The 2014 NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching, and what kind of a hockey blogger would I be if I didn’t take a moment to opine? After returning from a quick trip to the ER for a rotator cuff injury (suffered whilst patting myself on the back for using “opine”…wait – I also used “whilst!” There goes the other rotator cuff. It’s okay; I’m a hockey blogger, so I’ll type through the pain), here are a few quick thoughts on pre-deadline what ifs and why nots:
The Lesser of Two Evils?
I read recently that the Phoenix Coyotes, in a bid to improve their offensive output, have “kicked the tires” on both Ray Whitney and Matt Moulson. Dallas and Phoenix both have 64 points and 24 games remaining, with the Stars holding a razor-thin 24-23 lead in the first tie-breaker, non-Shootout wins. If you’re Stars GM Jim Nill, do you trade Whitney to Phoenix to stop them from trading for the younger Matt Moulson, who has much greater offensive upside at this point in time? In other words, do you help a rival with whom you’re battling for a playoff spot a little, to keep said rival from helping themselves a lot? Also, what do you ask for in return? Were I GM Jim, I’d offer Whitney and defenseman Trevor Daley for Keith Yandle, and wait for a counter-offer.
Selling the Rangers’ Soul?
Of course, I’m talking about the trade rumors swirling around Blueshirts team captain Ryan Callahan and stalwart d-man Dan Girardi. Both are pending UFAs, and Conventional Wisdom says both will be moved at the deadline if Glen Sather can’t re-sign them by that time. Much as it pains me to say this, I think Cally has to give some on his contract demands, or he’s gone. A seven- or eight-year deal is a significant risk for a player with Callahan’s rambunctious, injury-prone game. Any team signing him to a long-term deal will pay a premium for intangibles – leadership and a gutsy, leave-it-all-on-the-ice style of play – and those intangibles are meaningless when the player who possesses them is on Injured Reserve.
While the loss of Callahan would create a huge leadership/grit void in New York, losing Dan Girardi could be downright disastrous. The defensive yin to Ryan McDonagh’s offensive yang, Girardi is a critical half of the Blueshirts’ top d-pair, logging almost 24 tough minutes a game. If he goes, who’s going to fill his skates? Does Kevin Klein suddenly start playing an extra 8:30 each night? Does Anton Stralman pick up the slack? The truth is, while the Rangers’ top six defensemen are solid, the organization currently lacks depth. The loss of Dan Girardi would open a hole on the blueline which could not be filled this season, thus ensuring an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring.
What If Sellers Didn’t Sell…Or Even Became Buyers?
Back in September, I proposed scrapping the NHL Draft Lottery in favor of a Draft Tournament. While I still think it’s a great idea, I now see the Law of Unintended Consequences kicking in: If the bottom four teams played an end-of-season tournament to decide who ends up with picks 1-4 in the upcoming draft, would those cellar-dwellers be motivated to hang on to pending UFAs, or even try to improve their rosters, in the hope of winning the first pick in the draft? Put in 2013-14 season terms, would Buffalo keep Matt Moulson, Steve Ott and/or Ryan Miller, in effect trading those players (losing them to free agency this summer) for a shot at the top pick? Would Calgary decide not to deal Mike Cammalleri, or would the asking price just go up? My “expert” understanding of economics (I spent two semesters in college as an ECON major) tells me that a Draft Tournament could create both a decrease in the supply of players available at the deadline AND an increase in demand, while also putting even more pressure on the in-between clubs (those well above the bottom four, but for whom a playoff seed is a long shot) to move their assets. In short, a Draft Tourney could cause a significant shift in the Trade Deadline dynamic, taking General Managers and fans alike to an all-new stress level each spring. I love it. Make it so, Mr. Bettman!
Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter: @BigTex1926
I am convinced of something reference adjusting the ice (playing) surface to compensate for bigger players in order to score more goals.
To tactically change the game, you might think the overall intent is to increase the complexity of the ice for the goalie. If you get him to have to think in multiple directions simultaneously, you multiply his dilemmas and increase the possibility of him allowing a goal.
