Southeast Science

I wrote the Jets off. I thought our playoff chances were done with. Now while I’m not buying the face paint for the playoffs just yet (I actually already have face paint…don’t ask), I am cautiously optimistic that the Jets still have a chance at making the post season.

Their play overall doesn’t really warrant the playoffs; they’ve been painfully inconsistent at times. But the one thing that is on our side this year is that the division we play in, the Southeast, is embarrassingly horrendous. Actually, maybe it’s not embarrassing; perhaps its awfulness is something that should be marveled at; studied even.

No team in the Southeast division is on the plus side in goal differential (GD). Washington ‘boasts’ the best GD with a minus -12. No division winner in the PLE has had a negative GD (or maybe ever, I only went back so far). The worst GD to win a division belonged to the 2006-07 Thrashers at plus -1…well, until this season.

After doing a little math (this could get ugly), and applying my own simple formula* (even uglier), it looks like the Florida Panthers could win the Southeast Division with 92 points. Those 92 points would set a record for the lowest point total to win a NHL division in the PLE (Post-lockout Era). Interesting to note, should the Panthers, or whoever wins the Southeast, should record less than 98 points (likely), the three lowest point totals to win a division title will all have been from the Southeast (2007-08 Capitals – 94pts, 2006-07 Thrashers 97pts). As of right now, the Jets are on pace for 86 points and the experts are saying the magic number for eighth spot in the East is 90 points, which means really the Jets just need to play a little better than their average this season to get in. I know I’m not presenting anything scientific but I’m just saying this division is ripe for the picking. (90 points would also be the second lowest points total to make the playoffs. The Habs and Flyers both made it with 88 points in 2009-10.)

You could say we shouldn’t be getting ahead of ourselves and that we should be looking at eighth spot and not the division title. Really though, there might only be a two or three point difference between the two targets. Or maybe the eighth place team even finishes with more points than the Southeast Division champion; imagine that.

I know that although tied with the Jets in points, the Panthers have four games in hand. But this is where the painfully simple, albeit not very scientific formula comes in to play. The Panthers and the Jets, playing mediocre hockey like they have been for the whole season are on pace to finish with 92 and 86 points respectively. The two teams meet twice between now and the end of the season: March 1 and April 3. If the Jets win those two games, that could make the difference between watching the playoffs and taking part in them or even home-ice advantage in the first round.

This is also a situation that probably won’t present itself again. The Jets are in the Southeast for at least another season. I expect the Jets to improve next season, but I don’t think the Southeast is going to be the same disaster next season as it is this year. Washington has the personnel to be leaps and bounds better than they’ve been this campaign. They just need to pull themselves together to be a powerhouse again next season. Tampa Bay is a solid team with a wealth of fire power that just have some serious goaltending issues. If Tampa manages to swing a deal or sign a reliable starting goalie for next season, they’ll be a force to contend with as well.

I really hope the Jets take advantage of this situation. The playoffs are realistically within their reach and would be a wonderful way to cap off what has already been a fairy tale season for this city and province.

On April 8, will the Jets be: Southeast Division Champions, eight place in the East or booking a tee-time?

*(points earned so far / games played) x (82 games)

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Born and raised Winnipegger. A life long Jets fan, as well as a Pop-Culture and sports junkie. For thoughts on the Winnipeg Jets, the NHL and things irreverent follow him on Twitter.