Points System: Could Schenn Have Been a Duck?

Points System: Could Schenn Have Been a Duck?

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    With Files from Gil Brown

    Brian Burke doesn’t take credit for the Maple Leafs drafting Luke Schenn 5th overall in 2008, but he’s sure glad they did.  Under different circumstances, which we’ll get into over a series of posts, Burke’s Ducks would have been in the mix for the Saskatoon native at the 2008 draft.

    Fortune shined on the blue and white allowing them to trade up to 5th overall pick.  There was an associated cost from their original seventh spot, but the end result is a potential future Maple Leafs captain of the Scott Stevens mold.

    Unbelievable as it seems; perhaps, even laughable, Schenn, could have been wearing Ducks colors.

    The story doesn’t begin in Anaheim, however.  It starts in Edmonton.

    On February 26, 2008, NHL trade deadline day, Edmonton sat second last in the Western Conference with 63 points, good enough for a tie for fifth last in the overall standings and occupying a draft lottery spot, much to the giddiness of the Ducks.

    Anaheim owned the Oilers first round pick as compensation for the signing of Dustin Penner.  Vindication over poaching Penner couldn’t have worked out better for Burke.  Karma has a funny way of biting NHL GM’s in the butt.

    As the calendar flipped to March, nine points separated Edmonton from the final playoff spot.  An 11-5-1 run in March/April gave hope for a playoff spot.  Ultimately eliminated with less than a handful of scheduled games, three points ultimately kept them out of the top eight.

    Among the 11 wins, five were in extra time (two shootout, three overtime).

    Despite the run, the postseason was not to be for the Oilers and knocked the pick from a top five lottery pick to 12th overall, much to the chagrin of the Ducks and knocking in karma’s teeth.

    (Note ** The pick was ultimately flipped to the Buffalo Sabres by way of Los Angeles.)

    What does this have to do with the Leafs drafting Schenn?

    Toronto, in the 7th spot, traded up via the Islanders to take over 5th to draft Schenn.  They ended up in that position, based on the current point system.  Three-point games, shootout victories, and overtime points.  Loser points … all played a part throughout the league.  It’s perceived parity of the final standings, a by-product of the current point system.

    All an illusion.

    Edmonton may have only missed the postseason by three points, but their 41 wins landing them 12th from the bottom, included 22 in regulation, and 19 in extra time, most in the NHL (Atlanta/New Jersey were tied for second overall with 15).

    The illusion doesn’t begin at the end of the season standings, but in January.

    Playoffs in January?

    Using a custom program (created by myself and developer/writer Gilbert Brown) to simulate point standings at any user-defined date throughout the season, analysis revealed how the current point system takes in aspects of the game ( i.e. shootouts) that will keep it afloat for years.

    The program was originally created to prove my theory that the current point system created an artificial playoff race in January.

    With the NFL playoffs under way, and the Super Bowl on the horizon, I thought the point system leached off the NFL playoffs mentality, stoking the fire for games with playoff implications.  After the Super Bowl, the NHL could jack up the playoff implications of games and get butts in seats.  It led directly into the hoopla of the NHL Trade Deadline and picked up even more steam for a stretch run.

    Individual franchises marketing games with playoff implications in the dog days of the season.  It’s a marketer’s dream, and owners could buy into that with dollar signs in their eyes.

    Results revealed some very interesting isolated scenarios, but nothing to suggest one system is better than the other.

    Edmonton may have missed the playoffs by three points, but they were able to market games with playoff implications as far back as January using this point system.  So, too, could Atlanta who was legitimately in the hunt until about the trade deadline.

    You think a 3-PT system works better, right?

    No.  It works out almost exact results as the current standings at every point in the season, despite some discrepancies.

    Reverting back to the pre-loser point ‘old’ point system accurately reflects teams ability to win and takes away the 3-pt games that hurt teams in the hunt for a playoff spot in March/April, right?

    Sorry, still no.

    Despite complaints against the system and shootouts and loser points, the overall standings do not change much as per the program simulations at each snapshot of the season.

    Stamkos a Thrasher?

    The point for regulation ties (‘loser point’) was introduced for the beginning of the 1999-2000 season, along with overtime reduction of players from five skaters to four.

    The purpose was to introduce an element in the dead puck era enticing teams tied at the end of regulation to open up and go for the win, instead of sitting back and playing for the tie as was happening prior to then, with the fear of losing a guaranteed point.  It was meant as a progressive maneuver in an era of decreased scoring.

    Simulating the standings with this ‘old’ point system, the Oilers would have ended up 27th overall with 69 points, tied with the Islanders at the end of the season.  Atlanta, would have finished in last place overall with the chance to draft Steven Stamkos.

    Team

    GP

    W

    L

    TIE

     

    Pts

    Atlanta Thrashers

    82

    19

    40

    23

     

    61

    Los Angeles Kings

    82

    25

    43

    14

     

    64

    Tampa Bay Lightning

    82

    27

    42

    13

     

    67

    Edmonton Oilers

    82

    22

    35

    25

     

    69

    New York Islanders

    82

    25

    38

    19

     

    69

    Phoenix Coyotes

    82

    29

    37

    16

     

    74

    Toronto Maple Leafs

    82

    28

    35

    19

     

    75

    Would Toronto have had the chance to draft Schenn under this scenario?  Especially with Anaheim getting such a bonus?

    Simulating a 3-PT system (3 Pts for Regulation Win, 2 Pts for Extra-time Win, 1 pt for Extra time loss), returns similar results.  Edmonton finishes in 24th spot, one ahead of the Leafs in 23rd.  The Islanders, however, would have been fourth overall at the draft, with the possibility of Schenn, and Alex Pietrangelo still on the table.

    Team

    GP

    RW

    ETW

    RL

    SOL

    OTL

    Pts

    Atlanta Thrashers

    82

    19

    15

    40

    6

    2

    95

    Los Angeles Kings

    82

    25

    7

    43

    3

    4

    96

    Tampa Bay Lightning

    82

    27

    4

    42

    1

    8

    98

    New York Islanders

    82

    25

    10

    38

    3

    6

    104

    St. Louis Blues

    82

    29

    4

    36

    5

    8

    108

    Columbus Jackets

    82

    29

    5

    36

    8

    4

    109

    Edmonton Oilers

    82

    22

    19

    35

    4

    2

    110

    Toronto Maple Leafs

    82

    28

    8

    35

    4

    7

    111

    Would the Leafs have been able to make the deal to acquire that pick?  If so, at what additional cost?

    Over the next little while I will dedicate a series of posts to the analysis of the point system, and how each system affects standings at points in the season.  We’ll see why this point system favored the Oilers, and is probably the fairest for the most important NHL personnel.  The owners.

    You may be surprised to find that my results lead me a simple conclusion.  The point system in the overall scheme changes nothing.

    Detroit General Manager Ken Holland must have come to the same conclusion when he proposed to change end of season tie-breaking measures from Wins, to Regulation Wins.

    It’s all about motivation.

    Stay tuned …

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