1. 4.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Exploiting the NFL

For those who bleed Hockey, a little slice of fictional heaven...

At 3:04 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, 2011, Gary Bettman calls the meeting to order. The required NHL staff was in the room with him, but there was a notable teleconference of the 30 NHL teams’ owners and GMs mutely staring back at him through the lone Polycom device in the middle of the table.

“Gentlemen,” he begins. “We are here today to get a GO/NO GO vote from all teams on the initiative I mentioned in a broad strokes email message yesterday. We are here today to determine if we, as a League, are going to exploit the NFL Lockout for the greater good of Hockey.”

He paused a minute for that to sink in. You could feel the nervous excitement through the electronic silence.

“…There are a couple of things to say up front,” he continued. “We have sent out back channel feelers to Direct TV, NBC/Versus, CBS, ESPN and FOX networks in the United States. Any deal we have at worst would have us splitting September TV rights with the NFL coming out of a Lockout. For example, we would get either the 12 or 3 p.m. slot on all U.S. networks on Sundays, even if the Lockout does not persist. This will elongate our season in some respects as we will discuss below. But for our efforts, we get the prime time Monday night matchup unless the NFL comes back on line at which time we will get another week night, most likely on Fridays. But until they come back, we fill all open slots with our games. And, of course, there is no change on games provided to our Canadian broadcast partners. The new revenues will obviously be substantial. But the overall increase in exposure is the crux of the impact to our League.”

Again there was a short pause of silence, calculated by the Commissioner to allow some comments to pass back and forth by owners and their GMs who were taking the call together. He could not imagine any dissent over these two points.

“…And before we take a roll call vote of teams, I need to add the following. In light of man games lost to injury we have throughout the season, and because we want to have our best players on the ice at all times, we need to provide a means to produce more recovery time. That has driven some recommended changes to scheduling I have had our Hockey Operations team burning the midnight oil over. I will now let them tell you what I am talking about.”

As the rundown of changes began, the fundamental transformation to how the NHL season is played are obvious. Those changes include:

1. The league will play an 84-game season. This allows for: home-and-away against all teams in the other Conference; three games against all teams in the other divisions in a team’s Conference, and six against Division rivals.

2. The 2011-12 season begins three weeks earlier than in 2010-11. Pre-season camps cannot begin before 20 August and end no later than 1 September. Teams still coordinate their own pre-season schedule, but nobody plays more than five pre-season contests. Regular season play begins the week of 3 – 9 September when the NFL is otherwise scheduled to kickoff. It ends the week of 24 – 30 March. Playoffs follow thereafter with rounds scheduled as follows:

Round 1: 2 – 15 April
Round 2: 17 – 30 April
Round 3: 2 – 15 May
Round 4: 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26 and 27 May

3. Season ‘special circumstances’ scheduling occurs as follows:

Thanksgiving Break 23 – 25 November 2011

Christmas Break 23 – 27 December 2011

All Star Break 26 – 29 January 2012
(‘Old Timers’ Game and Fantasy Draft on 27 January; All Star Game on 28 January)

2012 NHL Entry Draft 1 – 2 June 2012

4. Season weeks run Saturdays through the following Fridays. For all teams, two games are played between Saturday and Monday to facilitate weekend crowds and the increase in U.S. television broadcasts. Deference is paid to U.S. college football with fewer games on Saturdays than Sunday schedules hold. High profile rivalries are highlighted for Sunday prime time and Monday games.

5. Teams play Intra-Conference foes three times back-to-back-to-back and across Conference lines in back-to-back pairs. This facilitates short, sharp rivalries with no history lost between contests such as seeing a team in October and then not again until March.

6. Fundamentally, no team plays greater than three games in an NHL week more than four times during the season. In most cases, teams only play four games in seven days just three times. Where teams play four games in one week, the first pair is executed Saturday through Monday and the second, Tuesday through Friday. The additional recovery time afforded by spreading out the schedule can only work to our benefit in icing more complete teams.

7. While there are a greater number of road trips, travel costs are offset by increased television revenues. Road trips, due to alternating home and away schedules, are no longer than four games long.

8. The season begins with Intra-Divisional battles over the first five weeks and ends the same way. This opens and closes the year with a playoff-like atmosphere in all NHL cities, building momentum for both the regular season’s launch and the start of the playoffs.

