Kukla's Korner

Trends, Not Points

Oh, those coaching rumors. They’ll never stop, not even this early in the season. Start the season with a losing streak and everyone wants heads to roll, even though—as San Jose coach Todd McLellan pointed out about their win streak—streaks happen at all points during the season. The concern is how often the losing streaks happen over an extended period of time.

That being said, as we gear up for a day where every NHL team hits the ice, a look at the standings might be concerning depending on how you chop the numbers up. Once you put things in proper context, though, you realize that only a handful of teams really have to be worried so far.

It’s all about trends, not points right now. If you have more points than every team but you’ve also played more games than every team, that’s not exactly a fair evaluation—it’s like a political poll where the sample size consists mostly of one party. Similarly, if you’re a bottom dweller but you’ve played less games than everyone, don’t stress yet.

One thing to note right now as we take our pre-Super Saturday snapshot is that 17 teams have between eight points and four points. If I told you six months from now that just four points separated the haves and the have-nots, that’d put this whole thing under a different context, right? So even the bottom-feeding New York Islanders (2-4) shouldn’t be panicking yet, and those wacky media folks in Toronto can stop the “Kill Ron Wilson” bandwagon (2-2-3) for at least now.

When I talk about trends, I talk about how teams react in different circumstances. For example, early on, the Maple Leafs have shown that they can’t score a lot of goals but at least they work hard. That’s a good trend, and it shows that even though they probably won’t wind up with a playoff-worthy record, they’ll at least be respectable. More importantly, it shows that they’re building towards something.

At the same time, you can look at Anaheim’s early pattern of squandering leads or panicking under pressure. Those are things that can be rectified but they’ll become amplified as the season goes on.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning are only technically one point under .500 (thanks, screwy shootout system), they’ve only got 11 goals in six games. Ugly, ugly, ugly. With the talent that roster has, they should easily be pumping in at least half-a-goal better statistically per game. Of course, you gotta get the puck out of your own zone before you can generate any offense, and perhaps that’s the problem.

The Dallas Stars, a pre-season Cup favorite and a consistent defensive behemoth, is tied for the league lead in goals-against. They’re technically just slightly better than the Philadelphia Flyers because the Stars have played one fewer game but ugly numbers for Marty Turco early on have to be a concern. Of course, the Stars are without top defenseman Sergei Zubov, and that produces a trickle-down effect on just about everything.

Some of these trends can be corrected through coaching and practice. In some cases, a critical injury can dig a hole that might eventually be insurmountable. It’s definitely not panic time yet, but if you see things in your favorite team that currently give you heartburn, pay extra close attention to those specifics over the next five games or so. If it gets better, you can breath a little easier. If it gets worse, it might be time to play the blame game.

Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: standings

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