## Droughts Again and 1967 - *Warning - Some Math.*

I guess it's the SI article on ownership that has me irked at the moment.  Leaving aside their inability to figure out winning percentage in a sport that involves ties, their presumption as to what makes a good ownership group leaves a lot to be desired.

Basically, if you've won a championship or are close, you're a good owner.  If you haven't, you're not.

Which brings us back again to the inevitable 1967.

I've posted the drought list before, so there's no point in doing it again.  A link will suffice.  Let's deal with the numbers a bit, though.

The picture above is of a 30-sided die.  Roll it and you get a number somewhere between 1 and 30.  Let's pick a number to represent the Toronto Maple Leafs, say 17.  If you were to roll this die, there's a 1-in-30 chance it will land on 17.  That's 3.33 percent.  Conversely, 96.66 percent of the time, it will land on something other than 17.

Eventually, though, the thing HAS to land on 17, doesn't it?  Well, yes and no.  There is a certain probability that it will, but there's never a certainty.  Each throw has that same one-in-30 chance of hitting, but the odds get better if you throw it lots of times.  Even after 30 throws, though, there's still a 36 percent chance that #17 will have never come up.  (Thanks, Mr. Bernoulli.)

In NHL terms, that means that even if things were purely random, a 30-year Cup drought would be nothing unusual.

Of course, things aren't purely random.  The die in the NHL is somewhat loaded.  There are weights attached to five or six numbers.  A weight will stay attached to a given number for five or six throws, then move onto another number.  It might return in another five or six throws, or it might not.  For an unweighted number, the odds aren't 1-in-30, they're a lot worse.  Even if a given number is weighted, though, there's no guarantee.  If six teams have an equal chance at something over five years, odds are 2-in-5 that any given team won't win anything.

When you look at the history of Stanley Cup winners, you see lots of clustering.  Typically, 3-5 teams will win a Cup in a given ten year period.  Normally, a team that wins one will win another within a year or so.  Once they fade out, they won't come back for quite some time.

Detoit, for example, is the best team in recent memory.  That has allowed them to have an extended stay at the top, winning four Cups in the past 11 seasons.  However, they've also won four Cups in the past 52.

Looking at the other teams still in action:

(Note - calculated to 2008, as they haven't lost this year as of yet.)

Boston, still with a shot this year - 0 Cups in the past 35 seasons, 2 in the past 68.

Anaheim - 1 victory in 2007 to show for their 14 seasons.

Pittsburgh - 0 for their past 15 seasons, 2 for 42 overall.

Chicago - 0 for their past 46 seasons, 1 for their past 69.

Other teams of interest:

Vancouver - 0 for their 38 seasons.

Calgary - 0 for 19, have won three playoff rounds since 1989.

Edmonton - 0 for 18.

Montreal - 0 for 15.  Haven't gone past the second round since 1993.

Of the 21 teams that were in the NHL as of 1979-80, 11 are currently in droughts of at least 20 years.  Nine of those are better than 30 years, and four are 40 or more.  Toronto, LA and St. Louis are stuck at 42 while Chicago is at 46.

Of the 30 teams in the NHL at the moment, 13 have never won a championship at all, five of those with histories extending past 30 seasons.

Can someone explain again WHY 1967 is so deserving of mention?

Once again - droughts aren't unusual.  They are the norm.  This is how it is SUPPOSED to work.  To win it all, a team needs talent, good health and a whole lot of luck.  It needs the calls to be made, it needs the bounces to go its way.  It needs that shot to go in from centre when momentum is against it.  Undeserving teams don't win championships, but deserving teams don't get them all the time.

As an aside, the real statistical anomaly in Stanley Cup history is Montreal.  Between 1953 and 1979, they managed to string together about four distinct clusters, which is completely unheard of.  There were 27 Cups awarded between 1953 and 1979.  Montreal won 16 of them.  If you start in 1956, they got 15 of 24.  They won 10 of 15 between 1965 and 1979.  This is the basis of their entire legend.  Over the other 72 seasons they played, they won 8.  Pretty good, but not that far off the norm overall.

That great run coincided with the birth of hockey on TV and the arrival of baby boomers as hockey fans.  That also helped with the growth of the legend.  TV and boomer memory being what they are, though, lead folks to think that they were always great, rather than being a team that went on what pretty much has to be the greatest 25-year tear in professional sport.

As a further aside, this isn't just a hockey thing.  Baseball has 15 teams in droughts of 20 years or more, led by the Cubs at 100.  Basketball has 9, led by Sacramento at 57.  The NFL has 17, led by the Arizona Cardinals, who last won a championship in 1947.  That's 61 seasons ago.

This is why I don't get bent out of shape when the Leafs don't win.  The odds against it are staggering.  I just want to see good hockey.  The rest is a bonus.

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