The Inescapable Flaw in the NHL's Standings

CH. 2- Detailed Explanation of the Flaws in the NHL Standings


The most concering problem with the current format is that Regulation Wins and Overtime Wins are lumped into the same category in teams’ win-loss records.  They are both filed under ‘Wins’.

However winning a game in regulation, in which the winner receives 100% of the points awarded for that game, is a very different performance result than a win in Overtime/Shootout.  An overtime win nets the winner 2 of 3 points awarded for that game (66.66%), however they concede a point to their opponent.

Another way to think about this problem, is that in a standings format where ‘Points’ are paramount, its not only important to consider the points a team earns, but it’s also important to factor in the points a team concedes.  In summary, a win in which a team concedes 1 point to their opponent cannot be worth the same as a win where their opponent walks away empty-handed.

One more way to wrap your head around this is the following- a loss in regulation is a true defeat, whereas an overtime loss is equivalent to 33.33% of a win- (get 1 of 3 points awarded), and furthermore, earns you 50% of the points a win does.  



Over the years I have had dozens of conversations with hockey fans that express frustration with teams’ records.  Right from the start I personally despised the change made in 1999.  It’s almost impossible to decipher how good a team is from their win-loss record under the current format.

·  Regulation wins and Overtime wins are lumped together, when they are clearly different results, as proven above.

·  OTLs appear in teams’ records where Ties used to appear, so at a glance of the NHL standings, it looks like 80% of the League has a winning record.

·  In general, OTLs are confusing for most fans.  They aren’t as bad as a Loss, but they aren’t as good as a Tie. The NHL did away with ties because they left fans with an ‘empty feeling’.  I don’t personally understand how a 1-PT Overtime Loss is more ‘fulfilling’ than the traditional tie.


The NHL has made an absolute mess of their teams records.  It’s basically undecipherable from a quick glance. I had to do a ton of research just to compile how many overtime/ shootouts wins each team had accumulated on a season-by-season basis.  Before True Champion Sports existed, this information was not available; and yet it should be basic information given the current format.



There’s an inherent problem with having Overtime games worth more than regulation games.  With some games being worth 2 points, and others being worth 3 points, it creates a situation where coaches/players are aware that playing in overtime games is beneficial regardless of the result.  In general, it would be a wise strategy for NHL teams to try to get into OT as often as possible. Here’s an example to illustrate:

Let’s say hypothetically the upcoming expansion team (Vegas) played this past season and posted a record of 0-0-82.  This team would have gone winless for the entire season- an unprecedented failure in pro sports- yet they would have finished tied for 19th out of 31 NHL teams. 

The NHL did away with Ties for 2 main reasons- there were too many ties occurring in their opinion and they thought most of their American fanbase felt ties were boring/ emotionally confusing.

However, now a situation exists where more games than ever are going into overtime.  The incentive isn’t there to go for a win in the last 5 minutes of regulation when tied.  The ‘boredom’ of ties has been replaced with the ‘boredom’ of so many games going to overtime.  Granted overtime/ shootouts are very exciting, but that often comes at the cost of both teams playing a very conservative, dull 3rd period.

I’ve crunched the numbers and since 1999/00 each team plays an average of 18.8 overtime games per season. That’s 22.9% of their games.  Approximately 1 in every 4 NHL games is a 3-point-game, and that’s why the point totals have become so inflated in recent years.


Illustrating the Compromised Integrity of the Standings

In the 2014/15 season the Los Angeles Kings missed the playoffs.  They were the League’s defending Stanley Cup Champion, and had won 2 of the past 3 Stanley Cups; and furthermore, had been to the Western Conference Finals 3 straight times.  In short, they were in the midst of a real dynasty.

They missed the playoffs with 95 points, while the Jets and Flames both qualified with 99 and 97 points respectively.

However, the Kings had a better winning percentage than both of these teams.  If quantified accurately, it’s clear that they achieved a more successful season than either Winnipeg or Calgary- and should have been ahead of both of them in the standings!


KINGS-  40 Total Wins. (3 occur in OT/SO)           95 points            .537 Win% 

JETS-   43 Total Wins. (11 occur in OT/SO)          99 points            .533 Win% 

FLAMES-  45 Total Wins. (13 occur in OT/SO)       97 points           .524 Win%

The Los Angeles Kings were deprived a chance to defend their Championship and add to their dynasty-run because the standings are not quantifying single-game results accurately enough.


Big Picture

Despite whatever profits and record growth the NHL reports, it seems pretty clear to me that hockey has fallen well behind football, basketball, and baseball in the North American sports landscape compared to where it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

 Sports in general has boomed over the last 30 years-  and the main reasons have to do with the introduction of mainstream internet (around the year 2000), smartphones, fantasy sports, real-time updates, streaming options, specialized cable packages, social media connecting everything together, Twitter, etc.  

When compared to the other Leagues amongst the ‘Big 4 Team Sports’, over the course of my life, I’ve seen hockey decline in popularity and mainstream relevance.  I believe a good chunk of that has to do with how convoluted and inaccurate the quantifying of single-game results has become.

National Hockey League, please get in touch with me.  Let me solve these integral problems for you and assist you in making hockey great again.

Sports Education