NHL Point System Needs Changes

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NHL Point System Needs Changes
(Photo byJonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I think it’s time we say enough is enough when it comes to the ridiculous NHL point system currently in place.

Of course I’m talking about the league’s infamous “three-point game”, where the team losing in a shootout or overtime gets a point, making some games worth more in the standings than others.

Proponents of the system usually site two main points when arguing the current format should be maintained. 

Firstly, that it’s unfair to not reward a team who fought it’s opponent to a stalemate for 60 minutes, only to lose in 4-on-4 overtime or a shootout, and secondly, that the three-point games keep the playoff races close and interesting to the very end of the season.

The first argument never made any sense to me because the three other major sports don’t feel any compulsion to reward a team for pushing the game to extra time. 

Football, baseball and basketball all play overtime during the regular season and none of those leagues make any distinction between a regulation win and an overtime win.  A win is a win and a loss is a loss. 

Even the NFL, with arguably the most unfair overtime system in professional sports, where a game can virtually be decided by the flip of a coin, doesn’t give the losing team any extra credit for an overtime defeat. 

So if it works fine for the other major sports leagues, it should work for the NHL, too.

It’s harder to argue the second point, because, on the surface, there’s no question that the NHL playoff races have certainly been more interesting since the new point system was initiated.  But a closer look at the current standings reveals that could be more of an illusion than reality.

What the current point system does is make the standings look close but also makes it extremely difficult to gain ground on the teams ahead of you.  Take the Ottawa Senators for an example. 

About three weeks ago, they stood in 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings, 12 points out of the last playoff spot. 

In the next ten games the Sens compiled a 9-1 record and where did that get them?  Still in 12th place, nine points out of a playoff spot.  This is directly a result of the three point game.

Here is how the current standings in the NHL would look for each conference, including games of Wednesday, March 25, 2009, if we stopped rewarding losers of shootouts and overtime games:

Eastern Conference

Pos Team Wins PTS
1 New Jersey Devils 47 94
2 Boston Bruins 46 92
3 Washington Capitals 45 90
4 Carolina Hurricanes 41 82
5 Philadelphia Flyers 40 80
6 Pittsburgh Penguins 40 80
7 New York Rangers 39 78
8 Montreal Canadiens 37 74
9 Florida Panthers 35 70
10 Buffalo Sabres 35 70
11 Ottawa Senators 32 64
12 Toronto Maple Leafs 31 62
13 Atlanta Thrashers 30 60
14 Tampa Bay Lightning 24 48
15 New York Islanders 24 48

 

Western Conference

Pos Team Wins PTS
1 Detroit Red Wings 49 98
2 San Jose Sharks 48 96
3 Calgary Flames 42 84
4 Chicago Black Hawks 39 78
5 Vancouver Canucks 39 78
6 Columbus Blue Jackets 38 76
7 Anaheim Ducks 37 74
8 Edmonton Oilers 35 70
9 Minnesota Wild 35 70
10 Nashville Predators 35 70
11 St. Louis Blues 34 68
12 Dallas Stars 33 66
13 Colorado Avalanche 31 62
14 Phoenix Coyotes 30 60
15 Los Angeles Kings 30 60

 

A quick analysis of these standings indicates that the standings would be just as close, and the playoff races just as tight, if the three-point game disappeared. And it would also give teams, who go on a hot streak, a chance to make up some serious ground in the standings.

And, as an extra bonus, the Leafs would be right back in the draft lottery race where they belong. 

How can Brian Burke not support this change?

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