Time for a Change? Examining the NHL’s Point System.

There’s always talk among hockey fans about what can be done to change the game. Some ideas are radical, some actually happen, and others just fade away.

Some people feel that there should be no points awarded for losing a game, whether it be in regulation, overtime, or a shootout. As it stands right now, if the game ends after 60 minutes and is tied, both teams get a point regardless of the outcome. So what would happen if the NHL changed to a different point system? Let’s take a look.

The Three Point System

This is the system that the IIHF implements.

For all games in the Preliminary Round, Qualification Round and Relegation Round points shall be awarded as follows:

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
The international game uses a three-point system. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
  • 3 points for the winning team at the conclusion of regulation time
  • 1 point for both teams at the conclusion of regulation time if the game is tied
  • An additional point earned for the team winning the game in a 5-minute overtime period, or the Game Winning Shots Procedure if the teams are still tied following conclusion of the overtime period
  • 0 points for the team losing the game in regulation time

It’s a pretty simple concept that puts more weight on wins in regulation, and less weight on wins in the extra frame or shootout. What would the NHL’s playoff picture look like if this were the case?

Atlantic
Team ROW ROL OT/SO W OT/SO L Pts.
1 Tampa Bay 30 16 4 5 103
2 Montreal 26 15 8 3 97
3 Detroit 25 12 6 9 96
Metropolitan
Team ROW ROL OT/SO W OT/SO L Pts.
1 Pittsburgh 23 15 7 8 91
2 NY Islanders 22 18 12 1 91
3 NY Rangers 24 16 6 5 89
Eastern Wildcard
Team ROW ROL OT/SO W OT/SO L Pts.
1 Washington 23 16 5 10 89
2 Boston 20 18 8 7 83
Central
Team ROW ROL OT/SO W OT/SO L Pts.
1 Nashville 25 12 10 6 101
2 St. Louis 24 15 10 4 96
3 Chicago 24 18 9 2 92
Pacific
Team ROW ROL OT/SO W OT/SO L Pts.
1 Anaheim 22 13 12 7 97
2 San Jose 24 19 4 7 87
3 Vancouver 23 19 6 3 84
Western Wild Card
Team ROW ROL OT/SO W OT/SO L Pts.
1 Winnipeg 20 18 7 10 84
2 Calgary 19 21 10 3 80

If you take a look at the current NHL standings, you can see that even if the NHL used this point system, it still really doesn’t change

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
The Islanders could benefit from a change in the point system.(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

anything that drastically. The only real change comes with the Penguins grabbing first in the Metro, and the Rangers getting the third spot in the Metro. Everything else is the same.

Changing to a three point system would not really make a huge difference. Teams would still get points for losing games. It also devalues overtime wins. It’d be nice for the team who won in overtime to get three points, rather than two.

This system wouldn’t really change much if the NHL took it under their wing, so don’t expect to see in anytime soon.

You Get Nothing.

Aside from the three point system, there is a lot of people who would like to see a traditional win-loss system. Two points for a win, no points for a loss, regardless of what period it came in.

So what would that look like?

Atlantic
Team W L Pts.
1 Tampa Bay 34 21 68
2 Montreal 34 18 68
3 Detroit 31 21 62
Metropolitan
Team W L Pts.
1 NY Islanders 34 19 68
2 Pittsburgh 30 23 60
3 NY Rangers 30 21 60
Eastern Wildcard
Team W L Pts.
1 Washington 28 26 56
2 Boston 28 25 56
Central
Team W L Pts.
1 Nashville 35 18 70
2 St. Louis 34 19 68
3 Chicago 33 20 66
Pacific
Team W L Pts.
1 Anaheim 34 20 68
2 San Jose 28 26 56
3 Vancouver 29 22 58
Western Wild Card
Team W L Pts.
1 Calgary 29 24 58
2 Winnipeg 27 28 54

This one makes the changes a little bit more evident.

The Islanders really benefit from this system. Since they only have lost once in overtime all season, they create an eight point gap from the second place Penguins. The Rangers also boost themselves up a bit and distance themselves a little bit more from Washington.

Out West, things are a little bit different. Rather than distancing teams from each other, it brought them closer. The Central division is

Adam Lowry (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
The Jets benefit heavily from the overtime-loss category. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

separated by just four points.

Calgary also gets what they deserve and leapfrogs Winnipeg. This shows why this system would be a good fit.

Right now, Calgary is 29-21-3. Winnipeg is 27-18-10. Winnipeg is also three points ahead of Calgary for the first wildcard spot. Calgary has two more wins than Winnipeg, and four less losses. There shouldn’t be a reward for losing a game in extra time. A loss should be a loss. Calgary is the better team, that should be reflected in the standings.

The NHL just recently changed the divisions around, so the likelihood that they would change their point system is slim to none. However. this gives a good idea of what you could expect to see if Gary Bettman decided to just go to a win-loss system. It would be nice to see the teams that win the most games be the highest in the standings. But as long as overtime losses exist, that won’t always be the case.