Monday, February 8, 2016

Playoff Projections Are Back, Tweaked for the New Format

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The 100 Degree Hockey playoff projections are getting a big overhaul for their seventh season. With this year's changes to the postseason qualification rules, the projections as they've existed aren't necessary anymore. New methodologies are needed to make them useful this year.

The projections, which were one of the most visited pages on the site each season, helped to compensate for the fact that not every team had played the same number of games and points alone were being used to calculate standings. The projections helped to uncover pretenders in the standings, such as when the 8th place team is only in 8th place because they've played 5 more games than everyone else.

At its core, the math behind the whole thing used the points percentage of each team and compared it to their number of games they had played to predict where they would finish. Most importantly, the sheet then used those numbers for every team to say how many points the 10th place team needed to catch up with the pace the 8th place team was on.

Now everything is done via points percentage at all points of the season. My initial thought was to use something along the lines of baseball's 'games back' formulas to calculate things. Games back is a great formula and the reason why it works so well hinges on every game only having two outcomes: win or loss. When you add in OTLs and SOLs, the formula breaks.

There were various possible solutions thrown around, which included normalizing wins based on games played. The most useful solution I could come to centers on the most important thing in all of professional sports: winning.

The new projections do one simple thing: they show you how many games a team must win in order to climb to whatever playoff spot you are concerned about. By a nice happy accident, it also shows (with a negative number), how many games a team must lose to fall to a certain position. Self-same positions have been deleted. Dashed out boxes indicate that there is no way to achieve that position anymore (in either an upward or downward direction).

Check out the playoff projections here or in the header for the rest of the season.

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