It’s Time The NHL Changes The Points System

There are some things in the NHL that don’t make a lot of sense.  One of the biggest things that doesn’t make sense, is the current points system that the NHL uses.

You hear the same things from players when they are talking about that night’s game, “There is an important 2 points on the line.”  Yes, that’s true, the winning team does get 2 points.  That should mean 2 points are available for every game.  But every game that runs past regulation has 3 points split amongst the teams.  Both teams are guaranteed a point, no matter the outcome.

The losing team gets one point.  In other words, they are rewarded for the way they lose.  All they have to do is get the game past 60 minutes, and they get rewarded.  If losing teams get rewarded for how they lose, how come the same thing doesn’t happen for winning teams?  No matter how a team wins, they get 2 points.

Shouldn’t this work both ways?  Shouldn’t a team who wins their game in regulation get a bigger reward?  If the losing team can earn points based on how they lose, the same thing should happen for those who win.  It’s about time the NHL takes a serious look at this.  And all it will take is one major change to how points are rewarded.  That change?  Award the winning team 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for any other win, 1 point for OT/shootout loss, and 0 points for a regulation loss.

The impact that this kind of change would have on the league is too good to pass up.  Let’s now look at 2 reasons why this kind of change would be good for the NHL.

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Hopefully, Gary Bettman will see the good in this kind of change. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)


NHL Games With More On The Line

Imagine for a second that your team is sitting tied at 2 late in the 3rd period.  Under the current system, most teams would settle for overtime, especially given that each team is then guaranteed a point.  In this system, each team would still be guaranteed a point.  However, knowing that there are 3 points on the line instead of 2, could lead to some dramatic endings to games we wouldn’t otherwise see.

Teams would be inclined to take more chances given the extra incentive.  What do fans like to see more than anything?  Memorable moments.  Great endings to games.  There would be many more of each by switching to a 3 point win system.

Tighter Playoff Races

Another effect of switching to this kind of point system would be much tighter playoff races down the stretch.  Now imagine for a minute that your team is in a 4 team race for the division title.  It’s the final day of the regular season.  Team A is leading the way, with both Team B and Team C a single point back.  You are Team D, and trail by 2 points.  Under the current system, the best you could do was tie in points, and hope you won a tiebreaker.  Under the new system, your team would have a chance to win the division outright, depending on how the other teams performed.

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Changing to 3 point regulation wins will ultimately lead to more celebrating. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Wouldn’t that make for some amazing drama on the final day?  Whether it be for playoff positioning, or just trying to make the playoffs, the new system would give teams a chance that they wouldn’t otherwise have.  A team could be 5 points back with 2 games left, and have a chance to make the playoffs, with 2 regulation wins.  It would make for better games, and better ratings as well.

What About Ties?

The current system uses ROW (regulation + overtime wins) to break ties.  In the new system, regulation wins would be the 1st tiebreaker.  Then ROW would be used, then on down the line with the current system.  All told, there wouldn’t be many changes to what is already being used.

How Would The New System Look Now?

Glad you asked.  I went through all 30 teams and generated their point total under the 3 point regulation win system.  It turns out the 16 teams that would be in the playoffs now, would be the 16 teams in the playoffs under the new system.  The only difference would be some positioning.

So which team has the most points currently under the new system?  It’s the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Of their 34 wins, 30 of them have been in regulation.  They currently have a record of 34-16-5.  Under the new system, they would be 30(4)-16-5 for 103 points.  The 4 you see represents the number of wins either in OT or the shootout.  Nashville is 2nd with 101 points, with record of 25(10)-12-6.  The worst team, is Buffalo, with 9 regulation wins in 54 games this season, a record of 9(7)-35-3.  Yikes.

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Tampa Bay has 4 more regulation wins than their next closest competitor. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Need proof this system would make for tighter playoff races?  Take a look at the top of the Metropolitan Division under the new system.  The Penguins and Islanders would each have 91 points, while the Rangers and Capitals would each have 89 points.  That would be some race coming down the stretch in March and April.

This change would be a breath of fresh air for the NHL.  The games will have better endings.  The race to the playoffs will be much tighter.  If a change is needed for the good of the game, it must be considered.  Rewarding teams for winning is good for the game.  Hopefully, the NHL sees the good in this sooner rather than later.



38 thoughts on “It’s Time The NHL Changes The Points System”

  1. 3 points for a regulation win.
    1 point each for OT and extra point for the OT win
    If it goes to a SO, the 1 point each for OT is revoked, only the SO winner gets 1 point and losing gets 0 points.

    It puts the onus on winning in regulation vs OT and even less for the SO win.
    A lot more at stake for points. Hopefully we’ll see better Team play hockey and less player skills competitions.

