A few weeks ago I posted my initial work on developing a player rankings system which got mixed reviews among the more theoretically-based, statistically minded crowd. I am still not going to go down the road of applying pure statistical theory to developing a ranking system (such as what Javageek is doing) but I have significantly rejigged my algorithm and also incorporated powerplay and penalty killing time into the process and I think I have come up with some fairly good player rankings. I have decided not to divulge the secrets of my player ranking algorithm but I have decided to (for now anyway) post the rankings of all the players in the NHL.

The algorithm produces four numbers for each player: an offensive rating, a defensive rating, and overall rating and an overall contribution. The offensive, defensive and overall ratings are ice time independent. By that I mean that players who play less ice time donâ€™t get penalized when compared to players that get more minutes. Someone who plays a lot of minutes on the power play will get a better opportunity to rack up goals and assists and this has an advantage when it comes to scoring more points but not when it comes to getting a better offensive rating. My algorithm accounts for that. When looking at the offensive, defensive and overall ratings consider a rating of 1.00 to be the average NHLer. Ratings less than 1.00 are below average and ratings over 1.00 are above average.

The other number produced is an overall contribution statistic. This overall contribution combines a players offensive, defensive, and overall ratings with a players ice time (not quite overall rating*icetime but close) to get a number representative of what the player has contributed to his team over the course of the season. This statistic isnâ€™t the best when evaluating who is the best player since a lesser player playing more ice time on a worse team has the potential to rank better than a better player playing less ice time on a better team (or due to injuries), it does do a good job at evaluating which player has contributed the most to his team. So while this may not be the best statistic in evaluating who is the best player in the NHL, it might be a good statistic in evaluating who has contributed the most to his team and thus might be a good starting point for evaluating the MVP and Norris trophy candidates.

Ok, before we start looking at some actual numbers, let me say that I have produced results for the second half of last season and also results for the current season and have compared the two. Using a requirement of a player having to have played 300 minutes of ice time to get a valid rating for the season there were 318 players who had a rating for both last season and this season and I did a quick correlation calculation on these players. The offensive ratings produced a correlation coefficient of 0.44, the defensive ratings produced a correlation coefficient of 0.13, the overall ratings were 0.37 and the overall contribution was 0.52. These correlations are generally much better than those I got for my algorithm of a couple weeks ago and I am somewhat satisfied with them. Many of the players who have significant differences between last year and this year are understandable because by no ones evaluation would you say they are having a similarly good or bad seasons. For example, the player with the biggest improvement in overall rating is Thomas Vanek and the player with the biggest drop in overall rating is Jonathan Cheechoo. This makes total sense. Vanek has been awesome this season (16 goals, 30 points, +16) while Cheechoo was awesome in the second half of last year and pretty ordinary this season. That said, I am a little perplexed as to why the defensive ratings donâ€™t produce better correlations. When developing this algorithm I went through several steps of progress and at every step the defensive ratings produced correlations significantly below that of the offensive ratings. And yet when I look at the ratings I can seem to justify why each player gets a good or poor result. It is strange because essentially the offensive and defensive ratings are produced in the exact same way, except opposite in the sense of what is good (producing goals vs stopping goals). I am hoping that as the season goes on that the correlations for all the these ratings improves. In another month or so Iâ€™ll maybe revisit the correlations and see if anything has changed.

Ok, so on to some results. Player ratings for every player in the NHL can be found by clicking the division links in the menu on the left. I have also included a page with the top 20 rated players for each rating. Take some time to browse through them and let me know what you think.

Now, I know that there will be some players ratings that will create some controversy so let me address some of them now.

Defensive Ratings in general: As I explained above, defensive ratings are a bit perplexing because they donâ€™t correlate well with last years defensive ratings but also because guys like Lidstrom (0.91) isnâ€™t rated that well when he has the league best +/-. But there is an explanation for it. That is, the Red Wings have one of the worst penalty kill percentages in the NHL and considering that Lidstrom gets a lot of ice time killing penalties his defensive rating gets negatively impacted. I think this is perfectly fair. But there are other examples, such as Pronger, where explaining his 0.90 defensive rating is more difficult since the Ducks have a pretty good penalty kill so his defensive rating might be a bit of an anomaly this early in the season. Incidently, Lidstrom had a 0.96 defensive rating last year and Pronger had a 1.11 defensive rating so Lidstrom is right in line with last year and Pronger is a bit low. I would expect to see Prongerâ€™s defensive rating rise a bit over the course of the season.

