Wednesday, April 06, 2011

NHL Playoff Cutoff

2 down, 3 to go. The Stars had to grind hard to take care of the Blue Jackets on Tuesday Night, but they don't ask, "how?" they simply ask, "how many?" when they are adding up the points at the end of 82.

A tough 3-0 win (with 2 empty net goals) has put the Stars to 91 points on the year - with a chance to get to 97 if they can knock out the final 3 games against non-playoff teams. If they do that, perhaps they will erase their own name from the list of "non-playoff teams".

During the postgame show (on Sportsradio 1310, the Ticket), Dan and I were talking about the playoff charge. It was my assertion that the idea of 97 points and missing the playoffs would constitute a crazy list of circumstances. 97 points is enough to make the playoffs 9 out of 10 years. Is this that 10th year?

Here is a little research I did last season, reprinted and updated for your pleasure 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
09-10SJ 113Col 95StL 907

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 93.6 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 90.8 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 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.

Or so I thought last season. Now, we are facing the odd year where the Stars hope for 97 points. If they get there, that might be enough to sneak in the back of the pack. But, as you can see, there are no promises that 97 will be enough. Let's hope the Stars do their part and then hope that this year is not the wild exception to the rule.

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