Sending a lot of Players to the Olympics: Does it hurt your team?

Apparently there's some concern in Chicago over the large number of Blackhawks who look like they'll crack Olympic rosters. I took a look back at how teams have done following the Olympics based on how many players they've had in the games:

# Players # Teams W% before W% after Regressed W%
0-2 16 433 474 448
3-4 30 487 507 490
5-6 23 494 506 495
7-11 17 594 504 572

There's very little impact for most teams, particularly the ones around .500 who sent not that many players to the Olympics. Teams that sent almost no players, improved an average of 1.4 points over the typical 433 team (which plays 448 hockey in its final 24 games), while teams that sent seven or more players - usually very good teams - were just mediocre following the Olympic break. This mediocrity cost them an average of 3.7 points in the standings.

Of course, what you really want to know is how playoff performance was impacted for this group of .594 teams. Normally they'd finish the season at .587, but their post-olympic swoon left them at .567 instead. Did they play like .587 teams in the playoffs? Or were they really .567 teams?

First, a .567 team and a .587 team don't have much different playoff outcomes: since 1986-87, when the first round of the playoffs expanded to seven games, the .587 team wins 13% more games, on average, and is 13% more likely to win at least one series. That moves a 50/50 series to 47/53, which is not nothing - it probably decreases a team's odds of winning the Stanley Cup by 25%. Overall, though, I don't think the evidence is convincing that sending a lot of players to the Olympics has a detrimental effect on playoff performance:

# Players Playoff Wins % Win 1 Series
0-2 2.19 18.75
3-4 3.30 16.67
5-6 2.70 39.13
7-11 3.47 29.41

So the teams that send more players win more games but fewer series? Perhaps. The data is skewed depending on which bucket the Stanley Cup winner came from; whichever one it comes from this year will come out looking like the best group to be in. Ultimately, three seasons is simply not enough data to draw a real conclusion from.

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