9. The divisions also receive a reorganizational overhaul in order to tighten up regions and highlight strong rivalries. They look like this:

Eastern Conference
Northeast Division: BOS, MTL, OTT, TOR, and BUF
Tri-State Division: NJD, NYI, NYR, PHI and PIT
Central Division: CAR, CHI, CBJ, DET and WSH

Western Conference
Southern Division:
Northwest Division: STL, COL, MIN, CGY and EDM
Pacific Division: PHX, ANA, LAK, SJS and VAN

As a side note to questions, Hockey Operations explained i f Phoenix has to move to, say, Winnipeg, then you have:

Western Division: COL, ANA, LAK, SJS and VAN
Great Plains Division: STL, MIN, WPG, CGY and EDM

Otherwise, there are no further changes to any Divisions or Conferences.
The Commissioner then continued. “And in order to allow you to visualize these changes, we are sending you right now a draft schedule of matchups broken down weekly for the regular season.” With a nod and a stab in the air to indicate ‘ENTER’ on an imaginary computer, the file was sent to all teams.

Hockey Operations continued. “…When you look at the schedule, home games are in bold. Two bold letters to a lone team name means they have home advantage for the week. That happens for half of all game pairings. Two bold letters in a team name with a slash afterwards indicates which half of the week a team is playing and the desired order of home and away games. This facilitates road trips without bouncing away, then back home, and finally on the road again in quick succession. As you can see, this schedule is doable and frankly could have always been a course of action for play in a season. We just have not chosen to do so to date.”

The Commissioner interrupted the conversation for a short interjection. “Our intent for European games this season is spread them out a bit. We are currently negotiating for Calgary and Philadelphia in Stockholm 8 and 9 October, Washington and Nashville in Moscow 19 and 20 November, and Pittsburgh and Vancouver 10 – 11 December. Those games are indicated in red and white highlighting on the file.”

And Operations followed up with, “There is also room for scheduling options based on arena availability. Intra-Divisional weeks can be played on back-to-back nights with at least a full night off before Game 3, or can be played as a home-away-home triple with travel days in between. Our scheduling folks will speak with all teams about their constraints once you have looked at the schedule and discussed it between opposing clubs for a recommendation to the actual calendar. Are there any questions?”

“Just one. Are we doing this for only one season?” asked Toronto Maple Leafs’ GM Brian Burke.

“Good question. The answer is no. We intend to repeat this in the 2012-13 season and, using momentum from 2011-12, take on the NFL head-to-head. We will reevaluate our League position after then.”

A few more questions are asked before the vote, primarily circulating around divisional reorganization. There is nothing insurmountable, however. The vote is 28-2 in favor of pushing ahead from the teams.

“Ok then. We set it in motion. Work the draft schedule over the next week and we will have another conference call on March 19th to solidify our plan. Then we will go to the networks for what I am calling initial consultations for contracting the 2011-12 season broadcast agreements contingent upon the NFL Lockout remaining in place. That is all for now.”

…And thus is borne what becomes a fruitful extension of the inroads the NHL is making in the United States market which benefits the League, its teams and players, and Hockey fans as a whole.

Ah, to dream, perchance, to imagine. For in the dreams of (an NFL season) death what opportunities may come…
1. 4.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

(Playoff) Border Wars

Hockey is combat. With injury rates on each team greater than casualty figures for units in the U.S. Civil War, don’t let anyone tell you different.

When you add in that the average difference in the East between 8th and 9th seed since the Lockout has been 1.2 points, in the West, 2.8 points, and overall, only 2 points, it is understandable that the battle for final playoff seeds will once again go down to the wire.

How do the teams engaged in these ‘Border Wars’ stack up through Saturday, 12 March's games? We compare those in the range of the playoff possible below…

Eastern Battles

Eastern teams within two points of the final,projected point spread of the 8th seed based on On Goal Analysis’ ability to project from all possible points that can be awarded are only the NYR and BUF.

NYR are projected at the #7 seed with 90 – 91 points, behind #6-projected MTL by 7 – 8 points. They are winning at a .543 clip, just under the Eastern Conference’s average winning percentage (W%) of .550. They have 12 games left to play which include: one each with MTL and BUF who bookend their projected position; two with BOS and one each with PIT and PHI who are playing at better than the Eastern W%; and six additional games against NYI (x2 – a traditional thorn in the side), FLA, OTT, ATL and NJD. The Rangers have won three of their last four games. NYR has only had four players in all 70 games so far this season and currently has injuries reported to DelZotto, Biron, Boogaard, Frolov and Drury. Caution: If NYR needs a win against NJD in their last game of the season, they may be in trouble.

