Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A look at what's changed

Projected year-to-year change

Philadelphia 43.8 46.3 -67.7
Chicago 21.7 34.3 -19.1
Boston 20.9 -2.8 -87.7
St. Louis 20.5 -7.0 -74.4
Phoenix 18.9 -1.2 -45.8
Ottawa 18.0 -23.4 -23.5
Columbus 15.8 14.3 -44.0
Carolina 11.1 32.3 -7.0
Montreal 9.1 4.4 -33.9
NY Islanders 5.6 -47.9 -25.2
Detroit 3.2 22.8 2.6
NY Rangers 1.7 -60.9 -55.4
Edmonton 0.8 -0.3 4.8
Los Angeles -0.3 -2.4 -19.2
Colorado -1.8 -37.2 -5.0
Dallas -4.5 20.0 11.4
Florida -7.4 -31.8 -21.3
Minnesota -11.3 -17.5 26.5
Washington -11.9 -40.3 -40.0
Vancouver -12.3 -1.0 12.9
San Jose -13.8 -41.8 -16.4
Tampa Bay -14.6 10.8 -11.4
Atlanta -18.6 -28.5 33.1
Toronto -18.8 -18.6 26.2
Nashville -20.5 -40.9 22.8
Calgary -20.6 -31.7 23.3
Anaheim -21.2 -49.6 17.5
New Jersey -21.4 -16.3 9.3
Pittsburgh -26.6 -34.6 0.0
Buffalo -27.3 -69.5 -22.1

To me, this is a far more fascinating list than the NHL standings.

The Flyers, for one, are on pace for a 44-point improvement over last season, just short of the 47-point improvement the Penguins put up last season but still one of the largest of all-time. Philadelphia's on pace to score 47 more goals and allow 68 fewer.

How about in Boston, where the team isn't scoring any more than last season but is on pace for a 21-point jump in the standings due to an incredible improvement in goals against. Credit new coach Claude Julien, Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara.

St. Louis has taken much the same path up the standings, and are on pace to allow 74 fewer goals. Manny Legace is eighth in the league in save percentage.

Phoenix, Ottawa, Columbus and Montreal are all seeing their projected improvements because of what's gone on in the goals against department.

There are some wacky ones in there as well, such as the Rangers' sudden inability to score while simultaneously becoming one of the league's better defensive teams. The Capitals, meanwhile, are allowing far fewer goals, but that's been offset by an inability to score any. Tampa Bay's scoring more, allowing less, and is on pace to fall considerably in the standings.

And for all of the talk about goaltending in Pittsburgh, it's actually a big dip in goal scoring that's to blame for their slide.

Keep in mind that the general trend this season has seen fewer goals scored overall.


At 11:54 p.m., November 27, 2007, Blogger Dirk Hoag said...

What strikes me as interesting is how the top of this list is dominated by teams that have coaches in their first full season with the respective team. In Philly, Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus, etc. you had coaches installed during the last regular season, and they've now had the advantage of having their first full offseason and training camp to put their systems in place.

At 9:46 a.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

The schedule for the first two months was very division heavy league wide, particularily in November. Teams have had 8-9 game streaks of only playing divisional opponents. I know the Habs just ended last night a streak of 11 of 12 games against division opponents. Now they play the rest of the league for the most part, until another 8 game stretch to close out the year against only teams in their division.

We'll see how teams match up against the whole league now rather than a series of "mini-playoffs" against similar opponents. Should be an interesting 2nd and 3rd quarters of the year.

At 11:27 a.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger Nelson said...

Pittsburgh scored 270+ goals last year... which you can't expect every year.

They should worry about keeping GA down in a division like theirs (i.e solid goaltending all around).

At 6:56 p.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger Bruce said...

Keep in mind that the general trend this season has seen fewer goals scored overall.

They should worry about keeping GA down in a division like theirs (i.e solid goaltending all around).

You're both right, as The New NHL [TM] has fallen into the same old trap (pun intended) that while you need a little offence to win championships, it's defence that gets you in the playoffs.

Last season provides stark proof of this. The top 15 clubs in goals-against all made the playoffs, with only one team from the bottom half of the Jennings race making the post-season (Tampa Bay, one of your wacky exceptions who were actually exceptional last season).

There was no strong regular-season correlation for goals for, where teams ranked 3rd, 8th, 11th, 13th and 15th all missed the playoffs, while teams ranked 18th, 19th, 21st, 22nd, and 27th all qualified for the dance.

Why is defence more important than offence? It's the system, stupid ... or should I say, it's the stupid system. To my mind it's no coincidence, and in fact a rather amazing correspondence, that those same top 15 defensive teams were also exactly the same 15 teams with the fewest regulation losses (30 or fewer). No exceptions. Defensive teams were better at getting games to OT, where win or lose, they get points.

There is no such strong correlation with offensive teams, who generally record more regulation wins but are not rewarded for them in a stupid system where a win is a win, two points, but a loss can be a tie. So in the very process of bringing us The New NHL [TM] promising more offence, Gary Bettman and his cronies extended the already-flawed three-point game concept to introduce the shoot-out and therefore reward every tie game with a third point, but not those decided in regulation. In other words, a system that guaranteed there would be no more tie results, but actually encouraged more tie games. Coaches not being stupid, the logical result was/is more defensive hockey.

Thanks, Gary. If you want all your games decided in the last five minutes, stick to basketball. You and your lawyers should hire somebody to run your competition committee who understands Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, not to mention Newton's Third Law.


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