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Standings: Who rise and who sinks?

With a little over 10 games played, GMs tend look at where their team stands and compare it to their expectations. Did they have realistic expectations over the summer? Should they make changes? Do they have to bring in guys? Did injuries affect their results?

However, perhaps the question they should ask themselves is rather "Is it too soon to make this evaluation?".

Interestingly enough, hockey has seen the use of advanced stats rise steadfastly over the past few year. After the success of "Moneyball" in baseball, fans and teams alike have been wondering whether the use of stats could improve results in hockey as well.

The inclusion of PDO in NEFHL official statistics is an interesting advance in that regard. However, looking at the standings, it would seem about all teams with a record over .500 have a PDO over 1000 while the teams under .500 have a PDO under 1000. So will all teams above .500 regress? Will all teams below .500 improve?

So while the PDO number is interesting and we can spot some outliers, other advanced stats might help evaluating the teams that should turn around and the ones that should sink. Corsi has seen heavy usage as it is pretty simple to calculate. Corsi is the difference between shots for, missed shots for and blocked shots against vs shots against, missed shots against and blocked shots for. Unfortunately, the missed and blocked shots aren't readily available in the NEFHL.

The analysis will thus rely only on shots for and shots against, with the assumption that in NEFHL it is an approximation of Corsi. Also, instead of producing a %for and %against, teams have been ranked by shot differential. The shot differential ranking was then compared to the standings (in order of win%). For example, the team with the best shot differential at the moment is the Sabres, who are 6th in win%. So being 1st in shot differential and 6th in win% gives them a -5 differential. Based solely on shots for/against, the Sabres would be slightly underachieving in the standings.

Still, interpretation of the results have to be taken with a grain of salt. Are the Sabres really underachieving? There are several factors that need to be taken into account as well. First of all, the use of statistics always leaves room for imprecision. Second, this doesn't account the ability of the team to score or the ability of the goaltender to makes saves. Looking specifically at the Sabres, the average forwards ability to score is a rating of 58, with 5 forwards over 60 and none over 70. As well, between the pipes, Craig Anderson is slightly below average with an OV81 ability. In other words, while the Sabres are able to generate the best shot differential, they probably won't capitalize as much as other teams would with the same shot differential. So, in assessing the Sabres, while they perform better in outshooting their opponents, they probably aren't either over or under achieving so far. Still, if they can continue to outshoot opponents, this bodes well for a playoffs appearance.

Here is a chart that shows the difference between where a team stands in shots for and shots against compared to their win%:

SF-SA SF-SA Rank Win% Rank Diff
Sabres 5 1 6 -5
Devils 4,9 2 3 -1
Predators 4,9 3 17 -14
Capitals 3,9 4 14 -10
Bruins 3,9 5 15 -10
Lightning 3,6 6 2 4
Ducks 3,5 7 25 -18
Jets 2,9 8 19 -11
Wild 2,7 9 4 5
Flyers 2,7 10 26 -16
Red Wings 2,2 11 8 3
Flames 1,1 12 22 -10
Oilers 0,8 13 18 -5
Rangers 0,5 14 1 13
Senators 0,5 15 11 4
Maple Leafs 0,5 16 24 -8
Hurricanes 0,4 17 13 4
Sharks -0,6 18 20 -2
Canadiens -1,3 19 9 10
Blues -1,3 20 23 -3
Blue Jackets -1,4 21 12 9
Coyotes -2 22 10 12
Islanders -2 23 5 18
Canucks -2,7 24 27 -3
Penguins -3,7 25 16 9
Panthers -4 26 28 -2
Blackhawks -4,2 27 29 -2
Stars -5,4 28 7 21
Avalanche -6,2 29 21 8
Kings -7,7 30 30 0


Based on the criteria that teams with a difference between shots and win% of at least +/- 10 can't be justified by scoring ratings or goaltender alone, the NEFHL standings should change quite a bit before the end of the year, even if all the GMs didn't make any changes going forward.

The teams that should expect the biggest rises if they can continue to outshoot their opponents are the Ducks (-18), the Flyers (-16) and the Predators (-14). Other teams that should see improvement in the win% are the Jets (-11), the Capitals (-10), the Bruins (-10) and the Flames (-10).

At the other end of the spectrum, there are a couple of teams that will likely deflate sooner or later. The Stars at +21 are probably the best candidates for a team that will not continue to pile up the wins at their current rate. Other teams that will probably head down in the standings are the Islanders (+18), the Rangers (+13), the Coyotes (+12) and the Canadiens (+10).

Lastly, there is only one team performing exactly as it should: the Kings. With a disastrous -7,7 shots differential, they have well earned their bottom of the league win%. Still, they lead a race that might be as interesting this year as it was last year: the Matthews race. Holding their 1st round pick, if they were able to get their hands on Matthews it would be a new launch for their franchise.