BUF is projected at the #8 seed with 90 – 91 points, behind #7-projected NYR by 1 point or less and ahead of #9-projected CAR by 4 – 5 points. They have a .523 W%, also under the Eastern Conference’s average by greater than .025. They have 14 games left to play which include: two against CAR and one vs NYR who rest on their flanks; one each with NSH, MTL, WSH, TBL and PHI who are all sporting W%’s better than .580; and six additional games against OTT, ATL, FLA, NJD, TOR and CBJ. The Sabres have lost two of their last three games, a trend they need to reverse. BUF has only one player, Tyler Ennis, who has participated in all 68 games for the team this season. Their injured roster includes Butler, Gaustad, Kaleta, Stafford, Lalime and Roy. Caution: The stretch of NJD, TOR, NYR, WAS, CAR and TBL from 26 MAR to 5 APR will make or break them as far as the playoffs go this season.

Honorable mentions: CAR likely to finish 9th with 85 – 87 points; ATL weighs in at 9th or 10th with 83 – 85 points; NJD – with a great comeback attempt – likely to come in at 9th – 11th with 84 – 86 points; and TOR rests at 10th to 12th seed with 82 – 84 points.

It looks like the East boils down to PHI, WSH, BOS, PIT, TBL, MTL, NYR and BUF with CAR falling just short.

Western Conflict

The competition in the untamed West is even more ferocious for teams that are within three points of the final, projected point spread of the 8th seed. Teams in this range include CHI, ANA, PHX, NSH and CGY.

CHI is projected at the #6 seed with 97 – 98 points, behind #5-projected LAK by 1-2 points. They are winning at a .596 clip, above the West’s average W% of .570. They have 14 games left to play which include: only one game against PHX in the Border Wars gang; three with DET including a Black and Blue pair on 8 and 10 APR to close out the season; games against WSH, SJS, DAL, BOS, TBL and MTL who are all playing at a W% greater than .600; and four more games against FLA, EDM, CBJ and STL. The Blackhawks have gone 0-1-1 in their last two following an eight game W streak. CHI has only had three players compete in all 68 games so far this season and currently has injuries reported to Bolland, Campbell, Hendry and Johnsson. Caution: Three games left versus DET, including the away-and-home pair to close out the season may give the ‘Hawks some fits.

ANA is projected at the #7 seed with 96 – 97 points, behind #6-projected CHI by 1-2 points. They are winning at a .581 clip, still above the West’s average W%. They have 14 games left to play which include: two games against CGY and one each against PHX and CHI within the Border Wars circle; they have three with LAK including another Black and Blue pair on 8 and 9 APR to close out the season; two each against DAL and SJS and one versus NSH who look to be in the Western playoffs already; and one more each against STL and COL. The Ducks are 5-1-1 in their last seven games which is the right trend for right now. ANA has only Perry and Ryan who have made every opening faceoff and currently reports injuries to Blake, Hiller and Jafray. Caution: Two speed bumps for the standings may crop up: LAK, CGY, DAL, NSH and CHI from 19 – 26 MAR and CGY, SJS DAL, SJS, and 2x LAK closing out the season from 30 MAR – 9 APR.

PHX is projected at #8 with 95 – 96 points, behind #7-projected ANA by about 1 point. They are winning at a .587 clip, ahead of the Wests’ W%. They have 13 games left to play which include: only one game against ANA, CGY and CHI from the Border Wars group; they have three against SJS with that Black and Blue pair on 8 and 9 APR to close out the season; games against VAN, DAL, and LAK who are already projected in the playoffs; and four more games against EDM, STL, CBJ and COL. The Coyotes have gone 2-0-1 in their last three games. PHX has only four players who have played in all games so far this season and currently has injuries reported to Hanzal, Klesla, Whitney, Sauer and Jovanovski. Caution: PHX games at LAK, and home-and-away versus SJS 6 – 9 APR may have a huge impact in terms of points and player health rolling toward the playoffs.

NSH is projected at the #9 seed with 94 – 95 points, behind #8-projected PHX by 1-2 points. Their W% is .580, still above the West’s average. They have 13 games left to play which include: ANA as the only Border Wars game; a pair at home against DET; games against LAK, BOS, BUF, DAL, and VAN who are projected as playoff teams; and five more games against EDM, COL, ATL, CBJ and STL. The Predators have gone 4-1-2 in their last six games. NSH has five players who have started all 69 games so far and currently has injuries reported to O’Reilly, Sullivan, Goc, Bouillon and Lombardi. Caution: Complacency versus ATL, CBJ and STL to close out the season may actually close out the season.

CGY is projected at the #10 seed with 94 – 95 points, behind #8-projected PHX and #9-projected NSH by 1-2 points. They are winning at a .570 clip, right at the West’s average W%. They have the least games left at 11 to play which include: two versus ANA and one against PHX in the Border Wars gang; they have one each with LAK, SJS and VAN who are likely seeded above them in the final playoff standings; and two each against COL and EDM and another at STL. The Flames are on an 0-2 mini-streak after going 5-1-1 in the previous seven games. CGY has five players who have made all 71 starts and currently has injuries reported to Jackman, Modin, Morrison, Langkow, Pardy, Wahl, Ivanans and Negrin, the most of all Border Wars teams. Caution: Their final 11 games over 26 days / one-game-every-2.36 days is a double edged sword. It is good for recovery purposes, but is a slower rhythm than the rest of the teams they struggle against for the final playoff positions.

