A theme across a variety of sports recently has been new rules or ideas to make the games and leagues more appealing to fans. MLB has begun timing various parts of the game, cutting down on mound visits and mandating a minimum number of batters a reliever must face in an effort to speed up the product.
Every offseason it seems like the NFL has a new definition of what a catch. The idea of adopting the “Elam Ending” became popular in various NBA circles following the 2020 All-Star game.
On the most recent edition of the Luke & James Show, we were in agreement that the NHL could benefit from allowing the public to view what happens when on-ice decisions are subject to video review. That’s not the only rule change I would make.
Improving the NHL with Rules Changes
Make Every Game Matter
The NHL draft lottery gives the best odds to win the top pick to the team with the worst overall record. The era of rewarding teams for losing needs to end. I would continue to slot playoff teams in the draft by how they finish.
I propose ordering the non-playoff teams by comparing the percentage of games each earns points in games against the others. The team with the highest percentage gets the number one pick and continue in this fashion until the team with the lowest percentage is drafting one pick before the worst playoff team.
It’s important to note that the games that count toward this final percentage are only ones between non-playoff teams. I do not want to punish a team for being able to compete with the top teams in the NHL. Using the percentage of games a team gains a point is the best way to deal with the unbalanced schedule.
An eight-team division might have five playoff teams. If the rule was based strictly on the number of points, the three non-playoff teams would have fewer chances than other teams to move up in the draft order.
To give a better idea of how this would work, I compared the four teams in last place in their respective divisions. My math is based on if the season ended today. Under the current system, the Detroit Red Wings are a runaway favorite to have the best odds at the number one pick.
In my system however they are struggling, gaining points in just 12 of 34 games against other non-playoff teams means their percentage is 35.3. The Los Angeles Kings have played fewer games against non-playoff teams because of their division and conference, but have made the most of their chances. Their point percentage is 48.1% after picking up points in 13 of 27 chances.
The New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks give an example of how this type of race could be exciting. Points in 19 of 29 games gives the Devils a robust 65.5 percent. Like the Kings, the Blackhawks have done well despite fewer opportunities. Gaining points in 17 of 25 games against non-playoff teams checks them in at 68 percent.
Other non-playoff teams have to be calculated. But under my proposal, the Blackhawks would have the best pick of these teams, the Red Wings would have the worst.
Why This Should Happen
There are multiple reasons this would benefit the NHL. First, consider the glut of games at the end of the season for non-playoff teams where it is, unfortunately, in their best interest to lose. That’s not fun for fans. Under my proposal, fans of non-playoff teams would be able to root for their teams to win late in the season. It would also make games between non-playoff teams more important and hopefully increase attendance at these games.
Second, hockey is a physical sport with a drawn-out season. This proposal gives players a reward to continue to play hard throughout the year. If they come up just short of making the playoffs a high draft pick could be useful in multiple ways to help them make the playoffs the next year.
Finally, while hockey owners are significantly less likely to cut payroll and tank in the hopes of high draft picks, this proposal removes any motivation to do so. Every team is competing for something and quality players are being paid to play.
Do It NHL
Restructuring the draft order is beneficial to players and fans in the NHL. It can make owners more profitable. Being the first league to do this would make the NHL seem innovative.