  2. Even though I am a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, I don’t accept your premise that this scoring change is needed. Further, I don’t accept your argument using current system play that Metro division would be as close as you state. I don’t believe teams in a 2-2 tie with 5 minutes to go would play any differently in your scoring system than they do now. Teams try to win the games now but aren’t risking the loss to do so. They wouldn’t risk the loss under any scoring system. This suggested change is change for the sake of change.

  3. This is what I ahve in mind:
    3 pts for regulation win
    2 points for OT win, loser gets 1 point
    1 point for each team after OT tie
    Get rid of shoutouts…
    This way the OT play would be as great as the late regulation play.

  4. Wow, some persons are trying to make this complicated. The rest of the world… Swedish, Finnish, khl, Slovakian, Swiss, German, Czech, the olympics all have three point win system. It makes sense.

    Regulation – 3win 0loss
    OT & SO – 2win 1loss

    The nhl may have the best players, but the point system is broken. They count ROW as a tiebreaker, which is a start to the right track. That is RegulationOvertimeWin for all those commenting that have no clue.

    I saw some comments about only 1point for the Shootout winner, and zero points for the loser. That would be the fastest way to turn fans off of hockey forever, when games that go post regulation become the most depressing wins.

    Another person said that the good teams will gap too much. Not the case actually, Hurricanes would have made two post seasons a few years ago.

    You must keep the shootout for closure. People want an outcome, so you cannot go back to the hanging tie.

    Every other league in the WORLD has made the change to three point wins, and it is a matter of time for the nhl to correct the system. It will change in the next few seasons.

  5. Some may say that fans don’t like the shootout but if a survey was taken I bet
    that the majority of fans prefer to have it in place. The 3-2-1-0 point system
    proposed in this article would seem to be a workable solution.

  6. The point system should change. I run a tournament each year and I use a 5 point system : 5 for a regulation win, 4 for an OT win, 3 for a SO win, 2 for a SO loss, 1 for an OT loss, and 0 for a regulation loss. This places more meaning in every aspect of winning and losing.

  7. The author is absolutely right about one thing. The same number of points should be up for grabs for every game, every night. It makes no sense to have a 2-0 game be worth 2 points while an overtime game is worth three points.

  8. How about 2 points regulation win and 1.5 points for OT/SO wins. 0.5 points for OT/SO loser. Keeps the system balanced and put less reward on OT/SO loses.

  9. the system proposed in this article sucks worse than the current system. 3 points for this 1 point for that 2 points for your mother. bullshit! go back to the way it was. if it’s tied, a point each. a win gets 2 points. a loss gets zippo. save the ot for the playoffs like i said in my other post.

  10. There aren’t that many people watching NHL these days. If you want to alienate the few that do (us), then go ahead and change the rules to match basketball. I will stop watching just out of spite (and YES, I can… I haven’t watched a MLB baseball game since the 1994-95 baseball strike).

    Take out the shootout, reinstate a tie after one 10-minute overtime (I would accept 4-on-4 for OT), Winner gets 2 pts and if a tie, teams split it. no points for losers- thats what my father taught me… THAT’S what I teach my kids.

  11. They need to make it 2 points for a win/overtime win, 1 point for a shootout win, and 0 points for a loss of any kind. This way teams won’t just play for a shootout knowing they can only get one point that way.

  12. i got a great idea! 2 points for a win and 1 point for a tie. a tie being after 5 minutes of overtime if no team wins in sudden death then it’s a tie and each team gets a point. if a team scores in sudden death that team gets 2 points and the loser gets none. or better yet, how about if after 60 minutes of play if the game is tied then each team gets a point. no overtime. save it for the playoffs. it worked great for almost 100 years. now the loser gets a point under the current system? makes no sense and never did. as far as the skills competition er, shootout, get rid of it. it’s a joke. even the fans hate it.

  13. You know what would be the most fair? JUST LET GAMES END IN A TIE instead of inventing all sorts of crazy OTs / SOs and point systems.

  14. The reason that the NHL will NOT go to a three point system in my mind for wins is it returns to what the old system was before the shootout where you knew which teams weren’t in the playoffs by January or February at the latest. While i agree with you that the point system doesn’t help the good teams, it does what Bettman wants which is competitive hockey leading into the playoffs even if in actuality there are teams that aren’t actually in the race even though it looks like it.

    • If u really think about it, look at the Eastern Conference…. Only 2 teams below #8 seed Boston; aka Florida, and Philly, have ANY shot at making the playoffs.. Make it a 3 point system, ur bringing more teams in the possible mix..

