Breaking Down 2010-2011 Pt. 3: Crosstown Express

Are the Jackets a playoff squad in the East? And how much does cross-conference play really matter? (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

For those of you who keep wondering if the Jackets would be a playoff team in the East, particularly in the wake of the news that the club has formally inquired about moving conferences, it's worth taking a look at the cross-conference play, and how the team made out, along with our comparison squads.

Now, with very few exceptions, the team did NOT play repeat series against Eastern squads, so it's hard to say for certain if they'd be in the hunt there, or if it's simply a situation where they happened to get "up" for a lot of those games, but there are still some interesting things to be learned...

(And for those of you who hated this set of blogs, cheer up! It's over!)

First, as we have in the previous two installments, we'll look at the East - and keep in mind that these are both squads who did not clinch a playoff berth until the final weekend of the season.

First off, the New York Rangers:

Team

Division

Home Record

Away Record

Overall Record

Points

Playoff Team?

Blackhawks

Central

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Blue Jackets

Central

0-1

0-1

0

No

Blues

Central

0-1

1-0

1-1

2

no

Predators

Central

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Red Wings

Central

0-1

0-1

0

Yes

Canucks

Northwest

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Flames

Northwest

1-0

1-0

2

No

Wild

Northwest

0-1

1-0

1-1

2

No

Avalanche

Northwest

0-1

0-1

0-2

0

No

Oilers

Northwest

0-1

0-1

0

No

Sharks

Pacific

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Ducks

Pacific

0-1

0-1

0

Yes

Coyotes

Pacific

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Kings

Pacific

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Stars

Pacific

1-0

1-0

2

No

Not a bad record at all - the Rangers took 21 points in 18 games vs the West, for 1.17 points per game, with their best results coming against the Pacific, and the weaker results vs. the Northwest.  Their results were still at least .86 PPG, however, the same pace that they had against divisional opponents, and the "bare minimum" level for the East.

How about the Sabres?

Team

Division

Home Record

Away Record

Overall Record

Points

Playoff Team?

Blackhawks

Central

0-1

0-1

0-2

0

Yes

Blue Jackets

Central

1-0

1-0

2-0

4

No

Blues

Central

0-1

0-1

0

no

Predators

Central

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Red Wings

Central

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Canucks

Northwest

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Flames

Northwest

0-1

0-1

0

No

Wild

Northwest

1-0

1-0

2

No

Avalanche

Northwest

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

No

Oilers

Northwest

1-0

1-0

2

No

Sharks

Pacific

1-0

1-0

2-0

4

Yes

Ducks

Pacific

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Coyotes

Pacific

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Kings

Pacific

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Stars

Pacific

0-1

0-1

0

No

The charity points helped the Sabres quite a bit in their overall schedule - the three points were what put them over the Rangers for the #7 seed. Even with the o-fers against a few teams, they still kept the same .86 PPG against the Central, a 1.4 PPG against the Northwest, and 1.67 vs. the Pacific division, for an overall 1.28 PPG against the West.

Again, the message seems to be that playoff teams must play their cross-conference opponents at least as well as a divisional opponent.

What about the West, you ask?

Well, let's look at Chicago, because this is interesting.

Team

Division

Home Record

Away Record

Overall Record

Points

Playoff Team?

Flyers

Atlantic

0-1

0-1

0

Yes

Penguins

Atlantic

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Rangers

Atlantic

0-1

0-1

0

Yes

Devils

Atlantic

0-1

0-1

0

No

Islanders

Atlantic

1-0

1-0

2

No

Bruins

Northeast

0-1

0

Yes

Canadiens

Northeast

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Sabres

Northeast

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Maple Leafs

Northeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Senators

Northeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Capitals

Southeast

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Lightning

Southeast

0-1

0-0-1

0-1-1

1

Yes

Thrashers

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Hurricanes

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Panthers

Southeast

1-0

0-1

1-1

2

No

Unlike the Eastern teams, we've got our first team that made the playoffs (barely), but didn't do so well in cross conference play - the Atlantic beat them up pretty seriously, but the Hawks still managed to come out with a 1.0 PPG overall thanks to their play against the Northeast.

Then, there's the Los Angeles Kings:

Team

Division

Home Record

Away Record

Overall Record

Points

Playoff Team?

Flyers

Atlantic

0-1

 1-0

1-1

2

Yes

Penguins

Atlantic

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Rangers

Atlantic

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Devils

Atlantic

1-0

1-0

2

No

Islanders

Atlantic

1-0

0-1

1-1

2

No

Bruins

Northeast

1-0

1-0

2-0

4

Yes

Canadiens

Northeast

0-1

0-1

0

Yes

Sabres

Northeast

0-1

0-1

0

Yes

Maple Leafs

Northeast

0-1

0-1

0

No

Senators

Northeast

0-1

0-1

0

No

Capitals

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Lightning

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Thrashers

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Hurricanes

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Panthers

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

SouthLeast division indeed. The Kings ran roughshod over the Southeast and Atlantic, and while the only team in the Northeast they really got a handle on was the Bruins, that still gave them 24 points for a 1.2 PPG, 

Will strong cross conference play automatically make you a playoff team? No, as we're about to see, but it goes a long way, particularly for teams on the lower end of the curve. I'd actually suggest that it may be more important, in some ways, than conference play, and teams need to approach it accordingly. After all, with few exceptions, they only get one shot.

Last of all, let's look at the Jackets, and how they fared.

Team

Division

Home Record

Away Record

Overall Record

Points

Playoff Team?

Flyers

Atlantic

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Penguins

Atlantic

0-1

1-0

1-1

2

Yes

Rangers

Atlantic

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Devils

Atlantic

0-1

0-1

0

No

Islanders

Atlantic

1-0

1-0

2

No

Bruins

Northeast

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Canadiens

Northeast

1-0

1-0

2

Yes

Sabres

Northeast

0-1

0-1

0-2

0

Yes

Maple Leafs

Northeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Senators

Northeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Capitals

Southeast

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Lightning

Southeast

0-0-1

0-0-1

1

Yes

Thrashers

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Hurricans

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2

No

Panthers

Southeast

1-0

1-0

2-0

4

No

Not only did the Jackets take 25 points against the east, for a sparkling 1.25 PPG, they took a point from all but two teams in the East. That's exceptional, and far better than any of the playoff teams we've looked at. The Jackets had no "weak" divisional matches - they came in above a point per game with all three.

Would the Jackets be a better team in the Eastern conference? The numbers certainly seem to suggest that. I'd also say that their cross conference play was a big reason the team sustained a chance for the post-season as long as they did, especially when you consider their weaker divisional play and average in-conference play.

If the Jackets had improved one or the other, the numbers suggest they would have made it to the dance. If Scott Arniel can keep up the same level of performance against the East and improve, say, Divisional play, the future for the Blue Jackets looks rather bright indeed. 

And if they should move to the East? (Unlikely, at this point, but let's say the Thrashers end up becoming the Las Vegas Aces or the new Winnipeg Jets, leaving a vacancy in the Southeast division.) The Jackets did something in their series against the East that they couldn't against the West - they beat up on the bottom feeders. (And, for that matter, on many of the playoff teams) That's the missing ingredient that seems to elude them in their current environs.

It all suggests that the move scenario that not only would ease costs of travel and potentially help the gate revenue, but seems very likely to lead to dramatic increases in on-ice success.

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