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Sturm Blog: NHL Playoffs Cutoff

by Bob Sturm / Dallas Stars

Bob Sturm

2 down, 3 to go.  The Stars had to grind hard to take care of the Blue Jackets on Tuesday Night, but they don't ask, "how?" they simply ask, "how many?" when they are adding up the points at the end of 82.

A tough 3-0 win (with 2 empty net goals) has put the Stars to 91 points on the year - with a chance to get to 97 if they can knock out the final 3 games against non-playoff teams.  If they do that, perhaps they will erase their own name from the list of "non-playoff teams". 

During the postgame show (on Sportsradio 1310, the Ticket), Dan and I were talking about the playoff charge.  It was my assertion that the idea of 97 points and missing the playoffs would constitute a crazy list of circumstances.  97 points is enough to make the playoffs 9 out of 10 years.  Is this that 10th year?

Here is a little research I did last season, reprinted and updated for your pleasure today:

Below are 3 charts.  Because in the last 15 years, we have had 3 distinctive eras that made the numbers different for each era.  I used only Western Conference numbers in my study, since of course, that is the conference we are discussing.

1) - 1995-96 through 1998-99:  This is the era between the 50 game lockout season of 94-95 and the rule change that called for both the 4-on-4 Overtime and the possible 3rd point that could be earned with an overtime winner. This was in a time when the NHL actually had this thing called a "Tie".  You may have to ask your father what it was, but it seems that once upon a time the sport allowed a game to end in this result if both teams could not settle it through the normal course of play.  I kid, because I mourn the loss of a draw.  It wasn't bad for those of us who didn't need a car chase in every movie.

Note:  Each team is followed by its point total for that season.

Year #1 Seed #8 Seed #9 Seed 100 Pt Teams
95-96 Det 131 Win 78 Ana 78 2
96-97 Col 107 Chi 81 Van 77 2
97-98 Dal 109 SJ 78 Chi 73 2
98-99 Dal 114 Edm 78 Cal 72 1
Averages 115.25 78.75 75.00 1.75

2) - 1999-00 through 2003-04:  This era was the period of time from the 1st rule change of the possibility of the bonus point and the rule change that assured there would be a 3rd bonus point when the rules changed before the 2005-06 season that stated that every OT game would have a winner with a shootout.

Year #1 Seed #8 Seed #9 Seed 100 Pt Teams
99-00 StL 114 SJ 87 Ana 83 3
00-01 Col 118 Van 90 Pho 90 4
01-02 Det 116 Van 94 Edm 92 1
02-03 Dal 111 Edm 92 Chi 79 4
03-04 Det 109 Nas 91 Edm 89 4
Averages 113.6 90.8 86.6 3.2

3) - 2005-06 through Present:  This is the era of 3 point games for any and all games that are tied at the end of regulation, meaning that more points were being distributed on a regular basis.

Year #1 Seed #8 Seed #9 Seed 100 Pt Teams
05-06 Det 114 Col 95 Van 92 4
06-07 Det 113 Cgy 96 Col 95 7
07-08 Det 115 Nas 91 Van 88 3
08-09 SJ 117 Ana 91 Min 89 4
09-10 SJ 113 Col 95 StL 90 7
Averages 114.4 93.6 90.8 5

The results are very interesting.  I had no idea that before the rule change of the summer of 1999, it took really only about 79 points to make the playoffs.  Then, it shot up to 91, and then to its current spot, where the #8 seed averages 93.6 per season.

The #9 seed, which is the best team to miss the playoffs, rose from 75 points in era #1, to 86.6 in era #2, to its present spot of 90.8 points.  91 points now misses the playoffs.

The #1 seed didn't move much at all, which tells us the good teams still win tons of games, and the OT rule changes don't affect teams that don't go to overtime to win.  But the teams that are in the pack?  Everything shot up.

And 100 point teams in the Western Conference?  1.75 to 3.2 to now 5 teams per year average 100 points in a season.

So, in today's NHL, to make the playoffs, you better plan on 93 points as the cut-off area that will usually get you in.  Unless it is 2007, when Colorado missed the playoffs with 95.

Or so I thought last season.  Now, we are facing the odd year where the Stars hope for 97 points.  If they get there, that might be enough to sneak in the back of the pack.  But, as you can see, there are no promises that 97 will be enough.  Let's hope the Stars do their part and then hope that this year is not the wild exception to the rule.

Keep taking care of your business, Stars. .

Email Bob at and follow him on twitter at



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