Is Vancouver the best team since the 1977 Canadiens?


And I'm tempted to end this post right here. But I should probably explain. I was watching NHL On the Fly last night after the Kings/Canucks game. Heidi Androl was guest-anchoring, or whatever the proper term is. When it came time to talk about Kings/Canucks, her analysis was as follows:

This elicited in me a not-entirely rational response. Mostly, I'm embarrassed to admit, anger. Anger and then meta-anger -- anger at the anger -- because why should that bother me...I want to say "so much," but I don't know why it would bother me at all.

Part of my reaction is related to an incident from that morning. So, brief digression: I was listening to Dan Patrick on the radio. They were talking about the Sammy Hagar book. One of the "Danettes" was offering the opinion that Van Halen essentially invented the idea of the band that knew how to party. I don't know if he used the phrase "knew how to party," but he appeared to actually believe that Van Halen -- Van Halen! -- contributed to the history of rock-and-roll the concept of the debauched, Bacchanalian sex-and-drugs orgy on tour.

I understand, yes. He's young.

I immediately began making a mental list of all of Van Halen's precursors in this field. I started naturally with Zeppelin (the shark incident, the Riot House, etc.), Faces (who had a f-ing open bar on stage when they performed), the Doors, (exposed privates), the Beatles (tours were described by Lennon as "Satyricon on wheels"), Robert Johnson (murdered by jealous husband), Lowell George, Keith Moon, Lennon and Nilsson (the Troubadour incident, Lennon with a feminine hygiene product taped to his head), the Rolling Stones (pick your bust, snorting your dad's ashes). This is a list that could literally go on forever...

So, back to Heidi. Like the Danette, she's young. She just doesn't know any better. Except it's worse, because there's no reason to go back decades to find a team that has played as well as Vancouver has this season. And you certainly don't have to go all the way back to the legendary 1977 Habs, with their 8 regular season losses.

  • Before I jump into the comparisons, I would like to add that last night's game was close. To hear the talking heads talk about it, it was as though the Kings were blown out, or out-classed, or out-gunned, when in fact: none of the above. The game could have gone either way. Could just as easily have been 2-0 Kings at the end of two periods. The major penalty to Clifford could easily have not occurred. Then what?
  • So, Vancouver is a team for the ages, apparently. Let's look at some numbers. They are 52-17-9, 113 points, four games left. Let's say they finish with their current W%. Where do they rank in history?

(chart is color-coded by decade, except I included 2011 in the 00s, and I ran out of colors)

1930 Boston 0.875
1944 Montreal 0.830
1977 Montreal 0.825
1978 Montreal 0.806
1945 Montreal 0.800
1996 Detroit 0.799
1976 Montreal 0.794
1919 Ottawa 0.792
1971 Boston 0.776
1939 Boston 0.770
1973 Montreal 0.769
1972 Boston 0.763
2006 Detroit 0.756
1984 Edmonton 0.744
1986 Edmonton 0.744
1976 Philadelphia 0.738
1982 Islanders 0.738
2010 Washington 0.738
1989 Calgary 0.731
1979 Islanders 0.725
1980 Philadelphia 0.725
1974 Boston 0.724
2011 Vancouver 0.724
1925 Ottawa 0.722
1951 Detroit 0.721
2001 Colorado 0.720
1979 Montreal 0.719
1989 Montreal 0.719
1974 Philadelphia 0.718
1956 Montreal 0.714
2009 San Jose 0.713
1993 Pittsburgh 0.708
2002 Detroit 0.707
2009 Boston 0.707
1975 Buffalo 0.706
1975 Montreal 0.706
1975 Philadelphia 0.706
1976 Boston 0.706
1985 Philadelphia 0.706
2008 Detroit 0.701
1962 Montreal 0.700

23rd. 3rd best in the last 5 years.

Five years is even during Heidi's tenure. So, if she was paying attention, the answer to her own question would be, there's usually someone with approximately that record, and that team usually goes on to win the cup, or get knocked out in the 1st round, or somewhere in between.

However, since most of the teams on the above list did not have the benefit of the Bettman point, we ought to subtract Vancouver's nine loss points to see how they compare. Down to 104 points, over 78 games, that's a W% of .667, which isn't even close to making this list. My guess would be it's in the neighborhood of 50th-60th all-time. Which is good, don't get me wrong. Vancouver is a good team. I'll even go so far as to call them very, very good. But it's ridiculous to compare them to historically unstoppable teams, like the 1977 Habs. They're more comparable to the 2009 Sharks. And we know what happened to them.

I remember those Montreal teams. In addition to their absurd records, there was a sense, when you were playing them, that no matter what the situation was at that moment, no matter what the score was, there was no doubt that Montreal was going to win. You just knew that whatever lead you had was vapor and they were about to decide to stop toying with you and then you were doomed. Vancouver, on the other hand (and like San Jose and other teams who have never won -- yes, the Kings included, even more so), if they fall behind even for a period in the playoffs, everyone in Canuck nation will be chewing off their own fingers in paralytic terror that their team is going to let them down, as they always do. The Habs of old were more like a pool hustler who lets you win a few games before the betting starts.

It's almost enough to wish Anaheim would finish 8th. See, that's a win-win for me.

(Almost forgot, here's a graph of those .700+ finishes, over time. Click through for higher-res version.)