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2017-18 NHL projections are out, and the Sharks are...good?

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Three statistical modelers have released their projections for the upcoming NHL season. All three models’ simulations suggest the Sharks will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

NHL: Preseason-Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks will celebrate a lot of wins this season, according to #math
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the most well known Twitter NHL modelers, @MannyElk (Emmanuel Perry) and @IneffectiveMath (Micah Blake McCurdy) have just released their projections for the upcoming NHL season. @domluszczyszyn (Dom Luszczyszyn) also posted individual team projections at The Athletic earlier this month. All three of the models believe a trip to the Western Conference playoffs is well within the team’s range of outcomes (using McCurdy’s Pacific Division cutoff of 89 points).

McCurdy offers a nice write-up about his model here. Simulations of the upcoming season give the Sharks a 78 percent chance of finishing somewhere between 86.6 points and 107.6 points. His simulation results spit out a mean point total of 97.1 points. His model gives the Sharks an 86 percent chance to make the playoffs.

Perry’s model’s median results had the Sharks with 100 points. As of yet, it does not appear he’s posted the likelihood of each team making the playoffs.

Luszczyszyn’s model thinks the Sharks will finish with about 93.7 points, and the most likely range of outcomes is somewhere between 85.7 and 101.7. His model gives the team a 65 percent chance of making the playoffs. (Those figures are publicly available in the tweet Dom posted. The rest of the information about his projection is behind The Athletic’s paywall, so I’ll let you check it out).

I am a bit skeptical of these point projections, despite my love of numbers and their ability to tell us more about sports.

McCurdy writes in his model description that his individual player projections do not account for aging and take previous seasons into consideration to determine how much a player will help his team this year. That leaves a lot of leeway for a team whose core is past their prime and whose younger players don’t have a ton of NHL playing data in their brief careers. In other words, no matter how accurate a model is, there is a lot of uncertainty in this team’s data composition. He also believes the Sharks will benefit from an easy schedule. They play very few games in which they’ll lose their home-ice advantage due to no rest, and they play a lot of games against teams like Vancouver, Arizona and Vegas, who have weaker projections.

If any one of the Sharks’ senior brigade (AKA the over-28 club) falls off drastically this season, it could spell big trouble for the team. If one of the aforementioned bad teams has a better-than-expected season, that’ll make Team Teal’s schedule a little bit harder. If none of the team’s younger players — without as much data to help accurately forecast their performance this season — takes steps forward it could also present problems.

Luszczyszyn’s model attempts to account for aging, and his point projection is the lowest of the three.

My other concern is Martin Jones. Despite his big contract this offseason, his numbers were the very definition of average last year. When you consider that goalies aren’t likely to ever get better, the Sharks could be in for quite the roller coaster if Jones’ numbers get worse.

In all likelihood, the three models’ projections are going to make my foreboding seem silly in a few months. Even the most pessimistic of the models’ outcomes has them within 4 points of a playoff spot. But numbers don’t explain everything and the uncertainty inherent in sports could easily go the wrong way for the Sharks this year.

Poll

Which point range do you think is most likely for the Sharks?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    85-89
    (153 votes)
  • 49%
    90-95
    (475 votes)
  • 25%
    96-100
    (245 votes)
  • 9%
    101+
    (94 votes)
967 votes total Vote Now