After 125 days, 56 games, a complete league realignment, and a complete team collapse, the Columbus Blue Jackets' regular season has come to an end. And for the first time since 2016, Columbus won't play playoff hockey. The focus of the fanbase shifts to the 2021 Draft, where the Jackets are guaranteed a top-8 pick, free agency, and beyond. Who will replace John Tortorella? Will Patrik Laine, Seth Jones, and Zach Werenski stay in town? Which goalie will the Blue Jackets keep, or will they roll with both Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins for one more season?
But before those and other questions get answered, there's a playoffs to watch! For the last time until at least 2028, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be airing on the NBC family from May 15 until some point in mid-July. Due to the global pandemic's effect on the NHL (especially the Vancouver Canucks), the end date for the Regular Season varies from yesterday, May 8th, to when the last US teams finish on May 13th, before the North wraps on the 19th almost a week later. That means you not only have time to pick your new favorite team for the summer, but also that there's opportunities to scout out your options! But to help with the process, I've crunched some numbers in a vaguely scientific manner to rank the 16 playoff teams by who are the best options for the Playoff-less Blue Jackets fan. I created seven categories, ranked teams on a 1-to-five scale, and combined them to make a 1-to-100 scale of how fun the team should be to watch in the playoffs. Here's the formula:
2x( 2x(Greatness+Funness+Starpower) + (DUES+Former Jackets+Likability+Design) )
Make sense? Yeah, I didn't think so. Let's use our local Blue Jackets to demonstrate.
COMP. - COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Alright, our local boys earn a stunning 47.02% Bandwagon Value (BWV). To get there, we have seven categories to make.
Greatness - This is supposed to evaluate how good a team is. Are they a real contender? Or a pretender that snuck by? Or, in this case, a flaming dumpster fire. The formula? Points Percentage + Win Percentage + Regulation Win Percentage. For most teams, that lands them somewhere between 1.5 to 2, so the sum is multiplied by 2.5 to create the standard 1-5 scale. The Blue Jackets get an abysmal 2.412 in this category, which is to be expected from a bottom five team.
Funness - It's what it says on the tin: How fun is this team to watch play? Do they have a competent powerplay? Are they lighting up the scoreboard and dominating their opponents? Or partaking in defensive slogfests? To evaluate this, we add their Goals per Game, Goal Differential per Game, Powerplay Percentage, and Shutouts per Game. With the focus on offensive production, most teams land between a 3 and a 4.6, while the Jackets land at... 1.743! So I'd say this is pretty accurate.
Starpower - Is it score by committee, or a litany of offensive weapons dominating the ice? As expected, most teams got a 4 or a 5 here. Who counts as a star, you may ask? Whoever that I decide does. This category is not even vaguely resembling science. For the Jackets, I'm counting Jones, Werenski, and Merzlikins. Please tell me how wrong I am in the comments. (Sidenote here: These three categories are added together to create the 1-15 Contender Value. Feel free to use this in your brackets).
DUES - Everyone's favorite talking point in CBJ land, but warped to actually matter! This category is pretty simple formulaically, Playoff Experience + Last Cup Value. Playoff Experience is the average number of series played in the last five years, with championships and missing the playoffs counting as zeros. Last Cup Value is based on when your last Cup win was: 0 for 2020-2016, 1 for 2015-2006, 2 for 2004-1995, 3 for 1994-1985, and 4 for 1984 or later. Due to their recent startup dates, Vegas gets a 1, Winnipeg a 2, and the expansion and relocated teams from the 1990s a 3. This is the one category the Jackets do really well in, as only three teams top their 4.2.
Former Jackets - Similar to Starpower, this category just counts how many ex-Jackets a team has and gives them a point for each. Most teams have 2 or less, including the Columbus Blue Jackets themselves (technically they're all current Blue Jackets, not former Blue Jackets).
Likability - Now we get to where I'm completely making stuff up, as opposed to where I was making stuff up and calling it statistical analysis. I basically gave each team a 0-5 score based on how much I like them. Some got 5s. Some got 0s. For teams I'm neutral on, a 3. There is a significant overlap here with the Funness and Starpower rankings, and that is 100% by design. Again, feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments.
Design - I mean, what would a BC52 FanPost be without me expressing my design opinions, ranking teams by them, and calling it fact? Incomplete, that's what it would be! So, similar to Likability, I gave each team a 0-5 ranking based on how much I like their jerseys, logo, and general branding. Due to the Playoffs' two-jersey rule, only the Home and Away jerseys will be considered. As such, Columbus gets a 1. This category is not open to scrutiny at this time.
And with this very long introduction out of the way, let's get into the rankings!
