Entries with the tag: standings
Only one team can win the Stanley Cup. Does that mean that the season is a failure for the other 29 teams? For teams like Chicago and Washington, the answer could be yes, though I’d say that making the final four teams could be argued as the measuring stick for a reasonably successful season. For the rest of the teams, I think fans have to consider the context of their expectations going into the season. Did you expect your team to vie for the Stanley Cup this season or were you just hoping they wouldn’t finish in the basement again?
For the latter, it’s important to temper mid-season frustrations with a little bit of realism. If rookies are having a good first season and the team is competing hard most nights, then a .500 record could be a major step forward—and anything else could just be a bonus. Let’s look at a few examples.
Just about every team has hit the halfway point (41 games) into this season, and while some teams are hitting all cylinders, there’s very little we can predict based on standings at this point. For a brief history lesson, let’s look at the 41-game records of the past five Stanley Cup champions:
With the turn of the calendar year nearly upon us, it’s time to look at the standings. I’ve always maintained that the first unofficial throw-in-the-towel marker is the end of December; basically, by my logic if you’re not hovering around .500 by this time, then it’s time to start looking at the draft lottery. Which is, of course, appropriate since the World Junior Championships are going on right now. Convenient, right?
So with that said, it’s good bye Columbus, see you later Edmonton, best wishes Carolina, nice hustle Islanders, and good try Toronto. I know, not exactly earth-shattering proclamations. Still, many hockey fans would probably still give Columbus and maybe even the Islanders and Leafs an outside chance.
How can we cross them off the list when they’re within a handful of points of a playoff spot? Here’s my reasoning.
Colorado wins the Stanley Cup! Detroit is the worst team ever! Alexander Ovechkin will score 200+ points!
Sweet Jebus, people, grab a pint of Newcastle and take a deep breath. The season’s less than a week old and it seems like everyone’s already making all sorts of weird proclamations about their team and/or players. The most absurd of these things had to be whether Ovechkin would break Gretzky’s scoring records this season (though the discussion of whether or not Craig Anderson would win the Hart comes in second); come on, guys, it’s only been a handful of games. There was a time in San Jose’s history when the line of Owen Nolan/Vincent Damphousse/Jeff Friesen had a combined dozen points or so in the first two games, but I don’t think Sharks fans had any delusions of Friesen scoring 150.
It’s not time to panic. It’s not time to claim a winner. Let’s just enjoy the early games, ok? In the meantime, I tend to look at December as the most critical month of the season. However, you can almost consider it like a three-strikes rule, with October, November, and December each being a potential strike—and three strikes and you’re out of the playoff picture.
Here’s a quick snapshot of how previous Cup finalists ended their season over the last five games:
2008 Detroit Red Wings: 3-1-1
2008 Pittsburgh Penguins: 3-1-1
2007 Anaheim Ducks: 3-0-2
2007 Ottawa Senators: 3-1-1
2006 Carolina Hurricanes: 1-2-2
2006 Edmonton Oilers: 3-2
2004 Tampa Bay Lightning: 3-1-1
2004 Calgary Flames: 3-2
What does this all mean? Not much. If you’re looking for patterns, the eventual Stanley Cup finalists aren’t destroying everyone when they make it into the post-season but they’re no slouches either. In short, despite tremendous seasons from the Sharks, Red Wings, and Bruins, this is going to be a wide-open field with strong teams making up 5-8 seeds.
Just a little while ago, I spent some blog space talking about how I could watch any game in the Western Conference right now because the races were so tight. Well today, I’m thinking that we’re quickly getting to the write-off point. I’ll give the Phoenix Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche five games to turn it around (“turn it around” = seven out of ten possible points or better).
For Colorado, I don’t think anyone’s that surprised. Suspect goaltending, injuries, a spotty defense, and an overall lack of depth generally amounts to bad news. However, the total collapse of the Coyotes is pretty remarkable. Right before the All-Star Game, the Yotes seemed to have their groove on and had a nice hold on sixth place. Losing half a dozen in a row can quickly destroy any sense of hope. The strange thing is that as Phoenix has gotten healthier, their play has gotten worse. When your top power play unit has Shane Doan, Olli Jokinen, Peter Mueller, Ed Jovanovski, and Derek Morris, it shouldn’t be anywhere near as bad as it has been lately.