Honorable mentions: MIN likely to finish 11th with 91 – 92 points and the final Western team projected over 90 would likely nudge out #7 NYR and/or #8 BUF for a playoff seed were they in the Eastern Conference.

Most likely in the Western Conference, we are looking at VAN, DET, SJS, DAL and LAK with three of CHI, ANA, PHX and NSH rounding out the top eight.


Ladies and Gentlemen, the Border Wars in the Eastern and Western Conferences will decide who rounds out the final playoff pictures. History tells us only once – EDM in 2005/6 – has a team below the fifth seed at the end of the regular season been a Stanley Cup finalist. So the odds are against survivors of the Border Wars playing into June. But you never know, so gather your provisions, reload the batteries on your remote, strap on your recliner, and enjoy the Border Wars from now until April 10th.
1. 4.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Attacking The Neutral Zone Trap?

Here at On Goal Analysis, we have a recommendation for study during the next NHL R&D Camp.

If there remains a desire to increase scoring, how about trying to attack one of the key areas where puck movement gets clogged up – the Neutral Zone?

We propose testing a change to the Offside Rule in order to increase the potential for scoring chances.

The Rule

It is pretty clear what Off-sides is in the NHL rule book: “…83.1 Off-side - Players of the attacking team must not precede the puck into the attacking zone….”

How do you potentially alter this rule without inducing ‘down town hockey’ and the reason off sides was introduced as a rule in the first place. The intent would decidedly NOT be to remove a definition of off-sides altogether, just to, in effect, extend the neutral zone.

Our proposal would read, “…83.1.1 Off-side – No more than one player of the attacking team may precede the puck into the attacking zone as deep as the nearest mark for the faceoff circles before the puck crosses the attacking zone blue line….”

What The Change Looks Like

Graphically, the change in the rule as stated above looks like this:

There are at least four, basic passing routes to get the puck into the attacking zone. In a transition to offense, the attacking team may send what could be called a ‘Rover’ across the attacking blue line once they have possession of the puck, but the early man would have to remain on the defending side of the faceoff circles until the puck comes across the blue line (see the imaginary, dotted blue line in the picture above).

Second And Third Orders Of Effect

Perhaps the most obvious effect this none-too-subtle change would spawn is an elongation of the neutral zone as in the graphic below:

If we may provide the blinding flash of the obvious (BFO), the Rover forces at least one, if not two, foes backwards out of the neutral zone in order to defend against the deep attacker. That unclogs the neutral zone by at least one – if not two – defenders and buys attackers more real estate to set up scoring chances.

It will force players to see ‘deeper’ down the ice and therefore, mentally play the game faster.

It will put a premium on skaters – and even goalies – who can pass the puck tape-to-tape as accurately and long-range as possible in order to facilitate quick attacks up ice.

It will potentially open up the offensive spread in the zone as one player is now positioned deeper down the ice.

It will potentially create a new emphasis on using more of the middle of the ice over the attacking zone blue line than the ‘rim around’ push along the boards depending on the Rovers’ position.

It will potentially create more scoring chances as the Rover may get in behind the defense like a player does now on a breakaway.

Where the attack breaks down due to bad/intercepted passes, it potentially creates more opportunities to quickly transition to an odd-man attack back into zone.

Overall, it supports offensive hockey, potentially creating a quick method to score with less players clogging up the Neutral Zone. In effect, its implementation serves to break up the Neutral Zone trap.

Lest You Think It’s Completely Absurd…

…This idea can be exploited under current, no-red line rules in its desired effect. Current rules have a Rover remaining on his defending side of the blue line until the puck crosses it. But a defender/forward that is moving the puck up ice simply has to loft a puck over the neutral zone to a spot somewhere between the attacking zone blueline and the top of the faceoff circles instead of sending it along the ice. With skill and good placement, the puck crossing the blue line in the air releases the Rover to follow it into the attacking zone, potentially behind the defenders. It is, in military terms, an ‘air assault’ play into the attacking zone.


So we would like to see the neutral zone opened up in favor of more offensively oriented hockey by redefining the off-sides rule to allow for up to one Rover over the attacking zone blue line and north of the faceoff circles prior to the puck’s arrival. This change could fundamentally alter hockey tactics and potentially increase scoring chances/goals due to the increased space it provides on the ice.

