The Point System The NHL Needs

The NHL point system is highly flawed

  • A win in regulation: 2 points
  • A win in overtime: 2 points
  • A win in the shootout: 2 points

Do the three types on wins above appear to be of the same value? Is a win in the shootout equally as impressive as a 5-2 win in regulation? No, so why are they treated as equals?

Then we have the loser point. A guaranteed point granted to any team that loses in either overtime or the shootout. What we often see happen is teams shut it down and play for overtime. With about 10 minutes left in the third period of a tie game, coaches play conservatively trying to get the game to overtime. For you see, in regulation, the winning team receives 2 points while the loser receives 0 points. If the coach can get the game to overtime, they have the guaranteed point. If they win the game, they still get the two points. However, now they receive one point for a loss.

There is no incentive to play for the win in regulation.

What’s the Solution?

The Loser Point

First, the NHL must banish the loser point and pretend it never existed. No team should make a positive impact in the standings by losing.

I propose that all loses are worth zero. A loss in regulation, a loss in overtime, and a loss in the shootout are all worth zero points in the standings. This would hopefully help prevent teams shutting it down and playing for overtime and the guaranteed point.


Most new point methods I have seen use 3-2-1. In those models, a regulation win is 3 points, an overtime/shootout win is worth 2 points, and an overtime/shootout loss is worth one point.

With my method, I removed the loser point. So what do I use the 3-2-1 for?

  • A regulation win: 3 points
  • An overtime win: 2 points
  • A shootout win: 1 point

The thought process is that a regulation win is more impressive than an overtime win, which in turn is more impressive than a win in the shootout.

I also hope this would make the final minutes of the third period more exciting. Will teams get more aggressive going for the three points with nothing to lose? Will the final minutes of overtime being even more insane as teams try to snatch two points out of the air while they still can?

I would hope that besides rewarding the different types of wins more properly, that this would also improve watching the game.

The Data

So how would things change under the new method.

Let’s look at the current standing via points per game. (I like using points per game as many teams have played a different number of games. Looking at just points can be misleading when one team has played 45 games vs another team only playing 39 for instance)

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 17.52.43 PM.png
NHL ranking in the standing under the current NHL point method

According to the standings, Columbus, Washington, and Pittsburgh are the top teams in the NHL.

Now, the standings under the new 3-2-1-no loser point system.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 17.53.57 PM.png
NHL Ranking in the standings under the new method

Columbus and Washington are still on top, but Minnesota and New York leap-frog Pittsburgh.

It’s somewhat tough to see the differences between the two standings, so here is the team movement below.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 17.55.41 PM.png
NHL change in the standings from the old to new point method

Tampa Bay had the greatest increase in the standings. The Lightning went from 28th in the NHL to 18th. Calgary, Winnipeg, Boston, and Dallas were all high risers.

The Flyers dropped from 15th to 23rd in the standings This was a result of correcting their 5 OT wins, 5 shootout wins, and 6 loser points. Vancouver and Detroit also dropped in the standings under the new method.

Finally, I’d like to share all the data for you to see.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 17.47.09 PM.png

This way you can see which teams have certain types of wins and losses or anything you would like to know.

  • Red: The movement in the standing from old method to new method
  • Blue: The old method points, points per game, and standings rank
  • Gold: The new method points, points per game, and standings rank
  • Green: The different types of outcomes (points award for each in parentheses)

1 Comment

  1. I’ve longtime been a proponent of a better point system in the NHL, both for team standings and player standings. I fully agree that overtime points make regulation win points less meaningful, but I don’t agree that teams shouldn’t be rewarded for reaching overtime. Of course, I DO agree that there should be a way to detract teams from shutting down to reach the guaranteed OT point. My proposal would be for regulation wins to get 3 points, OT wins 2 points, OT losses 1 point, and obviously regulation losses 0. I think with that additional point for regulation wins, it incentivizes teams to go for the 3 point win rather than that automatic 1 point OT. My rationale for the OT point is that teams should be rewarded for preventing the other team from winning the game in regulation, regardless of final outcome. This also extends to awarding goalies shutout status’s for 0-0 regulation scores. To me, it’s unfair that a goalie wouldn’t be awarded a shutout stat, despite going all 60 minutes of regulation without being scored on. In all measures, it is exactly the same feat as a regulation win shutout.

    As for player points, I believe assists should be rewarded less than goals, and second assists less than first assists. Perhaps 3 points for goals, 2 points for assists and 1 for second assists. The fact that someone can accidentally touch the puck before it’s passed by another teammate to a 3rd, who scores a goal, and be rewarded equally for it makes no sense. Taking this one step further, I think players who shoot the puck on net but have their shot redirected in by a teammate should receive the goal award, while the player that redirects should either get a shared goal or possibly 1st assist credit. It’s not that there aren’t some skilled redirect goals, but I have to imagine there are plenty of times when a player’s shot would have made it in regardless of the tip, and plenty of others where the player in the crease had no intention of even tipping the puck in the first place.

    Alas, none of these things will likely change, since there’s really no incentive for the league to do so…

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