Senators News: December 31st

-Binghamton faces the St. John’s Ice Caps (15-17-1) tonight; St. John’s is lead by Derek Meech (with only 17 points) and backstopped by Eddie Pasquale (8-11-1 2.57 .919).

-Elmira plays Wheeling (13-11-6) this afternoon; the Nailers are lead by Paul Crowder (24 points) and backstopped by Scott Darling (6-5-1 2.89 .884).  This will be Ben Blood‘s last chance to get a professional point in 2012.

-Everyone is going to be watching the Russia-Canada WJC game this morning–enjoy!  I will have to see it after the fact and I hope it’s a good one.

-Various journalists are providing a 2012 year in a review, but I don’t think the calendar year works well in a hockey context.  There were six months of (mostly) exciting action leading to the Stanley Cup, which was followed by months of tedious CBA negotiations.  For me, in terms of the blog, the most fun I had was researching my NHL success story articles (like this).  It’s the kind of information that has always interested me, but been hard to find.

The 6th Sens‘ Scott sent me some feedback on my comment yesterday about the NHL in the era before the shootout in relation to ties.  He pointed to a Phil Birnbaum blog from 2007 (using Phil’s own research), updated mid-season in 2010 (based on a Gabriel Desjardins article), that shows more games going into OT since the NHL began to award the loser point.  Here’s Birnbaum’s case:

When an NHL team loses a game in overtime or in a shootout, it still gets a point in the standings. That means that, for overtime games, three points are divided between the two teams. But for non-overtime games, only two points are divided. So teams have an incentive to allow more games to go into overtime.

Desjardins makes the argument more vociferously:

Teams seem to have figured out that dragging 10 games to the shootout is as good as winning five more games in regulation and can vault a team into the playoffs. Therefore, the weaker team on any given night has an incentive to first get the game to overtime, where it is guaranteed at least a point. Then, in the five-minute extra period, the team tries to reach a shootout, where it can nab another point.

It’s an interesting sentiment which may be perfectly valid, but I wish there was better data used for the argument.  Birnbaum only has stats for two seasons (97-99) prior to points awarded in OT.  This is much too small a sample to use as a basis for comparison (this isn’t necessarily Birnbaum’s fault, as he couldn’t find the numbers, but it causes problems and I’m not sure why he couldn’t simply look at the standings year-by-year and do the math).  There’s no explanation offered for the significant uptick in games going into OT in the 02-03/03-04 seasons which the post-lockout era hasn’t come close to approaching (presumably the incentive noted above should see a steady increase).  Birnbaum’s and Desjardins’ numbers (where they overlap) have slight differences (.229 and .230 to .228 and .228) which I assume is due to how they rounded the numbers.  Desjardins’ “dramatic increase” is still well below the 02-03 peak in ties (.252), a fact which deserves some explanation given that his thesis is that the shootout is the cause for the upswing.

I think there’s some substance to the argument, although I’m not sure teams rolling the dice on OT and shootout is enough of a factor to explain the (apparent) increase in ties.  I’d like to see numbers that go much further back (into the 80s at least) in order to get a sense of what is going on.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)