Oh no, not those stupid points-blown standings!

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 15: Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Los Angeles Kings on October 15, 2011 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Kings defeated the Flyers 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Well, it's that time again. The "points-blown" (or Q) standings that please some and annoying many. I find it helpful, which is why I do it. For the uninitiated, here is a pared-down version of an explanation of what's going on here, stolen from a by-gone post (the full post is linked, below). 

I don't look at the official point totals. Well, I look. But I know they are deceptive. I prefer to sort the teams not by total points with the official tie-breakers, but by win-percentage and/or points-blown.

Points-blown refers to the number of points a team could have earned, but did not. They are points-squandered. You get two PBs for a loss, and one PB for an OT/SOL. The lower your total, the better. Like golf. Or cholesterol.

Why is this a handy way to look at the standings, and not just a confusing pain in the ass? Well, maybe it's not. Your mileage may vary, but for me it's like this: W% is an excellent indicator of a team's record, but I find it difficult to conceptualize the difference between (for example), a .575 team and a .593 team. "All we need is another 18/1000s of a [something or other] and we'll be tied! Go team!"

But just looking at points doesn't work either, because the schedule is wacky and teams have different numbers of games-played. Anaheim and Chicago at one point [last season] had played 5 or 6 more games than everyone else. That skews the standings. And I hate giving Anaheim any credit.

Example: a team that's 20-10-0 is ten official points ahead of a team that's 15-10-0, but they've blown the same number of points (20). I think most of us think something along the lines of "we're ten points behind with five games in hand." Points-blown are a way to quantify games-in-hand as one number. And it does this by ignoring wins altogether.

But that's biased! Yes.

It's biased in a way that I like. Because of an effect known as loss aversion. The idea is that people give more weight to loss than gain. If you find a $100 bill you feel happy. But if you lose a $100 bill, you feel disproportionately miserable. Without addressing the psychological issue of whether or not it's healthy to give more weight to "loss," I recognize the fact of loss aversion as a sports fan on a daily basis: losses feel much worse than wins feel good. That's a terrible sentence, but true.

Just look at the comments sections of your favorite blog (mine is www.lakingsinsider.com), look after a win and then after a loss. After a win, a few dozen comments. After a loss, hundreds. The sky is falling.

And I'll tell you another nice thing about following points-blown. You know how when your team is idle, it's infuriating to watch teams leapfrog you in the standings just because they're playing games and you're not? Well, that NEVER happens in points-blown. Because you can only go up in the standings by not losing when other people lose. If you're idle, all you can do is go up; you can never go down by not playing.

I love that.

I don't mean to suggest that points-blown encourages delusion. I think it's an accurate way of looking at the standings, that also happens to give losses their true, psychologically-devastating weight.

(And if it bothers you, the columns are completely sortable, so you can make them look however you want.)

Q NHL   R/OT/SO PTS W% PRJ 10-11 %ch MAX PB +/- GR W! GD
1 1 DET 3-0/1-0/0-0 8 1.0000 164.0 104 58% 164 0 3 78 4 8
2 2 DAL 3-1/0-0/1-0 8 0.8000 131.2 95 38% 162 2 1 77 3 2
3 3 COL 2-1/0-0/2-0 8 0.8000 131.2 68 93% 162 2 1 77 2 6
4 10 ANA 1-1/0-0/1-0 4 0.6667 109.3 99 10% 162 2 1 79 1 -1
5 7 NAS 2-1/0-0/0-1 5 0.6250 102.5 99 4% 161 3 0 78 2 -1
6 5 PHX 2-1/0-0/0-1 5 0.6250 102.5 99 4% 161 3 0 78 2 2
7 8 LAK 0-1/2-0/0-1 5 0.6250 102.5 98 5% 161 3 0 78 2 -1
8 6 CHI 2-1/0-0/0-1 5 0.6250 102.5 97 6% 161 3 0 78 2 2
9 12 EDM 0-1/0-0/1-1 3 0.5000 82.0 62 32% 161 3 0 79 0 -1
10 4 MIN 1-1/0-1/1-1 6 0.6000 98.4 86 14% 160 4 -1 77 1 0
11 11 STL 2-2/0-0/0-0 4 0.5000 82.0 87 -6% 160 4 -1 78 2 2
12 13 SJS 1-2/0-0/0-0 2 0.3333 54.7 105 -48% 160 4 -1 79 1 0
13 9 VAN 2-2/0-0/0-1 5 0.5000 82.0 117 -30% 159 5 -2 77 2 -2
14 14 CGY 1-3/0-0/0-0 2 0.2500 41.0 94 -56% 158 6 -3 78 1 -3
15 15 CBJ 0-4/0-0/0-1 1 0.1000 16.4 81 -80% 155 9 -6 77 0 -7

 

KEY:

  • Q is my standings, default sorted by points-blown (long-winded explanation of points-blown here). 
  • NHL is the official standings, via NHL.COM (ESPN has the tie-breakers wrong). 
  • R/OT/SO is the team's win-loss record broken down into regulation/over-time/shoot-out.
  • W% is what's commonly referred to as win-percentage, but because of the stupid Bettman point (SBP) it's actually points-earned as a percentage of maximum possible points. 
  • PRJ is projected point total for 82 games. 
  • 10-11 is last season's final point total. 
  • %ch is the difference between last year's final point total and this year's projected point total.
  • MAX is maximum points possible for that team. 
  • PB is points-blown. 
  • +/- is the distance in points-blown above or below the 8th seed. 
  • GR is games-remaining. 
  • W! is regulation wins plus OT wins (the first tie-breaker). 
  • GD is goal-differential. 
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