Euro Bracket Final Results

Okay, it’s April.  The nets are down, people are done thinking about college basketball for another 6 months minimum, but I wanted to make sure I followed up on the Euro Bracket Challenge so those of you keeping track at home can compare.


And Diana ran away with it.  Her strategy of being conservative and picking favorites really worked well for her this year, in what I think was one of the least interesting tournaments in recent history.  She took a calculated risk in eliminating Kentucky somewhat early, and it paid off, as she was the only person to have Duke as the champion.  Similarly, Helen, who had Duke in the Championship game, came in second.  Poor Stefano, the only one to pick Purdue to win, came in last.


I compared this pool to the one at my former workplace in the US.  The results were alarming:

European average bracket score beat American average bracket score by almost 2 full points.


This further confirms everything you already knew about filling out a bracket.  It takes no skill at all, and often those who know the least do the best.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I had 77 points, assuring I did not owe my employees any free lunch.  USA! USA! USA!


Here are the full results



Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Championship Total
Diana 25 20 12 4 5 6 72
Helen 22 20 12 4 5 0 63
Seema 22 16 15 4 0 0 57
Ela 24 14 9 8 0 0 55
Paul 19 14 15 4 0 0 52
Stefano 17 14 12 4 0 0 47


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Euro-bracket results after Saturday’s games

Here are the results from the Euro-brasket challenge through Saturday’s games:

Person Thursday Friday Saturday Total
Diana 13 12 8 33
Ela 10 14 6 30
Helen 11 11 8 30
Seema 11 12 6 29
Paul 8 11 6 25
Stefano 6 11 6 23


Diana continues her domination as she is starting to distance herself from the field (for the record I am sitting at 30 points).  At this point, a Kentucky loss would almost mathematically secure her the title (and the free lunch), but I am going to be riding the Wildcats hard to win out, which would likely give me the title.

Meanwhile Paul is the only one to have lost a Championship game participant, with Villanova’s upset by NC State last night.  Stefano is the only other person to have lost a Final Four team, so overall I would have to say it’s pretty surprising how put together everyone’s brackets are, given the situation.

Of course, that may have to do with a lack of underdogs making it into the Sweet 16.

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Euro-bracket results after Friday’s games

In case you’ve missed it, I forced my team of European employees to fill out a bracket.  Through Friday, here are the results.  For the record, I have 23 points, which means I owe 3 people lunch at present.

And again, I am scoring using a 1-2-3-4-5-6 format.

Person Thursday Friday Total
Diana 13 12 25
Ela 10 14 24
Seema 11 12 23
Helen 11 11 22
Paul 8 11 19
Stefano 6 11 17


Ela did the best on Friday with few upsets, allowing her to jump Seema and Helen.  Diana continued her lead while Paul and Stefano lag, both of them being more keen on upsets.  Helen, who started off 5-0 and looked like she was going to run away with it, has languished with a lack of upsets also leading to her slow performance.

We’ll keep you updated throughout the weekend to see if you’re better than some Europeans who have never seen a game of college basketball.

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European bracket challenge: Thursday results

In case you didn’t read, I made my team (of European employees at my European employer) fill out brackets. Here’s how they stack up after 1 day:

Person Thursday
Diana 13
Seema 11
Helen 11
Ela 10
Paul 8
Stefano 6

Overall, pretty impressive results, given that none of them had ever seen one NCAA Basketball game in their life.  In fact, Diana is beating the only Americans in the pool (my wife and I).

Helen had a phenomenal start of 5-0 after picking both UAB and Georgia State to win.  She flamed out a little later as her upset special failed to pan out for 16 seeds Hampton and Lafayette.

Meanwhile, Diana’s conservative strategy seems to be paying off, as she was 13/16. Her few risks did pay off though, as Georgia State was easily the biggest upset predicted in her bracket.  Maybe she knows something we don’t know!

Stefano was the only person to pick Purdue and as a Purdue alum I had been pulling for him, but obviously his Purdue selection was representative of faulty methods as a whole, and he currently sits on the bottom of the ladder.


