Standings Watch: How Low Can the Devils Go?

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With three games left and eons away from a playoff spot, there isn’t much worth looking forward to for the remainder of the New Jersey Devils 2016-2017 season. Save Patty’s Last Lap that’s set to occur this Saturday, these final three games hold little meaning. The primary purpose of this article is to explain how the basement standings can pan out between now and the conclusion of the regular season. The significance behind this pertains to the position New Jersey could have in the NHL Entry Draft, and what their odds will be in the lottery.

With 70 points, the Devils (28-37-14) are currently 27th in the league and dead last in the Eastern Conference. They’re six points behind the Detroit Red Wings (32-36-12), who have two games left this season. The only way the Devils can jump Detroit is if the Red Wings lose their final two games and the Devils win their final three. 26th is the highest New Jersey can ascend in the standings, since the Dallas Stars (25th) currently have 77 points.

The Devils won’t finish higher than 26th overall this season. -Getty Images

Simply put, the Devils are basically guaranteed to finish bottom-five in points this season. It’s how further they’re capable of descending is what makes things interesting. While nobody is reaching the No. 30th Colorado Avalanche (47 points), the Arizona Coyotes (68 points, two games left) and the Vancouver Canucks (69 points, three games left) are all capable of swapping spots with the Devils.

As previously mentioned, New Jersey can finish at best with 76 points. Vancouver can finish with 75, while Arizona would max out at 72. If the Devils get at least two more points, they won’t fall beneath the Coyotes in the standings. Since Vancouver is only one point behind New Jersey, it’s possible both teams can continually swap places in the standings until the regular season ends. If both teams wind up with the same amount of points, the Devils would finish above the Canucks, since they have fewer regulation losses. The 27th spot can also be clinched by either team if one gets at least four points and the other gets zero.

One way to predict how 29th-27th overall seedings pan out is by looking at how New Jersey, Arizona, and Vancouver performed against their final upcoming opponents. New Jersey plays tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and their final two contests against the Islanders and Red Wings. New Jersey is 2-6-2 against these three teams, giving them a .20 winning percentage. Arizona is 1-4-1 this season against their final two opponents- Minnesota and Vancouver. With their only victory against the Canucks, the Coyotes have a .16 winning percentage against their final two opponents. Aside from their clash against Arizona, Vancouver plays Edmonton two more times before closing their season out. The Canucks are 4-3-0 against Arizona and Edmonton, giving them a .57 winning percentage against their final three opponents.

According to these numbers, the Canucks have a better chance of tallying the most points and leapfrogging the Devils, whereas New Jersey and Arizona’s chances of defeating their final opponents are remotely even. Given the Coyote’s lower point totals and amount of games left, it’s unlikely they’ll win out and bypass New Jersey. Simply put, I think it’s a safe bet the Devils will finish 28th when the regular season concludes.

New Jersey’s final position in the standings will have a profound effect on their odds in the draft lottery. -CBC.ca

The next question is what this means about their draft odds. The chart below displays the odds for each team to select first through third overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

 

Placement First Overall Top Three Pick
27th 8.5% 26.0%
28th 10.3% 30.7%
Vegas 10.3% 30.7%
29th 12.1% 35.3%
30th 17.9% 48.0%

The team with the 3rd-lowest point totals (currently Vancouver) will have the same odds at winning the draft lottery and obtaining a top-three draft pick as the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The disparity in odds between 28th and 27th aren’t anything to jump up and down about, but could just be enough to make a difference when the final order is determined.

I do hope this article has given you some extra clarity on what kind of activity to expect in the standings between now and the conclusion of the regular season. This may not have been the best performance a Devils team has made over its 35-year stint in New Jersey, but they’re in a prime position to acquire some solid building blocks for the future.

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