We've all seen the winning streaks the Devils have been putting together lately, but the one question on everyone's mind is, can the Devils do anything next year? Or will they just revert to being horrible? Are they out of the woods?
I'm here to say - yes, they will make the playoffs next year. And probably by a wide margin, too.
Vic Ferrari was nice enough to update his timeonice scripts for 2010-11. What we're seeing is rather pleasant. Under Lemaire, the Devils are at 53.1%. This doesn't sound that impressive, but it's better than most of the NHL. Fenwick at the team level tends to range from 40% to 60%. Since Josefson's callup in February, the Devils are at 54.1% (though this may have more to do with the Devils' trailing in games lately, it's still a good sign). The Devils are at 55.1% with the score tied under Lemaire, which is close to dominant. For reference, last season the Devils were at 52.1% with the score tied.
So I started looking for teams that Fenwick'd over 53% who missed the playoffs - I could only find a few at or near that number, most of whom were done in by terrible goaltending. Fenwick data only goes back to 2007-08, but here's what I found:
2009-10: Toronto (52.9%)
2007-08: Columbus (52.6%)
2010-11: St. Louis (52.5%)
2010-11: New Jersey (52.3%)
2010-11: Calgary (52.2%)
2007-08: Carolina (52.0%)
Teams Over 53% Since 2007-08:
That looks pretty darn close to a list of the best teams in the league each year, no?
I am not saying that if you Fenwick over 53% you are guaranteed to make the playoffs. Far from it. Just that teams that do manage that, tend to make the playoffs. And the higher the percentage is, the more likely that is. And the higher the percentage, the more dominant the team tends to be. As a note, the Devils have run into true buzzsaws the last 3 seasons they've made the playoffs, as they've faced these teams:
Oh, and whose name is missing from this post? Who hasn't played at all yet under Lemaire? Zach Parise, who has been one of the best territorial players in the league - his Fenwick percentages the last three years are:
So yeah, expect a return to dominant Devils' hockey next season.