This morning I heard an interesting question posed on XM Homeice: What is the trend for teams coming out of the All Star Game Break (ASGB) in terms of playing better or worse?
The hypothesis would seem to point to an answer that teams play better after the break based on the extra rest all but a few of the players received during the break period. With that as our going-in theory, we measured post-Lockout performance of teams in terms of average points per game (PPG) for both the two weeks before and the two weeks after the four ASGBs played prior to this season’s. Measuring overall, by conference, playoff teams and Stanley Cup finalists, below is what we found, led by the numbers.
The NHL As A Whole
There have been five ASGBs since the Lockout. Since we do not have the data for the two weeks after the break for this year, we analyzed teams for the 2007. 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons. (There was no All Star game in 2006 or 2010 as the Olympics replaced that game.)
The Average PPG for the two weeks prior to the ASGB is 1.099.
The Average PPG for the two weeks after the ASGB is 1.098.
The Average Difference is, you guessed it, -0.001, a relative wash.
And the trend is for 57 teams to improve, 57 teams to take a step backwards and 6 teams had no change between the before and after periods. You might stop here and say the ASGB has no effect upon teams, then.
There is a variance between before and after the ASGB, difference between before and after and trends between the two conferences.
Back East, here are the four figures:
PPG Average Before the ASGB 1.094
PPG Average After the ASGB 1.070
PPG Average Difference -0.024
PPG Trend is 23 improve, 33 decline, and 4 remaining unchanged. There are also four Eastern Conference teams (BUF, NYI, PIT and TOR) with a positive PPG trend following the ASGB with one, TOR, who has had a positive trend all four times. MTL and TBL, both of whom need to pick up their game measurably, have declined in PPG after the ASGB all four seasons of this study.
So as a whole, the Eastern Conference is below the NHL average all the way around and tends to win less following the ASGB.
Figures out West are:
PPG Average Before the ASGB 1.111
PPG Average After the ASGB 1.146
PPG Average Difference 0.035
The PPG Trend is 34 improve, 24 decline, and 2 remained unchanged.
For this analysis, the Western Conference out-performs the NHL average and tends to win more after the ASGB than before it when compared to Eastern Conference averages. There are nine Western Conference teams (ANA, CHI, DAL, LAK, MIN, NSH, PHX, STL and VAN) holding a positive PPG trend following the ASGB with ANA and MIN earning the perfect positive trend for all four, previous ASGB seasons. Only CGY has declined in PPG after the ASGB all four seasons out West.
We would be remiss if we did not put some analytical thought to the averages for teams that do and do not make the playoffs in ASGB seasons. So here we go:
The Hi PPG Average before the ASGB is 1.750
The Lo PPG Average before the ASGB is 0.167
The Average PPG before the ASGB is 1.206
The Hi PPG average after the ASGB is 2.0
The Lo PPG average after the ASGB is 0.0
The Average PPG after the ASGB is 1.207
The Average PPG difference is 0.001, or relatively unchanged between the two periods. This gives credence to the theory Playoff teams are relatively consistent winners throughout the season.
But what about the two Stanley Cup Finalists each year?
The Hi PPG average before the ASGB is 1.714
The Lo PPG average before the ASGB is 0.857
Average PPG before the ASGB is 1.178
The Hi PPG average after the ASGB is 1.286
The Lo PPG average after the ASGB is 1.167
Average PPG after the ASGB is 1.242
Average PPG difference is 0.064. The conclusion drawn here between mere Playoff makers and finalists is a rather simple one: Stanley Cup Finalist teams tend to out-perform the average going-to-the-Playoffs team in the two weeks following the ASGB. It may not be a ‘Moneyball’ moment, but can stand as an indicator as we travel two more weeks down the road.
The overall NHL Average PPG does not provide an indicator as to whether or not the NHL as a whole plays better after the ASGB than before it.
