Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Southleast Division

Currently, Boston has as many points as Atlanta and Carolina, but has games in hand on both. Boston sits in 9th, Atlanta in 3rd and Carolina in 10th. Boston's on pace for 89-90 points, which means the division champion in the Southeast is on pace for less than 90 points. Only Washington right now looks to be on pace for more points than they had last year in the Southeast, and with the streak they've been on, look like a challenger for that #3 seed all of a sudden. Recently, Carolina, Florida, and Tampa haven't looked good at all. Atlanta, playing basically .500 hockey for the past month or so, has stumbled into the #3 seed.
For all of Tampa Bay's issues, they are only 9 points out of the #3 seed with 36 games to play. That's not an easy task, but it isn't exactly an unprecedented gain over the last 45% of the season.
I've hammered on the Southeast Division quite a bit in recent years, but those teams' play this season has brought new meaning to definition of 'weakling'. It's really only going to be a matter of time before a team with more points than a division winner misses the playoffs, and you can imagine the outrage.

And this is with a division-heavy schedule, where teams automatically pick up a ton of points beating up on one another. Just imagine the potential for an Eastern Conference division to get hammered if they actually have to play the West more than 10 games a year.

Who's on pace for what:


Team Pt% Pts
1 OTT 0.689 113
2 NJD 0.611 100
3 PIT 0.611 100
4 PHI 0.602 99
5 MTL 0.600 98
6 NYI 0.554 91
7 BOS 0.545 89
8 NYR 0.521 85
9 ATL 0.511 84
10 CAR 0.500 82
11 BUF 0.500 82
12 WSH 0.478 78
13 FLA 0.468 77
14 TOR 0.457 75
15 TBL 0.424 70

That's ugly stuff.

In goals for, the teams sit 17th, 5th, 11th, 26th and 9th in the league, but in goals against, it's 26th, 27th, 25th, 21st and 30th.

The goaltending in the division, quite frankly, has been brutal.



Goal dif Save%
1 Atlantic 0.06 0.911
2 Northeast 0.11 0.906
3 Northwest -0.03 0.906
4 Central 0.24 0.905
5 Pacific 0.00 0.905
6 Southeast -0.37 0.895

Take Florida's .913 out of the mix and that falls to .890.

35 Comments:

At 12:50 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Not one southeast team has a .500 record outside of their division. Tampa is a horrible 7-15-4 outside their division. Oddly enough because of OTL and SOL all five southeast teams are 'above .500' within the southeast division. In fact Chicago is the only team without a .500 or better record against the southeast having beat Tampa but lost to Florida and Atlanta. The Canucks are 1-1 against the southeast while every other team is at least one game above .500 against the southeast.

No matter how you look at it the southeast is a horrible division.

 
At 1:00 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous PPP said...

I don't like those 75 points that the Leafs are on pace to accumulate. Something has to happen to lower that.

Oh, and can the fans of teams in that division stop complaining about the Southleast jokes now?

 
At 1:05 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger The Peerless said...

And none of those SE teams can pull away from one another based on play within their division, either...

Tampa Bay: 21 points/20 games
Atlanta: 19/17
Carolina: 19/18
Florida: 19/18
Washington: 18/17

If there is one thing to give Caps fans hope, it is that they are 5-1-1 within the SE since Bruce Boudreau took over.

But at the moment, what the NFL might call "parity," other reasonable people might call, "yeesh."

 
At 1:40 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really makes you wonder how Florida couldn't make the playoffs with Luongo in net, considering that Luongo has shown that he can single-handedly offset a team's lack of offense by guiding the Canucks to a division title last season.

 
At 1:58 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Kel said...

It really makes you wonder how Florida couldn't make the playoffs with Luongo in net

Two reasons: 1.) Luongo didn't play as many games in his first 3 seasons there. 2.) The Panthers consistently gave up too many shots. In his incredible 72-game, .931-save-percentage season, his GAA was 2.43. His GAA in Vancouver was 2.28 last season and is 2.04 this season so far. Both are much lower than 2.43, yet his save percentage were and still is below .931. In Florida, he faced an average of one shot per 1.79 minutes of ice time (or .558 shots per minute). In Vancouver, he faced an average of one shot per 2.09 minutes of ice time (.476 shots per minute).