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Can you beat Europeans in a Bracket Challenge?

Okay, so I recently moved to Europe for work.  Of course, the down side of that is that I had to stay up until 4 AM to watch the Super Bowl, and I’m largely excluded from national pasttimes like the annual “Stop Working and Pretend That You’re Working But Really You’re Streaming Video on your Phone” days or as we call it more colloquially, “The NCAA Tournament opening rounds.”  As such, I have had limited opportunity to participate in office pools for the Tourney.  So I did what any true American would: I forced my European staff members to submit a bracket, promising to buy them lunch if they beat me as motivation to participate.


Some background:  I sent them the bracket, I told them basically how to fill it out, and that the Seed # is a rough indicator of the quality of team, and that the number to the right in parentheses is the team’s regular season record. Though I had to point out that because there are 300+ teams, they do not play a round robin like every European sport ever.  This confused them.  I also gave them a Wikipedia link and a snippet from the article to help them with decision making:


Round of 64 results

  • The #1 seed is 120–0 against the #16 seed (1.000)
  • The #2 seed is 113–7 against the #15 seed (.942)
  • The #3 seed is 102–18 against the #14 seed (.850)
  • The #4 seed is 95–25 against the #13 seed (.792)
  • The #5 seed is 76–44 against the #12 seed (.633)
  • The #6 seed is 79–41 against the #11 seed (.658)
  • The #7 seed is 73–47 against the #10 seed (.608)
  • The #8 seed is 59–61 against the #9 seed (.492)



I hoped this would at least make it competitive, so that they wouldn’t be picking a bunch of Hamptons in the Final Four.  It seems to have worked out pretty well.  Generally.


I am scoring the brackets on a 1-2-3-4-5-6 format, so if you want to see how you stack up against your European peers, give yourself a point for everything in the “second” round, 2 pts for the 3rd, etc. until you get 6 for the Championship.  I will post their score updates daily throughout the tournament.


I’ll give a little background on the person, then their bracket, then a bit of their logic (that I asked them).


First off, we have Helen.  Helen is a native Brit who lives half the time in Berlin and the other half in Budapest.  She went in the face of the data and picked not one, but two 16 seeds to advance.   Here’s her full bracket:

She was so unconvinced by Kentucky’s perfect regular season record that she had them lose in the first round!  She cited that “I chose based on whether or not I liked the names of the schools.  Good news for Manhattan, bad news for the 34-0 Wildcats.  But man, what a story that would be.  Ultimately she ends up with a non-Kentucky final, which may help her out if the Wildcats do end up getting knocked out early.


Next we have Seema.  Born in Vienna to Indian parents and now living in Berlin where she is unable to get people to speak German to her despite being a native German speaker, Seema took copious notes from my pointers, and was the only one to make significant bracket changes while filling it out.  Here’s her full bracket:


Like Helen, she went in the face of the data and picked Coastal Carolina over Wisconsin.  When pressed, she said “Coastal Carolina, that sounds so cool.  They have to win”


Can’t argue with that.


After that we have Diana, the only native born German in the field.  Like a true German, she played fairly conservative, but still had Kentucky losing in the Elite 8.  Her bracket:


As you can see, only two non 1/2/3/4 seeds make it to her Sweet 16: SMU and Xavier, both 6 seeds.  Upon asking about her pick of SMU, she replied “What does SMU stand for” and when told, thought aloud “Hmm, okay.”  Confident as always.


Next we have Ela.  Originally from Poland she lives in Berlin now. While generally conservative, she was big on The Summit League, predicting the NDSU Bison would beat Gonzaga.  Can’t help but wonder if she was thinking about college football.  Her bracket:



Riding the Bison into the Elite 8!  Also predicting an all-Kentucky showdown in Indianapolis as the Wildcats take on the Cardinals.  In my opinion, this is one of the better brackets I saw, even with NDSU a bit too far.


