By Rob Ficiur
The following statistics from the last 27 years will predict with mathematical certainty who win the championship in June. (The statistics used in this article are based on the playoffs from 1989-2016). To keep the statistics accurate as possible, numbers from the lockout shortened 1995 and 2014 seasons were not included in the total points, goals for and goals against ranking. (Many of these numbers are therefore based on 25 full seasons of statistics).
This is the ninth year I have used the statistical data to predict the Stanley Cup winner. Surprise! Surprise! In 2016 this “historical prediction” predicted that the Pittsburgh Penguins would win the Stanley Cup. At the time, I apologized to Penguins fans for jinxing their team. Turns out the numbers were right. Will they be right again?
1. a) Total Points: The team that finished first overall in league standings has won six Stanley Cups in the last 25 years. First overall has won more Stanley Cups than any spot in overall standings (Mode). Mode: 1st overall is the Washington Capitals (1 vote for them.) (Note that the first overall team has not won the Stanley Cup since 2008, so just like last year, don’t run out and put money on Washington).
b) Adding up the 25 years, the average (mean) overall ranking is 4.04; meaning the fourth place overall team has the best chance of winning the Cup. This year team that finished fourth overall is the Columbus Blue Jackets one vote for them.
c) The average number of points of the Stanley Cup champion is 105. The team with the most points to win it all was the 1989 Flames with 117 points. The lowest team to win was the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins with 87 points. This year the Anaheim Ducks had 104 points, one vote for them.
d) The mode (most common number) for Stanley Cup champs is 112 and 103 points. Three champs having earned that 112 and 3 have earned 103 and won the Stanley Cup. This year no team had 112 but two had 103 points. One vote for each for Edmonton and Montreal.
2. Goals Against. We have been brainwashed to believe that defense wins championships. That may not be so.
a) The average ranking of the Stanley Cup champs in goals against average is 6.2. The team with the sixth best goals against average this year is the Los Angeles Kings. Since LA missed the playoffs chances of them winning the Stanley Cup are zero.
b) The first, second and third best defensive teams have all won four Stanley Cups. This is the mode (most commonly occurring number). That means that three teams get one vote: Washington, Columbus and Anaheim.
3. Goals For. In 2012 and 2014 the LA Kings won the Stanley Cup with the 29th and 25th best offense in the NHL. Those two championship teams were the lowest offensive ranked teams to win the Cup in the last 25 years.
a) The average Stanley Cup champion ranked 6.2 in goals for during the regular season. So which team ranks sixth this year in goal scoring is the Columbus Blue Jackets; one vote for them.
b) Seven teams that finished third in overall goals claimed the championship. For this year that means that one vote goes to of the Washington Captials.
3 points each for the Washington Capitals 3 and the Columbus Blue Jackets; 2 points for Anaheim and one point for Edmonton and Montreal.
Tie Breaker Round (using only the five playoff teams from the previous list).
4. How did the team do the previous playoffs?
Of the last 27 Stanley Cup winners – eleven of them won zero playoff rounds the year before. Of these 11teams who went from winning zero playoff rounds to champs three missed the playoffs and eight lost in the first round of the previous season. Of our five finalists, Blue Jackets, Canadiens and Oilers did not make the playoffs; one more point for each of these.
History tells us that the 2017 Stanley Cup winner will be the Columbus Blue Jackets. Though Columbus has been in the NHL for sixteen years, they have never won a playoff round. In the two years they made the playoffs they only won two playoff games. As unlucky as it is to predict a Blue Jacket championship, it was just as unlikely to predict that John Tortorella would lead his team to fourth overall in NHL standings. Playoffs are a time for surprises – and a Blue Jacket Stanley Cup would be the biggest surprise in years.