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Dear NHL: Get Rid of the Overtime Loss (2016 Edition)

Updated on April 12, 2016

Still, STILL Rewarding Losing

This will be my third article detailing the NHL's current OT loss system and how broken it is. The original article details its origins and problems, including several scenarios where it has directly affected the postseason. If you don't want to skim that, here's a short summary: the current NHL system rewards teams for losing, something no other notable league allows.

This season again offers controversy. The Boston Bruins failed to make the postseason after a late-season collapse. However, the two teams that passed them for the final spots - Detroit and Philadelphia - each had fewer total wins than the Bruins. However, the Wings and especially the Flyers got in because each team found a way to lose in OT or the shootout more often than Boston. Similarly, though not as important, the Los Angeles Kings had two more wins than the Anaheim Ducks but its the Ducks that earned the Pacific division title thanks to five more OT losses.

A slight difference this season was the inclusion of 3-on-3 overtime, a mechanic meant to limit the number of games that went to the shootout. It was mostly effective: in the 2014-15 season, 170 of the 306 overtime games ended up going to the shootout (roughly 56%), while this season only 107 of the 275 overtime games went that far (roughly 42%). So while the OT loss as a statistic still wreaked havoc, the shootout's impact on the standings was lessened.

As with the previous two articles, I will detail multiple alternate standings systems, most of which I believe are better than the current OT loss system, and see how different the standings would look in each case.

The OT Loss Standings
The OT Loss Standings

Color Codes

  • Bright yellow: Original division winner
  • Faded yellow: Original team with that specific seed
  • Gold: New division winner after changes
  • Faded orange: team fell in standings after changes - still playoff bound
  • Blue: non-division winner rose in standings after changes (only refers to playoff bound teams)
  • Green: newly playoff-bound after changes
  • Red: falls out of playoff field after changes

The Overtime Loss System

Summary: The current system the NHL uses, teams are rewarded for losing in overtime or the shootout with a point in the standings.

Distribution: 2 pts for any win, 0 pts for regulation losses, 1 pt for overtime or shootout loss.

The image on the right details the official 2015-16 NHL standings. As noted, Boston is left out despite having one more win than either Detroit or Philly, while the Ducks win the Pacific despite two fewer wins than the Kings.

Also take note of the postseason matchups. For those not quite aware of the NHL's somewhat convoluted postseason system: the top three from each division get into the postseason. From there, the two remaining teams from each conference with the most points enter as wild cards. In each conference, the division winner with the most points takes on the wild card team with the fewest points, while the other division winner faces the other wild card team. In all cases, the 2nd and 3rd place teams in each division face each other.

From that, the following matchups are determined:

  • Dallas Stars vs Minnesota Wild
  • St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks
  • Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators
  • Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks
  • Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers
  • Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
  • Florida Panthers vs New York Islanders
  • Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings

Note that while the Bruins and Red Wings finished with the same number of points, and the Bruins had more overall victories, the Red Wings had more Regulation & Overtime victories (ROW), giving them the tiebreaker.

So, let see how the standings change with different systems, starting with...

The Shootout Loss System
The Shootout Loss System

The Shootout Loss System

Summary: a slight change to the current system, now teams only get 1 point for losing in the shootout - no points earned for losing in overtime, specifically.

Distribution: 2 pts for any win, 1 pt for a shootout loss, 0 pts for a regulation or overtime loss

With much fewer games going to the shootout this season thanks to 3-on-3 overtime, there are subsequently far fewer shootout losses. Still, there are slight changes in the standings as result: the Kings take their place atop the Pacific division while the Islanders and Rangers swap spots - even though the Islanders have fewer wins.

The 3-Point system (Shootout Version)
The 3-Point system (Shootout Version)

The 3-Point System

Summary: the preferred choice of many hockey fans, this system gives out 3 points for every game, splitting up those three points in games that reach a shootout.

Distribution: 3 pts for regulation or overtime wins, 2 pts for shootout wins, 1 pt for shootout losses, 0 pts for any other kind of loss

Again, the changes are relatively minimum: the Kings again take the Pacific, but the Lightning now win the Atlantic - since Florida won four games more than Tampa in the shootout, that's four points the Panthers lose allowing the Lightning to take the division by a single point.

The Shootout Win System
The Shootout Win System

The Shootout Win System

Summary: My personal favorite system, what better way to dissuade teams from playing to the shootout by making the reward for winning - or losing - the shootout far less desirable.

Distribution: 2 pts for regulation and overtime wins, 1 pt for shootout wins, 0 pts for ANY kind of loss

I like this system because - above all else - teams are no longer rewarded for losing. Even the people's preferred 3-Point system still rewards teams for losing in the shootout, which I don't like.

Anyway, as you can see in the image to the right, the Central division undergoes a rainbow of changes in this system. While the Stars maintain the division lead, Chicago overtakes St. Louis for 2nd in the division. Much more notably, Minnesota - no longer hiding behind 11 overtime losses - lose their playoff spot to Colorado (who only had 4).