I would have thought increasing the distance behind the goal line (net) would have done it. This happened this year to some extent when the net was made shallower. The advantage now goes to the skater who can make a wrap-around faster than the goalie can move post to post.
So if you put more square footage behind the net, would the goalie not be drawn to both the back AND front of the net when a skater with the puck is behind it?
Not really. Most of the focus by Goalies is on the puck, or the belief of where it is, in relation to the net opening than what the options are for the next pass. More room behind the net WOULDe have the Goalie hugging the appropriate post until puck movement shifts. But the Goalie will continue to follow puck movement and still square up to the shooter once the disk comes back out front. That’s because where the puck is only becomes a true threat when you shoot it on net. It is also why Olympic-size ice is not the answer either.
Add to your lack of space for the puck finding the net the propensity to collapse back in toward the goalie and cut down on passing and shooting room. AND there is a going thought that goalies under six feet tall don’t even get much of a look if they are not touted as the next Dominik Hasik.
No, I am convinced now the only way to adjust the ice surface in order to score more goals is to increase the size of the net itself. Players are about 10% bigger than when the rules for rink dimensions were written, so I say the net opening increases about 10%. That would be roughly six inches higher and six inches wider. That, in my opinion, would be a prudent attempt to adjust for the ever shrinking net.
And for those who say the NHL, as one of the top three sports, tinkers with their sport way too much, I would remind you ours is the fastest of the four. That tempo requires a constant eye toward how the game looks. And when something does not look right, it requires adjusting.
So I say expand the net 6 x 6 inches to increase instances of one of the three things (besides a fight and a shootout / penalty shot) that brings fans out of their seats.
“Don’t you know this league is insolvent?”
That’s what NHL Chief Financial Officer Jim Ford said to John Ziegler shortly after Ziegler became league president in 1977. It’s one of many eye-opening events in D’Arcy Jenish’s new book, The NHL: A Centennial History: 100 Years of On-Ice Action & Boardroom Battles (Doubleday Canada, 2013).
Hockey fans who know their history are well aware of the 1970s battle between the National Hockey League and the World Hockey Association, which resulted in the demise of the WHA. What many fans don’t know, however, is that the fight almost killed the NHL, too. In his thoroughly-researched and well-written book, Jenish ably fills in the blanks in the NHL’s storied past, presenting a more detailed portrait of league history than ever before.
If you’ve ever wondered how the NHL grew from the Original Four – yes, in the beginning, there were just four teams in the league – to thirty clubs today, The NHL: A Centennial History provides the answer in fascinating detail. From the American expansion of the Roaring Twenties to Depression-era contraction to six clubs to the dramatic 1967 expansion and beyond, it’s all in the book. As someone who is currently writing a biography of New York Rangers’ founder Tex Rickard, I was particularly pleased to see him beginning to receive long-overdue credit regarding his role in bringing the NHL to America. Drawing on meeting minutes archived at the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jenish offers a fly-on-the-wall view of NHL Board of Governors meetings throughout the 1940s and ’50s. Did you know the league first considered expanding to California shortly after World War II? Neither did I, until I read the book.
The NHL: A Centennial History also addresses the league’s more recent past, including franchise instability, the spectacular rise and fall of Alan Eagleson and battles between the Players Association and the NHL. Jenish’s portrayal of the causes for the NHL’s two lockout-shortened seasons (1994-95 and 2012-13) and one cancelled season (2004-05) is even-handed, though it’s difficult to look at the cold, hard facts and remain sympathetic to the players. In particular, former NHLPA head Bob Goodenow comes out smelling less like a rose than its fertilizer. On the other hand, league commissioner Gary Bettman was interviewed for the book, the final chapter of which is titled, “The Knock Against Gary.” Preconceived notions aside, you’ll at least come away with a better understanding of, and respect for, the “Most Hated Man in Hockey.”
Frankly, coming up with any serious criticism of this book was a struggle. My biggest complaint falls into the “nit-picking” category: Though the author touches on the subject at a couple of points in the book, I would’ve liked to read in more detail about the tension between the league’s pro-expansionists and Canadians who fear their national sport is being taken over by outside (American) interests. Alas, that’s probably a book unto itself.
