Nov 042006

Here are some games I think are the most important and/or most worth watching are:

Toronto-Buffalo – Buffalo has historically killed Toronto and a major reason why the Leafs missed the playoffs last year was their horrific record against Buffalo and Ottawa. This hopefully will be seen as a big test for the them and they will come out playing hard.

Ottawa-Carolina – Probably the two best regular season eastern conference teams last year have both struggled at times this season. I am not sure either have looked like top Cup contenders yet.

Minnesota-Nashville – Two of the top teams in the western conference meet up in this game.

Colorado-Vancouver – This is a very important game because as of right now both these teams are on the cusp of the playoff cut line and I don’t see that changing 5 months from now in April. Points you pick up and take away from your opponent will be crucial down the road.

Home Team Fair
Road Team Fair
Predicted Winner Confidence
Boston -135 Tampa Bay 126 Boston Some
Buffalo -219 Toronto 154 Buffalo Strong
Montreal -148 New Jersey 132 Montreal Good
Ottawa -101 Carolina 101 Carolina Some
NY Islanders -164 Atlanta 139 NY Islanders Good
Philadelphia -100 Washington 100 Philadelphia Some
Detroit -399 Columbus 174 Detroit Strong
St. Louis -236 Calgary 157 St. Louis Strong
Minnesota -204 Nashville 151 Minnesota Strong
Phoenix 151 Los Angeles -206 Los Angeles Strong
Colorado -107 Vancouver 106 Vancouver Some
San Jose -150 Pittsburgh 133 San Jose Good
Nov 032006

Four games on schedule tonight. Washington-Atlanta should be an entertaining game to watch with a couple of highly talented players on both teams. Dallas and Edmonton should be an excellent game to watch as well as these teams have a bit of a history and both are quality teams. Calgary desperately needs to break out of their slump against an equally slumping Columbus team and Anaheim gets their turn to beat up on the Phoenix Coyotes.

Home Team Fair
Road Team Fair
Predicted Winner Confidence
Washington -114 Atlanta 113 Washington Some
Columbus -129 Calgary 122 Columbus Some
Edmonton 103 Dallas -103 Dallas Some
Anaheim -351 Phoenix 171 Anaheim Strong
Nov 022006

Yesterday I presented my even strength player ranking system and rankings for last season which clearly created some controversy. Hopefully when I present this years rankings I can clear up a bit more of the concerns that people have with the system. I know some people found some of the results difficult to believe but if I can show some consistency from year to year I think that should help show the value that this rating system can have.

So first let me start off by showing the top 40 rated players from this season.

