If History Repeats Itself, The Winner of the Vegas vs Colorado Series Will Win the Stanley Cup

We can all agree that the series between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche is one of the most enjoyable, fascinating, and fun series we’ve seen in a long time. Both teams are extremely well balanced, posse’s elite talent, and were methodically constructed, and the product on the ice clearly reflects this. Colorado especially looks like a serious threat to win the Cup this season, as they are 6-0 this playoffs and currently hold a 2-0 series lead against the Golden Knights. The play of these two teams inspired us to look back on our thirteen years of data we have collected, to determine the AB makeup of the Stanley Cup winning teams dating back to the 2007-08 season, to see if they fit the description.

First, we looked at the final team AB scores for the thirteen champions and determined whether or not they were the highest AB team heading into the playoffs, the results of this are in the table below.

YearChampionScoreHighest (Y/N)
2007-2008Detroit Red Wings+85.79Yes
2008-2009Pittsburgh Penguins+27.38No
2009-2010Chicago Blackhawks+119.55No
2010-2011Boston Bruins+124.51Yes
2011-2012Los Angeles Kings-11.17No
2012-2013Chicago Blackhawks+94.52Yes
2013-2014Los Angeles Kings+59.83No
2014-2015Chicago Blackhawks+53.02No
2015-2016Pittsburgh Penguins+74.84No
2016-2017Pittsburgh Penguins+77.96No
2017-2018Washington Capitals+27.91No
2018-2019St. Louis Blues+26.26No
2019-2020Tampa Bay Lightning+76.27No

The takeaways we interpreted from this table was that 12/13 (92%) of Stanley Cup Champions from 2007-Present were positive AB teams, the only exception being the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings, who are a consistent anomaly throughout this article. The average team AB score of these champions was +64.36, a threshold that only four teams were anywhere close to this season. These four teams were Vegas (+125.23), Colorado (+104.53), Pittsburgh (+61.51), and Toronto (+59.87). As we know however, Vegas and Colorado are the only two of those four teams still remaining in these playoffs, and far exceeded the average score as shown. In fact, each team is looking to become just the third +100 or better AB team to win the Stanley Cup since the inception of the study.

Second, we addressed the actual roster construction of these champions looking at whether or not the team had more positive or negative players on the roster, what the actual percentage and ratio of that result was. The table below shows the ratios and percentages of the team’s positive/negative players.

YearChampionRatio (Positive/Negative)Percentage Positive
2007-2008Detroit Red Wings13:960%
2008-2009Pittsburgh Penguins17:1160%
2009-2010Chicago Blackhawks21:291%
2010-2011Boston Bruins17:770%
2011-2012Los Angeles Kings7:1729%
2012-2013Chicago Blackhawks19:483%
2013-2014Los Angeles Kings14:767%
2014-2015Chicago Blackhawks15:865%
2015-2016Pittsburgh Penguins21:578%
2016-2017Pittsburgh Penguins17:674%
2017-2018Washington Capitals12:667%
2018-2019St. Louis Blues13:1350%
2019-2020Tampa Bay Lightning13:1252%

In total, the positive to negative ratio for all players on these championship teams was 199 positive to 107 negative, for an average of 65% per team. Again, the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings are the exception to the 12/13 (92%) trend, as they are the only champion to win with more negative than positive players on their roster. This year, Vegas’ positive to negative ratio was 18-4 (81%) and Colorado’s was 20-5 (80%), exceeding this average by over 15 percentage points each.

The next aspect of roster construction we examined was a bit deeper than surface level. We wanted to examine trends on all thirteen teams to see if any appeared more than once and we noticed a few. We discovered that on ten of these thirteen teams (77%), a center with a +10 or higher AB score was on the roster, the exceptions being the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings of course, the 2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins (although Sidney Crosby had a +9.09 score that season), and the 2017-18 Washington Capitals (although Chandler Stephenson had a +8.13 score that season). Also, the same ten champions with a +10 AB center had two or more +10 or higher AB players, for the same 77%. For your own reference, the table below shows the players on these championship teams meeting this criteria (centers highlighted)

YearChampionPlayer NamesRespective Scores
2007-2008Detroit Red WingsDatsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Samuelsson, Cleary, Filppula, Rafalski+29.5,+18.07,+16.08,+13.47,+12.14,+10.84,+10.67
2008-2009Pittsburgh PenguinsMalkin, Kennedy+12.27, +10.17
2009-2010Chicago BlackhawksToews, Hossa, Kane, Sharp+14.73, +13.79, +12.60, +11.72
2010-2011Boston BruinsChara, McQuaid, Horton, Krejci, Marchand, Lucic, Ference, Bergeron+15.37, +14.77, +14.34, +12.49, +12.43, +11.05, +10.44, +10.32
2011-2012Los Angeles KingsBrown+12.66
2012-2013Chicago BlackhawksToews, Hossa+16.17, +10.78
2013-2014Los Angeles KingsKopitar, Toffoli+18.36, +11.26
2014-2015Chicago BlackhawksToews+16.65
2015-2016Pittsburgh PenguinsKunitz, Maatta, Crosby, Hornqvist+14.60, +12.06, +10.79, +10.30
2016-2017Pittsburgh PenguinsSheary, Schultz+12.99, +10.11
2017-2018Washington CapitalsNONENONE
2018-2019St. Louis BluesO’Reilly, Parayko+14.75, +10.27
2019-2020Tampa Bay LightningCirelli, Point, Palat, Hedman, Kucherov+17.97, +16.32, +13.33, +13.21, +11.96