Long-time readers of this blog know I don’t normally do book reviews. I felt compelled to make an exception because, well, it’s an excellent read. At first glance, you might think a book focused on the business side of the NHL would be dry, even boring, compared to the league’s legendary on-ice past. You would be wrong. If you have any interest whatsoever in the off-ice history of the NHL and you only read one book this year, make it The NHL: A Centennial History by D’Arcy Jenish.
Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter: @BigTex1926
We are beginning G60 calls.
The NHL As A Whole
1. East versus West. The East continues to increase its Winning Percentage (W%) against Western Conference teams:
Eastern Conference versus the West are 150 – 137 – 41 / 52%, a W% increase of +1.2% from our last blog. At 111 games played cross-Conference, the East was only sporting a 42.3% so have come up almost 10% since the first week in November.
Atlantic Division versus the West are 79 – 69 – 20 / 53%, a W% increase of +1.9% from our last blog.
Metro Division versus the West are 71 – 68 – 21 / 50.9%, a W% increase of +.5% from our last blog.
2. OT/SO numbers. The total number of games going to extra frames is 223 of 880 played, or 25.34% as of 8 February. At the end of the 2010/11 season, the total percentage was 24.15% for reference. Of those games progressing past regulation time, 42.6% are being decided in OT this season versus 50.2%, again, at the end of the 2010/11 season.
3. PP and PK leaders. The PP leader in the NHL remains Pittsburgh with a 25.4% efficiency rate. Florida is still the bottom dweller with the man advantage, performing at only a 9% clip. New Jersey displaces Pittsburgh as the leading PK team for this blog with an efficiency rating of 87.4%, while Florida holds down the bottom position here, too, at 77.2%.
4. Corsi For % (CF%) leaders. Here are the current numbers through 8 February for this advanced stats category.
Top CF% in All Situations (we are looking for a 50% or better, here) – LAK @ 55.4%.
All CF% at or better than 50% in All Situations – LAK, CHI (54%+), SJS, BOS (52%+), NYR, NJD, STL, CAR (51%+), DAL, FLA, DET, VAN, PHX, OTT, PHI, WPG and NYI.
Worst CF% in All Situations – TOR @ 43.9%.
Top CF% when on the PP 5–on–4 (the best teams are at a 90% or better) – CBJ @ 92%.
All CF% at or better than 90% when on the PP 5–on–4 – CBJ, NYI (91%+), VAN, DET, COL (90%+), LAK, PHX, BOS, and STL.
Worst CF% when on the PP 5–on–4 – DAL @ 85.6%.
Top CF% when on the PK (the best teams are at a 12% or better) – PHI / WPG @ 15.7%.
All CF% at or better than 12% when on the PK – PHI, WPG, CAR (14%+), OTT, BOS, MTL, NYI, SJS (13%+), CGY (12%+), DAL and CBJ.
Worst CF% when on the PK – PIT @ 5.7%.
5. Fenwick For % (FF%) leaders. Here are the current numbers through 8 February for this advanced stats category.
Top FF% in All Situations (as with CF%, we are looking for a 50% or better ranking, here) – SJS @ 55.8%.
All FF% at or better than 50% in All Situations – SJS (55%+), CHI (54%+), LAK, STL (52%+), BOS, NYR, NJD (51%+), VAN, DAL, PIT, DET, ANA (50%+), WPG, CAR, FLA, TBL and PHI.
Worst FF% in All Situations – TOR @ 42.8%.
Top FF% when on the PP 5–on–4 (the best teams are at a 89% or better) – CBJ @ 91.6%.
All FF% at or better than 89% when on the PP 5–on–4 – CBJ (91%+), VAN (90%+), DET, NYR, COL, ANA (89%+), NSH, SJS, PIT, and MIN.
Worst FF% when on the PP 5–on–4 – NJD @ 83%.
Top FF% when on the PK (the best teams are at a 13% or better) – PHI @ 18.3%.
All FF% at or better than 13% when on the PK – PHI (18%+), BOS (16%+), MTL, WPG, NYI, SJS (15%+), ANA (14%+), CGY, OTT, CAR (13%+), DAL and CBJ.
Worst FF% when on the PK – TOR @ 6.1%.