Player Team Offense Rating Offense Rank Defense Rating Defense Rank Overall Rating Overall Rank
PIERRE-MARC BOUCHARD Minnesota 1.89 23 5.13 2 3.51 1
KEITH YANDLE Phoenix 0.48 417 6.18 1 3.33 2
MATTHEW LOMBARDI Calgary 1.75 34 4.68 5 3.22 3
JAROSLAV MODRY Dallas 1.63 52 4.72 4 3.17 4
DANIEL SEDIN Vancouver 2.31 6 3.90 6 3.10 5
STEPHANE ROBIDAS Dallas 0.79 326 4.75 3 2.77 6
NIKLAS HAGMAN Dallas 1.36 101 3.90 7 2.63 7
MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF Calgary 1.66 47 3.36 10 2.51 8
NIKITA ALEXEEV Tampa Bay 2.14 12 2.62 16 2.38 9
BRIAN ROLSTON Minnesota 1.72 36 2.92 12 2.32 10
ALEXANDER PEREZHOGIN Montreal 1.71 38 2.75 15 2.23 11
BRETT MCLEAN Colorado 0.90 276 3.49 9 2.20 12
SCOTT HARTNELL Nashville 1.05 216 3.04 11 2.04 13
ILJA BRYZGALOV Anaheim 0.33 444 3.75 8 2.04 14
THOMAS VANEK Buffalo 2.60 2 1.35 93 1.98 15
ROBERT LANG Detroit 1.72 37 2.19 22 1.96 16
OWEN NOLAN Phoenix 2.51 3 1.26 115 1.88 17
KEITH TKACHUK St. Louis 1.22 146 2.53 18 1.87 18
JASON WILLIAMS Detroit 1.35 106 2.35 19 1.85 19
SIDNEY CROSBY Pittsburgh 1.84 27 1.83 34 1.84 20
ROBERTO LUONGO Vancouver 2.32 5 1.36 89 1.84 21
RADEK MARTINEK NY Islanders 0.89 280 2.79 14 1.84 22
MARK RECCHI Pittsburgh 1.02 226 2.61 17 1.82 23
PAVEL DATSYUK Detroit 2.04 15 1.58 55 1.81 24
STEVE SULLIVAN Nashville 2.79 1 0.83 303 1.81 25
MIKE JOHNSON Montreal 1.27 131 2.35 20 1.81 26
SCOTT GOMEZ New Jersey 2.21 7 1.32 101 1.77 27
TOM PREISSING Ottawa 1.89 24 1.57 58 1.73 28
DANNY MARKOV Detroit 1.57 64 1.84 33 1.71 29
STEVE MCCARTHY Atlanta 0.50 409 2.85 13 1.68 30
MARC-ANDRE FLEURY Pittsburgh 2.15 11 1.15 150 1.65 31
MIKE DUNHAM NY Islanders 1.11 193 2.17 23 1.64 32
SAMI SALO Vancouver 1.19 164 2.06 26 1.62 33
NICLAS WALLIN Carolina 2.51 4 0.71 364 1.61 34
WOJTEK WOLSKI Colorado 2.01 18 1.22 123 1.61 35
MICHAEL NYLANDER NY Rangers 2.19 8 1.04 191 1.61 36
MILAN MICHALEK San Jose 1.69 41 1.49 71 1.59 37
SAMUEL PAHLSSON Anaheim 1.27 132 1.92 29 1.59 38
NICKLAS LIDSTROM Detroit 1.80 30 1.35 94 1.58 39
MICHAEL CAMMALLERI Los Angeles 1.29 127 1.86 31 1.57 40

The first thing one will notice is that the ratings are much higher than those for last season. This is because we are working with much less data this season than last so one bad or good game will make a huge difference. This is not ideal because essentially it means we may not have enough data to reliably evaluate players. For example, I don’t expect Keith Yandle to remain at the top of the list as the season goes on but I must also say that to play over 100 minutes of even strength ice time with the Coyotes and only have one goal scored against you is pretty impressive as Phoenix is a horrible defensive team.

So, it is still early in the season to rely too much on these rankings but I think there is some value in comparing players with their values of last season to see if there is much consistency showing up. Here is a list of each players overall ratings comparing last years with this years.

Gelinas 1.70 last year vs 1.43 this year
Donovan: 1.67 vs 0.85
Zetterberg: 1.66 vs 1.05
Thornton 1.64 vs 0.81
Cheechoo 1.64 vs 0.51
Nylander 1.64 vs 1.61
Schneider 1.63 vs 1.53
Armstrong 1.61 vs 1.43
Jagr 1.57 vs 1.15
Selanne 1.56 vs 1.18
A. Markov 1.55 vs 1.27
Weber 1.55 vs 1.05
Legwand 1.54 vs 1.29
Shanahan 1.53 vs 1.1
Sakic 1.51 vs 1.21
Komisarek: 1.45 1.17
P. Bergeron: 1.45 vs 1.17
Kalinin 1.44 vs 0.92
Crosby: 1.44 vs 1.84
P. Boucher: 1.40 vs 0.85
Morrow: 1.38 vs 0.87
Rozsival: 1.38 vs 0.96
Ponikarovsky: 1.36 vs 1.31
Gionta: 1.36 vs 1.51
Zhitnik: 1.35 vs 0.98
Pothier: 1.35 vs 1.36
Malik: 1.35 vs 1.31

Clearly there are some significant differences (Donovan, Thorton, Cheechoo, Boucher, Kalinin, Morrow, Zhitnik) but clearly many of them haven’t gotten off to good seasons. Thornton and Cheechoo haven’t gotten anything going yet. There are many similarities too. Most other top rated players from last season are still rated well above the 1.00 mark. Last years highest rated player in Gelinas is also fairly highly rated this year. Brian Pothier who changed teams has an almost identical rating. It might also be worth pointing out that Chara also has an almost identical rating this year compared to last year (0.72 vs 0.82).

While we are on the Senators lets take a look at their defensemen from last season more closely. Here are last seasons and this seasons overall ratings.

