With the NHL season set to wrap up this weekend, now seems like the perfect time to look back and play a few rounds of what if! Keeping these hypotheticals in mind, one idea I have been fascinated with is the concept of what would the season have looked like with normal divisions, and a normal schedule? With this thesis, let’s take a look at some of the winners, losers and what could have been for McDavid.
The clear winner on the season is the Montreal Canadiens. They made the playoffs for two reasons, a change in divisions, and some key off-season acquisitions. Tyler Toffoli, Jake Allen and Josh Anderson (in this order) have been major additions to the Habs roster this season. Tangent; I will not even entertain that laughable notion that Anderson has been garbage based on 1 (yes, singular) chart circulating on Twitter. The fact that certain people are running with it further proves my point.
In a standard season the Habs would be missing the playoffs, and missing them by a large margin. Of course there are a number of circumstances at play, however looking at the Atlantic division alone, let’s consider how much the Habs struggled against the Leafs without having to worry about Florida, Tampa or Boston. While this may all sound self-deprecating, facts are facts, and the take away from this season is that the Habs made the most of this season (somewhat) and will be getting much needed playoff experience for their youth; short of an epic collapse.
A second team is the Ottawa Senators, who, like the Habs benefitted from a season of weaker competition to allow their youth to get some experience and confidence. The Sens season more or less played out the way I anticipated back in January, they were competitive in the vast majority of their games but they fell short more often than not. From a team perspective, the Sens have an 82-game pace of roughly 32 Wins and 72 points which is only 3 wins and 1 point better than their pace from last season. However, they were able to bring an influx of youth into the NHL without seeing a dip in team success and they remained successful against their actual division opponents in the Habs and Leafs.
Finally the LA Kings are winners this season because their division this season had a relatively higher quality of competition which helped them in two ways. The first is that the Kings are slowly bringing their youth up to the big club, allowing prospects like Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Gabriel Valardi, Carl Grundstrom and Mikey Anderson to find their footing in the NHL and are doing so against stronger competition. Secondly, the Kings point totals are lower than they should be from a logical standpoint based on this change in competition. For a team that is in a rebuild, getting the best possible draft pick is a win. Getting to develop key prospects at the same time against better opponents is playing with house money.
There’s really only one real loser from a standings perspective this season and that’s the Arizona Coyotes. It hasn’t been a good year down in the desert starting with the Chayka illegal testing, losing draft picks and Taylor Hall, drafting a player who wasn’t on 75% of draft boards with their first pick in last summer’s draft, and now this. The Coyotes are going to finish the season on the outside looking in, with no draft pick in the first round, in a year where if they had been in their standard division, they would have had a chance at least geting to play one round in the playoffs.
You have to feel for some of the core players on this roster. Not to say that a team below .500% deserves to make the playoffs, however in a season where they had some success, they are now losing their coach, and they have no real reinforcements coming because the team had no drafts picks last summer (or wasted it) and will only have two picks in the Top 100 this year. That’s an average of one pick in the top 100 per season over two years (this year included). The team does have a lot of UFAs and RFAs coming up this summer, so a facelift could and likely should be expected.
A quick note before moving on to the real losers of the year, the Flames could find themselves in the losers category should they finish the season ahead of the Coyotes in points. If the Flames can pick up 5+ points in their final four games then they would officially missing out on the playoffs when they would have otherwise qualified. Then again depending on where you sit on the Treliving debate, maybe missing the playoffs to get a breath of fresh air into the organization is needed.
Now for the real losers of the season. All US-based fans who did not get to watch their teams play against Connor McDavid.
Connor McDavid is going to win the Hart, Ted Lindsay and Art Ross. Anyone who wants to debate this should argue with the mirror if they actually want to be heard. The notion that he is simply destroying the league in points because he is in the North Division is lazy analysis and just flat out wrong. There have been a grand total of 0 NHL teams who have figured out how to contain McDavid. However there are 23 teams that have avoided being embarrassed by the best player in the world entering the first year of his prime.
To quickly explain this chart, I calculated McDavid’s career goals, assists and point per game against each team. I then used a comparative ratio to calculate McDavid’s success in 2021 against his own career averages to determine the rate at which he is scoring above his career averages (26%, 38% and 34% more in goals, assists and points respectively). I then used the Oilers schedule from 2019-2020 (closest thing to a ‘normal schedule’) to determine the Games Played against each team. Finally, to get to the 2021 Projection, the following calculation was used:
G (2021) = Ind Team G/game * GP * 1(+Rate Above Career Average) *Same formula for Assists and Points
For Example vs FLA
G (2021) = 0.71 * 2 * 1(+0.26) = 1.42 * 1.26 = 1.80 Goals
A (2021) = 1.29 * 2 * 1(+0.38) = 2.58 * 1.38 = 3.55 Assists
P (2021) = 2.00 * 2 * 1(+0.34) = 4.00 * 1.34 = 5.36 Points
McDavid owns everyone in the league but more importantly I love that Buffalo is one of the three teams that have kept McDavid under a point per game. However, as you can see, statistically speaking, McDavid is basically right on pace with his 155 point , 82-game pace, with or without a schedule of just northern opponents.
While I will admit that this is purely from a statistical basis, and surface level stats don’t always tell the full story, however the advanced analytics show us the same thing. Using friend of the show, Jason Paul’s Versus Tool, we can see that McDavid is putting his 2017-18 season to shame. A season in which he put up 116 points in 78 games, his second best season statistically (after 2021) and the last time he won the Art Ross and Ted Lindsay.
If you still want to undermine McDavid then feel free to return to that mirror.
As always don’t forget to check out the rest of the Hot Sauce Family and check out our Youtube page for all of our Podcasts and videos. For you stat and analytics nerds like myself, make sure to check out the latest episode of Healthy Skratch as the boys breakdown to common stats used for both surface level stats and the deeper analytics! it is a must watch epidsode as they do a great job breaking things down to make it digestible and understandable!