From very early on in the year, many fans pointed out the fact that Devils had a very difficult early-season schedule. Early in the season, we don’t really know anything about the quality of teams — you’ll typically hear “last year’s playoff teams” as a frequent binary judgement of opponents, and you may see a few strength of schedule stats using last year’s point totals.
But, once data from the actual season starts accumulating, all variables take a backseat to this year’s data, except for home/away. That will still be a factor and that data will never change, unlike the perceived strength of schedule.
The schedule stats are shown below, and you can click the link to see the full version of the workbook. But, in the window below, you can choose a data from the dropdown menu and the stats will adjust right in the window.
Currently set at 1/6 (the next game we will play after publishing of this article) you can see that our opponents before and after today have roughly the same records. Furthermore, the average goal differential of our opponents is actually 0.04 higher moving forward, and the SRS (simple rating system) is 0.05 higher. Neither of those is significant increases, but they are increases. Aka, under no feasible objective rating system is the quality of our upcoming opponents lower than what it has been up until now. Also, we have 20 games that are part of a back-to-back remaining (46.5% of remaining games) which is a higher rate than we’ve had up until now.
The only number that improves for us is the aforementioned home/away portion. In fact, the schedule doesn’t really lighten up until 2/6 (feel free to select that date in the table above). At that point we begin a stretch of 5 straight home games (3 agianst <.500 teams) and then another 3 after a home-and-home with the Isles. That spits us out at 2/28 — otherwise known as, the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline.
Prognosis and Expectations
Based on the what I learned from playing with my new filtering dropdown menu toy that I shared above, I’ve determined that the clock is running out fast, but if we can go .500 between now and February, I think the schedule at that point could help us vault into a position from which we could see a playoff spot through our telescope. By the deadline, our away/home ratio of games remaining is 50/50 and the strength of schedule to come is harder than the strength of schedule played. This means that if the Devils choose to sell, they will be at no risk of having underestimated their team and punting on a season that could have seen success. Despite what you may have heard about our schedule, it doesnt improve much — if at all — and by the trade deadline, we will have evened out any possible early disadvantage.
What do you think about the Devils schedule? Do you think that it has any implications on our achievement? Did you like my interactive table as much as I did? Does this schedule analysis influence your decision on if the Devils should be buyers or sellers at the deadline? Leave your thoughts below.