Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than be good, and sometimes you’re good because you’re lucky.
Trying to quantify an abstract concept like “luck” would seem rather difficult, but that’s why we have people like Rob Vollman in our lives. He’s the founder of Hockey Prospectus, and developed an equation that attempts to glean which NHL teams were “luckier” than others each season.
There are five basic ways that luck can influence a team's position in the standings: injuries, shooting and save percentages (which is called PDO when added together), their power play and penalty killing percentages (which is called Special Teams Index when added together), their record in one-goal games (regulation time only), and their record in overtime and shoot-out games.
So who were the teams that got lucky in 2013?
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins were lucky indeed, as the top seven tells us:
“CHIP” is the combined cap hit of all injured players. “PDO” is team shooting percentage plus save percentage. “STI” is power play plus penalty killing percentage.
As Hockey Abstract notes, the categories here are ones that involve skill and luck, and there’s some overlap. So the site allows you to adjust the parameters of each category as you see fit. Which is good, because I don't consider special teams to be primarily a product of luck, but of skill, coaching and execution.
The Leafs’ PDO was the best on the chart; ditto their special teams index. Their only failing was in overtime games, where Toronto was 2-5.
Six of the seven were playoff teams; Edmonton is the oddball, powered by their strong special teams. Take that out, and they drop to ninth.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, incidentally, came in 10th on the luck list, which might seem low for a team that played above its head last season. But without special teams factored in, they jump to sixth.
What about the teams deemed “unlucky” on the list? Here are the bottom six:
OBVIOUSLY the Devils and Hurricanes had some voodoo hex on them. Yep. That's it. Florida, however, was just terrible.
As you can see, no playoff teams. You have to go to No. 21 on the luck list, the Minnesota Wild, to find your first one, at a minus-2.61. (Florida is a minus-22.50, by comparison.)
Check out the full chart on Hockey Abstract. How lucky, or completely snake bitten, was your team?