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Stanley Cup Final Prediction

It is time to complete my playoff predictions today by looking at the Stanley Cup finals.  Here are my first round predictions, here are my second round predictions and here are my semi-final predictions.  These predictions haven`t gone well.  I have a 5-9 record, which is worse than a random coin toss should be able to do.  I see that as a success in Gary Bettman`s aims for the NHL.  One thing Bettman wants is parity.  Essentially this means that no team is better than any other.  There are no best teams.  Anyone can wind up in the Stanley Cup finals.  It can be an eighth seed versus a sixth seed.  Neither of those teams is particularly memorable but they will give us a Stanley Cup final.  It may be the worst Stanley Cup final in terms of the talent playing in it - its major competition here is 2006 when Carolina and Edmonton met in the finals.  Those two teams have only been good enough for one playoff berth since that year.  The fans do not get a memorable Stanley Cup final.  They are cheated by the NHL system.  Their prize is a potential shutdown of the league for the beginning of next year.

Onto the prediction.  First I predict a forgettable final.  Ten years down the road many hockey fans will struggle to remember who played in it.  Second I predict:

Los Angeles defeat New Jersey   Neither of these teams is a traditional Stanley Cup winner.  Neither excelled in the regular season.  Los Angeles does have a top goalie in Jonathan Quick.  New Jersey has a legend in goal in Martin Brodeur who is no longer at the top of his career.  I argue Brodeur was the worst goalie to make it out of the first round (the strongest argument might by Ilya Bryzgalov who has outplayed Brodeur in the last few seasons).  It would be a great story if Brodeur wins the Stanley Cup and retires.  It would really help in building the Brodeur legend - even though he is no longer an elite goalie.  Los Angeles has the best defenceman in the series in Drew Doughty.  New Jersey lacks a defenceman of an elite talent.  At forward there is less of a clear advantage for either team.  New Jersey had the better offence in the regular season but Los Angeles is significantly improved with the additional depth of Jeff Carter, which has allowed extra freedom to the other King forwards.  Los Angeles should win but they are far from the best team in the league.

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Comments

Nathan's avatar

I disagree about talent level as it pertains to the Kings. Adding Jeff Carter was a big talent upgrade late in the season. Certainly any team can get hot over a relatively small sample size, so how the Kings perform next season will be telling. But they certainly have three very talented centers, a couple of other talented guys that can play center or wing, and a top four on D that looks as good as any if Voynov doesn’t have a sophmore slump. That might be a lot of ifs, but the point is they played there way in, have quite literally dominated every team they’ve played in the playoffs, and hey, every team starts somewhere.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 05/29/12 at 05:17 PM ET

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Not the best team eh? What makes the best team? 12-2 run to the finals, making the pres trophy winners, the 2nd best team in the west, and one of the best goalies this year in the league look just ordinary is no big deal I guess. If the regular season started at the trade deadline, Kings would be the president trophy winners. I guess total points best team Vancouver who have been golfing for over a month now are the best.

Posted by jmiller on 05/29/12 at 06:34 PM ET

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Well, you admitted yourself that you have been terrible at predicting this year’s playoffs. So, you predicting that the SCF will be “forgettable” is pretty much is par for the course. Sounds like you have been playing golf with the ‘Nucks and not watching any of the games.

Posted by Mr. Simpson on 05/29/12 at 06:55 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

you admitted yourself that you have been terrible at predicting this year’s playoffs.

I did no such thing.  What I did do is observe that the Stanley Cup playoffs have become an affair where anybody can win.  There is no real favored team.  The Stanley Cup playoffs is a series of long involved dramatic coin tosses.  Nobody can predict it in any meaningful way.  The best team is essentially as good as the worst team that makes the playoffs.  Any of them can win.  In the end the fans lose because they never see any elite teams anymore.  And that is why I can safely predict the finals are forgettable.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/29/12 at 07:26 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

First I predict a forgettable final.

I predict this blog post will be forgettable.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/29/12 at 07:38 PM ET

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I’m sorry, my bad. Your 5-9 record spoke for you. I really dont get your coin toss analogy though. That is saying each team is equal and it is all luck that will provide a winner. Go ahead and toss a coin 14 times and let me know if it lands on heads or tails 12 out of the 14 times.

