100th Anniversary: What if the NHL still had four teams?

Mike Commito
October 12 2016 05:00AM

W e let our resident hockey historian, Mike Commito, run wild with his imagination this week. He's so excited about the start of the NHL's 100th season that he wanted to mark the occasion by redrafting the league so it's structure mirrored that of the first season in 1917-18. Big thanks to Shawn, Scott, and Megan for volunteering to be a part of this centennial draft experiment.

You may have heard that the NHL is celebrating it's 100th season this year. They've even brought Wayne Gretzky back into the fold to serve as the league's centennial ambassador. While we might want to forget the fact that this is really only the 98th season, after you discount the 2004-05 lockout and the shortened seasons in 1994-95 and 2012-13 you're still a couple shy, it's a momentous occasion and one worth commemorating.

When the National Hockey League was first formed in November 1917, there were only four teams: the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Toronto Arenas, and the Ottawa Senators

Now, nearly a century later, the NHL is on the cusp of having 31 teams all across North America. Although there's still plenty of talent to go around, what would it look like today if there were still only four teams in the league?

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What is each team's probability of making the playoffs this season?

Sam Mercier
October 11 2016 03:00PM

As the fans of the Colorado Avalanche can probably attest, a team can ice a very similar lineup for two consecutive seasons, and yet finish at a very different position in the standings. On average, since 2005-2006, the season-to-season variation of the number of points obtained by NHL teams is of 11. A model of consistency like the Red Wings, which have not finished two consecutive seasons during the last decade with a greater difference than 10 points, represents the exception, not the norm.

When we spoke a couple of weeks ago, we quantified that approximately 40% of the season-to-season variation of the number of points obtained by an NHL team is attributed to that big and abstract concept we call luck. This luck factor includes everything that can hardly be controlled by teams, such as injuries, a bad schedule and missed calls by the officials. The remaining 60% of the season-to-season variation of the number of points is caused by a real change in the underlying quality of the team.

Now that we have split that luck vs quality contribution, there is one nice little thing we can do: from the number of points that each team obtained last season, estimate the probability that they will make the playoffs in 2016-2017. We will quantify that probability using a technique called Monte Carlo simulation.

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NHLNumbers Season Preview: Power Rankings No.10-6

Cam Lewis
October 11 2016 01:26PM

These are very good. As long as nothing terrible happens, these teams will be playing meaningful games in May, and if everything goes well, into June. They boast elite talent, and have much more positive going on than holes to dissect. They aren't quite the top of the class, but this is where the discussion of true contenders begins. These are teams 10-6 on the NHLN poker rankings. 

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Watch The Game: Episode 3 NHL Season Preview

Watch The Game Podcast
October 11 2016 01:02PM

On Episode 3, NHLnumbers daddy Cam Lewis makes his debut to talk about the upcoming NHL season as a whole.

We're now on iTunes (newest episode should be up soon if not updated yet!) 

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NHLNumbers Season Preview: Power Rankings No. 15-11

Cam Lewis
October 10 2016 01:25PM

Now we're beginning to inch towards the contenders. These are playoff teams. Well, they should be, so long as everything goes according to plan. These are teams with the upside to do some damage in the playoffs, but they're far enough from sure things that it's just as easy to visualize them on the outside looking in. These are teams 15-11 on the NHLN power rankings. 

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