16 - ST. LOUIS BLUES
I know, I was surprised too. The Blues somehow end up in last place due to an incredibly mediocre showing in all categories except Design, with that perfect score being the only score above a three and a quarter. Hell, they're less than 10 points away from the Jackets! Would counting Jordan Binnington as a star help? Yeah probably, but I'm not entirely convinced he isn't Steve Mason 2.0. Their 2019 Stanley Cup Championship didn't help either in the DUES category, nor did the lack of ex-Blue Jackets. So, they end up in the bottom.
15 - WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Yeah, don't think anyone's going to object to this one. While I was going to go into a flowery argument about how, if you get past Tom Wilson, the Capitals are actually a pretty fun team to watch, their captivating powerplay combined with massive starpower makes them an actually not-terrible option for bandwagoning. Then this happened. So I dropped their Likability score from 3 to 1, created the 0/5 for the design because they deserve it, and deleted that flowery argument.
14 - MONTREAL CANADIENS
The main problem with the Canadiens is that they're not good. They have a bottom-three ranking in four different categories, including all three of the double-rated Contender Value categories. The only categories they're particularly good at are Likability and Design, which are both given a four, and an average DUES value of 3.6. And beyond that there isn't really much to get at. Josh Anderson? He used to be on this team. Tyler Toffoli has been good. Carey Price still exists. So expect them to beat the Leafs in 7 because of course.
13 - PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
There are approximately 1,010,300 words in the English language, but I could never string enough words together to properly express how much I want to hit you with a chair.
- Alexander Hamilton, writing to Thomas Jefferson
Yeah, that adequately describes my feelings on Jeff Carter. He's the Penguins' lone ex-Blue Jacket, so it feels wrong to give them a point for acquiring him at the deadline. Plus they're the Penguins. So I didn't. I actually gave them a score of -1 for this category, singlehandedly dropping them a quarter of the way down the standings. What, is someone going to stop me from doing that? Who? I will face no consequences for this. That's the number one rule of data journalism: come in with an agenda, and mess with the inputs until you get the desired result.
12 - NEW YORK ISLANDERS
I'm going to make the argument for the New York Islanders being the most boring team in the National Hockey League by comparing two stats. You might have noticed that Shutouts per Game is kinda the odd stat out among the Funness category. The original intention was to use it to represent goaltending, because it is fun to watch an elite goalie at the top of their game. Instead, I've made a concerning discovery. Goalies Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin have combined for 10 shutouts on the year. However, the New York Islanders have had 140 God-given Powerplay chances this season. They scored on 25 of them. For the mathematically gifted in the audience, you'll note that 10/55 (18.5%) is greater than 25/140 (17.9%). The New York Islanders are more likely to shutout their opponent in the game than score on any given powerplay. To put it another way, in the 15 games where the Islanders only got one Powerplay, the audience was more likely to see a shutout than a powerplay goal. That is disgraceful. The high DUES rating is the only thing keeping this from cratering.
11 - MINNESOTA WILD
Our expansion cousins land just outside of the Top 10. Minnesota has had a wild comeback this season, powered by rookie sensation and Calder-favorite Krill Kaprisov. While they typically have had an image as a boring shutdown team, and aren't considered a "real contender" to make it out of their division, they do better than a four and a half on the Greatness and a four on the Funness categories. Now, Colorado and Vegas practically have fives in both, and are the top two teams in both, but Minnesota ain't no slouch either.
10 - NASHVILLE PREDATORS
I feel like the Predators-Blue Jackets rivalry has always been kinda forced. I get we played in the same division for the first 11 seasons of the franchise, but I've always liked them. They're neat. They have a likable, if underwhelming cast. They had fantastic jerseys for a bit there. They aren't really high on any particular category except DUES, where they score a perfect 5. But they're also just kinda there. I don't know, I don't have much to say about them. Thanks for Seth Jones.
9 - BOSTON BRUINS
I mean, every statistical model has one team that is just not where it should be. For this it's the Bruins. The only categories they're weak in are Likability (a big old goose egg, gang), and ex-Blue Jackets (defenseman John Moore). They just have a four or higher in every other category except DUES, and their Cup Final run in 2019 brought that up to a respectable 2.8. Also, all of this is a suggestion. Feel free to utterly reject these rankings entirely and root for the Capitals. You monster.
8 - WINNIPEG JETS
The top half of the rankings are kicked off by a team Blue Jackets fans' might be pretty familiar with: the Winnipeg Jets. Our teams combined for one of the biggest trades of the season, swapping Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third round pick for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. This trade has worked out flawlessly for both teams and I can find no records of any complaints regarding the three players exchanged in the transaction. The Jets are one of the offensively deepest teams in the league, with PLD joined by Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Paul Stastny, and more. Not to mention they have arguably the best American goaltender in the NHL, Connor Hellebuyck. And yet, they're pretty average in most categories, with five categories between a three and a four. So being inherently average makes sense.
