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Note to the NHL: Fix the Point System

When the point value of an NHL game varies on a game-by-game basis and certain losing teams are actually rewarded for their loss, it may be time for the league to revisit the point scoring system.


2013 has brought about a lot of change within the NHL. The biggest change has been league realignment, which will go into effect for the upcoming 2013-14 season. And it's a change that the league royally screwed up.

How is it fair to any of the Eastern Conference teams that they have to battle with 15 other teams over eight playoff spots, while the teams in the Western Conference only need to be battle with 13?

It's not, but that's just how Gary Bettman's NHL seems to run. Imbalance is starting to seem like the rule, not the exception. But if the NHL is still in the mood to change some things, maybe they should rid the league of some of it's imbalance and fix the point system.

Since the NHL introduced the overtime loser point in the 90's, NHL games have varied in the amount of points they are worth on a nightly basis. If a game ended in regulation the game was worth two points, but if it went to overtime, the game became worth three.

The presence of the extra point brought about a lot of nonsense. Teams in the 3rd period were all of a sudden playing for overtime instead of pushing to win the game.As the season wore on , teams were hoping rival's games would end in regulation, so they would only be affected by two points in the standings and not three. Teams were even clinching playoff spots with overtime losses.

I'm not an NHL big wig, but it doesn't seem like rocket science to realize that all 1230 games on the NHL calender each year should be worth the same amount of points. It also doesn't take a genius to realize that the second you clicked on this story, I was going to propose some cockamamie solution to the NHL point system.

Of course I am!

The first thing that needs to be done is to set a concrete number of points a game is worth. For my system to work, each game needs to be worth 3 points. Unfortunately that may allow some super team in the future to approach 200 points in a year. The actual threshold point totals reach shouldn't really be an issue though, so if a team wins the division with 180 points, so be it.

If each game is worth 3 points, then obviously each regulation win is worth 3 points and each regulation loss is worth zero, a la most soccer leagues.

The next issue is overtime outcomes. Again, wins are worth 3 points and losses are worth zero. My reasoning here is fairly simple. If you get beat by a goal scored with a running clock and defenders on the ice trying to stop you from scoring, then you deserve the full 3 points.

The same is true on the other side. If you get beat by an actual NHL goal that counts in a players statistics, then you got beat fair and square and don't deserve any points. Overtime isn't Field Day in elementary school, where all you need to do it show up and you get a ribbon. You want the points? Win the game!

Now if this were a true Chris McNally solution, I would completely abolish the shootout. But lord knows the NHL loves its shootout, so for the league's sake I'll keep it intact. The point system for a shootout win and loss would stay the same, two points for a shootout win, and one point for a loss. I don't think it's fair for any team to get completely penalized for losing a game in a skills competition, so that's why the points are divided.

In this system, every game is worth three points, whether you get to overtime or not. It also, at least in regulation, eliminates the ability for a team to play it safe and try to make it to overtime to at least earn a point. Here is the point breakdown again:

Outcome Points
Regulation Win 3
Regulation Loss 0
Overtime Win 3
Overtime Loss 0
Shootout Win 2
Shootout Loss 1

If you are wondering how this point system would have affected the NHL standings last season, here is a breakdown of what the standings were under the current system (left) and what they would have been using my system (right).

Eastern Conference:

Rank Team Points Rank Team Points
1 Penguins 72 1 Penguins 105
2 Canadiens 63 2 Canadiens 86
3 Capitals 57 3 Capitals 81
4 Bruins 62 4 Maple Leafs 83
5 Maple Leafs 57 5 Bruins 83
6 Rangers 56 6 Rangers 78
7 Senators 56 7 Senators 75
8 Islanders 55 8 Jets 73
9 Jets 51 9 Islanders 71
10 Flyers 49 10 Flyers 70
11 Devils 48 11 Devils 62
12 Sabres 48 12 Sabres 60
13 Hurricanes 42 13 Hurricanes 57
14 Lightning 40 14 Lightning 56
15 Panthers 36 15 Panthers 43

Western Conference:

Rank Team Points Rank Team Points
1 Blackhawks 77 1 Blackhawks 107
2 Ducks 66 2 Ducks 87
3 Canucks 59 3 Canucks 79
4 Blues 60 4 Kings 83
5 Kings 59 5 Blues 83
6 Sharks 57 6 Wild 76
7 Red Wings 56 7 Red Wings 75
8 Wild 55 8 Blue Jackets 71
9 Blue Jackets 55 9 Sharks 71
10 Coyotes 51 10 Stars 65
11 Stars 48 11 Coyotes 65
12 Oilers 45 12 Flames 62
13 Flames 42 13 Oilers 58
14 Predators 41 14 Predators 52
15 Avalanche 39 15 Avalanche 48

While the difference in the standings isn't drastic, teams that benefited from overtime losses and shootout wins noticeably suffered in the standings under my system.

Is the system perfect? Probably not, but it does address the two major problems with the current system. It allows every NHL game to be worth the same amount of points and it would cause a greater urgency to win late in a tie game.

Wait, the Islanders wouldn't have made the playoffs in my system? Maybe we should just scrap the whole idea. Anybody have a better idea?