USCL Week 8 Power Rankings
With just two weeks left before the end of the season, some teams have ceased to consider their playoff chances, focusing instead on their playoff positioning. Besides the obvious benefit of the bye week for the top 6 teams, draw odds is a monumental advantage in a playoff match and teams would, obviously, like to ensure they have that status in as many matches as possible. Other teams will simply be content to get into the picture at all, and some are still hoping for miracles.
Though such a statistic loses much of its meaning this late into the season, it's still interesting to see how teams are stacking up against each other in strength - not just in record. Obviously this won't affect whether they'll get into the postseason, but once there some teams are clearly stronger than others. Thus, the team ratings:
But ok, this isn't what teams care about. Instead they're looking at what really matters - the playoffs. Hence the rankings!
#18: New England Nor'Easters - eliminated
New England was already eliminated, and their showing against Boston was not particularly impressive. There's just not much to say, except that their record is somewhat misleading given the large number of close matches they had.
#17: Boston Blitz - 0.96% chance of playoffs
It was simply not Boston's year, even though they're not technically eliminated just yet. Unlike New England, who seemed to just catch several bad breaks, this team had trouble even staying competitive in matches. Yes, they scored some points throughout the season against strong teams, but it feels like they've been playing the spoiler role since the halfway point.
#16: Los Angeles Vibe - 1.01% chance of playoffs
This team has been a slightly below average team since it entered the league, and this year was not much of an exception. Their only scoring came against mediocre/struggling teams, and though several of their losses were close, frankly they were lucky to get within those margins. Yes, they still have theoretical chances, but the concept of them even knocking off one of St. Louis or San Francisco is not one that seems to require serious consideration.
#15: Carolina Cobras - 4.47% chance of playoffs
Credit where credit's due: Carolina significantly improved themselves from the last couple of years. Unfortunately, given their 11-39 record over the last 5 years, that's not saying much. They took several bad breaks early on in the season, and though they appeared for a brief moment like they might make a late run, it's just not going to happen this year. That said, the acquisition of NM Bozkurt was huge for them, as well as the reacquisition of IM Korley. It's been an encouraging rebuilding year.
#14: Baltimore Kingfishers - 24.86% chance of playoffs
Like I've said before, Baltimore is a very low-key quiet team that always manages to stay in the discussion late into the season, but never really seems to do a great deal with it. Continuing that trend, they looked like they were poised for a playoff run after a huge win over St. Louis, but then were soundly defeated by both Miami and Arizona to leave them scrambling for chances.
#13: Connecticut Dreadnoughts - 26.68% chance of playoffs
Without GM Lenderman in the lineup, this team has been struggling mightily. That'll happen when your 2900-level performer is away, but even more so when you're having trouble putting up anything on the bottom board. They're not even close to finished yet - New England and Baltimore is hardly the most difficult of final schedules - but it might be difficult to make up the ground they've lost over the last few weeks. That said, this team is much better than it looks right now, and frankly I like their chances a lot better than Atlanta's. Still, they need to get some production on the bottom boards, and if GM Lenderman continues to be busy then this team isn't going very far.
#12: Seattle Sluggers - 34.88% chance of playoffs
Seattle looked like a pretty bad team coming into this week, but they changed perceptions 180 degrees by utterly demolishing Rio Grande. With Orlov performing above the 2800 level (albeit based on just 3 games), and NM Golub just... winning, they at least have managed to give themselves some playoff chances. Unfortunately for them, they finish up against the top two teams in the league - New Jersey and Dallas - making it hard to imagine them making it to November.
#11: Arizona Scorpions - 52.29% chance of playoffs
On the back of GM Molner, who has held down the top board admirably despite being somewhat overmatched, this team has managed to stick around and remain in the thick of the playoff discussion. Robby Adamson has been a god this year, and really is the main reason that Arizona is currently threatening to overtake Rio Grande. IM Ginsburg has also overperformed, managing a plus score on the second board, but this team's board 4 has prevented them from rising any further. At just 2/8, they're second only to Carolina at the bottom of that list. Slightly above-average performances on the top three boards aren't going to let them overcome that, and Robby's streak won't last forever. If they don't get someone to at least lock that board down, they won't make it past the first round.
