY Rangers
2 Boston 44-28-10 98 59.76% 38 Ottawa
3 Ottawa 44-31-7 95 57.93% 42 Boston
Seed Team Record Points Points % ROW Old Opponent
1WC NY Rangers 48-28-6 102 62.20% 45 Montreal
2WC Toronto 40-27-15 95 57.93% 39 Washington
Elim NY Islanders 41-29-12 94 57.32% 39 Eliminated
Elim Tampa Bay 42-30-10 94 57.32% 38 Eliminated
Elim Philadelphia 39-33-10 88 53.66% 32 Eliminated
Elim Carolina 36-31-15 87 53.05% 30 Eliminated
Elim Florida 35-36-11 81 49.39% 30 Eliminated
Elim Detroit 33-36-13 79 48.17% 24 Eliminated
Elim Buffalo 33-37-12 78 47.56% 31 Eliminated
Elim New Jersey 28-40-14 70 42.68% 25 Eliminated
Seed Team Record Points Points % ROW Old Opponent
1 Chicago 50-23-9 109 66.46% 46 Nashville
2 Minnesota 49-25-8 106 64.63% 46 St. Louis
3 St. Louis 46-29-7 99 60.37% 44 Minnesota
Seed Team Record Points Points % ROW Old Opponent
1 Anaheim 46-23-13 105 64.02% 43 Calgary
2 Edmonton 47-26-9 103 62.80% 43 San Jose
3 San Jose 46-29-7 99 60.37% 44 Edmonton
Seed Team Record Points Points % ROW Old Opponent
1WC Calgary 45-33-4 94 57.32% 41 Anaheim
2WC Nashville 41-29-12 94 57.32% 39 Chicago
Elim Winnipeg 40-35-7 87 53.05% 37 Eliminated
Elim Los Angeles 39-35-8 86 52.44% 37 Eliminated
Elim Dallas 34-37-11 79 48.17% 33 Eliminated
Elim Arizona 30-42-10 70 42.68% 24 Eliminated
Elim Vancouver 30-43-9 69 42.07% 26 Eliminated
Elim Colorado 22-56-4 48 29.27% 21 Eliminated

Oh look nothing changed. Wow what a great way to sort the standings, so much better than by points. Okay, sarcasm aside this one’s more of a regular season one as well, but...eh. If we’re having points just sort by points.


Now the big one.

The current point system doesn’t differentiate between wins in regulation and wins in extra time. Changing to a three point system does: 3 points for a regulation win, 2 for extra time, 1 point for an overtime/shootout loss, and 0 for a regulation loss. Decreasing the points gained by the amount of game played in theory makes teams want to win in regulation more.

Adding that extra point increases the max points from 164 to 246, and the fewer OT/SO wins a team has the higher they should be in the standings. This is a very popular format to witch to, and here is how the final standings and playoffs would look in the current divisional format with a three point system:

Three point standings

Seed Team W/OTW/OTL/L Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
Seed Team W/OTW/OTL/L Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Washington 45-10-8-19 163 1st Metro Toronto Toronto
2 Pittsburgh 40-10-11-21 151 2nd Metro Columbus Columbus
3 Columbus 39-11-8-24 147 3rd Metro Pittsburgh Pittsburgh
Seed Team W/OTW/OTL/L Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Montreal 33-14-9-26 136 1st Atlantic NY Rangers NY Rangers
2 Boston 38-6-7-31 133 3rd Atlantic Ottawa Ottawa
3 Ottawa 34-10-10-28 132 2nd Atlantic Boston Boston
Seed Team W/OTW/OTL/L Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1WC NY Rangers 40-8-6-28 142 1st WC Montreal Montreal
2WC Toronto 33-7-15-27 128 2nd WC Washington Washington
Elim NY Islanders 33-8-12-29 127 1st Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Tampa Bay 32-10-10-30 126 2nd Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Carolina 28-8-15-31 115 4th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Philadelphia 25-14-10-33 113 3rd Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Florida 23-12-11-36 104 5th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Buffalo 25-8-12-37 103 7th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Detroit 17-16-13-36 96 6th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim New Jersey 18-10-14-40 88 8th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Seed Team W/OTW/OTL/L Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Minnesota 42-7-8-25 148 2nd Central Nashville St. Louis
2 Chicago 37-13-9-23 146 1st Central St. Louis Nashville
3 St. Louis 38-8-7-29 137 3rd Central Chicago Minnesota
Seed Team W/OTW/OTL/L Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1 Anaheim 40-6-13-23 145 1st Pacific Calgary Calgary
2 Edmonton 37-10-9-26 140 3rd Pacific San Jose San Jose
3 San Jose 38-8-7-29 137 2nd Pacific Edmonton Edmonton
Seed Team W/OTW/OTL/L Points Old Seed New Opponent Old Opponent
1WC Nashville 35-6-12-29 129 2nd WC Minnesota Chicago
2WC Calgary 32-14-4-33 126 1st WC Anaheim Anaheim
Elim Winnipeg 33-7-7-35 120 1st Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Los Angeles 25-14-8-35 111 2nd Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Dallas 28-6-11-37 107 3rd Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Arizona 20-10-10-42 90 4th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Vancouver 19-11-9-43 88 5th Elim Eliminated Eliminated
Elim Colorado 14-8-4-56 62 6th Elim Eliminated Eliminated

Again, not much changes in the playoff opponents. Boston and Ottawa swap home ice in the East, but in the West, Minnesota takes the Central Division and gets Nashville, while St. Louis and Chicago face off in the first round.

The wild card spots stay the same and there’s some minor shuffling in the lottery standings. The benefits in this system are that regulation wins are celebrated more, and teams that can win in 60 have an advantage over those who need some extra time to get things done.

Big thanks to Sarah Hall at Five For Howling for letting me use her 3 point standings tracking document.


The biggest surprise to me when compiling these new standings is that only one - Win % - saw a non-playoff team become a playoff team.

When people talk about changing how the standings work, it’s focused on giving the better teams the chance to succeed. Some of these formats do that, others just mimic what we have now, in a different way.

If you had your preference, what would it be? Share ideas in the comments or simply vote below.

Poll

What is your preferred way to sort the standings?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Keep what we have now
    (37 votes)
  • 51%
    Three point system
    (205 votes)
  • 0%
    Points Percentage
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    Win Percentage
    (13 votes)
  • 5%
    Seed teams 1-16
    (20 votes)
  • 30%
    Go back to 1-8 in the conference
    (122 votes)
400 votes total Vote Now