Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Year After

As we head into the 2008-2009 season, we're going to hear that the Pittsburgh Penguins are a favorite to reach the Stanley Cup final, perhaps even to win it all. And in the next breath, many of those same pundits will raise the specter of the season-after swoon, the misfortune that falls upon the Stanley Cup finalist that lost when they take the ice the following year.

Well, is there anything to it? To quote a presidential candidate..."you betcha."

The Peerless looked at the last 25 Stanley Cup runners-up, starting with the Vancouver Canucks (who lost to the New York Islanders in the 1982 final) and ending with the Ottawa Senators (who lost to the Anaheim Ducks in 2007). It is not a pretty picture. Here are the facts, by the numbers...

- 5...the number of runners-up that did not make it to the playoffs in the following year (Los Angeles in 1994, Washington in 1999, Carolina in 2003, Anaheim in 2004, and Edmonton in 2007)

- 12...of the 20 teams that did make the playoffs, the number that failed to move past the first round

- 13...the total number of playoff series won by the 25 teams over the past 25 years

- 76...the total number of games won by the 20 teams that did make the playoffs; 35 of those were won by three teams (15 by Edmonton in 1984, ten each by Boston in 1991 and Detroit in 1996)

- 1...the number of teams over the past 11 years that followed up a finals appearance by winning a playoff series in the following year (Dallas made it to round two in 2001 after losing in the finals in 2000); six other teams making the playoffs failed to win a series

- 8...the number of teams in this group of 25 that finished below .500 the year after they went to the finals

- 2...the number of teams that were swept in the opening round of the playoffs in the year follwing their finals appearance (Chicago in 1993 and Ottawa in 2008)

- 89...the average point total for runners-up in the year after they finished second

- 1...the number of teams that followed up a defeat in the final with a Stanley Cup victory the following year...Edmonton in 1984.

We will not be betting on a Penguin parade in Pittsburgh in 2009.


Hooks Orpik said...

As always, great analysis and figures. There's definitely some sort of emotional/phyiscal drop off after making it almost (but not quite) to the promised land.

I'm not too worried about the past though, in today's day and age the teams with the best core and the reload the best should have the best chance to make it far in the post-season. The Penguins (and the Caps) have that and will for at least the next 4-6 years.

Of course having a little luck with injuries would help too.

The Peerless said...

I don't think this phenomenon is a function of talent or desire (or the loss of either). I think it's a function of time. We looked at a similar issue more than a year ago (July 18, 2007) and correctly predicted that Anaheim was a lock not to repeat. The hockey off season is the shortest of any major pro sport in North America. Add in the new feature of transatlantic trips to start the season even earlier (compressing training camp for a team like Pittsburgh), and it argues even more against a return.