Also note that in this system, Boston is able to tie Detroit thanks to two extra shootout wins, but Detroit still has the advantage in ROW, and thus maintains the third spot in the Atlantic.

The Overtime Win System
The Overtime Win System

The Overtime Win System

Summary: I'm giving this more prominence given the somewhat gimmicky nature of 3-on-3 overtime. In this format, even overtime becomes undesirable for teams - though fans of 3-on-3 may hate this system.

Distribution: 2 pts for regulation win, 1 pt for overtime or shootout win, 0 pts for ANY loss

The biggest changes in the standings happens to the benefit of the Boston Bruins. Both the Red Wings and Flyers partook in many overtime games this season - and as such earned many overtime wins. If neither team no longer earns the full two points for those wins, Boston - who only had more regulation wins than either of the other two - jumps up to third in the Atlantic while Detroit - who still has more regulation wins than Philly - clings onto the final Wild Card, leaving the Flyers out. The team that benefited most from 3-on-3 overtime would benefit the least from this system.

The old Win-Loss-Tie System
The old Win-Loss-Tie System

The Win-Loss-Tie System

Summary: the system in place up until the 1999-2000 season. In this format, a game will still utilize overtime, 3-on-3 or otherwise. If the game is still tied after overtime, then both teams are given a point for a tie, just like the old days. No shootouts here.

Distribution: 2 pts for a win, 1 pt for a tie, 0 pts for a loss

Note that here only two teams earned 100 points. Back in the old win-loss-tie system, very few teams could earn 100 pts, whereas now with the shootout loss points are inflated, and often 10-12 teams earn 100 pts. For traditionalists this is a welcomed change of pace.

Back then, though, ties were given after five minutes of 5-on-5 OT (and before then, no OT at all). If today's 3-on-3 was used with teams aware that no score = tie game, just how few ties would there be nowadays?

The Wins and Losses System
The Wins and Losses System

The Wins and Losses System

Summary: its just wins and losses. It no longer matters when a team wins or loses a game - each game is given the same weight - you either win, or you lose.

Distribution: points are redundant now so they're gone. ROW is retained as a tiebreaker when needed.

This system brings about quite a few changes: Boston and its 42 wins take over 3rd in the Atlantic, while Detroit bumps Philly out of the playoffs thanks to the tiebreaker. Colorado again overtakes Minnesota thanks to their 39 wins.

The 4-Point System
The 4-Point System

The 4-Point System

Summary: this system adds more weight to shootout wins than the 3-Point system while lessening (though not eliminating) the value of shootout losses.

Distribution: 4 pts for regulation and overtime wins, 3 pts for shootout wins, 1 pt for shootout losses, 0 pts for regulation and overtime losses

This time, the increased difference of value between shootout wins and losses allows Colorado - who went 4-0 in shootouts - to overtime Minnesota. Tampa just edges out Florida for the Atlantic as well. If this system isn't weighted enough for you, then check out...

The 5-Point System
The 5-Point System

The 5-Point System

Summary: regulation, overtime, and shootout wins and losses are all given different weights. While losers get more value the longer they hold out losing, winners get less value the longer it takes them to win.

Distribution: 5 pts for regulation wins, 4 pts for overtime wins, 3 pts for shootout wins, 2 pts for shootout losses, 1 pt for overtime losses, 0 pts for regulation losses

Amazingly, despite the massive shifts in points and distributions - the standings in this case turns out exactly the same! The Ducks win the Pacific, Minnesota takes the West's 2nd wild card, and Detroit ties Boston in points for the 3rd spot in the Atlantic but earns it thanks to ROW - just like in the OTL system! Now, perhaps in this system just regulation wins would be the preferred tiebreaker; in this case Boston would take that final playoff spot over Detroit.

The 3-Pt and 4-Pt Systems with OTL instead of SOL as the deciding factor.
The 3-Pt and 4-Pt Systems with OTL instead of SOL as the deciding factor.


To the right are modified variants of the 3-Point and 4-Point systems where the points splits occur in overtime games rather than just shootout games. Such a change actually ruins things for the Red Wings - only under these systems does the Wings' reliance of overtime games and victories come back to haunt them. In both of these systems they finish behind Boston and Philly. Also note that Los Angeles and its 12 overtime victories no longer allow it to pass Anaheim and the Ducks easily win the Pacific in both cases.

So, what do all of these different systems and changes reveal? Colorado might have a beef with how the current system allowed Minnesota to pass them up, and maybe the Kings and Lightning can lament about division titles that will never be, but that's about it for this season. Surprisingly, Detroit and Philly maintain their playoff spots over Boston in nearly every scenario while the otherwise tight Metropolitan and Central divisions retained its order nearly every time.

As usual, though, many of these systems should be and are preferred to the current Overtime Loss system the NHL employs, a system they keep for the sake of 'parity', not realizing or caring that teams are given unfair advantages based on dreadful distributions of points, and only when this is fixed can it truly be said that the best teams from each division or conference are represented in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Which of these points/standings systems are your favorite?

See results


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