Tom Preissing â€“ There are some in the media and among the fans that feel that Preissing has been a disappointment but I find this strange. He has a respectable 10 points in 24 games and easily has a team best +13 rating. Maybe the reason fans are disappointed is because he is only getting 14 and a half minutes of ice time. But donâ€™t blame that on him as in those 14 and a half minutes he has been pretty effective in both producing offense and not letting many goals in.

Anders Eriksson â€“ Somehow this guy managed to get the 12th higest overall rating which doesnâ€™t make a lot of sense. A lot of it is driven by the fact that he is a +3 on a weak Columbus team but being rated that highly doesnâ€™t make much sense. I expect him to drop over the course of the season. But having overly high rated defensemen is par for the course for the Blue Jackets as Ron Hainsey was rated quite highly last season but has dropped to more expected levels this year.

Ryan Getzlaf â€“ Getzlaf is an interesting player to look at because he ranks very highly in the offensive rankings with a 2.18 offensvie ranking. That might strike you strange for a guy who is 6th on his team in points. But it doesnâ€™t seem to be an anomaly as he had a 1.95 offensive rating last season as well. Heâ€™s doing something right in the 13 minutes of ice time he gets.

New York Rangers â€“ The trio of Jagr, Straka and Nylander lead the league in overall contribution. Itâ€™s no surprise really considering all three are in the top 15 in scoring and top 10 in +/- but it makes you wonder why the Rangers are just 4 games over .500. Inconsistent goaltending seems to be the answer to that (Lundqvist .900 save% is not good enough).

Goaltending- Speaking of goaltending, you may have noticed that I have taken goaltenders out of the rankings. The reason for this is because I intend to develop a goaltender specific ranking systems because although I think this processed used for developing these rankings would do a decent job on goalie rankings I think I can produce better results with a goalie specific algorithm.

Anyway, thatâ€™s all for now. Iâ€™ll let you browse through the rankings yourselves and I away all of your comments, suggestions and criticisms. I look forward to hearing them.

We have a pretty full schedule of games tonight though none of them I would call being good rivalry games. Atlanta-Toronto could be interesting as they had some animosity going towards each other last year. Toronto has also had a lot of success against the Thrashers to Atlanta being designated the favourite by the algorithm might not be the best choice. In a very tight northwest division (all teams within 4 points of each other) the Edmonton-Colorado game becomes a fairly important game as well.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
Boston -126 Tampa Bay 121 Boston Some
Washington -137 Dallas 127 Washington Good
Carolina -115 Montreal 113 Carolina Some
Atlanta -125 Toronto 120 Atlanta Some
Ottawa -144 Florida 130 Ottawa Good
NY Islanders -305 Philadelphia 167 NY Islanders Strong
St. Louis 117 Nashville -120 Nashville Some
Edmonton -173 Colorado 142 Edmonton Good
Phoenix -105 Los Angeles 105 Los Angeles Some
Vancouver 114 Anaheim -116 Anaheim Good

Just 3 games on the NHL schedule tonight but none of the three I would call must watch hockey. Minnesota-San Jose could be a good game but Minnesota has struggled a bit lately. Philadelphia-Nashville and Chicago-Dallas aren’t anything I can get too excited about.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
Philadelphia 130 Nashville -143 Nashville Good
Minnesota -131 San Jose 124 Minnesota Good
Chicago 138 Dallas -162 Dallas Strong

Despite being past the quarter point in the NHL season we are still seeing quite a bit of change in the Power Rankings. This week we have a couple of big movers in each direction. The big risers are the New York Islanders from 16th to 8th, Tampa Bay (19th to 13th) and New York Rangers (23rd to 15th). Teams falling are Detroit (2nd to 7th), Calgary (9th to 18th) and Washington (17th to 22nd). It seems there is a lot of parity in the NHL this year and if you are a team ranked in the #8 to low 20’s if you string together 4 or 5 wins or 4 or 5 losses you can move up or down dramatically. The best division award has to go to the Northeast division as all 5 teams are in the top 16 in the league. This makes sense when you realize they have a combined 40-19-5 record against teams outside the northeast division.