7 - TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
So, remember what I said about the Bruins? How they were just too dang good to overcome how much we hate them? Tampa Bay is that, kicked to an 11. They're a top 5 team in each of the three double-valued Contender Value stats, plus get a four in the design category, and one of seven teams with multiple ex-Blue Jackets (David Savard and Curtis McEhlinney). The only categories they're weak in are Likability and DUES, both due to winning it all last year. It's someone else's turn now. Or pick them if you like dynasties or whatever.
6 - EDMONTON OILERS
Just like in real life, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl dual-handedly drag this team from irrelevance and mediocrity to a top team to root for. It could be argued that these are the two best players in the NHL right now, and they're on the same team. The problem is that they have two other notable players, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse, and I'm only counting RNH for the Starpower category. But what really helps is that there's really no weakness across the board, as they only have one two and one three. The other five categories are all between 3.6 and 4.6. However, the lack of stats above a 4.6 drags them out of a top-five spot.
5 - CAROLINA HURRICANES
My #2 team, and possibly the President's Trophy winner, starts up the top five with an almost perfect run except for two categories. The Hurricanes finish in the top three in Greatness, Funness, Starpower, Likability, and Design, oh my! It'd take a monumental flop in the other two categories to finish at least in the top two. And that's what happened. The Hurricanes traded away their only ex-Blue Jacket, Ryan Dzingel, earlier this season, they only score a two in the DUES. On the flip side, you may be questioning their perfect ranking in Starpower, to which I counter: the Carolina Hurricanes have the most underrated and lovable roster in the National Hockey League. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov typically get national recognition, but the rest of the roster is insane. They're joined up front by Vincent Trochek, Martin Necas, Jordan Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Teuvo Teravainen, and more. On the backend, they have an eternally underrated core of Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, and Brady Skjei. And they've finally found their franchise goalie in Alex Nedeljkovic, still with Petr Mrazek and James Reimer in the pipes too. Not to mention they have one of, if not the, most fun gameday culture and experience in the league. If they can keep the core around, they could be the next Lightning, and I'm all for it.
4 - COLORADO AVALANCHE
In a similar vein to the Hurricanes, the Colorado Avalanche also bolster an insane amount of depth throughout the lineup. Nathan MacKinnon is a top five player in the league, and is joined by Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog to create a fearsome Big 3. Their young defensive core features 2020 Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar and Sam Girard. Goalie Philipp Grubauer has been solid, as well. They're second in the league in both Greatness and Funness, the former by only ONE THOUSANDTH of a BWV. They also spread out the other scores, with a 2, 3, 4, and 5 over the other four categories. A solid run, and a fine option to bandwagon on, but not enough for a podium spot.
3 - TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Toronto is pretty straight forward. They got their forward core of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander, and they will roll over you with it like a steamroller. Add in some solid depth pieces, including former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, a goaltending tandem of veteran Frederick Andersen and rookie Jack Campbell, and a servicable defense lead by Morgan Rielly, and this looks like the Leafs' best bet to end their 54-year Cup drought. Or they'll lose in the first round again, which would be equally, if not more hilarious.
2 - FLORIDA PANTHERS
I was going to make a joke about how the Panthers are only this high because a quarter of the team are ex-Blue Jackets, until I realized that they still get a four or higher in every other category except DUES (with "only" a 3.4), and that a whole third of their team are ex-Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky, Kevin Connauton, Anthony Duclair, Markus Nutivaara, Anton Stralman, Alexander Wennberg. They score a 6 on what's supposed to be a one-to-five scale. Couple that with the strong showing in every other category and the core of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, and whatever of their three goalies decides to stand on their head for the playoffs, and this team becomes a good choice, despite the lack of certainty around whether or not Florida can actually make a run.
1 - VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Yeah, I know. They're the Golden Knights. They were handed a contending team on a
silver golden platter, they need to suck like every other expansion team, hockey shouldn't be in Vegas, yadda yadda yadda. There's no way many people will ever root for them. BUT, if you can get over all of that, this is one of if not the most fun teams to watch in the NHL. Offensively, they're consistent from top to bottom, with a well-rounded forward group that sees former Columbus Blue Jackets Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson joined by Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Alex Tuch. Their elite defense features Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, and Alec Martinez. And they have easily the best goaltending tandem in the NHL in Marc-Andre Fluery and Robin Lehner. In my opinion, this is the only team that can challenge the Tampa Bay Lightning in terms of best built team in the NHL. Not to mention they have a fantastic in-game atmosphere. Some people will get caught up on the newbie aspect of the team, and I get that. But give them a shot, and you may stay on the bandwagon.
So what do you think? How would you change these rankings? Who will you be rooting for in the Playoffs? And who do you think wins it all?