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Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pythagorean Win Theory
Nick McIsaac: Leafs' fans will be left out in the cold again come April...as you can see the numbers just seem stacked against us.

Every hockey fan dreads those words, the lyrics to the chorus of Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.” Well, with eighteen games left and the Leafs four points behind Washington for the final playoff spot, I think Toronto fans are about to hear those words.

Nevermind that Burke did nothing at the trade deadline. to tell you the truth I’m relieved. With the state that the Leafs are in, I’m glad they saved those draft picks and young players we surely would have had to give up to get anyone in return. We need to think about the future, ’cause, let’s face it: this is not our year. Would I like them to squeeze into eighth spot and sneak into the first round of the playoffs? Of course. If they do, do I see them beating the Rangers? No, but anything can happen.

So let’s look at the rest of the season and see if the Leafs can hope to make the playoffs. I’m going to take a page from Bill James here and look at the rest of the Leafs’ season in terms of Pythagorean wins. I know its application in hockey isn’t exactly the same as in baseball, but for fun let’s just pretend that it works the same. Basically for baseball the formula for a win is: runs scored^2/(runs scored^2 + runs allowed^2). For the rest of the Leafs’ season we’re just going to use goals instead of runs because we can. For those of you not good at math, don’t worry, I’ll do it for you.

Keeping it simple and avoiding much explanation, basically what you come up with for the three teams sitting on the bubble: Washington (8th), Winnipeg (9th), and Toronto (10th) is a Pythagorean winning percentage. From this, you can roughly determine how their season will end up. There are other factors of course and I could get into the fact that 10 of Toronto’s remaining games are on the road, but let’s ignore that. Instead, let’s just look at the results summarized in this nice little chart:



Pythagorean %

Games Left

Wins Left

Total Points




















Isn’t that great? A 10th place finish, just out of the playoffs. Even if you tossed in a couple possible overtime losses (Toronto has two more than Washington so far this season), Toronto would still fall just short of the Capitals for the final playoff spot. Now remember, hockey is unpredictable and nothing is set in stone, but I feel Leafs’ fans will be left out in the cold again come April; as you can see the numbers just seem stacked against us.


Nick McIsaac is Toronto Standard’s sports writer. Follow him on Twitter (for everything sports related) at @nickclass.

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