Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The dangers of Overtime Losses

While the shootout and the overtime loss have probably made the NHL more exciting for fans, the way they're presented in the standings has made it very difficult to determine how good a team is. Right now, game outcomes are grouped into Wins, Losses and Overtime Losses so that we can see how many points a team has, but nobody tracks whether a team won its game in regulation or in overtime or the shootout. Some teams, like last year's Edmonton Oilers, can get incredibly lucky in the extra frames, leading to a record that's way out of line with their actual performance. This is a very key piece of information - there's no correlation between OT/SO performance and overall performance, a fact that's acknowledged by playing overtime indefinitely in the playoffs to decide a winner.

Lots of people understand that overtime wins can lead us to erroneous conclusions about a team, including the people who put the Toronto Maple Leafs 24th in this week's ESPN Power Rankings:

"Break up the Leafs! They're at a misleading, OTL-skewed .500."

Except, in this case, it's not true. Toronto's 2-6 this year after regulation, which makes them 12-14-8 in regulation - tied eight times after 8. Their regulation GF/GA: 107-116, giving an expected winning percentage of 0.460, which translates to 31.26 points in the standings, or 0.75 points less than that 12-14-8 record would suggest.

The Leafs may be a lot of things, but skewed-record-holders, they ain't.

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