6. PDO leaders. Here are the current numbers through 8 February for this advanced stats category.
Top PDO in All Situations (we are looking for a 100% or better with a CF% and FF% of 50% or more, here) – BOS @ 102.4%.
All PDO at or better than 100% with CF% and FF% at least a 50% in All Situations – BOS (102%+), STL, CHI (100%+), and PHI.
Worst PDO in All Situations – FLA @ 97.5%.
Top PDO when on the PP 5–on–4 (here, the best teams are at a 104% or better with a CF% and FF% at or above 88%) – NSH @ 114.5%.
All PDO at or better than 104% with CF% and FF% at or better than 88% when on the PP 5–on–4 – NSH (114%+), COL (110%+), PIT (107%+), SJS and MTL (105%+).
Worst PDO when on the PP 5–on–4 – WPG @ 92.8%.
Top PDO when on the PK (the best teams are at 100% or better with CF% and FF% at or above 10%) – PHI / WPG @ 15.7%.
All PDO at or better than 100%, with CF% and FF% at or above 10%, when on the PK – CAR (108%+), CGY (104%+), CBJ (100%+) and ANA.
Worst PDO when on the PK – PHI @ 91.1%.
And now for our current analysis of the NHL…
The Eastern Conference
Our chart below indicates how the Eastern Conference projects against the PQC through Saturday, 8 February’s games:
Notes reference G60 maximum calls:
1. At G60, four Eastern Conference teams have a chance at a CS call. This is the same four who already met this mark and remain so unless conditions to make a Shot Off The Post (SotP) call are reached.
2. No teams can earn a Sharpening Skates (SS) call as we look toward G60.
3. Five teams cannot be better than In The Curve (ITC) by G60. One call is already made below, and the other four have already been determined and will be listed once they hit their G60 mark.
4. No teams are a possible Dusting Off Clubs (DoC) at G60.
5. And the same, named, seven Eastern teams remain at a Tee Time (T2) heading toward G60.
6. ‘If The Playoffs Started Today’ shows the Top 8 teams and who their opponents project to be. Since or last post of this information, 5th through 8th seeds have adjusted:
This movement based solely on a loss or two in most cases shows how tight the Eastern Conference race is.
7. PQC breakdown (with new calls in bold text):
19 October 2013, First Niagara Center, Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo Sabres have been called at T2, or the first team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
14 November 2013, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY – The New York Islanders have been called at T2, or the third team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
15 November 2013, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN – The Florida Panthers have been called at T2, or the fourth team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
16 November 2013, Jobing.com Arena, Phoenix, AZ – The Tampa Bay Lightning have been called CS, the fourth team in the NHL and first in the Eastern Conference called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
17 November 2013, Canadian Tire Centre, Kanata, ON – The Columbus Blue Jackets have been called at T2, or the sixth team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
5 December 2013, Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Penguins have been called CS, or the seventh team called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
5 December 2013, Centre Bell, Montreal, QC – The Montreal Canadiens have been called CS, or the eighth team called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
6 December 2013, Prudential Center, Newark, NJ – The New Jersey Devils have been called at T2, or the seventh team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
7 December 2013, Canadian Tire Centre, Kanata, QC – The Ottawa Senators have been called at T2, or the ninth team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
8 December 2013, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON – The Boston Bruins have been called CS, or the tenth team called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
31 December 2013, PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC – The Carolina Hurricanes have been called at T2, or the twelfth team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
8 February 2014, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON – The Toronto Maple Leafs have been called at ITC, or about average for 2013-14 NHL play.
8. The G60 Projection Schedule is (with Atlantic Division teams in bold font; teams in parentheses have already secured either a CS or T2 call):
SAT., 8 FEB – (NYI), TOR
WED., 26 FEB – (MTL)
THUR., 27 FEB – DET, (NJD),NYR, (OTT), PHI, WSH
FRI., 28 FEB – (BUF)
SAT., 1 MAR – (CAR, CBJ, FLA), (PIT, TBL)
SUN., 2 MAR – (BOS) (the last G60 PQC call)
The Western Conference
Our Western Conference chart below indicates their PQC projections through Saturday, 8 February’s games:
1. At G60, six Western Conference teams have a chance at a CS call. Those six calls were already made and remain unchanged unless we reach conditions to make a Shot Off The Post (SotP) call.
