Comparing the point distibution schemes

For the life of my I cannot understand why the NHL believes that it is OK to have some games worth 2 points while others are worth 3. Last night was crazy. There were 12 games last night and a total of 32 points were handed out in the standings as 8 of the 12 games went to overtime and 4 of those going to a shoot out. Despite of this the NHL General Managers refuse to recommend a change the current setup by saying no to the idea of a 3 point regulation win which would have made all games worth 3 points in the standings.

“I was actually a proponent of the 3-2-1 points system a few years ago,” said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, meaning three points for a win in regulation time, two points for an overtime/shootout win and one point for an overtime/shootout loss.

“But since then we’ve seen these great races and I think it’s working just fine the way it is now. Our fans like it.”

First off, as a fan I wish Mr. Holland wouldn’t speak for me as I don’t like it.

Second, does it really make the races tighter? Let’s take a look. Below are how the standings with how they look now, how they would look under the old system of 2 points for a win (regardless of in regulation or overtime) and no shootout and with ties, and how they would look if the 3 point regulation win were in place. (I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to adjust the rankings so that the division leaders are seeded 1-2-3).

Eastern Conference

Pos Team Points Team TradPts Team 3PtWin
1 Buffalo 87 Buffalo 75 Buffalo 108
2 New Jersey 82 New Jersey 75 New Jersey 104
3 Pittsburgh 75 Ottawa 70 Ottawa 101
4 Ottawa 74 Pittsburgh 66 Tampa Bay 93
5 Tampa Bay 73 Carolina 66 Pittsburgh 89
6 Atlanta 72 Montreal 64 Carolina 89
7 Montreal 70 Tampa Bay 62 Montreal 89
8 Carolina 69 Toronto 61 Toronto 83
9 NY Islanders 68 Atlanta 59 Atlanta 83
10 Toronto 67 NY Islanders 58 NY Islanders 83
11 NY Rangers 64 NY Rangers 56 NY Rangers 80
12 Boston 62 Boston 53 Boston 75
13 Florida 59 Florida 53 Florida 68
14 Washington 56 Washington 53 Washington 64
15 Philadelphia 41 Philadelphia 36 Philadelphia 46

Western Conference

Pos Team Points Team TradPts Team 3PtWin
1 Detroit 84 Detroit 80 Detroit 114
2 Nashville 84 Nashville 78 Nashville 114
3 Anaheim 80 San Jose 76 San Jose 112
4 San Jose 77 Anaheim 74 Anaheim 99
5 Vancouver 76 Vancouver 71 Dallas 97
6 Dallas 73 Dallas 67 Vancouver 95
7 Minnesota 73 Calgary 67 Calgary 92
8 Calgary 71 Minnesota 62 Minnesota 87
9 Edmonton 64 Edmonton 60 Edmonton 85
10 Colorado 62 Colorado 56 Colorado 82
11 St. Louis 61 St. Louis 51 St. Louis 71
12 Phoenix 55 Chicago 49 Phoenix 71
13 Chicago 53 Phoenix 48 Columbus 65
14 Columbus 52 Columbus 48 Chicago 61
15 Los Angeles 50 Los Angeles 42 Los Angeles 56

Now, I am not sure what the NHL General Manages but this lowly fan concludes that the playoff races would be better under either the traditional setup or a 3 point regulation win setup. Under the current setup we have next to no significant playoff race in the western conference with Edmonton 7 and Colorado 9 points out of the 8th playoff spot. Under either of the other two setups there would be a playoff race with Edmonton just 2 points out in either race and Colorado 4 out in the traditional setup and 5 out in the 3 point for regulation win setup. In the eastern conference the playoff races would be just as tight or even tighter as is the case in the traditional point scheme. Using the traditional point scheme no team in the eastern conference not named Flyers would be more than 8 points out of a playoff spot. Additionally the race for top spot in the eastern conference would be much closer.

All in all, looking at the above table it seems the traditional point scheme seems to be the method that would create the tighest playoff races this year and the current method is the worst.

Posted in NHL

This article has 20 Comments

  1. Careful, NHL Executives and GMs are allergic to logic and proof.

    The real reason they won’t change things is because the 1935 Leafs only got two points for a win so it would ruin the integrity of the record book if the 2007 Leafs got 3 points for a win. That whole ‘the races are exciting’ rationale is just plain bullshit.

  2. And giving 1 point for overtime losses and implementing a shootout gimmick keeps the integrity of the record book in tact? The NHL has long given up on the idea of maintaining tradition and integrity.

  3. Great post. I hate the asymmetry of some games being 3 points, others 2. But I also hate is getting any points for losing. Regardless of the point structure for wins/losses/OT/SO/Ties, there will be a time in the game where one team is not interested in scoring more goals, only in protecting their position. If you award points for getting to OT that period of time will be the last few minutes of the 3rd. If you award points for ties, it will be in OT.

