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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Power Rankin's (week of 2/1/10)

Not much in the way of big movers this week. The Ottawa Senators keep rising, and the New York Rangers keep falling. Will the Blueshirts remain ahead of the Isles as we head toward the Olympic break? Stay tuned to find out!

We do, however, have a new top team in the Rankin's - The Washington Capitals. I've had them penciled in as this year's Stanley Cup champs for about 2 months now, so this is one commentator who is not surprised that they have finally taken over the top spot in this venerable list.

The Caps lone weakness might be in net, however they do rank 12th in the Goaltending Quality component of the Power Rankin's. This compares with their eventual Stanley Cup Finals opponent Chicago's 24th position in that department, so I'm pretty confident of my assessment there. The only problem they face is if Ottawa wins the Northeast and the Caps are somehow pitted against Buffalo and a headstanding Ryan Miller in an early round. For the time being though, look for the Red to be Rockin' atop the Power Rankin's index for the coming weeks (and not just because of the Olympics-related temporary cessation of hostilities).

1) (3) Washington
2) (2) Phoenix
3) (1) Chicago
4) (5) San Jose
5) (6) Buffalo
6) (4) Colorado
7) (8) Vancouver
8) (7) New Jersey
9) (9) Los Angeles
10) (10) Pittsburgh
11) (15) Ottawa
12) (11) Nashville
13) (14) Philadelphia
14) (13) Detroit
15) (12) Calgary
16) (16) Anaheim
17) (19) Minnesota
18) (18) Dallas
19) (20) St. Louis
20) (17) Montreal
21) (22) Boston
22) (24) Florida
23) (25) Atlanta
24) (21) NY Rangers
25) (23) NY Islanders
26) (26) Tampa Bay
27) (28) Carolina
28) (29) Columbus
29) (27) Edmonton
30) (30) Toronto

Burkie Goes Ballistic: Frankie Says Relax

The Litter Box was Johnny (or Janey) on the Spot with this one.  A monster deal between the Flames and the Maple Leafs, not involving Doug Gilmour or Rick Wamsley, went down today.  Elisha Cuthbert's boyfriend gets sent to the friendly (but lately, shitty) confines of the Air Canada Centre, in return for a killing.  Here's the official tally,

Flames get:
- Matt Stajan
- Ian White
- Niklas Hagman
- Jamal Mayers

Toronto gets:
- Dion Phaneuf
- Fredrik Sjostrom
- Keith Aulie

So Burkie takes a big gamble that Phaneuf's first two years were more exemplary of his talent than his last two.  I'll give him the benefit of the doubt; Phaneuf's hitting has maintained itself, and he still possesses a pretty big shot.  They also get Sjostrom, who was an underrated defensive forward for the Rangers last year.

In the end, the Flames made out in a big way.  Ian White's shot is nearly as good as Phaneuf's, and I actually have him rated higher defensively, DV/20 2.77 to Phaneuf's 2.3 (he's much better at takeaways and commits fewer minor penalties).  Stajan's offense is obvious; he might help the Flames spread their shooters (getting Iginla and Jokinen off a line together), as well as provide a solid set-up guy to either player.  Stajan is also relatively sound defensively, with a higher DV/15 than Handzus, Pahlsson, and Saku Koivu, among others.  Hagman adds a solid shooter on the left side, something the Flames don't have (except when Bourque plays the left).

The other two trade chips, Mayers and Aulie, are less interesting.  Mayers was on the block anyway, though that kind of statement about Mayers hasn't drawn interest for years.  Aulie is a project big defensemen, not old enough to drink.  He spent four years in the WHL, only "breaking out" last year with 6 goals and 33 points in 58 games there.  This year he's playing in the AHL, with only 6 points in 43 games.  At 6'5", 210 lbs. (some sources list him a little taller) but only 13 goals in 277 games in the WHL and AHL, he either hasn't figured out how to use his size for shooting, or doesn't plan on it.

In the short term, this likely only slightly boosts the Flames and will definitely not save the Leafs.  It's clear Burke wanted to shake things up, and it's probably relieving for Leafs fans that he's willing to do it now rather than wait for high-priced free agency.  But it does beg the question: is this an open criticism of the lack of physicality on the Leafs' defensive corps?  ...and a second question: should going the "physical route" be the direction for this team?

P.S.  And a third question:  what the hell is Toronto going to do for offense?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good Call, Bad Call: Mike Green and A 'Bow for the Ages

So Mike Green, not known for his great defense, throws out a 'bow on Michael Frolik and LL Cool J's him.  Here's a good replay of why he decided it was necessary; in summation, it was retaliatory for a clean hit Stillman threw at him:

Now, here at Bettman's Nightmare, we often allude to the "Honor Code" with regards to fighting, but the Code stretches quite a bit beyond that.  In this case, Green breaks the Code in two ways: 1.) he takes out his "revenge" on non-Cory Stillman, and 2.) he throws a clearly illegal (and dangerous) hit in response to a legal one.  Now, I'm sure the NHL's ruling on the hit (3-game suspension) wasn't in response for a violation of said Code, but it was a good ruling.

Bruce Boudreau turned in his asinine comments for the event.  I was with him when David Koci ran Mike Green earlier this year; Boudreau was particularly livid about the fact that Koci's shoulder "hit Mike's head."  Apparently Boudreau wasn't so sure that Green's elbow contacted Frolik's head, because he was "livid" about the suspension levied against Green.  Of course the coach is going to be upset about losing a key powerplay guy, but that didn't seem to affect Green's teammates Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble (see the link for "livid");

"Obviously, we don't want to lose Greenie...But at some point you have to take control of the game and protect the players...You hit to the head you're going to get suspended.

"He got him in the head...I'm sorry it happened to Mike.  But guys know, an elbow to someone's head is going to cost you one way or another."

As for a way, I understand why this all happened.  I'm not taking the "I'm sorry it happened to Mike" route, either.  As mentioned before, Mike is not a defensive defenseman; he doesn't play with the hitter's instinct.  Had he, the opportunity to flatten Frolik legally was right there for him.  Watch the replay again, and you can see Frolik is on a tee.  Instead, he thinks the check isn't enough, he needs to really get the guy, and throws the 'bow.  So part of this incident can be chalked up to Green's lack of attention to defensive plays.

I'm not excusing him; he did it.  What's worse, he targeted a guy who's not physical, didn't hit Mike in the first place, nor is very big (6'1", 185 lbs.).  My purpose is to point out that Green's failings are the Code and sound defense, and they were magnified in this incident.  I'm glad the NHL responded.

P.S.  I don't agree with the commentary in the video that this is equatable to the Booth hit.
P.P.S.  Bettman's Nightmare might adopt a new format so I can fit those damn YouTube videos better.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Awesome Video for Nostalgic Hockey Fans

I want to try embedding a video, and this one's worth it.  So, here goes...

Props to YouTube user tjackson76, who has an excellent library of old hockey videos.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Developing Player Value: Shot Value per 20 Minutes (ShV/20)

Last week, I spent a considerable amount of time explaining Defensive Value per 20 Minutes, or DV/20, and applying the metric to last year's defensemen.  I also found out that I tend to be watched closely by players that have historically sucked at the statistic, which is harrowing but I may be in the clear this go around.  Who doesn't like shooting?

Uh, did anybody see that?  It looked like Craig Ludwig.  Okay, play it cool...

So when compiling these player values, I want to set it up so that we have a balanced set of four metrics, including two defensive and two offensive sets of numbers, so that when they are brought together we hold players to task for defensive deficiencies as well as offensive deficiencies.  In this case, we are handling the defensemen player values, which are analyzed by player performance over 20 minutes (the approximate average time for a starting defenseman).

After handling a metric that favored defensive defensemen last week, I want to shift to a more offensive-oriented metric this go-around.  And so we come to Shot Value per 20 Minutes, or ShV/20.

We can all agree that shots have value, to a point.  They are a goal opportunity, and the more shots a player takes on net, the more opportunities there are to score (by straight shot, tip-ins, and rebounds).  On the other hand, not all shots are created equal, and some hockey stat-heads have looked at shot value by taking account of the distance from which the shots are taken (scroll down a bit, it's there).  The problem, as Gabriel Desjardins (of Behind the Net) notes, is that a lot of the leg-work would have to be done to get the data together (like, we're talking months of data collection, something I would not do without something to cover my exhorbitant Coca-Cola and Swiss Roll expenses).

For these reasons, we will work with shots on net and missed shots as our main stat totals, using the missed shots as a way to balance for those who either are a.) horribly inaccurate, and/or b.) taking high difficulty shots.  First of all, for both categories I take the totals for that year and determine how many shots and missed shots were done per minute, then expand that back out to get an idea of the number of shots and missed shots per 20 minutes the player took (or would conceivably take).