Second to last we have Paul, who grew up in Germany to Polish parents, Paul speaks 4 languages and was the most reticent to join the competition. His full bracket:


Besides Stephen F Austin in the Elite 8 (which actually isn’t a bad underdog to pick, ignoring the fact that they lost on Thursday), most of his picks look pretty reasonable, a good mix of upsets and favorites.  Like most others (in this pool and in every pool worldwide), he rode Kentucky to the finals.


Our last contestant is Stefano.  Born in Sicily, Stefano enjoys motorsport but doesn’t really enjoy team sports.  He was big on 12 and 13 seeds, picking 3 of each to advance (for some reason Northern Iowa and Louisville avoided the fate of their peers).  His bracket:


Like Paul, he also had Stephen F Austin in the Elite 8 (must be an attractive name!).  Stefano, being a native of Syracuse (the real one, in Italy), was very excited that teams would be playing in Syracuse, NY.  Upon finding out that the university in that particular city was not participating, he was disappointed.


Overall, I was surprised at how “normal” the brackets look.  These look not that different than a distribution of brackets you would see in your run of the mill office pool.


And like most office pools, I have a sneaking suspicion that someone who doesn’t watch college basketball will be winning.

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The Top Ten Worst Attended NCAA Basketball Games This Year

10: University of Illinois-Chicago vs Yale, November 21. 173 fans in attendance. (Men Against Breast Cancer Classic): 

This is the first of many “Classics” that we will see in this list.  With only 173 people in attendance, you have to wonder how well the economics of some of these tournaments work (okay, okay, it’s television rights).  While that works well for headlining games in the tournament, UIC vs Yale doesn’t seem to have been a profitable venture, with only 173 hearty souls making the journey from Chicago and New Haven to Kent, Ohio.  Of course, you have to think that there were quite a few more fans sitting at home wishing they were there, judging from the lone comment on ESPN’s Conversation about this game:


And for the record, Yale won 70-58.


9: Champion Baptist at Southern, December 16.  169 fans in attendance. 

This one is summed up pretty well on the ESPN Conversation:ohgod

Southern throttled Champion Baptist 114-50.  And Southern is not exactly Kentucky.  Of course Champion Baptist is an unaccredited school with only 250 students (and a website that ends in .com, not even .edu!), so even if the entire student body had taken the bus down to Baton Rouge, the attendance wouldn’t have topped 500.  That being said, this game was still good news for Champion Baptist basketball fans (???), as it was only a 64 point loss, not a 104 point defeat like the previous season. For the record, Champion Baptist has not given up fewer than 100 points in any game in the last two years against a Division 1 opponent.  And they may have the worst grammatical twitter for a higher education institution in America. 


8: Prairie View at Grambling, February 16. 139 fans in attendance. 

Another throttling of a SWAC team, this time Grambling.  Prairie View won 95-44, while Grambling managed to only connect for 1-11 from beyond the arc.  Of course, after going 0-28 in 2012-13, fans can’t be too upset that up until this game, their Tigers had won two games this year.  Despite the thrashing, the good news for the 139 Grambling faithful that turned out was that the high scorer in the game came from the Grambling side, with A’Torre Shine scoring 15.


T-6: Eastern Illinois at Southern, November 29.  135 fans in attendance. (Emerald Coast Classic)

T-6: North Carolina-Central at Northern Arizona, November 29. 135 fans in attendance. (Emerald Coast Classic)

These two games actually happened on the same day in the same arena, so I tend to think this attendance number is overinflated.  Especially when you consider that these two games may be the two worst games that were played on this list.  In the first, Eastern Illinois started off with a 24-1 lead, while Southern shot 15/47 over the entire course of the game.  Despite the shooting percentage, Southern only lost 54-43, which polarized the Southern fanbase:



The night cap didn’t get much better as North Carolina Central edged out Northern Arizona 40-36, with each team shooting below 34%.  Good defense you say?  Well, combined the teams shot 11-24 from the free throw line.  Not so much.  I seriously hope that 135 poor people did not stick around through both of these games.


