Tuesday, April 08, 2008

How tight is the Eastern Conference?

Hi James,

Hope things are good. Just a quick thought and maybe the type of thing you might know, or at least dig around on — what is the smallest points difference between a first and eighth placed side at the final standings?
I'm thinking the 10 points in the East this year must be up there?

After a quick look, it was easy enough to see that 10 points was the narrowest margin at least since we've had a 30-team league, but to be sure, I asked the NHL's statistician, Benny Ercolani.

"The 10-point difference separating the Canadiens (104) and Bruins (94) is the smallest for any 1-8 matchup since the current conference-based playoff was introduced for the 1993-94 season."

I haven't checked for earlier years, but that's pretty impressive. Shootout and overtime points are to blame to a certain extent, but it also speaks to just how close all of the eight playoff teams in the East are this season.


At 4:52 p.m., April 08, 2008, Anonymous Andrew said...

"Shootout and overtime points are to blame to a certain extent"

I don't see how overtime/shootout points have any pronounced effect on how closely teams in the East are bunched up.

If you strip the extra single points away, you still have 8 teams within 10 points (MON & PIT with 94 down to NYR & PHI with 84). The only difference is that Carolina would be in (with 86 points) and Boston (with 82) would be out.

(Incidentally, the playoff teams in the West would be unchanged.)

The extra point is commonly cited (blogs, sports radio) as the main factor for standings parity, and it just isn't true. Standings are close because the teams are more equal than ever before... not because of the single points.

At 6:07 p.m., April 08, 2008, Blogger Kel said...

I'd argue that it's not the direct effect of adding an extra point, but rather the fact that teams tied late in the game have a lot of incentive to keep it that way, and therefore making the separation of the winner and the loser less pronounced and also the distribution of winner more even. If Team A is somewhat better than Team B in a game tied in the 3rd period, it's very likely that both teams will want to go to OT, with both teams ending up close to .500 in OT. Without the loser point or bonus point, Team A may push harder for the win and the game ends in regulation with Team A winning more often than Team B.

At 6:16 p.m., April 08, 2008, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

it just isn't true.

Yeah, I'm with Kel here. It's pretty easy to strip loser points and declare that a points system has no impact; it's quite another to play the games over with new consequences and observe the effects.

Standings isn't the only answer to the range in the east (parity matters too), but I don't know why I wouldn't consider it a factor, especially if the 1-to-8 gap is closer than it's ever been.

At 6:40 p.m., April 08, 2008, Blogger Camcanuck said...

Personally I think it's even more amazing that the NW division from top to bottom was only separated by 10 points. There always seems to be 1 weak team (or one much stronger team) in each division and that just wasn't the case in the NW this year.


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