When SHOULD We Start Paying Attention to the Standings?


November 10, 2011; Columbus, OH, USA; Chicago Blackhawks fans celebrate after the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Chicago defeated Columbus 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of early season standings placement, especially if you’re a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks.  Right now, the Hawks are a perfect 4-0-0 equaling out to 8 points.  That’s outstanding, no doubt about it, but how much stock and comfort should Hawks fans take in the fact that their favorite team is sitting in first place at this point in the season?

Some fans will brag and boast about their favorite team perched in first place, while 91.7% of the season has yet to be played, but while being in first place is certainly something to feel good about, to get too excited this early would be setting yourself up for a let down.  Since it is the start of a new season, everything will be crazily over-analyzed, because that’s all we have to go on.  For example, Patrick Kane is having a great season.  While it is true that Patrick Kane is having a great season, this season is only 4 games old.  If these last 4 games had happened around then middle of the season, the excitement would be much more subtle, and Patrick Kane’s great season would be modestly known as a 4-game hot streak.

This early in the season, a team can go from first to last or last to first in a matter of a couple of days.  So, it’s best not to get too comfortable if your favorite team is in first place, and there’s no reason to panic if your team is in last place.  Right now, we could be looking at a completely upside down portrait of the final standings after 48 games.   If your favorite team is in last place, there is no need to be on the ledge, and there is no need to be begging the General Manager for a blockbuster trade.  Again, if the last 4 games for any team in the NHL would have happened in the middle of the season, those games would be look at as what they are, a tiny blip on a huge map.

I realize that this season is much shorter than a normal NHL regular season. and I realize that urgency must set in sooner than ever before.  In an 82-game regular season, I would normally never even bother to look at the standings until about month or more into the season.  Even that is a little soon in the grand scheme of things, but at that time, I would pay exclusive attention to division standings only.  At that point in the season, most teams have separated enough and still have a chance to win their respective divisions.  Around February, division standings start to take a more permanent shape for the rest of the season, and then I start paying attention to the conference standings.

For this year’s 48-game schedule, I probably won’t look at the standings until about 20 games or so into the season.  I feel that a little before the half-way point in the season is about the right time to be aware of your team’s standing.

I’m not saying that a fan shouldn’t feel good if their favorite team is playing great this early in the season, becasue I am feeling great about how the Blackhawks are playing so far.  I’m just saying it’s best to be realistic.  Hold off on “drinking the Kool-Aid” for a little while.  Remain calm, because every team has hot streaks and cold streaks, just hang with them to the end and hopefully you are rewarded for your loyalty.