A candidate for the next NHL R&D Camp? Why not take this baby out for a test spin?

We say give 'er a shot.
1. 4.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Phoenix Restructures the NHL

I’ll say it. In my opinion, The Goldwater Institute is inspired by the late Senator Barry Goldwater’s stated proclivity if elected President back in the 60’s to ‘drop The Bomb’ on North Vietnam in order to end the Vietnam War. They, for whatever ACLUesque, Quixotic reason desire to force the Phoenix Coyotes to move, Arizonans to lose jobs and Hockey to suffer in a market where it is beginning to grow at all ages/levels. Their motto should be “I Threaten, Therefore I Am.”

That said, what if Phoenix moves to Winnipeg, possibly resurrecting the Jets of old? How should the NHL re-align? If there’s no getting around the loss of Phoenix to the Western Conference, what are our options here?

The Simple Geographic

One method is for the NHL to do their best to simplify realigning based on two things: geographic distance from other teams and the least disruption possible to current Divisional organization. That might look something like this:

Western Conference

Pacific Division: SJS, LAK, ANA, DAL, COL

Northwest Division: VAN, EDM, CGY, WIN, MIN

Central Division: No Change

Eastern Conference

Southeast Division: No Change

Atlantic Division: No Change

Northeast Division: No Change

This Course Of Action (COA) has the least disruption that could be imagined and is probably the preferred COA to execute.

While some folks may say, “COL = Pacific? What are you talking about?” Is DAL near the Pacific other than when it flies to California?

And some pundits south of the 49th Parallel may smugly offer, ‘With four Canadian teams in one division, that’ll give Canada a better shot at winning a Cup for a change…’ (Silly pundits – there is no conspiracy about who wins Lord Stanley’s Cup. It always goes to who wants it more.)

The Alternate Geographic

But what if the NHL likes their change shaken, not stirred? They could wind up doing the following:

Western Conference

Pacific Division: SJS, LAK, ANA, VAN, COL

Northern Division: EDM, CGY, WIN, MIN, CHI

Central Division: STL, NSH, CBJ, DET, TOR

Eastern Conference

Southern Division: DAL, ATL, TBL, FLA, CAR

Atlantic Division: WSH, PIT, PHI, NYR, NYI

Northeast Division: BUF, OTT, MTL, BOS, NJD

There are many reasons to say this wouldn’t be done.

Foremost is that it is more revolutionary than evolutionary and solid organizations usually stand upon a foundation grounded in the latter.

Additionally, several rivalries are broken up: TOR from the Eastern Conference; BUF-TOR; WSH out of the Southeast; NJD from the NY/NJ state-o-plex; and a basic unbalancing of Canadian teams between the Conferences of four in the West and two in the East all come to mind at first glance.

But there are some arguments to be made for this COA as well. All near-Pacific teams are actually in the Pacific division; a ‘Southern’ division is now truly southern in American terms; and if any Canadian team can transition to the Western Conference, it’s Brian Burke’s Maple Leafs.

While this wouldn’t be a traditional, military-style ‘throw away’ COA (one that is completely out of the box just thrown on the table for hasty discussion and discarding amongst the COAs you are really interested in implementing), it would likely not be as popular with HQ-NHL because it flies in the face of some NHL historical precedents, for the number of differences and the other detractors listed above.

And yet, there is now the Shannahan Factor in NHL research and change implementation. Hmmm…

The Alternate Alternative

Lest we forget one quickly spoken statement in Commissioner Bettman’s Phoenix press conference the other day, there are other options than simply considering Winnipeg for a move of the Yotes. Not knowing if that is Toronto (II), Quebec or even Hamilton, let’s just for the moment call this team TORQUEHAM. With ‘The T’ in the League because of a move, you could make the NHL look like this:

Western Conference

Northwest Division: SJS, VAN, EDM, CGY, COL

Southern Division: LAK, ANA, DAL, TBL, FLA

Mid-West Division: MIN, STL, CHI, NSH, DET

Eastern Conference

Central Division: ATL, CAR, CBJ, PIT, PHI

Atlantic Division: WSH, NJD, NYR, NYI, BOS

Northern Division: TOR, BUF, TORQUEHAM, OTT, MTL

How do you like those apples? Here are some cool reasons to go this route if any new resting place for the Coyotes winds up East of Lake Michigan:

The Northeast Division has a nice, tight, travel shot group.

The Southern Division is where everyone will want to be on the road to in January and February (although we do note the extreme East-to-West Coast distances).

The Mid-West Division adds MIN who seems, in my mind, to always have been missing from the same division as CHI.