Chara 0.72 0.82
Redden 1.22 1.05
Meszaros 0.95 0.73
Phillips 0.85 1.16
Pothier 1.35 1.36
Volchenkov 0.98 1.07

Pretty good consistency really as Phillips is the only one who really changed their ratings significantly. But what I really wanted to point out that in the playoffs last year most people said that Redden and Pothier were Ottawa’s best defensemen and Chara and Meszaros were big disappointments. In fact, Chris McMurtry gave Redden and Pothier a B grade, Chara an F and Meszaros a D when he handed out grades on each players playoff performance. Phillips got a C+ and Volchenkov a C. I find it quite interesting that Chris’s analysis agrees almost perfectly with my ranking system. Maybe 5-on-5 (which is generally more important in playoff hockey) Chara isn’t the stud defensemen everyone thinks he is and a good skating, puck moving defenseman like Pothier is what matters most. Certainly Chara joining the Bruins hasn’t done a lot for them in the standings.

Once this years ratings stabilize more (say in a month or so) I’ll do a more formal analysis but what I see so far is that there is some consistency in ratings from year to year.

Nov 022006

Here are the algorithms predictions for tonights games. Not really a whole lot of games to get excited about tonight. Vancouver-Minnesota should be enteratining and is important in the standings. Considering how tight the Atlantic division is the Devils-Islanders game is fairly important too though not much else to really draw me in to watching it.

Home Team Fair
Road Team Fair
Predicted Winner Confidence
Boston 148 Buffalo -194 Buffalo Strong
Philadelphia -135 Tampa Bay 126 Philadelphia Good
Carolina 127 Montreal -137 Montreal Good
New Jersey -142 NY Islanders 129 New Jersey Good
Florida -139 Toronto 128 Florida Good
St. Louis 137 Colorado -158 Colorado Good
Minnesota -165 Vancouver 139 Minnesota Strong
Chicago 124 Detroit -131 Detroit Good
San Jose -309 NY Rangers 167 San Jose Strong
Nov 012006

When developing my player ranking system I wanted to isolate the ability of an individual player as much as I can and best factor out both who the player is playing with and who they are playing against. I don’t know how many times I hear things like ‘but he has to face the opponent’s best players’ and things like that when people try to analyze how a player is doing. So I am trying to eliminate that.

For now I am going to spare you all of the gory details of the process I took but basically I looked at every shift every player has played and who they played with and against for those shifts. Thankfully the NHL makes this information available on their website. I also looked at how many goals for and goals against each player was on the ice for. By combining the goals for and goals against with the shift data of who the player was playing with and against I came up with an expected goals for and goals against. By that I mean, based on a players linemates and opponents, how many goals can one expect that he will be on the ice for and against. To get a defensive rating I divided how many goals he was expected to be on the ice for by how many goals he actually was on the ice for. I also eliminated the effect of players playing different amounts of ice time by adjusting the numbers to a per 20 minutes of ice time basis (i.e. how many goals were scored for every 20 minutes that the player was on the ice). A number greater than 1 means he was on the ice for fewer goals than expected and thus can be concluded that the player is a better than average defensive player. A number less than 1 would indicate he was on the ice for more goals than expected and is a below average defensive player. To calculate an offensive rating I took the number of goals his team scored while he was on the ice by the number of goals that were expected to be scored while he was on the ice. A number greater than one indicates more goals were scored by his team than expected and thus he is a better than average offensive player. Conversely, if the number is less than 1 the player is a less than average defensive player. I then calculated an overall rating by averaging the offensive and defensive ratings. For the time being I have just looked at even strength situations. In the future I plan on developing power play and penalty kill ratings as well or maybe finding a way to develop a combined rating system. I am just not sure how to do that yet so for now just even strength ice time was used.

The interesting thing about this method of rating players is that it doesn’t take into account how many goals and assists that that player tallied. It only takes into account how many goals were scored while he was on the ice. This is interesting because it allows us to compare forwards and defensemen and even goalies directly. We know that forwards score more goals and get more points but that doesn’t mean defensemen don’t contribute the same offensively. We also know that defensemen and goaltenders are important in stopping goals, but that doesn’t mean that forwards aren’t equally important. By not looking at goals and assists a player tallied we aren’t biasing the analysis towards point producing forwards.