 
At 2:09 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

One thing's for sure, Ottawa hopes Washington doesn't somehow get the #8 seed.

kel, from a pure hockey point of view, I'd also say that Vancouver creates better goal scoring opportunities than Florida ever has, even if it is from turnovers.

Also, the current SE is just plain worse than the SE was even 2 years ago. Heck, 2 seasons ago they had the defending and the eventual Cup winners in their division. This year, if trends continue, none of their opponents are playoff worthy. At least back in Luongo's day, one of them was worthy with another at least being a bubble team.

Can someone check Lecavalier, Ovechkin, and Kovalchuk's G+A=P totals vs the division and vs the rest of the NHL? It'd be interesting to see how much tougher they find it to score on teams that aren't in their division, and what their scoring pace would be if they didn't play other SE teams at all.

 
At 2:19 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger The Peerless said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2:29 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger The Peerless said...

saskhab:

Lecavalier:

Div.: 20G, 14-21-35
Oth.: 26G, 14-14-28

Kovalchuk:

Div.: 17G, 16-17-33
Oth.: 30G, 21-9-30

Ovechkin:

Div.: 17G, 12-8-20
Oth.: 28G, 22-13-35

Perhaps of note with respect to Ovechkin, he' 6-4-10 in four games against the Senators.

 
At 2:41 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous David Johnson said...

On a per game basis
Lecavalier:
SE Div: 0.70g/gm, 1.75pts/gm
Other: 0.54g/gm, 1.08pts/gm

Kovalchuk:
SE Div: 0.94g/gm, 1.94pts/gm
Other: 0.70g/gm, 1.00pts/gm

Ovechkin:
SE Div: 0.71g/gm, 1.18pts/gm
Other: 0.79g/gm, 1.26pts/gm

That is a pretty significant difference between division and non divisional production for Lecavalier and Kovalchuk. It goes to show you how much divisional play can affect things. In fact if one did the analysis one could probably show that the significant difference between offensive production between the eastern and western conference is largely due to the bad goaltending in the southeast division.

 
At 3:02 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous bk said...

We've known this for a while.. but is there any way to explain how the Southeast regularly gets into the Stanley Cup finals?

TB and CAR won the 2 years before last.

Maybe their opposition wasn't as good as it should have been because of an inflated #3 seed?
But still, strange how they can take the West's 'best' despite playing against poor-quality temas in their own division all year.

 
At 3:14 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

bk, Tampa and Carolina were still quality teams when they won the Cup in consecutive seasons. Both did need 7 games in both the Conference and Cup Finals, so they weren't dominant by any stretch, but they were strong (and relatively injury free). But they couldn't maintain their quality into the next season and soon fell back.

In those two cases, they were good teams in bad divisions, but since last year the Southeast hasn't even had one real quality team. The division seems to be regressing.

 
At 3:31 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Brian said...

I didn't hear all this wailing and gnashing of teeth for the past two years running when the Central Division featured two teams that were knocked out early in the playoffs after beating up on the ugly kid sisters of the Western Conference for 24 games apiece. Spare the "See, I told you the Southeast sucks!!!!" business, because there have been other divisions in the history of the NHL that sucked just as bad. (Try the mid- to late-'80s Norris Division, where it was a minor miracle if two teams finished above .500.)

I'm not saying the Southeast is good this year, but I'd like to think that this year is the anomaly and not the past three seasons where multiple teams finished over .500, and the division won two Cups.

 
At 3:33 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

We've known this for a while.. but is there any way to explain how the Southeast regularly gets into the Stanley Cup finals?

I don't think that two good teams in the past four seasons necessarily disproves the rule.

The Southeast had a lock on that third spot going back seven or eight years — other than the two Cup winning teams.

 
At 3:37 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Tampa was a good team when they won the cup but they did gain the advantage of a weak division to capture the top seed so they could play the 8th seed (Islanders) in the first round. Then they played the 7th seed as Montreal upset Boston in the first round. Then they played an extremely beat up Philadelphia team after the Flyers narrowly beat the Leafs in an extremely physical series. Then they played a 6th seed in Calgary. In my opinion this was probably one of the easiest runs to the Stanley Cup ever. They were also really really lucky and never had a serious injury all regular season or playoffs (total man games lost was something like 25). That is rare.