5: Chicago State at Western Carolina, November 26. 130 fans in attendance. (CBE Hall of Fame Classic)

Another example of a “Classic” that just isn’t so classic.  Western Carolina squeaked by Chicago State 66-61.  Despite the loss, Chicago State fansfan (and the Vietnamese) were out in force with some hot takes:



Of course, at 8-22 as of present, Christian’s prediction is not looking so good, pending a miraculous WAC tourney and then the Cinderella story to end all Cinderella stories.  But hey, it was the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest bar day of the year. 


T-3: Georgia State at Chicago State, November 24.  125 fans in attendance. (CBE Hall of Fame Classic)

Another tie up involving the eventual 2015 National Champions (or so I’m told), as two days earlier Chicago State faced Georgia State in front of a whopping 125 in Rochester, MI.  The Cougars lost this one as well, but a 69-46 margin to Georgia State.  Chicago State shot 29% from the field, meaning that those Cook County residents who bothered to drive all the way over to Pure Michigan saw nothing but pure disaster.


T-3: Eastern Illinois vs North Carolina Central, November 28.  125 fans in attendance. (Emerald Coast Classic)

The night before each team in this matchup would go on to play the games in the 6th position, they faced off head to head in front of 125 folks with nothing else to do in the Greater Kent Metropolitan area.  Unfortunately for them, the game was over at halftime when NCC was up 40-20.  Eastern Illinois only ended up scoring 40 in a 65-40 blowout by the NCC Eagles.  The good news for EIU fans, however, is that they can always go back to campus and enjoy a nice meal at the world’s first Jimmy John’s.  I guess that’s worth something… right?


T-1: IUPUI at Howard, December 15. 57 fans in attendance.

T-1: Alabama State vs North Dakota, November 26.  57 fans in attendance. (Utah Tournament)

Now to our number one(s).  The sub 100 attendance group stands alone.  And of all possible numbers, both games had exactly 57 people.  ESPN summarizes IUPUI vs Howard perfectly:


Clearly the Howard fans, while few, were enough of a distraction: IUPUI shot 28% from the field, 4-26 from beyond the arc and 56% at the free throw line.


Meanwhile, at the Utah tournament a month earlier, North Dakota (who are now just known as “The North Dakota Basketball Team” in place of the Fighting Sioux) beat the Alabama State Hornets 75-68.

Despite only 57 in attendance (again, on the busiest bar night of the year, though the 3.2% beer of Utah probably doesn’t flow like honey on any day of the year really), this game generated a wide range of emotions on ESPN with a record high (at least for the games on this list) FIVE comments:



This pretty much sums up ESPN’s Conversation in one picture.  You have the Ralph Wiggum-esque “My cat’s breath smells like catfood” post by Matthew Fisk.  You have the degenerate gambler (and if you’re gambling on a game that is being attended by 57 people, it’s time for a gut check on the gambling.  Just saying), as well as the unreasonable expectation of a bottom tier team (and a bonus: using the other in-state team’s war cry).


That sums up the year for sad basketball, except in the SWAC where no other type of basketball exists.  But when you’re sitting on your couch in April watching Chicago State and Alabama State play for the National Championship, you can always look back and remember the true oracles who saw it coming, despite the teams playing in front of fewer than 200 people at one point in the season.

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Could relegation/promotion work in NCAA Football?

Probably one of the most “American fan-friendly” idea that can be imported from leagues overseas is the idea of relegation and promotion.  In this setup, the bottom number of teams get demoted at the end of the year to a lower level league, and the top number of teams from the lower league are promoted into the higher league.  For example, this year, the 3 worst teams in England’s Premier League will be demoted to the AAA-equivalent Football League Championship, with the top three teams in the Football League Championship taking their spots in the Premier League. On the surface, this ensures some incentive to teams to “play the season out” and can actually add some drama into the late season for teams on the verge of demotion.

For a myriad of reasons this would not work in any American professional sport.  Some of those reasons: television contracts, significant depreciation of capital for owners (who would buy the Jaguars if they were going to end up being a minor league football team?), difficulty retaining fans, etc.  Ultimately, it will likely never happen on the professional sports level.