Ok, I think it is time to look at some results. The NHL started making shift data available on January 18th of last season so I have ranked players using data from January 18th through the end of last season. That’s a total of 549 games or almost 45% of the season. Here are the top ranked players overall. Only players with 200+ minutes of even strength ice time are listed.

Player Team Offense Rating Offense Rank Defense Rating Defense Rank Overall Rating Overall Rank
MARTIN GELINAS Florida 1.83 13 1.56 28 1.70 1
SHEAN DONOVAN Calgary 0.85 398 2.48 1 1.67 2
HENRIK ZETTERBERG Detroit 1.77 15 1.55 30 1.66 3
JOE THORNTON San Jose 2.30 2 0.98 250 1.64 4
JONATHAN CHEECHOO San Jose 2.09 6 1.19 112 1.64 5
MICHAEL NYLANDER NY Rangers 2.23 3 1.06 180 1.64 6
MATHIEU SCHNEIDER Detroit 2.02 11 1.23 95 1.63 7
COLBY ARMSTRONG Pittsburgh 2.16 5 1.07 172 1.61 8
J-SEBASTIEN AUBIN Toronto 1.74 21 1.45 37 1.59 9
JAROMIR JAGR NY Rangers 1.70 26 1.44 38 1.57 10
TEEMU SELANNE Anaheim 2.31 1 0.82 413 1.56 11
ANDREI MARKOV Montreal 1.24 125 1.85 11 1.55 12
SHEA WEBER Nashville 1.23 129 1.88 8 1.55 13
DAVID LEGWAND Nashville 1.11 201 1.97 5 1.54 14
JAMIE MCLENNAN Florida 1.30 94 1.77 15 1.54 15
BRENDAN SHANAHAN Detroit 1.52 40 1.55 31 1.53 16
JOE SAKIC Colorado 2.03 8 1.00 228 1.51 17
MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF Calgary 0.66 511 2.36 2 1.51 18
MARK CULLEN Chicago 1.60 31 1.40 44 1.50 19
MICHAEL KOMISAREK Montreal 0.77 447 2.14 3 1.45 20
PATRICE BERGERON Boston 2.07 7 0.82 414 1.45 21
DMITRI KALININ Buffalo 1.66 27 1.21 105 1.44 22
SIDNEY CROSBY Pittsburgh 2.17 4 0.70 523 1.44 23
WILLIE MITCHELL Dallas 0.71 484 2.11 4 1.41 24
PHILIPPE BOUCHER Dallas 1.75 16 1.04 197 1.40 25
VESA TOSKALA San Jose 1.74 22 1.03 204 1.39 26
AARON JOHNSON Columbus 1.75 17 1.02 213 1.38 27
ANDY HILBERT Pittsburgh 1.84 12 0.92 295 1.38 28
BRENDEN MORROW Dallas 1.75 18 1.00 229 1.38 29
MICHAL ROZSIVAL NY Rangers 1.41 65 1.34 60 1.38 30
MIKE DUNHAM Atlanta 2.03 9 0.73 500 1.38 31
NIK ANTROPOV Toronto 1.37 76 1.39 47 1.38 32
FREDRIK SJOSTROM Phoenix 1.32 87 1.43 40 1.37 33
MARK MOWERS Detroit 1.41 66 1.32 66 1.37 34
ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY Toronto 1.48 53 1.23 96 1.36 35
BRIAN GIONTA New Jersey 2.03 10 0.69 529 1.36 36
CRISTOBAL HUET Montreal 0.81 425 1.91 7 1.36 37
RICK DIPIETRO NY Islanders 1.40 69 1.33 63 1.36 38
ALEXEI ZHITNIK NY Islanders 1.30 95 1.39 48 1.35 39
BRIAN POTHIER Ottawa 1.04 255 1.65 20 1.35 40

Yeah, I know what you are thinking. Martin Gelinas the best overall even strength player? Are you kidding. No. I am not kidding. He was on the ice for 40 goals his team scored even strength which is two more than top Panther scorer Olli Jokinen was on for at even strength, and he was also on the ice for just 13 goals against. That’s an awfully good track record. On the season he was a +27 which is a whopping 12 points higher than his closest teammate (wouldn’t surprise me if this was a league best differential). Shean Donovan is also very surprising but mostly because hardly any goals were scored against the Flames when he was on the ice. In fact, when he was on the ice just 5 goals were scored against since January 18th. That’s pretty phenomenal really. We also need to remember that these ratings don’t represent a player’s net value. A player who is rated slightly less but gets more ice time will have a higher net value. What these ratings are trying to do is compare players when all things (teammates, opponents, and ice time) are equal. After those first two surprised in Gelinas and Donovan come some probably more expected names in Zetterberg, Thornton, Cheechoo, Nylander, Schneider and Armstrong.

