Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
Let's get to it.
The easy, simple, straightforward answer: win games.
Gaining ground in the NHL standings can be tough with the amount of three-point games around the league each night, but the most effective way to climb the ladder is to beat teams within your division. Those are points the Hurricanes are simultaneously earning and denying the opposition, what you'll commonly hear referred to as "four-point swings"; the Canes are adding two points to their total while eliminating the a two-point opportunity for their opponents.
Going in to Tuesday night's game in Columbus, the Hurricanes were set to play seven of their next nine games against Metropolitan Division opponents. Tuesday's match was also the second in a stretch of five straight within the Metro. These are vital points, obviously, as the Hurricanes are chasing five of these teams in their insanely competitive division.
By the time Philadelphia returns to action on Saturday night, the Canes will still have a game in hand. A win against Pittsburgh on Friday would leapfrog the Canes over the Flyers, and the head-to-head match-up at PNC Arena on Jan. 31 will be a big, big, big (did I say big?) game.
The race for the second and final wild card spot is going to be a thrilling one, with as many as eight possible teams in the mix. The Hurricanes are squarely involved, but they're going to need to continue stringing together wins, both at home and on the road.
It seems like every time that idea gets floated, it gets shot down. I don't see it happening any time soon, but I could be wrong. The current system creates unprecedented standings parity, even if it is somewhat misleading. Three-point games muddle the standings and make progress hard to decipher and accomplish; competing in a tied game late in the third period, most teams will simply play for the point because why not?
A three-point system - which I assume means three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime/shootout win, one point for an overtime/shootout loss and zero points for a regulation loss - would make every game a true three-point game, but it would also confound how the standings read. An ROW (regulation and overtime wins) column exists now, but only in tiebreaker scenarios; with the three-point system, records would require two win columns and two loss columns.
Maybe the solution is to move to strictly wins and losses? The two-point system could still exist, sure - two points for a win of any kind and zero points for a loss of any kind - but it's no longer necessary. There are arguments against this, of course, a main one being that having a shootout decide a 65-minute, team-oriented hockey game is too arbitrary to not have a point-based system. And that's fair. Plus, because coaches are coaches, teams that are aces in the shootout might just play for the shootout to bank the win/two points. What about eliminating the shootout completely and playing 3-on-3 until a winner is decided?
The options are many, and so are the arguments against each. What do you think? Are the standings good as is, or do they need a tweak? Drop your opinion in the comments below.
You've probably noticed that Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask - the two players that rotate the third alternate captaincy - have flipped where they wear the "A." In the first half of the season, Rask wore it on the road and Skinner wore it at home. Now, Skinner is wearing it on the road while Rask is wearing it at home, a midseason switch that gives the two equal representation.
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you'd like answered or you have a radical idea to fix the "loser point" system, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.