Carolina was a good team that added some quality rent-a-players at the trade deadline (Recchi and Weight).

Most importantly for both Tampa and Carolina is their goalies got hot in each of their playoff runs. Khabibulin for Tampa and Ward for Carolina. But as we see now, without top goaltending they are mediocre teams.

 
At 3:38 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous d said...

ATL has only 2 OT losses to their tally compared to 8 for the Habs. ATL has the same # of wins as Montreal, NYI, and one more than the NYR.

Is it possible to name the Leafs as an hororary member of the SE division?

 
At 4:02 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

But still, strange how they can take the West's 'best' despite playing against poor-quality temas in their own division all year.

I'm really glad you put the word "best" in quotes--they beat a 6th seed and an 8th seed (missing their top goalie), and had to win a seventh game at home to complete it.

2 cups isn't insiginificant, but to say they beat the best in the west to do it is a bit of a stretch.

 
At 4:03 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Pyronite said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4:09 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

It's really only going to be a matter of time before a team with more points than a division winner misses the playoffs, and you can imagine the outrage.

Well, it won't be as bad as 1988, when two Patrick Division teams with winning records missed the playoffs and the 2nd-last-place Maple Leafs (21-49-10) made it in...

But just because there were worse divisions in history doesn't mean the SouthLeast doesn't suck this year.

 
At 4:13 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Keith said...

David - to add to your point, Calgary had more man games lost to injury in the Stanley Cup Finals alone than Tampa had the entire year. Though that certainly is not an excuse. The Lightning were a damn good team that year. They weren't the #2 team overall in the league by fluke, even if they did play in the Southleast.

And ultimately, that is why you play the regular season. The Flames took the hardest path to the finals in NHL history, while Tampa had a very easy route. That's the benefit of finishing #1 in the conference vs. #6.

 
At 4:28 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Then they played a 6th seed in Calgary.
Except that over half of Calgary's regular season games in 2003-04 had someone other than Kiprusoff starting in goal. When Kipper arrived, and then again after he recovered from a mid-season injury, the Flames were winning at a pace with the top teams in the league, Tampa included. So their 6th place ranking wasn't really an indication of how good they really were with Kiprusoff... it was a close to evenly weighted result of how good they were with him and how average they were without him.

In the playoffs, the Flames always had Kipper, and that made their supposed upsets over the top 3 West seeds much less upsets than rather coming out on top of even competition. I'd place the 2004 Flames playoff teams on pretty much even ground with Detroit, Vancouver, and San Jose that season... and therefore, on pretty much even ground with Tampa Bay.

 
At 4:58 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Jonathan said...

//Except that over half of Calgary's regular season games in 2003-04 had someone other than Kiprusoff starting in goal.//

Ditto for Edmonton, just substitute Roloson for Kiprusoff.

 
At 5:12 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger strech said...

Another aspect of this is that the entire Atlantic division is doing better than the entire Southeast division.

I think this is a little exacerbated by coincidence/luck, though - the Devils haven't won this year at all against the Rangers or Islanders (0-6-3) who are the two bottom teams in the Atlantic, which has reduced the spread in the division.

 
At 6:13 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Keith said...

Ditto for Edmonton, just substitute Roloson for Kiprusoff.

Except for the detail of the Oilers actually having a worse record after acquiring Roloson than they did before.

Roloson played outstanding in the playoffs - as did the entire Oilers team, in fact - but the Oilers backed into the playoffs, and needed a ton of help from Vancouver to do even that.

 
At 6:22 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Bruce said...

Not one southeast team has a .500 record outside of their division ... Oddly enough because of OTL and SOL all five southeast teams are 'above .500' within the southeast division.

Nice catch, David! It shows how meaningless the former standard really is. If you check out the columns that actually add up, GF and GA, you'll see the first place team is a pathetic -17, and the division collectively -83 with no team even with 10 goals of break even.

On a per game basis
Lecavalier:
SE Div: 0.70g/gm, 1.75pts/gm
Other: 0.54g/gm, 1.08pts/gm

Kovalchuk:
SE Div: 0.94g/gm, 1.94pts/gm
Other: 0.70g/gm, 1.00pts/gm

Ovechkin:
SE Div: 0.71g/gm, 1.18pts/gm
Other: 0.79g/gm, 1.26pts/gm

That is a pretty significant difference between division and non divisional production for Lecavalier and Kovalchuk.


