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It's Thanksgiving…are the ECHL Playoff Teams Already Determined?

ALLEN, Texas – Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you are able to spend time with family and friends today.
I had to chuckle when I saw this description of Thanksgiving by comedian Jim Gaffigan:

“Thanksgiving. It’s like we didn’t even try to come up with a tradition. The tradition is, we overeat. ‘Hey, how about at Thanksgiving we just eat a lot?’ ‘But we do that every day!’ ‘Oh. What if we eat a lot with people that annoy the hell out of us after three hours?”

– It is time for my annual “Thanksgiving Day Playoff Theory” article which predicts the 16 ECHL playoff teams based on the standings as of today. No need to worry anymore as the fate of your favorite team is already decided. A little overstated but not by much.
– I have talked about this in the past after reading numerous articles about the history in the NHL where data proves somewhere between 75% and 80% of playoff teams are already decided by Thanksgiving.
Here is one of the more informative stories about this subject from the Hockey News several years ago: https://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/out-of-the-playoffs-december-1-done-like-thanksgiving-dinner
– It is strange to think with about 25% of the ECHL season complete you can predict who will be in the playoffs with close to 80% accuracy. Nothing ventured, nothing gained so here are the playoff teams strictly by the numbers plus where I think the “Thanksgiving Day Playoff Theory” might be wrong. The numbers in parentheses are the current winning percentages. Here are your 2019-20 playoff teams.

North Division

1. Reading (.711)
2. Brampton (.647)
3. Newfoundland (.611)
4. Adirondack (.556)
The top three in the North Division look pretty solid but the last playoff team will come down to Maine or Adirondack. Last season Maine faded down the stretch (6-7-1) and missed the playoffs. Adirondack is currently in fourth place in the division and has finished the last three seasons in first or second place. Adirondack should take the fourth playoff spot. Worcester is the one North Division team already destined to not make the playoffs based on their .281 winning percentage, the worst in the league.

South Division

1. South Carolina (.867)
2. Florida (.639)
3. Atlanta (.563)
4. Greenville (.525)
The South Division has a big break between the top four teams and the bottom three. Orlando (.412), Jacksonville (.375) and Norfolk (.310) are unlikely to make the playoffs.

Central Division

1. Cincinnati (.711)
2. Toledo (.633)
3. Fort Wayne (.611)
4. Wheeling (.588)
Of all of the divisions, the Central looks to be a lock for predicting the playoff teams. The top four will remain the top four all season, but how they end up being seeded may change. Kalamazoo (.375) and Indy (.353) are already seven points out of a playoff spot and will not recover.

Mountain Division

1. Allen (.778)
2. Rapid City (.650)
3. Idaho (.650)
4. Wichita (.579)
Last season, the Thanksgiving Day theory was 100% accurate in the Mountain Division predicting Rapid City, Wichita and Allen would miss the playoffs. This season, they are all in the top four and if history is correct, will make the playoffs. Those on the outside looking in have winning percentages of .500 (Utah), .429 (Tulsa), and .412 (Kansas City) and will have a tough time making the playoffs. This is the division where the #4 team (Wichita) might be overtaken. Tulsa was predicted to compete for the division title but got off to a terrible start (2-6-1). The Oilers play Wichita nine more times this season. The last two times these teams played (both in Wichita) Tulsa won by identical scores of 7-2.
– History says if you are more than five points out of the playoffs at Thanksgiving the chances of making it into a playoff spot are almost nonexistent. That is bad news for Worcester, Jacksonville, Indy, Kalamazoo, and Kansas City because if history is correct they can start making plans for next season now.
– Historically, teams more than five points clear of the final playoff spot at this point can start selling playoff tickets, since they rarely miss the playoffs. Teams in this category include Reading, South Carolina, Cincinnati, and Allen.
– The bottom line is most playoffs teams are already decided, but as important it is to make the playoffs, it is a myth that once you make the ECHL playoffs any team can win the Kelly Cup. In the last 15 seasons, the Kelly Cup champion has never finished worse than seventh in the regular season. In 13 of the last 15 seasons, the Kelly Cup champion finished in the top five during the regular season.
– This is all done in fun and I will definitely revisit this at the end of the season. If your favorite team is currently out the playoffs, remember even with 80% accuracy the “Thanksgiving Day Playoff Theory” will have three teams wrong.
– As a reminder, last season history repeated itself again as 13 of the 16 teams in the Kelly Cup playoffs were in a playoff spot at Thanksgiving. That means 81% of the playoff teams were decided by Thanksgiving.

Did You Know?

Here are the ECHL’s longest current streaks for the number of consecutive seasons making the playoffs in their current geographical location. Based on the “Thanksgiving Day Playoff Theory” all five of these teams will extend their streaks this season.
16 – Idaho
12 – South Carolina
6 – Fort Wayne
5 – Toledo
5 – Florida
For all things Allen Americans, follow Barry Janssen on Twitter @AllenAmericans1. For the latest stats and trends in the ECHL, follow @ECHLStats. And for the latest news on your favorite AHL & ECHL team, “Like” The Sin Bin on Facebook!

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    Barry Janssen covers the Allen Americans for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @allenamericans1.

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