    My preference would be to award 2 points for a win, 0 for a loss. So people with bitch about the SO deciding game. So go back to the old days, with ties. Yeah, that’s so much better than dump-and-chasing for 10 minutes.

  4. The NHL is a joke. between the 3 point games and the refs, they have no clue whats going on. emery slashing someone in the face gets a 3 game suspension, and it was basically a small piece of plastic that was keeping lapiere from perhaps losing an eye or requiring cosmetic surgery. but the refs felt a simple 2 minute minor would suffice.

    then theres the fact that, depending on who refs, the game will be called differently. teams dont know whats illegal or whats legal anymore. and how could they? whats a penalty one game is allowed the next. players are scared to even get a stick NEAR an opponenets mid section, because every time a stick goes there its an automatic penalty. i never thought lifting someones stick would warrant a 2 minute hooking call. ridiculous.

    the league opens up the game for the star players, yet does nothing when its stars are blindsighted, cheapshotted, or when the goalies are run into on a regular basis.

    the league is a farce. theres no passion or emotion in the game. everytime someone gets a spark, hes sent off for a minor hook or hold and the play dies. u cant establish a strong aggressive forecheck anymore. its turned into figure skating, not hockey.

  5. I think they should switch to 0 points for a loss of any kind, 1 point for a shoot out win, and 2 points for an OT or regulation win. Its ridiculous that mediocre teams can play for the tie in order to keep their hopes alive, and if a team can’t win in regulation they don’t deserve a full 2 points. This wouldn’t be too different from the old system, but give an incentive to win in RT or OT rather than relying on shootout wins, as Buffalo seems to be doing.

  6. David,

    A simple, but well-done analysis that shows just how foolish the current set-up is. If they insist on giving loser points, they ought to at least make every game worth the same amount of points. What other sporting event gives unequal weighting to each individual game? It would be like the NBA declaring a Heat/Knicks game to be worth 1.33wins compared to a Clippers/Hawks game which would be worth 1.

  7. The point is to reward making it to OT, not to reward a loss. Teams get one point for NOT losing in regulation. They didn’t lose after 60 minutes they get a point. If you win in 60 you get 2. The problem here is they’re going both ways with it. Once the two teams are into OT, they’re rewarding each team for not losing with 1 point each. Then they are giving another point to the team that pulls out the win. They need a system like soccer that has 3 points for a win, 2 for an OT or shootout win, and 1 for an OT or shootout loss, and 0 for a loss in regulation. THAT would be fair.

    Remember, you aren’t trying to reward losers, you’re rewarding them for the fact they held on for 60 minutes.

  8. Oh and PS frankly I see no shame in a game ending in a Tie. Part of a problem in the league is a lack of respect for your opponent. I think if two teams fight to a draw, they should both get 1 point. Split the points. Shootouts are irrelevant to the game of hockey, and don’t deserve a place in the game, aside from as a penalty for yanking a man down on a breakaway.

    As far as OT goes, I know it’s “exciting” but really it’s part of what wears players down during the course of the season, if you want to reward teams for solid play in regulation, give teams 3 for a win, 1 for a draw (in regulation) and get rid of OT. Then you’d see teams play flat out for wins… they’d mean a lot more in the standings. Increase the gap between winning and “tieing” i.e. OT games.

    A win isn’t worth enough right now to warrant going for the gold.

  9. What the heck is wrong with everyone discussing this subject? (No I don’t mean just the people here. I mean EVERYWHERE.) 3-point games have been around for a LONG time. They were NOT introduced to the league with the shootout. Seriously…I don’t understand why everyone is talking about it as if 3-point games came with the “new” NHL.

  10. 3-point games have been around since the 1999-2000 season. If you define ‘new NHL’ as post lockout then yeah, you are correct it was a part of the old-NHL, but it is a part of Gary ‘i am not really a hockey fan’Bettman’s vision of an NHL that is supposed to attract a new American audience but is failing miserably.

  11. I should also add that when the NHL brought in shoot outs it dramatically incresed the number of 3-point games as well. In 2003-04 there were 145 (11.8%) 3-point games the entire season. This year there have been 204 (21.6%).

  12. I’m not sure how you can argue causation with the Shoot Out and the increased number of 3 point games. A game becomes worth 3 points as soon as it heads to OT. I honestly doubt more games are going to Overtime BECAUSE of the Shoot Out. The fact that games are tied more often at the end of regulation likely has more to do with things like the increased number of Power Plays or the removal of the 2 line pass rule.

    Unless you think the teams are thinking “if only we can make it to OT … and then the shoot out!” Doesn’t make sense to me.

  13. Not pre-shootout. From 1999-2000 to 2003-04 if no one scored in OT then both teams would get one point for a tie for a total of 2 points. If a team scored in OT that team would get two points and the losing team would get one.

