Dominic Tiano: Does the Loser Point Really Create Parity?

Editor’s note- Dominc Tiano is back with another piece for TSP. This time, he takes a look at the NHL’s current point system and how a modification might better reflect in the league standings. If any general managers are reading, we absolutely would welcome this idea being introduced at the summer GM meetings…just saying!


I have long been an opponent of the current point system used in hockey leagues around North America and have been a proponent of the 3-2-1-point system throughout that period. (3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an overtime or shootout win, and 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss).

There are some in hockey circles that have argued that the “loser point” adds to parity in the standings and makes an 82 game (in the NHL) schedule often come down to the wire. That is indeed fact over the last couple of seasons.

But what if I told you there is another point system in which the NHL and various pro leagues can keep the parity and the down to the wire finishes while actually giving teams that play to win in regulation the advantage? What if I told you it would create a more entertaining game as more and more teams would play to win in regulation?

Let’s call it the 3-2-1-0-point system.

How it breaks down is really quite simple: 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an overtime win, 1 point for a shootout win, and 0 points for any type of loss. In the end, making a regulation win more valuable than other wins in theory, should make coaches coach to win in regulation. Ditto for making them coach to win in overtime and not take the game to a shootout. It goes without saying, that making any loss worth nothing, they’d have to coach to win. At least in theory.

But how does a change in the point system effect the end of season races and the parity? Really, it doesn’t. A season ago, I broke down the season with my original 3-2-1-point system and found it had very little effect on the standings.

I took a look at the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference from a season ago and compared the 3-2-1-0-point system to the current system. While it did not have an effect at the top of the standings, it did make for a tighter race.

The Washington Capitals for instance, finished 16 points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins or 8 wins (of any kind) ahead in the Metropolitan Division. Under my proposed system, the Capitals would have finished 23 points ahead or 7.6 regulation wins behind.

However, the Atlantic Division paints a different picture. The Florida Panthers finished 6 points (3 wins of any type) ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. But under the proposed system, they would have finished just one point back (a shootout win). That would make the last game of the season worth something, wouldn’t it?

Where the greatest impact occurs is third place in the Atlantic Division, the wild card race, and the order of selection at the NHL draft.

The Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings finished in a deadlock with 93 points but the Wings took 3rd place because of the tie breaker while the Bruins missed out on the wild card and the playoffs. Under the proposed system, it would be the Bruins finishing in third place, but rather than the Wings being knocked out of the playoffs, they would finish in the second wild card spot, pushing the Philadelphia Flyers on the outside looking in.

The Bruins finished 3 points behind the Flyers, or 1.5 wins. The Wings did also. But under this system, the Bruins would finish 6 points, or 2 regulation wins, ahead of the Flyers and the Wings would finish 3 points ahead or 1 regulation win. There’s your parity and your race down to the wire in the last weekend of the regular season.

But the greatest changes occur in the bottom half of the standings as you can see below. Not only does it change the draft order, but it actually brings teams closer to the playoff picture as you can see by the New Jersey Devils, 12 points (6 wins) out of the playoffs to 9 points (3 regulation wins) out of the playoffs.

My tie breaking rules would be as follows:

1) Head to head matchup (using the current system for odd number of home games played)

2) Most regulation wins

3) Fewest losses

4) Goals for/goals against differential versus each other

5) Goals for/goals against differential overall

6) One game playoff

(Ed. note- Here’s what the Eastern Conference playoff seedings looked like last year, and then what it would have looked like under the 3-2-1 system. Food for thought, at least- let us know what you think)

2015-2016 season


Washington 82 56 18 8 120

Pittsburgh 82 48 26 8 104

Rangers 82 46 27 9 101


Florida 82 47 26 9 103

Tampa 82 46 31 5 97

Detroit 82 41 30 11 93


Islanders 82 45 27 10 100

Philadelphia 82 41 27 14 96


Boston 82 42 31 9 93

Carolina 82 35 31 16 86

Ottawa 82 38 35 9 85

New Jersey 82 38 36 8 84

Montreal 82 38 38 6 82

Buffalo 82 35 36 11 81

Columbus 82 34 40 8 76

Toronto 82 29 42 11 69


3-2-1-0 system


Washington 82 45 7 4 26 153

Pittsburgh 82 38 6 4 34 130

Rangers 82 39 4 3 36 128


Florida 82 39 1 7 35 126

Tampa 82 36 7 3 36 125

Boston 82 33 5 4 40 113


Islanders 82 34 6 5 37 119

Detroit 82 30 9 2 41 110


Philadelphia 82 28 10 3 41 107

New Jersey 82 27 9 2 44 101

Montreal 82 30 3 5 44 101

Buffalo 82 29 4 2 47 97

Ottawa 82 26 6 6 44 96

Carolina 82 25 8 2 47 93

Columbus 82 26 2 6 48 88

Toronto 82 20 3 6 53 72

2 thoughts on “Dominic Tiano: Does the Loser Point Really Create Parity?

  1. Dominic,
    This is something very similar to my thoughts regarding the awarding of points as well. Having played organized sports (including ice hockey) most of my life, it has driven me nuts that a team could be awarded any points in a losing effort…it is almost as though the “trophy” mentality is in effect when they decided on this format. This is an adult league and should have adult rules. You don’t win, you don’t get any points!
    Thank you for your contributions. I hope someone with some pull/influence reads this article.
    Merry Christmas!


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