Changing the NHL points system

The NHL could use a big change.

The current point system isn’t very good with “loser points” becoming impactful in today’s game. Two overtime or shootout losses should not equal one clean win.

I'm an advocate of a 3-2-1-0 points system for teams as opposed to the 2-1-0 in place now. Overtime/shootout losses would be 1 point and regulation losses will obviously net you nothing. The difference will be separating wins in regulation and wins in overtime/shootout. I believe that teams that can win within 60 minutes should get 3 points while teams who win in the arcade-like overtime and shootout should get 2 points.

The main impact of this new system would mean that pretty much every team’s point totals go up due to the new category of wins adding to current totals. I measured the effect of this system on the standings of last year.

As you can see the point total numbers all go up as they range from worst to best team goes from 48 to 118 in the current system and 62 to 163 in the new system. Most teams enjoy similar jumps with the top teams rising more than the bottom teams. The biggest riser was the best team in the league (Washington) and the one who had the lowest increase was the worst team (Colorado). An interesting note: the second-lowest increase were from the Detroit Red Wings who finished 25th, which is not surprising given they had the highest amount of shootout wins in the league with nine. Meanwhile the second-biggest rise came from the Anaheim Ducks who came 9th in overall standings with the current system. They clearly won a lion’s share of their games in regulation and were dragged down by a 3-10 record in overtime.

These changes weren’t just made to see how much teams would’ve climbed in the standings or fallen as a result from it as this had significant implications. First we’ll look at the draft lottery. Two of the top three selections went to teams who finished outside the bottom five teams. Instead of the Dallas Stars who received the #3 pick, they would be replaced by the Florida Panthers who would have slipped one spot below them. Also, the Philadelphia Flyers team that just missed the playoffs ended up with the #2 pick. But under the new system, that pick would’ve gone to the Carolina Hurricanes who won more in regulation.

The playoff impact was the most important. There were not too many changes but some of them were big. In the East there was just one change. The Ottawa Senators and the Boston Bruins would swap places which is definitely something given that the Sens beat the Bruins in game 7 in Ottawa, the swap of home ice advantage lead many to believe a different outcome would’ve occurred and Ottawa may not have beaten Boston as they did and not gone on to the Eastern Conference Final.

The Western Conference had a couple big changes that affected the entire result. The Minnesota Wild would jump Chicago for the #1 spot in the conference and you Blackhawks fans would’ve been very happy to avoid the Nashville Predators. However, the Minnesota Wild would also avoid playing the Preds as the other standings change involved Nashville pushing ahead of Calgary. As a result 3 of the 4 matchups would be different. The Western Conference champion Predators would’ve had a completely different path going through the Pacific division by starting against their Western Conference Final opponents from Anaheim. Minnesota would take on Calgary and the Blackhawks would face the Blues.

Perhaps the Predators make the Finals again but it is clear they would’ve had a much different path. In sports there are a lot of “what ifs” and this is another one with a system that people are interested in and we could see eventually in the league. Draft lottery orders could change franchises given the talent of young players we’ve seen in recent years, and Playoff scenarios could change who hoists the Stanley Cup.

For those of you interested in seeing how this season’s standings could be affected by the new system and the playoff chances stay tuned for a future piece covering the current adjusted standings.