Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Effects of a Shortened Season

Hooray! The lockout is over!!...  So why is everyone left with a bad taste in their mouth? After a ridiculous 113-day work stoppage that should have been over months ago, the best hockey league in the world is ready to get back on the ice. Thinking about the CBA for so long has given me a headache, so let's get to some actual hockey talk. Here's a look at how a shorted NHL season will affect teams.

The 48 Game Schedule Format

The format for the season is very interesting, given that they will eliminate inter-conference games. Each team will play two of their division 'rivals' 5 times, the other two 4 times, and the remaining 30 games will be divided equally between the 10 other conference opponents. This is a messy schedule that will have huge playoff implications (I'll be the first to tell you the predictions I made in the offseason will be way off). For example, the Maple Leafs would much rather play their extra divisional games against Montreal or Ottawa, not Boston or Buffalo. How does the league determine how to split up these games? Ultimately, this format will benefit teams that perform well against division rivals, and hinder those who beat up on inter-conference opponents. Here is a breakdown of each team with the extreme ends of the spectrum emphasized (Green - benefit, Red - hindrance):

Standings (2011/2012)
Vs. Division
Vs. East
Vs. West
New York Rangers*
13-6-5
41-18-5
10-6-2
Boston Bruins*
19-4-1
38-23-3
11-6-1
Florida Panthers*
12-8-4
33-19-12
5-7-6
Pittsburgh Penguins
13-10-1
38-23-3
13-2-3
Philadelphia Flyers
11-11-2
36-21-7
11-5-2
New Jersey Devils
13-11-0
38-22-4
10-6-2
Washington Capitals
12-8-4
34-22-8
8-10-0
Ottawa Senators
9-12-3
34-22-8
7-9-2
Buffalo Sabres
13-6-5
28-26-10
11-6-1
Tampa Bay Lightning
13-7-4
29-29-6
9-7-2
Winnipeg Jets
14-6-4
29-26-9
8-9-1
Carolina Hurricanes
9-10-5
25-27-12
8-6-4
Toronto Maple Leafs
9-14-1
26-31-7
9-6-3
New York Islanders
8-13-3
27-30-7
7-7-4
Montreal Canadiens
10-8-6
24-28-12
7-7-4


Standings (2011/2012)
Vs. Division
Vs. East
Vs. West
Vancouver Canucks*
18-5-1
11-6-1
40-16-8
St. Louis Blues*
10-9-5
14-2-2
35-20-9
Phoenix Coyotes*
13-6-5
8-7-3
34-20-10
Nashville Predators
16-5-3
8-7-3
40-19-5
Detroit Red Wings
13-10-1
10-7-1
38-21-5
Chicago Blackhawks
16-6-2
12-3-3
33-23-8
San Jose Sharks
12-11-1
12-5-1
31-24-9
Los Angeles Kings
13-4-7
7-7-4
33-20-11
Calgary Flames
15-6-3
6-7-5
31-22-11
Dallas Stars
12-11-1
8-7-3
34-28-2
Colorado Avalanche
8-14-2
13-4-1
28-31-5
Minnesota Wild
11-12-1
5-9-4
30-27-7
Anaheim Ducks
10-7-3
8-6-4
26-30-8
Edmonton Oilers
8-11-5
8-7-3
24-33-7
Columbus Blue Jackets
5-17-2
6-9-3
23-37-4

Notes:  
  • The West really beat up the East last year, with only 3 Western Conference teams going below .500 against East opponents 
  • Colorado seems to lose the most from this new setup, whereas Calgary are the largest beneficiaries 
  • If you take out games against the East, Dallas and San Jose would have swapped positions in the standings; with the Stars in the playoffs 
  • Though the Blues did very well last season, they struggled against their division and many of their points were from beating the East
  • Even in the toughest division in hockey last year, the Rangers still dominated 
  • Even though they finished last in the conference, the Canadiens managed to perform well against divisional opponents 
  • The difference in teams that perform well against inter-conference teams but not so well against their own division/conference is mainly due to poor coaching

The abbreviated season will have the largest impact on those bubble teams fighting for a playoff spot, and the schedule makes these races even more interesting. In the East, the Jets fared well against their division but the immense distances they will travel in comparison to any other team could be the difference in earning a few important points. Because of the format, it's unlikely that tough divisions like the Atlantic and Central will once again have 4 teams make the cut again (I'm looking at you New Jersey and Nashville); so look for an extra Northwest and Southeast team to get to the dance this year. Age and chemistry are other factors to consider. Although my summer predictions saw Detroit missing the playoffs, I think the short season will allow for less wear and tear on their veterans and lead to success. If youthful teams like the Avalanche and Leafs get off to a hot start, they can secure a playoff appearance early despite consistent late season woes.On the contrary, a team with a lot of new acquisitions like Dallas could stumble out of the gate while attempting to develop chemistry. Being a bubble team without much room for error, this could leave the Stars on the outside looking in.

Just some food for thought as we prepare for the season beginning January 19th. Next week (in time for Fantasy Hockey) I will have a look at which players will break out in 2013, and which will bounce back from less than stellar 2012 campaigns.