In a fit of optimism, I'm redubbing last night game one of the Season Within the Season. It started yesterday, and it ends on February 28, the trade deadline. Well, actually, the season ends when the real season ends, but 2/28 needs to remain our main focus, sort of like a mid-term report card, where if we're failing at that point, we have to drop the class.
A couple of days ago, I said this:
What Should the Kings Do and When Should They Do It - Jewels From The Crown
The trade deadline is February 28. That's five weeks away. The Kings have 15 games between now and then. And 20 games after. In order to have any reasonable hope of making the playoffs, I think the Kings need to get to 68 points by February 28. This would require them to go 13-7 to close out the season (to get to 94 points; and yes, I'm quite sure that will be enough), which is doable, if unlikely. I'm willing to accept "unlikely" but I think beyond 13-7 we're crossing over into fantasy-land (especially since, if we need to go -- say -- 15-5 to close out the season, it means we've only played .500 hockey between now and the deadline, which means we would have to play as good as we played at the start of the season just to squeak in; counting on playing your best hockey at the end, when you've sucked the rest of the year...why, that would be like sucking for 55 minutes and then expecting to pull it out in the last 5; and we know how well that works).
The Kings have 15 games to get to 68 points. They have 49 points now. That's 19 points in 15 games. That's 9-5-1 (or 8-4-3, or 7-3-5, or 6-2-7, or 5-1-9, or 4-0-11). That's the target. The minimum. As long as we're on pace to be 9-5-1 en route to the deadline, we're a playoff team. As soon as it's clear we're not going to hit that target, the Kings should, I believe, shift into selling mode.
Now it's 14 games left, 8-5-1 is the target. Better would be better, but given what happened before the season started (i.e. before yesterday), I think we should stick with something that sounds more manageable.
However, we should all pause to bask in the glow. We are, after all, undefeated this season.
Oh, and one more thing. To simplify things even further, the league is undergoing contraction. Extreme contraction. There are now only nine teams in the league. They are:CHI, PHX, MIN, COL, SJS, STL, ANA, LAK and CBJ.
Or, as you might know them, seeds 5-13 in the standings:
Between the green horizontal lines, that's what we're working with. Maybe NSH will go into a tailspin, and we'll let them in the league. But for now, we're focusing on the nine teams fighting for the bottom 4 playoff spots. The other eight teams, they are our mortal enemies. We're ambivalent about DET, DAL, VAN and NSH, because they can help us out quite a bit by beating everyone in our little "league." Except us, of course.
Okay. Now, look closely at the blue box. Those are the records each team needs to get to 94 points. 94 points is, until it starts to look otherwise, the likely threshold at which you have above a 90% chance of making the playoffs. (I'm using the Sportsclubstats simulations to draw that conclusion.)
In the blue box, look at the losses and OT/SOLs. The Kings can only lose 11 and OTSOL 3. Chicago can only afford to lose 13. The spread within the nine teams is TWO LOSSES.
No-one is safe.
The Kings have sucked for a gigantic portion of the season, and yet they are only two (budgeted, future) losses behind the cup champs.
One other thing I would like to point out about the nine teams in our mini-league. Seven of the nine teams have 17-to-19 games against the others in the mini-league. COL has more (22); CHI has fewer (13). That means that between now at mid-April, our nine team league is going to inflict a lot of damage on itself. Pretty much everyone will have the chance to prove they are better than pretty much everyone else. There are exceptions (the Kings don't play Chicago anymore, for instance). But for the most part, if you win, you're in. (And not in the Terry Murray sense, either.)