Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Central Division malaise
Or... Why Detroit's division dominance meant less than you think

A friend of mine remarked yesterday that he was surprised more people weren't talking about how Detroit's weak division skewed their record into 'elite' territory. After all, it's rather commonly held wisdom that the Red Wings really benefited in the standings from playing the triumverate of awful Columbus/St. Louis/Chicago 24 times this season.

Including their games against Nashville, the Red Wings were 25-3-4 in their own division.

Gaudy numbers, to be sure. But it's misleading to say Detroit wasn't deserving of being the NHL's top team.

Even without those Central Division games, the Red Wings would have still had the best point totals in the league. Their record minus games against their own division was 33-13-4.

That's a 115-point pace (which would have won the President's Trophy).

So, the next time someone discounts the point differential between Edmonton and Detroit, offer up that tidbit. That series gave us the biggest upset possible this year — weak division or not.

23 Comments:

At 3:32 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

The problem with what you've written James is that Edmonton isn't your typical 8 seed. I've written this ad nauseum but there's a decent argument that the Oilers are the #2 team in the Conference. The Oilers had a tough, tough schedule which depressed their own points total. They're certainly a better team than Nashville and the Preds cruised to 100+ points in their division.

This series was an upset but less of an upset than people realize not because the Red Wings were significantly worse than you'd think but because the Oilers were significantly better.

 
At 3:35 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I agree with that, but in terms of just straight point totals, it was a huge upset. Many others are now suggesting otherwise, not based on the Oilers difficult schedule, but the Red Wings weak one. And that's inaccurate.

Can we get any non-Oiler bloggers to verify that they're the second best team in the Western Conference?

 
At 3:38 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

The second argument, one that I have made, is that with even decent goaltending, the Oilers likely finish as division winners. Not only did the three headed monster cough up points through the season but the team began to play with a lot less confidence as it became clear there was an issue at the back end. Some Wings bloggers have argued their own team fell into this problem due to lack of confidence in Legace. The point can be argued, of course, but I think its safe to say with Roloson in net the Oilers are around a 105 point team - less of a spread then.

 
At 3:40 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Wait a second newspaperman, aren't you at work? Are you blogging on company time? Oh wait so am I. Never mind.

 
At 3:41 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger sacamano said...

It has also been documented ad nauseum that if the Oilers had not had the worst goaltending in the league for most of the season, they would have had a much higher point total. This has to be more important than the tough schedule.

One thing about Detroit's schedule, however--is it not possible that the floater games against the Central Division took less out of the Wings thus making it easier to compete against the tougher teams? I'm especially thinking of back to back scenarios.

 
At 3:41 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

One more point: If the Northwest Division is one of the biggest factors in why Edmonton had 29 fewer points than Detroit, why then were the Oilers 15-15-2 in that division while the Red Wings were 13-5-2.

That's a pretty big difference.

(I buy the goaltending argument far more than this 'Detroit was weaker than you thought' business.)

 
At 3:42 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Wait a second newspaperman, aren't you at work? Are you blogging on company time? Oh wait so am I. Never mind.

I mostly work nights. And get strange days off. Like Wednesdays.

 
At 3:44 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

One thing about Detroit's schedule, however--is it not possible that the floater games against the Central Division took less out of the Wings thus making it easier to compete against the tougher teams? I'm especially thinking of back to back scenarios.

Yeap, and this is a much better argument than simply saying the Central Division inflated their record. The Wings record was fantastic all around.

 
At 3:45 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Then why aren't you outside? Its 23 degrees and sunny out and you're sitting at your computer. Get out there and drink boy! For the love of God!

Have one for me.

 
At 3:47 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous snafu said...

Well I'm not an Oilers blogger, but I can add that there were 3 teams in the West that truly worried me when Detroit faced them. Vancouver was on this list until their injuries took them out of the picture. The three were:

1. Calgary
2. Edmonton
3. Dallas

In that order, and that was before Edmonton got Rollie. You just sense when your team can't play its game and is being stifled. That is how I always viewed the Wings' play against 1 & 2 on this list. We couldn't get it into gear. I also knew we did not have a goalie that was going to be exceptional when we needed him to be exceptional.

