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RandBall: Wild and Wolves essentially having same year

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • March 27, 2014 - 10:33 AM

We've resisted this post for the past couple of weeks. We can only assume we will get an angry stream of text messages from a few well-known commenters because we could hold out no longer. But here it goes:

Two weeks ago, we did a post on how the NHL standings do not accurately reflect how a team has played. Teams get credit for shootout wins and overtime wins, while shootout losses and overtime losses simply get dumped into the "overtime" pile in the standings and look like ties. But just because you got two points for a shootout win doesn't mean you really "won." And just because you got a point for losing in overtime doesn't mean you tied.

So we came up with a new format that more honestly depicts a team's record and strength. Shootout wins become ties. Shootout losses become ties. Overtime wins stay wins. Overtime losses become losses. As such, the Wild is not really 37-25-11, which looks pretty good. The Wild really has 30 wins (regulation or OT), 29 losses (regulation or OT) and 14 ties (any game that went into a shootout). We can quibble about how all the points add up, and we can quibble over whether teams would play differently if the scoring system was different, but that is at least a more accurate reality than the one presented in the daily standings.

Basically, Minnesota is one game above .500. It is still in prime position to make it into the playoffs, likely as the first wild card in the West, largely on the strength of stealing extra points where it could. The Wild has gone to a shootout 14 times, second-most in the West, and it has earned 21 points in those games (seven shootout wins, seven shootout losses). It also has four points from four overtime losses.

We bring this up in the context of the Timberwolves right now and risk the ire of those commenters because both teams had home games against inferior but not terrible opponents last night. The Wolves drilled the Hawks, putting them back at .500 on the season at 35-35. The Wild tumbled against Vancouver, bringing Minnesota to that record you see above.

The Wolves have virtually no chance of making the playoffs. They have made their own bed to a large extent by blowing leads and falling in close games, but they have also been undone by the brutal Western Conference. In some years, a .500 record would be good enough to at least challenge for a playoff spot. This year it won't even be very close. We still think this roster needs a moderate overhaul rather than modest tweaks for next season, but that doesn't change this year's record.

The Wild is a near-certainty to make the playoffs. The team has navigated some tough luck while adding new pieces and developing young players. But the same could be said about the Wolves. At the end of the day, these are two teams having two very similar seasons but with fairly different perceptions.

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