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Vulgar Statistics: Power Rankings at the All Star Break

01/30/11
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Look, I understand that Power Rankings are essentially meaningless.  The teams are usually arranged on a whim by “professional” analysts who can’t possibly have an informed opinion on more than three or four teams.  That’s why, two years ago, I sought to create a Power Rankings system that at least means something.  Not surprisingly, this system is based on statistics.  Now this means it does have to be taken with a grain of salt, but at least when someone asks me why a team is in a certain slot, I have a better answer than “that’s just how I felt.”

The Basis:

It’s pretty simple, I simply ascertain the team’s ranking in seven key areas and take the sum of those seven numbers.  Those areas are overall points within the conference, goals per game, goals allowed per game, power play %, penalty kill %, points percentage in games decided by one goal, and points percentage in games against current playoff teams.  Since the season is half over, I wanted to weight points accrued a little bit, so that particular stat is doubled (counts twice) in the overall rankings.

I only compare teams within their own conference because, honestly, I don’t care how Calgary compares to Florida unless it’s late May/early June and they’re both still playing (and neither should you).

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Evidently when I did this before, I lied.  Apparently Tampa Bay is going to be able to count on winning 4-3 games every night.  Also, while their power play did drop, it’s still tops in the Eastern Conference and here they are late in the season, not only fighting for a playoff spot, but winning close games and dominating the best teams on the way there.  If they can get any goaltending at all in the playoffs, they’ll find themselves chasing their second Stanley Cup.

Surprising:

  • Philadelphia (whom I think is the best team in the league) coming in third.
  • Tampa Bay being that damn good.
  • Carolina’s tendency to beat up on the weaklings.

 

Not Surprising:

  • Boston playing top notch defense.
  • Ottawa looking like the worst team in the league (a suspicion I had all along).
  • The gaps between the elite teams (Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh), the good teams ( Boston, Montreal, Washington, NYR), and the okay teams (Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina).

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Evidently Edmonton was pretty comfortable on the bottom, but Anaheim was not, rising through the ranks to be one of the somewhat more secure playoff teams.  The West is a mess, and somewhat surprisingly, it seems like it will continue to be a mess.  What you can’t see is my calculations that tell me that the top half of the West hasn’t played many playoff teams, and the bottom half has.  That means the good teams have harder schedules, and the bad teams have easier ones.  In short, teams in the West will probably be rising and falling all over the place for the next few months.

Surprising:

  • The power play gap between the haves (>20.2%) and have nots (<16.8%).
  • That Edmonton is last in every statistical category.  Quite frankly I’m impressed.
  • That not even statistics can differentiate between the teams in the bottom half of the Western Conference.

Not Surprising:

  • Vancouver is really good.
  • Edmonton is really bad.
  • Nashville might be one of the scariest teams heading into the playoffs despite a “who needs scoring” mentality.  First in goals allowed per game, penalty kill, and points percentage against playoff teams?  Yikes.
  • Detroit being so awful on defense.

 

The Final Word:

Like I said, they’re power rankings, so their validity is suspect at best.  Still, I like to think that my statistics based version is better than anything a think tank over at ESPN can come up with.  One of the differences is that my rankings are based on the teams’ performances over the course of the season, and ESPN’s and others’ tend to be based on the teams’ performances in the moment.  They try to give you “who’s hot,” and I try to give you “who’s going to make the playoffs.”

After the regular season is over, I will scramble to put together power rankings for those sixteen teams, most likely focusing on each team’s performance (goals, pp, pk, etc.) against playoff teams only so we can get a sense for who’s really good, and who benefitied from playing the equivalent of the Islanders and Devils 12 times.

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