• Rick Haley

Draft Special Part II: What is Success in the NHL?

The NHL Amateur Draft

Part 2

What is the Definition of Success in the NHL?

In Part 1 (read it here), we looked at drafts over the last ten seasons and how many man games were played (MGP) for each subsequent team and draft. I wondered if there was a direct correlation between drafting well and winning games. It appears there kinda was. We saw who drafted the most man games and who drafted the least. The Jets were at 6th spot, drafting over 4000 man-games in their first 9 drafts. Pretty awesome. But is this really a true indicator of success? Can we make this a black and white thing or is success in the NHL too subjective? Is it only winning cups? If that is the case, there are 30 unsuccessful teams every season. What is the true indicator of success in the NHL? Man-games played doesn’t necessarily sell tickets. Conversely, it isn’t fair to say that unless, you win a cup, you aren’t successful. There are many benchmarks for success and at the end of the day, if a team has a ticket buying fan base, competes for playoff spots each season and makes the odd, moderate deep run in the playoffs, I would say they are successful.

According to Rick's Calculator, the Penguins have been the most successful NHL team, the last ten years

Regular Season Wins

So, again with too much free time on my hands and in pursuit of success markers, I started mining more data. I collated regular season wins over the last nine years and then threw in playoff games played. I added playoff series wins and Stanley Cups. Very interesting data. Did you know that from the 2011-12 season through to the end of last year, the average amount of total regular season wins is 345? And that 3 teams had exactly that: LA, the Habs and the Flyers. Four teams had over 400 wins: Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston and Washington. Three teams had 290 or less: Edmonton, Phoenix and Buffalo. The Jets finished just above average at 354 and 11th overall. Not bad and consider that the Jets have only had one sub .500 season since returning (2015-16).

You can see the ranked results here.

Total Playoff Games

The more I have thought about NHL success over the last few weeks, this is one stat that I feel carries a lot of weight. Playoff Games played. Sure it is great to win series (and Cups) but if your team is continually in the playoffs they are successful. It shows talent and drive for the whole organization. And though I did not collect any financial information for this study, playoff games are where owners pull in the cash. The average amount of Playoff games played over the last ten seasons is 54. Buffalo sits at 0 and Pittsburgh leads at 108. The Jets are below average and sit at 8th last with 31.

You can see the ranked results here.

The Hawks were ranked second over the last ten years.

Playoff Series Won

Now we are talking meat and potatoes. This is where the elite franchises begin to pull away from the rest of the pack. These numbers, when tabulated, were surprisingly low. I think it just speaks to how hard it is to win in the playoffs. The average amount of playoff series won over the last 10 seasons was 4.4. Three teams had 11 or more (Pittsburgh, Tampa and Chicago) while three others had none (Buffalo, Florida and Toronto). Our Jets sit at just two. Keep in mind that 17 seasons of Jets 1.0 only produced 2 series wins as well.

You can see the ranked results here.

Here are the Stanley Cup Winners from the last nine seasons:

Los Angeles 2012

Chicago 2013

Los Angeles 2014

Chicago 2015

Pittsburgh 2016

Pittsburgh 2017

Washington 2018

St. Louis 2019

Tampa 2020

You can see that it only comprises 6 teams out of 31.

You can see that it only comprises 6 teams out of 31.

So what does it all mean? Is there a way to mathematically calculate who has been most successful? Of course there is! Using my super-powers and my English Major brain, I came up with the following formula:

(Man Games Played x 1.63 + (Regular Season Wins x 15.65) + (Playoff Games Played x 100) + (Playoff Series Wins x 1227) + (Stanley Cups Won x 2000) = RSR (couldn’t think of a better name; Rick’s Success Ranking)

This is all based on the premise that Playoff Games Played (PGP) are the greatest indicator of success. I multiplied the average number of PGP (54.0) by 100 and then found multipliers of the other categories by calculating what it would take to have them equal 5400.

You can see the ranked results here.

The Lightning were ranked 3rd overall for success in the last ten years.

No surprise that the cup winners from the last 9 years come out on top. What is interesting though is when you look at the next six teams. The Bruins, Sharks, Rangers, Ducks, Stars and Preds have all had great runs in the last 9 years and have been more than just average in terms of competitiveness and successes. If you look at the last 6, no surprise here either as our eyes have shown us that these teams have struggled in several different areas, be it drafting, playoff success or regular season wins. The bottom six were: Vancouver, Detroit, Edmonton, Toronto, Florida and Buffalo. Our Jets rank around the middle of the pack at 18th. Our drafting has been above average but our lack of playoff success has hurt us.

You will have to tune in to part 3 to see what all these weird numbers really mean when we start to analyze this data.