  14. Ties were fine when teams were getting a few of them, but you realize that there were teams who had 20 ties before the lockout? 20! That means a quarter of their games had no winner or loser. That’s absurd. The problem is, the NHL is kind of a patchwork of tradition and novelty, so the traditionalists howl when they try to mess around with an obviously flawed system like the old system was in the mid 90s – teams would play for the tie, and overtime was atrocious, producing few winners, as well as teams playing for the tie with 10 minutes left in regulation. That’s bad for everyone. So they introduced 4 on 4 OT, which was a great idea and worked fairly well, but still didn’t produce enough winners, so they went to the shootout. The shootout I go back and forth on – it entertains me, but it’s not really a legitimate win. It gives me a chance to see players do things we don’t see in regular play.

    David there are two flaws to your argument – 1: that under a 3 point win system, all of the games would have the same result – I highly doubt this, as teams would not coast into overtime as they tend to now, and would go for the three point win and 2: that this essentially random distribution of points proves that Ken Holland is wrong. I think generally speaking, Ken will be right most years, because the number of 3 point games will increase the proximity between teams.

    The NHL’s real problem here is that 1-8 seeding is ultimately meaningless. While it makes for an exciting playoffs, it turns regular season seeding into a pointless endeavor – much like the third period of a tied game these days, only to set up the thrilling OT.

  15. I agree that teams may play a slightly different game if the point distribution changes. But I would say that they are minor and the point still stands that you can have parity and playoff races under any system.

    Now, for anyone who thinks having some games worth 3 points and others worth two, let me propose a different system. Under this new system the following rules will apply:

    1. Games will be 60 minutes long with the winner gaining 2 points and the loser zero points or in the case of a tie, each team will get one point.

    2. If a game ends in a tie the two teams will play a scond game. This second game will be a 5-minute, first goal wins 4-on-4 game will with the winner getting one point and the loser none. Should neither team score during the 5 minute game, a shootout will be played with the winner taking the one point.

  16. Both teams in a tie get 2 points? Now that would skew the standings more than anything else I’ve heard. 5 points games would be an abomination. I’d like to hear your logic on that one.

  17. Your first scenario makes no sense. Why would you turn a 2 point game into a 4 point game. That’s equivalent to rewarding ties and wins equivalently – especially in non-conference games.

    Your second scenario describes exactly what OT consists of now, only instead of awarding winners with two points and the OT loser with 1, you’re giving the winner 1 point, and losers none… then in a SO giving the winner 1 point and the loser none. This system turns 2 point games into 1 point games, again changing the value of the overall game.

    Basically you’re ignoring the whole point of a POINT value system.

    You’re penalizing teams for not winning in regulation, but you’re ignoring the issue around having a certain number of points up for grabs in a game.

    If a game is worth 3 points, then winning in regulation should be worth 3 points. Making OT should garner both teams 1 point, with a single point up for grabs through the OT and shootout. This would encourage teams to win in regulation just as much as your system of 2, 1 and 0… an extra point is an extra point. I just don’t see why we’re punishing teams for losing the game in an extra frame. The problem arises from giving out an EXTRA point to the team that made OT but lost, or rewarding a team that couldn’t get the job done in Regulation or OT, but has the snipers to score in a shootout… even though with defenders actually trying to prevent them from reaching the net they couldn’t put the game away. This whole situation really isn’t as complicated as people are making it.

  18. Sorry, that should read in the case of a tie each team gets one point. I’ve changed it now.

    The point of the scenario is that if you frame it as ‘if the game ends in a tie, a second game with different rules will be played’ it sounds worse even though it is the same scenario as is currently used. Why should some teams play 2 different games and other teams play one?

    And why should a team get penalized for not winning in regulation if they can win in OT. By that same logic, should we not penalize a team that can’t in in either regulation or OT? At least if you win in OT you win at playing *hockey*. Why should a win while playing a gimmick be worth more than a win while playing hockey. This is a hockey league is it not?

  19. The reason you’d penalize a team for NOT winning in OT is that is what you want teams to be fighting for. You don’t want them all hanging on to the end, waiting for a situation of 4 on 4 that isn’t exactly what the NHL should be about, or for that matter waiting for the shoot out. What the NHL SHOULD want is teams skating to win the game in regulation. The priority should be both scoring goals and stopping them. Too many teams these days focus purely on defense and puck control. Yes it wins, basically because those same teams can go longer than other teams without giving goals up. They might not score many, and they might win a lot of 1 goal games, and games in OT, and they’ll be REALLY boring to watch, but hey at least they’re winning!

    Ottawa’s team is more exciting when it scores 6 or 7 goals and demolishes the opposition than New Jersey ever is when it wins games 2-1 by trapping you to death.

    All I’m saying is, you need to penalize teams for NOT doing what you want, and reward them for ACCOMPLISHING the objective. That objective is to win in regulation. You shouldn’t give a team that wins all it’s games in the extra frame the same number of points as a team that wins all of it’s games in regulation. The wins aren’t the same if one team did it in 60 minutes and it took the other team an extra 5 minute period of 4 on 4. This is the same reason why I dislike the shootout.

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