2. No teams can earn a Sharpening Skates (SS) call as we look toward G60.
3. Three (down from four) teams are an In The Curve (ITC) by G60. One call has already been determined and will be posted once that club reaches their G60 mark.
4. One (up from NO) team projects as a DoC call for G60 below.
5. And four Western teams currently remain at a Tee Time (T2) heading toward G60.
6. There were two adjustments to the ‘If The Playoffs Started Today’ Top 8 teams in the Western Conference since our last blog posting:
7. PQC breakdown (again, with new calls in BOLD FONT):
24 October 2013, TD Garden, Boston, MA – The San Jose Sharks have been called CS, or the first team called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
25 October 2013, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO – The Colorado Avalanche have been called CS, or the second team called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
13 November 2013, Rexall Place, Edmonton, AB – The Edmonton Oilers have been called at T2, or the second team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
16 November 2013, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN – The Chicago Blackhawks have been called CS, or the third team called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
16 November 2013, Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, AB – The Calgary Flames have been called at T2, or the fifth team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
19 November 2013, First Niagara Center, Buffalo, NY – The St. Louis Blues have been called CS, or the fifth team called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
3 December 2013, Honda Center, Anaheim, CA – The Anaheim Ducks have been called CS, or the sixth team called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
7 December 2013, Canadian Tire Centre, Kanata, QC – The Nashville Predators have been called at T2, or the eighth team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
7 December 2013, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA – The Los Angeles Kings have been called CS, or the ninth team called IN the 2014 Playoffs.
27 December 2013, MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB – The Winnipeg Jets have been called at T2, or the eleventh team called OUT of the 2014 Playoffs.
8 February 2014, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON – The Vancouver Canucks have been called at DoC, or almost eliminated from the 2014 NHL Playoffs.
8. The G60 Projection Schedule is (Central Division teams are in bold text; teams in parentheses have already secured either a CS or T2 call):
FRI., 7 FEB – (CHI), (EDM) (the first G60 PQC calls)
SAT., 8 FEB – (ANA), (WPG), VAN
WED., 26 FEB – (LAK)
THUR., 27 FEB –MIN, (NSH), (SJS)
FRI., 28 FEB – (COL), PHX
SAT., 1 MAR – (CGY), DAL
SUN., 2 MAR – (STL) (the last G60 PQC call)
So as a bottom line, the rest of our G60 PQC calls in the Eastern Conference occur on 27 FEB, and out West, between 27 FEB and 1 MAR.
Our next blog will be posted on Friday, 28 February for games played coming out of the Olympic break on 27 February…
Coming out of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, all NHL teams will be hot and heavy on the schedule through 13 April’s season closeout. So how did your favorite team do in the 10 games before and after their last two Olympic breaks, where are they going into this season, and what is their estimated post-Sochi performance? We have your numbers below…
(This is Part 2 of a four-parter covering all NHL Divisions)
Metropolitan Division Teams’ History
Carolina Hurricanes 2006 in Turin, Italy: Before 7 – 3 / .700; After 6 – 2 – 2 / .700; the 2006 Stanley Cup Champion.
2010 in Vancouver: Before 8 – 2 / .800; After 6 – 3 – 1 / .650; out of the playoffs with 80 points.
Columbus Blue Jackets 2006 in Turin, Italy: Before 6 – 4 / .600; After 3 – 6 – 1 / .350; out of the playoffs with 74 points.
2010 in Vancouver: Before 5 – 4 – 1 / .550; After 4 – 4 – 2 / .500; out of the playoffs with 79 points.
New Jersey Devils 2006 in Turin, Italy: Before 5 – 4 – 1 / .550; After 4 – 4 – 2 / .500; in the playoffs with 101 points; lost in five games of Round 1 to Stanley Cup Champion Carolina.
2010 in Vancouver: Before 3 – 5 – 2 / .400; After 5 – 4 – 1 / .550; in the playoffs with 103 points; lost in five games of Round 1 to Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia.
