Kukla's Korner

Who’s Still In It?

I’ve often said that the Christmas break (or the days after Festivus, for you true believers) is the turning point in the NHL season. Before that time, teams still have a chance of making a come back. Come December 24-25, all teams are somewhere in the 30-35 games-played mark and large gaps in the standings become too much of a chore to overcome.

With that in mind, who’s still got hope? I used to say that .500 teams at Christmas are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. However, I’ve tweaked that a little bit this season because the log jams are so immense, especially in the Western Conference. Instead of being .500 (having the same amount of points as games played), I’ll change that to say that if your team is within two points of .500, you’re still in it.

Let’s look at the bubble teams with just a few hours to go before tonight’s games:

(Apologies for the semi-funky formatting…I still haven’t figured out how to do tables in the KK engine.)

Eastern Conference
Team       GP Pts
8. Buffalo 34 37
9. Carolina 34 37
10. Florida 32 34
11. Toronto 33 34
12. Ottawa 31 29
13. Atlanta 33 26
14. Tampa Bay 32 23
15. NY Islanders 33 23
* = Division Leader

Western Conference
Team       GP Pts
7. Phoenix 34 36
8. Nashville 32 35
9. Minnesota 32 34
10. Edmonton 32 33
11. Colorado 33 33
12. Columbus 33 32
13. Los Angeles 33 32
14. Dallas 32 31
15. St. Louis 33 29
* = Division Leader

What does this tell us? Well, you Senators fans that are asking Santa for a double-shot of Jack Daniels for Christmas, you might want to hold off. As tumultuous as the Senators season has been, they’re not quite out of it yet. Atlanta, Tampa Bay, the fun folks on Long Island…there’s this kid named John Tavares you might want to watch. I hear he’s playing in some sort of tournament right now.

Out west, just about every team is in it. St. Louis is out using this standard, but they’re too busy sorting out their players vs. coach fracas anyways, so they probably won’t notice. As for those Dallas Stars? Perhaps the exorcism of Sean Avery is what they need. That, and the fact that Marty Turco has started to play like a professional goalie again rather than a drunk beer leaguer. For the teams out west, the issue doesn’t become points as much as it is competition—with so many teams to leapfrog and so many three-point games, you’re never in full control of your destiny barring an undefeated run to the end of the season.

Usually, the playoff races start to really get traction and excitement come March. I think it’s safe to say that the real scratching and clawing begins now.

Oh, and one scary fact—at 55 points in 33 games, San Jose can go 22-26-1 and still get 100 points. The scarier fact is that the Sharks could finish the season with a bazillion points and no one would care unless the team gets to the Stanley Cup Final.

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

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