The Central Division tightens up their travel shot group like the Northeast.
The Atlantic is now all along the Atlantic seaboard.

And TORQUEHAM’s new division will be an all Canadian quartet playing BUF for the pride of the USA every night.

There could even be branch plan to the above, call it ‘The AA II,’ that could alter the Conferences as follows:

Northwest Division: No Change From Immediately Above

Southern Division: No Change From Immediately Above

Mid-West Division (West): MIN, STL, CHI, NSH, ATL

Central Division (East): CAR, CBJ, WSH, PIT, PHI

Atlantic Division (East): BUF, NJD, NYR, NYI, BOS

Northern Division (East): DET, TOR, TORQUEHAM, OTT, MTL

Both are intriguing, yes?

The Return Of Toto

Wait a minute… What if the new location is Kansas City? What if the NHL goes for long-term, grow-the-gamedness versus immediately potential monetary impact? What if that nice new arena waved under NYI’s nose two years ago is the targeted landing spot for a displaced Phoenix franchise?

How about these combinations:

Western Conference

Northwest Division: SJS, VAN, EDM, CGY, COL

Southern Division: LAK, ANA, DAL, TBL, FLA

Mid-West Division: MIN, STL, KAN, CHI, NSH

Eastern Conference

Central Division: ATL, CAR, CBJ, PIT, PHI

Atlantic Division: WSH, NJD, NYR, NYI, BOS

Northern Division: DET, TOR, BUF, OTT, MTL

That gives you pause for a moment, doesn’t it? Any way you slice this option, Kansas City as a destination for the franchise makes a modified form of one of the Alternate Alternatives a more likely, final COA to adopt.


There are at least five options out there if Phoenix is moved due to the obstructionist methods of The Goldwater Institute.

If Winnipeg is the destination, then the most likely COA is go with The Simple Geographic change that creates the least amount of change and turmoil. The Alternate Geographic is less likely to occur as a more revolutionary than evolutionary change, but an interesting alternative to still consider.

If the Coyotes move east of Michigan, two equally enticing prospects come to mind. The Alternate Alternative or The AA II are equally intriguing, and the best COA comes down to whether you want DET or BUF taking on four Canadian teams in their division.

The Return Of Toto assumes a move to Kansas City is the final choice. It is an thought-provoking spin on The Alternate Alternative and her sister, The AA II, that keeps the moving franchise south of the 49th Parallel where The Great Game has a better chance of growing and expanding that returning the club to a Canadian market whose love of the game can only swing in less than 10% increments upwards.

You can hypothesize changes to NHL divisions any number of ways. But you can hang on your hat on the idea that changes to Phoenix cannot come without restricting NHL divisions.

Take me to On Goal Analysis
1. 4.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Yesterday in “ (THEY’RE) GOING STREAKING!!! ”, we threw out the notion that streaks in the NHL are more than just ‘how many in a row’ a current team is. The Streak statistic is really a three-part proposition which includes a Winning Streak (WS), Point Streak (PS) and Losing Streak (LS) for every team.

We loaded you up with facts about Streaking in the Eastern Conference and provided a nice table showing you how teams stack up. And we pointed out perhaps the most telling number in these stats is the difference between the number of winning streaks versus losing streaks as they are a better indication of why a team is where they are.

So today let’s compare what you eye-balled in the East with what it looks like ‘Out West.’

Streaking Western Style

Streaks of the winning variety and in good quantity are the difference maker in Western Conference standings. They are, indeed, and indicator of who is in the hunt for a Playoff seed in almost every case. Here are the comparative figures for the WS’:

Average Western WS Length – 6.4 (high is CBJ with nine; low are EDM and MIN with four); this is more than one full game in the Streak more than ‘back East.’

Average Number of WS – 7.2 (high is DET with 11; low are EDM and PHX with four); this is .133 of a game below the East and indicates how strong the competition is in the West.

Additionally, and the reason the WS out West is an indicator of who is in competition for a Playoff spot, is because seeds 1 – 8 average 8.25 WS’. The 9th-11th place teams – all of whom are within one point of Number 8 – all have a 9.0 WS’. And the overall average of 1st – 11th place teams is 8.46 WS’. And PHX is in the top eight seeds with only four WS,’ but those Streaks have been seven, two, four and eight games long. This makes them one of those exceptions spoken of in yesterday’s post.

The bottom four spots in Western standings? CBJ, STL, COL and EDM only hold a WS average of 3.75. COL, as an example of how the lack of WS’ affects a team, has had no WS’ since 18 JAN in what has likely become an unannounced rebuilding year for the franchise.

