Adjusting standings for loser point

  1. Hunn
    It is well known that the loser point (first introduced in 1999-00 season) inflates the point total. Nowadays, the playoffs cut is usually well above 90 points, and multiple teams per season routinely get more than 100 points. The purpose of this post is to quantify the effect of loser point in order to compare team achievements from different seasons and eras.

    There are two ways of quantifying the loser point – "team-by-team" and "global" (uniform adjustment of the whole table).


    A team record can be adjusted by calculating the share of points the team won:

    Points taken / (Points taken + Points surrendered)

    Points taken: 2 for any win + 1 for every OT/SO loss,
    Points surrendered: 2 for any loss + 1 for every OT/SO win.

    Example: currently, the Islanders are on pace to 82 × 42 / 29 = 119 points; in 29 games they took 42 points (20 wins, 2 OT/SO losses) and surrendered 25 points (9 losses, 7 OT/SO wins); their adjusted point total is on pace to 103 points.


    Total amount of points available:

    Number of games per team × Number of teams + Total amount of loser points

    Total amount of loser points varies from season to season: 131 points on average from 1999-00 to 2003-04 and 289 points on average (not counting lockout-shortened 2012-13 season) since introduction of shootouts and elimination of ties.

    Adjusting coefficient:

    Number of games per team × Number of teams / Total amount of points available

    Last season there were 271 loser points; hence, the coefficient is 82 × 31 / (82 × 31 + 271) = 0.904.

    Example: the historical 2018-19 Tampa Bay season produced 128 points; adjusting it for the loser point gives 116 points.

    On average, the loser point inflates the point total by 5.4% for 1999-2004 and by 11.7% since 2005.

    While team-by-team approach is more fair, the global one is easier to calculate and it also does not alter the order of standings. Below are the best and worst seasons adjusted for the loser point globally and normalized to 82 games (points rounded to the nearest whole number).

    5 best seasons of all time:

    SeasonTeamPoints RealPoints Adjusted
    1929-30Boston Bruins77144
    1943-44Montreal Canadiens83136
    1976-77Montreal Canadiens132135
    1977-78Montreal Canadiens129131
    1944-45Montreal Canadiens80131
    5 worst seasons of all time:

    SeasonTeamPoints RealPoints Adjusted
    1929-30Pittsburgh Pirates1324
    1992-93Ottawa Senators2423
    1992-93San Jose Sharks2423
    1930-31Philadelphia Quakers1222
    1974-75Washington Capitals2122
    5 best seasons since 2005:

    SeasonTeamPoints RealPoints Adjusted
    2012-13Chicago Blackhawks77118
    2018-19Tampa Bay Lightning128116
    2005-06Detroit Red Wings124111
    2012-13Pittsburgh Penguins72111
    2015-16Washington Capitals120108
    5 worst seasons since 2005:

    SeasonTeamPoints RealPoints Adjusted
    2006-07Philadelphia Flyers5650
    2014-15Arizona Coyotes5650
    2014-15Buffalo Sabres5448
    2013-14Buffalo Sabres5246
    2016-17Colorado Avalanche4843
    Detroit is currently on pace for the worst season since 2005.

    Of course, the exercise above is purely academic – there were a lot of different things across seasons and eras, even the rules were different. However, it gives one some perspective about claims of historicity, "best season ever", etc.

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