The Western Conference is the stronger conference in terms of PPG both before and after the ASGB, but more so after the five-day halt. More teams in the Western Conference should increase their PPG over the next two weeks.
And finally, Playoff teams may have a maximum (2.000) or minimum (0.000) PPG in the next two weeks, but none of those teams are likely one of the two Stanley Cup Finalists. You are instead looking for teams that win between 1-in-2 and 3-in-4 games in the next 14 days as your indicator.
Here at OGA, we are all about the references we can run down. Here is one for fans we want to share from recent blog research.
Below find flying mile distances from team arena to team arena. The web page reference is Sport Map World (http://www.sportmapworld.com/map/ice-hockey/north-america/nhl/) which will also give you distance in kilometers and driving distance on the map.
Our graphics below are air miles between arenas. Here are some notes:
1. Teams are organized in the Conference organization under the December Realignment plan.
2. Under each vertical column, teams listed in green are the closest and red are the farthest away.
3. Teams in italics are within driving distance. (This is ANA-LAK and NJD-NYI-NYR.)
4. Totals distances in each conference are at the bottom of vertical columns in gray.
5. Blocks in green with white lettering indicate the shortest distance between two arenas. Blocks in red with white lettering indicate the longest distance between two arenas.
6. The ‘Adj’ line is a line adjusted for 100 miles in and around of driving to and from airports, hotels and facilities.
While January 6, 2011 is not a date which will live in infamy, it nonetheless is one which angered many fans of the game of Hockey. And since Hockey is combat and Hockey fans are the Clausewitzian Center of Gravity (“…the source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act…”) in the NHL (through ticketing, merchandising, parking, concessions and sometimes, taxes), we do not want an impasse to ensue over Realignment and the CBA process.
Did you hear that NHL and NHLPA? Hockey is not the NFL and NBA.
That said this blog serves to debunk some of the excuse for the NHLPA not consenting to Realignment. First will be the words, some data in explanations and a win-loss call on points stated.
The NHLPA Statement In Part
“…In order to evaluate the effect on travel of the proposed new structure, we requested a draft or sample 2012-13 schedule, showing travel per team. We were advised it was not possible for the League to do that. We also suggested reaching an agreement on scheduling conditions to somewhat alleviate Player travel concerns… but the League did not want to enter into such a dialogue. The travel estimation data we received from the League indicates that many of the current Pacific and Central teams… could see their travel become even more difficult….”
Going point-by-point makes this argument interesting.
1. A requested, draft schedule was not provided by the League to the NHLPA. We laymen out here do not know if the League can gin up a draft schedule between the announcement of Realignment on 5 December and the 6 January deadline for NHLPA ratification of the process. But since we are talking just a draft, you can see two of them that were done in a matter of days, not weeks, on the OGA Blog “The 2012-13 NHL Realignment Schedule…” by one of our contributors. NHLPA 1-0, the League 0-1.
2. Discussions on an agreement on scheduling conditions were not entered into by the League with the NHLPA. Why not? I would assume since the two organizations are partners, once the Board of Governors had agreed by a huge margin to the change and media accounts indicate huge support from the NHL’s Center of Gravity, that, while somewhat behind the popularity 8 Ball, the next step would have to be discussion with between the League and NHLPA. Did they refuse to discuss it, or was it simply not discussed to the satisfaction of the NHLPA? We fans out here do not know, so let’s call this one a pre-Lockout tie. NHLPA 1-0-1, The League 0-1-1.
