Monday, October 29, 2007

Trending up, trending down
An oh-so-early look at the standings

It's been a pretty wacky first month of the NHL season.

Philadelphia's on fire, and Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago are transforming the Central from a one-horse race into something a tad more compelling. Carolina actually looks like a team that's won a Cup postlockout, while Boston's back.

Only five more months to go.

Here's a look at where teams are projecting now, after 159 games (13 per cent of the season), to be ahead (or behind) of their 2006-07 totals:

Projected swing

Wins Pts GF GA
1 Philadelphia 35.4 58.8 73.0 -122.6
2 Ottawa 25.8 42.6 -9.2 -66.2
3 Columbus 16.2 33.6 28.6 -85.0
4 St. Louis 20.7 28.3 32.0 -71.8
5 Carolina 7.8 28.2 80.2 -41.2
6 Montreal 7.2 24.8 42.0 -34.6
7 Boston 14.2 22.4 -14.0 -92.2
8 Detroit 11.5 16.8 39.8 -0.8
9 Minnesota 4.2 15.3 -26.3 -12.1
10 Los Angeles 14.0 14.0 39.5 -23.3
11 Colorado 8.2 9.4 -3.6 -19.9
12 Tampa Bay 1.6 7.2 38.6 -15.0
13 Chicago 6.3 3.5 15.2 -19.5
14 Calgary -5.7 0.9 17.8 42.4
15 N.Y. Islanders 5.6 -0.9 -11.1 60.7
16 Toronto -5.8 -2.2 56.3 38.5
17 Edmonton 2.2 -2.7 3.2 25.3
18 Washington 4.8 -4.4 -38.2 -48.2
19 Dallas -9.0 -8.6 3.6 -0.2
20 Phoenix -3.7 -12.3 -33.8 -28.9
21 Pittsburgh -6.0 -14.8 -31.0 24.6
22 San Jose -13.7 -25.0 -71.6 2.3
23 Florida -5.2 -26.4 -45.7 -3.5
24 Buffalo -12.0 -31.0 -12.8 36.8
25 N.Y. Rangers -17.4 -36.6 -110.8 -43.8
26 Vancouver -14.8 -36.7 -3.3 51.8
27 Nashville -18.2 -44.4 -67.0 58.6
28 Anaheim -22.8 -46.9 -87.7 12.8
29 New Jersey -24.4 -49.6 -35.6 77.8
30 Atlanta -20.6 -52.3 -67.1 90.5

You know it's been a nice start for the Senators when they're on pace to finish with nearly 43 points more than last season.

This also gives you a good idea where teams like Toronto stand, who despite being lauded as having an "over .500" record, are en route to finishing with two points fewer than their playoffless season of a year ago. And, even with a shootout win over struggling Anaheim, Edmonton is still on pace to finish with fewer points than last season.

Perhaps even more interesting is the swings in goals for and against, where the much higher scoring teams have been Carolina, Philadelphia, Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. Teams on pace to score far fewer goals are the Rangers, Anaheim, San Jose, Atlanta and Nashville.

Gains for teams like St. Louis, Columbus and Boston, not surprisingly, have come as a result of keeping the puck out of their nets. Philadelphia's on pace to improve its goal differential by nearly 200!

This is what the playoff picture looks like at this early juncture (with projected point totals):

  1. Ottawa 148
  2. Carolina 116
  3. Philadelphia 115
  4. Montreal 115
  5. Tampa Bay 100
  6. Boston 98
  7. N.Y. Islanders 91
  8. Pittsburgh 90
  9. Toronto 89
  10. Buffalo 82
  11. Washington 66
  12. Florida 60
  13. N.Y. Rangers 57
  14. New Jersey 57
  15. Atlanta 45
  1. Detroit 130
  2. Minnesota 119
  3. Dallas 98
  4. St. Louis 109
  5. Columbus 107
  6. Colorado 104
  7. Calgary 97
  8. Los Angeles 82
  9. San Jose 82
  10. Chicago 75
  11. Edmonton 68
  12. Vancouver 68
  13. Nashville 66
  14. Anaheim 63
  15. Phoenix 55
If this is way too early for you, that's certainly all right by me (feel free to spare us in the comments, however). I'll probably be updating this sometime next month anyway.


At 10:06 a.m., October 29, 2007, Blogger Tim said...

It's way to early for me...but as Jackets fan I'm not looking at the standings in horror any more.

At 10:39 a.m., October 29, 2007, Blogger BlackCapricorn said...

As a Sabres fan I sadly can't disagree with this projection.

At 11:25 a.m., October 29, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

10 games of NHL action is the equivelant of 2 games of NFL action, so I always think it's a fair enough interval to look at some trends with a strong degree of caution. In the NFL, if a team loses their first 2 games, usually the team has to go on a tremendous run to qualify for the post-season.

It'd be good to chart a PPG average based on each team's 10 game interval (with the 4th one being an 11 game interval to hit half-way). You can add these GF and GA during those time periods as well. Then compare it to how team's deal with things like injuries throughout the season.

At 11:26 a.m., October 29, 2007, Anonymous said...

l"You know it's been a nice start for the Senators when they're on pace to finish with nearly 43 points more than last season.

This also gives you a good idea where teams like Toronto stand,..."

The fact that according to this, the Senators are going to have a 145 point season should tell anyone with common sense that it shows nothing about where teams stand.

Anything come across the wire if Sundin's hip is shot?

At 11:36 a.m., October 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

145 points? Wow, and they say Leaf fans are delusional.

