Crawl Across the Ocean

Friday, July 22, 2005

Leafs Strategy Session for Upcoming Season

So the list of rule changes for the upcoming NHL season has been posted.

There will be no more ties as all games which are tied after regulation will go to overtime and then a shootout which will go on as long as necessary to force a winner. A team which loses in overtime or a shootout still gets a single point.

So here's my proposed strategy for the Leafs this year. At the beginning of the game get together with the coach of the other team before the puck drops and agree to tie the game (through regulation). Of course, it may be necessary to make some pretense of playing for the purpose of entertaining the fans. In fact the two teams could play an entertaining wide open game subject to the unspoken rule that if one team gets ahead by 2 then they have to let the other team score. With 5 to 10 minutes left the game should be tied up and then the remaining 5 minutes played out with no effort to score by either team. Once regulation is over, the two teams can play a first-goal-wins game, safe in the knowledge that the 'loser' will get a point.

Assuming that the outcome of a short overtime followed by a shootout is pretty much random, a team following this strategy would expect to win half its games and get one point in the rest making for a total of 123 points (41 wins and 41 ties/one point losses). In the last NHL season, Detroit was first with 109 points. Assuming that they would have won 6 of their 11 ties that year in shootouts, they would have got 115 points under the new scheme.

So the Leafs can be expected to place first overall with this strategy despite only winning half their games. Failing getting agreement from the opposition to play to a draw on purpose, the best way to implement this strategy would be to play an extremely defensive, hyper-obstructionist game which forces as many low scoring games (and hence ties after regulation) as possible.

Even if they only manage to force 41 low scoring tie games, they should get 62 points from those 41 games. Based on the 2003-4 standings and adjusting for the new no-tie regime, a team will likely need about 96 points to make the (still 16 teams for this year) playoffs. So in the 41 games not tied, the Leafs would only need 34 points, or a record of 17-24.

Now imagine if the Leafs run and gun and only end up tying (after regulation) 10 games. These 10 games would give them 15 points (5 two point wins 5 one point 'losses') and they would need to get 81 points from the remaining 71 games, which would require a record of 41-30.

So a record (through regulation) of 17W, 24L 41T is equivalent to a record (through regulation) of 41W, 30L, 10T. In other words - you don't need to win, just don't get beat. Certainly if a game is tied in the third period, you might hope that both teams could just ease up and wait until OT/shootout to decide things.

So congratulations to the NHL brain-rust who've decided to walk all over the beauty and simplicity of the game with shootouts and goalie trap zones and 2 line passes in their quest for more offense (and more money) while simultaneously (and presumably without even realizing it?) bringing in changes which will reward defense far more than offense.

Maybe some day in the future the league will have repealed some of the dumb rule changes and kept some of the smarter ones (smaller pads for goalies, discretion on unintentional icing) and we can look back at this era like some kind of teenage acne transitional phase but for now I'm just hoping there isn't too much scarring.

Idiots.

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3 Comments:

  • Yes, I agree 100% on the overtime loss system. I don't understand how the league can fathom having some games worth 3 points and others worth just 2. Or, as you put it and I have previously put it as well, in the event of a tie, a second first goal wins game will be played under different rules for another point.

    But, in the new rules outlined today the referees do have some discretion on icing calls. They will be allowed to wave off icings on errant passes. Also, goalie pads, gloves, blockers and other equipment have been made smaller but I believe they could have gone further. For example, goalie pads have been reduced to 11 inches wids but honestly, does any goalie need a pad greater than 8 or 9 inches wide for protection?

    By Anonymous David, at 10:24 PM  

  • Failing getting agreement from the opposition to play to a draw on purpose, the best way to implement this strategy would be to play an extremely defensive, hyper-obstructionist game which forces as many low scoring games (and hence ties after regulation) as possible.

    thats how the leafs play as it is! havent you given any thoughts to becoming a nucks fan? :)

    By Blogger angela, at 11:30 PM  

  • David - what I was trying to say was that I hoped they keep the new discetionn on calling icing and reduced goalie pads, but eventually repeal some of the other changes.

    I agree with you that the goalie equipment could be even smaller but at least they're moving in the right direction.

    ainge - the last time the Leafs really played that way was back in the early 90's under Pat Burns (their period of greatest success, not coincidentally) - under Pat Quinn they have been fairly middle of the road (they were 15th in goals allowed in the last season).

    I've always been a Canucks fan (even more so since moving out West), but they will always be #2 behind the Leafs in my favour.

    By Blogger Declan, at 10:42 AM  

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