#10: Atlanta Kings - 59.21% chance of playoffs
This team has actually been pretty solid in their introductory year, though they have - as expected - been getting killed on the top board. Frankly I think this percentage is extremely misleading, as their only wins have come against Carolina (twice) and a Philadelphia squad that was missing its key players. I don't see them getting into the playoffs; their spot will probably be lost to Connecticut. That said, it's been a very nice first year for this team, and I'd love to see it extend a week or two. It just won't extend any more than a week or two.
#9: Philadelphia Inventors - 65.26% chance of playoffs
Philly's magic ran out with IM Bartell, and his return may simply be too late for the Inventors to claw back into the postseason. Though it is hardly impossible for them to overtake one of the NY teams, their best chance at getting in is probably next week when the interdivisional action closes out. Though it's always fun to watch the all-2300 underdog team knock off the big boys, it's simply not going to be a sustainable model even if this team makes it in. That said, the power of the secret sauce cannot be underestimated, and this team's final week matchup against New York might prove to be just spicy enough to make something happen.
#8: Rio Grande Ospreys - 72.79% chance of playoffs
Well, this team's fall from grace was abrupt. A short time ago they were neck-and-neck with Dallas for the division crown, looking like they'd be making a serious deep playoff run. Two weeks later, after a loss to New Jersey that should have been by a bigger margin and a near-whitewash against Seattle, and this team is suddenly in serious danger of falling out of the top 3. They're near-last in the league on both boards 3 and 4, which is not atypical for these 2-strong-GM teams, but they need to resolve that quickly if they want to make a serious run. That said, it's still unlikely that they'll miss the playoffs, particularly with the West having good chances at grabbing the bonus playoff spot.
#7: Miami Sharks - 85.22% chance of playoffs
Every year this team looks terrible, can't seem to get anything going, and is discarded from serious consideration at the halfway point. Then, suddenly, they string together a huge upset and ride that momentum all the way to the playoffs. This year that spark was provided by their manager Salisbury, who stepped in and took out Connecticut's Tanenbaum with the black pieces despite being some 200-points outrated. That gave this key a huge win over the Dreadnoughts, and they've kept on rolling since. Now they're in full control of their destiny, currently sitting relatively safely in second. That said, the list (Carolina, Connecticut, New England, Baltimore) of teams against which they've scored is not exactly striking fear into the hearts of men (4 of the bottom 6 teams), so they still need to establish themselves against a strong team to make a serious playoff run. In related news, they play Dallas next week.
#6: New York Knights - 88.92% chance of playoffs
How quickly things change in the USCL! Last week, everything seemed to be going right for this team. GM Kamsky was finally finding his form, Matt Herman was having a pretty solid season (though, of course, hardly solid play), and the bottom boards looked like big strengths for their young juniors. This week's match against New Jersey, perhaps unfairly, changed these perceptions significantly. GM Kamsky was struggling even to hold on with White, Herman got completely taken apart, and both their bottom boards were in trouble (one ending up losing and one drawing). Ok, so New York is clearly not going to fall out of the playoffs, and they still are one of the championship frontrunners, but they don't look as dominant as they did a short time ago.
#5: Manhattan Applesauce - 89.99% chance of playoffs
It's a little strange to see Manhattan with better chances than New York, given that New York is currently ahead in the standings, but given their soft closing schedule it's not so surprising. They've been a pretty solid team all year, taking advantage of a weak schedule to roll comfortably into the postseason. That said, with their only particularly impressive win being over New Jersey at the start of the season, they still have a long way to go to prove they can make a deep postseason run. Seeing more of GM Hungaski and less of IM Shen will certainly help their chances, and their board 4 play has been stellar. It's the middle boards that they need work on, particularly on board 2 where IM Ostrovskiy will need to be utilized more often. This team is strong enough to win a playoff match, but it's hard to imagine them consistently getting through the stronger teams like Dallas and New York.
