Congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings – not what we would have predicted

This first year of applying Puckonomics to playoff predictions has been a big learning for us. It is clear that at a macro level, using team performance for the entire season is not a good leading indicator of how a team will do (note: keep in mind our analysis ignores actual team standings, just aggregate performance of team players).

Over the next coming weeks I will dive deeper into the regular season statistics of individual players on both the Los Angeles Kinds and New Jersey Devils to see if there was some leading indicators that would have predicted these two teams would have met in the finals. I am sure there will be some nuggets that would have some clues that both of them would have a good run. Stay tuned.

2012 NHL Playoffs – First Round Predictions

This is our first attempt to predict the outcome of playoff series based on our analysis of the value of the players on the team.  Since our approach looks at the body of work of team over the entire year and does not adjust for any other factors other than injuries it will be interesting to see how good our methodology is a predictor of success.  Because our methodology only determines the total value of the team (as the sum of its players) we will not be in how many games a team will win by, since that would be replacing data-driven conclusions with opinion. Please keep in mind that injuries to key players, in particular any top goalie will likely affect the outcome of a series by the reducing the true value of a team.

Eastern Conference

Ottawa Senators ($59.6M) over the New York Rangers ($57.2M)

We have to admit this one immediately surprised us, in fact we had to go back and double check our numbers to make sure this wasn’t a mistake.  But despite some questionable goaltending, Ottawa has some a balanced offence compared to the Rangers excellent goaltending, but weaker defence and overall offensive threat.


Boston Bruins ($64.7M) over the Washington Capitals ($56.2M)

Even without Nathan Horton, the Bruins balance and depth is quite impressive.  Tim Thomas’s performance this year was just okay, but given the team in front of him, the Bruins will put the puck in a lot more then they will take the puck out of their net. Washington’s injuries at the goalie position and below-average scoring ability really don’t bode well for them to upset the Bruins.


Pittsburgh Penguins ($65.9M) over the Philadelphia Flyers ($66.1M)

Statistically these two teams are equal in terms of their 2011-12 overall performance.  However when you adjust for the injuries to key Flyers like Van Riemsdyk, Meszaros, Briere (and Pronger even though his absence is already reflected in the numbers) their team isn’t as valuable right now as it has been all year. When you combine that fact with the obvious, that a healthy Sidney Crosby for the playoffs and no key injuries to Penguins, Pittsburgh’s true value for the first round is higher than their regular season numbers show.


New Jersey Devils ($58.1M) over the Florida Panthers ($53.4M)

New Jersey has above average goaltending and scoring while the Panthers are below average in each category (Goaltending, Defence and Forwards). In particular, Florida is significantly challenged on offence and will likely struggle to score goals.


Western Conference

Vancouver Canucks ($61.5M) over the Los Angeles Kings ($46.8M)

The strength of Vancouver was not a surprise, but the weakness of the Kings was more than just a little shocking.  Our analysis showed not only the obvious, the lack of scoring ability for L.A., but also a lack of depth on the blue line.  The Kings have by far the lowest value defensive corps due to the departure of Jack Johnson.  Despite their quality goaltending, the Kings will continue to struggle to put the puck in the net.  The Canucks have the best goalie tandem in the league and solid defense. The only question for Vancouver is around scoring.


San Jose Sharks ($61.5M) over the St. Louis Blues ($55.5M)

Even though the Blues swept the Sharks during the regular season, the difference in team value is quite apparent.  Clearly the Blues have excellent goaltending and good defence, but a lack of scoring from their forwards especially compared to the Sharks balanced attack should be noticeable.  Despite average goaltending and a balanced defence, the overall depth of the Sharks should be enough to get by the Blues.


Chicago Blackhawks ($62.9M) over the Phoenix Coyotes ($58.3M)

Chicago is above average across the board, although not by much. The offense they can generate from their defence will be the key to their success.  Phoenix has some solid goaltending in Mike Smith, but the Coyotes lack of depth in their skaters is expected to show over the course of the series.


Nashville Predators ($63.4M) over the Detroit Red Wings ($62.1M)

This is another one that was closer than we expected.  Nashville has quality goaltending and potent offensive upside from their defence. Despite what most people think, their offence is also above average.  For the Red Wings they continue to be well-balanced across the board.  Detroit is also better than the mean across all three categories.  Nashville gets the nod just by a few hundred thousand dollars in each category, including the best goalie in the league, and is predicted to take the series. However, any injury to a key Predator player will likely make a big difference in being able to win the last game.

Playoff Adjustment

There are 1230 regular season games and about 88 playoff games (give or take a couple) each year.  Since the salary cap is directly tied to the total revenue of the NHL, it is important to remember that the pool of compensation dollars is a fixed pie of ~57% of the total revenue (depending on how many teams spend to the cap). Since playoff revenue is disproportionately higher than the 7.2% of number of games it represents, for simplicity sake we assume that Playoff-related Revenue generates ~10% of total league revenues. As a result, if a team/player makes the playoff we will also show an adjusted salary related to their playoff performance (if any).  It makes sense for consistently  deep playoff performers like the Detroit Red Wings to be making 20-30% more than their calculated REGULAR SEASON numbers, but that means that extra amount should be taken out of someone else’s compensation who is not playing or performing in the PLAYOFFS.  So if a player does not make the playoffs, their VALUE is adjusted downward by about 10%.