Last Place Teams, Five Years Later: Group Performance

Jonathan Willis
June 01 2011 10:34PM

I hope that most have enjoyed our series tracking last place teams between 1995-96 and 2005-06, and their performance five years out. As we’ve seen, performance has varied from team-to-team – from squads that went on to win the Stanley Cup, to teams that put in a competent performance, to the perpetual losers.

How did they fare, as a group? If we wanted an average base-line to give us an idea of what the Oilers might do if they follow the group’s curve, what would that look like? After the jump, the conclusion to this series.

Naturally, since we’re tracking aggregate performance, I’ve included a series of graphs, which tell the bulk of the story. The only alteration I’ve made to the numbers is to project all finishes over a 30-team league (the NHL only expanded to 30 teams in 2000-01, so some of these finishes came in a 26, 27 or 28-team league – adjusting the standings to a 30-team league makes the results more realistic for today).

What percentage of teams made the playoffs?

What percentage of teams finished in the top-10 during the regular season?

What was the average finish of the teams in question?

Conclusion

I have to admit that when I put these trends together, I was more than a little surprised. The third chart is particularly frightening – five years after hitting rock bottom, the average finish for these clubs is right on the playoff bubble. At first glance, that might seem to conflict with the top graph (which shows a 70% playoff attainment rate) but the explanation is simple: five years out, there are a lot of teams on the playoff bubble, a few teams at the very bottom of the league, and no teams near the top (Pittsburgh, the best performer of these 10 clubs in their fifth season, finished eighth in the league). That skews the overall average down to the playoff bubble.

The sad thing is that very few teams on this list ever managed to parley their top draft picks into lasting success – only two of the 10 teams (Pittsburgh and Ottawa) enjoyed a lengthy period of success as a result of their rebuilding, while the majority of teams were either one-and-done or never spent any time in the league’s upper echelon.

It’s a sobering set of facts, and one that points to the importance of augmenting top picks with managerial excellence. We know the Oilers both have and will have the former, but opinions vary on the latter.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 02 2011, 06:20PM
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@ Mantastic. Maybe you can actually give some rational as to why having an elite goalie under contract for a long time period is bad, because as far as I can tell keeping your best players on your team is a good thing.

I think what you should be asking is: How hard is it to sign elite talent to below market contracts... I'm pretty sure the answer to that is: Very hard.

Sure, the Ballard trade was poor, but the 1st rounder has about a 10 percent chance of being a player, Grabner was then waived by one of the worst teams in the leaugue

3rd rounders are garbage, I'd gladly trade one for a proven 3rd pairing dman. And who cares about Sundin, they had the space and no one else to sign. Its not my fault that you don't understand that unused cap space is worthless.

Oh, and the funniest part of your post: you should check out where the Oil and the Canucks were the year before Tambilinni and gillis were hired.

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#52 Chris.
June 02 2011, 06:20PM
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@Mantastic

One GM inherited a team everyone at Oilersnation thought was in sharp decline... A few years later that GM has his President Trophy winning team in the finals: and even if they lose; they will likely be super competative for years to come.

The other GM inherited a team that everyone at Oilersnation thought was on the rise (remember challenging for the division and all that)... A few years later that GM is throwing multi-million dollar contracts at marginal players picked up on waivers to prop up a lineup that just completed consecutive last place seasons.

Yeah: it's probably okay to concede that Gillis has done a better job than Tambellini... (Or that all of us good people at Oilersnation don't necessarily have a good bead on things)

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#53 DSF
June 02 2011, 06:45PM
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Mantastic wrote:

if you think 7 years is ok to lock up a goalie.. ok then, if that's what you think is good GMing, and lol'ing at thinking luongo carried the panthers to the finals

how hard is it to resign players with a pay increase before they hit their career highs? the hardest part for GM's is actually getting the elite talent to begin with, not resigning organizational players with pay increases.

you would be estatic for trading a first rounder, a calder candidate for ballard, third rounder for alberts, 10m for sundin?

gillis and tambs both inherited their teams, one inherited a team with elite players, the other NONE.

