The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2017-2018 season starts on October 6. With that date now exactly one week away, all of the smart people are releasing their points projections for teams across the NHL.
Three of those smart people are Micah Blake McCurdy, Dom Luszczyszyn, and Emmanuel Perry. This post will offer a quick look at how they’ve projected the Lightning’s season using their three models: Edgar (McCurdy), Game Score (Luszczyszyn), and Salad (Perry).
The top part of this dashboard shows the point projections. The orange bar is the projection while the two bars on either side represent the lower and higher bounds of the projection. The bottom of the dashboard shows where that point total would put the Lightning relative to the rest of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.
At first glance, Edgar stands out from the other two projections. One potential reason for this is that Micah hates the Tampa Bay Lightning personally, and specifically trained his model to put the team outside the playoffs. A more likely reason is that Tampa is coming off of a decidedly mediocre year and so it shouldn’t be too surprising to see a projection that reflects that.
In the link above, Micah describes his models inputs as follows:
“Briefly, I consider shot generation, shot suppression, shooting and goaltending results, which players are more likely to take the shots that are taken, special teams, penalties drawn and taken, rest, and home ice advantage. Injuries, suspensions, and all off-season moves are included.”
Based on this, we can imagine that signing Dan Girardi likely dragged the team down given how poorly his results appear in terms of shot metrics. Combine that with the loss of Jonathan Drouin without an immediate replacement, and with a player who has very little historical data like Brayden Point, and you can start to piece together why Edgar might have the Lighting ranked this low.
The other two models are more similar in their outputs. Dom’s model is based on Game Score, which is a statistic he created that heavily rewards offensive performance. The Lightning have a dynamite top portion of the roster, as he addresses in his own write-up of his results, and that goes a long way toward the Lightning’s high ranking. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman are unique talents that push the Bolts into solid playoff position.
One interesting thing to note from Dom’s model is that all of the top five teams are from the Eastern Conference. So not only do the Lightning rank fifth in the East, but they rank fifth overall in the entire NHL.
The last model included here is Manny Perry’s “Salad” model. Manny hasn’t published his methodology yet, but he has been doing some of the best work in hockey analytics over the last couple of years, so I trust his work and I included it here for comparison.
Overall, we have three models that project the Lightning to land anywhere from 5th to 11th in the conference. That puts them right back into contention for the playoffs in the East, which is likely to be the much stronger conference once again this season.
Hockey is full of all kinds of randomness, and anything from injuries to coaching decisions to mumps to dumb puck luck could make these projections look crazy by the end of the year. But if the Lightning stay relatively healthy and perform as expected, they should be in good position to return to the playoffs and head back in the direction they established prior to last season.