New York Islanders 2006 in Turin, Italy: Before 5 – 3 – 2 / .600; After 6 – 4 / .600; out of the playoffs with 78 points.
2010 in Vancouver: Before 2 – 8 / .200; After 4 – 4 – 2 / .500; out of the playoffs with 79 points.
New York Rangers 2006 in Turin, Italy: Before 8 – 1 – 1 / .850; After 4 – 4 – 2 / .500; in the playoffs with 100 points, their second highest total since the Lockout the year before; lost in four games of Round 1 to New Jersey.
2010 in Vancouver: Before 4 – 6 / .400; After 3 – 5 – 2 / .400; out of the playoffs with 87 points, their lowest point total since the 2004/05 Lockout.
Philadelphia Flyers 2006 in Turin, Italy: Before 4 – 5 – 1 / .450; After 4 – 5 – 1 / .450; in the playoffs with 101 points; lost in six games of Round 1 to Buffalo.
2010 in Vancouver: Before 6 – 4 / .600; After 5 – 3 – 2 / .600; in the playoffs with 88 points, their second lowest total since the first Stoppage; lost in six games of the Stanley Cup Championship to Chicago.
Pittsburgh Penguins 2006 in Turin, Italy: Before 3 – 5 – 2 / .400; After 3 – 6 – 1 / .350; out of the playoffs with 58 points, the second lowest NHL total since that first Lockout.
2010 in Vancouver: Before 5 – 2 – 3 / .650; After 6 – 2 – 2 / .700; in the playoffs with 101 points; lost in the seventh game of Round 2 to Montreal.
Washington Capitals 2006 in Turin, Italy: Before 2 – 8 / .200; After 3 – 4 – 3 / .450; out of the playoffs with 70 points, tied for their lowest total since the 2004/05 Lockout.
2010 in Vancouver: Before 7 – 1 – 2 / .800; After 7 – 1 – 2 / .800; in the playoffs with 121 points, their highest total since the 2004/05 Lockout; lost in the seventh game of Round 1 to Montreal.
Where Are They Now And What Can Be Expected?
Here are the Atlantic Division parameters of historical play:
Biggest average gain: Washington at +.125
Biggest one-season gain: Washington in 2005/06 at +.250
Biggest one-season loss: Islanders in 2009/10 at –.400
Biggest average loss: Rangers at –.175
Average gain / loss: –.053
When you look at team post-Olympic averages – meaning nothing outside of the above parameters – and combine that with current team play, you get our analysis below for Metro Division play into mid-March.
Carolina Hurricanes The ‘Canes are 5 – 3 in their last eight with two to play before the break. That projects as .625 Hockey before the Olympics. They averaged a -.075 in the two previous Olympic years. If that average occurs again, they would likely be in the range of a 5 – 5 record. They project with us as just out of the Playoffs with a Winning Percentage (W%) of .536 at 85 – 88 points. This, however, is where we give our Metro Division caveat that applies to all of this division’s teams. There is a tight race right now in the Metro where 89 points projects as the possible No.8 Wild Card seed for the Eastern Conference. So Carolina on the high end of their projected points could make us wrong and land just in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Columbus Blue Jackets No team has confounded the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) like Columbus lately, giving us two – out – of – three wrong projections since the last Olympics. That said, they are 5 – 3 – 1 in their last nine games with one more to go until the break. That projects as a .611 W%. Coupling that with a post-Olympic –.150 average would drop them into something like a 4 – 5 – 1 to as high as a 5 – 5 record going into March. We already projected them as out of the Playoffs despite a current W% of .553 and between 90 and 91 points. This is potentially one of our Shot Off The Post, wrongly projected calls, but they will have to come out of the Olympics as hot as they are going in to make liars out of us.
New Jersey Devils The Devils go into the Olympic break sporting a 3 – 3 – 2 / .500 record. Averaging with the previous two Olympic breaks, you only get a .550 W% team. At a post-break 5 – 4 – 1, we project them out of the Playoffs with a .518 W% and between 85 and 88 points, but likely more toward the lower number. They should fall a couple of wins short this season.
