2006-05-25

Worst. Champion. Ever?

There was an engrossing post made at PSH on Tuesday. One of the points made was that the '06 Stanley Cup champion might be the worst in recent memory.

That point prompted me to make this handy chart:


The rank is the team's placement in the overall standings. The %rank is the percentage of teams below this team in the standings (included because 6th place in a 21 team league is not as impressive as 6th in a 30 team league). The p-rank is the team's Pythagorean standings rank, and the p-%rank is the % of teams below them in this regard.

It seems obvious that any of the four remaining teams would be below average Cup winners. However, a win by Buffalo and Carolina could not be considered anomalous. Anaheim or Edmonton, should they pull off a win, would clearly be the worst Cup winner (by this measure) since the playoffs were expanded to 16 teams.

It's easy to allow one's preseason expectations to cloud one's judgement of Buffalo and Carolina. You have to remember that the '03-04 season was a long time ago. It's not just the New NHL that made these clubs winners. Had there been an '04-05 season, we might have seen these teams make headway toward joining the elite. If we had seen some measure of progress between '04 and '06, (i.e. an intermediate season between 30- and 100-point efforts by Eric Staal) the Sabres & 'Canes success would be less jarring.

As for the suggestion that there 'are no elite teams,' the '06 Red Wings and Senators had the #3 and #4 best Pythagorean win% over the last 10 years. #1 was the '01 Devils and #2 was the '00 Blues. Neither of those clubs won the Cup either.

So, who is the worst Cup winner in recent memory? By the numbers, it's the '95 Lockout Devils. If you only consider teams that played a full season prior to the playoffs, the '91 or '92 Pens or the '93 Habs might be the one.

Noteworthy: Despite the advantages conferred by placing higher in the standings (home ice, matchups with lower seeds), the Pythagorean placement is still a slightly better predictor of Stanley Cup success.

13 Comments:

Blogger The Puck Stops Here said...

When I talk about a team being the worst in recent memory to win a cup, I do not mean that they were the worst team in the standings or anything like that (I am judging cup winning teams relative to each other rathe than relative to their regular season standing). I mean that this team (any of the four remaning) lacks the number of stars, lacks anything to make them elite.

Were it possible to have (for example) the 1995 Devils play the 2006 champs somehow correcting for differences in the era they played in, I think the Devils should win. They have a better goalie (Brodeur) than any team that is left. They have two elite defencemen (Stevens, Niedermayer) (thats one more than any team left). They have as good a bunch of forwards as any team left in 2006 (Richer, Broten, MacLean, Guerin, Lemieux, Holik, Carpentor ...). I'd also argue the Devils had a better coach.

5/25/2006 1:24 PM  
Blogger Jeff J said...

Yeah, I think the '95 Devils' regular season record is misleading. Smaller sample and all that.

Since you can't compare championship teams from one year to another, you have to make do with how they matched up against their peers. Buf and Car may not be 'elite' but they match up pretty well against other surprise teams like the '93 Habs. Every once in awhile, an above average team sneaks in ahead of the elite ones.

As for HOF calibre players - it's easy to drop names after the fact. If Tampa lost to Calgary, would their Big Three plus Andreychuk still be on the HOF trajectory? If, say, Carolina wins this year people will say the same about Staal, Ward and possibly Brind'amour.

I get your point, though - the cap and lower UFA age may spell doom for the elite teams. I just don't think it's happened quite yet.

5/25/2006 2:08 PM  
Blogger The Puck Stops Here said...

Its far too early to suggest Cam Ward is on a hall of fame track (he's not the best goalie in the playoffs even if he winds up winning the cup). I certainly wouldn't suggest Brind'Amour either. Brind'Amour has never been seriously considered for a major award before this year's Selke and he's 73rd all time in points which is not nearly high enough for a player who was never considered the best in his position by any stretch of the imagination.

I call Eric Staal and Mark Recchi the hall of fame track players in Carolina and stand by it.

As for Tampa, calling the man who was the art ross winner, +/- leader and hart favorite in St Louis a hall of fame track player is not a hard call. Calling Brad Richards (who we knew was a Lady Byng nominee - and likely the favorite) at barely 24 years old hall of fame track is not too hard a call (his Smythe really cemented it). LeCavalier was probably a harder call since he hadn't matured into an award nominee as fast as Richards (its his 2004 World Cup MVP win that was after the playoffs that answers some of my questions). I might also have been suggesting Khabibulin at the time, although hindsight makes that a poor call. And Andreychuk is a given.

The point, I think it is clear that Tampa has more hall of fame track players in 2004 (4) then Carolina does in 2006 (2). Carolina is likely the closest team remaining to an elite club - that doesn't mean they will win the cup (they are behind in their semi-final) it may be a team that stacks up even worse.

5/25/2006 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Phoff said...

Worst in recent memory to win a cup?

The Leafs.

Pick any of their 13 measley wins.

5/25/2006 3:45 PM  
Blogger Jeff J said...

Phoff: 39 years ago is 'recent memory?' How old are you?!?

5/25/2006 4:30 PM  
Blogger goal10der said...

I like the chart, but I thought baseball was the game of statistics? In hockey, especially in the playoffs, stats go out the window, as we've seen with the Wings and Sens.

