The Maple Leafs have 20 games left to play and 12 days, counting today, to make trades. Most other teams, with a few very interesting exceptions, are at about the same place in the standings, so it’s a good time to look over the entire NHL, to see who is out for sure, and therefore might trade, and who is caught in limbo, and might freeze solid in their indecisiveness.
The North division is really simple, for all Calgary is still in pretend mode:
North Points % to get to 67 points
|North Team||P%||P% to get to .600||GP||Games Remaining|
I picked a target of .600 as a nice round number that is close to where Edmonton and Montreal are right now. That works out to 67 points, which is just below what would get you 100 points in an 82-game season.
The Leafs have improved their position since the last time we looked at this, and need to win less than 10 of their remaining games to make the playoffs. They’re in, and they have a good hold on first place. The tricky part is that the Leafs play Winnipeg and Montreal a lot, and that means those three teams can flip flop in the standings fairly quickly. But when you stop looking at points and trying to mentally account for games in hand, you can see the Leafs are very much ahead of both of those teams.
The Flames are in a situation where they can lie to themselves and tell themselves that it’s possible to make a big push, and it’s so much easier to gain against their rivals in this divisional alignment, and nope. No, they can’t. They’d have to win 16 of 19 games just to be sniffing the current playoff cutoff, and on top of that, one of the teams in front of them would have to cooperate by playing .500 hockey for six weeks. The North is set. All that’s left is the jockeying for position.
Key to that jockeying is that Montreal has a lot more games left than the rest of the teams. They have a legitimate chance to move into second place. They are also able to finish first if the Leafs help them with that by losing to them a lot. They could finish in third or fourth if they struggle down the stretch with their compressed schedule.
The East is much less clear to the North.
East Points % to get to 72 points
|East Team||P%||P% to get to .645||GP||Games Remaining|
Buffalo needs more wins than there are games left to get to what is a very high water mark to make the playoffs. They, New Jersey and the Rangers are clearly out of the picture, but the interesting one is the Flyers.
It’s not impossible for them, like it’s not for Calgary. And they only have one truly dominant team in the division, so it seems plausible that one of these teams in front of them could fall. The Islanders and the Penguins didn’t start great, and that leaves the imagination free to think... what if we can make a big push.
If they had help, in the sense that one of those rivals got really bad, and the cutoff to get fourth place drops below the dizzying 72 points it is right now... could they?
If Boston suddenly lost the will to torment the world with their Boston-ness, and won only half their remaining games, they’d finish with 65 points. The Flyers would need to win 14 games to best that. Boston would have to play worse than the Flyers have so far, and the Flyers would have to play better than Boston has so far, each for their remaining games, and then the Flyers could, on the last day, make the playoffs.
Boston, of course, with more games remaining, has more chances to not be bad than the Flyers have to be good. Boston has Rask, the Flyers are rumoured to be looking at Jonathan Bernier.
I think the Flyers are going to hope for 12 days, wake up April 12, and decide if they want to keep hoping. I’m betting on Rask because I can’t bring myself to say Boston is too good to blow this.
The west has some clear losers at the bottom.
West Points % to get to 62 points
|West Team||P%||P% to get to .550||GP||Games Remaining|
Anaheim, San Jose and ... then we get into hope territory. LA has been better lately, they have 22 games left, and they could play at above .500 by enough to overtake Arizona, considering they keep breaking their goalies. But is St. Louis going to falter too? This is the trouble with the divisional format. Teams that are hoping for a big push often need too much concentrated failure in teams that have been beating them handily up to now to really move in the standings.
I would say both LA and Arizona are hopeless dreamers, but the lure of even one playoff round of tickets sold and a goad to the season’s tickets buyers, particularly in Arizona, has to be powerful. They can hope for 12 days and then decide along with the Flyers.
The Central is a delightful mess at just the wrong time for teams that want to pick the bones of Nashville.
Central Points % to get to 62 points
|Central Team||P%||P% to get to .550||GP||Games Remaining|
Nashville, who had the worst goaltending outside of Ottawa for most of the season, suddenly started winning. And like all the other American, small-market teams, ticket sales matter a great deal. Is their hope of a playoff run real, or are they in the same boat with the Flyers, kidding themselves to their potential doom?
The top three teams in the Central are in, nothing is left but the positioning there, and they are so much better than the dregs in that division that the points threshold to make fourth place is low. I set it at 62 for this chart, but as Nashville, Chicago and Dallas all play out the season, that number could go up or down.
I say Dallas, because they have 23 games left, not 19 like everyone else, and they have as reasonable a chance as the other two. Columbus has to be better than Dallas to get there, even though they are ahead now, and I think that’s just not happening.
Nashville is not going to trade anyone this weekend. They have to wait and see where they are closer to the deadline, and a run of luck can get them in fourth place, they just have to out-luck so many other teams to do it, it is a low-probability outcome, while still more feasible than anyone else’s low-probability outcome in other divisions. Someone has to win that spot. I’ve said it will be Dallas, and I’m sticking to that, even though they are an uninspiring team who don’t look like a Stanley Cup Finalist. They still have more chances and the strongest team of the group.
The situation now is that with very few teams able to add players before the deadline, and very few teams willing to trade right now, stasis will take over, and it might be a last minute bonanza.