NHL entering wagering agreement and analyzing the standings and rankings

Marc Elliott

Eric Staal celebrates a 3rd period  goal versus Colorado in St. Paul Saturday
Eric Staal celebrates a 3rd period goal versus Colorado in St. Paul Saturday

On the SOUTH SHORE… On Monday morning NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that a sports betting agreement has been forged between the league and MGM Resorts International. A few years back this probably would have been unheard of, but times have changed, what is acceptable or even palatable to an entertainment craving public and fan base has changed and let’s face it, there is just too much money on the table, for lack of a better analogy, to not go forth into this. I’m not surprised in the least and I guess that if it is managed in a tasteful way I can deal with it. I’m not into betting, know next to nothing about card games, and I have never even been drawn to playing board games. None of this has ever held much interest for me. 

But with a partner like MGM involved I would have to believe that this will be managed with as much integrity as sports betting could have, otherwise I feel that Bettman would probably be uncomfortable with moving forward with this no matter how hard any owners were leaning on him. His number one obligation is to protect the game and the league. There was some immediate conversation regarding injuries, their impact on game outcomes and the leagues usual unwillingness to openly identify injuries in a specific manner. I can still recall back when teams began going to the “lower body-upper body” mode of player injury identification. This actually led to some hilarious exchanges between coaches and the press in scrums on game days. I want to say it was current Montreal coach Claude Julien who was asked about a certain players injury and what it was years back and he responded with a “it’s a body injury” answer. When the reporter pressed forward with another question as to what the ailment was, Julien said “I’m not sure, it’s on his body, it’s a body injury”. And that has been the basic mode of answering injury questions ever since. It should be noted that the other 3 major leagues handle their injury situations differently with the media then the NHL does. Will this encourage or force the league to deal with injury announcements in a different manner? Time will tell. 

This announcement has also spurred discussion as to whether or not some teams will want to incorporate casino facilities into their arena complexes where that might be workable or allowable. Of course, the question also came up as to whether this could create any tampering scenarios or situations where a player could be coerced to “throw” a game by unsavory elements. I personally don’t see something like that occurring in ice hockey. These players already make a lot of money and I just think as defensive as the game is, it just doesn’t lend itself to any cheating of that type. At the end of the day I don’t really view this as something that makes the game better or does anything for the players or the fans. It is simply a major money play for the owners and their partners… 

THIS NHL SEASON IS young, the standings are still developing and even though I offered up my own power rank last week, what is all the available data really saying at this point? What conclusions, if any, can you draw at this early stage? My daily hockey data grab centers around 4 items every day during the season; the Sagarin NHL Rank, The Athletic NHL Playoff Projections, both of which are at least based upon mathematical formulas, and then the NHL stats listing and finally the standings. What do all of these say at this point? First off, I’m guessing that most of you have heard the theory that whatever the standings are at the NHL American Thanksgiving point, that that is the indicator of who is getting into the playoffs. 

The best info I could find relative to that was that since the league went to 30 clubs in 2000, 78% who were in playoff position on turkey day made it in. Does that make that a reliable benchmark? Well, it’s not hard and fast but not bad. Who is the hottest team in the NHL right now? It is the Wild, 5-0 in their L10. The Penguins are next at 4-0. Just a couple of weeks back the Wild were down in the mid-twenties in the Sagarin. They are now 10th. Conversely, the Pens are 1st in that rank, despite being 1-0 against T10 teams and only 3-2 vs. T16 teams. The Wild are 2-2 and 3-3 in that regard. The Blackhawks were T10 in the early going yet are 0-3 vs. T10 and 0-6 vs. T16 teams. They have since dropped to 23rd. Nashville who is number one in the NHL standings, is number 2 in the Sagarin which now lists the Pens as it’s number one. The Preds are 3-1 vs. T10 teams and 6-2 vs. T16 teams indicating to me that they have played tougher competition then have the Pens. 

The Wild’s opponent this eve, Vancouver, is 26th on a 6-6 record, but has the number one ranked hardest schedule. Likewise, for Edmonton who is at 15th on a 6-4 record with the 2nd toughest schedule. Colorado enjoys a number three Sagarin rank with a 7-5 record, are 2-2 vs. T10 teams and a mere 3-2 vs. T16 clubs with a 26th hardest schedule. Why are they ranked that high considering that data? In The Athletic playoff predictor, 7 teams are projected to get 100 points, yet only 3 are given double digit chances at a Cup win. (NASH, TAMPA, TOR) One of the hottest clubs early, Montreal, is only getting a 40% chance at the playoff. Most analysts believe that the Central division will place 5 teams into the playoff, and The Athletic supports that mathematically with their formula showing Dallas and STL will be the two teams on the outside looking in. The Hawks, Av’s and Leaf’s have scored the most goals so far, (41) and the Devils and Coyotes have given up the least. (20) 

FOR THE MN WILD; The ATHLETIC, 10th with a 70% chance at the playoffs, trending to 43 wins, 96 pts., 3% chance of a Cup win. The SAGARIN, 10th on a 6-4 record, 2-2 vs. T10, 3-3 vs. T16, 13th in schedule difficulty. NHL Standings; tied for 7th at 6-2-2 for 14 pts, tied for 5th in pct. of pts. available. (.700) CENTRAL Division, 5th place and in the 2nd Wild Card position for the Western Conference playoffs. Considering that there may not be any “separation” in the standings until perhaps early March, there is a long way to go. Three clubs that were in the WC playoff picture last season are currently on the outside, VGK, ANA and LAK. As of right now, I think Vegas can rally, and the Ducks and Kings can’t. Can the WILD persevere? PEACE