With everything so jam-packed in the Western Conference, the number that seems to get overlooked until the last dozen or so games is that actual games-played stat. But when you convert the points into points-per-game, you get a little better look at what the separation between the fifth and 15th place team is. Here’s where teams really stand:
With all apologies to Florida, Carolina, and Pittsburgh, I find myself tuning into a Western Conference match up every night. In just a matter of days, the playoff race turns itself on its head. Coming off the All-Star break, Wayne Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes were sitting with a slim lead in fifth while the Dallas Stars were still begging to get in the dance.
And now? After handing fifth off to Columbus for a brief moment, both the Yotes and the Blue Jackets fell out of the playoffs while Dallas’ post-Sean Avery (don’t say it, don’t say it) sloppy seconds found motivation to get consistency and rocket into fifth. (Damn you, temptation).
There are about 30 games left for each team, but no one, even longshot St. Louis, can be totally counted out yet. A quick snapshot tells us a few things though:
I have a love-hate relationship with the goofy way NHL standings are calculated. While I think the “bonus loser point” takes away from the integrity of the game, it sure does make things interesting. In the West right now, teams 5 through 11 are separated by just two points. The East is a little more defined, though teams 7 through 10 are separated by three points.
The number of games played suddenly becomes the biggest ace in the hole and almost every game holds playoff implications. It’s still January and I can find something interesting to watch in just about every game (except yesterday’s Atlanta/Islanders matchup).
That being said, how would the standings look if they used the system I’ve constantly proposed (two points for a regulation/overtime win, one point for shootout win, no points for any type of loss)? Again, I think it has more integrity as it devalues the skills competition victories and doesn’t reward losing. Here’s how things would be under this system:
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:
Since we’re a little bit past the quarter point of the season, it’s time to do my semi-regular look at standings if the whole system was changed. The league’s system trumpets parity, and it’s definitely working in terms of keeping things interesting as technically only five teams are below .500. In the east, four teams are within four points of eight place and in the west, 9-15 are within six points of eighth.
Now, how do those records look when you make a loss of any kind just a loss? Before we get to the pure numbers, cue up R.E.M.‘s Stand and sing along to the tune:
If OTs were losses, teams would be falling
Listen to reason, reason is calling
Your point system keeps teams around
Shootouts lift bad teams off the ground
Standings in the place where you live
They go north
Think about wins and losses like we had them before
Ok, so we’re not REALLY looking at them like we had them before (no ties in this number crunching) but here’s a quick look at how bad some good teams suddenly become. Chicago, Montreal, I’m looking at you. And Tampa Bay? Those are numbers that rival the worst NBA team.
There’s been some debate, between a few of my posts and a few other things floating around the blogosphere, about the best way to assign points for wins, shootouts, overtime losses, etc. Well, regardless of what we’d like to see, we’re stuck with this current system. With that in mind, let’s break down the standings with a few different looks. First, here are the entire league standings using the traditional point system.
And here’s a different way to look at the standings. Since teams play a different amount of games, a snapshot of the league’s point distribution isn’t the most accurate way to judge how well teams are doing in relation to each other. This next table weighs things in points per game—that is, the total number of points earned in the standings divided by the number of games played (PPG).
I saw this headline from the boss this morning regarding the second-to-last-place Ottawa Senators but I’m not pushing the panic button yet on any team, not even the St. Louis Blues. Put it this way: ten years ago, if I told you your team was two games under .500 and three points out of a playoff spot, would you panic? Probably not, but because of the gradual increase of parity in the league over the past decade, that sort of record will put you in the cellar.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the traffic jam in front of a team with that record is closer than you think. So standings aren’t a reason to panic yet, not for Ottawa, St. Louis, Florida, or any other team finding them in the lower half of the leagues standings. What are genuine reasons to panic?
Just like every morning, I took a quick look at the standings to get a snapshot of where everything was at. Nothing terribly unusual except for some reason this morning, the OTL column just stuck out more than it really should have.
It just bugged me, and there’s no reason for it. Overtime losses have been part of the NHL’s fuzzy math for years now, but I think I’m just getting my annual “Getting a point for losing is stupid!” kick.
See, I don’t really mind the shootout that much. It’s entertaining to watch and the casual fans are into it. What really bugs me is giving the shootout as much emphasis as a game-winning goal in the dying seconds of the third period. What bugs me even more is giving the whole “Honorable Mention” point by being tied at the end of regulation. These are freakin’ professional athletes, not a bunch of t-ballers that get a trophy and a juice box regardless of the outcome.
And yet, upon further examination, while the principle of getting a point for losing in the shootout or OT is indeed bass-ackwards and stupid, the execution of it, I think, makes things much more interesting than they’d be otherwise. For better or worse, anyway.
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.