However, I do think there is opportunity for this to be viable in the current NCAA Football setup, especially with the playoff system that has been implemented for the 2014-15 season.  Let me walk you through the scenario:

The SEC is perpetually dominant, ensuring at least 2 spots in the playoff year in and year out.  Other conferences, in an effort to ensure that schedules are as strong as possible, could implement this system to ensure that their conference champion is all but assured a spot in the playoff.  This would work best with a 16 team conference, where you would split the conference into two 8 team divisions.  The “Champions” division would include the top 8 teams, who would play each other once, and the “Runners Up” division with the bottom 8 teams.  One rivalry across the divisions would be protected (and played on the last weekend of the season), leading to an 8 game conference schedule.  After the season, the bottom two in the upper division would be swapped out with the top two in the bottom division.

What would that look like?  Using my postseason AMSTS Computer Rankings for 2013-14, here’s what the ACC/B1G/PAC could look like, with a few assumptions on how the conferences would expand to 16 teams:

2014 relegation and promotion

(Apologies Big XII fans, I anticipate the B1G going after your schools, but being unable to get the top ones, and settling with Iowa State and Kansas.  Every other conference pillages their regional “little brother” for the best schools / metro areas for TV in my assumptions).  The teams in green actually finished in the bottom half and would have qualified for promotion, while the teams in red finished in the top half but would’ve been relegated.

Looking at this setup, each division would play within itself for 7 games, and one “rivalry-preferred” cross-division game.  Only a handful of rivalries fall outside of their division, Iowa-Iowa State (again, assuming B1G expansion), ASU-Arizona, Washington-Washington State, and Cal-Stanford.

Ultimately, promotion and relegation ensures that the champions for any of these three non-SEC conferences are a part of the playoff discussion.  A team that goes 10-2 in the current ACC may not be impressive, but a team that goes 10-2 playing the best 7 opponents in the conference may have more of an argument.  In addition, it preserves (or perhaps even enhances) television revenues, which are a fundamental cornerstone of the conferences.  Furthermore, it creates an additional revenue opportunity with the possible creation of a “Play-in” game to the conference championship.  In the hierarchical system created, it would be unjust for the bottom division team to earn a berth to play the winner of the top division team with the Conference Championship on the line, so why not have the last week of the season dedicated to the #1 team in the bottom division playing the #2 team in the top, with the winner continuing on to the Conference Championship game.  This match up could supersede the cross-divisional rivalry game, with the displaced teams playing one another instead.  Using the example above, in the last week of the season in the Big Ten, Nebraska would play Michigan State, with the winner playing Ohio State the following week for the Big Ten Championship.  If Nebraska were scheduled to play Maryland as the cross-division game, and Michigan State to play Northwestern, the schedule would be altered and Maryland would play Northwestern.

A secondary benefit to splitting the teams out like this is that it may drum up fan support in some of the worse teams within the conference.  Speaking as a Purdue fan, I would estimate that attendance would go up if Purdue were winning 3-5 games (against lower caliber opponents, mind you) than getting throttled 11 times, as they did in 2013.  Additionally, teams that are in the lower division would have an incentive to play stronger out of conference games, knowing that their conference schedule will appear fairly weak.

Overall, I think this would increase fan interest, while ensuring that a loss early in the season does not take a particular team out of the discussion.  By creating a division that rivals the SEC West, this could increase the competitive balance across the sport and solidify viewer interest all the way into December.

Of course, as a Purdue fan, this might mean I’d have to get really comfortable watching the Boilermakers play the Illini year in and year out.

Weird Baseball: The Most Nightmarish AL Playoff Scenario Imaginable


It’s that time of the year again: we’re roughly 75% through with the baseball season, and it’s time to talk playoff scenarios.  While visions of magic numbers dance through many fans’ heads, the MLB will undoubtedly be lamenting (behind closed doors, of course) the lack of large market teams that are on pace to make the playoffs this year.  Not all hope is lost, however, as the main objective of adding a second wild card team may finally pay dividends in Commissioner Selig’s last year.  How, you might ask?  It’s simple: mass chaos.

