We've been hearing things about standings on November 1st and their ability to predict final standings. We also hear cliched but true comments about how this is a marathon and not a sprint. But three weeks into the season, how is our pace in that marathon? Obviously, talking about who's in playoff position right now doesn't mean a whole lot. But we can look to the past and see how Tampa Bay's current 4-4-2 record compares to past teams. When we inevitably see teams that finished well, let us take that as encouragement. When we inevitably see teams that finished poorly, let us take that as warning. So whose pace do the 2011-12 Lightning share?
Right now, the Lightning are 4-4-2, dead on a one point per game pace, which projects to 82 points. Obviously, that's non-ideal, and it is indeed behind the 2010-11 Lightning, who opened October 28th with a 6-2-1 record, tied atop the NHL at +4 compared to a one point per game pace. But there were four teams who opened October 28th, 2010 at the Bolts' current +0 pace. Who were they?
*Atlanta Thrashers. Of all the teams who started similarly to this years' Bolts, the Thrashers are the ones we'd least like to emulate. After a 4-4-1 start and a mid-season run that put them eighth in the conference and thinking playoffs in mid-January, the Thrashers stumbled to 80 points and 12th in the East. What's worse, their ownership continued to be a mess, and the team started this season in Canada. I think we can establish moving to Canada as something rather below a worst-case scenario for this season's Lighting.
*Carolina Hurricanes. The 'Canes opened 2010 4-4-0. They would stay on a middling pace until a late run put them in playoff contention, but they were memorably stopped by the Lightning on the last day and would finish 9th in the Eastern Conference on 91 points.
*Philadelphia Flyers. Like Atlanta, the Flyers opened 2010 4-4-1, but a strong start to 2011 saw the Flyers overtake Vancouver for the best record in hockey. Though they faltered down the stretch, Philadelphia finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference with 106 points. After defeating the Sabres in seven, the Flyers fell to the eventual champion Bruins in a second round sweep.
*Phoenix Coyotes. Phoenix opened 2010 3-3-3, but like the Flyers, they built off an average start, and mid-February saw them leading a tightly bunched group in the Pacific. They finished with 99 points in a three way tie for 4th in the Western Conference but were dispatched by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs.
Disclaimer: I don't think the Bolts' season will necessarily mirror one of these four teams. But I find it interesting to periodically check and see where your current performance stands in relation to past teams, and what those past teams did from there. If others find this interesting, I can make this kind of post fairly regular. If not, I can shut up. Also, seriously this site is amazing!