Goal Differential

Adam Lowry against the Pats (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

I’ve seen a few of hockey’s stats people talk about how goal differential is a very good way to determine the quality of a hockey team. Obviously in a results based business wins and losses are what put money in the bank. That said, there are some who believe that goal differential is a way to see whether teams have over or underachived in the standings based on their general talent/level of play.

I thought it would be interesting to list teams in the Eastern Conference by goal differential and see where they stack there compared to their actual spot in the standings. Their actual place in the standings is in brackets.

  1. (3) Edmonton Oil Kings +20
  2. (2) Prince Albert Raiders +8
  3. (1) Calgary Hitmen +8
  4. (5) Lethbridge Hurricanes +4
  5. (8) Medicine Hat Tigers +1
  6. (9) Swift Current Broncos -3
  7. (4) Red Deer Rebels -9
  8. (6) Regina Pats -10
  9. (10) Moose Jaw Warriors -14
  10. (11) Saskatoon Blades -14
  11. (12) Kootenay Ice -17
  12. (7) Brandon Wheat Kings -19

So what can we take from this? It’s still relatively early in the season so a couple of good or bad games can significantly influence goal differential to the point that it overly influences the result. That said, it will be interesting to see if final standings end up connecting to where the goal differential stands now… or whether they will match where the goal differentials end up at the end of the year.

When you look at last season’s standings the tiers of teams lined up very distinctly with goal differential. The top four teams, second four teams and bottom teams were all in distinct ranges in terms of goal differential. Of course Edmonton was distinctly ahead of the rest of the pack just like they are now in that same stat.

  1. (1) Edmonton Oil Kings +117
  2. (3) Calgary Hitmen +52
  3. (4) Medicine Hat Tigers +46
  4. (2) Moose Jaw Warriors +45
  5. (8) Kootenay Ice +21
  6. (5) Saskatoon Blades +18
  7. (6) Brandon Wheat Kings +16
  8. (7) Regina Pats +16
  9. (9) Red Deer Rebels -27
  10. (10) Swift Current Broncos -56
  11. (11) Lethbridge Hurricanes -67
  12. (12) Prince Albert Raiders -93

Just to make sure it’s not isolated to last season I looked at the season before as well and found similar results. Again the goal differential basically matched the general trend in the standings.

  1. (2) Red Deer Rebels +109
  2. (1) Saskatoon Blades +97
  3. (3) Medicine Hat Tigers +69
  4. (4) Kootenay Ice +54
  5. (6) Brandon Wheat Kings +6
  6. (5) Moose Jaw Warriors +5
  7. (7) Edmonton Oil Kings -3
  8. (8) Prince Albert Raiders -36
  9. (11) Swift Current Broncos -79
  10. (9) Lethbridge Hurricanes -90
  11. (10) Regina Pats -96
  12. (12) Calgary Hitmen -100

So what’s the point? I was basically curious. I saw that right now the Broncos and Tigers have a better goal differential than their position the standings indicated. I saw that goal differential indicates Edmonton is clearly the best team in the conference even though the standings don’t yet show that. It made me wonder how things generally stacked up.

None of this means that the teams who have a certain goal differential now will have a similar one later. It doesn’t mean that the Oil Kings will finish 1rst and that Brandon will fall down the standings. A lot of things may even out as a full season progresses. It just confirms to me that goal differential is a number worth watching.


About shawnmullin

Play by Play Broadcaster for the WHL's Swift Current Broncos on 94.1 FM The Eagle.
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14 Responses to Goal Differential

  1. Anonymous says:

    What a brilliant observation. Teams that score more goals than they surrender end up higher in the standings. Who knew? I know you’re trying to be a Bronco optimist but if take away the high and low from your stat, which is a fair way to determine an average after 25 games (a 10-1 win over Saskatoon and a 5-1 loss to PA), that puts them at -9 for the year. Still a bit of a difference from their spot in the standings. Numbers aside, this team is losing too many close games.

    • shawnmullin says:

      I think I’ve probably said the words “this team is losing too many close games” more than anyone else.

      I also qualified the goal differential stats many times. I just felt like they were worth sharing.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hey I know…lets be negative all the time! I found the numbers interesting…thanks for your efforts Shawn.

  3. Matti Laurikainen says:

    Thanks Shawn. Very interesting stats.

  4. Ross S. says:

    All we ever hear is the media and Evjen attempting to paint a rosy scenario on what has been a disappointing year so far. At this rate we are going to miss playoffs again, and regularly the papers and radio are dropping the ball by not getting us fans the answers. Do your jobs guys!

    I will always support this team but I want to know who is going to be held responsible in the end.

    • shawnmullin says:

      Look Ross I appreciate as a fan that you are unhappy with the results so far but I think the line about media holding the team accountable is a little ridiculous.

      What question should I ask the coaches that I haven’t asked? I ask why they struggle to score and I ask why they aren’t winning the tight games. When the PP doesn’t score I ask what’s wrong with it. When the PK struggled last year I asked all the time what had to be done to fix it.

      I’m sorry you don’t like the answer but trust me they’re as frustrated with the close losses as you are.

      What do you want me to ask?

      Do you think I should be writing editorials demanding the coaches be fired? Even if I believed that — which I don’t — is that realistically something a team’s broadcaster would ever do anywhere?