Posted by Mr. Simpson on 05/29/12 at 07:57 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Going 12 for 14 or better with a fair coin is a rare event.  It should happen around than 1 in 150 times.  With 16 teams in the playoffs it is a once in 9 or 10 year event if all playoff teams are equal.  Though that is rare its not impossible.  When an 8th seed does it, it is easy to imagine there was a big bit of luck involved.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/29/12 at 08:06 PM ET

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And that is why I can safely predict the finals are forgettable.

Because there’s no way that two teams could ever have a good final unless they are both elite, right?

When an 8th seed does it, it is easy to imagine there was a big bit of luck involved.

Exactly.

Unless, you know, we’re talking about real life rather than a stats sheet.

I guess the Kings were lucky to have faced the three top seeds in the conference, rather than having to face the gruelling challenge of facing the 5, 6 and 7 seeds.

And lucky that they outplayed each of those three teams.

Luckier still that they outplayed each of those teams by enough of a margin that none of them beat the Kings more than once.

Lucky bastards.

Posted by Garth on 05/29/12 at 08:17 PM ET

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*facepalm*

Posted by Mr. Simpson on 05/29/12 at 08:22 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Yes the Kings were lucky.  They were lucky in part that the 1, 2 and 3 seeds were not particularly good teams.  They were not much better than the lower seeds.  St Louis missed the playoffs with essentially the same roster last year.  Phoenix was the number three seed and they finished 2 points ahead of the number eight seed.  Vancouver may have been the only team LA faced that has a legitimate recent record of success.

In a league where no team is particularly better than any other, the winner is by definition lucky.  The winner could just as easily be the lucky New Jersey Devils or the lucky Los Angeles Kings.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/29/12 at 08:22 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

It must be really hard to see the puck from such a high angle. Is there any detail?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/29/12 at 09:55 PM ET

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They were not much better than the lower seeds.

That’s not luck.

In a league where no team is particularly better than any other, the winner is by definition lucky.

Actually, it’s not.  Luck would mean that the Kings won because of things that were out of their control.  The only luck they had was that they haven’t had any injuries to deal with (beyond not having Simon Gagne at all).

They’ve legitimately outplayed their opponents.

Seeding isn’t luck because if, as you say, the higher seeds weren’t much better than the lower seeds, then the Kings could’ve had ANY seeding and had a legitimate chance to beat their opponents.

They beat the team that went to the finals last year.  They beat what might have been the best coached team in the league.  And they beat a solid defensive team that got better goaltending than they had last year.

If they were winning because of luck then they wouldn’t have been so dominant.  Luck wins you one game, it doesn’t win you 4 out of 7.  Three times. 

You don’t dominate three teams because of luck, you dominate three teams because you play better than those teams.

Posted by Garth on 05/29/12 at 10:01 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Garth

I dont think you understand what I mean when I say luck.  If the playoffs were restarted we would likely see different results.  Different teams would dominate than the ones we see on this run.  If they could be repeated an infinite number of times we could see a wide range in potential outcomes.  The fact that the one in question occurred and not another one is essentially random.  Thus I call it luck.

If every team is essentially equal then any team winning is lucky.  Los Angeles has had a good run and it may be a lucky run.  They certainly are not a remarkable regular season team.  They have played better with the addition of Jeff Carter.  However the idea that a team which barely slips into the playoffs as 8th seed is suddenly the best team in the league by adding the player who is their 7th highest playoff scorer is a little hard to swallow.  A counter idea is that one out of every 9 or 10 playoff years a team should win 12 of their first 14 games merely by chance in a balanced league.  I think there is a lot of merit to the idea that this season is that chance season.  One strong piece of confirming evidence of that theory would be New Jersey pushing the Kings to more games than any other team in the playoffs has so far (however in that things are random there is always a chance that it does not work out that way).  The most likely piece of confirming evidence we will see is that this “dominant” LA team, if they win the cup, goes on to have a nothing special season next year.  That would show that this was just a lucky run that came at the right time.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/29/12 at 10:38 PM ET

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If the playoffs were restarted we would likely see different results.

