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Looking At Pre-Christmas Records

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With the NHL's Christmas break coming to an end today, let's take a look at the potential significance of a team's record before the break. Specifically for the New Jersey Devils, does that record tell us a lot about where this team is headed?

Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

First off, Happy Holidays to everyone who takes their time to read articles on this website.  I am very humbled to be able to write weekly on a website about my favorite hockey team, not to mention a website that I very much respect and feel produces quality work.  Thank you all, and I hope your Holiday season has gone well.

Now, speaking of the Holidays, the NHL always gives players a short break around Christmas time.  This year, no NHL games were scheduled between Wednesday the 23rd and Friday the 25th.  While it is not the halfway point of the season, it is decently close, as most teams have played around 34 or 35 games.  Many fans, myself included, feel that by the time a team reaches Christmas break, you can generally tell what type of team they are and how they stack up against the rest of the league.  Sure standings can change, players can get injured, and teams can go on long hot or cold stretches which will alter their playoff aspirations one way or another, but a general feel can be had about a team.  It was clear that Lou Lamoriello felt this way as well, as he fired Peter DeBoer last year during the Christmas break.

This year, I wanted to take a look at that.  The New Jersey Devils have not been the team we quite expected them to be back in September.  They are generally competitive, are above NHL 500, and are fighting for a wild card position.  Can we confirm that this team is really the Devils we should expect to see the rest of the way, or is there a good chance for this team to revert back to the basement dweller it was last year?  While no one can actually answer that question with 100% certainty, what I want to do is look back at previous records the Devils have had at the break, and see how they finished the season.  Is there a correlation with the team's record at this point and how they finish, or are there significant changes in the team's standings between January and April?  Let's check it out.

Below, I have the chart of the Devils' pre-Christmas records since the 04-05 lockout.  Information for these records comes from the Devils' main website. Playoff information comes from my own memory, with Hockey Reference to confirm.

Year

Pre-Christmas Record

Final Record

Playoffs?

2005-06

15-15-5, 35 pts

46-27-9, 101 pts

Loss, Semi-finals

2006-07

19-13-3, 41 pts

49-24-9, 107 pts

Loss, Semi-finals

2007-08

20-13-3, 43 pts

46-29-7, 99 pts

Loss, Quarters

2008-09

19-10-3, 41 pts

51-27-4, 106 pts

Loss, Quarters

2009-2010

26-8-1, 53 pts

48-27-7, 103 pts

Loss, Quarters

2010-11

9-23-2, 20 pts

38-39-5, 81 pts

DNQ

2011-12

19-14-1, 39 pts

48-28-6, 102 pts

Loss, Stanley Cup Finals

2012-13

0-0 (LOCKOUT)

19-19-10, 48 pts

DNQ

2013-14

15-16-7, 37 pts

35-29-18, 88 pts

DNQ

2014-15

12-17-7, 31 pts

32-36-14, 78 pts

DNQ

2015-16

17-13-5, 39 pts

???

???

So before really diving into the records, be aware that the Devils did not play an identical number of games before Christmas each year.  It's been a generally similar number, but it is not exact.  Therefore, the points numbers at the break will be a little skewed depending on the number of games played.  Of course, however, you can still get a good idea of how good the team was each year.

This season, it seems that New Jersey is on a good pace, at least in comparison to where they have been at in the past.  They have the exact number of points that they did in 2011-12, when they went on to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, albeit with one extra game played.  Nonetheless, if you look at the pre-Christmas records and points positions, they are in a potentially good position.  They have four more points than they did at this time in 05-06, when they went on to reach the semis, and they only have two points less than they did in 06-07 with the same number of games played, and that team also went to the semis.

Now, I am sure that some of you are screaming that this means absolutely nothing and that it is the makeup of each individual team that will really determine how it does the rest of the way, and you would be absolutely right.  Just look at the 2010-11 team.  They were complete garbage up until the break, then went 29-16-3 the rest of the way.  Their 81 points were still not good enough for a playoff position, but it was still a heck of a turnaround.  On the reverse, the 09-10 team came out of the gate red hot, with 53 points by the break.  Then, they put it on cruise control, going 21-19-6 the rest of the way, followed by an ugly loss to Philadelphia in the quarters, going down 4 games to 1.  That would be the opposite of "getting hot at the right time."

So, if I am admitting that just looking at records means very little, then why actually look at it?  Because what I think it does is give us a barometer of where this team is and what it could potentially do.  This is clearly not the Devils of the last two years.  The 13-14 team had 2 less points with 3 more games played, was under 500, and was barely treading water.  The 14-15 team was already basically out of it by this point.  This team, however, has a record much more similar to the teams higher up on the chart, the teams that actually kept playing beyond 82 games.  It might not be as strong as those teams from 2006-2010, but it shows us that they can actually make a run at it if they have the right makeup and can continue their winning ways.

Therefore, be glad and rejoice on this Holiday weekend: our New Jersey Devils are still in contention, are still playing meaningful hockey, and if prior records indicate anything, they should still be playing meaningful hockey for months to come.  If you told me that was true back in September, I would have called it one awesome Christmas present.  And indeed, it does seem like that.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on the Devils' record at the break?  Do you think it indicates good things, or are you expecting a decline back to how the team was the past few seasons?  What else can you determine from how this team has played up until the break, considering the record it currently has versus records from previous seasons?  Please leave your comments below, thanks for reading, and again, I hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday weekend.