Edmonton was getting better and better as the season went along, yet their performance at the very end of the season is what threw everyone off. A conspiracy theorist would believe that MacT really was trying to get the 8th spot just to avoid the psychological handicap of facing Dallas. ;) Stranger things have happened.

 
At 3:54 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous snafu said...

Oh and on the comment about the Central Division? The Wings and CBJ's are essentially Eastern Time Zone teams who play all their away games (excluding each other) outside of their time zone. Going West and startinga game at 9:00 & 10:00 pm Eastern is tougher than coming East. The Western conference teams all have to deal with this to some extent, which only means that the Eastern Conference has a huge advantage on all of them-- travel-wise and due to time zone adjustments. So the Wings having a great road record this year should not be underestimated.

 
At 3:54 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Then why aren't you outside? Its 23 degrees and sunny out and you're sitting at your computer. Get out there and drink boy! For the love of God!

What is this, the rag on Mirtle thread?

I had to call in sick today. I've been working every day since the playoffs started and it's left me a bedridden old man. Glad to hear it's nice outside; perhaps I'll just boost the A/C a tad higher.

 
At 4:31 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous dave said...

I'm glad someone else agrees with the idea that Detroit was also good against the rest of the league, not just their own division.

In an attempt to "zero out" their point total because of their division, I do the following:

Look at the 6 division winners and their win totals against their own divisions:
NJD: 16
OTT: 20
CAR: 18
DET: 25
CAL: 20
DAL: 17

True, Detroit has the highest total. But they only had 5 more wins than Ottawa and Calgary did against their divisions. If you have no problem using these two teams as benchmarks, then take away 5 wins from Detroit. Instead of 124 points, they end up with 114, still best in the league.

If you'd rather use Carolina (their division is arguably the 2nd-weakest), they end up with 110 points. No longer President's Trophy winners, but they still end up 2nd in the conference.


Just my $0.02.

 
At 4:58 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous Allen Larsen said...

Perhaps more significant than the points that Detroit gained in the 24 (or 32 if you count Nashville) games against the weaker members in its division are the points that the Oilers (or Canucks, Avalanche, or Flames) had to share in their 24 games against the strong members of their division.

Given the schedule imbalance, it is likely that the Red Wings and Preds had a net standings gain while the 4 Northwest division teams had a net standings loss, at least relative to each other. I doubt that the net gains/losses would be much more than a handful of points though.

To suggest that the Oilers would be the number 2 team in the conference due to this however is absurd. Even with Roloson the Oilers struggled down the stretch and required lacklustre performances from the Canucks to even make the playoffs.

 
At 5:00 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous MrVercetti said...

ESPN's Relative Power Index, which adjusts for strength of schedule, has Detroit as the best team in the league. Ottawa, Dallas and Buffalo are close behind and Edmonton is decidely middle-of-the-pack at 14th.

Judging by this, Tampa Bay was the only team that was lucky to make the playoffs (i.e. the only team outside the top 16 of the RPI that did not end up making it).

 
At 5:11 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger Ingmar "W" Bergman said...

Detroit sucks!*

No matter how you look at it, Detroit still managed to win all those damn games. In past years, Chicago & Columbus have done pretty well against the Red Wings. Give the Wings some credit, they did finish the eason 17-1-3 after all.

Still, It felt mighty fine seeing Detroit lose. I Can't help it, I'm a Blues fan.

*Personal opinion.

 
At 5:23 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

To suggest that the Oilers would be the number 2 team in the conference due to this however is absurd. Even with Roloson the Oilers struggled down the stretch and required lacklustre performances from the Canucks to even make the playoffs.

They struggled down the stretch because the scoring went in the toilet. So far with Roloson, they allow about 2.5 GA/G. As a team this season, they've scored about 3.1 GF/G. Do the math...that's the second best team in the conference.

 
At 5:44 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger Nick said...

Sorry, off topic

A *Blues* fan saying *Detroit* sucks? I might be able to take that seriously from someone who's team didn't finish the season on the absolute bottom of the standings...

 
At 5:53 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous Earl Sleek said...