3. And increased travel for the old Pacific (Conference A) and Central (Conference B) teams? Yes, Conference A would travel more, to include coast-to-coast hops for VAN, SJS, ANA and LAK. Travel under this system is going to increase for all. But do estimates show that Conference B would also have a more strenuous schedule? Actually, if you do the worst-case math where every game away is a one-game road trip, Conference B is the best one to be in if fatigue is measured in straight-line air miles. Here is the worse-case, average, total miles per team in terms of air miles between arenas:
Conference A – 114,541
Conference B – 35,550.1
Conference C – 38,732.9
Conference D – 37,101.5
Here are the total, worse-case scenario numbers:
What? Those numbers are HUGELY disadvantageous to Conference A! Is 3.22 times more travel than Conference B fair at all? If you use the actual estimate for 2011-12 (see On the Forecheck’s work at http://www.ontheforecheck.com/2011/6/23/2240779/nhl-travel-miles-by-team-super-schedule), the worst mileage incurred is 55,591 for Los Angeles. San Jose was worst in 2010-11 with 56,254. So Conference A teams are supposed to suffer twice the travel burden?
No. In actuality, a draft schedule does not come out to be close to the worse-case scenario. Again, you may not agree with the methodology of playing lots of pairs and triples on the road as in the blog mentioned above, but as a draft scenario, it is illustrative. Looking at Conference A teams who have the most road miles to log, the highest total was for Vancouver at 67,162.8 air miles. That’s a 19.39% increase in travel from the San Jose max in 2011-12. The per-team average for Conference A is 60,007 miles, or about 52.45% of the all-one-game-road-trips worst case scenario. Again, this is days, not weeks of analysis. (Due in part to such great references as Sport Map World at http://www.sportmapworld.com/map/ice-hockey/north-america/nhl/.) Could the League have provided this to the NHLPA? Or maybe an even better question is could or did the NHLPA, do the estimating themselves? Since the League could have, and the NHLPA should have, this is a loss for both sides in my book. NHLPA 1-1-1, the League 0-2-1.
Bill Daly’s Statement In Part
“…We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the Plan with no success. Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format for next season….”
I also heard The Deputy Commissioner being interviewed on XM Homeice the day after the decision was made. To the question about a request for draft schedules, he said there were several letters that went back and forth between the League and the NHLPA reference scheduling. When the NHLPA said they would even take a draft schedule irrespective of building (arena) availability, Mr. Daly said, ‘…We don’t have that….’
We did indeed passed the League’s deadline for beginning the scheduling process which would allow them to engage in the normal procedure required to produce a schedule all buildings and their tenant teams could live with. While not questioning the Deputy Commissioner’s statement, the operative word here is ‘normal.’ The NHLPA was not asking for a normally-processed, draft schedule and conceded to one that apparently would simply make their arguments about increased travel miles incurred. To say the League doesn’t have one is to suggest when the Board of Governor’s met in December, they were neither presented with any estimates nor had done the work on their own and were therefore only voting ‘Yes’ on Realignment with their gut.
I don’t buy that. That is not what professionals in business do, or they do not run successful businesses.
Lastly, if the NHLPA wanted air miles estimates as a measure of fatigue, are air miles between arenas a good measure? Yes and no is our answer – you know if you travel long distances by air that fatigue is created by poor travel execution more than the mileage covered. So use the mileage estimate, but take it with a pinch of salt because reality is usually something else.
For not providing the estimates to the NHLPA that they should have had on hand, and for the NHLPA not using their own estimates one of our bloggers can determine on his own, this one is a loss for both teams. Score: NHLPA 1-2-1, the League 0-3-1.
Fans? We are 0-1 right now and hopefully will not be 0-2 as CBA negotiations begin because this does not bode well for us.
I am not an alarmist who believes all is going to hell-in-a-handcart because the Realignment issue was not satisfactorily solved. But on the points raised above, neither side is batting better than .375 in our book. And that puts we fans and our love of the game in jeopardy.
Hockey fans are the Realignment and impending CBA negotiations’ Center Of Gravity. We will be the media Ping-Pong ball between the NHLPA and the League to solve the Realignment and CBA questions over the next several months as decisions are made and blame between parties is cast. In some respects, it is the character of the game on the ice, how it is run behind the scenes and how we see it from the stands. So we do not mind jumping back and forth over the net.
But only a little. We love the game and do not want it to suffer like the NFL and NBA or the momentum gained since 2005 will be lost.