You’re absolutely right, but this year isn’t some strange anomoly.  What you say is true of every year.  The Canucks made the Finals last year, but if you replayed the first round again there’s as good a chance of them losing to the Blackhawks as there is of them sweeping the Blackhawks.

If every team is essentially equal then any team winning is lucky.

But they’re not equal.

You could have 16 teams make the playoffs with the exact same number of points, but that doesn’t make them “equal”.

That would show that this was just a lucky run that came at the right time.

Fine, that MIGHT happen and IF it does then MAYBE you can chalk up four straight series wins in 2012 to “luck”, but by the same logic if the Kings improve next year on their regular season by even one point, then your entire argument goes out the window, because it shows that their playoff run this year was not luck.

Unfortunately, the other problem with you “confirming evidence” is that, for it to hold any water at all, every single condition of this past season will have to be replicated.  Every team will have to stay exactly the same and the schedule would have be identical because any single personnel change to any team will change the variables.

So yeah, if you can find a way to replicate the entire 82-game schedule of the 2011-2012 season and come up with a different result then I might buy your that the Kings are just “lucky”.

Posted by Garth on 05/29/12 at 11:44 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

This year isn’t a strange anomaly.  It is a trend.  There are no elite teams in the league.  There haven’t been any for years.  The difference between the best and worst teams in the playoffs is getting smaller and smaller.  That is what parity means. 

It is more and more common for teams that are clearly not the best in the league to be the teams that get to the Stanley Cup finals.  The limit - which we are approaching - is that nobody is significantly better than anyone else.  Thus the winner, whoever it may be, is lucky to be the winner because they are not better than the other teams in any meaningful way.

So yeah, if you can find a way to replicate the entire 82-game schedule of the 2011-2012 season and come up with a different result then I might buy your that the Kings are just “lucky”.  

This is a stupid statement.  It basically says there is no way whatsoever to determine if somebody is lucky.  That is a conclusion that is obviously false - if you have ever seen something and figured it was lucky you contradict your premise. 

The strongest logical way to show luck (or randomness) in this type of situation is to compare results to those that would be produced by a simple experiment.  If the results we see are similar to that which we would predict from that statistical distribution (perhaps only in certan limits) then we see that the statistical distribution is as good a predictor as reality.  The specific result in that statistical distribution is just a chance result.  It is luck.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/29/12 at 11:56 PM ET

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It basically says there is no way whatsoever to determine if somebody is lucky. 

No it doesn’t.  Not at all.

What is says is that you’re basing the Kings’ “luck” on things that have nothing to do with luck.

They were lucky that the top seeds weren’t much better than the bottom seeds?  No, they were good enough that the fact they were an 8th seed wasn’t a huge hindrance to them.  That isn’t luck.  The Kings still had to beat the three top seeds.

Hard work isn’t luck.

Good defense isn’t luck.

Secondary scoring isn’t luck.

The strongest logical way to show luck (or randomness) in this type of situation is to compare results to those that would be produced by a simple experiment.  If the results we see are similar to that which we would predict from that statistical distribution (perhaps only in certan limits) then we see that the statistical distribution is as good a predictor as reality.  The specific result in that statistical distribution is just a chance result.  It is luck.

This is all well and good except that you haven’t run any experiments to prove that the Kings are just lucky..  All you’ve done is decided that the Kings were lucky without any

Again, the fact that there is no great disparity between the 1st and 8th seeds in the West isn’t luck.

You keep saying they were lucky but have absolutely nothing to back that up.

Posted by Garth on 05/30/12 at 11:02 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Garth

The fact that a team can be 8th seed.  Add their 7th highest scorer in a tradse and suddenly be the dominant team in the league as we have seen form Los Angeles is not sensible.  It is better explained by randomness.

You seem not to like the word luck as it implies that LA did not play good hockey.  They did.  That said I chose that word because their result right now is best explained as a random result in a league where there is little difference in the quality of one team and the next.  In that kind of a distribution somebody wins but that somebody wins largely because of random unrepeatable events.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/30/12 at 02:01 PM ET

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