Winning Percentage has always been one of the most basic and fundamental statistics in understanding a team’s regular season performance in Major League Baseball, the NFL, and the NBA.
However in hockey leagues, winning percentage has never been used because the NHL, (and all hockey leagues I know of), use a point-system to produce their standings. For the majority of hockey history this point-method accurately ranked the teams in accordance with their winning percentage anyways.
Prior to the introduction of the OTL result (overtime losses), hockey teams win-loss records were very simple. There were only 3 possible results.
Traditional Single-Game Result Possibilities
WIN= 2 POINTS in the standings- (regardless of whether win occurred in OT or regulation)
TIE= 1 Point for a tie game
LOSS= 0 Points- (regardless of whether the loss occurred in OT or regulation)
The need to calculate winning percentage in the standings did not exist because the NHL’s Point System accurately quantified the on-ice results. In other words, the standings were always identical using the NHL Point-system as they would have been if the standings were theoretically arranged by winning percentage.
However, beginning with the introduction of the OTL result in 1999/00, the accurate correlation between NHL Points and winning percentage was undone. No longer would the Points also be an accurate reflection of the teams’ winning percentages.
Two new single-game results now existed that were not possible beforehand:
1. A team could now LOSE a game and still achieve 1 Point in the standings.
2. A team could now WIN a game, yet their opponent still achieved 1 Point in the standings.
Over the past 18 seasons, the NHL’s standings have not quantified single-game results with nearly enough accuracy.
*An Aside Regarding Shootouts…
It’s important to note that in a lot of fans’ minds and certainly in absolute fact as well, winning/ losing a game in a shootout is a very different result than winning or losing during true hockey play.
A strong argument can be made that the ‘shootout win’, should be worth less than it currently is, and could be quantified more accurately in the standings. However, I will cover this topic in a future article, and focus on the most problematic issues for now.
Beginning in 1999/00, the NHL went from having 3 possible outcomes in any given game, to having 5 possible results.
(It’s imperative to understand that the standings- and all possible achievements like qualifying for the playoffs, winning a Division Title, winning the President’s Trophy, etc.- are all awarded based on Points.)
Modern Single-Game Result Possibilities
1. REGULATION WIN
‘Team A’ gets 2 Points. ‘Team B’ gets 0 Points.
‘Team A’ receives 100% of the points awarded for the game.
2. REGULATION LOSS
‘Team A’ gets 0 Points. ‘Team B’ gets 2 Points.
‘Team A’ receives 0% of the points awarded for the game.
3. TIE - (*Ties no longer exist beginning with 2005/06 season)
‘Team A’ gets 1 Point. ‘Team B’ gets 1 Point.
‘Team A’ receives 50% of the points awarded for the game.
4. OVERTIME/ SHOOTOUT LOSS (OTL)
‘Team A’ gets 1 Point. ‘Team B’ gets 2 Points.
‘Team A’ receives 33.33% of the points awarded for the game.
5. OVERTIME/ SHOOTOUT WIN*- (*has never been tracked by the NHL)
‘Team A’ gets 2 Points. ‘Team B’ gets 1 Point.
‘Team A’ receives 66.66% of the points awarded from the game.