Come on NHLPA and NHL – show some compete, not hustle, out there.
Aaaaaaarrrggghhh!! No realignment next year?! Really?!
Rather than debate the reasons why or why not, I thought I would say a thing or two about creating the two examples of the schedule that I posted.
THING 1: It took several hours over a couple of days to come up with a deconflicted schedule as graphically exemplified in our blog “The 2012-13 Realignment Schedule…” That said:
1. It took hours over a couple of days to get the teams correct until we broke down the League into geographic pairs of clubs and then used a simple grid to determine who plays whom when without accidentally double booking anybody.
2. It was then still missing specific blackout dates that arenas would have provided through their tenant hockey teams. Solving that dilemma would have been the next step after breaking things down into the game pairs and triples as published except we took the easy way out for League management. We said deconflicting what specific, three days of the week games would be played were the responsibility of the teams and the League would only weigh in if clubs couldn’t do it of their own accord. This gave a lot of flexibility to teams themselves with an unspoken understanding that given great responsibility, you do the responsible thing. So theoretically, there would be little if any adjudication by the League to settle scheduling issues. In the military, we call this decentralized control and it works well when everyone is a professional and exceptionally well when your life depends upon it.
And THING 2: Having said all of the above, I say throw making the schedule for next year under an approved format to well-trained, cohesive military staffs using the miltiary decision making process to solve the issue. Why? Because after you give them all of the constraints (arena availability; intent on maximum and minimum numbers of games at home, on the road, consecutively played, etc.; teams playing in Europe; and the like), they will use a combination of automated and manual means to solve the problem. They might not come up for air until they have a solution. But a solution they will have, in a timely manner, with at least two-to-three courses of action for the League and NHLPA to choose from.
I do not presume to know all of the constraints under which the NHL scheduling team operates. But I say it matters not. The men and women in black, brown, green and tan could figure it out even a month from now.
As we all know, the NHL Board of Governors approved a realignment plan by an overwhelming 26-4 vote. This realignment is more revolutionary than evolutionary, which is not what Big Leagues normally do in the course of conducting operations. But for the most part, everyone in NHL management is happy.
We fans should be happy as well considering we now have the ability to see every team in our local barn during the course of the season. The at-least-home-and-away pair against everyone in the League answers our clarion call. Regionally, that will happen more than once, something good for TV viewership and players in general as shorter hops make for more rest and recuperation.
And the organization into two eight team divisions and two seven team divisions allows for future expansion as it becomes reality.
Here at On Goal Analysis, we looked at what the 2012-13 schedule might look like. And as we did, we applied some ideas we have had for a while that seem to fit into this realignment plan very well. We tell you what this means in relatively quick order by discussing schedule notes and providing two graphical courses of action for the entire 2012 season.
Overall Pairs and Triples Notes
Here are quick notes on how our ideal season would play out:
RND 1 – 1 to 14 APRIL
RND 2 – 16 to 29 APRIL
RND 3 – 1 to 14 MAY
RND 4 – 17 to 30 MAY
Thus, the playoffs end with most American school years. Too early to start the season? Then execute training camp/pre-season 10 – 21 SEP, the regular season 24 SEP – 13 APR and the playoffs from 14 APR – 13 JUN similar to how the season already runs.
We prefer the earlier schedule, going head-to-head against American football. Brazen and bold for the fastest sport without a combustible engine on the face of the earth, will continue to win over more fans.
