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How Important are Playoff Wins?

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Yesterday I posted about whether fans are drawn in by superstars or playoff wins. Today, I have some data on this topic (and update on an old blog post going back to 2007). Two years ago, I sat down and totaled up every playoff win and every playoff series won by a NHL city. (For example, I combined the records of the Minnesota North Stars and Minnesota Wild and the Atlanta Flames and Thrashers.) I have updated those totals through the 2009 playoffs.

My hunch is that the best "hockey markets" are often markets that have witnessed the most post-season success. For example, I suspect that people and Edmonton and Calgary both like hockey, but my impression is that the Oilers fans are much more intense than Flames fans because they have won 4 more Stanley Cups.

I sliced up the data a number of different ways: Average Playoff Wins per season since expansion, Total Playoff Series Won since expansion and Average Playoff Series Won since expansion. Let's take a stroll through the data.

Average Playoff Wins per Season, 1968-2009

Markets with most post-season success
5.51 MON (10 Stanley Cups)
5.22 COL (2 Stanley Cups) (Rockies and Avalanche)
5.07 EDM (5 Stanley Cups)
5.00 DAL (1 Stanley Cup)
4.65 NJD (3 Stanley Cups)
4.55 PHI (2 Stanley Cups)
4.15 BOS (2 Stanley Cups)

4.07 DET (4 Stanley Cups)

4.07 CHI

3.73 CAR (1 Stanley Cup)

3.53 ANA (1 Stanley Cup)

3.51 PIT (3 Stanley Cups)


Markets with some post-season success
3.37 STL

3.36 NYI (4 Stanley Cups)
3.34 NYR (1 Stanley Cup)
3.21 CGY (1 Stanley Cup)

3.19 OTT

2.95 BUF
2.68 TOR
2.68 MIN (North Stars and Wild)
2.38 SJS/OAK (Seals and Sharks)
2.32 WAS

Markets with the least post-season success
2.03 VAN
1.94 QUE
1.63 TBL (1 Stanley Cup)
1.54 LAK
1.00 WIN
0.87 FLA
0.83 PHX
0.95 HAR
0.60 NAS
0.12 ATL (Flames and Thrashers)
0.00 CBJ
0.00 KC
0.00 CLE


Another way to look at this is to count the number of playoff series won. The Blues and Blackhawks have the unfortunate distinction of winning the most post-season series since 1968 without winning the Stanley Cup.  One interesting question is this: If you are a hockey fan which would your rather have--the St. Louis Blues history of consistent regular season success, but post-season frustration; or the Tampa/Carolina pattern of modest regular season success, but a Stanley Cup to celebrate?

Playoff Series Won Since 1968 (* Won Cup since 1968)
(Note: I did not count the short wild-card round used during 1975-79. *symbol for Cup winners)
49 Montreal *
35 Philadelphia *
34 Detroit *

33 Edmonton *
33 Boston *
27 NY Islanders *
27 Chicago
26 NY Rangers *
25 Pittsburgh *
23 St. Louis
22 NJ Devils *
20 Buffalo
19 Minnesota
19 Colorado *
15 Calgary *
14 Toronto
14 Dallas *
12 Vancouver
12 San Jose/Oakland
11 Washington
11 Anaheim *
09 Los Angeles
09 Carolina *
08 Ottawa
06 Quebec
05 Tampa *
03 Florida
02 Winnipeg
01 Hartford
00 Nashville
00 Phoenix
00 Atlanta
00 Columbus
00 Kansas City
00 Cleveland

Of course just counting playoff series wins can be somewhat deceptive since some teams have been around for the full 40 years since 1967-1968 season while other less than 10 years. So I divided the number of playoff series wins by the number of years the NHL has been in that market.

I found it a bit surprising to see Anaheim and Carolina ranked so high but a couple of long playoff runs in their short histories pushed them up the rankings. On the other hand, some teams have been around decades but they have given their local fans very little to cheer about in the spring (Kings, Canucks and Capitals).

Average Number of Playoff Series won per year.
1.20 Montreal
1.10 Edmonton
1.06 Denver
0.85 NJ Devils
0.93 Dallas
0.85 Philadelphia

0.83 Detroit
0.82 Carolina
0.80 Boston
0.75 NY Islanders

0.73 Anaheim

Markets with medium playoff series wins per year

0.66 Chicago
0.63 NY Rangers
0.61 Pittsburgh

0.56 St. Louis
0.56 Minnesota
0.54 Calgary
0.53 Buffalo
0.50 Ottawa
0.46 San Jose/Oakland

Markets with the least playoff series wins per year
0.35 Quebec
0.34 Toronto
0.32 Vancouver
0.32 Washington
0.31 Tampa
0.22 Los Angeles
0.20 Florida
0.11 Winnipeg
0.05 Hartford
0.00 Atlanta
0.00 Phoenix
0.00 Nashville
0.00 Columbus
0.00 Kansas City
0.00 Cleveland


Finally we have the lone last list. Most NHL seasons without a series win. Unfortunately, Atlanta is  now just three years away from being number one on this list.

Longest Playoff Series Win Drought 1968-2009
20 years Detroit 1967-1987
18 Pittsburgh 1971-1988
17 Atlanta (Flames 1973-1980 and Thrashers 2000-09)
14 Calgary 1990-2003
15 Islanders 1994-2009
12 Kings 1970-1981
12 Phoenix 1997-2009
12 Florida 1997-2009


Conclusion: I can't help but notice that correlation between on ice success and strong hockey markets. Other than Toronto, markets that struggle in the post-season tend to struggle at the box office and vice versa.