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A Look at Conference Finalists History

How have teams fared the year after they reached the Conference Finals?

NHL: Calgary Flames at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Four games into the 2018/19 season the Jets have the exact same record (2 wins 2 loses) as the previous season. After two shocking season opening loses, last year’s team went on to a 114 point season and a Western Conference Final. What does history tell us about our chances of getting there again?

When the final horn blew last May, and the white clad faithful realized that the Vegas had ended our Stanley Cup dream, most fans felt a combination of pride, regret and confusion (how is it possible that 76 year old Wayne Newton looked younger than some of the Backstreet Boys?). We finally had direct experience with the two month battle to win what truly is the toughest championship in professional sports. As I pondered the mental and physical toughness required to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals requires, I wondered could our team ever get back there again.

Despite dominating the Minnesota Wild, and a game seven road victory for the ages in Nashville, part of me worried whether that summit could be scaled again in an increasingly difficult Western conference. It’s in times like these that I turn to my comfort, rudimentary math. What does history actual tell us about a team’s ability to return to a conference finals statistically?

The good news is that recent NHL history tells that there is a high likelihood that the Jets can make it back the conference final, and hopefully, beyond. In the five seasons before the season ending in 2018 there have only been ten teams to make either the Eastern or Western Conference finals.



Pittsburgh 2013, 2016, 2017

Chicago 2013, 2014, 2015

LA Kings 2013, 2014

Nashville 2016, 2017

NYR 2014, 2015

Tampa Bay 2015, 2016

Anaheim 2015, 2017

Montreal 2014

Boston 2013

Ottawa 2017

This five year sample tells us a few things that bode well for the Jets.

20% of our sample size has been to a conference final three times in five years.

50% of our sample size has been there twice in five years, with 40% of the sample size having returned two years in a row.

Only three teams out of the ten have never returned to the conference finals in the last five seasons:

Montreal Canadiens 2014 – The following season made it to the second round of the playoffs and lost to Tampa Bay.

Boston Bruins 2013 – This was the lock-out year and in the following season they lost in the second round to Montreal.

Ottawa Senators 2017 – Did not make the playoffs the following season due to a historic implosion involving a meddling owner, incompetent management and a Real Housewives level feud between star players’ significant others.

A caveat to all those MIT Sports Analytics graduates out there reading this blog – I realize this is a small sample size, and the statistical analysis does not exactly meet the validity and reliability criteria for serious research. But, let’s just enjoy it shall we? Given that most of the Jets are nowhere near their peak in terms of performance, and the serious salary cap issues are at least two seasons away, I’d say things are looking very promising for multiple conference final appearances.