As we stand at the end of play today, the Tigers sit 1.5 games behind Kansas City for the AL Central, and .5 games behind Seattle for the second wild card spot.  Oakland and the LA Angels continue to battle for the division, with the 2nd place team being in the first wild card spot.

Got it so far?  Great.

With these teams bunched up, one of the most undesirable (logistically) or desirable (as a neutral fan) outcomes is the following:

  1. The Angels and A’s tie for the AL West
  2. The Tigers and the Royals tie for the AL Central, with the same record as the Mariners.

Both of these situations could lead to one of the most confusing tiebreaker scenarios possible under the new rules.  Quite a goodbye for the Commissioner, who added the one game playoff in hopes of creating more opportunities for excitement rivaling “Game 162” of the 2011 season.

Here’s how it would shake out, after the season ended on Sunday, September 28th:

Monday, September 29th:

  1. Kansas City would travel to Detroit to play the AL Central tiebreaker game. (This assumes that KC does not go 6-0 against Detroit in their remaining games, in which case Kansas City would host.  If they go 5-1 against Detroit in their remaining games, the team with the better division record would host.)  The winner of this game advances to the ALDS, where if current standings held, they would play Game 1 in Baltimore on Wednesday, September 30th.  The loser would fly to Seattle, having to play the Mariners in a one game playoff where the winner gets to play…. a  one game playoff.
  2. Los Angeles and Oakland would face off for the division championship. Oakland currently owns the tiebreaker with a head to head record of 6-3, but 10 games remain, so the venue is very much up for grabs. The winner, like in the previous tiebreaker, advances to the ALDS, where they will host Game 1.  The loser would host the Wild Card game.

That’s a pretty busy day.  So what happens on Wednesday, September 30th?

  1. The AL Central loser faces the Mariners in Seattle, where the winner goes to play the loser of the AL West tiebreaker and the loser goes home.

Finally, the playoff field is set, despite the ALDS having already started on one side of the bracket.  On Thursday, October 1st:

  1. The Orioles and the AL Central winner play Game 1 in Baltimore.
  2. Either the Royals, Tigers, or Mariners goes to either LA or Oakland to face the team that lost the AL West tiebreaker, with the winner having the opportunity to play in the ALDS against the winner of the AL West tiebreaker.

Simple, right?  Well, in case you had trouble following, I made a flow chart.  In it, I separate the “pre-playoffs” with the “real playoffs” although the 1 game eliminations will certainly feel like playoff baseball came a little early.  To decode, a green line indicates the path of the winner of that game, a red line the loser.  If a black line comes out from a game, it indicates that the winner advances and the loser is eliminated.

AL Playoff Nightmare


Considering that the MLB has tentatively scheduled the postseason to begin on September 30th, this could wreak havoc on any of the participating teams, with the Royals having the worst travel nightmare with the potential to travel 3161 miles in 4 days (Chicago->Detroit->Seattle->Anaheim.)

Furthermore, this assumes that everything goes according to plan.  Did I mention that in the last 10 years, it has rained 4 times on September 29th in Detroit?

While this might make heads spin, it would make for absolutely crazy baseball.  Huge implications on every game for 3 straight days (not even including the last weekend of the regular season) before the playoffs even begin.  This scenario has plenty of losers, but there’s one clear winner:


Baseball fans everywhere.

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Coyotes – Stars game to end the season could see numerous tactical surprises

Hockey isn’t known for it’s tactics.  Sure, the nuances of the dump and chase are lost on many, but as a whole, it’s largely considered an “action” sport rather than much of a “tactical” one.  That’s an unfair assessment somewhat, but unlike other sports, hockey doesn’t rely as much on “matchups” or “eating up the clock.”

However, due to the playoff situation a-brewin’ in the Western Conference, we could see quite a few implementations of non-standard strategy in the Phoenix-Dallas game next Sunday, April 13th.

Here’s the breakdown, as of April 6th, the Stars lead the Coyotes by 1 point for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.  The Stars also hold the tiebreaker, regulation + overtime wins, which the Coyotes cannot regain (they have 30 to Dallas’ 35, with 4 games remaining.)  Let’s break down all of the possible scenarios going into the final game here:

1) Dallas has a 2 point or greater advantage on the Coyotes.  