Rank Last Week Team AdjWinP SchedStr Power Rank
1 1 Buffalo 0.729 0.534 0.769
2 4 Montreal 0.614 0.524 0.642
3 6 Anaheim 0.740 0.457 0.639
4 7 Dallas 0.705 0.467 0.634
5 3 Carolina 0.560 0.542 0.628
6 5 San Jose 0.708 0.468 0.628
7 2 Detroit 0.614 0.483 0.620
8 16 NY Islanders 0.545 0.520 0.583
9 10 Edmonton 0.591 0.476 0.563
10 8 Atlanta 0.560 0.523 0.561
11 14 Toronto 0.540 0.521 0.556
12 13 Nashville 0.659 0.448 0.553
13 19 Tampa Bay 0.500 0.537 0.548
14 11 Boston 0.476 0.542 0.523
15 23 NY Rangers 0.479 0.520 0.508
16 20 Ottawa 0.438 0.544 0.495
17 12 New Jersey 0.500 0.499 0.493
18 9 Calgary 0.477 0.493 0.490
19 18 Pittsburgh 0.477 0.507 0.476
20 15 Minnesota 0.478 0.475 0.463
21 21 Vancouver 0.458 0.480 0.455
22 17 Washington 0.435 0.517 0.445
23 22 Florida 0.380 0.545 0.431
24 24 Colorado 0.435 0.483 0.430
25 25 Los Angeles 0.360 0.508 0.397
26 27 Phoenix 0.326 0.496 0.342
27 28 Philadelphia 0.292 0.526 0.316
28 26 Chicago 0.357 0.453 0.316
29 29 St. Louis 0.273 0.467 0.251
30 30 Columbus 0.273 0.459 0.246

AdjWinP is a teams winning percentage when shootouts are considered ties and there are no points awarded for overtime losses
SchedStr is an indication of a teams relative difficulty of schedule
Power Rank is the teams expected winning percentage if team played all .500 teams

After a couple of light schedule days we have a fairly full schedule tonight with 10 games to be played. The games I would keep an eye on are Ottawa-Carolina, Toronto-Boston, and the return of Chris Pronger to Edmonton.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
NY Rangers -110 Atlanta 109 Atlanta Some
Pittsburgh 100 NY Islanders -100 NY Islanders Some
Carolina -153 Ottawa 134 Carolina Good
Toronto -129 Boston 122 Toronto Some
Montreal -181 Florida 145 Montreal Strong
Tampa Bay -149 Washington 133 Tampa Bay Good
St. Louis 151 San Jose -205 San Jose Strong
Calgary -140 Colorado 128 Calgary Some
Edmonton -108 Anaheim 107 Anaheim Some
Vancouver -226 Columbus 155 Vancouver Strong

Just 2 games on the schedule today as the slumping Red Wings take on Dallas and a struggling Devils team tries to salvage something out of their west coast swing.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
Detroit -118 Dallas 115 Detroit Some
Los Angeles 101 New Jersey -101 New Jersey Some

Here are today’s game predictions.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
Tampa Bay -121 Ottawa 117 Tampa Bay Some
NY Rangers 144 Buffalo -180 Buffalo Strong
Anaheim -215 Calgary 153 Anaheim Strong

Ok, so last nights game turned out to be a dud with Vancouver not really showing up to play, but we have 12 games on the go tonight so hopefully a few turn out to be good. The games I think have the most potential for quality entertaining hockey are New Jersey at Anaheim, Buffalo at Montreal. and Atlanta at Tampa. We also have battle of the cellar dwellers tonight as Philadelphia is taking on Columbus which also features Ken Hitchcock coaching his first game for the Blue Jackets againt the team that fired him about a month ago.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
Boston -103 Carolina 103 Carolina Some
Philadelphia -131 Columbus 123 Philadelphia Some
NY Islanders -132 Pittsburgh 124 NY Islanders Some
Minnesota -169 Phoenix 140 Minnesota Good
Anaheim -141 New Jersey 129 Anaheim Good
Washington -100 Toronto 100 Toronto Some
Florida -105 Ottawa 105 Ottawa Some
Detroit -324 St. Louis 169 Detroit Strong
Buffalo -141 Montreal 129 Buffalo Good
Tampa Bay -103 Atlanta 103 Atlanta Some
Dallas -209 Los Angeles 152 Dallas Strong
Edmonton -221 Chicago 154 Edmonton Strong

So the higher powers at MLSE have given Maple Leaf GM John Ferguson Jr. a luke warm vote of confidence by picking up his option for the 2007-08 season with some indication they will negotiate an extension next spring. So, assuming JFJ gets to keep his job, what are his challenges for the upcoming year.

It appears that the Leafs are set in goal for a long time with Andrew Raycroft signed through 2008-09 season and Justin Pogge on the horizon. They also appear to be set on defense with McCabe, Kaberle, Kubina and Gill all signed to long term deals and several youngsters rounding into NHL form. So all the decisions the JFJ will need to make over the next year have to do almost solely with the forwards.