At 11:36 a.m., October 29, 2007, Anonymous nebcanuck said...

It's a good start for the Sens, but I think it'll mean another early Spring.

The Sens do better when they're mediocre in the regular season... if 100 points can be counted as mediocre last year, lol. What it really comes down to is that the faster they start off, the sooner they burn out. When they get to the playoffs they don't have the energy to keep on fighting through the hits. I think it's San Jose's problem most years, too... watch for them to make a splash in the playoffs.

The only team that ever impresses me both in the regular season and the playoffs on a year-by-year basis is Detroit. Though they've had their flops, they have basically been a contender for the President's Trophy and the Cup since the mid 90s. That's impressive. One would think that their energy reserves would be pretty low by now, but they keep on getting better each year!

At 12:29 p.m., October 29, 2007, Anonymous baroque said...

I think it's interesting that the numbers confirm how much the most dramatically improved teams have improved defensively. Boston's scoring is down, but their goals against is far, far better. And the scoring drop off for Anaheim is completely putrid.

It will be interesting to see how the numbers change over the next 10 games or so, to see if the teams with lousy slumps have broken out, or if the teams with crummy defense have improved at all or will continue to be porous.

At 12:42 p.m., October 29, 2007, Blogger McLea said...

It is just me, or is "I know it's early" the sports journalist equivalent of "I know this is a stupid question, but..."

Sorry James, but I couldn't help myself. I just find your fetish for pre-mature projections to be troubling. And sorta ridiculous. But perhaps it's the nature of the beast.

At 2:00 p.m., October 29, 2007, Anonymous Keith said...

Two things caught my eye on this...

1. So far, the East doesn't have as much parity as expected yet.

2. That massive drop from Calgary in 7th to LA in 8th. Last year, it pretty much took 95-97 just to make the playoffs. Early on, 97 would be 15 points clear? I guess other than Edmonton, not many teams are relying on shootout charity to artificially inflate point totals yet.

At 3:40 p.m., October 29, 2007, Anonymous Godd Till said...

Who exactly is "lauding" the Leafs for their start? They've been getting killed by the media pretty much all year.

Strawman arguments are beneath you.

At 4:21 p.m., October 29, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Anyone who has said they have an "over .500" record as a way of placing them in the standings.

At 6:02 p.m., October 29, 2007, Blogger Bruce said...

You're right, "over .500" means nothing anymore in the era of the three-point game, a.k.a. the some-games-are-more-equal-than-others "system". The median over the past two years is somewhere around .555, (~92 points), which is about what a team will need to finish 8th in a 15-team conference. A .500 team is dead in the water.

There have been relatively few OT/SO results to start the season, only about 15% of games to date have awarded the "free lunch point", but last year this percentage crept up and up throughout the season, and there's no reason to anticipate this year will be any different.

Am I the only person who feels that every game that goes to overtime is tainted?

At 6:52 p.m., October 29, 2007, Blogger The Forechecker said...

What strikes me as interesting is that your top 4 teams there have new coaches since the start of last season. 3 out of those 4 were appointed during last year, and have had their first offseason to fully prepare.

At 7:17 p.m., October 29, 2007, Anonymous keith said...

No, you aren't alone, Bruce. Personally, I despise the fact that this league rewards failure (OTL) and mediocrity (SOW). Its the same philosophy that is leading schools to grade papers in purple ink rather than red. Red hurts peoples feelings, and since you tried, you deserve something for it.

I'm waiting for the day when losing in OT in the playoffs is worth "half a win."

At 7:29 p.m., October 29, 2007, Anonymous stephen said...

I wish they had chosen to award each team a point for the tie at the end of regulation, and then played for the overtime bonus point.

So we would have the standings as Wins-Losses-Ties-OT Bonus Points- Total Pts
Then it wouldnt be points for losing but rather points for tieing and tie-breaking in OT. And real wins would still be the first tie-breaker.

At 8:09 p.m., October 29, 2007, Blogger Bruce said...

I wish they had chosen to award each team a point for the tie at the end of regulation, and then played for the overtime bonus point.

Well in effect that's what they are doing, Stephen, an OT win is a win but an OT loss is effectively a tie. And to hell with generally accepted accounting principles.

I have a huge problem with the whole "bonus point" scenario. Because regulation-tie games are jointly worth more to the two participants than than decided games, it is in the interest of all teams to play for the tie down the stretch of any tied game, guarantee their one point, and then go for the second point in OT/SO when they are risking nothing. In effect they are stealing that third point from all the teams who aren't playing.

It would be far better if all games were worth three points, as regulation game was split 3-0 and an OT game split 2-1. That way the teams playing it safe down the stretch of a tie game would be guaranteeing their one point, but sacrificing a potential point at the same time. No free lunches, and a .500 record would once again be the true median.

Of course Brian Burke has already told the fans that we're so stupid it took us several years to figure out the shifting sands of the "bogus point" system, so there's no reason to confuse us any further by fixing the @#$%^ mess.

At 9:28 p.m., October 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: "Bonus Point"

Or you don't want to let the other team, your competitor, to get that extra point.

It's better than the four scoring columns IMHO.

At 11:37 p.m., October 29, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

I'm with you too, Bruce. 4-on-4 overtime has been a success, IMHO, but I'm skeptical that the bonus point has led to any increase in overtime goals on its own. I've seen too many coaches continue to play conservatively all the way through overtime, even when the opposition was from the other conference.


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