Result: The last game is moot, Dallas has clinched a playoff spot.

2) Dallas has a 1 point advantage on the Coyotes.

Result: The Coyotes must win in regulation to make the playoffs (due to losing the tiebreaker if the game goes into overtime, a problem which would be fixed with a 3-2-1-0 point system.)

The twist: Where this scenario gets interesting is in the third period.  A tie game would most certainly lead to Dave Tippett, tactical genius that he is, to pull his goalie with a minute or two remaining, given that taking the game into overtime ends his season.  It would be extremely rare to see a team potentially win a game on an empty netter (from my research, there has never been a game decided by an empty netter, ignoring situations where a team is down 1, pulls their goalie, gives up a goal, then scores a goal, and situations where the goalie is pulled on a delayed penalty).

3) Dallas and Phoenix are tied in the standings.  

Result: The team that wins the game makes the playoffs.  Simple, right?

The twist: If the game were to go to overtime, the two teams could end up just playing 5 on 5 hockey.  “What do you mean, the overtime period is, by rule, 4 on 4?” you may ask.  My theory is that there is the potential, depending upon each coach’s willingness to take the risk, that either, or both, teams may pull their goalie in the overtime period, valuing the additional attacker more than the goalie.  What is a more likely outcome, in my opinion, is that a post-icing faceoff may lead to a goalie being pulled, or any power play in overtime would likely lead to an empty net.

The double twist:  By puling your goalie in overtime, you forgo the point given by losing in overtime.  Normally, teams would not take this risk, but when losing means being eliminated from the playoffs (irrespective of whether you’re back 1 point or 2), desperate times may call for desperate measures.

4) Phoenix leads Dallas by 1 point

The result: Any Phoenix win, or any Dallas win gets the respective team into the playoffs.

The twist: There isn’t really one, but could you imagine the tension if the game were to go to a shootout?

5) Phoenix leads Dallas by 2 points

The result: See situation 2, but reverse the role between the two teams.

6) Phoenix leads Dallas by 3 or more points

The result: Phoenix is in, end of discussion.


Clearly, next Sunday’s game could be the most interesting, and perhaps confusing, games seen in recent history.  One can only hope that the results this week will lead to one of the above scenarios.

The NHL should move to a 3-2-1-0 point system

In the eternal struggle for gaining fans, hockey has run into a few problems.  Most of them have been overcome through various rules changes, much to the chagrin of traditionalists.  The addition of the shootout and the trapezoid, and the removal of the two line pass restriction being the largest.  However, in doing all of these changes, largely the first one, the NHL has created a system which rewards teams going in to overtime.  In a game ending in regulation, two points are given, both to the winner, but in an overtime or shootout game, an additional point is given to the loser.  The merits of this can be debated, but the point of this was to not punish teams that could not be defeated within the normal time frame of the game.  The unintended consequence, especially when teams get into the playoff run (like, say, March) is that teams that are on the verge of the playoffs are incentivized to take a game into overtime, where the expected point return is 1.5 instead of 1.0.  Though teams are disincentivized by tiebreakers being determined off of the count of regulation plus overtime wins, this disincentive is largely toothless, given that it has only determined the final playoff seed twice in the past five years.

A smart team, holding on to a 1-1 tie game in the third, would be smart to play conservatively to assure an additional point, rather than attempt to win the game in regulation.

In an effort to cull this, our friends over in the KHL use the 3-2-1-0 points system.  Three points are awarded for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout win, 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss, and 0 points for a regulation loss.  This assures that no games have more of a “point jackpot” than others, since all games are distributed three points to be split among the two teams playing.  This is a good idea, and would largely ensure that the most talented teams benefit from winning in 60 minutes of hockey.

