The NHL announced last month that in order to reduce team travel and comply with travel restrictions currently in place in North America, the league would be creating four new divisions for the 2020-21 season, with teams only facing other teams within their division for the duration of the regular season.
While geographic logic prevails with regards to the re-alignment designated for this season, less is known about the resultant competitive balance of the four divisions, and the correlation of distributed balance between each division.
For example, which division will have the toughest regular season road to the postseason? One method to assess the distribution of divisional strength is through the use of GAR and SPAR values tabulated for each team within each division.
First, let’s revisit the total Goals Above Replacement (GAR) and Standings Points Above Replacement (SPAR) Justin calculated for each team in his recent divisional analysis posts. Utilizing those values, we can derive a divisional “Power Index” factor for each division by summing the GAR and SPAR values for each team in each division:
East: Total GAR: 781,9
Total SPAR: 267.1
Note, because the North is the only division with seven teams, while all other divisions contain eight teams, the North Division value needs to be adjusted accordingly. Therefore a multiplier of 8/7 = 1.14 applied to the baseline GAR and SPAR values to achieve adjusted GAR and SPAR values.
GAR-adjusted = 581.3 x 1.14 = 662.7
SPAR-adjusted = 198.7 x 1.14 = 226.5
Next we can sum the GAR and SPAR values for each division in order to derive a Power Index (PI) for each division:
East: GAR = 781.9, SPAR = 267.1, PI = 1,049.0
West: GAR = 735.1, SPAR = 251.2, PI = 986.3
North: GAR = 662.7, SPAR = 226.5, PI = 889.2
Central: GAR 653.7, SPAR = 223.3, PI = 877.0
To no surprise, the newly formed East Division packs the most punch, with a GAR of 781.9 and a SPAR of 267.1, for a resultant divisional power index of 1,049.0.
The West comes in second with a GAR of 735.1 and a SPAR 251.2 for a divisional power index of 986.3.
The North, coming in 3rd, and the Central, 4th, are very evenly weighted with divisional power indexes of 889.2 and 877.0, respectively.
If we sum the total ranking factors and divide each division’s ranking factor by the cumulative Power Index values, 3,801.5, we can ascertain an overall weighted League Index (LI) for each division:
Teams in the East and West divisions will face the toughest competition during the regular season. However, it is uncertain how the postseason will proceed. We know that one winner will ultimately ne named for each division, with those divisional winners facing off in the next round of the playoffs.
In summary, the Capitals will begin battle this Thursday as a member of the toughest division in the NHL this season. The top four teams will make the playoffs from each division.
By Jon Sorensen