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2008-09 Thrashers Schedule Analysis

The 2008-09 NHL schedule was released yesterday and I've done some quick and dirty analysis to get a feel for the tough and easy parts. First thing I did was put into my spreadsheet the points earned last season by each Thrashers opponent.

Looking at the schedule this way (see below) we can see that the toughest months are early (OCT) and late (MAR) with the middle section pretty normal and the final 6 games the weakest by far.

Thrashers Opposition Average 2008-09 Points by Month
93.8 OCT
89.3 NOV
90.1 DEC
90.7 JAN
91.3 FEB
94.8 MAR
86.5 APR
91.2 Season

Now all this assumes that last year is a good indicator of the upcoming season. Generally speaking that is usually true from one season to the next. Most teams only make small shifts up or down the standings.

The next thing I did is work up the Thrashers Expected Win Percentage by Month. Again this assumes that last season will be a good predictor of next season (which broadly speaking is likely to be true for most teams). (You can skip the next paragraph if you don't care how I calculated this.)

What I did is put in the GF-GA figures for each team (this is a more accurate measure of talent that season points which are more affected by luck factors at play in the SO and OTL points). I worked up a monthly Opponents Expected GF-GA ratio and then projected the Pythagorean Win Percentage for each month for the opponents and then subtracted from one to get the Thrashers expected win percentage based on the opposition goal differential rate from last season.

Thrashers Expected Win % in Regulation by Month
OCT .480
NOV .509
DEC .516
JAN .497
FEB .496
MAR .471
APR .508
Season .497 (81.5 points in regulation)

The numbers above suggest the Thrashers are in for a very tough first month. If they can simply come out of October with an even record in regulation that would be a huge plus for the team. The next two months are very favorable and the team then needs to make a move up the standing if they hope to still be in the playoff race. Things get a bit tougher after New Years but March could be an absolute killer month if the club has not built a points cushion earlier in the season. April's schedule is softer if the team manages to survive the brutal March schedule, so if they still have a shot at it the last six games are favorable on paper.

I mentioned before that my projection model has the team in the 83-84 point range (including OT/SO extra points). The addition of Marty Reasoner bumps the Eric Boultons and the Brad Larsens further down the depth chart which moves the Thrashers up closer to 85 points now.

I find it interesting that my expected win percentage work here came up with a very similar projection to the one using Alan Ryder's Player Contribution scores. Based on the quality of opposition I would anticipate the Thrashers earning 81 points in regulation with additional points for SO/OT wins. So roughly speaking the strength of schedule analysis points to the team finishing in the mid to high 80s in points right now.

Is this written in stone? Of course not. There is variance in the real work that is very difficult to model. If the team is unusually healthy (as they were last season), and they get to more OT/SO games and some players have break out years they could contend for the playoffs. But all of those things probably must happen. A more sober and realistic assessment is that they are more likely to finish in the high 80s (out of the playoffs) than in the high 90s (playoffs)

Coming Attractions: I'm looking over the numbers for both Jason Williams and Marty Reasoner and should have some analysis up over the next few days on both of these new faces.