Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics


It seems such a straight-forward concept – counting the bodies that pass through the turnstiles. In the NHL, though, the concept is not so straight-forward, not so simple.

An article and accompanying analysis (through games of January 31) by the Globe and Mail* shines a light on the lie that is the puff offered by the NHL on its wonderful attendance figures. While the article by David Shoalts concerns itself with the Atlanta Thrashers and their dubious honor as the league's most charitable franchise (leading the NHL in ticket giveaways), the trouble is hardly confined to one team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, for example, who are “officially” third in the NHL in average attendance and play to an “official” capacity of 100.4 percent per home game, achieve this lofty level by virtue of giving away tickets that amount to eight percent of capacity per game. And this is up 38 percent over last year.

The New Jersey Devils, who aren’t winning any awards for their “official” attendance, are giving away nine percent of capacity a game – up 22 percent over last year.

The Colorado Avalanche – not long ago the darling of the consecutive sellout crowd – is third in the league in giveaways, up a whopping 71 percent from last year and 14 percent of capacity.

It’s worth noting that as part of the same Globe and Mail analysis, only three clubs show lower average ticket prices this year – Phoenix, Florida, and the Islanders. All of these teams are in the top half of the giveaway rankings.

Overall, giveaways are down four percent from last year. But still, they represent six percent of total capacity. Is that the profile of a healthy league?

* Thanks to Stanthefan on The Official for pointing the way to the article.

The Serious Six -- The Sprint to the Finish

The sprint begins, and there are teams (well, team) who appear to have clinched one of the last three spots, and there are teams teetering on the brink of falling out of contention.

Let’s look at the teams . . .

Tampa Bay:

90 points.
Games remaining: CAR, FLA, at ATL
Record against remaining opponents: 12-8-1

The Lightning probably punched their ticket to the top-eight with their 5-2 win over the Capitals last night. They can probably eliminate Carolina from any further consideration with a win tonight. Tampa Bay has a three point lead on ninth-place Toronto, but they have 43 wins to the Maple Leafs’ 38. Wins being the first tie-breaker, it would take a complete collapse by the Lightning at this point to fall out of the top-eight.


NY Rangers:

89 points
Games remaining: TOR, at NYI, MON, at PIT
Record against remaining opponents: 9-9-2

Tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs is, to be obvious about it, huge for both teams. A win by the Rangers would give them a five point edge with three games to play for both clubs, and the Rangers would hold the edge in total wins, 41-38. A big plus for the Rangers going into this last week is that even though they trail in the season series to the Islanders, 4-3 – who they play on Tuesday -- the Blueshirts have won the last three contests, all by 2-1 margins, two of those in extra time.



88 points
Games Remaining: BOS, at NY Rangers, at Toronto
Record against remaining opponents: 9-7-1

Montreal has 41 wins, which is at least three more than any of the clubs trailing the Canadiens. But these three games will be difficult. The game against Boston is the key here. Montreal cannot get caught peeking ahead to the road games to follow. In any case, it would appear that things will come down to the season finale in Toronto.



87 points
Games remaining: at NY Rangers, PHL, at NYI, MON
Record against remaining opponents: 9-1-5

It’s rather remarkable that the Maple Leafs have only one regulation loss to the four clubs still on the schedule, especially since three of them are fellow travelers in this sprint to the finish. Also, the Leafs are 4-1-1 in their last six games, including wins over playoff clubs New Jersey, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh. Winning today’s game against the Rangers would put the Leafs into the top eight at Montreal’s expense, both with three games left to play.



84 points
Games remaining: at FLA, at TBL, ATL, FLA
Record against remaining opponents: 12-6-2

Well, the puck certainly is on Carolina’s stick, so to speak. Against Florida – a club Carolina will play twice this week – the Hurricanes are 5-1-0. They’ve dominated Atlanta, going 4-2-1. They are 2-1-0 in Tampa this year. Given that they have 38 wins – only the Islanders have fewer among the “six” – they probably have to win out to get in.


NY Islanders:

84 points
Games remaining: NY Rangers, TOR, at PHL, at NJD
Record against remaining opponents: 12-9-3

The good news – the Islanders aren’t eliminated yet. The bad news – they are 1-5-1 against the Devils and haven’t beaten them since their first meeting of the year. And, the Islanders might be 4-1-2 against the Rangers, but they are 0-1-2 in their last three meetings, all 2-1 losses. Worst of all, goalie Rick DiPietro could be out for the rest of the regular season with a concussion. Trailing Montreal by four points and five wins, they have to win out and hope for help. Seeing how the Islanders have lost all three games following DiPietro's injury by a combined score of 14-8, it looks grim.