Tuesday, March 10, 2009


This week, the NHL's Board of Governors are meeting in Naples, Florida to discuss potential rules changes heading into next season. And while the rules of engagement regarding fighting are the priority on their agenda, other issues are also on their list.

One of those involves the tweaking of the current tie-breaker format regarding playoff seeding.

Currently, if two teams are tied in points at the end of the season, the first tie-breaker is total wins, followed by head to head wins, followed by goal differential. But Detroit general manager Ken Holland is proposing a change to the current system in which regulation wins would become the first tie-breaker, thus putting an emphasis on wins in regulation.

While I'm OK with this proposal, I don't think it goes far enough. In fact, I'm in favor and would be fully supportive of the league eliminating the "OT" column all together.

To me, you either win or lose games. That's the beauty of playing overtimes and shootouts.

If you win, it's two points. If you lose, regulation or overtime, it's zero points.

It's time for the NHL to eliminate the "OT" column.

It's nothing more than a gimmick...a way for teams to make their records better than what reality suggests.

For example, heading into tonight's game in Denver, the Thrashers have a record of 25-35-6 while the Avalanche are 29-36-1. One would argue that the Thrashers are 10 games below .500 and the Avs are seven games below that mark. Actually, if you count the six losses in overtime, Atlanta is really 16 games below .500 while Colorado is eight games below .500.

Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are currently 26-28-13, or two games below .500 under the current system. Actually, with all their OT losses, the Leafs are really 15 games below .500.

In the west, the San Jose Sharks are 42-12-10, 30 games over .500? Well, not really. When you factor in the overtime losses, the Sharkies are 20 games over .500.

Getting rewarded for losing a game is...well.... juvenile. It's reminiscent of youth soccer where everyone gets a trophy whether they win or not. That's fine for 6 year old kids looking to build self-esteem. It's embarrassing for professional athletes who have long since passed that point in time.

Saying goodbye to the "OT" column also makes reviewing league standings more fan friendly. I propose a simple "wins-losses-games behind" format that is used in baseball and basketball. That way, fans could wake up each morning, check the standings and realize their team is just "two and a 1/2 games" out of the final playoff spot.....or that they have a "game and a half lead" over the second place team.

Oh, and while we're at it, it's time to ditch the top 3 conference playoff spot guarantee for division winners. Let's start ranking teams based on their success and not necessarily because of their divisional alignment. So far this season, the current system checks out just fine since the Washington Capitals are having such a fine campaign. But in the past, division winners have often been seeded higher by as many as two or three spots over teams that are more deserving of the higher seeds based on point totals.

Agree or disagree? Has the recent warmth of the Georgia sun gone straight to my head? Let me know what you're thinking.

Monday, January 26, 2009


It's hard to believe that the NHL All-Star Weekend could possibly morph into a few days of controversy. Unfortunately, that's what happened this past Saturday and Sunday.

I'm not really sure how many of you have been following the "continuing saga" between the National Hockey League and some of it's injured players who decided to pass on playing in Sunday's game in Montreal.

League commissioner Gary Bettman was not at all amused with any and all players who opted out of their appearances by citing injuries. Bettman, in essence, said miss the game and expect to be suspended for your team's first game after the break. His statement was the talk of the weekend and the hockey world. It overshadowed the festivities in hockey mad Montreal and sent a message from the league to it's players regarding the importance of the weekend.

Bettman was chafed. And it's safe to assume players such as Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and forward Pavel Datsyuk, both of who opted out due to injury, weren't all that thrilled either.

And while the intentions of the league are well founded, so are those of the players, who rightfully shouldn't be placed in a situation that could aggravate a knee sprain or a sore back or a hip flexor.

All-Star weekend has become a premiere showcase for the league, suddenly flush with tremendous young talent, rising superstars and fresh marketable faces. But it's importance off the ice is far greater than the actual game that's played on the ice.

Sure, there was no Lidstrom, no Datsyuk, no Sidney Crosby. But the game itself still featured a couple dozen of the best players on the planet. And as all-star games go, this one wasn't all that bad. It turned out to be a cliff-hanger won in the extra session by local favorite Alexei Kovalev. If putting the best players on each team was the ultimate priority for the weekend, then why would the league promote a "vote early, vote often" approach?

From a league standpoint, the importance of player involvement during this weekend can be summed up in one word.


And for this, the league has a valid point. If a player is legitimately injured and cannot play in the game, they should still follow through on the spirit of their obligation by showing up for the weekend festivities. They should make themselves available to sign autographs, attend events, mingle with the corporate folks who continue to spend advertising dollars in a sluggish economy, and be ambassadors for a sport that shares more than half of the revenue pie with them. They should follow the lead of Crosby, who made it a point of attending the weekend spreading the gospel of hockey.

I would argue Crosby's impact off the ice at all-star weekend was far greater than the impact he could have had on the ice. I guarantee you the eight year old youth player from upstate New York would receive more of a thrill getting Crosby's autograph than watching him from a distance on the ice. Fans love the one on one time with their favorite athletes. It's the strongest bond of all.

So before we start docking games to those "infirmed", why don't we look at the big picture and welcome them into the weekend in a different and much more impactful capacity.

The stars are the stars, whether they're on the ice or off.