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Your Ottawa Senators: The best-managed team of the decade

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Although the first decade of the new millenium is finishing on a different tone than it began, the Ottawa Senators have still put together a very strong string of ten years. There are all sorts of way you can try to measure that success, but it's hard to argue with what Bird Watchers Anonymous used as criteria for measuring managerial success in the NHL:  A balance of value-for-money (measured in Salary efficiencies) and statistical, particularly post-season, success. With those variables in mind, the Ottawa Senators came out convincingly ahead of the rest of the league.

According to Falconer from BWA, the Senators' success based on those measures is something to admire:

The Ottawa Senators came out #1 because they were extremely adept at earning wins in the regular season with a payroll that was often below the NHL average. Only Ottawa and Nashville have managed this feat on a consistent basis. Unlike Nashville, Ottawa also managed to rack up 43 playoff wins (which ranks them 8th out of 30 teams in the last decade) beating out many higher spending franchises. Although the Senators came up short of the Cup, their management had extraordinary success when you consider the modest player expenditures.

To read a bit more about the numbers and how Falconer arrived at his conclusion, and see the raw data, take the jump to read the rest of the post.

The data on which Falconer based his conclusions are presented below. Essentially, he calculated a 'bang-for-buck' measure ("adjusted wins:$$$") by taking regular season and playoff success into consideration, and comparing that success to the amount of money the team spent in getting that success (defined as salary efficiency). What this results in is a measure that penalizes teams that don't have on-ice success, even if they've lived on a budget, but also doesn't reward teams whose success has been due in large part to forking out ridiculous amounts of money. 

TEAM ADJUSTED WIN:$$$ PLAYOFF WINS REG. SEAS. WIN:$$$
1 Senators 2.99 (1) 43 (8) 2.51 (3)
2 Devils 2.91 (2) 64 (2) 2.29 (7)
3 Predators 2.84 (3) 6 (T-25) 2.76 (1)
4 Sharks 2.79 (4) 44 (6) 2.34 (6)
5 Penguins 2.75 (5) 46 (5) 2.22 (10)
6 Sabres 2.70 (6) 28 (12) 2.39 (4)
7 Wild 2.68 (7) 11 (23) 2.54 (2)
8 Canucks 2.60 (8) 23 (T-14) 2.35 (5)
9 Red Wings 2.52 (9) 72 (1) 1.96 (21)
10 Flames 2.52 (10) 23 (T-14) 2.26 (8)

 

It's important to remember that this measure won't, and was never intended to, measure the success of a team in absolute terms. Rather, it's intended to measure the success of a team based on how much they've spent, and that's why a team like the Senators, who operated on a strict budget for the first half of the decade, is ranked higher than teams like the Detroit Red Wings or the New Jersey Devils, both of whom far outpace the Senators in playoff success.

My question, though, is this: Can you really call teams that haven't won much of significance the best-managed? The Senators, obviously, haven't won a Stanley Cup in the decade, although they have won three Northeast Division and one Eastern Conference banners in the decade. The Nashville Predators, however, have only qualified for the playoffs four times, never advancing past the first round, winning only six post-season games after that.

Conclusion

Obviously, the regular-season success the Preds have had on such a tight budget owes a lot of credit to GM David Poile (and a lot to head coach Barry Trotz, too), and that was the point Falconer was trying to make. I'll leave my argument with this, though: Just because the Red Wings have paid their much stronger lineup much more than the Predators have paid their much weaker lineup doesn't mean they've been poorly managed. Eight consecutive division titles, three conference championships, and two Stanley Cups; no, I'd say they've been pretty well-managed.

In order to make the statistic more well-rounded, I think it's going to have to find a way to equalize regular-season success with that of playoff success. The fact that the Wings won 12 times as many playoff games as the Predators tells me that their success wasn't appropriately taken into account. Just because money is spent doesn't necessarily mean that it's not managed well.