      I paint an honest picture of what I see. If I say they play well and lost a close one that’s because that’s what I saw. I’m not telling you to be satisfied or not, but I’m not going to say they sucked just because some fans want me to be harsher.

      I see a team that plays competitive hockey that is coming up a little bit short. I say that on my broadcasts I ask about that in my interviews.

      Fans can get frustrated and angry about how a team is doing. It’s not my place to get frustrated and angry with results, it’s my place to paint an honest picture, ask legitimate questions and let the players and coaches answer those questions.

      But I’m sorry if you don’t think I’m doing that job well enough. I find it interesting this stuff always comes up when a team is in a slump. I’m far from perfect and we can all get better at our jobs, but it’s also think some people get frustrated and just toss blame in all directions.

      • Matti Laurikainen says:

        Excactly! My opinion is that when a sport team very obviously tries hard and has talent and can play against any other team with winning possibilities then the team needs positive backup from fans and media. And this has been done very well at least from the media side.
        I can say that it is not like that fine done in Finland. Here the media is too many times slashing more it`s own fan team when they are in troubles. That is not the way to get it better.
        All the players, coaches etc. the whole team needs now the feeling that everybody has still hope and trust that ship will turn to route of wins.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ross you want answers then write a letter to the editor yourself with your questions and see how the organization responds. The papers can’t print and radio can’t broadcast answers that aren’t given to their questions. As a frustrated paying fan you have the right to ask those questions. If the organization is indifferent to your concerns and don’t respond then you know how much they value their fans.

  6. Garnet says:

    Well said Shaun!

  7. Jeff says:

    Hey Shawn,

    That is a great assessment and thanks for putting it together. It was a tough road trip and hopefully they can string a few wins together as by no means are they out of it yet.

    I had wondered if they would go after Inglis when he was available…I understand there is baggage but if he could have helped win those close games would it be worth it? Moot point now.

    I wonder if they would be willing to try and pick up someone up, keeping in mind not giving up a lot for the future. Maybe someone to help they get over the hump.

    I realize you have to give something up to get something but do you think there is enough in the system to take a calculated risk now?


    • shawnmullin says:

      I guess that depends on the level of the price or the status of that prospect in the mind of the organization. I think if they’re banking on the 96/97 birth years to be the foundation it’s hard to take from that unless maybe they don’t see that particular player having a big place here.

  8. James says:

    I’m not sure why there is all this emphasis on making the playoffs this year (this comment is directed at posters here and on other sites and not so much the moderator). Yes, there is an obvious financial benefit to the organization in making the playoffs. And yes, there is an undetermined benefit in having young prospects seasoned with a round of playoffs. But I believe, and correct me if I’m wrong, the plan was for the Broncos to stop settling for “one and done” playoffs and to start looking to building teams with the capability of long playoff runs.

    So where are we now? With a third of the season done I think there is big enough sample size to say that, and putting the most postive spin on things, the Broncos are a competitve team in a mediocre division. As currently constituted, they could make the playoffs. And with their low seeding, an early playoff exit is the most likely scenario. So for 2 or 3 home games (5 or 6 in the case of a major upset) this year, the very real potential for deep playoff runs in 13/14 and 14/15 are greatly diminished. Because to make the playoffs this year means not trading Lowry or Scarlett (and possibly Nedomlel), and not trading them means not getting the (preferably) 1995 and 1996 assets they absolutely have to have to challenge for a title in 14/15 (their most likely window for a Memorial Cup, in my opinion).

    Right now we have a decent core of players in the 1994 age group who in the future should provide solid leadership as 19 and 20 year olds. The 1995 group, with the obvious exception of Heatherington, isn’t very deep and lacks scoring potential. On paper, the 1996 group looks good, but again, scoring could be a concern. Given what Saskatoon had to give up for a third/second line player – albeit a quality one – in Burns, I would think a nice haul of assets could be obtained. Players like Needham or Thomson from Kamloops, Gardiner from PA, Chartier from Kelowna, Virtanen (highly unlikely to be available) from Calgary are the type of players that might be on the offing if their respective teams decide they`re going all in this year. For a smaller package I`m sure someone like Revel could be prised out of Saskatoon. I would hope that most can see that this kind of influx of talent is what is really needed, not the short term pain relief of another (doomed) playoff appearance.

    • shawnmullin says:

      I think you have a lot of valid points. That said, a coaching staff is always going to aim to do as well as possible and push for the playoffs. I think decisions on what to do with those veterans you mention will depend a lot on where this team is in January. The East is still pretty wide open.

      • James says:

        I understand what your saying about the psychology of coaching staffs. And frankly, I want my coaching staff to have the competitive fire to win. But the man wearing the GM’s hat has to step back and cooly look at the big picture. The Broncos could get on a hot streak and finish as high as second in their division. And if Red Deer and Lethbridge both falter, you could get a fourth seeding. A opening round playoff victory is definitely possible. But then what? Calgary, Edmonton, and PA are in positions that they aren’t going to be staying pat roster-wise. Having a goaltender like Laurikainen always gives you a chance, but is it a realistic chance? That’s why finishing second in the eastern division is like fool’s gold to me: it looks pretty and can be easily confused with something valuable, but ultimately it isn’t worth much. I hope the organization has the intestinal fortitude (and believe me, I realize they will face a lot of heat over this decision) and do what is needed to be done – regardless of their standing – to secure the team’s long term future.

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