It certainly is. Props to Saskhab for asking the right question and The Peerless for answering it. Maybe Ovechkin needs to fatten up a little against the weak sisters in his own conference, particulalry cuz those games may well decide which weak sister makes the playoffs; but his performance against the league as a whole supports my view that he is the best player of the three by a decent margin.

 
At 7:05 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

We've known this for a while.. but is there any way to explain how the Southeast regularly gets into the Stanley Cup finals?

Yes, though most people hate to hear it.

Small sample size.

A best-of-seven series is a crapshoot. Put the best team in hockey against the worst team, and I'd bet the latter has about a 1 in 6 chance of winning the series. Make it the best team in hockey against an average team, and it is probably more like 1 in 3.

To win the Stanley Cup, you need to win 16 games, with as many as 28 tries. Break it down, and it isn't surprising that the best regular season teams don't win the Cup very often. That's the way it goes.

Go back through each season, and count the number of average teams that had a really hot 20-24 game stretch at some point. That's really what the Stanley Cup playoffs are.

Now, I don't really have a problem with that. The playoffs are exciting, and the Cup is special. What I don't do is pretend that the Cup winner is necessarily the "best" team in hockey. Aside from the fact that "best" is a really subjective decision, all it proves is who won a tournament.

I really wish there was some way to go back to the days when the President's Trophy really did mean as much as the Cup.

 
At 8:25 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

I'd also say "small sample size" in the fact that, well, they went 3 of 4 seasons (2002-06), and then before that, it was in '96 and '98... that's really not "always" at all.

And J., as you know, in a 7 game series, injuries can often be the determining factor. The Buffalo that finished 4th in the East in 2005-06 was not the Buffalo that played Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final vs. Carolina. That was Nathan Paetsch's first NHL game, and also featured Jeff Jillson and Rory Fitzpatrick playing regular minutes for the Sabres.

 
At 8:53 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

And J., as you know, in a 7 game series, injuries can often be the determining factor.

Sure, but this is, again, a part of the small sample size issue. A cluster of injuries to one side and not the other is more likely over seven games than it is over 82.

There are clarifications about that that I'd make, though. The first is that injuries are not just a matter of bad fortune. Between roster construction with regards to injury history and age, as well as the overall competence of a team's medical staff, injuries won't even out in the long run.

The other is that, while 82 games is a much better sample size than 16-28 games, it's hardly ideal. There can be a huge amount of variance over the stretch of a season, and things won't even out.

Also, I think that it's important to distinguish between predictive statistics, and descriptive statistics. You use the former to base your model of what will happen in the future, and it is subject to all sorts of bias and error. Descriptive statistics, on the other hand, are used to describe the past. They have no variance at all; they're fixed.

Too often statheads like myself don't make that distinction. Descriptive statistics are the only ones that are useful for determining a champion. I can point out that Team X should have finished better than it did, based upon goal differential, or upon predictive statistics that indicate that they were more likely to win a series than the team lost to. In the end, though, that's just a way to amuse myself, and is that stathead version of asking yourself, "What if?" and having off-season arguments with your friends.

The team that wins the games, wins the games. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop bringing up my prediction that Ottawa was going to finish last year a lot stronger than it started it, though.

 
At 11:01 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Taste of Flames said...

Oh, and can the fans of teams in that division stop complaining about the Southleast jokes now?

No, that's about all we have anymore.

I can't speak for the rest of the division, but, as an ATL fan, I'm just stoked that we have a team. Our division sucks...yeah, we know, but I think following a shitty hockey team makes you a better fan in the long run.

Also, can you check the goal differential of the other leading scorers (Crosby, Iginla, ect.)?

 
At 2:38 AM, January 18, 2008, Blogger bradley said...