  15. How about 2 points for a regulation win, 1 point for an overtime/shootout win, and 0 points for a loss. Teams will stop playing for overtime and the last 5 minutes of regulation would be a battle in every close game. This is one of the things the NHL wanted but didn’t get when they created the current system. In overtime teams would fight harder to salvage the single point (unless they were playing Philadelphia. In that case they would just play for the shootout and win the point that way).

  16. Hey, what is wrong with a tie? Some of the most exciting games can end in a tie. Imagine your favorite team was down 4-0 and came back to tie, 4-4? A great tie for them, terrible tie for the team that was up. Get rid of the SHOOTOUT, please! Keep the 4 on 4 and 5 minute OT and loser gets ZERO. No point awarded by making it to OT. Plain and simple and not too taxing for the players. I bet they would go back to the old system of ties if nobody wins after the 5 minute OT.
    P.S. The shootout has ruined what used to be the most exciting play in hockey – the Penalty Shot.

  17. The NHL is way too smart to do this. Why let the good teams run up their point totals and leave the crummy teams in the dust when you can give points to the losing team and keep everyone in the playoff hunt right up until the last couple weeks of the season. Think about it, if you were the NHL wouldn’t you want every team to be in the playoff hunt? No one wants to watch teams who have no chance to make the playoffs.

  18. Whatever happens, the shootout needs to be done away with. It’s just too much of a gimmick. However, if you don’t allow a shootout, then you would have to go back to the system of giving one point to each team for a tie because you can’t have unlimited overtimes during the regular season. So maybe keeping the shootout but awarding 3 points for a regulation win is the answer. But then it adds complications that are difficult to explain to the common fan. There’s almost no winning this one.

  19. Completely agree with the points made. One thing I would add… the NHL has been suggesting or outright saying that they don’t like ties. Many fans have made it clear that they don’t like shootouts. Things like 3 on 3 OT have been proposed to reduce shootouts.

    I’ve got a different answer: play a 5 or 10 minute regular 5 on 5 OT using the 3 point system similarly to the way you describe above. At the end of OT instead of going to shootout just end the game with each team earning just the 1pt each for playing past regulation. Nobody earned the win so nobody gets the point.

    I guarantee you will not see very many games ending in a tie. The ones that do still end in a tie are likely to be between intra-division rivals. Meanwhile, their counterparts who win in regulation gain significant ground on any team that plays this boring conservative style.

  20. I love the idea of using the 3 point reward system. Teams that win should be given an advantage over teams that win games in OT. I have been a big proponent of this as well since watching the Olympics. (3 points for a regulation time win, 2 points for an overtime or shootout win, 1 point for an overtime or shootout defeat, 0 points for a regulation time defeat)

  21. Bottom line is there should be ZERO points if you lose the game in any way. 3 points for a win, 2 for an OT win and 1 for a shootout win. It’s not that hard of a concept. Like you said, the standings wouldn’t change much, except for some playoff matchups. That’s if you simply change the system on paper. If you change it in real like there will be way bigger implications. Teams will try harder to get two points and win in regulation. If it goes to OT they will again try hard to get the 2 points. Then if it goes to a shootout and you win 1 point? Well it’s kind of a loss for the winning team as well. You don’t want to go to a shootout, you’ll want to win as soon as possible and get the most number of points available. You’ll see teams going all out the last 5-10 mins of the game and in OT instead of sitting back and waiting for overtime. They’ll never do this because 3 point for a win will cause too much seperation in the standings, however if you’re 10 points out of a playoff spot and you win the last 5 games in regulation to finish the season, that’s 15 points. That’s a big chunk you can make up in little time.
    If not 3-2-1 then just go 2 for regulation win and 1 for OT or shootout win. This getting points for losing is idiotic.

  22. the NHL has been clamoring for a decade and a half about more offense, but you need to reward it if you want it.

    You rightfully state that every team starts every game guaranteed 1pt should they get the game tied to the end of regulation and that’s a problem. It prioritizes the point, as opposed to the product that is high flying hockey.

    The NHL has also lamented the number of games that go to OT and the SO. My system of changes will change that.

    Here’s the fix.

    Win in regulation you get 3pts. Plus a bonus point for goal differential, max of up to 3 bonus points. So if you blow out a team 4-0, you can get 6pts in the standings. Lost in regulation 0pts

    You win in OT you get 2 pts. Losing team in OT gets 0pts. Think Willy Wonka here…you lose you get nothing good day sir.

    You win in a SO you get 1pt. You lose in the SO you get 0pts. Again, Wonkavision here.

    Here’s what my system does, it prioritizes offense and it also makes literally every game relevant, unless you’re a Leafs fan.

    Imagine for a moment a team is 4pts out of a playoff spot on the last day of the season. Current NHL, seasons’ over. My NHL…Oh no….look out for the barn burner game where this team pulls out all the stops to come in waves and waves at their opponent.