This year, the Colorado Avalanche had four players exceed the +10 AB mark, (Rantanen (+15.66), Toews (+15.52), MacKinnon (+12.68), and Makar (+10.16)). MacKinnon satisfied the center trend for the Avalanche, as they met the criteria of champions again. Vegas had seven players exceed the +10 AB mark (Stone (+13.87), Theodore (+13.63), Stephenson (+11.85), Martinez (+11.84), Karlsson (+10.57), Pacioretty (+10.08), and Pietrangelo (+10.05)). Stephenson and Karlsson satisfied the center trend for the Golden Knights, as they also met the criteria of champions again. It was interesting to see that the average amount of +10 AB players on these championship teams was around three, and both teams exceeded the average again (Vegas by five and Colorado by one) just as they did in the last comparison.

This brings us to the last element of roster construction we examined, the specific scores of each champion’s top defensive pairing. We wanted to determine the average AB of a first pair championship defenseman , as well as the average score of the combination. Below is a table consisting of these pairings and their scores similar to the rest of this article. Pairing combinations were found in older articles online dating back to the respective years.

YearChampionPairingPairing Total AB/Average
2007-2008Detroit Red WingsLindstrom (+16.08)/Rafalski (+10.84)+26.92 (+13.46 AVG)
2008-2009Pittsburgh PenguinsOrpik (+1.48)/Gonchar (-3.75)-2.27 (-1.135 AVG)
2009-2010Chicago BlackhawksSeabrook (+8.82)/Keith (+9.20)+18.02 (+9.01 AVG)
2010-2011Boston BruinsChara (+15.37)/Seidenberg (-0.14)+15.23 (+7.615 AVG)
2011-2012Los Angeles KingsScuderi (-5.02)/Doughty (-2.9)-7.92 (-3.96 AVG)
2012-2013Chicago BlackhawksSeabrook (+4)/Keith (+6.22)+10.22 (+5.11 AVG)
2013-2014Los Angeles KingsMuzzin (-0.41)/Doughty (+4.05)+3.64 (+1.82 AVG)
2014-2015Chicago BlackhawksKeith (+3.34)/Hjalmarsson (+9.08)+12.42 (+6.21 AVG)
2015-2016Pittsburgh PenguinsLetang (+2.06)/Maatta (+12.06)+14.12 (+7.06 AVG)
2016-2017Pittsburgh PenguinsDumoulin (-0.12)/Letang (+0.26)+0.14 (+0.07 AVG)
2017-2018Washington CapitalsOrlov (+6.34)/Niskanen (+7.61)+13.95 (+6.975 AVG)
2018-2019St. Louis BluesEdmundson (-2.26)/Pietrangelo (+1.77)-0.49 (-0.245 AVG)
2019-2020Tampa Bay LightningHedman (+13.21)/Sergachev (+4.10)+17.31 (+8.655)

In this part, we found that the average AB score of a top-pairing defenseman on a championship team was +4.665, while the average score of the pairing combined was +9.33. There were only six negative defensemen in these pairings out of twenty-six, meaning 77% of all top pairing defensemen on these championship teams were positive AB players. To compare, this year’s Golden Knights top pairing was Alec Martinez (+11.84) and Alex Pietrangelo (+10.05). Combined, the pairing is a +21.89 with an average individual score of +10.945. This would be the second highest averages in our metric’s history behind the pairing of Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski in 2007-08, which is very elite company. In Colorado’s case, their top pair was Devon Toews (+15.52) and Cale Makar (+10.16). Combined, the pairing is a +25.68 with an average individual score of +12.84, which is also in the elite company of Lidstrom and Rafalski. Even still, both of their averages were much higher than the total averages of these championship teams, further illustrating how well these two teams were constructed. Since 2007-08, there has only been one playoff series that has featured two +100 or higher AB teams, as in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the +124.51 Boston Bruins faced the +122.60 Vancouver Canucks, in one of the best championships in recent memory. We are looking at something similar going on in this Vegas vs Colorado series, and we encourage you, if possible, to watch some of these games for yourself, as these two teams may be the best two AB teams we have seen in a decade. Thank you for reading, much more to come

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