New York Islanders After giving the Penguins a run for their money in last year’s shortened-season Playoffs, the Islanders are going to fall short of the post-season this year. They are 2 – 5 – 1 in their last nine with one to play before the break, making them only a .278 team. Averaging a –.200 after the last two Olympics and adding that to their current total would make them a 0 – 10 to 0 – 9 – 1 team. What will likely happen is you will see them about where they are now and maybe as good as one to three wins better. We have them out of the Playoffs at a .441 W% with between 72 and 73 points.
New York Rangers After a stinker of a start, the Rangers have fought back to a nicely done 6 – 3 / .667 W% in their last nine with one more to play before the break. They average a –.175 post-Olympics, which just may be a bit more affected depending on the final performance of their star netminder for Team Sweden. That would have them a bit below .500 at between 4 – 6 and 4 – 5 – 1, a potential problem for holding on to a Metro seed come playoff time. We see them on the cusp or either in or out of the Playoffs and too close to call yet despite an overall W% of .560 and as much as somewhere between 92 and 93 points. Bottom line? This team needs to be as good as they are now on the far side of the Olympics to see the post-season.
Philadelphia Flyers This is another team who had a stinker of an opening to their season. Playing more respectably of late in search of keeping their captain’s promise of making of the Playoffs, they are currently 4 – 4 – 1 in their last nine with one game to play before the Olympic break, or playing .500 Hockey. Following each of the last two Olympics, they broke even in terms of play, so they are likely to be some combination that equates to a 5 – 5 record. Their projection is on the verge of the playoffs like the Rangers with a .552 W% and between 90 and 92 points. They need to come out of the chute hard come 27 February.
Pittsburgh Penguins This team is the class of the Metro Division this season. They are 6 – 3 / .667 in their last nine with one more left before the break. Their average post-Olympics is even, and if they continue as they currently are playing, they have no worries of retaining their playoff seed. They project as a 6 – 4 to 7 – 3 team going into mid-March with a W% of .719 and between 118 and 119 points.
Washington Capitals The Caps’ surge a while back has fizzled of late. They are currently 4 – 4 – 1 in their last nine with one game left to play before Sochi. That .450 W% coupled with their average +.125 boost, however, could propel them back up the standings to between a 5 – 4 – 1 and 6 – 0 team. But here’s where our gut tells us their straw that stirs the drink, Alex Ovechkin, and how Team Russia performs in Sochi could have the greatest post-Olympic effect on any Eastern team. Win a medal, Ovechkin by himself could potentially boost this team higher. Fail to medal and Alex could return in a funk that both sees the Caps forgoing the playoffs this year and fuels the fire of why NHLers shouldn’t play in the 2018 Olympics. They currently project as a coin flip for in or out of the 2014 Playoffs with a .526 W% and between 86 and 88 points. But they will not make it if they suffer a post-Sochi Ovechkin funk.
The Eastern Conference As A Whole.
Having now studied both Divisions in the East, we can provide a couple of indicators of potential post-Olympic performance with respect to the Playoffs:
1. If you throw out the 2009/10 Ottawa anomaly of a –.550 in W% post-break, no other team who dropped off in W% more than a –.100 made it into the Playoffs in a post Olympic year. Using the averages would mean teams that are most likely to be on the golf links come mid-April are Boston, Ottawa, Columbus, the Islanders and the Rangers. Whaaat? That, of course, would mean the Bruins, who are projected in the Playoffs right now, and Columbus and the Rangers, who have a good chance of seeding in the Metro, might not play on. These teams must improve coming back from the break to ensure they reach the Playoff., although that statement applies less to this edition of the Bruins.
2. No team who displayed an improvement of better than +.250 failed to make the Playoffs. While no Eastern team averaged that high over the past two winter games, such a boost could greatly help the cause of .500 teams like Detroit and anyone at or around that level in the Metro Division.
3. The Eastern Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes were even in W% differential after the Turin Olympics in 2006.
So basically, Eastern teams who expect to move on to the Playoffs (and possibly have great success) are looking to get from the end of Sochi to mid-March at no worse than an OTL drop off in performance.
“…Part 3 of 4 – The Central Division” in this series begins our look at the Western Conference when it is posted soon. Will the math come out the same? We will see…