All totaled, the Leafs already have close to \$25 million allocated to 12 players next season. This includes 1 goalie (Raycroft), 4 defensemen (McCabe, Kaberle, Kubina, Gill) and 7 forwards (Kilger, Wellwood, Stajan, Steen, Ondrus, Pohl, and Belak). The defense will be rounded out with Ian White and one or two of Brendan Bell, Carlo Colaiacovo, Staffan Kronvall, and Andy Wozniewski. Lets allocate up to \$2.5 million to round out the defense and sign a backup goalie. That puts the Leafs payroll for next year at just under \$27.5 million with 6-7 forwards to sign.

Everyone is talking about what to do with Tucker and Sundin but another player which I think is equally important is Alexei Ponikarovsky. Ponikarovsky is one of the Leafs most valuable players because he is so well rounded. He can skate, score goals, has excellent size and uses it well in the corners, can kill penalties, has a great shot and can play on the power play. I would like to see the Leafs make a long term commitment to Ponikarovsky and feel they could probably get him signed to a deal not unlike the deal the Ottawa Senators signed Peter Schaeffer to last summer (4 years @ \$2.1 million per season). I think Ponikarovsky has the potential to be better than Schaeffer so let’s allocate \$2.5 million per season to Poni on a long term deal. That puts the Leafs payroll at approximately \$30 million.

For Sundin, I think, assuming he wants to return, you bring him back. The Leafs have an option on Sundin for around \$5.3 million next season but the cap hit would be closer to \$6.5 million if they picked up the option. If the Leafs choose not to pick up the option it will cost them \$760,000 against the cap. Lets assume that Sundin wants to return to the Leafs. I think in this situation you could probably get Sundin signed for \$5.5 million per season on a 2-3 year deal (this is comparable to the deal Sakic signed last summer). This would put the Leafs payroll at \$35.5 million.

So that leaves us with Tucker, Peca, O’Neill, Battaglia, and Antropov as the free agents in need of new deals. So, who to keep and who to let go. Those who have read this blog for a while will know that I like Antropov so I would definitely sign him. He is a quality player and should be able to get signed for a very affordable price. Lets say \$1.5 million max to take the payroll to \$37 million. I am not completely sold on bringing back Mike Peca. He’s a nice player but \$2.5 million for a defensive specialist seems a bit much, especially considering guys like Stajan, Ponikarovsky and Steen are all also solid defensively and can kill penalties. I’d use Sundin, Wellwood, and Stajan as the top 3 centers. At this point the Leafs lineup might look like this:

Ponikarovsky-Sundin-????
Steen-Wellwood-????
????-Stajan-Antropov
Kilger-Pohl-Belak
One or two of Ondrus/Suglobov/Battaglia/Williams/Westrum

McCabe-Kaberle
White-Gill
Kubina-Colaiacovo/Bell/Kronvall//Wozniewski

Raycroft
Aubin or Tellqvist

Total payroll for the above players would be about \$37 million. So, how do fill in the ????’s above. First, I would not bring Darcy Tucker back for the money he seems to be asking for. I like Tucker but he is somewhat one-dimensional. He is not great defenseively (typically one of the lowest +/- on the team), takes too many bad penalties and really isn’t much more than a power play specialist. He has scored 43 goals since the start of last season, 29 of them coming on the power play and 48 of his 82 points have come on the power play. Talk is that Tucker is looking for possibly as much as \$3.5-4 million on a long term deal. To that I say, good luck and I hope you get what you are looking for elsewhere. As good as Tucker has been I think you can find a lot of players capable of standing to the side of the opponents goal to slap a perfect cross-ice pass into an open net on the power play. What I would do with Tucker is trade him before the trade deadline for a young talented player capable of filling one of those ????’s on the second and third lines at a cost of under \$1 million per season. I would then go to the free agent market next summer and spend \$4 million per season on a real 30 goal score with speed who can play on Sundin’s wing and who doesn’t take dumb penalties and who doesn’t hurt you defensively. Guys potentially available who are worth looking at are Slava Kozlov (Atlanta), Cory Stillman (Hurricanes), Ryan Smyth (Oilers, though he might cost a bit more), Paul Kariya (again, might be out of budget), Jason Blake (Islanders), Brendan Shanahan (Rangers), Tkachuk (Blues), Naslund (Canucks). All of these guys I’d rather have than Tucker. Whatever money is left use to fill in the other ???? on the second or third line. Jeff O’Neill who has played better this season is an option as are a few guys currently on the Marlies.

Just one game tonight but it should be a good one as Vancouver takes on Nashville. Don’t expect a lot of scoring though.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
Nashville -120 Vancouver 117 Nashville Some