Thursday, April 17, 2014

Under Mis-Standings

You want to know why not a ton of people get that into hockey's regular season? It's because you look at the standings and the NHL looks like a second grade spelling be where everyone's rewarded for participation.

Doubt me? Look at the almost-final standings for this year. As of the writing of this piece, with the season basically wrapped up, looking at the W-L records of every team in the league yields 24 out of 30 guaranteed to finish at .500 or above. 24 out of 30.

Of course, you say, that leaves out the all-important OverTime Loss column. And that's true. Except OTLs aren't losses losses, not the same way losing in regulation is. You still get a point. You don't get the two points for a win, but you get something, and one point is better than Mom handing out orange slices.

And so that leaves us with a team like the relentlessly mediocre Carolina Hurricanes, who have one game left and a .500 record. They sit fourth from the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 81 points. They'd be 8th in the Central Division right now, and the Central Division only has 7 teams. But to the uninitiated, their record doesn't look bad at all. I mean, college football teams with .500 records go to bowl games. The NFL wants to expand playoffs, which will probably let more .500 teams in. The Cardinals of a few years back went to the World Series at only 4 games above .500. And the NBA, well, the NBA's been sending sub-.500 teams to the playoffs for years. But hockey, well, hockey isn't going to let its teams look bad. Everyone gets to at least appear to be a winner.

And so when the casual fan looks at the standings and tries to figure out why his local team - which has a great record, apparently, because W-L is what matters, right? - is so far out of the playoffs they couldn't hit the 8 seed with artillery, he gets confused, and he gets frustrated, and he eventually turns on the Florida State spring garnet-and-gold football game with the vague sense that someone's been lying to him about how lousy his local team actually is.

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