Welcome To The Tragic Kingdom: A Look At The Thrashers' (And Other Teams') Tragic Numbers.

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 15: The Atlanta Thrashers leave the ice following a 4-2 defeat by the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 15, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

We all hear about statistical odds to get into the playoffs. I, as much as anyone else, am very guilty of looking at the Thrashers' odds page over at Sports Club Stats. Well, ok, I looked at it more before Saturday's choke-fest. Now it's a bit of a moot point, isn't it? I mean, a .4% chance of making it? Weirder things have happened, but realistically, they're toastier than Powdered Toast Man.

Pages like SCS tend to present a very team-oriented view, or a view of "who has to win/lose for our percentage to go up?" view of the race for eighth place that someone apparently neglected to mention to our team. Another common way to look at the soon-to-be-playoff seeding is through magic and tragic numbers. What's this, you ask? Awesome. Here you go - think of the Thrashers as "Team B" and the Sabres as "Team A." Also, N is the magic number.


Magic numbers are simpler in, say, baseball, because one game equals one point, and there is only one playoff spot per division (ignoring the wild card slot). If A is in first place and B is in second, then A will clinch first place after any combination of A's wins and B's losses that add up to more than N.

Things are slightly more complicated in hockey because of the 2-1-0 point system, and the fact that there are 7 extra playoff spots. The bottom line is:


  • Every subsequent point that A wins reduces A's magic number by the same number of points (2 for a win, 1 for an overtime or shootout loss).
  • Every point squandered by B also reduces A's magic number (if B loses in regulation, subtract 2; if B loses in overtime or shootout, subtract 1).
  • Thus, if A wins a game, and B loses a game in regulation, you subtract 4 from N (thus the term "4-point game").


There are a few other ways of looking at this, too, when it comes to tragic numbers. Soloact over at Fear the Fin has been keeping track of things so far. He does it based on "potential points." Basically, every team starts out with 164 points, and for every loss they lose two (every SOL they lose 1). Therefore, the best Atlanta can do if they win out the season is 92 points. This is not hot, because the best that the Sabres can do is 99 points. The Thrashers' tragic number according to him is a T6, while the Sabres' magic number is a MM9.

What's that?

If there is a T with a number, example T6, then that is the team's Tragic Number (elimination number which is a combination of the leader's 2 point wins or the tragic teams 0 point losses); a countdown of that team until they are eliminated.

If there is an M with a number, example M6, then that is the team's Magic Number (a clinching number which is a combination of the team's 2 point wins and the lower team's 0 point losses); a countdown of that team until they clinch whichever place it pertains to.


Basically, any combo of times that either Buffalo wins or Atlanta loses that equal 9, the Sabres clinch. The opposite of that is true for the Thrashers. So, if the Sabres win six more times while Atlanta loses six more times, the Thrashers are gone. If Atlanta loses eight times, then the Sabres only have to win four more games, and so on. After the jump, a spreadsheet from Canes Country that's a bit different.

Brian's numbers look a little different. Here's how he explained it:

I went ahead and put a spreadsheet together. It's as up-to-date as I can get it right now, and I'll update it as soon as the two games still in progress are done.

It's fairly straightforward... The first magic number has the magic number for the teams 8th and up to clinch a spot, and below the line is the tragic number for teams that need help to get in (when the number gets to zero, it will display either CLINCHED or ELIMINATED, depending on the situation). The next column to the right is the magic number for teams to win their divisions.

The Thrashers' number here is a 13.


Two different authors, two different explanations. The point is the same, though. The Thrashers are drastically running out of time, if they even have any left. They shouldn't count themselves out yet, because miracles can happen, but I don't think that they'd be too awful offended if you assumed they were out. That's how they played the other night, anyway.

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