Between East and West for teams in the mix for a playoff spot, the West’s longest WS’ beats the East 6.364 games – to – 5.667. Convexly, the average number of Eastern WS’ is greater than the West at 9.222 games – to – 8.455. But as an extreme example, if you multiply the longest WS’ by the average number of times they occur, the West’s figure is 53.808 while the East’s is 52.261 – the West will win more than 1.5 games more than the East at this pace.

In terms of the Point Streak, there is not a great deal of difference between the two conferences:

Average Western PS Length – 7.4 (high is VAN with 17, the most in the NHL; low is MIN with four); this is .133 less than in the East.

Average Number of PS’ – 8.933 (high is MIN with 14, a reason they are hanging in the race for the final seed(s); low is PHX with six); this is the same figure as in the other Conference.

Of interest here is the difference between Conferences for every team within striking distance of a Playoff seed (as of last Sunday night). In the East, positions 1 – 9 average an 8.0 PS’ while 1 – 11 in the West have a 9.273average. This is why you can add up the total points awarded by game play or projected by On Goal Analysis per team and get 74.933 / 93.281 in the West respectively and 72 / 89.891 in the East.

Losing Streaks – the LS’ – also show a significant departure both from within the Conference and when compared to the East:

Average Western LS Length – 5.2 (high is COL with 10; low are CHI and DET with three); this is .667 better than in the East.

Average Number of LS’ – 7.133 (high is PHX with 11 that average 2.546 in length, a reason they are still in the hunt for a Playoff spot; low is VAN with four, the lowest in the League); this is .533 greater than in the other Conference (because lower is better in this category).

Think there’s competition in the West? Heck, you can see it as the standings jump around each and every day. But wrap your head around this combination of stats reference the LS: while the average longest LS in the West is 5.2 and more than half a game less than in the East, for teams still within one point or less of the 8th seed, in the West that average is 4.636 versus the East’s 4.333. So the top Western teams tend to lose less games back-to-back than the East overall. That disparity plummets even greater for teams who are chasing more of their tail than the leaders of the pack (6.75 LS’ on average for the bottom, Western four teams versus 8.167 LS’ for the East’s bottom six).

The West’s Chart
Here is what it looks like, again, with the current Streak and average leaders in bold:

Of interest here is that the difference in LS’ from WS’ is greater – there are more of them – in the West than in the East. But the reason for greater actual and potential point value per team rests in the fact that LS’ in the West are shorter in average length and number.

Going into the playoffs for the West, your important note is still to watch your favorite team for runs increasing the longest, or number of, LS’. Western Stanley Cup Finalists since the Lockout over the last 10 games of the regular season have an even WS : LS ratio. And only DET in ’07-’08 did not have any LS’ in that same timespan. More telling for the West in their last 10 games is that the ratio in length of WS to LS is 3.4 : 2 with Stanley Cup Winners averaging 4.333 : 1.667. When compared to the East, these numbers indicate that Western Cup Finalists’ last 10 games of the regular season display longer WS’ and PS’. There is also a greater WS to LS. ratio present.

In Summation

By comparison, the West leads the East in terms of length of WS’ and shortness in length and quantity of LS. The East’s number of WS outdistances the West, as does their length of PS and differential between WS and LS. It all adds up to the West being more competitive than the East in terms of how long they win and how short they lose back-to-back.

The averages in the three stat categories of WS and PS and LS for Stanley Cup Finalists over the last 10 games of the regular season indicate fans should be looking for the following out of your team as the Playoffs near:

East: Average WS’ of 2.5 or more games; average PS’ of more than 3.5 games; and average LS’ of only one games.

West: Average WS’ of three or more games; average PS’ of five games; and average LS’ of two games.

Remember, however, as you line up to dog out PHI and say they are imploding before the playoffs over their recent four-game losing streak. It is, after all, their longest of the season and all…

PHI has had five losing streaks this season when the Eastern average is 7.667. Their losing streaks averaged a combined 2.8 games in length, while, again, the Eastern average is 5.867. They are also seven wins in front of the 8th seed after game splayed on Sunday night. All that needs to happen is they set their sights on getting back in the ‘W’ column at least by the end of the third game from now versus ATL, follow it up with wins versus FLA and, again, ATL, and they are back to their winning ways having endured a LS still smaller than the Conference average.

Six games in the West, on the other hand, may be unrecoverable…
1. 4.


What we know for a fact here at On Goal Analysis is that the difference between winning and losing in the National Hockey League is THAT close (see thumb and forefinger a miniscule distance apart here).

You can see in official NHL standings that the last column on the right is entitled ‘Streak.’ That’s got to have some importance, yes? But there is still the question of, “Streak? So what?!”