This is where it gets dicey, and I'm open for suggestion.  I debated for a while just how much a player should be docked for missed shots.  Initially, I was going to make it a one-for-one, where missed shots completely subtract the value of a shot.  Then I reconsidered, because a missed shot should not subtract the total value of a shot.  For one, a missed shot could have been close and was missed for a tip-in, which puts it much closer to value.  For two, a missed shot's negative value should not equal a shot's positive value, because it doesn't automatically result in something that would be equally negative, such as an opponent's shot on goal.  So for those reasons, I cut the missed shots per 20 in half and subtracted it from shots per 20.  And there's your ShV/20.

As mentioned before, I'm completely open for debate on this metric; it's possible missed shots could detract even less, or they could detract even more.

Now, to get back to the fun, here's how the NHL defensemen did last year.  Over 234 eligible defensemen, the average ShV/20 was .96.  As usual, I have the minimum games set at 20 to bench the gimps, goons, and rooks, and I'm digging on continuing to include games played and average time-on-ice:

NHL Top 5, 2008-09
1. Rob Blake, Cold Fish, 2.23 --- 73 GP, 21:16 ATOI
2. Mike Green, The Bandwagon, 2.23 --- 68 GP, 25:45 ATOI
3. Sheldon Souray, Slippery Slope, 2.00 --- 81 GP, 24:50 ATOI
4. Dion Phaneuf, Stampeders, 2.00 --- 80 GP, 26:31 ATOI
5. Shea Weber, Pre-Daters, 1.97 --- 81 GP, 23:58 ATOI

NHL Bottom 5, 2008-09
230. Kurt Sauer, Scrotes, .23 --- 68 GP, 20:37 ATOI
231. Sean O'Donnell, Queens, .22 --- 82 GP, 20:29 ATOI
232. Mike Lundin, Shockers, .22 --- 25 GP, 16:38 ATOI
233. Ryan Parent, Pumpkins, .21 --- 31 GP, 18:12 ATOI
234. Jay Leach, Lucifer, .14 --- 24 GP, 14:50 ATOI

A little bit of a Shawshank Redemption for Old Man Blake, who was in the NHL Bottom 5 for DV/20; it gives you a great idea of how he's being used (PP, primarily a shooter), and if you've ever seen him in a game, it's justified.  Quite awkward on skates at this point, you completely forget about it when Blake winds up and lets it fly.  Souray likewise redeemed himself, from bottom 5 to top 5.  It really gives you an impression of these guy's abilities, and things I took for granted (Blake and Souray, good hitters, must be good defensively, right?) are looking a bit different.

You can definitely note that the top players are guys who get a lot of ice time (and PP time), but that fact does not erase the main point that they are creating goal opportunities on the ice, and with a higher percentage than others.  In this metric, Mike Green has great value, and that's undeniable.  You want to tell me he has no shot value?  He's 155th in DV/20.

As for the bottom guys, a lot of part-timers, and Parent has been bit by the injury bug early in his career.  O'Donnell is a mainstay at the bottom of this metric, and that's not unusual...

 But I'm starting to think that these values are not helping O'Donnell much, as he was 192nd in DV/20.  Slowing down a bit?

As we can see, ShV/20 will (and always will) favor the big shooters, but by taking into account misses we can  shift down the guys who are spraying them all over.  Chris Pronger, for instance, finished 8th in shots attempted, but 50th in ShV/20 (with a 1.30) for this reason.

And thankfully, it looks like Ludwig is going to leave me alone.  True story, I once met him in Mel's Sports Store in Rhinelander, Wisconsin (he and I are from the Northwoods).  Very big person, looks like he's in a biker gang...

Okay, I better leave.  See you next time, when I get into the full Defensemen Player Value.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Power Rankin's (week of 1/25/10)

Chicago maintains top spot in this week's edition of The Power Rankin's. Phoenix, though, is rising fast. The Coyotes are the only team in the NHL to sport a top-10 ranking in all 5 contributing elements of the Power Rankin's index.

The past week's movers and shakers come from the Northeast Division. The Ottawa Senators have riden a 6-game win streak to the 15th slot in the Rankin's (up from 22nd last week). Their past week's results including 4 wins - 2 over division rival Boston. The Bruins, on the other hand, plummeted 9 slots to 22nd on the heels of 4 losses for the week, including 2 to the Blue Jackets and the Hurricanes (yuck!).

Sadly for Bettman's Nightmare's administrator, the Rangers remain a bottom-third team in the new week's results.

1) (1) Chicago
2) (3) Phoenix
3) (4) Washington
4) (8) Colorado
5) (7) San Jose
6) (2) Buffalo
7) (5) New Jersey
8) (9) Vancouver
9) (11) Los Angeles
10) (10) Pittsburgh
11) (6) Nashville
12) (12) Calgary
13) (14) Detroit
14) (15) Philadelphia
15) (22) Ottawa
16) (17) Anaheim
17) (19) Montreal
18) (23) Dallas
19) (18) Minnesota
20) (16) St. Louis
21) (20) NY Rangers
22) (13) Boston
23) (24) NY Islanders
24) (25) Florida
25) (21) Atlanta
26) (26) Tampa Bay
27) (27) Edmonton
28) (30) Carolina
29) (28) Columbus
30) (29) Toronto

Penguins/Phlyers, live in-game blog

Welcome to Bettman's Nightmare's first live in-game blogging extravaganza. Check in all game long for insightful commentary as today's Pens/Phlyers game unfolds.

12:29 PM (pregame) - NBC has no pregame for hockey. I guess since they've got the worst NFL pregame show in the history of that sport, perhaps we should be grateful.

12:38 PM (0:30, 1st period) - No surprise with the Staal line starting the game for Pittsburgh. They start every game, but usually get matched against the opponents top line.

12:44 PM (5:00, 1st period) - So much for the Black & Gold Rule. Crosby goes for a slash that results in the recently hot Jeff Carter scoring from behind the net. I hate backup netminders.

12:46 PM (5:40, 1st period) - Traditional thinking would call for a fight right now because the Penguins are lacking momentum. No?

12:51 PM (7:45, 1st period) - Whaddyaknow?! Scott Hartnell goes into the netminder. Surprise, surprise, surprise. I can't wait until Hartnell is traded to the Pens. Hartnell, by the way, went into Johnson a few seconds earlier of his own accord as well.

Stay classy, Philly.

12:53 PM (8:30, 1st period) - The Pens' power play is worst in the league, but it has been playing better of late... oh well, there goes that thought anyway as Pronger dives to the ice. Pronger is, quite literally, 3x the size of Alex Goligoski.

12:56 PM (10:40, 1st period) - No discpline for Pittsburgh today, as Staal takes a Tripping (Hooking?) minor. This is going to be bad. And Scott Hartnell is the worst skater I've seen since Happy Gilmore.

1:04 PM (13:45, 1st period) - Nice follow up by Richards on the goal. I think it should stand... but then again, bear-hugging Malkin may need to be called after all.

1:06 PM (14:00, 1st period) - It has been the subject of debate since Crosby's debut in the league. The NBC broadcast just mentioned Derien Hatcher knocking out 3 teeth of Crosby's. Yet, that was where Crosby's diving reputation was born. How, I ask, does someone dive while getting his teeth knocked out. Seems to me that a player would legitimately hit the deck when losing teeth.

Anyway, Pens score. Tie game. Maybe that'll shut the Philadelphia crowd up. They'll be booing Danny Briere and Donovan McNabb by the end of the period.

1:15 PM (19:10, 1st period) - No need at all for a fight. Clean hit on Goligoski.

1:21 PM (end of 1st) - Outside of the guys in Orange & Black not actually being able to stay upright (maybe they were out drinking too late last night), good action in the first. How Philadelphia fans can keep a straight face when talking about Crosby diving is really beyond me. I'm going to go walk my dog.

1:33 PM (1st intermission) - The 1st period stats show all momentum going Philly's way. Nonetheless, I predict a fight to open the second. It won't regain momentum for Philly, it won't avenge a dirty hit (Letang got what was coming to him from Darrol Powe during the fight). It might get the crowd back into it, but if they're out of it already, then shame on them in the first place.

Dan Carcillo just can't help himself. Following up on my 'The Code is Dead' post from a day or three ago, by the way, Dan Carcillo is a legitimate fighter. Yet, even I wouldn't be intimidated by him, underscoring my point that fighting is no longer a legitimate deterrant to running opposing players' stars. I'm not saying Carcillo wouldn't beat me to a pulp - just that I wouldn't look across the bar at him and shiver.

Back to game action as Hartnell goes into the netminder AGAIN.

1:40 PM (2:20, 2nd period) - Nice effort by Guerin, better save by Emery. One of Emery's legitimate strengths is tracking the play from side to side.

1:44 PM (6:00, 2nd period) - Nothing much going on in the second thus far. But no fights, which is surprising to me, at least. Emery is seeing absolutely everything coming at him.

1:48 PM (8:00, 2nd period - as 28-Orange loses the carry in and blows a saucer pass on back-to-back rushes) - Sorry, Mikey, but Giroux is a 3rd liner at best. If I were a Phlyers phan (I gag at the very notion) I would be on the JVR train, body and soul.