6. The eight-team Division breakdown:
a. If you are reading this and are not yet sold on the whole idea, one important thing to glean from this blog is how to break down play for the eight-team divisions with the requirement to play some teams six times and others five over the course of the season. Sound confusing? We say it is this simple:
The eight team divisions break down nicely into two groups of four teams, all within one or two time zones (hours) of each other. They also break down further into pairs of regional teams that equal short travel hops out, between and then back home for games. Within the geographical region (‘Geo 1’, ‘Geo 2’, etc.) in which teams are assigned, all opponents are played six times each in two series of triples. Teams in the opposite ‘Geo’ in the division are played in one home-and-away pair and one triple. (The two, seven-team divisions do not have this scheduling issue.)
b. How can we call the schedule now in the two examples below? We haven’t even talked arena availability yet. This is the best part for teams. Except for the fact teams must play HOME (‘v’) or AWAY(‘a’) as scheduled and no more than two games may be played back-to-back on consecutive nights, the actual schedule for the week is thrown to the two teams in question to determine which days of that week they actually play. The League intervenes where teams cannot come to a mutual agreement. (We fully note this may potentially create a lot of Friday/Saturday and/or Saturday/Sunday pairs of games. But if that is what sells tickets, no worries, eh?)
7. To make the schedule work, during the course of the season all teams receive about 1.5 weeks of time with no games played. While it breaks game-playing rhythm, it nonetheless assists in player R&R requirements.
Let’s now turn to a look at the 2012-13 NHL Season in two courses of action (COA’s) for execution.
The 2012-13 NHL Schedule – COA 1
Here is how the regular season plays out in COA 1:
In effect this is a three-part season. Past I consists of intra-‘Conference’ pairs and/or triples taking place from the season opener through Thanksgiving in Week 11 of our preferred, longer season.
Part Two is Weeks 12 – 22 including Christmas and All Star Game weekend.
And the season closes out in Part Three over Weeks 23 – 29 as intra-‘Conference’ pairs and/or triples again.
This comes off the starting blocks emphasizing how important play is within the Division / ‘Conference’ with what are four-point games for all practical purposes.
In the middle part of the season and through the holidays, fans are treated to the home-and-away pairs against every other team in the ‘other Conference.’ This is when the West sees Crosby, Ovechkin and Stamkos and the East sees Kane and Toews (amongst others).
And the season closes with intra-divisional pairs and/or triples, leaving fans with a playoff-like experience even though their team may not be going on to the post-season. And there is also no doubt which teams should go on to the post-season.
What about scheduling issues? How do the Blackhawks handle the annual Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus shutdown next 14 – 25 NOV for example? (It can be) Easy – they work with the Circus to give them 19 and 20 NOV in exchange for games 26 and 27 November in the United Center. They then play their home games versus CGY and EDM on 19 and 20 NOV respectively, at EDM somewhere between 23 and 25 NOV, and then back home versus NYI and NYR between 28 and 30 NOV and at NYI 1 or 2 DEC. While there is a business cost involved there, it is a way to get it done and maintain the NHL’s intent.
The 2012-13 NHL Schedule – COA 2
This COA is our favorite, although standing as only a slight modification of COA 1. This modification breaks the League’s schedule down into four parts. Part One consists of half of the out-of Division /’Conference’ games in Weeks 1 through 6. This allows for teams to get their playing chemistry together before hitting a stretch of ‘four point games’ against divisional foes.
Part Two is through the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years’) in Weeks 7 – 17. This is a special treat as it wraps up round one of intra-Divisional/’Conference’ pairs/triples in arguably the most important games on the docket.
Part Three is the last half of the out-of-Division/’Conference’ package of games in Weeks 18 through 22. It culminates with All Star Game weekend.
And Part Four closes out the regular season with round two of intra-Divisional/’Conference’ pairs/triples in Weeks 23 through 29. Again, we have weeks of a playoff-like atmosphere in every NHL city.
In this COA, the Blackhawks’ Circus dilemma is now with WPG, MIN and STL, but the process for solving it is the same as in COA 1. Teams need to negotiate with other arena tenants and the NHL needs only make the teams negotiate actual game days within the prescribed week and adjudicate when necessary.
So here at OGA, we ask the NHL to take the realignment plan one step further in the 2012-13 schedule and give us home-and-away pairs and three-game mini-series in no more than three games per week in order to give us the star players on the ice when they come to our barn and enhance the emotion of series as they play out.
What is your ideal season?