Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tough job

One of the appeals of fantasy sports leagues is the chance to pretend to be a general manager of a pro team.

Better that the real thing. Particularly in hockey.

In other words, who would want to be Darcy Regier right now?

The Buffalo Sabres were coming off two straight seasons of just missing the playoffs as they entered the 2009-10 campaign. Since home playoff games are worth something like $1 million per game, that sort of drought can put a little pressure on an organization.

But the Sabres got off to a good start this past season, and the playoffs were never in doubt. They were a little lucky in the first half of the season in terms of one-goal games, but still grabbed the lead in the Northeast. Ottawa made a bit of a run in the second half, but Buffalo eventually won the division by six points. That meant that the Sabres had the third seed in the playoffs.

The area turned up its enthusiasm about five fold in mid-April. Flags were everywhere, bars were crowded, Sabre uniforms were fashionable.

Then, after a Game One win over Boston in the first playoff game, Thomas Vanek gets hurt and the Sabres blow a third-period lead for the first time all season to drop Game Two. The Bruins take Games Three and Four at home, with the fourth coming on an overtime goal by, of all people, Miroslav Satan. Buffalo has a convincing win in Game Five, but loses Game Six and the series. Flags gone, Bandits uniforms are fashionable.

All of those good feelings about the team that were built up during the past six months? See ya, at least for the moment.

Regier doesn't know how to put together a team, Lindy Ruff can't coach, Tim Connolly and Derek Roy should take up basketball, etc. Well, that's if you believe the talk shows and the letters to the editor column.

It's always disappointing to exit the playoffs, particularly when a team is the higher seed. But it shouldn't be that unexpected.

I've done the math, and high seeds usually win only about 63 percent of the series in the NHL (2004 through 2009). In other words, the better teams doesn't win a third of the time. It's not a coin flip, but it's not a sure thing. For further proof, ask the people in Washington and New Jersey right now. The top three seeds in the East were all eliminated this year, the first time that's happened, I believe, since 1999.

Compare that to the NBA, which has its playoffs going on now as well. The "better" team wins more than 80 percent of the series there. That's a good-sized difference.

The NHL playoffs are a thrilling ride, as no one has a good idea on how they will ultimately turn out. They are a great time to see who the coaches trust in huge situations (hope you enjoyed your view in the press box, Raffi Torres), and they create heroes and goats.

But it's also a time when it's important to keep matters in perspective. Four losses in less than two weeks shouldn't completely cloud six months of data when making long-term conclusions.

Even if it usually does for some.

1 comment:

Becky said...

4 games verified what 6 months of watching the games closely suggested. Stats don't tell the whole story. The Sabres were more lucky than good (with a few exceptions), and the luck ran out.