Measuring NHL Organizational Success, Top to Bottom

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

Over the summer, I started wondering about the relative value of making it to each round of the playoffs. What is the equivalence in development value of your AHL team making it to the playoffs versus the success value of your NHL team doing the same? What is a Kelly Cup worth to an organization? These equivalence questions rolled around in my head a bit until I decided to take a swing at doing something about it.

So before last season gets too far away from us, let's take a look at NHL Organizational Success rankings.

I took each of the organizations across NHL, AHL and ECHL and broke down how far they made it in the playoffs, if at all. NP is no playoffs and R# represents reaching each round. A team that made the playoffs and lost in the first round gets R1. I added R0 for the play-in AHL round. CH represents the champion of the league.

Then I had some decisions to make. How much is each of those rounds worth?

The most obvious was not making the playoffs. No points for you. Straight to jail.

I decided on doubling points for each round starting with 1 for R0 and ending with 16 for Round 4. If you won the championship in the end, you got 20 points. Doubling this value for winning it all put the overall rankings too far out of whack. Washington, who missed the NHL playoffs, would have been the #2 team in the rankings via winning the Calder Cup. That ain't right.

Francis Wathier hoists the
Kelly Cup (Credit: Steelheads)
Next I had to settle on a league adjustment factor. If you make the NHL playoffs, that's worth way more to your org than if you make it to the Finals in the ECHL. The question was how to break things down so that the leagues were represented fairly in proportion to their impact. 

I settled on a 16x multiplier for the NHL, a 4x multiplier for the AHL and a 1x multiplier for the ECHL. This means that the numbers would be heavily slanted towards the NHL success but still leave room for an exceptional AHL season to move a team up. I'm not sure I completely 100% agree with where these numbers put Washington as a result, for example, but it's better than the first draft, trust me.

You can see all of the values for each round and the multipliers in the VLOOK tab of the spreadsheet.

And so, with all the numbers in place, the top 5 most successful organizations last season were:

1. Vegas

The Stanley Cup is sort of like the golden snitch here. If you win the Stanley Cup, you win the rankings. Period. Despite the fact that Henderson and Savannah didn't make the playoffs, the Golden Knights are still #1.

2. Florida

This makes sense, right? Stanley Cup runner-up and they are second. Sure. But also the organization won the Kelly Cup and made it into the first round of the AHL playoffs via Charlotte.

3. Dallas

The Stars had to be high up here. I knew that as I built it. Dallas made it to the Conference Finals, Texas to the Division Finals and Idaho was ECHL #2 behind Florida. Overall, the Stars have to feel pretty strong about where they are at and the rankings match the vibes.

Christopher Gibson stops a puck in Coachella Valley's March 21st 2023 game at Texas
(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

4. Seattle
5. Carolina

This is where the AHL success really starts to matter. Despite the fact that Seattle only made it to Round 2, their AHL club went to the Finals. Carolina made it to the Conference Finals but their AHL team didn't even make the playoffs. That evens out their organizational success scores here. The fact that their ECHL team made the playoffs is actually the ironic tie-breaker. Ironic perhaps because the ECHL team is such a small factor on the overall score but also because that's all Carolina has this season with no AHL affiliate.

Other notables

Game 2 of the 2010 Calder Cup Finals against Hershey
(Credit: JustSports Photography)

7. Washington

Even though they missed the playoffs, a Calder Cup win for Hershey vaults them up the list. Would they trade a Calder Cup to have made the first round of the NHL playoffs? Well, that's a whole question in and of itself that Sean Shapiro and I discussed in our book: We Win Here.

29. Anaheim
30. Columbus
31. Pittsburgh
32. San Jose

It was a rough year in all four of these cities at every level as no one made the playoffs top to bottom in the entire organization. Things weren't all that much brighter in Arizona, Montreal, or St Louis where only the AHL team made the play-in round or in Ottawa where Allen was the only playoff participant.