1:54 PM (11:40, 2nd period) - With Richards' penchant for headhunting, I don't know if I would want Crosby matched up against 18-Orange. Skills-wise, however, there's clearly no contest.

2:00 PM (14:30, 2nd period) - Pronger has nothing to do with it, but I think the matchups Philly have going against Crosby are really spot on. Crosby has shown some intensity this afternoon, but it hasn't resulted in points.

... The mustache on "Billy G" is the result of team-building exercise for Pittsburgh. The loser of the monthly shootout contest in practice is forced to wear the '70s 'stache for the month. Guerin was January's loser.

2:04 PM (17:03, 2nd period) - Diving count: Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 1

2:08 PM (19:55, 2nd period) - ABSOLUTE BULL SHIT! Boozehound Richards ducks away from the hit, and draws a penalty. Maybe Carter will give him a kiss and a backrup and Richards can come out with a spine in the 3rd.

2:15 PM (2nd intermission) - I agree with the NBC analysts that Ian Laperriere is one of the real strengths of Philadelphia. He does everything, as whatshisface was saying, but contrary to a Dan Carcillo, he does it with an identifiable respect for opponents and the game. I'm not sure I could point out a cheap shot taken by Ian Laperriere (ahem, Matt Bradley, Marian Gaborik).

2:20 PM (2nd intermission) - The NBC analysts must be reading Bettman's Nightmare. You heard them note that Pronger is one of the few players that are truly intimidating. I agree. He is one of the few players in the league that could actually act as a deterrent to taking a shot at a star player. Unfortunately, Pronger hasn't decapitated anyone this year, and he doesn't get in fights. I guess maybe he was truly intimidating to opponents a few years ago...

2:26 PM (open of the 3rd) - Big kill here. Pittsburgh has the capacity to come back in games, but Philly could go for 2 quick ones if they start with 1 on the PP to start the period.

2:29 PM (1:50 3rd period) - Another dumb penalty for Pittsburgh. Ho, hum.

Surprised Letang exited the scrum with all his fingers in place.

2:32 PM (4:00, 3rd period) - I've heard that big penalty kills can also provide momentum to a team. I've never really bought it. It would seem to me to be more of a big exhale after killing them - especially when the penalties are dumb and unnecessary like the ones the Pens have taken.

2:34 PM (4:55, 3rd period) - There's a thought. Ray Emery hasn't really been tested much in this game. That could result in a relatively weak goal for Pittsburgh if they would just put the puck on nete in any sort of unexpected way instead of shooting it squarely into Emery's pads from an unobstructred view.

2:36 PM (6:30, 3rd period) Absolutely filthy by Arron Asham. He should get thrown out of the game. I don't know who he was pummelling, but it was from behind, while that man was face down on the ice. Typical Orange & Black tactic.

As for Hartnell and Malkin, A) Its evidence of the code not existing (no deterrent to hitting opponents' star players) and B) I didn't see anything wrong with the two of them facing off. No punches thrown.

2:48 PM (11:10, 3rd period) - Mike Richards is also a liar. When asked by Pierre McGuire why he didn't shoot the puck, the correct answer was "Did you see my penalty shot against Carolina yesterday?!"

2:50 PM (12:40, 3rd period) - 2 bad calls in a row - but they even out. Emery just faced the first real tester of the game (other than Crosby's big slapper that caught the iron in the 1st - which really doesn't count anyway).

2:51 PM (14:00, 3rd period) - Too much passing, not enough shooting. No wonder they're one of the worst power play teams in the league, really. A Pittsburgh radio station actually made up a song spoofing the Pens' inability to shoot the puck - and that was 15 years ago!

2:58 PM (16:30, 3rd period) - I wonder if the two teams spent their respective loads in the 1st. The 2nd & 3rd periods have been largely uneventful from a hockey-relevant point of view.

2:59 PM (18:30, 3rd period) - Wow. Whaddyaknow? Put the puck on the net instead of passing it, and good things happen. 5-hole on Emery, even though he was screened.

3:01 PM (19:10, 3rd period) - Another horrible call. Gonchar's stick never even made contact with Giroux's flailing body.

3:05 PM (end of the game) - Philly really needed Scott Hartnell out there at the end to run over Johnson.

3rd star: Ray Emery
2nd star: Jeff Carter
1st star: Matt Cooke

3rd anti-star: Scott Hartnell
2nd anti-star: Alex Goligoski
1st anti-star: Arron Asham

3:10 PM (post-game) - Thanks for tuning in en masse, guys. I hope you enjoyed following as much as I enjoyed blogging.

Oh, how I love when the Pens beat the Phlyers!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Code is Dead

As a fishing expedition riding the tails of "The Gaborik Incident," I'm curious exactly how "The Code" fit into Philadelphia's Saturday afternoon tilt against Carolina.

So, I'm watching the game. I'm being dazzled by Daniel Carcillo's offensive prowess. Then, out of the blue, Andrew Alberts and Ian Laperriere get into a fight - right in the middle of a hockey game, if you can imagine.

Now, neither Eric Staal or Scott Hartnell (the two superstars for their respective teams, obviously) had been hit by some unsuspecting or cheap-shot hit. There didn't seem to be any undue momentum swing - the Carcillo goal was just a dumb neutral zone giveaway and a few minutes of game time had passed since then anyway.

So, how does "The Code" fit into Laperriere and Alberts trying to beat each others' brains in fit into a hockey game, exactly?

My own suspicion is that the code doesn't exist. It used to exist, when there were superstar players not large enough to fend for themselves against monstrous, Ogie Oglethorpe types. But modern hockey involves years of physical training, year-round workout routines, and a level of physical demand never imagined by players in hockey's "Golden Age" when on-ice policing was a useful strategy.

These days, fighting is useless except for entertaining the brain dead fans of a few select North American cities whose teams haven't enjoyed the gleam of the Stanley Cup being carried through their streets for more than 30 years.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Gaborik Incident

As kind of the Rangers fan in-residence here, I feel obligated to address the circumstances of last night's game.  In particular, I'm talking about the "fight" between Daniel Carcillo and Marian Gaborik, viewable here.

It has been a hot topic of debate, and anyone who had questions about how Torts felt about it had few doubts after the press conference.  It's not the first time Tortorella has had some "fun" with the press; no offense to Larry Brooks, but I think Torts was part-right about the whole getting "beat up at the bus stop" part.

As for the fight itself, I'm not going to get worked up about Carcillo's comment that he was "licking his chops" when he suspected Gaborik wanted to fight him.  I don't suspect pre-meditation.  But there is another point that bugs me, and that is the notion that Gaborik dropped his gloves first, something that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette suggested.  Taking a closer look, there's something fishy about that hypothesis: first of all, when you're willing to drop the gloves and challenge someone, they come off together.  Gaborik's do not.  Why don't they come off together?

Because Carcillo pulled off Gaborik's first glove.

The idea that Gaborik threw down and paid the price is not how this scenario played out.  In the light shoving match between them, Carcillo could have just locked-up arms with Gaborik and they would have watched as the others tussled.  Instead, Gaborik loses his glove to Carcillo, and Carcillo used that to justify the rest of the fight.

The Puck Daddy article (linked above) makes a big deal about why no other Rangers stepped in at the time, and that's just as disturbing to me.  But everything moved so fast and far away from the other players that there would have been little opportunity to step in before Carcillo dispatched Gaborik.

Thankfully, it doesn't appear that Gaborik was hurt.  And I'd be more upset about the incident if Avery (who wasn't on the ice during the Gaborik fight) hadn't stepped in and had a good donnybrook with Carcillo later.  But the people who are contending that Gaborik brought it on himself need to check the tape.

And let's not be surprised to see some fireworks at the next Rangers-Flyers game.  I've heard Torts already has a sixer of Powerade set aside for the rematch.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hurrah for the Natural!

Just a quick shout out to phormer Philadelphia Phlyer Scottie Upshall for putting up the first natural hat trick I can recall in some time!

And he didn't even need a fight to inspire him to such heights. Imagine that...

If you're going to already top your career high in goals just past the season's halfway point, that's the way to do it in style, eh?

See what happens when you get out from under the Orange & Black Blanket o' Goonery?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Developing Player Value: Defensive Value per 20 Minutes (DV/20)

NOTE: After having this up for a couple of days, I decided to make a serious revision to this post.  Take a gander, and Andy Sutton...I pardon you.

So, when you think of a good defenseman, what names come to mind?  Scott Stevens, Nicklas Lidstrom, Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Garth Butcher...

Gaaahhh!  Okay, so most of those guys are actually great defensemen, but it raises an important point about who we consider a talented defenseman: they are often great at particular nuances of the position, so much so that it tends to make us ignore other aspects.  Typically, those "other aspects" (with the exception of Stevens) involve the ability to make defensive plays such as takeaways and checking.

