How does HBO’s 24/7 TV series impact team performance?

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After a two-year wait, it’s almost time for HBO’s 24/7 series to return. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. The documentary, which follows two teams in the months leading up to the Winter Classic, has become an NHL institution. It taught us about Bruce Boudreau’s potty mouth (NSFW) in Penguins/Capitals 24/7 and about Ilya Bryzgalov’s love of huskies and, of course, the universe.

With the show comes unprecedented depth of coverage. To give a bit of perspective on HBO’s access: After NHL games, we THN folk, like most hockey media, are given access to each team’s dressing room. But there is always a wait of a few minutes before teams “open” the room to us, as coaches are addressing their players. The famous Boudreau and John Tortorella rants are captured by HBO in those precious minutes before the rest of the media are even allowed in the room.

So the coverage is up-close-and-personal. But is it invasive? In a hockey hotbed like Toronto, some critics worry the already-scrutinized Leafs will crack under the extra attention 24/7 brings as they prepare to face Detroit in New Year’s Day 2014′s Winter Classic.

But does the show really hinder performance? Or help it even? I decided to find out.

I took the four teams featured on 24/7 so far and calculated their records before the camera crews arrived full-time, during the filming of the show and for the rest of the season after the Winter Classic, when the crews left town. This is NOT an exact science. Without knowing exactly when the preliminary shoots began, I used the first game featured in episode 1 to signify the “start” of 24/7′s influence. Behold:

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (2010-11)

Before filming: 19-8-2 (.690)

During filming: 6-3-1 (.650)

After filming: 24-14-5 (.616)

WASHINGTON CAPITALS (2010-11)

Before filming: 18-8-2 (.679)

During filming: 4-4-3 (.500)

After filming: 26-11-6 (.674)

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (2011-12)

Before filming: 16-7-3 (.673)

During filming: 6-3-1 (.650)

After filming: 25-15-5 (.611)

NEW YORK RANGERS (2011-12)

Before filming: 15-5-3 (.717)

During filming: 9-4-1 (.679)

After filming: 27-15-3 (.633)

So what’s the verdict? A few observations:

1. Three of the four teams experienced a steady decline in points percentage from the start of filming onward.

2. PIttsburgh’s decline can be attributed to Sidney Crosby’s concussion woes, which begain with a hit he took from David Steckel in the Winter Classic Game.

3. While most of the teams declined, they also all had excellent records to start, so their slumps could have easily been regression to the mean, cameras or not.

Make what you will of the numbers, but my gut tells me if the Leafs struggle during the shoot and point a finger at HBO, it’ll be more of a cheap excuse than anything else.