Monday, November 27, 2023

ECHL Playoff Predictor: It's Thanksgiving - Are the Playoff Teams Already Decided?


I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving and were able to spend time with family and friends. With the Thanksgiving weekend and leftovers behind us and in my case the sloth like behavior watching too many hockey and football games over. It is time for my "Thanksgiving Day Playoff  Theory" blog which predicts the 16 ECHL playoff teams based on the standings as of today. No need to worry any more, the fate of your favorite team is already decided. It gives new meaning to Black Friday. A little overstated but not by much. 

- I have talked about this in the past after reading numerous articles about the history in the NHL, where data proves somewhere between 75% - 80% of playoff teams are already decided by now. Here is one of the more informative stories about this subject from the Hockey News years ago:


- It is strange to think with just 21% of the ECHL season complete, you can predict who will be in the playoffs with close to 80% accuracy. Nothing ventured, nothing gained so here are the playoff teams strictly by the numbers plus where I think the "Thanksgiving Day Playoff Theory" might be wrong. The numbers in parentheses are the current points percentages. Here are your 2023-24 playoff teams (top four teams) plus those currently out of the playoffs.


  • 1. Trois Riviéres (.733)
  • 2. Adirondack (.615)
  • 3. Norfolk (.563)
  • 4. Worcester (.531)
  • Newfoundland (.500)
  • Maine (.385)
  • Reading (.333)

The top two in the North Division look pretty solid and the bottom two are a long shot but the middle will likely change. There is little doubt Newfoundland, who is made up of mostly AHL contracted players, will make the playoffs even though the Growlers are on the outside looking in right now. Norfolk hasn't been in the playoffs since the team moved from Bakersfield in 2015-16 so is a likely candidate to fall out of a playoff position. What is different this season is Norfolk has seven NHL/AHL contracted players. Worcester hasn't made the playoffs since 2018 but they have eight NHL/AHL players on the roster. You can be certain the four teams currently in a playoff position will not all make the playoffs.   


  • 1. Greenville (.875)
  • 2. Atlanta (.600)
  • 3. Florida (.571)
  • 4. Orlando (.571)
  • Jacksonville (.533)
  • South Carolina (.500)
  • Savannah (.367)

The South Division has six teams with a points percentage of .500 or above and in playoff territory. Greenville has the best record in the league and is a lock for the playoffs, but the other three playoff spots are up for grabs. Atlanta is in second place at .600 but the Gladiators are in a free fall, losing six of the last seven games after starting the season with eight straight wins. Only Savannah appears out of the playoff picture.


  • 1. Toledo (.714)
  • 2. Fort Wayne (.607)
  • 3. Iowa (.594) 
  • 4. Cincinnati (.571)
  • Wheeling (.533)
  • Kalamazoo (.400)
  • Indy (.357)

Of all of the divisions the Central is the most likely to stay the same as it is today. Iowa is the wild card since the Heartlanders have finished last in the division since the franchise began 2021-22. Iowa recently won seven straight games and is 8-1-0-1 in the last 10 games. Wheeling (4-6-0-0) and Kalamazoo (3-7-0-0) in the last 10 games have been fading.  


  • 1. Idaho (.875)
  • 2. Kansas City (.765)
  • 3. Tulsa (.563)
  • 4. Utah (.462)
  • Rapid City (.382)
  • Wichita (.368)
  • Allen (.344)

This division is most likely to have different teams in the playoffs from the current four. Idaho and Kansas City are locks for the playoffs. The other five teams will scramble for the final two playoff spots. Last season Allen was in last place at Thanksgiving and finished in second place. After eating crow (chili) last season for predicting at Thanksgiving Allen would miss the playoffs all I will say now is any of the teams currently out of the playoffs (Rapid City, Wichita, Allen) could make the playoffs.      

- History says if you are more than five points out of the fourth playoffs spot at Thanksgiving the chances of making it into the playoffs is slim, less than 10%. Here are the three teams more than five points out of the fourth playoff position:

  • 7 points - Maine
  • 7 points - Reading
  • 6 points - Indy


- Historically, teams more than five points clear of the final playoff spot in the division at this point can start selling playoff tickets as they rarely miss the playoffs. Three teams are in this category:

  • 14 points - Idaho
  • 12 points - Greenville
  • 12 points - Kansas City


   - Keep in mind this is all done in fun and with just the facts. The playoff teams are the top four by points percentage in each division. I will definitely revisit it at the end of the season to see how many of the 16 teams in playoff positions now, will in fact make the playoffs. If your favorite team is currently out the playoffs, remember even with 80% accuracy, five teams currently outside of a playoff position will make the playoffs.

- The bottom line is most playoffs teams are already decided but as important it is to make the playoffs, it is a myth that once you make the ECHL playoffs any team can win the Kelly Cup. While Florida won the Kelly Cup last season after finishing the regular in 11th place that was a rare exception.  Here is where the last 18 Kelly Cup champions finished during the regular season:

A team doesn't want to finish first since the Brabham Cup (regular season champion) curse has been in effective since 2014. That was the last time a team (Alaska) won both the Brabham Cup and Kelly Cup. The sweet spot for winning the Kelly Cup is to finish between 2nd and 6th during the regular season. 

  • 2023 - Florida (11th)
  • 2022 - Florida (3rd)
  • 2021 - Fort Wayne (5th)
  • 2019 - Newfoundland (3rd)
  • 2018 - Colorado (4th)
  • 2017 - Colorado (3rd)
  • 2016 - Allen (6th)
  • 2015 - Allen (2nd)
  • 2014 - Alaska (1st)
  • 2013 - Reading (2nd)
  • 2012 - Florida (7th)
  • 2011 - Alaska (1st)
  • 2010 - Cincinnati (5th)
  • 2009 - South Carolina (4th)
  • 2008 - Cincinnati (1st)
  • 2007 - Idaho (6th)
  • 2006 - Alaska (1st)
  • 2005 - Trenton (4th) 



DID YOU KNOW: The list of ECHL teams that have won multiple championships is not very long when you consider the league has been around since 1988 and there have been something like 60 different  teams depending on how you count. Here are the eight teams that have won multiple ECHL championships with winning coaches in parenthesis:

  • Alaska Aces - 2006, 2011, 2014  (Davis Payne, Rob Murray, Rob Murray)
  • South Carolina Stingrays - 1997, 2001, 2009  (Rick Vaive, Rick Adduono, Jared Bednar)
  • Hampton Roads Admirals - 1991, 1992, 1998  (John Brophy)
  • Florida Everblades - 2012, 2022, 2023  (Greg Poss, Brad Ralph, Brad Ralph)
  • Colorado Eagles - 2017, 2018  (Aaron Schneekloth)
  • Allen Americans - 2015, 2016  (Steve Martinson)
  • Cincinnati Cyclones - 2008, 2010  (Chuck Weber)
  • Idaho Steelheads - 2004, 2007  (John Oliver, Derek Laxdal)
  • Toledo Storm - 1993, 1994  (Chris McSorley)



  1. Barry, have you heard any rumors of players returning from IR or any other roster moves?

    Really missing the Allen rosters from the Martinson era.

    1. It will still likely be a couple of weeks before any players return from IR. First back should be Ryan Gagnon. Grant Hebert should be next toward the end of December. Other than Hargrove, you could see most if not all return in the next six weeeks.