On bad starts by mostly bad hockey teams


It's nice to think that the Leafs' seven-game winless start is somehow unprecedented. Well, not nice, exactly, but there is some comfort in being historically bad if you're not going to be good. Something about not letting a crisis go to waste.

Anyways, there are 28 teams that have started out the season with seven-game winless streaks since the 1967-68 expansion. Some of them weren't horrible - eight actually made the playoffs, though none were good enough to get past the second round - but most were. Oddly none were first-year expansion teams. Eleven teams fired the coach - the 1971-72 California Golden Seals pulled the trigger after just three games.

At any rate, I wanted to point out one fact - while these 28 teams played something like .130 hockey over their first seven games, they went on to play .419 hockey for the remainder of the season. So while they might have been historically bad, they weren't all the worst teams in NHL history, and the following season, they ended up playing .422 hockey on average. And everybody congratulated themselves on improving the team from one year to the next.

Except they didn't improve: they played historically bad hockey for seven games, then played approximately .420 hockey for the next 157 games. They were .420 teams in the season with the bad start, and .420 teams the following season. But the average .420 team improves to become a .454 team the next season, three wins better than the .420 teams in the "bad start" group. So the price of a bad start in one season is a poorer team than you'd otherwise expect the next season. And that's bad news for everybody - except for the team you traded your first round draft picks to.

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