Monday, February 2, 2009

Playoff Prospects -- Where Things Stand Now, What The Schedule Holds

OK, since every pundit on the planet is weighing in on who is going to make the playoffs and who isn't, despite the fact that everyone has between 30 and 34 games left in the season, I thought I might take my own shot at it, using some numbers to support my case.

First, let's look at where things would stand at year end in the West, based solely on every team playing at the same pace they have to date, as I have done in the past. Numbers are valid through last night.

1. San Jose 132 points
2. Detroit 119 points
3. Calgary 109 points
4. Chicago 106 points
5. Dallas 91 points
6. Minnesota 89 points
7. Edmonton 89 points
8. Columbus 87 points
9. Anaheim 87 points
10. Vancouver 85 points
11. Phoenix 85 points
12. Los Angeles 80 points
13. Nashville 79 points
14. Colorado 77 points
15. St. Louis 75 points

Fair enough -- looks pretty good for the Jackets, and as expected, places 5 through 11 are pretty much a crapshoot. Now, to make it more interesting, I decided to look hard at each team's remaining schedule (except for the top 4 in the West, who would have to have mass cardiac arrest to not make the playoffs). I looked at every team in the NHL, and identified three groups -- the elite teams, the downtrodden, and the contenders. Using a method familiar to blackjack players dabbling in card counting, I gave each team in the elite category a +1 value, the downtrodden a -1 and everyone else a zero. I also gave every home game a -0.5 value, and each road game a +0.5 value, to reflect home advantage. It is then a simple matter to take all of the remaining games, apply the values, and determine who has the easiest and hardest schedules (the lower the number the easier the schedule.) Here are the results for the 11 Western Conference teams vying for the final 4 playoff slots:

Vancouver 2
Columbus 3
Phoenix 4.5
Dallas 5
Edmonton 5.5
Colorado 6
Nashville 7.5
Anaheim 8
Minnesota 10.5
St. Louis 11
Los Angeles 14

For reference, the elite teams are: San Jose, Detroit, Chicago, Calgary, Boston, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Philadephia, Buffalo, Montreal. Washington The downtrodden are: NY Islanders, Ottawa, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, St. Louis. Everyone else is in the middle category.

Combining the two, here are my picks right now for the #5 through #8 spots in the West:

5. Dallas
6. Columbus
7. Edmonton
8. Phoenix

Phoenix and Vancouver actually end up in a dead heat, but I went with my gut and picked Phoenix. Reasonble minds can differ. . . .

Argue away, but I respectfully submit that my method is as good as any! Go Jackets!


roadman said...

Great analysis, thanks.

It is hard to do, but some kind of differential should be factored for the way a team is playing now or "trending". I would have to think that such a factor would favor the Jackets who had the bulk of their woes early, and work against say, VAN who are having their miseries now. Difficult to quantify though.

Keep up the good work.

Rick said...

excellent work. Anyway I look at it, the Jackets would have to fall apart at this point to not make the playoffs.

JAL said...

The biggest issues for the CBJ right now are these:

1. Mason's health, and is Dubie a viable backup? If the latter is false, look for us to be knocking on Vancouver's door for Curtis Sandford.

2. Chemistry -- Can we integrate our guys returning from injury and keep the chemistry we had going? Top line is no problem, but the other ones need to produce down the stretch.

3. Youth -- Can Hitch keep everyone focused on playing Hitch Hockey for 60 minutes each game?

In many respects, I think the Dallas game was good for us. Everybody has one of those, and it was a good time for ours to happen. Particularly with St. Louis coming in, who plays with an edge, but lacks Dallas' talent. We won't be caught short tonight.

I am optimistic about the stretch run. Hitch is exactly the kind of coach you want to have for this group of players, and if they stay within the system we will be fine.

I still think Howson will pull the trigger on something relatively soon, now that everyone is going to be back and he can showcase a few bodies. Our games have been like an NHL Scouting Convention lately, so stay tuned.