The Sports Forecaster

Strength of Remaining Schedule

Hello Forecaster Fans.

We come back to you tonight with a fun new feature: SOS or rather Strength of Schedule. To be fair, we will actually be calculating Strength of Remaining Schedule (“SORS”) but more on that later…

Fans and analysts often use strength of schedule as a talking point for discussions and debates about a team's performance and chances of success. It adds an analytical dimension to conversations.  While primarily retrospective, strength of schedule can provide some insight into a team's future performance.

The SOS formula is a valuable tool for assessing and comparing the competitiveness of teams' schedules. It provides a standardized metric to assess the quality of opponents faced, helping to objectively rank teams. 

The formula relies on quantitative data, in this case winning percentages, which we love at the Forecaster, thus removing some objectivity when trying to compare two teams.  

Unfortunately, the formula itself can vary from one organization or analyst to another. Different formulas may weigh certain factors differently, leading to inconsistent results and subjective interpretations.  We here at the Forecaster have our own proprietary way of calculating “SORS” which we do not want to share but the gist of it is still tied to winning percentages.

While the strength of schedule formula is a useful tool for assessing the quality of a team's opponents, it also has its limitations and downsides.  The formula doesn't take into account the context of the games, such as injuries to key players, home-ice advantage, or the timing of the games within the season. Some games may have been against weaker opponents due to circumstances beyond the team's control.  It also doesn't account for the margin of victory or defeat in games, so close wins against strong opponents are weighted the same as blowout wins against weaker ones.

Also, a teams' performance can change significantly over the course of a season. A team that had a tough schedule early in the season might face easier opponents later. The formula doesn't account for these temporal variations.    Hence, we here at the Forecaster will be releasing the SORS results at several points in the season.

Here in the NFHL, teams play a mix of games within their own conference and against teams from other conferences. The formula unfortunately does not adequately address the quality of non-conference opponents.  You will see it in the results below with all 13 Wales Conference teams sitting at the bottom of the rankings.  We do know the Campbell Conference has stronger teams than in the Wales and that the last 2 Cup Winners stems from the Campbell.  But all 13 teams at the bottom of the rankings coming from the same conference is still a statistical anomaly. 

Strength of schedule formulas typically focus on past results from past opponents.  We here at the Forecaster have tweaked the formula to look at the remaining schedule left to be played. 

Essentially, what you need to know is, the higher the percentage, the harder schedule the team has in front of them. If you are a borderline playoff team, you are hoping for a lower percentage than the teams you are chasing (or the teams below you).   If your team’s plan is to tank (not that it should be allowed to), then you are hoping for a high percentage to help increase your chances at the top pick.

While strength of schedule provides insight into past performance, it doesn't necessarily predict a team's future success. A team may have faced a tough schedule but could still underperform or over perform in the future.  So, as mentioned earlier, this ranking will change, and we will be here to evaluate i

Without further ado, here are the results of the first SORS ranking:

Standings Rank

SORS Rank

Team

SORS %

24

1

Blackhawks

0.551

23

2

Kings

0.541

7

3

Rockies

0.532

15

4

Flames

0.529

22

5

Ducks

0.528

9

6

Sharks

0.524

16

7

Blues

0.521

1

8

NorthStars

0.520

2

9

RedWings

0.518

4

10

Canucks

0.517

12

11

Jackets

0.516

5

12

Jets

0.510

8

13

Oilers

0.510

25

14

Sabres

0.501

26

15

Lightning

0.496

20

16

Rangers

0.489

17

17

Canadiens

0.481

18

18

Islanders

0.478

19

19

Nordiques

0.478

21

20

Leafs

0.478

11

21

Flyers

0.477

3

22

Whalers

0.473

13

23

Penguins

0.470

14

24

Panthers

0.466

6

25

Devils

0.463

10

26

Bruins

0.457

Analysis and Outlook

In prior years, the Chicago Blackhawks would be happy sitting at the bottom of the standings like they are this year (currently 24th overall) and would be even happier to know their schedule is so hard they are likely to stay a non-playoff team.  Unfortunately for them though, they were actually looking to make the playoffs this year and to make matters worse, they don’t own their 1st round draft pick.  Detroit are the current lucky owners of that asset and must be licking their chops seeing the results of our analysis.

The Kings and Flames are stuck deciding whether they will be eventual buyers or sellers at the trade deadline but this analysis currently shows they will likely struggle to make the top 8 in the Campbell and so they may as well start selling now.  The Flames are currently sitting with the 15th best record but there are already 8 teams in the Campbell stronger than them. 

The Rockies and Sharks are also in a precarious position. 

The Rockies are surprisingly 5th in the Wales but that’s still good enough for 7th overall.  From a SORS point of view they have the 3rd worst schedule ahead of them, but despite that we here at the Forecaster anticipate the Rockies will turn out just fine.  As we mentioned earlier, the SORS is an interesting stat but it doesn’t guarantee future results.  Colorado is likely to eek out tight wins against some of its tougher opponents. 

The Sharks on the other end are currently all in. After a strong start they made a big splash swapping promising Kolzig and many future assets in order to pick up Sakic and Fuhr. With the 6th toughest schedule in front of them, they are certainly hoping that trade and the many other trades they have since made will be enough to keep them afloat in the very challenging Campbell conference.

The Sabres and Lightning both sit around the middle of the pack and are certainly jealous of the Hawks (well Red Wings) and Kings who will have an easier time tanking than they will. 

The Rangers, Canadiens and Nordiques who are all vying for a playoff spot in the Wales will have fair schedules in front of them but nothing as easy as Boston, New Jersey or Florida.  As of this writing, the Forecaster predicts the latter 3 teams will be in the top 4 of the Wales with New Jersey possibly taking the 1st place in the Wales.  With so much parity in the Wales this season, we likely need another 20 games or so to re-measure the SORS and get more precise indicators.

Sports Forecaster’s (not so) bold prediction: The next edition of the SORS will be dramatically different!

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-The Sports Forecaster