by Timo Seppa
A few extra thoughts on the 48-game schedule, that we didn’t have space for in my ESPN Insider article:
-There is nothing magical about 82 games. Though less likely than over 48 games, a quality team that got enough bad bounces and untimely injuries could miss the playoffs even over the length of a “full” regular season. Maybe if a 100-game schedule was played, the team’s fortunes would even out enough to qualify and end up hoisting the Cup – in August, that is. I give the 2010-11 New Jersey Devils example in the article.
-It could work the other way around, too. A great team could avoid key injuries over the course of 48 games plus a twenty-odd game postseason run to end up 2013 champions, while they could be derailed by losing a star player over 34 additional contests. It’s possible that in an 82-game alternate reality of the 2012-13 season you could actually get a “lesser” team’s name engraved on the Cup for posterity. I’m thinking that the current Pittsburgh Penguins could benefit in some scenarios with this one.
Though I focused on the first 48 games as the best approximation of this shortened season, there was an noteworthy example in examining at the last 48 games of the past seven seasons awell. The Ducks started out on fire in 2006-07, with a league-leading 56 points in their first 34 games. Buffalo, with 52, was the only other team over 50. Yet in the remaining 48 games, Anaheim only tallied 54 points - over that half-season stretch, they would have been only 10th in the Western Conference, and “out of the playoffs”. But going cold in the second half did nothing to their playoff fortunes. The 2007 Ducks were only pushed to six games once in the postseason, by the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, en route to winning the championship.