Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ask Sports Sturm: Playoff Cutoff in NHL

We spent quite a bit of time discussing the shoot-outs and the importance of getting that all-important 2nd point out of OT games last night after the Stars dropped one to Calgary that they could have and should have pulled 2 points.

I am certainly a little more emotional after games like that, and will occasionally think a bit "big picture" on things.

I see a goal with 0:49 left in the 3rd Period as a sign that this team is wasting too many points. If you waste too many points, then you either lose playoff position, or you miss the playoffs altogether. Either way, in this league where there are too many teams fighting over the 8 spots - I start stressing in early October over lost points. By November, I can already count a half-dozen points that have been lost by simple mistakes here and there. (This, of course, is easy for me to say from the press box, but I am just doing my job, right?)

Anyway, Dan was asking me on the Radio Post Game show how many points are required to generally make the playoffs over the years. I offered him my answer, but since I had not made sure my numbers are correct, I wanted to confirm my thoughts today.

Below are 3 charts. Because in the last 15 years, we have had 3 distinctive eras that made the numbers different for each era. I used only Western Conference numbers in my study, since of course, that is the conference we are discussing.

1) - 1995-96 through 1998-99: This is the era between the 50 game lockout season of 94-95 and the rule change that called for both the 4-on-4 Overtime and the possible 3rd point that could be earned with an overtime winner. This was in a time when the NHL actually had this thing called a "Tie". You may have to ask your father what it was, but it seems that once upon a time the sport allowed a game to end in this result if both teams could not settle it through the normal course of play. I kid, because I mourn the loss of a draw. It wasn't bad for those of us who didn't need a car chase in every movie.

Note: Each team is followed by its point total for that season.

Year#1 Seed#8 Seed#9 Seed100 Pt Teams
95-96Det 131Win 78Ana 782
96-97Col 107Chi 81Van 772
97-98Dal 109SJ 78Chi 732
98-99Dal 114Edm 78Cal 721

HTML Tables

2) - 1999-00 through 2003-04: This era was the period of time from the 1st rule change of the possibility of the bonus point and the rule change that assured there would be a 3rd bonus point when the rules changed before the 2005-06 season that stated that every OT game would have a winner with a shootout.

Year#1 Seed#8 Seed#9 Seed100 Pt Teams
99-00StL 114SJ 87Ana 833
00-01Col 118Van 90Pho 904
01-02Det 116Van 94Edm 921
02-03Dal 111Edm 92Chi 794
03-04Det 109Nas 91Edm 894

HTML Tables

3) - 2005-06 through Present: This is the era of 3 point games for any and all games that are tied at the end of regulation, meaning that more points were being distributed on a regular basis.

Year#1 Seed#8 Seed#9 Seed100 Pt Teams
05-06Det 114Col 95Van 924
06-07Det 113Cal 96Col 957
07-08Det 115Nas 91Van 883
08-09SJ 117Ana 91Min 894

HTML Tables

The results are very interesting. I had no idea that before the rule change of the summer of 1999, it took really only about 79 points to make the playoffs. Then, it shot up to 91, and then to its current spot, where the #8 seed averages 93.25 per season.

The #9 seed, which is the best team to miss the playoffs, rose from 75 points in era #1, to 86.6 in era #2, to its present spot of 91 points. 91 points now misses the playoffs.

The #1 seed didn't move much at all, which tells us the good teams still win tons of games, and the OT rule changes don't affect teams that don't go to overtime to win. But the teams that are in the pack? Everything shot up.

And 100 point teams in the Western Conference? 1.75 to 3.2 to now 4.5 teams per year average 100 points in a season.

So, in today's NHL, to make the playoffs, you better plan on 93 points as the cut-off area that will usually get you in. Unless it is 2007, when Colorado missed the playoffs with 95.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Total OT games played:

07-08: 272
08-09: 282
09-10: 301
10-11 (so far): 243 (proj 294 ish)

OT games are sort of down this year, but still up compared to the years after the lockout. 300 points added is 10 points per team added each year. That obviously accounts for your 78->88 pt jump in 8th place numbers