Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Edmonton Oilers: shooting for shootouts?

Here's an article, a couple of weeks old, from hockey author Jeff Z. Klein on the prevalence of regulation ties in the NHL.

Klein notes that since there is now an incentive to proceed to overtime – the teams split there points between them instead of two – teams are playing for the tie. Specifically, the Edmonton Oilers, who had 13 ties in their first 35 games – a huge number. Klein argues that the Oilers are even playing for the tie in overtime, hoping to proceed to the shootout, where they are 10-2. He says that none of the 13 ties was broken in overtime – the equivalent of 65 minutes of 0-0 hockey. (However, the
Oilers did indeed lose in overtime on December 10.)

Since the article was published, the Oilers have three more ties in nine more games. Two ended with a sudden death goal, one in a shootout.

So in 46 games, the Oilers have 16 ties. They are 1-2 in OT, and 10-3 in shootouts.

Klein suggests removing the incentive by awarding three points for a regulation win, instead of two. But he quotes Anaheim's Brian Burke as calling that a "terrible idea."

“If something ain’t broke,” [Burke] said, “there’s no reason to try and fix it.”

But it seems to me that when teams are deliberately trying not to score because of incentives the league has offered them, something is definitely broke. And people are starting to talk about the problem. I'd be surprised if the NHL doesn't change the system sometime over the next few years.

P.S. My previous study on regulation ties is described here.

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At Tuesday, January 15, 2008 12:22:00 PM, Blogger Samir Nurmohamed said...

Talk about unintended consequences - the shootout was implemented to prevent people from playing for the tie in OT, and now people are playing for the tie in regulation time.

Are there any foreseen consequences of having a three point regulation win system (perhaps more league disparity between teams in terms of points)? I think the major one is that teams will have an even larger incentive to play a trap (defensive system) in regulation time to preserve a win.

At Tuesday, January 15, 2008 12:58:00 PM, Blogger Phil Birnbaum said...

Well, I think the 3-2-1-0 system would still have less disparity than the old 2-2-0-0 system (which is equivalent to 3-3-0-0), since teams would split the 3 points more often.

Every other sport has only wins and losses, and those seem to get along just fine without ties or "compensated losses."

I'm not really sure what the NHL wants with its extra point ... the only thing I can see is that it doesn't want the team who loses a shootout to actually "lose".

Personally, I want them to get rid of the shootout. If it's still tied after the 5 minute OT, go to 3-on-3 instead of 4-on-4. I guess you could keep the shootout as a last resort if 3-on-3 doesn't work and you don't want to go 2-on-2.

Or go to unlimited OT. My feeling is that if you make it 3-on-3, and tell the players that they're not going home until the game is decided, they'll definitely play for the win, and it won't take long.

At Tuesday, January 15, 2008 1:31:00 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I've liked the idea of a 3-2-1-0 system for a while now. I don't mind the "compensated loss" concept given that the game is ended other than by playing regular 5 on 5 hockey.

I'm not fixated on 3-2-1-0, but for me, the one criteria that is important is that each NHL game should be worth the same number of points. Currently, if two teams play a home-and-home and split OTLs they would both gain in any playoff race, playing .750 hockey, and I think that is a bad structure.

I'm not too bothered about what happens after 60 minutes. 3 on 3 after 5 or 10 minutes of OT could be a lot of fun though and surely wouldn't last too long.

At Tuesday, January 15, 2008 1:42:00 PM, Blogger Phil Birnbaum said...

Yes, agreed. The distortion of incentives is completely due to the extra standings point the teams share if it's a regulation tie. Any change that ensures all games have the same number of total points removes that incentive.

At Friday, July 11, 2008 1:22:00 PM, Blogger DA said...

NHL continues to prove its stupidity.

Why reinvent the wheel? NBA and baseball have already fixed this problem. NFL is pretty close because their game supports scoring which usually settles matters within

The simple way to eliminate tie games is to not allow them - play till someone wins. OT, double OT, play till 5am, whatever it takes.

As far as I'm concerned, if I can't win a championship by tying, I shouldn't be able to get to a championship by tying.

I've hated this loser point system from day 1. Firstly, it's a statistical nightmare. What's so wrong with a column for wins, a column for losses, and a win percentage calculated from them?

Secondly, if two teams are tied going into the game, what's the point of playing, risking injury and wasting fans time to leave tied? Might as well just not play.

Also, why should I feel sorry for a millionaire pro athlete for losing? Go out and play, it's up to them to win, or lose. A sympathy point is an insult to pro sport.

Oh, and by the way, the shootout doesn't really bother me if they're too wimpy to play through to a conclusion. Again, baseball and basketball players play as many overtime periods as is needed to get the job done.

But arguing against it on the basis that "it's not a team win" is crap. They had all the opportunity in the world to get it done as a team during regulation time. If they couldn't step up and take it, then they deserve what they get.

Besides, is a breakaway goal in regulation time an "individual win"? When Mark Messier said "I guarantee a win" and then scored a hattrick, did anyone complain it was an individual win? If a guy is hauled down on a breakaway, and scores on a penalty shot, is that an individual win?

I thought not. Shut up and play. Win or lose.

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