So far with Roloson, they allow about 2.5 GA/G. As a team this season, they've scored about 3.1 GF/G. Do the math...that's the second best team in the conference.

No fair fudging the numbers like that. Theoretically winning a game comes from goals for and goals against within the same game; you don't get a lot of credit for scoring a bunch of goals in October.

There's an argument that the Sharks are better than their 5th seed, and the Ducks are better than their 6th seed, and hell, maybe the Avs with Theodore don't belong down in the 7-slot.

I don't think it's fair to pick your GF from one set of games and GA from another set. I don't think non-Oiler bloggers would make that distinction for you.

 
At 6:02 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

Theoretically winning a game comes from goals for and goals against within the same game; you don't get a lot of credit for scoring a bunch of goals in October.

Generally speaking, you can predict the amount of wins/losses a team will pile up if you know their GF/GA. This doesn't rely on extra credit for scoring a bunch in October or anything; it's a historical fact.

There's an argument that the Sharks are better than their 5th seed, and the Ducks are better than their 6th seed, and hell, maybe the Avs with Theodore don't belong down in the 7-slot.

I disagree on Theodore but agree otherwise-I had SJ as a clear favourite over NSH because SJ is a better team. ANA and CGY? Cointoss; they're virtually equal. You can make a case for any of the group of six being #2, imo.


I don't think it's fair to pick your GF from one set of games and GA from another set. I don't think non-Oiler bloggers would make that distinction for you.

I think if they were sane and trying to get an accurate read on the Oilers abilities, they might. To wit:

A. Prior to acquisition of Roloson, Oilers allow more than 3GPG.
B. Post Roloson, Oilers allow 2.5GPG. The change appears to be entirely due to save percentage.

If I want to know how good the Oilers are at preventing goals, is the fact that they had a terrible save percentage pre-Roli relevant? Not at all, I'd say.

A. Pre-Roloson, Oilers score 3.1 or 3.2 GPG or so.
B. Post-Roloson, Oilers score 2.6 per game (pre-playoffs).

Did the acquisition of Roloson bugger up the scoring? The numbers don't show it and I didn't think so watching the games. It just seemed like some pucks that generally went in weren't.

To me, it makes more sense to look at the GF numbers for the entire year than to choose the Roloson subset. In the case of the Ducks or Sharks, I can be talked into using their post turnaround numbers too, to be honest, because they can tied to rather large events.

Like I said, I think it's a tossup. I don't think any non-Oil related blogger should have a problem conceding this though.

 
At 7:03 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous Earl Sleek said...

Like I said, I think it's a tossup. I don't think any non-Oil related blogger should have a problem conceding this though.

I'm fine with a tossup, less fine with "#2 team in the Conference", especially when the supporting statistics come from two distinct sets from the season.

To present the skewed evidence and then to suggest we 'do the math' (presumably Oiler math) is a bush-league stats trick.

The Sharks, for example, after the Olympic Break had 3.54 GF/gm and 2.69 GA/gm. Note that these GF and GA came from the same set of games. Wouldn't that make them #2?

Ducks over the same stretch were 3.40 - 2.76.

 
At 8:09 PM, May 03, 2006, Anonymous Baroque said...

Good discussion...and I'm happy to see that no one has discussed the weak division as though it was Detroit's and Nashville's "fault" that the other three teams were so bad, and it was unfair of them to take advantage of the weak commpetition (as an idiot friend of mine seems to think). I pointed out that if the talent disparity was so damaging to the competitive aspect of the sport, as he thought, it was easy enough to fix-have all the other owners chip in a few bucks apiece from the tremendous money the NHL is making post-lockout, pool the money, and buy Chicago ownership a half-dozen clues. Bingo: better balance of talent, and a small but passionate fan base would worship anyone who delivered them from hockey purgatory! :)

 
At 10:53 PM, May 03, 2006, Blogger Achtungbaby said...

We could also mention the sheer amount of Red Wings players who went all the way at the Olympics with team Sweden. That had to take a lot out of the guys.

That said, Detroit definitely had an easier time than those clubs in the Northwest division. It's not like other clubs didn't have players in the Olympics as well.

 

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