This post is the first in a series I'm devoting to forming a performance value for defensemen.  Initially taking the NHL statistics from the 2008-09 season, I want to find a metric that will celebrate both the offensive and defensive types of blueliners.  We'll go over these metrics one at a time, eventually putting them together for a complete player value.

Defensive Value per 20 Minutes, or DV/20, takes a select amount of defensive plays, in particular hitting (which intends to disrupt or intimidate offense) and takeaways (which interrupts offense), and off-sets it with the defenseman's ability to avoid minor penalties in doing so.  After some deliberation, I decided that I should add blocked shots as well.  Initially, I was going to give that its own category, but when I bring the values together I would find myself granting similar values to blocking shots and a holistic defense metric, which seemed wrong.

Hits and takeaways are actually very controversial stats; hits are counted differently at each rink, as are takeaways, leaving a substantial amount of variance.  Scorekeeper's hitting bias, as noted by Behind the Net's Gabriel Desjardins, can typically be helped (albeit imperfectly) by taking the count of hits during away games. I extrapolated that suggestion to finding the per game average, and multiplying it back out to the games played by the hitter.  Cal Clutterbuck, for instance, loses about 45 hits when you do this, which gives you an idea of how different they were counting it in Minnesota.  Takeaway bias is harder, because the statistics aren't kept well enough to determine home and away takeaways (or at least I haven't found one that shows all the players that played last year).  So I'll leave that one, hope the home biases cancel out over the season, and wait until I can find (or be directed to) something better.

I handled blocked shots similarly, taking away game blocked shot totals, finding the per game, and fitting it to the actual games played of the players.

But simple volume of these actions is not enough.  Being able to hit people or take away the puck takes a certain amount of skill to get the achieved effect without hurting your team.  Therefore, I determined hits and takeaways per 20 minutes of play (roughly, the average playing time for a regularly-used defenseman), and subtracted the penalty minutes per game a player accrued due to doing those actions illegally.  For hits, they were subtracted for roughing, elbowing, cross-checking, interference, and boarding minors; for takeaways, they were docked for tripping, hooking, holding, slashing, and high-sticking minors.  Also for the hits, I included any non-fighting majors, assuming that they would involve physical play.

Finally, I was certain that I wanted to include an earlier metric, PPM/15 (in this case, PPM/20), to adjust for players who not only played solid, clean hockey but could also gain a few powerplay opportunities for their team.  The inclusion of this metric is debatable, but I have yet to find someone to convince me that non-coincidental minors can truly help your team.

I set the minimum games played at 20 to get out the rooks, goons, gimps, and anomalies.

The league average over 234 defensemen was 2.47 DV/20.  Your NHL leaders and losers (with Games Played and Average Time On Ice):

NHL Top 5, 2008-09
1. Erik Reitz, Rangers/Burkes/Adjectives, 5.50 --- 42 GP, 9:57 ATOI
2. Garnet Exelby, Hotlanta,  4.80 --- 59 GP, 16:43 ATOI
3. Denis Gauthier, Queens, 4.75 --- 65 GP, 14:32 ATOI
4. Tyler Sloan, The Bandwagon, 4.74 --- 26 GP, 16:38 ATOI
5. Anton Volchenkov, Senate, 4.60 --- 68 GP, 20:08 ATOI

NHL Bottom 5
230. Rob Blake, Jaws, .92 --- 73 GP, 21:16 ATOI
231. Sheldon Souray, Jiffy Lubes, .91 --- 81 GP, 24:50 ATOI
232. Marc-Andre Bergeron, Adjectives, .90 --- 72 GP, 16:54 ATOI
233. Cory Murphy, Shockers/Garfields, .80 --- 32 GP, 17:57 ATOI
234. Brett Lebda, Detroit Rock City, -.07 --- 65 GP, 13:38 ATOI

As you can see, some serious surprises here.  Erik Reitz, interestingly enough, is terrorizing the KHL right now, and getting called for a few more minutes than he did here (NHL: 1.5 PIM/G, KHL: 4.2 PIM/G).  Nevertheless, his 42 games last year were an impressive display of hitting and takeaways with minimal adverse damage to his teams.

Think defense is unappreciated?  Take a look at those games played and ice times.  And I guarantee you those guys on the top were not all injured.

I thought that this metric would overwhelmingly support big hitters, so I was interested to see Rob Blake and Sheldon Souray so low.  Looking back at the numbers, though, showed that they were simply terrible at taking minor penalties.  In general, though, hitters and strong shot-blockers were favored, and that is part of the reason I wanted this to be only one part of the entire defenseman value metric.  And Brett Lebda is decidedly unfavored.  Wow.

Mad props, by the way, to Tyler Sloan for performing well in his rookie season.  It's all the more impressive that his first year came after seven years of slogging through the minors.  As of this writing, he's still getting little play for a team that could use sound D.

In the next installment, I'll throw Shot Value per 20 Minutes at you.  And remember, always look out for...oh no...aaarrrrrggghhhh...

Can the Avalanche Get to the Cup?

Well over halfway through the season, the success of the Avalanche has been well publicized.  Most incredibly, the team has been bolstered by the play of baby-young talent, including Chris Stewart, Matt Duchene, and the 18-year old Ryan O'Reilly (true story: I played with a guy named Ryan Reilly; he was a bit less Irish, a bit more Hawaiian).  Craig Anderson, who three years ago looked like a lifer back-up goalie, or at most an AHL star, has become a legitimate NHL goaltender.  Paul Stastny and the finally-developed Wojtek Wolski have rounded out the emergence of this team, while, surprisingly, Milan Hejduk has not been the life-blood of the offense.  Can they bring this into the playoffs, and keep the momentum?  Or are they this year's Bruins and the Canadiens of two years ago?  Will Chris Stewart get a chance with that floozy, the Stanley Cup?

Don't be afraid to tear me a new one for lauding the flavor-of-the-week team...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Power Rankin's (Week of 1/18/10)

Chicago and Buffalo continue to battle it out at the top, with Chicago taking this week's poll position. And despite the hopes and dreams of you so-called hockey purists, Phoenix and Nashville are hanging tough in the top 10.

The week's big upside mover was St. Louis. The Blues shot up 6 spots on the strength of a 3-0 record for the week and a 9-2 goal differential (including 1 shutout).

On the other hand, the week's biggest fall goes to Dallas, which found itself sliding 6 spots on losses to Philadelphia and Montreal, though they did record a shootout win over a thusfar substandard Detroit squad (the validity of replay goals is not included in this index).

Each team's prior-week rankin' is provided in parentheses.

1) (2) Chicago
2) (1) Buffalo
3) (3) Phoenix
4) (5) Washington
5) (4) New Jersey
6) (8) Nashville
7) (7) San Jose
8) (9) Colorado
9) (6) Vancouver
10) (11) Pittsburgh
11) (12) Los Angeles
12) (10) Calgary
13) (13) Boston
14) (14) Detroit
15) (15) Philadelphia
16) (22) St. Louis
17) (18) Anaheim
18) (16) Minnesota
19) (19) Montreal
20) (20) NY Rangers
21) (23) Atlanta
22) (21) Ottawa
23) (17) Dallas
24) (25) NY Islanders
25) (24) Florida
26) (26) Tampa Bay
27) (27) Edmonton
28) (29) Columbus
29) (28) Toronto
30) (30) Carolina

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Good Call, Bad Call: Steve Ott's Shootout Goal Against Detroit

Welcome to the inaugural installment of "Good Call, Bad Call," where we begin with civil discussion and end with threatening statements with little likelihood of coming to fruition (though I do know where a couple of them live).  So, without further ado, our first scenario, from tonight:

Steve Ott, in the simulated breakaways portion of the game, with a trickler that magically overcomes the status quo of "reasonable doubt" to switch from being a no-goal to a goal.

I think it's B.S., and I know Blog Cosby will support me because he eats pieces of shit like Steve Ott for breakfast.  The referee with his nose nearly in Jimmy Howard's nut-cup calls it a no-goal, it's a no-goal.  On the other hand, I don't like the Wings, so I might be inclined to support anything that makes Babbycock snivel, but sometimes you have to be too good for that.  Take a look, have at it in the comments.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why not fight instead?

As I followed the fleeting moments of the Nashville/Calgary game on Friday night, a thought occurred to me:

Instead of pulling the goaltender to get an extra attacker on the ice, why not just start a fight?

I am told by my "real hockey fan" counterparts that fighting provides some value to the game. At various times and in various combinations, I am told it provides the potential for a momentum shift in a game, it gets the crowd "into it," it inspires teammates, etc., etc., etc.

So, in Calgary v. Nashville, we have the fighting-est team in the league taking on one of the least fight-prone teams. Calgary is down by one goal, at home, and has a Captain recognized leaguewide for his leadership skill which, on more than rare occassion, includes dropping the gloves.

Well? Isn't it obvious that instead of pulling Kiprusoff with a minute left in an effort to deposit the tying goal, Jarome Iginla should have beat the shite out of someone?

