There’s no Magic 8-ball we can shake to find out if the Phantoms will make the playoffs. If there was, it would probably say something like, “Reply hazy, try again later.”
But that’s not going to stop anyone from speculating. Heck, that’s half the fun.
One of the most informed pieces of guesswork out there comes from a fascinating website called SportsClubStats.com. The site uses statistical analysis to predict the probability a team in a given league will make the playoffs.
They run data for numerous sports, everything from the NFL to the Canadian Olympic curling trials. (Next time someone calls you a geek, throw that one back at them.)
For the last three seasons, they’ve projected the American Hockey League. At this point, you probably just want me to spill the Phantoms’ number. But first, a word on how this is all done.
Each time a game’s score is entered into the system, it simulates the rest of the season by randomly picking scores for each remaining game. Using something they call the weighted method, the analysis takes the opponent’s record and home-field advantage into account when randomly picking scores, so the better team is more likely to win.
The simulated seasons are run millions of times. The computer then spits out a number, which is the percentage of time in all those simulations the team made the playoffs.
Through Tuesday, the last time the site updated, the Phantoms’ chances to make the playoffs stood at 41 percent. That number surely dipped some after the loss to Syracuse. It will change again based on Friday’s result at Hershey.
But at the time of this writing, they gave the Phantoms a 20 percent chance to finish in the eighth and final playoff spot; an 18 percent chance to place seventh and a 3 percent shot at the sixth seed.
Interestingly, they give the Phantoms the eighth-best chance to make the playoffs in the conference. That’s two spots better then they are in the actual conference standings.
Another interesting feature of the site is that it tracks the probability over the course of the season. That graphic confirms a trend you didn’t have to be a mathematician to pick up on: it hasn’t been a pretty second half.
On Dec. 2, the Phantoms peaked with an 89 percent chance of making the playoffs. That fell all the way to 6 percent on Feb. 11.
Those are just the site’s basic capabilities. Take the training wheels off and there are plenty more.
For instance, you can calculate a team’s playoff chances for every possible record they could have over their remaining games.
So if the Phantoms finished 9-3-3, their chances rise to 63 percent. Go 7-5-3 and those odds fall below 4 percent.
You can also determine how much the result of any upcoming game in the league will change any team’s probability, a dandy tool to figure out who to root for on a given night.
It’s worth playing around on the site. Those of you whose last act in mathematics wasn’t failing the AP calculus test in high school may glean more from it than me.
How accurate is it? Well, the formulas don’t account for things like injuries, confidence, call-ups or other intangibles.
But it’s a framework you can make adjustments to based on what you know. And it sure beats something that can only say, “Concentrate and try again.”
Tim McManus covers the Adirondack Phantoms. He may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter and read his daily updates on the Phantoms Forum blog.