ALLEN, Texas – I have talked about this in the past about reading numerous articles about the history in the NHL where data proves somewhere between 75%-80% of playoff teams are already decided by Thanksgiving. Here is one of the more informative stories about this subject from the Hockey News several years ago: http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/out-of-the-playoffs-december-1-done-like-thanksgiving-dinner

– It is strange to think with a little more than 20% of the ECHL season complete you can predict who will be in the playoffs with close to 80% accuracy. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained so here are the playoff teams strictly by the numbers plus where I think the “Thanksgiving Playoff Theory” might be wrong. The numbers in parentheses are current points.

North Division
1. Newfoundland (26)
2. Adirondack (21)
3. Reading (18)
4. Brampton (17)

The top two are the locks in the North Division but the other two are subject to change because there are only four points separating third place from seventh place. I know some picked Worcester to win the division and they are in last place but only three points out of a playoff spot. After a 3-7-1-0 start, the Railers are 3-1-0-0 in their last four games. The other team on the outside looking in (by one point) is Manchester and they have won three straight. This is a division where two of the Thanksgiving playoff teams may be out by season’s end.

South Division
1. Jacksonville (24)
2. Norfolk (19)
3. Florida (18)
4. Orlando (18)

The South Division is led by two teams very unfamiliar with the playoffs. Jacksonville hasn’t made the playoffs in five years going back to their roots in Evansville and Norfolk has missed the playoffs six of the last seven years going back to their Bakersfield days. Jacksonville is the real deal this season, leading the division with 24 points and are a lock to make the playoffs. Greenville and Atlanta, in my opinion, are already out of contention. The fight will be between four teams (Norfolk, Florida, Orlando and South Carolina) for two spots. Three teams are tied with 18 points so winning percentage determined the top four. South Carolina has made the playoffs the last 11 seasons and will be the team that gets in the playoffs. If past is prologue, look for Norfolk to be the odd team out at season’s end.

Central Division
1. Cincinnati (24)
2. Toledo (23)
3. Indy (16)
4. Fort Wayne (12)

Fort Wayne just snuck into the top four with a win over Brampton in the only Thanksgiving Day game in the ECHL. The Komets started the season 1-6 but have gone 5-3 recently. Toledo looks to be the class of the league and are in second place in points because they have played fewer games than Cincinnati. Wheeling and Kalamazoo are the teams out of the playoffs and that should be the same come playoff time. The top four will be the top four the rest of the season but how they end up being seeded will shuffle around.

Mountain Division
1. Utah (23)
2. Tulsa (22)
3. Kansas City (21)
4. Idaho (19)

Rapid City was in the top four until recently but have lost three straight games. Rapid City has missed the playoffs the last three seasons. Idaho has gone in the opposite direction having gone 3-0-1-1 in their last five games to bypass the Rush. Idaho has made the playoffs in a league-best 15 consecutive seasons. Just like the Central Division, the four teams currently in the playoff spots should be the same at season’s end and the only change will be the seedings. If it holds true to form Rapid City, Wichita, and Allen miss the playoffs.

– History says if you are more than five points out of a playoff spot at Thanksgiving the chances of making it into a playoff spot are almost nonexistent. That is bad news for Greenville, Atlanta, Wichita, and Allen because if history is correct they can start making plans for next season now.

– Teams more than five points in the clear of the final playoff spot at this point can start selling playoff tickets as they rarely miss the playoffs. Teams in this category include Newfoundland, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and Toledo.

– This is all done in fun and I will definitely revisit this at the end of the season. If your favorite team is in the out the playoffs group, remember even with 80% accuracy the Thanksgiving day playoff theory will have three or four teams wrong.

Did You Know?

Here are the ECHL’s longest streaks for the number of consecutive seasons making the playoffs in their current geographical location.

15 – Idaho
11 – South Carolina
9 – Reading
5 – Fort Wayne
4 – Allen
4 – Toledo
4 – Florida

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