You are so wrong in so many ways:

The Sedins initially wanted retirement contracts in the 10-12 year range. Gillis flew to Sweden and convinced them to take a huge hometown discount for a much shorter contract length. √

Gillis signed a 35 goal scorer to a $2M/year contract √

Gillis got an elite goaltender under contract for a cap hit of $5.3M. The contract has TWO outclauses √

Gillis identified defensive depth as the key to winning a cup and signed Hamhuis √

See above and he traded spare parts for Keith Ballard √

See above and went out and signed Chris Tanev √

Gillis realized his bottom six was lacking in size and depth and obtained Malthotra, Torres, Higgins, Orescovitch, Tambellini and Lapierre. √

It should be noted that Gillis and Tambellini have both been on the job for exactly the same period of time and while one has led his team to two consecutive 30th place finishes, the other is about to win a cup.

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#54 Peterborough
June 02 2011, 11:55PM
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DSF wrote:

You are so wrong in so many ways:

The Sedins initially wanted retirement contracts in the 10-12 year range. Gillis flew to Sweden and convinced them to take a huge hometown discount for a much shorter contract length. √

Gillis signed a 35 goal scorer to a $2M/year contract √

Gillis got an elite goaltender under contract for a cap hit of $5.3M. The contract has TWO outclauses √

Gillis identified defensive depth as the key to winning a cup and signed Hamhuis √

See above and he traded spare parts for Keith Ballard √

See above and went out and signed Chris Tanev √

Gillis realized his bottom six was lacking in size and depth and obtained Malthotra, Torres, Higgins, Orescovitch, Tambellini and Lapierre. √

It should be noted that Gillis and Tambellini have both been on the job for exactly the same period of time and while one has led his team to two consecutive 30th place finishes, the other is about to win a cup.

Co mparing the Oilers situation to that of the canucks is LUDACRIS. A team with 2 elite players at the C -- the hardest thing to come by in the NHL plus an elite winger and some great spare parts and an excellent starting goal tender. Shame on you all for wasting everyones time!

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#55 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 03 2011, 08:43AM
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Peterborough wrote:

Co mparing the Oilers situation to that of the canucks is LUDACRIS. A team with 2 elite players at the C -- the hardest thing to come by in the NHL plus an elite winger and some great spare parts and an excellent starting goal tender. Shame on you all for wasting everyones time!

Fact is, the year before Gillis and Tambillini took over both team finished with 88 points (Oilers had more wins).

If their isn't a more even starting point to give competing GM's a fair comparison, I don't know what is.

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#56 DSF
June 03 2011, 10:33AM
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Peterborough wrote:

Co mparing the Oilers situation to that of the canucks is LUDACRIS. A team with 2 elite players at the C -- the hardest thing to come by in the NHL plus an elite winger and some great spare parts and an excellent starting goal tender. Shame on you all for wasting everyones time!

Just shows you how far the Oilers have to go to even become competitive.

Need two elite centres, an elite winger, 5 defensemen and an elite goaltender.

Should be easy :)

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#57 Murray
June 03 2011, 08:59PM
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Gillis had a hand in transforming the Sedins and Kesler into the players they are today.

Sundin is constantly cited by all three as having had a huge effect on their development and maturity. It also told them how much management wanted to win.

Gillis also re-defined the Vancouver team around the Sedins. Ehrhoff has greatly helped their speed through the neutral zone. Samuelsson and locking up Burrows has ended their linemate carousel.

Not only that, but Gillis has had several very productive individual meetings with Kesler, which were covered in depth in a recent Sports Illustrated article. He convinced Kesler that he could be a superstar, if he dropped the sideshow stuff.

Meanwhile Edmonton players continue to flounder without any support whatsoever. No wonder none of them are developing. Adding a year in age is what the Oilers and their fans consider "development".

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