The current way the NHL awards points for wins, losses, and overtime losses is unbalanced, unnecessarily rewarding teams like the Colorado Avalanche for getting games to overtime.
The Colorado Avalanche are playing competitive hockey. They have an 11-9-2 record, good for 24 points. To put it in perspective, it took the team 33 games to reach the 24 point mark last season. As such, I find myself checking the NHL standings on a semi-regular basis. When I do so, I am struck by how many teams have overtime losses, which are worth 1 point. I don’t like it.
From 1942 until 1983, all regular season NHL games ended at the 60 minute mark, and games could end in ties. Winners received 2 points, losers, 0, and each team got 1 point for a tie. In 1983, the NHL introduced a 5 minute, 5 on 5 overtime period. Winners still received 2 points, ties resulted in 1 point each, and losers still received 0. And so it remained until 1999.
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At the outset of the 1999-2000 season, the NHL introduced the ‘loser point’. Overtime was changed to a 4 on 4 format, and teams losing games in overtime were now awarded 1 point. Ties still existed, but teams were being encouraged to attack in overtime, because they already were guaranteed 1 point, just for getting to overtime.
Beginning with the 2005-06 season, following the lockout cancelled season, in an attempt to attract new fans, the NHL abolished ties, introducing the shootout as a way to end all games with a winner. Still all teams suffering overtime and shootout losses were awarded 1 point.
The latest tweak to overtime was the introduction of 3 on 3 OT just two seasons ago. The goal was to get more games to end in overtime, rather than having games go to the shootout. The thought was that shootouts were too gimmicky, and games should be decided while playing actual hockey.
To me, there was nothing wrong with games ending in ties. I know that some people are anti-tie, and feel that all games should have a winner. I am not among them.
Once upon a time, there were ‘good’ ties. If the Colorado Avalanche scored two late goals to even up a game at 3-3, and that’s how it ended, I’d be really happy. If they lose in a shootout after the same scenario, it takes some of the joy out of it. The shootout is fun, but in no way is still actual hockey.
I would still feel the same way, in the above scenario, if the Colorado Avalanche gave up a goal in 3 on 3 overtime, to lose 4-3. While it is a form of hockey, it is a completely different game than 5 on 5 hockey. Like the shootout, it is exciting, but it isn’t ‘real’ hockey.
Beyond personal feelings about the games, themselves, I hate how overtime loss points change the standings, by rewarding losing close games. There are teams in the playoffs right now, that would not be there without OTL points. Conversely, there are teams that are out of the playoff picture, despite having more wins. Shouldn’t winning be the main objective?
If the NHL is not going to implement ties again, which they are not going to do, I think the league needs to alter how they hand out points. The easiest solution is to simply award 2 points for a win, and 0 points for a loss. But imagine the emotional pain of the Colorado Avalanche losing in the 15th round of a shootout, and getting 0 points for it. No, that doesn’t work.
Here’s an idea, that I think, does work. The NHL should award 3 points for every game.
- 3 points – regulation win
- 2 points – overtime/shootout win
- 1 point – overtime/shootout loss
- 0 points – regulation loss
I know the NHL standings would change drastically, by awarding 3 points for every game, but I’d argue the sanctity of the NHL standings, and in-season point records, were forever changed by the awarding of ‘loser’ points. I also think that having every game be worth the same amount of points in the standings is inherently more fair, than placing an arbitrary bonus on overtime games.
Finally, if the NHL insists on breaking ties with a gimmicky overtime system, which they have to do, since playing playoff overtime in the regular season is completely unfeasible, it stands to reason, that winning a game in regulation should really be rewarded. Maybe teams would be less conservative down the stretch of a tie game if they could get 3 points for a regulation win.
While the NHL will likely not change the way they award points any time soon, I think they should. I am also curious to hear your views on the topic. Please share any thoughts and opinions you have below. Thanks for reading!