Consistency of Success

The opinions of some Bruins fans are often what lead me to dig into data. For example, most Bruins fans hate the 2015 draft and claim Bruins GM Don Sweeney is terrible at drafting, so I looked into data to see if that’s true. But another claim is that the team doesn’t win enough. They’re not consistent enough and they need to do more. Yes, I’d love for the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup more often, but how do the Bruins results compare to other teams? Do other teams win more? Are they consistently better than the Bruins? That leads to a question for fans of any organization. Would you prefer that your team is consistently good or would you prefer a team is that cycles between great and terrible?

In my head, I believed that the Bruins “hold on” after highly successful years more than other organizations. In 2011, the Bruins played Vancouver for the Cup and Vancouver has not been consistently good since then. In 2013, the Bruins played Chicago for the Cup and Chicago has not been consistently good since then. Even after 2019, the Blues have not continued on as a juggernaut of a team. But let’s look at how all teams do after they go to the Stanley Cup Final, both the Cup winner and the team they beat, since 2000, and look at what they did after. “How they do” is defined by regular season point totals and what overall place they come in. Also note, 2004-05 was the lockout year, so no standings and no Cup awarded.

My full data sheet is here:

I’ll pluck out a few to make graphs with and release the data from all the teams. Let’s look at the first team in my timeframe, the 2000 (and 2003) Stanley Cup champions, the New Jersey Devils.

They won the Cup twice and then kept pushing for another six years before eventually the bottom fell out and the rebuild became necessary, starting in 2011. Over the last 11 seasons, the Devils have struggled to do much.

How about a team who won the Cup, had to take some steps back, rebuild and is back at the top. The Colorado Avalanche:

The Avs won the Cup in 2001, then drifted downward in the standings, finishing 4th, 6th, 10th, 13th and eventually the bottom fell out and the rebuild happened to get them the Cup in 2022. I see some Bruins fans lamenting that the Bruins front office can’t be more like Colorado’s and in looking at the 2010 to 2020 years, that’s a lot of suffering for a fanbase, and suffering that I’m not sure those Bruins fans would tolerate.

Here’s a look at Tampa’s path as well. They won the Cup in 2004 and then went the rebuild route to get back to where they are today. Here’s a look at their annual finishes:

As Bruins fans know, the last time they won the Cup was 2011. We’ve seen that in at least two examples here, it’s typical for a team to win the Cup, be decent for years and five to seven years, then the bottom falls out. As it’s now been eleven years since the Bruins won the Cup, there’s been enough of a sample for them to follow that pattern. Here’s their graph:

The worst the Bruins did was to drop to 17 which was in 2015 and that was the cap jail the team got into via Chiarelli and the attempted Cup run with Iginla. Since then, it’s looked pretty good. But also notice what’s missing. A bottoming out that requires a rebuild.

One other team has been similar. The Pittsburgh Penguins also have not needed a rebuild, but that’s probably what happens when you get Crosby and Malkin in back to back drafts:

The Penguins have a similar line to the Bruins, their worst finish was also in 2015 when they finished 15th. There’s no big drop-off and no rebuild that was necessary. The Bruins and the Penguins are generally the outlier among teams.

Here is the average, high and low finish for each Cup winner since 2000. The longer ago the Cup win was, the more data there is, as the data starts the year after the team won the Cup between 2000 and 2021:

Cup WinnerYearAverageHighLow
New Jersey200015.76329
New Jersey200317.44529
Tampa Bay200414.06130
Los Angeles201217.40730
Los Angeles201419.63830
St. Louis20198.67215
Tampa Bay20207.5078
Tampa Bay20217.0077

IN the case of New Jersey, we see a team who won, hung on for a few years and is still struggling with their rebuild. With Colorado, we see a team that won, did the rebuild and is back at the top. With the Bruins and the Penguins, we see two teams who haven’t bottomed out after winning the Cup and by looking at the chart, we can see that most teams do bottom out.

Cup Finalists

The data above only includes teams that have won the Cup since 2000. But what if we look at the same data for the teams who lost in the Cup Final. Some of these will also include Cup winning teams, but the main thing here is the same patterns emerge. Teams win, teams take some time to drop off, then the bottom falls out and the rebuild needs to begin.

Starting with the Cup finalist in 2000 and 2020, the Dallas Stars, here’s the path they’ve taken. Definitely some ups and downs in there.

Here is the Cup finalist in 2002 and a team that Bruins fans are all too aware that has finally made their resurgence, The Carolina Hurricanes. But it definitely was not quick, taking about 15 years to get to where they are now.

We’ve already seen how the Bruins have fared since 2011, so how has their opponent, the Vancouver Canucks done since then. Have they had as much continued success as the Bruins have?

It’s safe to say that no, Vancouver has not been nearly as competitive as the Bruins have since they met for the Cup in 2011.

Like with the Cup winners, here’s a table with each Cup finalist and their average finish after they went to the final, plus the highest and the lowest they’ve finished. The same patterns emerge, the same teams stand out.

Cup FinalistYearAverageHighLow
New Jersey200116.40429
New Jersey201224.101429
NY Rangers201415.50126
Tampa Bay20157.57118
San Jose201617.50629

Most teams who have made it to the Cup final eventually really bottom out and end up at the very bottom of the standings. Even old friend Vancouver hit 29 one season, in 2017. But again, Pittsburgh has done well, never finishing below 15 and the Bruins never finishing below 17. Those two, along with Tampa Bay have enough of a sample size and still finish in single digits for average. While one number doesn’t tell a whole story, it does give an indication of the consistency of success for these organizations.

 183 total views,  1 views today