As you may or may not know (but, let’s be real, if you’re reading this blog you probably do) the Toronto Marlies are in the Calder Cup finals. It is not going super well. This was to be expected, somewhat, as the Norfolk Admirals are all sorts of really good but I have to say that the run to the final was pretty fun. Especially for a winning-starved city like Toronto. I will admit that the team didn’t capture the interest of the city like I had originally expected. At first I thought we would see a “Memorial Cup during the NHL lockout” level of interest from my fellow Torontonians, either out of boredom or out of desperation, but, alas, this was not to be.
I bring this up because in some of my stat perusing I have become obsessed with a few specific stats. I’ve mentioned face-offs before and another one that became tracked by yours truly was what Bourne refers to as Black Aces or, essentially, healthy scratches. We first noticed that that Phoenix Coyotes had an abnormally high amount of scratches for each game, in the high teens, and this amused us. Well, amused me. Or maybe I just wouldn’t shut up about it. I began tracking which teams would have the most healthy scratches for each game and, for a while, it actually determined who I would cheer for in their respective series. The front runners were pretty consistently the Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils.
At first I found this interesting, then strange, then interesting again. Then I got bored with it for a while and went to obsess over something else, then I came back and it got interesting again. Then someone pointed out that the number of scratches probably related to the success of the team’s AHL affiliate and whether or not they were making a deep playoff run. This made a shocking amount of sense but it also kind of ruined my fun. I enjoyed imagining why there were so many healthy scratches – logic and reality were far less interesting.
Here we have three playoff teams, two of which made relatively deep runs into the Stanley Cup Playoffs (with the Devils, obviously, still going) with minor league affiliates struggling to make the playoffs (Portland was okay but still missed). Contrast that with the Marlies, a team whose NHL affiliate you may have heard is not very good. This speaks to three possibilities, I think. 1) These NHL teams are built for winning now, not the future, so their AHL teams are not talented enough to compete in their league. 2) Conversely, those that are not successful in the NHL are building for the future, allowing their prospects in the AHL to shine in a less competitive league (see: Maple Leafs, Toronto) or 3) there is no direct co-relation and sports are generally pretty random while a larger glut of talented prospects in one place probably gives your team a chance to achieve greater success.
To be honest, I’m pretty sure that the answer is all 3. Of the 16 NHL playoff teams, 8 AHL affiliates made their playoffs. If my math is correct (there’s a solid chance it isn’t) that’s 50%. Not exactly a definitive percentage which makes me think that common sense as it relates to prospects being good and playing in the same location probably needs to come into play. Obviously, one season is not enough to measure anything definitively and, granted, the bulk of my interest in this is only peaked by the fact I spent a good three weeks tracking healthy scratches. But it does give me pause and make me wonder if the Marlies should give me hope for the future of my Leafs or if I should simply enjoy the fact that playoff hockey exists in Toronto and I can go see it for less than $250. For now, I’ll take the latter. If the Leafs suddenly succeed next year on the backs of Carter Ashton, Matt Frattin and Ben Scrivens? Well, we’ll talk then.
Links To The Past
- Daryl Sutter has found the Kings’ identity which has led to their success. Or he’s a coach that lucked into a really good team at the right time. It’s probably a bit of both. (Puck Daddy)
- A look back at the ridiculously impressive career of Nicklas Lidstrom. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. (Down Goes Brown)
- Also really good? Dustin Brown. Remember when the Kings almost traded him? That would have been hilarious. (ESPN)
- The LA Kings have done the impossible. They’ve made people in Los Angeles care about a team not named the Lakers. (LA Times)
- The Devils don’t think the series is over, which…okay two things. 1) It’s pretty obviously not, you’ve played 2 games and 2) what else are you going to say, Devils? “I think we’re done?” Oh…this is a confidence thing, isn’t it? Carry on. (The Star-Ledger)
- Forget the Stanley Cup Finals, there’s a much more important competition going on – facial hair. (The Hockey News)
- I don’t know if you’ve heard but Jonathan Quick is awesome. Just sayin’. (The Globe and Mail)
- In case you missed it, here’s hockey people saying hockey things.