Let’s look then at the ‘So what?!’ and determine the value of that Streak column in those standings. This will be a two-part blog analyzing first the Eastern Conference and then the West due to their distinctively different winning natures this season.

That’s right – here at On Goal Analysis, we hate to admit it, but we’re watching the NHL as ‘They’re Going Streaking…’

What’s In A Streak?

The NHL stat – which is very popular when you consider the fan outrage at its temporary removal from the standings last year – tells you the latest combination of unbroken W’s or L’s teams have.

Our terms studied are three-fold and carry through games ending Sunday, 6 March:

1. A Winning Streak (WS) is at least two games in a row with any kind of ‘W’ a team can acquire. In the East, the largest WS is 12 games (PIT) while three teams have weighed in with only 3-gamers (BUF, FLA and NYR). The average length of greatest WS is 5.333 games. It is interesting to also note the largest number of WS’ is 13 (NYR), the least, five (NYI), and the average number per team is 7.333.

A large number of WS’ may or may not be a good thing. TOR, currently sitting in the 10th seed, has 10 WS’ this season. Lots of WS’ may conversely show that a team can bounce back from a loss with two or more W’s. BUF, currently the 8th seed, is just such an example. And a small number of WS’ may also show success because winning streaks occur more often for a team than losing streaks. Fourth seed PIT has just six WS’ this year, one less than 14th place NYI.

2. A Point Streak (PS) is at least two games in a row with at least one point awarded. Take note a PS can also be a WS. The East’s longest PS is 15 games (again, for PIT), two teams have had a maximum of only 4-gamers (NYR and OTT), and the average length of the largest PS is 7.533 games. The NYR hold the most number of PS’ with 13, NJD has the least with five, and the average number of PS’ per team is 8.933. Remember: a huge PS may be a bad thing if the vast majority of the PS’ games are of the one-point variety, and this season, also is they are Shoot Out Losses (SOLs) which do not count in the standings’ tiebreakers.

Since the Lockout, the average point differential between the 8th and 9th seeds in the East has been 1.2 points. So perhaps the win-and-a-half spread says that the PS carries more weight than the WS. Again, to keep it all in perspective, remember a 10-game PS with all OTLs/SOLs is worth 10 points in the standings, while a six game WS equals 12. For this season, it is interesting to note all teams with double-digit PS’ except CAR are in the top seven seeds. (CAR is currently 9th.)

3. Finally, a Losing Streak (LS) is at least two games in a row with any flavor of ‘L’ attained. An LS can also be a PS or contain a combination of OTL(s)/SOL(s). The East’s greatest LS is 14 games (NYI), four teams have had only 3-gamers (BOS, CAR, MTL and TBL), and the average length of the largest LS is 7.533 games. The NYR hold the largest number of PS’ with 13, NJD has the least with five, and the average is 8.933.

Again for caution, a bunch of LS’ that are short staccatos of loss are not necessarily a bad thing. The NYR in the 7th seed have 10. Know, too, that every team has ‘em as the top eight seeds in the East range from five – 10 with an average of 6.375.

Observing The Streak

Below, we will show you the numbers on the Eastern Conference teams, but add one more observation here… It is most important in analyzing The Streak to determine the difference between WS’ and LS’. Why? Because of the nine teams above, at, or within 1.2 points of the 8th seed, only two – CAR and PIT – have a negative differential between their WS’ and their LS’. (Note also that the average differential here is in the negative, showing teams tend to have more LS’.)

There are a couple more notes here besides the bold number showing what streak a team is currently running.

ATL had seven of their eight WS’ by 5 JAN which is why they are in their current shape in the standings.

How is BUF hanging in the Playoff race? They have only had one LS since 27 DEC.

NJD only had one WS up through 14 JAN, but has had no LS’ since 8 JAN. This is why NJD fans think they look like they might threaten for one of the final Playoff seeds.

As we head toward the playoffs, what becomes important to note is if your favorite Eastern team increases their longest, or number of, LS’. That is a bad trend that is difficult to pull out of and gain success in the playoffs. Remember here that since the Lockout over the last 10 games of the regular season, Eastern finalists have all had one or more WS’ and PS’ and hold a 1.2 WS:LS ratio. (Last season’s PHI is the only Eastern Finalist to have ANY LS’ over the last 10 games of the regular season.)


Streaking is a three-pronged analytical tool consisting of the Winning Streak (WS), Point Streak (PS) and Losing Streak (LS). The Streak is about much more than simply ‘how many in a row’ a current team is. The focus of attention in the NHL streak should instead be the difference between the WS and LS where four of five Eastern Stanley Cup finalists since the Lockout have a positive ratio in that regard.

Stay tuned to On Goal Analysis as tomorrow, we take up observation of the Western Conference streak…