Nashville's lack of fights combined with their better-than-average record is arguably an indicator that even if fighting provides some value toward the goal of winning certain hockey games, they choose not to employ that particular strategy and would therefore not get the same lift as their pugilist opponents would from some fisticuffs.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gary Bettman's Plans for Our Beloved League: Pure Evil.

With the Alex Burrows-Stephane Auger scandal fresh on Al Gore's invention, and the recent FSN-Pittsburgh-Pens-Flyers-replay scandal only days old, we at Bettman's Nightmare want to assure you we knew this day would come, when we would have to let you in on the secret:  this is all part of the Master Plan.  You see, we combined our powers for the purpose of opposing this Master Plan.  But now, we need your help.

As some of you know, Gary Bettman came over from the NBA, after an unsuccessful crusade to push NBA teams and licensed products towards keeping short shorts.

We thought he was brought here by the league, but could it be?  A basketball guy?

Or was he sent here?

He came here with an obvious distaste for the physicality of the game, and a desire for shorter breezers that never got off the cutting-room floor.  He empowered referees with the authority to pump up clutch-and-grab penalties.  He incorporated a virtual charity stripe in the form of the shootout.  He expanded to markets in much warmer climes, at the detriment of the "land of hockey," Canada.  And now, he wants to ban fighting.

If you're a parent, this might be the best time to put the children to sleep.

He wants hockey to become basketball.

Now, of course, you're balking at this idea, but do you remember what it was like pre-Bettman?  We had such great superstars, and no I'm not talking about Gretzky and Lemieux, I'm talking about Bob Probert, Kevin Stevens, Brendan Shanahan, and Gary Roberts.

These guys were the Gordie Howe hat trick on 'roids.  Nowadays, we are a little surprised to see a Howe Trick, because it is usually a goon that does it.  But remember these guys?

Probie is a bit more goonish than the rest, but he did have one amazing, 29-goal, 62-point, 398 PIM season in 1987-88, and he was fairly good with the puck during his career.  Stevens and Shannie?  The only two players with the fabled 50-goal, 50-assist, 100-point, 200 PIM season.  Granted, Shannie did it in 1993-94, but I like to think Gary's Master Plan needed to lay dormant for a couple of seasons.  And Gary Roberts, Oh Gary!  Let's just say he has spawned Chuck Norris, kick-ass comparisons (and is the owner of a 50-goal, 200 PIM season himself); and when he jumps in water, he doesn't get wet; the water gets Gary.

The amazing combination of power, skill, and truculence has never translated to the Bettman Era.  There was some excitement about the abilities of Daniel Carcillo, Scott Hartnell, David Clarkson, and David Backes to reach this level, but none have really gotten close to the production of PSSR.  In fact, the one player that has that kind of potential, Alex Burrows, seems to be under fire.  What a koinky-dink!

Now, the recent controversies are a fraying of the Bettman Plan.  Empowering the referees leaves them looking for more; they want to make the goal decisions, thus we have the tyrannical overthrow of that fabled NHL tradition, goal-judging.  And how many goal calls have been absolutely fucked up since then?  And how many by the problems of camera angles and (in the case of FSN, ugh) corruption?  The power of "intent to blow" extends that even further, to the area of absurd interpretation based on what the refs wished they had done in the first place.  Or even wished they had done but wasn't legal for them to do.

So the next time you look at the trapezoid and realize it makes the end of the rink as toxic to goalies as the paint is for NBA centers, remember what was said here.  When you start to sweat upon realizing that some of these rinks double as arenas for basketball courts, pop in your tape of the '91 Cup Finals, wait out your hysteria, and drop us a line.  Never forget that the Trick Shot Challenge at the All-Star Game, which (god forbid) I happen to like, is basically a Slam Dunk Contest.

And we'll be here for you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Power Rankin's (Week of 1/11/10)

In order to accommodate Philadelphia Phlyers phans - all of whom apparently believe that the national sports media in its entirety is biased toward Pittsburgh teams (more on "The Black & Gold Rule" later, I'm sure), I present an entirely objective ranking of the NHL's 30 teams - The Power Rankin's:

1) Buffalo
2) Chicago
3) Phoenix
4) New Jersey
5) Washington
6) Vancouver
7) San Jose
8) Nashville
9) Colorado
10) Calgary
11) Pittsburgh
12) Los Angeles
13) Boston
14) Detroit
15) Philadelphia
16) Minnesota
17) Dallas
18) Anaheim
19) Montreal
20) NY Rangers
21) Ottawa
22) St. Louis
23) Atlanta
24) Florida
25) NY Islanders
26) Tampa Bay
27) Edmonton
28) Toronto
29) Columbus
30) Carolina

This calculation is a weighted sum of each team's ranking in five categories:

1) Wins * Strength of Victory (30% of total index)
2) Losses / Strength of Loss (30% of total index)
3) 0.5 * OT-Shootout Losses / Strength of OT-Shootout Loss (10% of total index)
4) Goal Scoring Depth (15% of total index)
5) Goaltending Quality (15% of total index)

'Goal Scoring Depth' is a measure of each team's scoring capacity from the top of its lineup to the bottom. Teams with one or two dominant goal scoring forces will not be as highly ranked in this category as teams that are more balanced across their lineup. However, each team's total goals scored is also balanced by the league average of team goals, preventing "balanced" teams that have scored very few goals but evenly across a relatively large number of players from gaining undue benefit.

'Goaltending Quality' takes account of each teams goals allowed at even-strength, while shorthanded, and while on the power play. The number of shots each team faces is also included in order to normalize goals allowed.

Unlike other major media outlets rankings, the Power Rankin's are entirely void of personal bias (trust me, if they weren't, Philly would be forever mired in the 25-30 range on pure principle). Debate them all you like, but statistics just don't lie.

Developing Player Value: PPM/15, Addendum

I'm making up for some lost time by making a couple of brief posts, the first of course being Doc Emrick screaming (I really should save the best for last).  So, after chucking my PPM/15 post around the blogosphere, and getting some solid feedback, I had a few conclusions to make:

1.) Referee "homerism" is a relative wash, because of the equal number of home-away games.
2.) I considered adjusting the degree a player hurt their team by recognizing the different PP/PK percentages among the teams, but then decided that those percentages are team-oriented and would actually pull us away from evaluating the individual player.
3.) When analyzing and comparing individual players, for this metric and its presentation I should separate defensemen and forwards, as defensemen on average are called for more penalties.
4.) I will order the players with similar PPM/15 with preference to rank higher (or lower) those who played more games, because they either helped or hurt their teams more.
4.) The acronym PPMp15 is a bit more presentable as PPM/15.

So, let's make some change...

Top 6 Forwards PPM/15, 2009-10
1. Dustin Brown, Kings  .48
2. Zach Parise, Devils  .40
3. Matt Bradley, Capitals  .35
4. Cal Clutterbuck, Wild  .35
5. Devin Setoguchi, Sharks  .35
6. Paul Kariya, Blues  .33

Bottom 6 Forwards
252. Scott Parse, Kings  -.25
253. Jarret Stoll, Kings  -.25
254. Jeff Carter, Flyers -.25
255. Chris Kelly, Senators  -.28
256. Ales Kotalik, Rangers  -.30
257. Ethan Moreau, Oilers  -.30

Top 7 Defensemen
1. Kris Letang, Penguins  .20
2. Francois Beauchemin, Maple Leafs  .10
3. Keith Yandle, Coyotes  .10
4. Tyler Myers, Sabres  .10
5. Andy Greene, Devils  .10
6. James Wisniewski, Ducks  .10
7. Wade Redden, Rangers  .10

Bottom 6 Defensemen
158. Craig Rivet, Sabres  -.33
159. Aaron Ward, Hurricanes  -.33
160. Kent Huskins, Sharks  -.33
161. Cam Barker, Blackhawks  -.40
162. Hal Gill, Canadiens  -.43
163. Nick Boynton, Ducks  -.45

...and as you can probably see by the difference between the leaders, it is definitely better to separate forwards and defensemen.  But it's worth noting that a penalty is a penalty, and even though defensemen tend to get called more, it doesn't hurt the team any less.

Kudos to Tyler Myers, for playing solid offensive hockey and reducing the damage he does on the other end (as a rookie, no less). Further Kudos to guys like Cal Clutterbuck and Dustin Brown, who have found ways to be physical and not hurt their teams (and notice I'm not saying that they are clean players).

P.S.  Thanks to commenter Simon; his suggestion of including major (non-fighting) penalties adjusted our top forwards list, dropping Tuomo Ruutu to a PPM/15 of .28, as well as a handful of other PPM/15's not on these lists.  Comments/critiques are always welcome!

Doc Emrick Reaches Puberty!

Now, we've all had those awkward moments in life where our voice unintentionally jumps an octave, but Doc is like 55 years old.

