When ties were eliminated from the NHL by the introduction of the shootout in regular season play, the NHL assured their fan base that this would increase scoring, and any game going to a shootout would have heightened tension due to the skills competition. Then this past summer, the NHL implemented another change: 3on3 OT preceding the skills competition, in an effort to limit the amount of games ending in a shootout. While this worked to an extent, there are still several problems with this method. First, when teams are tied late in the third they generally play for overtime knowing they can pocket a point making for a less than stellar final few minutes of regulation. Second, only some regular season games give out three points in the standings, while regulation wins only give two, meaning there’s less incentive to actually finishing the game in regulation as overtime wins count the same in the end. Finally, scoring has plateaued in the NHL, and I have a way to remedy this: regulation wins during the regular season should be worth three points.
Now before hockey purists go off on their usual tangent about changing the game too much, I think one can make the point that that argument went out the window with the implementation of 3on3 overtime. Why are only some games worth three points while others are only worth two? Shouldn’t every game played be worth the same amount in the standings? This incentive for finishing the game in regulation by awarding another point could greatly influence teams to take runs at each other in regulation, especially teams in playoff races, as that extra point can make all the difference. When divisional foes face off, that third point becomes all the more important because it turns into a six point swing, and teams are less likely to hand a point over to a foe so that they may settle this game in overtime.
Recalculating last year’s standings in the western conference with the three point regulation wins, there are no changes to seeding of the playoff teams. Every team would still finish where they did with the two point wins. That being said, a couple inferences could be made as to how things would be different. First, organizations in the hunt for a playoff spot are much more likely to push for regulation wins in order to gain ground or cushion leads in their respective races, improving goal scoring in regulation. Secondly, and most importantly, there would be far fewer games ending in the shootout. Around the league players are warming to the shootout but still consider it an inadequate way of deciding a winner. It’s exciting for the fans, however goals in regulation are still far more exciting and satisfying. Especially so for fantasy owners. Finally, the NHL has been trying to increase scoring across the league since the clutch-and-grab era ended. Giving the teams real incentive for trying to end the games in regulation can only help scoring, as they look to avoid overtime to earn themselves that newly coveted third point. Across the league more games end in regulation, scoring is up and the NHL is more exciting because of it. Everybody wins, and most importantly the fans do.