Let’s take a look at the current standings (as of March 23rds games):


Team Reg wins OT/SO wins OT/SO losses Reg losses NHL Point system
Boston Bruins 43 6 5 17 103
Pittsburgh Penguins 37 9 5 20 97
Tampa Bay Lightning 28 11 8 24 86
Philadelphia Flyers 33 6 7 25 85
Montreal Canadiens 28 11 7 26 85
New York Rangers 34 5 4 29 82
Detroit Red Wings 24 9 14 24 80
Toronto Maple Leafs 23 13 8 29 80
Washington Capitals 21 13 11 27 79
Columbus Blue Jackets 30 6 6 29 78
New Jersey Devils 22 9 13 28 75
Carolina Hurricanes 27 5 9 33 73
Ottawa Senators 22 6 13 30 69
New York Islanders 17 10 9 35 63
Florida Panthers 19 7 8 38 60
Buffalo Sabres 12 9 8 43 50


Team Reg wins OT/SO wins OT/SO losses Reg losses NHL Point System
St. Louis Blues 37 11 7 16 103
San Jose Sharks 32 14 8 18 100
Anaheim Ducks 39 7 7 18 99
Chicago Blackhawks 36 5 15 16 97
Colorado Avalanche 33 11 6 21 94
Los Angeles Kings 29 11 6 25 86
Minnesota Wild 27 10 11 24 85
Phoenix Coyotes 26 8 11 26 79
Dallas Stars 28 5 11 26 77
Vancouver Canucks 22 11 10 30 76
Winnipeg Jets 21 11 9 31 73
Nashville Predators 27 4 10 31 72
Calgary Flames 17 12 7 35 65
Edmonton Oilers 18 7 9 38 59

With the 3 point system, we see quite a few changes:

Team Reg wins OT/SO wins OT/SO losses Reg losses KHL point system Ranking difference
Boston Bruins 43 6 5 17 146 0
Pittsburgh Penguins 37 9 5 20 134 0
Philadelphia Flyers 33 6 7 25 118 1
New York Rangers 34 5 4 29 116 2
Tampa Bay Lightning 28 11 8 24 114 -2
Montreal Canadiens 28 11 7 26 113 -2
Columbus Blue Jackets 30 6 6 29 108 3
Detroit Red Wings 24 9 14 24 104 -1
Toronto Maple Leafs 23 13 8 29 103 -2
Washington Capitals 21 13 11 27 100 -1
Carolina Hurricanes 27 5 9 33 100 2
New Jersey Devils 22 9 13 28 97 -1
Ottawa Senators 22 6 13 30 91 0
New York Islanders 17 10 9 35 80 0
Florida Panthers 19 7 8 38 79 0
Buffalo Sabres 12 9 8 43 62 0

And in the west:

Team Reg wins OT/SO wins OT/SO losses Reg losses New point system Ranking difference
St. Louis Blues 37 11 7 16 140 0
Anaheim Ducks 39 7 7 18 138 1
Chicago Blackhawks 36 5 15 16 133 1
San Jose Sharks 32 14 8 18 132 -2
Colorado Avalanche 33 11 6 21 127 0
Los Angeles Kings 29 11 6 25 115 0
Minnesota Wild 27 10 11 24 112 0
Phoenix Coyotes 26 8 11 26 105 0
Dallas Stars 28 5 11 26 105 1
Nashville Predators 27 4 10 31 99 2
Vancouver Canucks 22 11 10 30 98 -1
Winnipeg Jets 21 11 9 31 94 -1
Calgary Flames 17 12 7 35 82 0
Edmonton Oilers 18 7 9 38 77 0

This certainly reshuffles the deck.  Teams that have lived off of shootout wins like San Jose take a hit while teams that eke out wins in regulation like Columbus are rewarded.  Factoring in the additional opportunity to take three points from your division rival down the stretch, this could lead to much better hockey, while also helping somewhat rectify the “underdog phenomenon” we have seen in the hockey playoffs of the last few years, where we have seen 8th seeded teams that were much more capable (and ended up advancing) than their 5th, 6th, or 7th seed counterparts.


This seems like a common sense initiative in a sport that has done smart rule changes to attract additional fans.  Hopefully, we will see the NHL rules committee taking this up in the Summer of 2014, though I don’t see it very likely.

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