Ladies and gents, the Doc Emrick Scream, with assists to Zach Parise's OT goal and Ken Daneyko:

P.S. Props to Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy for pointing this out.
P.P.S. It's at the 16-second mark, but Daneyko's commentary is, as usual, drunken and incredulous, and worth listening to as Doc seeks to collect himself.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Projected 2009-2010 Final Standings (midseason report)

Take an NHL team's up-to-the-minute season performance, weight its remaining games by its remaining strength of schedule, and throw in a time-weighted extrapolation of that team's much-noted "Last 10 Games" performance and what do you get? Why, a midseason projection of the final 2009-2010 NHL season standings, that's what.

Eastern Conference
1) New Jersey Devils (126 pts.; Atlantic Division Champion; President's Trophy winner)
2) Buffalo Sabres (119 pts.; Northeast Division Champion)
3) Washington Capitals (109 pts.; Southeast Division Champion)
4) New York Rangers (97 pts.)
5) Boston Bruins (97 pts.)
6) Philadelphia Flyers (91 pts.)
7) Montreal Canadiens (91 pts.)
8) Ottawa Senators (89 pts.)
9) Pittsburgh Penguins (87 pts.)
10) Tampa Bay Lightning (84 pts.)
11) New York Islanders (83 pts.)
12) Florida Panthers (75 pts.)
13) Atlanta Thrashers (72 pts.)
14) Toronto Maple Leafs (69 pts.)
15) Carolina Hurricanes (61 pts.)

Western Conference
1) Chicago Blackhawks (125 pts.; Central Division Champion)
2) San Jose Sharks (124 pts.; Pacific Division Champion)
3) Vancouver Canucks (111 pts; Northwest Division Champion)
4) Calgary Flames (104 pts.)
5) Nashville Predators (101 pts.)
6) Phoenix Coyotes (100 pts.)
7) Colorado Avalanche (94 pts.)
8) Detroit Red Wings (92 pts.)
9) Los Angeles Kings (90 pts.)
10) Dallas Stars (84 pts.)
11) Anaheim Ducks (79 pts.)
12) Minnesota Wild (78 pts.)
13) St. Louis Blues (74 pts.)
14) Columbus Blue Jackets (67 pts.)
15) Edmonton Oilers (57 pts.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Developing Player Value: Penalty +/- per 15 Minutes (PPMp15)

I am an admirer of stat geeks of any sport, simply because they do some crazy stuff to try to assess value and can usually confirm my suspicion that Ales Kotalik is worthless.  In fact, many puckheads would probably be delighted to know some of their least favorite players (Hal Gill, David Koci, Richard "NHL's Worst Player" Zemlak) were, in fact, statistically shitty as well.  So, we here at Bettman's Nightmare are debating, fussing, swearing (sometimes while drinking, sometimes not), and trying to calculate our way to a metric for assessing player values.  Our own Dahntahn Dangler has team analyses down to an art form (he will bring that to you soon), but heckling can be much more effective when you have singular targets.

Thanks to that wonderful stats site Behind the Net (see to the right) and others like it, information on player's abilities to draw penalties has become much more accessible to the average beer drinker.  But drawing penalties is really only halfway there for us; the ability to draw penalties can only be a virtue for a player if he also doesn't take many penalties.  Guys like Tomas Holmstrom draw minor penalties, but if they also get called for a lot of minors, they actually don't gain much (which is fine, because I don't like the Wings).  So, for this particular chunk of player value, I took Behind the Net's data on penalties drawn (mind you, these are minor penalties, and doesn't include coincidentals) per 60 minutes and subtracted the penalties committed per 60.  I wasn't really satisfied with a metric out of 60 minutes, because it actually lets us know what the player did if he played 60 minutes of the game.  So, I chopped that down by taking the total from the subtraction, dividing by 4, and bringing us to a more starter-of-the-game-like 15 minutes.  Thus, our shiny new metric will give us an idea of how effective or ineffective that player is on a game-to-game basis of gaining power-play opportunities for the ice hockey squad.

For the purposes of this year, I set the minimum games played at 30 to weed out rooks, goons, and gimps.

So, who's the modern-day Esa Tikkanen?

God, he reminds me of Jack Black...

PPMp15 Leaders, 2009-10 (so far)

1. Dustin Brown, Kings .48 PPMp15
2. Zach Parise, Lucifer .40
3. Matt Bradley, The Bandwagon .35
4. Tuomu Ruutu, 'Canes .35
5. Cal Clutterbuck, Adjectives .35
6. Devin Setoguchi, Jaws .35

PPMp15 Leaders Of Not-Being-Good-At-This, 2009-10

1. Nick Boynton, Quacks -.45 PPMp15
2. Hal Gill, Bleu, Blanc, et Boobs -.43
3. Cam Barker, 'Hawks -.40
4. Kent Huskins, Jaws -.35
5. Aaron Ward, 'Canes -.35
6. Craig Rivet, Butter Knives -.35

As you can see, from game to game Dusty Brown is much more likely to gain power-play opportunities for his team, while guys like Boynton and Gill are more likely to hurt their teams.

While it's not the entire of players' abilities, PPMp15 is a skill that gives teams extraordinary opportunities (18-19% PP conversion rates) and should not be overlooked when it comes to contributing to a team's ability to win.

And then you can appreciate the effort when Derek Boogaard or Sean Avery tries to draw a penalty and fails miserably
.  And by "appreciate," I mean laugh at those monstrosities.

P.S.  Any ideas for a better acronym than "PPMp15"?  It's just not very catchy.
P.P.S. Here's the link at Behind the Net where I got my data.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One for the Ages: The IIHF World Juniors Championship 2010, USA 6, Canada 5, 1 OT

It was a prime showdown between the Yanks and the Loons in Saskatoon this evening, a World Juniors Championship matchup between the two powerhouse teams of the tournament, USA and Canada.  Both teams are just filthy with NHL draftees and soon-to-be's, and many of them got a piece of the pie in a 6-5 slobberknocker full of big hits, big goals, and enough energy to kick a coffee habit.

Thanks to a combination of Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy blog, my being po', and, I was able to watch the game in the company of a bunch of puckheads and witty comments.  Catch "Bettmans Nightmare" representing and snarking with the best of them here.

There were many highlights, including goals by Rangers prospects Chris Kreider (his 6th in 7 games) and Derek Stepan (4th goal and 13th point of the tournament).  Kreider's goal, the first U.S. goal in the game, was a gorgeous shot, top-shelf and glove-side on goalie Jake Allen.

The decidedly non-heroes were the starting goaltenders for USA and Canada, Mike Lee and Jake Allen (respectively), who were both yanked out of the game after poor play.  The USA replacement, 17-year old Jack Campbell, was stellar in relief, stopping 32 of 34 shots in netting the victory.  Canada's Martin Jones stopped 8 of 9.

The real heroes were two of the most heralded prospects on the ice, Canada's Jordan Eberle and USA's John Carlson (picture above).  Eberle brought the game into overtime with two clutch goals in the final minutes of the third, but it was Carlson's savvy goal in the overtime period that pushed USA over the top and into only its second gold in IIHF World Juniors history.  After a quick transition from a 3-on-2 shot in their own end, Carlson and Derek Stepan carried a 2-on-1 into the Canada zone and, feigning a crossing pass, Carlson ripped a shot low on Jones' blocker side, clinching the win.

With a couple of lead changes and a furious comeback from Canada in the third, the game was a thrill to watch from start to finish.  In 10 years, we will surely see some of these players crack big-league lineups; in the meantime, if you didn't catch this game, go to your neighbor's house and borrow the tape, because this was one for the ages.  This has inspired a future post on the greatest amateur games of all time, it's that good.

Keep these names in mind, you'll be screaming them later (haha):

Jordan Eberle - 2008 1st rounder, Edmonton
Taylor Hall - 2010 eligible (projected 1st overall)
Nazem Kadri - 2009 1st rounder, Brian Burke Town
Alex Pietrangelo - 2008 1st rounder, St. Louis
Brayden Schenn - 2009 1st rounder, L.A.

Jack Campbell - 2010 eligible (let the hysteria commence...)
John Carlson - 2008 1st rounder, Washington
Jerry D'Amigo - 2009 6th rounder, Brian Burke Town
Chris Kreider - 2009 1st rounder, Rangers
Kyle Palmieri - 2009 1st rounder, Anaheim
Jordan Schroeder - 2009 1st rounder, Vancouver
Derek Stepan - 2008 2nd rounder, Rangers

In closing, I'll leave the 1980 Olympic Team references to the hacks.  I prefer 1950s Phillies lingo...and I present to you the 2010 US World Junior Championship team, the Whiz Kids!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Celebrating the Unsung "Best's" and "Worst's" of the Half-Year

Ringing in a new year calls for something completely different, and it's only appropriate that we give credit to some unheralded stats and take away credit for some horrible performance.  So, having reached the halfway point for the NHL season, let's lavish the NHL-equivalent of The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers.  Though most of these guys have a "necessary means for an education:"

Face-off Win Percentage

As a former center who was pretty good at this himself, I appreciate the technique and value of a face-off win.  The advantages are extensive: puck possession, control in the zone, shot opportunities, and clearing opportunities can all be gained from a decent center-man.  In the past, players like Yanic Perreault and Tim Taylor were coveted for this skill as much as anything else, and the NHL continues to recognize good face-off guys with regular time.

