Predicting the Eastern Conference
I have spent a lot of time and effort putting together player ratings so I decided it was time to finally put them to good use and attempt to use them to predict results for the upcoming season. This is my attempt at the eastern conference and time permitting I’ll tackle the western conference in the future.
To accomplish this goal I used my 3-year (2008-11) offensive (HARO+) and defensive (HARD+) ratings at 5v5close, 5v4 powerplay and 4v5 penalty kill situations and combined all of the ratings for all of the players on each team and then converted them back to goals to come up with a predicted goals for and goals against for each team. In doing this I estimated the ice time of every player so first and second line players will have a greater weight than third and fourth line players as well as reserve players and I also estimated how I believe each team will use their players on the power play and penalty kill. I did this largely on each players PP and PK ice time last season.
I have made a few assumptions in these predictions. First, teams will not suffer significant injuries. Generally speaking, I cannot predict injuries so I have to go with this assumption. There are a few exceptions though. For example, I predicted that Sidney Crosby would miss the start of the season and miss about 1/4 of the season. There were one or two other players (Matthew Lombardi comes to mind) that I did this for but none were of the talent level of Crosby so the effects on the results will not be dramatic. In any event, any significant injuries that occur will have an impact on results.
The second assumption I made was how to rate rookies and second year players that may not have a lot of ice time and thus not have reliable ratings. For rookies, for the most part I rated them as slightly below average but it varied a bit depending on whether they are a big time prospect or not. That said, if a team has a rookie or two that has an exceptional season it could affect the accuracy of my predictions. For second year players or players without a significant history to develop ratings from I manually adjusted their ratings if they seemed to be out of whack (i.e. I manually regressed their ratings to the mean). Some got their ratings bumped up, some bumped down. For the most part these guys are not going to be key players to a team so errors in their guestimates are not likely to have a significant impact on overall team predictions.
The final assumption I made was that all teams will spend an equal amount of time on the power play and on the penalty kill. This does not happen in reality and I am sure some teams are more prone to taking penalties (and drawing penalties) than other teams but I haven’t spent any time to attempt to predict that so for now I haven’t factored it in at all.
Oh, just remembered another assumption so this is the final final assumption I want to mention. I have not factored in quality of competition. If a team plays in an easier or more difficult division than another team this will affect their results somewhat.
So with all that said, here are the eastern conference predictions for the 2011-12 season.
|Predicted 2011-12||Actual 2010-11|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||230.7||231.6||-0.9||247||240||7|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||241.0||248.4||-7.4||218||251||-33|
As you may have noticed, I haven’t predicted won-loss records, just goals for and against which correlates fairly well with won-loss records. I have also included last years goals for and against for reference. Generally speaking, the good teams are at the top and the bad teams are at the bottom. If my predictions are reasonably accurate the Capitals, Bruins, Penguins, Sabres and Flyers look like they should make the playoffs fairly easily while the Hurricanes (a bit of a surprise maybe), Jets and Senators are likely on the outside looking in come playoff time. That leaves Montreal, Tampa, NY Rangers, Maple Leafs, Devils, Panthers and maybe the Islanders fighting for the final 3 playoff spots. Generally speaking, that makes sense to me.
Let’s take a look at this data in a slightly different way. Lets look at who has the greatest improvement in goal differential (GF-GA) from last season to m predictions for this upcoming season.
|Toronto Maple Leafs||-7.4||-33||25.6|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||-0.9||7||-7.9|
Generally speaking the teams that have the highest predicted improvement were teams that had poor seasons last year and the teams with the greatest predicted fall back are teams that had good years last year. There is probably a regression to the mean happening here. The good teams last year probably had some luck going their way and the teams at the bottom of the standings probably had some bad luck.
For the gainers, the Devils potential gain is fully understandable. They had a horrendous first half of last season but played much better in the second half. They should be closer to their second half performance this upcoming year. The Florida Panthers spent a lot of money on free agents and should have an improved team, but still may not make the playoffs. The Maple Leafs, Islanders and Jets are probably more in the had some bad luck last season and will regress to the mean category though their young players should be a bit better too.
The Rangers predicted fall back is a bit of a surprise considering they signed Brad Richards but they lost Drury, Frolov, Gilroy, McCabe and Prospal. Their projected defense looks potentially very weak. After Staal and Girardi you have Sauer, McDonagh, Erixon, Del Zotto, and Eminger all of whom are very young with little or no experience or in the case of Eminger a one time quality prospect that never really established himself as an NHL regular.
The table below shows the predicted top offensive and defensive teams.
|Washington Capitals||248.0||Boston Bruins||216.2|
|Philadelphia Flyers||242.7||Pittsburgh Penguins||222.3|
|Buffalo Sabres||242.1||NY Rangers||223.0|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||241.4||Washington Capitals||224.6|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||241.0||Montreal Canadiens||225.1|
|Boston Bruins||236.1||Buffalo Sabres||225.3|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||230.7||NJ Devils||225.4|
|NY Islanders||230.5||Philadelphia Flyers||226.7|
|Montreal Canadiens||229.2||Florida Panthers||227.5|
|Carolina Hurricanes||220.4||Tampa Bay Lightning||231.6|
|NY Rangers||219.4||Carolina Hurricanes||242.1|
|Florida Panthers||216.2||Winnipeg Jets||244.4|
|NJ Devils||214.2||NY Islanders||244.6|
|Winnipeg Jets||212.7||Toronto Maple Leafs||248.4|
|Ottawa Senators||195.5||Ottawa Senators||258.1|
It is probably not a surprise that the Capitals, Flyers, Sabres, Penguins, Bruins and Lightning are among the top offensive teams but it is interesting to see the Maple Leafs move up the offense list. It is a common belief that the Leafs late season success last season was because of the play of goalie James Reimer and Reimer did play a part, but in reality, much of the reason for the success was actually due to the fact that the Leafs scored a lot of goals. Add Connolly and Liles into the mix and the Leafs can put out three lines who can score so while they may not have the elite offensive players some of the other teams have, they have depth (not unlike the Bruins actually whose top point producer was Krejci with just 62 points – Kessel had 64 for the Leafs). Defensively it seems the Leafs may continue to struggle. They are not a good defensive team and they desperately need to figure out how to improve their penalty kill. Defense could be a problem, even with improved goaltending (which may or may not be reality – Reimer had success over a somewhat small sample size and Gustavsson has never performed well).
It is probably worth saying a word or two about the Ottawa Senators. It seems they will struggle to score and will struggle to keep the puck out of their own net. The Senators may be in for a tough season but it will be a season of evaluation of young players and hopefully (for Sens fans) progress. On any given night they will potentially have 6-8 rookies in the lineup. Expect to see rookie forwards Bobby Butler, Mika Zibanejad, Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Zack Smith, Nikita Filatov and Stephane Da Costa in the line up through out the season as well as defensemen Jared Cowan, David Runblad, Patrick Wiercioch. If some of these guys are truly ready to become solid NHL regulars they might not be as bad as the above tables suggest, but they will still likely be competing for the first overall draft pick (which is probably a good thing for them anyway)
Finally, let me suggest that you not all take these too seriously. While I do think there is some merit to these predictions, if you think your team is ranked too low or another team is ranked too high, no need to have a fit over it. I really don’t know how accurate they are and a lot can happen to alter what really happens anyway. I wanted to post these in part to generate a discussion but also in part so I can track these predictions as the season progresses and come the end of the season look back see how well this unbiased, mostly mathematical prediction system performs.