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No Expectations

There were great expectations, (by some including me), for this Carolina Hurricanes team before the season started. Perhaps those expectations were unrealistic? After all, this was basically the same team that finished 11th in the Eastern Conference last year, 4 points out of the playoffs. Yesterday, the blog looked at some year-to-date statistics and compared them with the same time frame from last season. Not surprisingly they were very similar, if not worse.

The team earned a total of 88 points last year and had 46 at the midpoint. So far this year they are at 43, on pace for a total of 86. Conventional wisdom would say that 86 points will not be enough to make the playoffs, no matter what division a team is in. Let's take a closer look at these numbers.

Before we take a closer look, first I would like to once again share a resource that I have for finding some of these stats. I have mentioned him before, but "The Whaler" provides a detailed listing of statistics on his daily updated "The Hockey Report", which includes, goals, shots, home record, away record, period by period scoring, attendance numbers, and a variety of other items. You can always find a link to the Whaler's site on this blog, on the left sidebar under "Hurricanes Related Sites". He really does a great job.

One very important stat that I like to review periodically is the "Points per game Average". This average takes out the disparity in the number of games each team has played, and gives the true reflection of each team's current standing in the conference. Last year, the team had an average of 1.073. This year the Canes are lower, at 1.048. The chart below shows exactly where the team stands, compared with everyone else in the Conference.

Conference Standings Ranked By Points Per Game Averages.   Games played thru  1/01/08

Team Won Lost OTL Gms Pnts Av. Pts pr Gm Adj Points End Season Gms Left
1 Ottawa 25 10 4 39 54 1.384615 54 114 43
2 New Jersey 21 14 3 38 45 1.184211 46 97 44
3 Montreal 19 13 7 39 45 1.153846 45 95 43
4 Philadelphia 19 14 4 37 42 1.135135 44 93 45
5 NY Rangers 20 15 4 39 44 1.128205 44 93 43
5 Pittsburgh 21 16 2 39 44 1.128205 44 93 43
7 NY Islanders 20 16 2 38 42 1.105263 43 91 44
8 Buffalo 19 16 3 38 41 1.078947 42 88 44

9 Boston 19 16 4 39 42 1.076923 42 88 43
10 CAROLINA 20 18 3 41 43 1.048780 41 86 41
11 Florida 18 18 3 39 39 1.000000 39 82 43
11 Toronto 16 16 8 40 40 1.000000 39 82 42
13 Atlanta 19 20 1 40 39 0.975000 38 80 42
14 Washington 16 19 5 40 37 0.925000 36 76 42
15 Tampa Bay 15 22 3 40 33 0.825000 32 68 42
Look at all of those Southeast teams in the bottom grouping. The only northern team joining the bottom feeders is Toronto. The good news is that whoever wins the Southeast gets an automatic 3rd seed in the playoffs. But the Hurricanes can't take for granted that they will be that team, even though they are leading the pack at this point. Washington, Florida, and Atlanta each have winning records for December and have been playing better hockey lately.

On the main page of the report, there is a listing of period by period scoring. Again not surprisingly, the Hurricanes have scored more goals in the 3rd period than in any other, and fewest in the 2nd, although I thought that the disparity would be greater. (1st-37, 2nd-36, 3rd-51). What does surprise me is that their opponents have scored the most in the 3rd period as well. I was expecting to see a larger number in the 1st and 2nd. (1st-34, 2nd-45, 3rd-50).

There is another site that I like to check which shows some similar statistics called "Sports Club Stats". It is also located on the left sidebar, but under "Local Interest". The site is run by a local sportsfan and it includes information for other sports as well. This statistician uses the points per game average as well as other factors, and comes up with the "odds for making the playoffs" for each professional team. Right now the Canes have a 51.7% chance, according to his latest calculations.

I love to look at these numbers because they can change day to day and game to game. How meaningful are they? Statistics can certainly help to show what the future will hold if no changes are made and trends continue. Teams can use these numbers to show what they need to do, in order to reach their goals. They can also be used to compare different periods and to see if any progress is being made. At this point for Carolina, there is no progress being made over last year, regardless whether or not the team is in first place in the division. Perhaps expectations were too high and should change?

Regardless of those stats, the Hurricanes are on a slippery slope right now and they need to change direction fast. The boys can start by bringing their "A" games against Atlanta tonight at the RBC. I'll have some pre-game information up after lunch. Happy Hump Day!