Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Weighted Stanley Cup Standings

Lord Stanley of Preston
Well, as the NHL lockout drags on, we fans are starting to get a little squirrelly and need to find something hockey-related to fill our day. We're now streaming games from Russia and Sweden at 9am just to follow a prospect. I'd never even heard of the Subway Super Series before, but found myself watching a few periods last week. [Note to the NHL and NHLPA: our passion for hockey does not mean you can take our money for granted. We're pissed off at both of you, so don't be surprised if we don't buy as many tickets or jerseys if and when you ever decide to start playing again.]

Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey
One comment I heard during the ongoing CFL playoffs was about how a Grey Cup was less impressive than a Stanley Cup since there are only eight teams in the league. That is true enough today, but for a long time there were only six teams in the NHL, so for much of the '40s, '50s and '60s a Grey Cup was statistically harder to win. We tend to look at the number of cups won, but not the relative context of how many teams were in the league at the time.

Here's a breakdown of Stanley Cups weighted by the number of teams the champion had to be better than to win it. For example, the Leafs' last cup in 1967 is weighted at 5 as this is the number of teams they had to beat to become champions. Last year the Kings had to be better than 29 other teams to win their cup. Obviously it is harder to win in 2012 than it was in 1967. Whether a Stanley Cup worth now is worth five or six times what it did 45 years ago is open to debate, but that's how these numbers are calculated. The data begins with the 1927 season, as this was the first year where the Stanley Cup could only be won by a team from the NHL.

Team Stanley Cups Weighted Cups
Montreal Canadiens 22 228
Detroit Red Wings 11 147
Edmonton Oilers 5 100
New Jersey Devils 3 81
New York Islanders 4 80
Boston Bruins 6 74
Pittsburgh Penguins 3 70
Toronto Maple Leafs 11 58
Colorado Avalanche 2 54
Chicago Black Hawks 4 49
New York Rangers 4 48
Philadelphia Flyers 2 32
Anaheim Ducks 1 29
Carolina Hurricanes 1 29
Los Angeles Kings 1 29
Tampa Bay Lightning 1 29
Dallas Stars 1 26
Calgary Flames 1 20
Ottawa Senators 1 9
Montreal Maroons 1 8

Using the weighted totals, modern dynasties from Edmonton, New Jersey and Long Island rank better because of more competition in the league. The Maple Leafs on the other hand have more cups, but all were won against thin competition (almost entirely from the six-team NHL era). In this context Toronto's 15 Grey Cups are more impressive than 11 Stanleys. Detroit won seven cups prior to expansion, but four since, so overall the Red Wings do very well. And to no one's surprise, the Canadiens are in a class by themselves, winning over one quarter of the 85 Stanley Cups since 1927. The Habs have won often and consistently in original and modern times.

Of course, once the Oilers string together another five or six cups, there will be a new leader in the weighted standings.

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