    By prioritizing on goals, and rewarding them with the bonus points, teams will not be filling 3rd and 4th lines with plugs who are more worried about not being scored on than a team full of 4 lines of guys who can wheel and snipe. The stay at home defender will be a thing of the past. Dmen will be leading the rush and joining the rush all season. The Neutral Zone Trap will be officially dead.

    So on every given night 6pts will be up for grabs should you choose to go get them. Teams will be built to get them. Sitting on a lead during the regular season in the 3rd period will be a thing of the past. 60 minutes of up and down hockey of teams trading chances. Who doesn’t want that??? And as teams try to go for the full 6pts, they will open up chances to the counter attack.

    The results for the NHL will be teams wanting to make sure that they finish games in regulation and want to finish them big. You’ll have more meaningful games in the league over the 82 game schedule and you’ll have a more entertaining product.

  23. I doubt the effect would be as dramatic as the author suggests. I’ve seen ties broken in literally the last second between teams in opposite conferences — in other words — games where giving up 1 point to the other team wouldn’t hurt you. Teams still do their best to win in regulation. Maybe because most teams get that too conservative hockey is often losing hockey.

    That said, I want to puke when I look at the standings. If the point system stays the same, can we simply rank the teams by ‘wins minus losses’. If you’re 28-21-6, you’ve got 7 more wins than losses and so you’re +7. Much simpler to follow and every bit as accurate. At the end of the season, that number, added to 82 is point total. If you are +20 for the year, you’d have 102 points. Whether you did that by going 20-0-62 or 51-31-0 or 45-25-12

  24. I posted this exact analysis on NHL and NY Rangers message board several years ago along with how the standings would look if every game were equally weighted (3 point must system). I hope I can find the posts to prove this article ripped it off.
    And by the way, while the NHL’s method artificially inflates the team records so that 23-24 teams are over .500, changing the format almost never would result in a different team making the playoffs.

  25. The NHL needs to get rid of the point system entirely now that the game has a winner and loser. NHL is the only sport that uses this arcane method, and we need to get in line with the NBA and MLB. As is you need an interpretor to explain all this stuff to the common fan. Just keep it simple and use a win percentage. Kills me that that use the shootout for deciding games, and yet it makes things more complicated. And even more embarrassing is the fact that a losing team can still earn a point. This current system makes the hockey look ridiculous and I can’t defend it from criticism because it is senseless.

  26. As always, it should be as follows – expanded OT to 10 minutes (but no 3-on-3 nonsense), 2 points for regulation or OT win, 1 point for shootout win, 0 points for a loss of any kind. There’s no other league in which a LOSS can move you up in the standings. Make the shootout more rare and therefore special, but also less impactful than a regular game.

  27. How about if you win, you get 2 points. If you lose, you get NO points. If the hockey game’s tied at the end, and you have to resort to a skills competition to determine a winner, then in that case, you get 1 point for winning a sideshow. Losing still gets you NOTHING!

    A shoot-out competition should not be equal to winning a hockey game. It’s not the same thing. Who’s the leading scorer? Superstar Alex Ovechkin. Who’s the leading shoot-out scorer? Super…who? Frans Nielsen. That’s right, and he has been since the NHL started going to the shoot-out. Winning a game and winning a shoot-out are not equal.

  28. They don’t need to change anything. Let the previous years changes have sometime to show results before changing anything, especially by way of player safety. Points aside, I’m reading significantly less head trauma stories this year and I’m very glad for that.

  29. Great article. The IIHF and nearly every non-North American league has adopted the three point game. Even Soccer has went to the 3 points win, and 1&1 for the tie. Even more in favour of having teams “try” instead of just passing it around.

    Three points for every game makes sense. Either 3&0 or 2&1. To give 50% more points in games that go to overtime is ludicrous. And it sure makes every tied third period game look like a game between the Wild and the Devils, where they only play in neutral ice.

    It would bring more excitement to third period hockey, allow the best teams to actually separate from the pack of teams that always hold on for one point, as well as keep teams from tanking for the better draft pick so early when they mathematically have a better shot to catch if they keep winning in regulation.

    The 2+1 current format is a reward for teams that “play not to lose”, and not for teams that “play to win”.

  30. no no no no. How can you try to make the argument that the losing team receives a point for losing in overtime but the winning team is not rewarded for winning. If two teams tie in regulation you both get a point. Now to create some separation in the standings the team who wins gets the extra point. I don’t know how much you know about hockey or how long you have followed the game; however, before the shootouts, if teams tied, they tied. 1 point each. the whole point of the shootout was to make a more definitive way to determine standings. 3 points for a win would just dumb. it would also create a significantly less fair system for teams to get into the playoffs

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