I’ve kept the goalies included but their ratings are somewhat suspect because it ends up largely being a comparison with the other goalies on the team. J.S. Aubin is the top rated goalie because he was so much better than Belfour and Tellqvist but I am not sure he was the best goalie in the NHL. I plan on developing a more refined goalie ranking system but for now it is interesting to see how the goalies rate using this system.

Nik Antropov gets a lot of criticism by Toronto media and fans but I have been a big defender of his. And because of this I am glad to see that he ranked very well at 32nd overall.

At the bottom of the list were Marcel Hossa, Clarke Wilm, Eric Weinrich (while in Vancouver), Tim Taylor, Mike Ricci, Alyn McCauley, Alexander Khavanov, Martin Lapointe, Tyson Nash, and Kirk Maltby. There are a few surprising names there but most of them are lower tier players.

Evaluating a player ranking system is a difficult thing to do but one method of doing so is to look at how consistent it is. By that I mean how closely do players get ranked before and after trades and from season to season. Tomorrow I’ll look at some season to season comparisons but for now lets look at some players that were traded at the trade deadline last year and see how things look. I’ve listed offensive, defensive and overall ranking numbers for each player

Mark Recchi (Pittsburgh): 1.10, 0.76, 0.94
Mark Recchi (Carolina): 0.54, 0.97, 0.76

Martin Skoula (Dallas): 1.02, 0.74, 0.88
Martin Skoula (Minnesota): 0.66, 1.18, 0.92

Keith Carney (Anaheim): 0.76, 0.98, 0.87
Keith Carney (Vancouver): 0.88, 0.83, 0.86

Eric Weinrich (St. Louis): 1.49, 0.67, 1.08
Eric Weinrich (Vancouver): 0.56, 0.49, 0.52

Brent Sopel (Islanders): 0.84, 0.74, 0.79
Brent Sopel (Los Angeles): 0.52, 0.95, 0.73

Brendan Witt (Washington): 0.98, 1.44, 1.21
Brendan Witt (Nashville): 1.24, 0.62, 0.93

Brad Lukowich (NY Islanders): 0.91, 0.99, 0.95
Brad Lukowich (New Jersey): 1.46, 0.74, 1.10

Willie Mitchell (Minnesota): 1.14, 0.73, 0.94
Willie Mitchell (Dallas Stars): 0.71, 2.11, 1.41

There is some consistency in the overall numbers as Skoula’s, Carney’s and Sopel’s overall numbers are almost identical before and after the trade and Lukowich’s is fairly close. Overall I would have liked to see more consistency but most players got worse with their new teams which I think is a testament to how difficult it is to learn a new system and learn to play with new line mates.

Nov 012006

There are eight games on the schedule tonight including some good/important ones. Carolina visits Atlanta in a game which likely will be part of the battle for the south east division lead. Toronto takes on Tampa in a games which come seasons end will likely be important as I can definitely see Toronto and Tampa in the playoff race for the last playoff spot or two like last season. Out west Calgary desperately tries to get their game back on track against a good team in Detroit. And finally, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles is a game between rebuilding with lots of young future stars. If you are interested in the stars of tomorrow this is the game to watch. Look for Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Kopitar, O’Sullivan and others. Should be a good game considering it is an interconference game featuring second tier teams.

Home Team Fair
Road Team Fair
Predicted Winner Confidence
Atlanta -126 Carolina 120 Atlanta Some
Columbus 128 Colorado -139 Colorado Good
Tampa Bay -107 Toronto 107 Tampa Bay Some
Detroit -307 Calgary 167 Detroit Strong
Dallas -269 St. Louis 162 Dallas Strong
Edmonton -246 Nashville 159 Edmonton Strong
Anaheim -320 NY Rangers 168 Anaheim Strong
Los Angeles -108 Pittsburgh 108 Pittsburgh Some