Former Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche coach Marc Crawford is blogging for CBC Sports, and celebrates the amount of unpredictable parity in the NHL this season.
He also seeks to indentify some reasons for these tightly-packed races, starting with the goaltending:
There are only a handful of great goalies in the league: Luongo, Brodeur, Lundqvist and maybe Backstrom. (Ed. Note: Probably shouldn't surprise anyone to not see Nabokov or Giguere here, considering the source.) These four lead the group and yes there are some very good young ones coming up. My point is if you have adequate goaltending in today's NHL your team can be competitive.
All teams have average goaltending, that is to say, technically-sound netminders who can keep their team close, if not win. Also, most teams play within a strict defensive structure that eliminates mistakes and minimizes second chances.
But Pepper over on The Red Skate focuses on another part of Crawford's essay:
The most important reason is the stat which he throws in at the end: That "third point has been awarded 68 times already this season," in 278 games played thus far. That means that 24.5% of games played this season are worth three points, and the other 3/4 are worth two. And of course that figure will increase as the playoffs approach.
You know where I'm going with this. Although it pleases me to note that the Capitals have earned only 3 of those "third points." The Penguins have earned 6 of them.
We debate the virtues of overtime, the shootout and the charity point a lot on this blog, and for good reason: They are deciding who does, or does not, gain entry into the postseason.
Proponents of the charity point claim that teams that are deadlocked after 60 minutes of hockey deserve a little something for the effort. Which is to say they should be rewarded for defeat. Outside of a high draft pick and a plum place on the waiver wire, that flies in the face of basic competitive logic.
As long as Gary Bettman wants the privilege of crowing about competitive balance, the NHL is going to have the overtime charity point because it helps maintain that balance. Meanwhile, the NHL will continue -- on a consistent, weekly basis -- to be the League that has losers, sorta-losers and winners.
Or, in other words, a League in which the Tampa Bay Lightning are a 16-point team that's four out of a playoff spot instead of a 10-point team thinking about the draft again.
Isn't it time for the NHL to adopt a new standings system?