#4: San Francisco Mechanics - 93.98% chance of playoffs
San Francisco's loss to Dallas was disappointing to be sure, but at the same time it made a strong statement. GM Naroditsky is a great player, and he had GM Holt well on the ropes for the entire game. Despite letting him off with a draw, the Mechanics have to feel good about their young superstar. Cam Wheeler was more or less the same story, continuing an already impressive season with a near-win. And though they dropped board 4 this time around, having Banik available will be a huge boost. On other hand, their board 2 woes continued to haunt them, with IM Xiong cooking up another impressive win to basically bring the match home for Dallas. SF looks like they'll have trouble around the semifinals area, but they also look like they'll be there.
#3: New Jersey Knockouts - 99.48% chance of playoffs
I love it when a plan comes together. The 2 GM/2350/underrated junior has been played all the time in the USCL, marking a sort of compromise between the GGGg and all-2400 lineups that some other teams have illustrated. The idea of this lineup is that the 2350, while perhaps slightly overmatched, should hold his own on board 3, the GMs will take care of business for the major scoring, and the underrated junior is capable of making strides on board 4. Though there are potential pitfalls to this plan (see Rio Grande for example), when it works it's nearly unstoppable. New Jersey has executed this nearly to perfection over the last couple weeks, with AAAAAAAAAAARON JACOBSON turning board 4 into a marked strength - despite being rated only 2037 (ok, he's much higher now, but that's what he counts as) - not to mention "National Expert" Ethan Klein also more than pulling his weight. GM Benjamin is always scary on board 2, but this year he's been rolling through the opposition - and is the current league MVP. GM Stripunsky has admittedly struggled this season, but when an even score against all titled players is "struggling" you're doing something right. Right now, the Knockouts are starting to look like a formidable contender for the championship. I'm not biased at all by the way
#2: St. Louis Archbishops - 100.00% chance of playoffs
Ok, everybody knew that St. Louis was going to make the playoffs a long time ago. There's very few teams that can stand up to a dual-2700 lineup, especially when both are overperforming, and their recent reshuffling to get masters on the bottom two boards has been very effective for them. That said, they have had some ugly losses this year, notably both coming when one of their super-GMs gets stopped. Given the level of opposition they'll face in the postseason, it's not reasonable to expect GM So and GM Liem, however strong they are, to consistently power through slightly-less-super-GMs like Stripunsky, Holt, Naroditsky, and of course US Champion GM Kamsky. Hence they'll be facing the difficult decision of whether to continue with the double-2700 concept, hoping for the near-guaranteed board 2 point, or whether to put GM Finegold in the mix and populate the bottom boards with young masters. Either way, they look like serious championship contenders, though I frankly think they don't match up well against teams like New York and Dallas.
#1: Dallas Destiny - 100.00% chance of playoffs
There was a brief hiccup in this team's season after a loss to Rio Grande and a lucky draw to New York, but a powerful match against San Francisco almost ensured their division crown. At the halfway point this team looked completely unstoppable, and after last week they're starting to look like they've returned to that form. NM Ramachandran and NM Guadalupe are continuing to string together extremely impressive seasons, and IM Xiong is also starting to look pretty good. Add to this the option of crazy things like putting GM Holt on board 2, and Dallas has both the flexibility and the strength that previous championship teams have had. All that said, individually looking at hypothetical playoff matchups against teams like New York and New Jersey doesn't seem particularly encouraging, so there's still a lot left to see in this season.
Next week will be arguably the most important week of the season, as we will finally find out which division will be earning the extra playoff spot. This matches involving teams like New England, Los Angeles, Boston, and Carolina interesting, since even though they have little to no playoff chances, their matches will be instrumental in deciding where the wild card spot will go. Of course, with just two weeks left in the season, teams are primarily concerned with improving their own standing, so they also want their division rivals to falter at the same time. Some very interesting storylines going on here, particularly for teams like Arizona and Philadelphia!
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