I take a bit of issue with posting the Caps as on pace for 78 points, as it sorta ignores the coaching change (as well for Atlanta, although I bet 6 games has a smaller impact than 21). Based on their play under Boudreau, the Caps are on pace for something like 90 or 91 points (they'd be over 100 for a full season, but that first quarter really killed them), still low but probably not 9th if the East stays as close as it is. I understand that your calculation is technically accurate and you probably don't want to force the numbers to say more than they do, but it seems that too often people look just at the Caps total record and ignore the pace they are on under the new coach. The Capitals are something like the 2nd or 3rd best team in the East since US Thanksgiving (when the change occurred), and considering all of the injuries and whatnot it can't just be luck, a favorable schedule, or things like that. It really is an entirely different team with an entirely different pace now.

 
At 7:04 AM, January 18, 2008, Blogger The Peerless said...

Bruce, you noted:

"Maybe Ovechkin needs to fatten up a little against the weak sisters in his own conference, particulalry cuz those games may well decide which weak sister makes the playoffs; but his performance against the league as a whole supports my view that he is the best player of the three by a decent margin."

It hardly seems to matter to Ovechkin who he plays; his hallmark in his young career thus far is his remarkable consistency.

We occasionally take a look at it here:

http://peerlessprognosticator.blogspot.com/2006/12/remarkable-consistency-of-alexander.html

 
At 11:53 AM, January 18, 2008, Anonymous Jon said...

Excellent conversation everyone. Very interesting. Exact same story today in the Edmonton Journal: http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal
/news/sports/story.html?id=7af7e1e3-a0b0
-415e-973d-d557710a24aa&k=98566

 
At 2:41 PM, January 18, 2008, Blogger Bruce said...

Thanks, Peerless, that's interesting. It confirms my perception that Ovechkin tailed off just a little down the stretch last year but otherwise has been racking them up at a very steady rate indeed.

Perhaps the most consistent scorer I've ever seen was Wayne Gretzky, who averaged 2.5 PPG from about halfway through his second season here in Edmonton right through the end of his tenure with the Oilers. If you randomly pick a handful of ten-game stretches out of those years I'll bet you'll find the lion's share are 22-28 points, certainly 20-30, with the occasional eruption around some new record or other. I had the pleasure of seeing almost all of those home games and it was uncanny how consistently he scored, at such a high (as in unprecedented) level. If his goals totals dropped a little, he'd just dish it off a little more and the assists numbers would rise commensurately. Either way his points production could be mistaken for a metronome.

 
At 5:50 PM, January 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Southleast, huh...
Lets take a look at the Caps' record against the Atlantic and Northeast teams since Boudreau took over (November 22, approx. 2 months ago):

New Jersey: 1-1-0
Pittsburgh:0-0-1
Philadelphia:1-1-0
Islanders:0-0-1
Rangers:1-0-0
Ottawa:4-0-0
Montreal:1-1-0
Boston:0-1-0
Buffalo:0-2-0
Toronto:0-0-0

So, as you see, the Caps have a winning, 8-6-2, record against all other Eastern Conference teams over the last 2 months. Not sure that can be considered "Southleast"

 
At 10:21 PM, January 18, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

I notice the Capitals are winless against Toronto in the last month - how good can they be?

Seriously, I'm impressed with how personally fans take these things on the net. It's not Washington's fault that the their entire division has been crappy.

And unfortunately for the Caps, all those "pre-Boudreau" games still count in the final standings...

 
At 11:02 PM, January 18, 2008, Blogger bradley said...

I don't know if it's always so much people taking it personally, it's just that you generally need to look deeper to try to imagine where a team will end up. Atlanta and Washington are both better than their records because of coaching changes. Phoenix is better than it's record because of picking up Bryz, Anaheim is better because of getting back Niedermayer, etc. I just think you'd be oversimplifying if you ignored those factors, because (so far) they've all had seriously tangible effects on their respective teams, ones that have been going on too long and too strong to be tossed aside as luck or flukes. For the SE, adjusting for the coaching changes (just going by points earned as of yesterday I guess), ATL is on pace for ~88-89 point season, which this year may be enough for 8th in the East. The Caps are on pace for 91, which would probably be enough to win the division. I don't disagree that the division is weak, easily the weakest in the league, but with the overall weakness of the East (or, at least, parity) I don't think it's going to be so bad that the 3-seed is actually in 9th. Certainly lots of things can happen between now and April, all I'm saying is it is enlightening to look deeper at the things that have influenced these records, because in some cases (Caps being my prime example, but there are plenty of others across the league) the change is startling and can really throw a monkey wrench in these types of predictions.

 

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