Thursday, December 22, 2011

Playoff Possibilities in 2011/2012

While I tune into every single Blue Jackets game with the hope of seeing a win, it would be dishonest if I claimed that I celebrate goals now the same way I did a year or two ago.  Maybe it's the jaded expectation of seeing a lead evaporate or the anticipation of a third period collapse, but the passion into my living room shaking "GOOOAAAL" celebrations have most certainly taken a backseat to the season we as fans have been forced to accept as 'regular' this year.

It got me wondering though.  If the Jackets came back from Christmas and snapped into some of the best hockey they've played in their existence, would there be any possibility of the playoffs?  It's a reach, and that's fine, but I've heard people comment about selling a team short, and if I am going to watch these games, I may as well do so with some ridiculously blind optimism.

So I went back to see what the bottom end teams got into the playoffs with over the last couple seasons in the Western Conference.  Here are some previous year standings and some number crunching:


If Columbus were to play into this schedule, they would need to manage 76 points in their remaining 49 games to beat out in this case Chicago, with 98 points and a 'tie' for 7th.  A record that could accomplish that total would be something around 37-10-2.  To give some perspective on that kind of record, the two best teams in hockey right now are the Philadelphia Flyers (21-8-4 46 pts) and the Chicago Blackhawks (22-9-4 48 pts).  Columbus would need to better them significantly in order to achieve the record needed to make the playoffs in this scenario.


If Columbus were to play into these standings, they would need to manage 74 points in their remaining 49 games to beat out in this case Colorado, with 96 points and sole possession of 8th place.  A record of 36-11-2 would accomplish that total.  To give some perspective on that, they would need to win three out of every four games for the rest of the year (wouldn't that be nice!!).


A finish of this point structure would give the Jackets the best opportunity, needing only 70 points to make the playoffs in this year, they could finish with a record of 33-12-4 and still beat out in this case Anaheim to do so.  While this scenario would be the most ideal, it would still provide one of the most exceptional comebacks in NHL history in order to make it in.

One final process I looked into was to consider the current bubble teams and their point per game totals to possibly provide a potential finishing number for the year.  Here is what I found their results to be:

5th: DET - 43 pts in 33 games (1.30 ppg) = 106.85 pts in 82 games
6th: STL - 42 pts in 33 games (1.27 ppg) = 104.36 pts in 82 games
7th: DAL - 39 pts in 33 games (1.18 ppg) = 96.91 pts in 82 games
8th: NSH - 38 pts in 33 games (1.15 ppg) = 94.42 pts in 82 games
------------------ Hitchockian Invisible 'bar'  ---------------------------
9th: PHX - 39 pts in 34 games (1.15 ppg) = 94.06 pts in 82 games

Basically I took the current point total of each team and compared that with the total games played to get an average point total per game played.  The pace of these teams appear to provide Columbus with a scenario more like the 2009/2010 finish we reviewed above.  Phoenix would essentially lose out to Nashville in this case, as Nashville appears to have a slight advantage and could be more inclined to finish at 95 points, leaving Columbus the need for 96 in order to take sole possession of 8th place.

A site I really enjoy reviewing is the playoff chances that Sports Club Stats provides.  They provide not only a general percentage of the teams likelihood of making the playoffs, but also percentages on what position the team will finish out the year in.  In their case this year, at this moment, they have been given the following percentages to finish:

5th :: 0.0000161%
6th :: 0.000774%
7th :: 0.0036%
8th :: 0.0134%
9th :: 0.0475%
10th :: 0.14%
11th :: 0.432%
12th :: 1.405%
13th :: 5.359%
14th :: 32.966%
15th :: 59.625%

They also provide every single W-L-T record that would get them into that projected position.  It is a tremendous site and I strongly recommend you take a look, as it provides much better statistical insight than I could ever offer.  In any case, I think realistically the Jackets are looking at a finish in the bottom three slots in the Western Conference, pending one of the greatest displays of success I have ever seen during their final 49 games of the season.

I hope this piece is more interesting than it is depressing.  Obviously with only 22 points in 33 games played, the expectations for success diminish substantially, but it doesn't leave out the possibility of some exciting hockey down the stretch.  At the sixty game mark I am sure it will end up being more of a 'likelihood of finishing last' piece that goes up, but New Jersey found some incredible success at the midway point of last season, giving me at least some insanely optimistic thoughts that Columbus could still turn this season around with the right move (*cough* coach *cough* top six forwards *cough* legit top two defender *cough*).  Until then, I'll keep my eye out on the top tier prospects and look forward to a better future.

Carry the Flag!

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