Paul Gaustad, Buffalo Sabres - 61.6%
60%+ is an extremely high watermark, left to maybe one or two center-men a year (and sometimes not reached at all).  It's undeniable that a key face-off win can create opportunities, and Gaustad's effectiveness has helped the Sabres become one of the better teams in the league.

Honorable Mention: Dave Steckel, Washington Capitals - 61.5%
Just a tick below Gaustad, Steckel was initially brought up for his face-off prowess last year, and did not disappoint (57.9%).  It is worth noting that both of these guys are your basic 3rd liners, but their effectiveness in this skill make them as valuable as many 1st liners.


When debating what constitutes value in the course of a hockey game, the hit is very hard to quantify.  My thinking is that hits, ideally, disrupt an opportunity for the opposing team.  Now, a certain percentage are probably just finishing checks, after puck has been sent along, but even the threat of an oncoming hit can affect the play.  And for these reasons, effective hitters deserve to be recognized, especially ones with low Minor PIM totals.  So I developed a little metric, Hits/PIM (H/PIM), to laud those who can make the hit without hurting the team.  To qualify players for this metric, I wanted to focus on hitters that clearly use it as a part of their game.  To assess this, I used the league averages (teams average about 22 hits/game) and determined that an above-average hitter would have at least 2 hits per game.  So, among players with at least 84 hits, the #1 guys are:

Darren Helm, Red Wings - 11.00 H/PIM
Boy, didn't see that coming, huh?  But sure enough, Little Man Helm throws himself around like a wrecking ball (remember him in last year's playoffs?) but receives minuscule minutes in the box.  With 88 hits but only 8 PIM, he is one of the more effective hitters in the game.

Tanner Glass, Vancouver Canucks - 11.00 H/PIM
If there could be an opposite of Helm, it'd be David Koci, but Glass is a close second.  Known a bit more for throwing down his Winnwells than for throwing opponents into the glass, the Canucks left winger slides in by virtue of the fact that of his 58 PIM, fifty are from fighting majors.

Blocked Shots

Of all the unheralded stats, this one most clearly has value.  Just base it off of what you know: shots on goal are the only way to score a goal.  Therefore, blocking said shots would be eliminating that opportunity.  Nevertheless, we rarely scour the stat sheets to appreciate the Craig Ludwigs and Jay McKees of the world. I'm here for you, Craig!

Without further ado...

Brett Clark, Colorado Avalanche - 123 blocked shots
Hmmm, maybe I figured out why we don't learn about these guys.  Because I have nothing significant to say about Brett Clark. Oh, except that he blocks shots well.  And he makes $3.5 million a year.  Uh...great job, Brett!

Honorable Mention: Dennis Seidenberg, Florida Panthers - 122 blocked shots
He's German!  Isn't that veird?

Missed Shots

So let's kick it on our not-so-awesome side now, looking at some unsavory stats that could prove to be very interesting.  The first category, missed shots, is aggravating to me.  I did many push-ups for missing the net in practice, and I assume these guys did too, yet I still see it happen way too often.  So let's look at some guys who owe me twenty!

Jeff Carter, Philadelphia Flyers - 90 missed shots
Fresh off a 46-goal campaign, Carter's on pace for about 28 this year, and missing shots has as much to do with it as anything else.  The loss of production has been a bitter pill for the Flyers to swallow, and it may be Carter's ticket out of town.

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators - 74 missed shots
Like Carter, Weber had an excellent year last year only to follow it with mediocrity.  At least Weber's excuse could be the fact that he shoots at about 2-3 times the distance from the net that Carter does.


There are many in the hockey world that view plus/minus as a bogus statistic, and to a degree it is.  It is much more a signifier of the team's performance than the individual.  Regardless, when your +/- varies significantly from your team's +/-, there may be more truth to the data than we'd like to believe.

Ales Kotalik, New York Rangers - +/- of -17
Yes, the Rangers are currently 24th in the league in team +/-, but there's a certain point where you move from "victim of circumstance" to "part of the problem," and Kotalik is there.  Amazingly, he's played 1st or 2nd line a significant portion of the year, and put up 20 points, but his neglectful defense has gone off the deep end.  The fact that he receives $3 million for this is a good reason why the Rangers tend to blow.

Ruslan Fedotenko, Pittsburgh Penguins - +/- of -7
On a team with the 8th best +/- in the league, Fedotenko is by far the worst on the team.  I've actually been ranting about Fedostinko's inability to play hockey for quite some time, and his career statistics always seem to hint that he's more like the guy who knows who to hang around with rather than a true talent.  Now, I've got you where I want you, Ruslan, and I just want to say that, after 42 games, 14 points, and a minus 7, isn't there a Czech league somewhere looking for a winger?

Minor Penalties

Say what you will about minors, but there are very few circumstances where a player "takes a good penalty." The point is, the damage of going shorthanded is, 99 times out of 100, worse than the direct result of making an illegal play.  While taking a penalty was less harmful when power play conversions were in the doldrums (league averages around 16% in the mid-1990s to early 2000s), nowadays teams are converting at rates edging quite a bit closer to the early 1990s (18-19%).  The fighting majors are hard to distinguish as either bad or good, but those minors get you every time.

Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers - 27 minor penalties
I am seeing an increasing number of reasons why the Flyers are having problems.  Last year, Hartnell offset those minors with points on the board, but he has not been scoring like he did then.  In fact, he hasn't been playing this poorly since his Nashville years.

Steve Downie, Tampa Bay Lightning - 26 minor penalties
From current Flyer to former Flyer, I will say this: Downie has shown a surprising amount of offensive flair.  On the flip side, it's those occasions where he drops back to the old Downie that hurt the 'Ning.  The guy's only 22, so there's hope that he can figure it out.

Honorable Mention: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins, 25 minor penalties
A bit of a shocker, though Malkin's always been pretty chippy.  He's been a bit off this year, and his current PIM pace (set for a career-high 116 PIM) may be partly to blame.

Rod Brind-Amour

Like Vanessa Williams, I'm saving the best for last.  Poor, poor Rowdy Roddy.  Mr. Muscles has, in the last two years, gone from being a point-per-game, defensive stalwart to wearing the tiara for worst plus-minus in the league.  A -23 this year, he logged an identical -23 last season as well, when the Hurricanes were faring significantly better.  He is still one of the best face-off guys, but with only 8 points in 40 games, it may be time for Brind'Amour to find a new career.  Like becoming Mr. Universe.

And there you go, the highs and the lows.  Let's keep watching out for those unsung heroes, and boo when booing is appropriate for the chumps.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

He's Out of My League: Jagr's Like the Wind

So now that Jaromir Jagr has spent a couple of seasons in the KHL, I think it gives us ample time to understand the quality of this upstart league.  Through 88 games played for Omsk Avangard, Jagr has posted 39 goals and 80 points (and 92 penalty minutes).  The team itself was middle-of-the-pack in the KHL, with mediocre offense and a mediocre defense to match it.  Jagr had played with Omsk before; add that to about 7 million other untaxed reasons a year and that's your explanation for why he would want to play there, in the heart of Siberia.  At the time, at least one blog suggested this would be a great opportunity for him to tutor Rangers 1st rounder Alexander Cherapanov, and we all know how that panned out.

It's also possible he wanted to sow his wild oats as he had done before in Omsk, even though last time he threw down in Siberia he got his ass handed to him.  Twice.

Aside from Jagr's unusual story, most of the players in the KHL are viewed as second-hand players, guys who either didn't draw enough interest from the NHL, didn't want to leave, or had played their way out of North America.  Yet what we see is that guys like Jagr, who ended the 2007-08 NHL season with 25 goals and 71 points (and was only one year removed from a 96 point season), are hardly putting up a point per game in Russia.  Jiri Hudler, fresh off a 57 point season in the NHL, is under a point-per with Moscow Dynamo, one of the best teams in the league.

At the same time, you have guys like Alexei Morozov, Marcel Hossa, and Mattias Weinhandl, all failed NHLers, near the top of the KHL scoring leaderboards.  So I temper myself when I suggest that this isn't just another European league.  But I do think that the KHL is stronger than what we've seen overseas.  Some of the guys who couldn't hack it in the NHL can't over there either (Viktor Kozlov, Oleg Kvasha, Oleg Saprykin).  Nikolai Zherdev has only 25 points in 39 games.

Some of this low scoring is actually a problem for the entire KHL; the league has a large number of goalies with at least 15 games played and a GAA under 2.20 (9).  And really, the goalies are where you see a lot of the disparity between the NHL and KHL; Robert Esche, Martin Gerber, Michael Garnett, and Karri Ramo have all found success there (though Tyler Moss, Mikael Tellqvist, Martin Prusek, and Nolan Schaefer have not).

