The Elite Eight: Why The NHL Point System Does Not Need Change

Nick MaxsonCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JUNE 04:  The Detroit Red Wings pose for a team photo with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game six of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Mellon Arena on June 4, 2008 in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania. The Red Wings defeated the Penguins 3-2 to win the Stanley Cup Finals 4 games to 2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With talk around the NHL about changing the point system, I thought it would be great to analyze why the current point system works so well.

Among the obvious and practical reasons the point system works, there is one big reason it works very well.

The race to the "Elite Eight."

There are three reasons in my book why the point system should stay the way it is.

Playoff Push

The point system is designed to be extremely competitive, especially around this time of the season where teams are fighting for a spot in the playoffs.

The Western Conference is one of the more competitive conferences not only in the NHL, but in all of professional sports.

As of now, NHL teams have between six and eight games left on their regular season schedule. A look at the standings however, and you notice that day-by-day it changes.

In this season's hunt for the playoffs, in the Western Conference, teams positioned from 6th through 11th place are only separated by six points.

In the equally competitive Eastern Conference, five points separate 7th through 10th place.

With each win earning two points and even with an overtime loss earning one point, the race to the finish is always exciting to watch.

This is exactly what the NHL wants to see, teams fighting their way into the playoffs.

Each Team Has A Chance For The Postseason

Throughout the regular season, we see teams go on amazing win streaks, and we also witness teams that slump.

San Jose became the fastest team in NHL history to reach 50 points this season.

The Dallas Stars, who were in the 7th spot in the Western Conference last week, have since lost six straight games and now have dropped into the 12th spot.

In the much bigger picture, the salary cap working with the point system and scheduling has made it possible for every team to have a shot at the playoffs every year.

Look at some surprises this year. The Boston Bruins have built their team through the draft, and now hold the lead in the Eastern Conference after being absent from the playoffs for multiple seasons.

The same thing happened to Chicago. After a few seasons of missing the playoffs, they have rebuilt and now hold the fourth spot in the Western Conference.

The NHL likes to see every team being competitive, and at the beginning of the season, even if the team identifies itself as a "rebuilding team," the NHL likes to have every team carry the mentality that it can make the playoffs.

The point system is huge part of that, it keeps teams close and it makes every point important.

Vancouver is a prime example, as they held a one point advantage on the last day of the regular season over ninth-place Nashville.

Nashville won its final game and punched its ticket to the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, pushing Vancouver out of the playoffs.

The Systems Rewards Wins

The system in place now rewards teams that win and win on a consistent basis, but also do not allow them to stretch too far ahead of the rest of the teams.

If a team were to slump in a three-point-win system, I believe that would be devastating because it would seem that if everyone else is winning,  a two or three game slump could mean disaster.

I believe that if the point system is changed so that each win is three points, there will be a huge gap between first place teams and teams even in the middle of the pack.

The obviously good teams would race off and grab huge point leads, and teams caught in their wake will not believe they have a shot at catching them.

The mentality in the teams near the bottom will be to give up, and that would create a disinterest not only among the fans, but the players and coaches as well.

However, I do see how a team on the bottom could benefit from a three point win.

If a team near the bottom can go on a run and pick up points, that could put them right up into the middle of the chase.

In my opinion however, I don't believe that would be the case.

I think with the teams the way they are now, it would only create a bigger gap than closing it up, which is what I believe the NHL is trying to do. The NHL wants parity, and they want every team, even those among the bottom, to have a shot at making the playoffs.