NHL Standings in Alternate Universes

The Minnesota Wild are going to the playoffs. But do they belong, or did they benefit from convoluted rules? - Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at how the Standings would shake out if old rules didn't change.

So the regular season is over, and this is what it looks like in the Western Conference:

Team Wins Losses OTL Points ROW SOW SOL
Anaheim 54 20 8 116 51 3 6
San Jose 51 22 9 111 41 10 7
Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 38 8 6
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 31 6 7
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 31 5 7
Calgary 35 40 7 77 28 7 3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 25 4 3

Team Wins Losses OTL Points ROW SOW SOL
Colorado 52 22 8 112 47 5 4
St. Louis 52 23 7 111 43 9 3
Chicago 46 21 15 107 40 6 8
Minnesota 43 27 12 98 35 8 8
Dallas 40 31 11 91 36 4 5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 36 2 9
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 29 8 6

This resulted in these playoff matches:

Anaheim vs. Dallas

San Jose vs. Los Angeles

Colorado vs. Minnesota

St. Louis vs. Chicago

But the rules that the NHL has enacted over the last few years have been convoluted. There's these Wild Card teams, and pseudo-divisional playoffs. It's all crazy.

So, let's see what might have been if the rules had been different. Let's play around with some fun scenarios.

Playoff Matches with No Wild Cards

Losing the Wild Card returns the NHL to a purely divisional playoff. There would be only one minor change to the playoff matchups in the West:

Anaheim vs. Phoenix

San Jose vs. Los Angeles

Colorado vs. Minnesota

St. Louis vs. Chicago

This shows you why the league really wanted to get the Wild Card system in, even if it meant sacrificing division rivals exclusively playing each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Dallas absolutely gets jobbed without the Wild Card, leaving a better-than-you-think team to be cast out of the playoffs in favor of a middling Phoenix team.

Playoff Matchups Without Divisional Format

This returns the playoff format to last season's method of playoff seeding, going 1-8 in terms of points, and then matching up accordingly. Under this scenario, the playoff match-ups would be:

Anaheim vs. Dallas

Colorado vs. Minnesota

St. Louis vs. Los Angeles

San Jose vs. Chicago

Two of the playoff matches are flipped here, and I don't know if the playoffs is necessarily better or worse for it. Los Angeles and San Jose seem to have slightly easier match-ups, as St. Louis and Chicago have been beat up down the stretch.

Playoff Match-Ups With No Loser Point

Team Wins Losses Points
Anaheim 54 28 108
San Jose 51 31 102
Los Angeles 46 36 92
Phoenix 37 45 74
Vancouver 36 46 72
Calgary 35 47 70
Edmonton 29 53 58

Team Wins Losses Points
St. Louis 52 30 104
Colorado 52 30 104
Chicago 46 36 92
Minnesota 43 39 86
Dallas 40 42 80
Nashville 38 44 76
Winnipeg 37 45 74

I used goal differential as a tie-breaker, which is why St. Louis is above Colorado.

Playoff Match-Ups in Current Divisional Format:

Anaheim vs. Dallas

San Jose vs. Los Angeles

St. Louis vs. Minnesota

Colorado vs. St. Louis

Playoff Match-Ups in Conference Format:

Anaheim vs. Dallas

St. Louis vs. Minnesota

Colorado vs. Los Angeles

San Jose vs. Chicago

Some interesting things here- When you take out the loser point, Chicago has been the same team, record-wise as Los Angeles, who gets the lower seed only due to goal differential.

Playoff Match-Ups With Only Wins, Losses, and Ties

Before the lockout, we had ties when the games couldn't be resolved through regulation and overtime. But to make sure fans went home with a feeling of resolution, they tacked on a shootout to resolve regular season contests in a timely manner. So, basically, that's what a shootout is- a tie. It's just that one of the teams gets an extra point when the tie happens.

So, returning to a more pure era, where there were only wins, losses, and ties, we would have seen these standings:

Team Wins Losses Ties Points
Anaheim 51 22 9 111
San Jose 41 24 17 99
Los Angeles 38 30 14 90
Phoenix 31 38 13 75
Vancouver 31 39 12 74
Calgary 28 44 10 66
Edmonton 25 50 7 57*

*Fun fact, as bad as this is, it doesn't come close to matching Buffalo's 40 points (14-56-12)

Team Wins Losses Ties Points
Colorado 47 26 9 103
St. Louis 43 27 12 98
Chicago 40 28 14 94
Minnesota 35 31 16 86
Nashville 36 35 11 83
Dallas 36 37 9 81
Winnipeg 29 39 14 72

Playoff Match-Ups:

Anaheim vs. Nashville

Colorado vs. Minnesota

San Jose vs. Los Angeles

St. Louis vs. Chicago

What's REALLY interesting here is that all the playoff matches are identical to the ones we are about to see in the Western Conference- regardless of whether you use the current Divisional/Wild Card format or the standard Conference 1-8 method. With, of course, one glaring exception. The Dallas Stars' Top-10 possession numbers have many people pegging them as a dark horse pick in the playoffs. But if we judged this season by Ws, Ls, and Ts, they'd be sitting at home for the playoffs in favor of the Nashville Predators. Wow.

Playoff Matchups With No Divisions or Conferences

Just for funzies, let's take a look at what the playoffs could have been like if we removed all seeding by Division and Conference, and just seeded every team 1-16 (based on the current points system):

(1) Boston vs. (16) Dallas- The Revenge of Seguin!

(2) Anaheim vs. (15) Detroit- 2 of Anaheims last 3 Playoff Eliminations were at Detroit's hand.

(3) Colorado vs. (14) Columbus- Colorado- this year's major surprise- and Columbus- last season's feel-good story- duke it out.

(4) St. Louis vs. (13) Philadelphia- Two teams renown for their toughness get to beat on each other.

(5)San Jose vs. (12) NY Rangers- Can Lundqvist and the aging Rangers core shut down Joe Thornton and the aging Sharks core?

(6) Pittsburgh vs. (11) Minnesota- A pseudo re-match of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final sees Sidney Crosby make his playoff debut in Minnesota.

(7) Chicago vs. (10) Los Angeles- Two gifted possession teams from two of the biggest media markets face off.

(8) Tampa Bay vs. (9) Montreal- Even in an alternate universe, this match-up is inevitable.

Come on! Who wouldn't want to see that?!

Conculsion

There will be a lot of detractors pointing out that the loser point makes the Wild barely a .500 team, and to a certain extent, they are right, as the Wild only have 43 Wins in 82 games. But do not mistake that in saying the Wild do not belong in the playoffs. You can run any scenario- take out loser points, bring back ties, re-align the Conferences and Divisions, and change the seeding format- and there is none that excludes the Wild from being one of the sixteen playoff teams. In fact, they've attained the 11th most points in hockey- clearly in the top-half, and one win away from being in the top third of the league.

Whatever may happen in this series, no one can tell you that the Wild did not belong in the playoffs.

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