One of the curiosities of the league is that the PIM leaderboard is filthy with former NHLers.  Last season, the  top 5 PIM leaders were:

1. Chris Simon
2. Martin Grenier
3. Tomas Kloucek
4. Darcy Verot
5. Branislav Mezei

Now these guys were no saints, but they also didn't join Russell Crowe's "Fightin 'Round the World."  The first Russian on the list had 120 fewer PIM than Simon.  This season, Verot is already on record pace, with one less PIM (262 PIM) than Simon had all of last year, despite playing only half the number of games.  You know, maybe these guys do deserve it.

All in all, Jagr's moderate success and the above observations indicate that the KHL has a lot of the same quirks and challenges of the NHL.  With these statistics, I'm inclined to believe that the best team in the KHL could give at least one of the top 10 teams in the NHL a run for its money, which is saying a lot for a league in its second year that was formed out of an NHL feeder-league over 10 years old.  For every naysayer that points to Kevin Dallman's success over there (he of 154 NHL games and 31 points), I could counter with Alexander Radulov being its best player, a scenario he could have played out here, too.  For every Robert Esche shutout (he has 4 this year, and had 9 last year), I could identify four former NHLers that can't hack it there (Fedor Fedorov, Nikita Alexeev, Niko Kapanen, Trevor Letowski).  So let's give credit where it's due: this is a strong league, Putin-judo-skills strong, and will only get stronger as the contracts match the NHL's and a generation of European players see it as a legitimate option.

And for Martin Kariya's sake, let's hope they don't get hurt.

P.S. Rest in peace, Patrick Swayze. - Take a look for some of the delightful stats I've mentioned above.

Bruins Sign...Oh, What's His Name...

Miro Satan got signed by the Bruins yesterday, presumably to increase the average age of the team.

Actually, the signing makes plenty of sense.  Satan plays left wing, sewing up a gaping hole left by the injury to Milan Lucic and the poor play of the left wing cocktail that is Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille, Steve Begin, and Shawn Thornton.  Wow, after typing that, I'm surprised it took them so long.  In the end, though, who wouldn't want a guy with 354 career goals and a couple years left in the tank?

Honestly, I just wanted an excuse to use a clever graphic.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Winter Classic: A True Classic or Snooze Fest?

A day after Bettman's saving grace, The Winter Classic, a fair amount of hockey writers have weighed in on whether this Classic was up to snuff.  Ross McKeon gave it the ol' "it can't...get better than this," Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski called it "underwhelming...with a thrilling finish...", Scott Burnside at said it "hit all the right notes," The Hockey New's Adam Proteau called it the "pinnacle of the event...", and's Shawn Roarke gave it a baseball metaphor (something Edzo and Doc were guilty of way too many times during the event), calling it "the equivalent of a walk-off grand slam."  Indeed, outside of Wysh there was plenty of hesitance to criticize the event.

But was it really worthy of all this praise?  I had the luxury of logging into Yahoo's Puck Daddy Live Blog and joining in on the fun.  I show up as "Arthur Fonzarelli" by 1:53pm(ET) there, but what was more interesting was the vibe given off by the group (hockey writers and commenters alike) that the game was largely a dud.  The best comment was given by Wyshynski himself at 4:02pm(ET), before the end of the third period (and before Boston's first goal), where he writes: "So this is where the Bruins score, we go to OT, there's an OT goal, and we're all like 'OMG best classic evah!!!!1!!!!"  And that was precisely what happened.

Let us not gloss over the incredibly dysfunctional game play, carried on by two teams that have been slow out of the gates this year.  You can't blame the NHL for that; the Flyers and Bruins were two of the best the previous year.  But the missed passes, choppy puck movement and control, poor defense, and missed shots (Good GOD, the missed shots!) made for some soul-sucking hockey.  Arron Asham got a breakaway, for Chrissakes, off a poor defensive turnover by Zdeno Chara (who, thankfully, was not naked for the game).  Yes, there were opportunities, but when you can only generate excitement from a first period fight and a fluky goal, and have to be held over by an equally soul-suckingly bland interview with the soft-spoken members of the 1980 U.S. Hockey team (no offense, but could we please give them interesting questions and less than a 20 minute interview?), it isn't that great.

About that fight, between prominent goons Daniel Carcillo and Shawn Thornton: thank you guys.  You brought it early, so those outsiders could see what it's like before changing the channel, and you gave the regulars a nice, compact dust-up.  Complete with a KO.  And this was after Thornton's well-publicized reluctance to fight in the Classic; hopefully getting punched in the face in the cold wasn't too bad.  Either way, it was good to see that the Classic wasn't necessarily being treated as sacred ground, a place where the NHL puts its nastier moments on hold for the NBC broadcast.  Bettman may be uncomfortable about it, but the state of the game needs to be presented on the big stage, and fights are a part of it.  Plus, it appeased the masses that wanted a fight, kept them watching, and Carcillo was good to let it end as civil as possible after he caught Thornton with a wicked right.  Fighting enthusiasts had to love the teams tapping their sticks on the boards as the two went to the bin.

I'll leave my comment on the Flyers goal to two sentences.  Thomas has played that way most of his career; it was only a matter of time before he gave one up like that.  Congrats, Danny Syvret, on your first goal - I hope your second doesn't involve a wrister from the blue and a goalie not paying attention.

Oh, and one final dose of negativity: what the hell was that attempt at "Sweet Caroline" with Lenny Clarke and Denis Leary?  Not only did they not finish the song, but I think the crowd was too confused to sing along.  It seemed like an attempt at a 2 minute warning, but ended up a truly awkward moment.

The other writers want to focus on the equalizer by Recchi and the OT winner by Sturm, and that's fine.  We should be happy those actions happened, and also that the weather was ideal for the game.  Without them, the game could have been a disaster.

In the end, that is the risk with these Classics; NBC is still a big network, and big networks want big ratings.  We can't have an Ovechkin or Crosby to advertise every game, but maybe there needs to be an attempt to make for at least two marketable players for these games, a storyline that people will want to follow.  The Carcillo-Thornton interviews were good, but we don't need fighting to be the focus; subjects like Tim Thomas's career, Pronger's balance of the good and the bad of the game, and Chara's rise from a novelty to a Norris winner were all good things to emphasize, but they weren't.  As of right now, the venue itself is the focus, and between that and what goes on in the game, the Winter Classic still stands on shaky legs.

Friday, January 1, 2010

NHL's Worst Player, Addendum

A little tired from the previous research, I decided to have a bit more fun with my quest for the worst player by extending my search to players that played at least 20 games.  I figured that any lower would produced some pretty outlandish results (1 game played with a -2 and 4 PIM could be extrapolated to a pretty horrid PCG), but I also figured if someone could be historically bad over 20 games it could be an interesting story.  I was not disappointed.  The added players:

Doug Doull, -.03 PCG
Kip Brennan, -.03 PCG
Kyle Freadrich, -.16 PCG
Steve Martinson, -.29 PCG

Now we're edging into some dicey territory.  You'll notice that at this point, Richard Zemlak has yet to be conquered.  No lack of characters here, either: Freadrich (at a Boogaardian 6'7", 260 lbs.) threw down with famed pugilist Ryan Vandenbussche and had a colossal donnybrook where both men lost a few chiclets.  Seriously, where's the defense, fellas?  Martinson's fight in the AHL with Shawn Antoski broke barriers; or, went around barriers, and scared the crap out of the guys in charge of the sin bins.

The final two deserve honorable mention in themselves; though combining for only 46 games in the bigs, their propensity for zero contribution was astonishing:

Chris McRae, -.42 PCG
Paul Higgins, -1.24 PCG

McRae, younger brother of renowned goon Basil McRae, only got a 21 game cup o' tea in the NHL, and after scoring just 1 goal, taking 1 shot, and recording 122 PIM, he had no takers.

Higgins is much more intriguing, if only for the massive detriment he was to his team.  Whether facing up to the apparently "murderous" (and ironically named) Larry Playfair, coming out of nowhere to jump Peter McNab, or cheap-shotting Darryl Sutter, Higgins quickly developed notoriety in the league for craziness.  A Capitals insider who was friends with former Higgins teammate Al Iafrate apparently got Iafrate to talk about him:

"Al was pretty toasted one night and I asked him about his former teammate Higgins...said he was totally nuts, guys were scared to practice with him - he'd be out there running guys left and right...also said the Leafs basically talked him into quitting..."

After his 25 game career (complete with 0 points, 1 shot, a -4, and 152 PIM), Higgins would have a few brush-ups with the Farvas, including a high-speed chase and a fight where Higgins and another guy went after each other with "baseball bats, hockey sticks, and pipes..."  I kind of wish I was there for that.

So there you have it; while I'm sure to include whispers of Zemlak and Higgins again someday, my search has been satisfied.