How much does size matter when trying to win the Stanley Cup?

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Can a Stanley Cup winner be distilled into a reproducible recipe?

It’s a question I ask every year after the NHL’s trade deadline passes as we re-evaluate the league’s power structure based on players who have changed teams. Is there a list of ingredients a contending team can look for and sprinkle in a pot each season to ensure a long playoff run?

Last season, I presented what I believed to be a usable championship recipe by studying the 10 previous Stanley Cup winners. The recipe consisted of seven traits that were most common among champions. It wasn’t as simple as being good at everything. For example, there wasn’t a strong correlation at all between having a good power play and winning the Cup, but there was a strong correlation between having a good penalty kill and winning the Cup.

The seven-point formula spat out two teams that ticked the most boxes when I applied it last season: the Tampa Bay Lightning, who came within two wins of a third straight title, and the Flames from Calgary, who reached the second round. playoffs were only made by the sudden collapse of their goalie. A .500 batting average isn’t bad.

Using the same metrics, which NHL roster has the right mix of championship material?

Today we’re starting a new series looking at the importance of mixing beef into the stew.

#1 Stanley Cup Ingredient: Team Weight

It’s no secret that playoff hockey is different from regular season hockey. It’s heavier, more physical, and the penalty call tends to loosen up a bit in tight third-period games. For this reason, heavier clubs – not to be confused with bigger clubs, which are not as correlated with success – tend to go further in the playoffs.

Here’s where the last 10 Cup champions rank at middleweight, according to team comparison data from Elite Prospects:

Season Champion Avg. lester league standings
2012-13 Chicago 202 pounds 22n/a
2013-14 Los Angeles 208 pounds 3rd
2014-15 Chicago 198 pounds 28e
2015-16 Pittsburgh 196 pounds 30e
2016-17 Pittsburgh 195 pounds 29e
2017-18 Washington 203 pounds 7e
2018-19 Saint Louis 203 pounds 6e
2019-20 Tampa Bay 203 pounds 6e
2020-21 Tampa Bay 203 pounds 2n/a
2021-22 Colorado 198 pounds 15e

Stanley Cup Correlation: Strong

After the Blackhawks and Penguins won championships with small teams, the 2017-18 Capitals brought the story back to heavyweight hockey, starting a four-straight year trend in which one of the NHL’s greatest teams won the Cup. The 2021-22 Avs were the first team to buck that trend since 2016-17, ranking slightly above average at middleweight. Does this mean heavy hockey is over? Too early to tell considering four of the last five champions were beefy.

So who are the 10 heaviest teams in the NHL right now?

2022-23 NHL Leaders, Team Middleweight

1. Tampa Bay Lightning, 207 lbs.
2. New York Islanders, 205 pounds
3. Anaheim Ducks, 204 pounds
4. Edmonton Oilers, 203 lbs.
5. Vegas Golden Knights, 203 pounds
6. Calgary Flames, 203 lbs.
7. Boston Bruins, 202 pounds
8. Winnipeg Jets, 202 pounds
9. Washington Capitals, 202 lbs.
10. Dallas All-Stars, 201 lbs.

I count six teams locked in the playoffs and a few other playoff hopefuls among the league leaders. The Lightning, having participated in three consecutive finals, has the right recipe and obviously does not interfere, March collapses. It’s also no surprise to see the Boston Bruins dominating the roster. The team that jumps out at me: the Edmonton Oilers. During trade deadline week, they added 6-foot-4, 215-pound Mattias Ekholm to their blueline and 6-foot-6. 209-pound Nick Bjugstad to their attacking group. General manager Ken Holland has made a point of embracing heavier hockey with his movements. Without diving too deep into whether we think he’s improved the team enough: the point here is that there’s a strong correlation between team weight and playoff success over the course of the last half-decade, and the team with the best players on the planet is now also one of the heaviest. Watch out for those Oilers out West.

Afterwards : Top 10 scorers


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