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What the NHL would look like with a 3-point system

Word out of the GM meetings is league managers aren't happy with the amount of games being decided by the shootout. Maybe implementing a three-point standing system would help with that problem. Here's a look at what the league would look like under those rules.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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It's become clear that executives in the league are dissatisfied with the amount of games being decided by the shootout, which is why discussions at the general managers meetings in Boca Raton are focusing on extended overtime and the prospects of a 3-on-3 portion of extra play.

This gets the wheels turning and alternative courses of action start rising to the surface: namely, the implementation of a three-point system, where three points are awarded for a regulation win, two points are awarded for an overtime/shootout win and one point is awarded for an overtime/shootout loss.

The perceived issue with a change is that the league wants parity to remain in the game and the three-point system could make playoff races too wide.

Here's a look at how the three-point system would change the NHL landscape:

Atlantic Division

The Boston Bruins currently lead the Atlantic Division by 11 points, which amounts to a six-win lead. The Toronto Maple Leafs are in second place and hold a one-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens, while Montreal maintains the final Atlantic Division playoff spot by two points (one win) over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay is in possession of the No. 1 wild-card spot and has a four-point lead (two wins) over the Detroit Red Wings, who have a three-point lead over the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa has a 13-point lead over the Florida Panthers, who in turn have an equally outlandish lead over the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres.


Under the three-point system, Boston would have a ridiculous lead over its competition, boasting a gap of 23 points (eight wins) over Montreal and a 25-point lead (nine wins) over Toronto. Montreal, who would be in second place under this system, would only lead Toronto by an overtime win and could be passed with a regulation win. Tampa Bay would remain two points out of third place, but would be able to jump spots with a regulation win. Detroit remains two wins back of Tampa Bay, while Ottawa actually closes in on Detroit (one win back, instead of two) and Tampa Bay (three wins back instead of four wins back under the two-point system).

Team Regulation Win Overtime Win Overtime Loss Points
Boston Bruins 36 6 5 125
Montreal Canadiens 25 10 7 102
Toronto Maple Leafs 22 13 8 100
Tampa Bay Lightning 23 11 7 98
Detroit Red Wings 22 7 13 93
Ottawa Senators 22 6 12 90
Florida Panthers 17 7 7 72
Buffalo Sabres 10 9 8 56

Metropolitan Division

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a 16-point -- or eight-win -- lead over the New York Rangers in the two-point system. The Philadelphia Flyers are one win back of New York, and two points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus has a one-point lead over Washington, who has a one-point lead over New Jersey.


Under the three-point system, Pittsburgh has a 21-point lead -- seven wins -- over New York, who in turn has a three-point -- one win -- lead over Philadelphia, who has a two-point lead over Columbus. The Blue Jackets would be 10 points -- four wins -- ahead of New Jersey, who jumped Washington. The Capitals are now 11 points back of Columbus and one point back of New Jersey.

This example perfectly displays the value of the three-point system.

Team Regulation win Overtime win Overtime loss Points
Pittsburgh Penguins 35 8 4 125
New York Rangers 30 5 4 104
Philadelphia Flyers 28 5 7 101
Columbus Blue Jackets 28 5 5 99
New Jersey Devils 20 8 13 89
Washington Capitals 18 12 10 88
Carolina Hurricanes 22 5 9 85
New York Islanders 15 10 9 74

Regulation Wins = More Valued

If regulation wins are worth more points, then regulation wins become more valuable (duh, you say).

Washington was, and has continued to be, the most glaring benefactor of the current system, as the Capitals went from being one point back to 11 points back because the club relies so much on overtime/shootout wins.

The same could be said in the Atlantic, where Boston went from a six-win lead in the two-point system to an eight-win lead in the three-point system. Several of its competitors had double-digit victories in overtime/shootout situations, which resulted in inflated point totals.

Central Division


The top of the Central remains largely unchanged. St. Louis would go from having a two-win lead over Chicago under the current system to having a two-game lead in the three-point system. Colorado would go from being three games back of first to three wins back of first, while the Minnesota Wild would remain seven wins behind the Avalanche. Dallas goes from being two wins behind Minnesota to one win back.

Team Regulation Win Overtime Win Overtime Loss Points
St. Louis Blues 33 11 6 127
Chicago Blackhawks 33 5 14 123
Colorado Avalanche 31 11 5 120
Minnesota Wild 25 9 8 101
Dallas Stars 27 4 10 99
Winnipeg Jets 20 10 8 88
Nashville Predators 23 4 10 87

Pacific Division


Separation would be more pronounced in the Pacific, but that's because several of the teams are collecting several points in overtime. Anaheim would go from having a four-point lead (two wins) over San Jose to a 12-point lead (four regulation wins). Los Angeles would go from 11 points back (six wins) to 19 points back (seven regulation wins).

But again, the emphasis would be placed upon winning regulation games. And while separation might increase in some instances, ground can be made up more quickly because regulation wins are worth more.

Team Regulation Win Overtime Win Overtime Loss Points
Anaheim Ducks 36 7 7 129
San Jose Sharks 28 13 7 117
Los Angeles Kings 28 10 6 110
Phoenix Coyotes 22 8 13 95
Vancouver Canucks 20 9 10 88
Calgary Flames 14 11 7 71
Edmonton Oilers 16 6 8 68

Why not make the switch?

Some make an argument about the historical integrity of the game and how franchise records for point totals would go out the window. While that's a nice thought, the record book is no reason to resist change, especially when the implementation of the shootout already decimated the record book years ago.


The implementation of the three-point system would neutralize the bad taste left by the shootout, because it wouldn't be as valuable as a regulation win. Clubs would alter their strategies accordingly, with a refined focus on winning regulation games, which could lead to fewer shootouts taking place. At the very least, an overtime loser's reward would be less than it is under the current system.

Why the league hasn't already adopted the three-point system is confusing to me, which makes me wonder if there is some kind of underlying factor I'm not accounting for. Initially, it seemed like separation in the standings might become too drastic, but after looking over the current standings, I don't think league-wide parity would be harmed much -- if at all -- by a switch.

The only thing that would change is an increased focus on regulation victories.