Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why doesn't the NHL have a playoff tie-breaker?

The big story in sports tonight was baseball's one-game playoff to determine the winner of the AL Central. The White Sox won a 1-0 nail-biter over the Twins thanks to great pitching and a late home run by, not surprisingly, Luke Schenn.

Here's a question: why doesn't hockey have one-game tie-breakers to settle ties for the last playoff spot?

Currently, the tie-breaker is totals wins. That's not a terrible way to break a tie, since it's the only small acknowledgment the league makes that three-point games and points for losing in overtime are stupid ideas that most fans hate.

But wouldn't it be exciting to see two teams, tied for eight place at the end of the year, play a winner-take-all game? Think you might get some ratings for that matchup?

It wouldn't be a completely simple idea; sometimes multiple teams tie for the last spot, and you could also have a scenario where three or more teams tied for two playoff spots. But all of these cases could be accounted for, perhaps by using the total wins tie-breaker to narrow down to two eighth-place teams first.

Now I realize that Gary Bettman, in his infinite wisdom, has decreed that there must be a five-day break between the end of the season and the start of the playoffs, in order to allow for all the momentum and excitement to completely disappear. But surely we could somehow find a way to squeeze an extra game or two into that gap.

Just a thought.


  1. Stupid White Sox. Hope they get their sorry behinds swept in the first round.

    I think it would be a good idea, which is why it would never happen. Even if they only invoked it if teams had the same number of wins and tossed out the other things like division records and goals differential and whatnot. I could live with the remote possibility of a playoff between teams tied in total wins.

  2. One game playoff tie-breaker's are the best. We've seen a few of them in recent years in baseball and, man, are they a lot of fun. I would definitely love to see them in hockey. It would be a glorified game 7 and we all know there's nothing better in pro sports than a game 7 on ice.

  3. One important difference I should have mentioned: MLB treats their one-game playoff as a regular season game.

    The NHL would need to call it a post-season game, to avoid having the shootout decide it.

  4. Great idea.

    Reminds me of the one game play-in for the NCAA basketball tournament.

    Of course that 65 seed is going to get destroyed in the first game of the tourney, but there sure is some buzz in the local markets (and one more bucket of gate reciepts to collect).

  5. love it. I say get rid of points all together. The one thing I like about MLB is the "games back" approach. If that could be made to work in the NHL, that would make things much more interesting. That said, it never will happen...

  6. tie breakers in the NFL make sense: there are only 16 games and 6 of them are head to head with division opponents. The tie break system allows those divisional games to take on even more importance.

    In a 162 game season with so many pointless interleague games it seems silly to let a tie be decided by anything other than a one game playoff. I think the same logic applies to an 82 game schedule.

    Knowing Bettman they will get rid of the current system of wins deciding the outcome and go straight to a shootout between the tied teams. If tied after 5 shots each, we let the all-star style judges decide ...