Montreal Canadiens poised to reach peak sadness this season
Predictive modelling shows Habs will likely be stuck between the playoffs and good draft picks
For frustrated Habs fans, it's probably no surprise that the team is firmly lodged in one of the most aggravating positions a team can find themselves in.
A playoff spot is growing more distant with each game, but they're not strategic enough losers to work their way into the coveted draft lottery.
You could call it peak sadness. And it's statistically supported.
Mathematician Micah McCurdy has developed a sadness chart that shows 14 teams hovering in that area and the probability that they will end the season in the sad zone.
As of yesterday, Montreal topped the sadness chart with a 75 per cent likelihood of both hanging up the skates early while not finishing among the league's bottom five — which would put them in the running for one of the top three picks.
"Everybody wants their team to make the playoffs, until it doesn't look like they're gonna make the playoffs, and then all of a sudden, everybody wants their team to get a really good draft pick," he said.
"The first pick is always amazing, the next several are generally also franchise-changing players and so I just picked top five as, 'We're clearly going to get a great player.' If you're in between that [and a playoff spot], that's when the sadness starts to creep in — you don't get to make the playoffs and the pick you get only has like a 60 per cent chance of being an NHLer."
Habs' playoff chances slim
McCurdy is the brain behind hockeyviz.com, a site dedicated to the visualization of hockey stats. He's been producing the graphic representations of the numbers for a while now on his Twitter account @IneffectiveMath, but this is the first season he's compiling everything in one place.
According to McCurdy's models, which use predictive simulations, the Habs have about a seven per cent shot of making the playoffs this year. His own favourite team, the Ottawa Senators, have about a two per cent shot.
It may seem like this may be a good time for the Habs to just throw in the towel and make a determined slide down to a better draft position. But McCurdy says, given the position they're currently in, 23rd in the league, it's not that simple.
Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs have been strategic and aggressive in their losing, putting themselves in a good position for a top draft pick.
The Habs, essentially, are not good enough to win, but not bad enough to be a winning loser.
"If you look at the teams they would have to sink underneath to make it out of sadness into a really good draft pick, there's a lot of teams to 'overtake' and a lot of those teams have had plans for pretty much the entire year where they are already playing a roster that's designed for getting a really good draft pick," he said.
"It's commonplace to think that losing hockey games is straightforward, but it's not, especially because the incentive structure has been in place for a number of years."
Montreal's fans may be most likely to feel the frustrating despair of the sad zone at the end of the season, but it likely won't be much of a party anywhere else in Canada.
According to McCurdy's calculations, there's a 70 per cent probability at this point in the season that no Canadian teams will make it past the regular season.
Panic, anyone? <a href="https://t.co/M4SbYoHxxA">pic.twitter.com/M4SbYoHxxA</a>—@IneffectiveMath