by Watson Scott Swail

There has been an ongoing discussion about the fairness of the current NHL point system that awards teams that end regulation in a tie but lose in either overtime or in the shootout. Thus, winning teams, in either form, are rewarded with two points, OT or shootout losers earn one point, and those who lose in regulation zero points. It seems fair in one perspective, but others argue if you lose, you lose. But this results in potentially three points being awarded in a game, rather than two. The more seemingly Machiavellian system where only the winner is awarded two points and the OT loser receives none, simplifies the scoring system where winners are rewarded and losers aren’t. From a player and team perspective, it could be argued (and is) that teams that are loaded with shooters have a much greater advantage in OT than other teams. We won’t go into that analysis in this piece, but it is worth looking at because the theory behind that argument is solid. One might expect Edmonton to have a great advantage here, but they have only played in one overtime game thus far.

Thus, a system that has been bandied about is a 3-2-1 system, where the winning team in regulation receives three points, OT winners receive two, and OT losers one point. This would provide a reward for winning in OT and differentiate the type of winning and losing.

Of course, the system that one subscribes to depends on perspective. They all work, and they all create winners and losers. For instance, during the 20-21 season (isn’t it really just the 2021 season?), there have already been 40 games (of 278) where a losing team has garnered a point in overtime, meaning that they ended regulation with a tie and then lost either in OT or a shootout. This equates to 14 percent of the games awarding a losing team a single point. In a traditional, no point OT system, those 40 points would not have been awarded.

Based on today’s system of awarding two points for a winning team (regulation or OT) plus one point for an OT loss, the top teams in the league, as of this morning, are listed in the first set of columns below. If the playoffs started today, these are the teams who would make the cut. The number to the left is their rank in their respective divisions using the current system. Winnipeg, for example, would make the cut in the fourth position in a tough Canadian (Scotia North) division. If a 3-2-1 Point System were implemented, a few teams would benefit while others suffer. In the Central, Florida and Carolina would drop out and Dallas and Chicago would come in. In the West, there would be no change, other than order. In the East, Pittsburgh would drop out, replaced by New Jersey. There would be no change in the Canadian division.

If we moved to a No Point OT system, teams that win get two points and teams that lose, regardless of OT and shootout, get zero points. In this scenario, Florida gets replaced by Dallas, there is no change in the West other than order, Pittsburgh is replaced by New Jersey, and Winnipeg is replaced by Edmonton.  

I may go back and do this with a prior season with a full slate of games, but this academic procedure was more for fun than anything else. From a Winnipeg perspective, moving from current to a 3-2-1 has no impact. If the change were to happen today, Florida, Carolina, and Pittsburgh wouldn’t be too happy, but Dallas, Chicago, and New Jersey would be delighted.

Which is more fair? Again, perspective matters. For me, I’m not a fan of the current system. In fact, I am outlier who does not like the 3-on-3 game because, to me, it isn’t hockey anymore. I’d rather see 4-on-4 for 10 minutes. Part of me likes the old system where you either win or lose, which should give impetus to (a) tie a game if you are behind; and (b) win a game in OT and not sit back on the single point for just getting to post-regulation. On the other hand, I could be persuaded to conform to the 3-2-1 which differentiates points.

My bet is that we move to a 3-2-1 in the next five years because there seems to be enough talk about it. It may make teams really push for the regulation win, because 3 points compared to 1 point or no points is a killer in the long run (thus, need the larger analysis, darn it). But again, will that favor teams with snipers?

Just some thoughts.

THE TAKEAWAY (JETS V. FLAMES, February 1, 2021)

  1. What the hell was Hellebuyck doing five seconds into the second period. A shot from the opposite blue line? It wasn’t even a trick shot that caught spin or anything. He just didn’t cover it appropriately. Too many soft goals for that boy this year. While the TV commenters went overboard about how great he was, it can be argued he cost the Jets the game.
  2. What has happened to Pionk? He was brutal last night and not so great all year. Same for DeMelo. And Morrissey is kind of continuing his play from last year, which was average. I said not to worry about the defense this year because we have talent and we have youth coming up. But now I’m worried because they have sucked thus far. At this point, I would consider Heinola coming up. And I’d keep Stanley, too.
  3. Wheeler and Scheifele. Well, the mix up in lines really didn’t do much for either of them. It was great that Scheif got the tip in tying goal, but he was, again, brutal all game long. I actually felt sorry for Copp and Ehlers at one point, although they didn’t have a spectacular game, either (Ehlers gave up so, so many pucks last night).
  4. OT. Why is Pionk out there at the start of OT? I don’t understand why a team doesn’t just go with forwards in 3-on-3. You need three shooters out there. Given the space and time, you don’t need a D man.
  5. Shootout. Okay, we can argue about who shoots, and I like Perreault, but I would give the chance to (a) Copp and (b) Lowry at this point. They deserve it. Maurice’s comment that he didn’t have other shooters who had a shootout goal is a Copp-out (sorry!). You have to get your first, right? I believe Laine was given a shot in his first OT game, and he was 18. And Connor is certainly your first shooter every time. BTW, the last full season in 2018-19? Only 12 shootout shots by the Jets throughout the season. Laine and Connor both made two of three; Scheifle one of two; and Perreault, Little, Roslovic, and Wheeler all zero of one.