But, since we're on the stats subject, the overall #1 this season was not as impressive as their stats may lead one to believe. In 24 division games against St. Louis, Columbus and Chicago, the 3 worst Western Conf. teams this season, their record was 19 regulation wins, 2 shootout wins, 1 regulation loss, 1 OTL and 1 shootout loss for a total of 42 points out of 48. I would have to argue that only Nashville had that cushy of a schedule, yet didn't capitalize quite as well; but especially Ottawa had a tougher schedule and finished 11 pts back of them. If Det wins only 70% of those 21 total wins, Ottawa is your Presidents trophy winner.

Now you may say, "well, they still had to play the other teams." This is true, but against the Western Conference playoff teams, they were 16 reg. wins, 6 reg. losses, 3 OT losses, 2 SO wins, and 2 SO losses. Also, if you throw the Carolina game that they lost and 2 early season losses to Vancouver, when the Canucks were actually playing decent hockey, they Wings only collected 36 out of 64 points, Basically, a .500 hockey team.

Now, as for Ottawa's collapse in round 2. Was this really a surprise? In the last 2 months, including the playoffs (dating 3/13 - 5/13), the Sens were 14-15, 1-2 in OT and 2 SO losses. Not including the playoffs, from March 21 to the end of the season (exactly 4 weeks), they went a paltry 6-9, going 1-2 in OT and losing 1 by SO. Hardly an "elite" team if you ask me.

So like I said, throw the stats out the window.

I do like this point you made: " Had there been an '04-05 season, we might have seen these teams make headway toward joining the elite. If we had seen some measure of progress between '04 and '06, (i.e. an intermediate season between 30- and 100-point efforts by Eric Staal) the Sabres & 'Canes success would be less jarring."

5/26/2006 6:20 PM  
Blogger Jeff J said...

Ottawa - yes, they were a different team without Hasek.
Detroit - I agree, and that's why I picked the Oilers to win the series. Ideally I would have included some strength-of-schedule component, but thast would be a bitch to compile for the last 25 seasons.

Just looking at the regular season ranking isn't perfect. I agree that teams are very fluid and change over the season (see Oilers pre/post-Roloson). But it's easier doing it this way.

5/27/2006 10:55 AM  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

tpsh - read your post and it was interesting but don't agree with St> Louis as a HOF candidate unless he puts up 7 or 8 years that are really strong - he is good and his MVP season was terrific but he needs another pile of great seasons, not just decent like this year, to be HOF material. Regardless I can agree with Tampa being an elite team.

sisu - what is the Pythagorean theory etc - sorry - maybe I missed it?

I'm an Oilers fan so I'm biased of course but I can understand the lack of respect they are getting - they have earned it - I would submit that with Roloson in net all year they would have been the third seed in the West but of course what ifs and might have beens, huh?

Pronger is the only future HOF out of this bunch but they have a lot of good, not great players, throughout their roster - comparable to those Jersey teams but of course NJ had the Scotts and Brodeur. Maybe the Habs from 93 are a better comparison - first line of Muller, Bellows and Damphousse - up and comers like LeClair, vets like Lemieux

A nice team thad got some breaks along the way but I would guess Habs fans didn't care at the time, iirc.

5/29/2006 2:16 PM  
Blogger Jeff J said...

BDHS: There's a good piece on the Pythagorean win % as it relates to hockey at Darryl Shilling's Hockey Project.

My intent is certainly not to bleat about how the Oilers are 'bad.' Bad teams don't win the Cup. Sometimes a merely very good one sneaks off with it. The chart has to be taken at face value - it's nothing but a comparison of the regular season results of the last 26 Cup winners. The regular season figures don't fully reflect the Roloson effect (or the Cole/Weight/Recchi effect, etc).

Ahhh... '93. One of my favourite topics. Those Habs weren't a powerhouse, but they were still one of 7 100+ point teams. Any hint of guilt I feel about that Cup quickly evaporates every time I hear a Leafs fan whine about what woulda coulda shoulda been if only Gretzky's high stick on Gilmour had been called.

5/29/2006 4:17 PM  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

BDHS's point about St. Louis, I agree completely. Not to shit on TPHS, but the analysis there is incredibly subjective and after the fact.

The Roloson effect is, obviously, mammoth. With Roli all year, the Oilers are at least +40, I figure. Do they still need breaks to be where they are? Sure, but this isn't a real comp to the 2002 Hurricanes or anything.

5/29/2006 4:54 PM  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

sisu - I didn't read it as the Oilers being bad - no worries - I think non Oiler fans have no idea how bad Oiler goaltending was pre-Roli - its too bad because they're a damn good team

I sure won't feel any guilt if they win the Cup and nor should you about '93. The goal is to win 16 games. Its never easy and its always well deserved.

5/30/2006 4:51 PM  
Blogger Earl Sleek said...

The Roloson effect is, obviously, mammoth. With Roli all year, the Oilers are at least +40, I figure. Do they still need breaks to be where they are? Sure, but this isn't a real comp to the 2002 Hurricanes or anything.

Just nitpicking a bit here (note I am no expert on the '02 Canes), but is it possible that they also had an X-Factor similar to your Roloson-factor?

I keep hearing how I don't watch enough Oilers to fully appreciate the Rolie factor, but had you watched enough '02 Canes to call them out?

It's tough when you apply a different standard only to your own situation.

5/30/2006 7:30 PM  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

I keep hearing how I don't watch enough Oilers to fully appreciate the Rolie factor, but had you watched enough '02 Canes to call them out?

If I'm wrong and they had some gaping hole that they filled, by all means, share Earl. I could be wrong but I can't think of anything that they had wrong. I've documented the Oiles goalie problems this year in loving detail-I don't know that Carolina didn't have something similar but I'd be very, very surprised.

5/31/2006 6:56 PM  

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