Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category

benoit pouliot chris kelly

Right now I guess we’re still waiting for the manager of a good team that has the audacity to ship out his lower-level, fan-favourite players at the end of a good season.

Salary cap realities forced the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer of 2010 to shed some depth players. That was Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Adam Burish—but part of the reason they were forced into reality is because of not only the Great Restricted Free Agent Flap of 2009, but also because David Bolland inexplicably earned a five-year contract after 119 career NHL games and 23 total goals.

This summer, Stan Bowman caved into surely what was a lot of pressure and gave Bryan Bickell a five four-year deal. It just doesn’t seem like a good idea to pay a depth winger long-term that has a shaky spot scoring goals or registering ice-time at the NHL level. He had a good playoff run, but you’d somewhat hope Bowman could have seen through his biases and recognized that Bickell’s scoring in the playoffs (nine goals and 17 points on a 13.86% on-ice shooting percentage and 18.4% individual shooting percentage) was more of a bonus on top of the things Bickell does bring to the lineup than a new talent that somehow manifested itself within.

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Fun little dice game you can use in social situations. It’s called ‘Mexico’. You have two six-sided dice, and your score is based on the actual digits facing up rather than the addition. The highest score, a 21 or a ‘Mexico’ comes when a two and a one show up on the table. Next up are doubles—66, 55, 44, 33, 22, 11—and then the single rolls, 65 all the way in descending order down to 31, the lowest possible roll. The idea of the game is to not have the lowest roll in a round.

It’s an interesting probability problem. I didn’t get around to calculating all the odds for all situations, but you get to either pass on the dice or take another roll, up to three rolls, if you’re the first roller in the round. If you take multiple rolls, so do all your opponents. If you end up with a fairly high score you have a good chance of not being the lowest once everybody else has shot during the round, but I found it interesting what scores most people were keeping. A player would pass on the dice almost instantaneously if a ’6′ showed on one dice while they were a little more reluctant if they saw double-3s or double-2s or double-1s, despite those latter rolls being a higher score.

In most dice games, where you add the dice together, the higher rolls are the ones with lots of black dice. Every kid grew up playing Risk and Monopoly and Backgammon where generally, the more numbers the better. ‘Mexico’ flips that around, and if the player is aware of ‘anchoring bias’, they’re less likely to be satisfied even with rolls of 54 or 53, which look like large numbers but are some of the worst in the game.

Every party has the awkward kid over-thinking everything during drinking games, right? Or was that just Kamloops circa 2006-2012?

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The cost of doing business


(Disclaimer: read this post before anything here)

If you browse through the leaders of Relative Corsi or Points per 60 minutes, or any other of my favourite measures to quantify players, it’s not like you’re ending up with a bunch of third lines scrubs up top.

We’ll look at the 2012 season because it’s the most recent 82-game campaign, with a large enough sample size to take away some of the hangers-on that lived as linemates for a full season. Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin at the top. Keep going down, and you’ll find players generally recognized by everybody as good two-way players: Anze Kopitar, Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Thornton, Henrik Zetterberg… most good players wind up with good possession numbers.

There are very few players that hockey fans recognize as “good” that the statistics don’t suggest are. While certain players have skill sets related to defence or shooting that may not be captured entirely in Corsi statistics, they’ll generally pop up near the top of some other list. Who cares if they do. You can tell who good players are by watching them. That was never the issue.

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Shot quantity

Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs

In my first year of university, my friend Jeff and I would usually begin the night by playing a few games of chess while having a few beers. Chess is a great game, but requires patience and thinking that doesn’t really suit the university dorm decorum. Just two beers can really change the course of a game, as we generally got a little worse as the night went along.

Never really thought that those nights would become the introduction to a blog post six years later, but I think there was a lot to learn from those nights. Even when I beat Jeff at chess, sober or not, I always knew it was an aberration. He won about 65% of the games we played, but since we played so many times, it’s very likely that there were samples of games that I beat him cleanly, like six-out-of-ten or eight-out-of-fifteen. If I played a friend Rob three times and beat him on each occasion, we’d assume I was a much better player, but it could be a problem with the sample. Jeff and I have played dozens of games against each other and it wasn’t until about halfway through that year when I figured that he was a much better player than I was, or at least his game better matched up against mine than mine did his.

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Shot quality

Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins - Game Two

If you’re an assistant coach of a National Hockey League team and you say something that immediately sets off the bullshit detector of hundreds of hockey die-hards and analysts, it may be time to seriously question the direction of your franchise.

Meet Greg Cronin, the man behind such lines as “I think Orr has proven he’s more than just an enforcer”, who gave an interview to Alec Brownscombe of Maple Leafs Hot Stove that made the rounds this week. Everything in it just seemed off, and while Cronin seemed to be aware that there are, er, certain metrics that showed his Toronto Maple Leafs were not as good as their wins and losses record indicated.

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Remember when you were young / You shone like the sun(belt division)

In the absence of all other news, I think that the whole Ilya Kovalchuk situation is still a good jumping off point for this week. What’s been under-reported in all the opinion pieces about whether Kovalchuk quit on his New Jersey teammates is what the cost against the cap for the Devils would have been if Kovalchuk had decided to retire with 5 or 9 years left on his deal rather than 12.

I represent a minority of hockey fans because i’m not fundamentally opposed to the idea of salary cap recapture. Since the Devils are the first team to be dinged for the $3-million in salary cap benefits they received in the time that Kovalchuk was a Devil thanks to his front-loaded deal, they represent the test case. Nobody’s going to be cool with Kovalchuk leaving after three of 15 years and the optics aren’t good, but as I wrote Friday, it was probably the best situation for New Jersey going forward.

Stars, especially those at the wrong side of 28, don’t exactly age gracefully. While Martin St. Louis and Daniel Sedin won recent scoring titles in their 30s, it’s not like every year the best offensive stars in the NHL aren’t spry pups in their physical prime.

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New Jersey Devils v Los Angeles Kings - Game Six

At least at this point, nobody is really disputing that the New Jersey Devils are not going to be a good hockey team next season. Nobody prominent has come out and stated that the Devils are better off without Ilya Kovalchuk on the basis that he was a fat teammate/bad teammate/lazy teammate.

It’s interesting, because last season there was a case to be made that the Devils were a much better team than their record indicated. Fresh off of a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, the Devils were a 55.1% Corsi Tied team with a .912 team even strength save percentage. They had excellent shot ratios but couldn’t buy a save. Headed into this season, they’re a patchwork club with little offence at best.

Financially, the Devils are probably better without Kovalchuk. There seem to be some allegations that Kovalchuk “stole” $23-million of the Devils’ money, that the Devils’ are again circumventing the salary cap or that it’s easy to convince a player owed $77-million to walk away from all of it. (Note to Stu Hackel, the Devils don’t actually have to “pay” any of the recapture cost.)

Kovalchuk played three years in Jersey and played generally well. I think that there’s some evidence (covered nicely by Driving Play) to suggest that he was on the down of his career, and with the biological clock striking 30 you couldn’t count on Kovalchuk to produce like an elite player. The Devils got three years of one of the best players in hockey right at the tail end of his prime. Besides, once you factor in the lockout year and Kovalchuk making about half of his salary, he got about $18.5-million from the Devils since his “money years” didn’t start until the shortened 2012-2013 season. Two of the the years he played for New Jersey for less than his cap hit.

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