Jan 312007
 

Yahoo has a story today that the NHL is very seriously considering bringing bigger nets to the NHL and the process of doing so is further along that most people think. This scares me in a big way because it would once again prove to me that the NHL is clueless. Only simple minded people would think that bringing in bigger nets would solve all of the NHL’s woes. If just scoring a bunch of goals is what people really wanted no one would watch soccer and yet it is the biggest sport everywhere else in the world. If just scoring a bunch of goals is what people really wanted, people would love the NHL All-star game, but people don’t. I have said this a million times. What people want is intensity, passion and fierce competition. People want fancy plays and even great saves, not easy goals. The proper way to have more goals scored is to allow more battles in front of the net. Make the goal crease a little smaller so it make it more difficult for the goalie to come out and cut down all the angles. And most of all, reduce the goalie equipment size even more. I realize the NHL has reduced the size of goalie equipment some but why can’t it be reduced more? Take a look at Billy Smith back in the early 1980′s with the Islanders and Martin Gerber this season with teh Senators.

gerber.jpg

billysmith.jpg

I chose Martin Gerber (6’0″, 185lbs) because he is one of the smaller goalies in the NHL today and fairly close to the size that Billy Smith (5’10″, 185lbs) was. Gerber’s goalie pads are an inch or two wider and go all the way up to his waste and aren’t tightly tied to his legs so he can better cover the ice when he drops to his knees. Plus, Gerber’s shoulder pads probably rise 3″ above his actual shoulders. The NHL needs to implement a rule that goalie pads are primarily for safty and not for stopping pucks and that they should be no bigger than is absolutely necessary to protect the goalie from the puck and that the be securely tied to the legs. Let’s give that a try before messing with bigger nets, especially those ugly rounded nets.

The NHL has one of the richest histories of any sport. Lets not mess with it too much.

Jan 312007
 

Yesterday I posted my power rankings which had the top 8 teams all from the western conference. The best eastern conference team was Buffalo sititng in 9th spot. That led Greg Ballentine of The Puck Stops Here to comment “top 8 from the west. I’m not sure I buy that the west is THAT much better.” I must admit that it is a little hard to believe, at least until you dig a little deeper.

This is almost unbelievable but the combined record of those top 8 western conference teams vs the east is an outstanding 37-13-8. I had to put that in bold because it is that good. That is equivalent to a team on pace for a 116 point season, a point total which only 1 team reached last year, and Detroit did that playing 24 games against 3 of the worst teams in the NHL (Chicago, Columbus and St. Louis). It is hard to believe that those 8 teams could dominate a conference so dramatically. Of those 8 teams, only Dallas has a losing record vs the East at 2-4-1 and only the Stars, Wild, Blue Jackets and Blackhawks have a losing record against the east. Even St. Louis is a 4-0-0 against the east and Phoenix is 5-2-0.

Conversely, the record of Buffalo, Atlanta, New Jersey and Ottawa, who I believe make up the eastern conferences best teams, have a combined record of 9-15-4 against the west and that is largely due to Buffalo’s 4-1-1 record. Buffalo, until their recent slump, was consistently in the top 5 and frequently in the top 2 in the power rankings.

It appears to me that the west is in fact that much better than the east.

Jan 312007
 

Here are tonights game predictions for tonights game. The Rangers-Leafs game is of critical importance to both teams as the Leafs and Rangers are tied in the standings, 2 points behind 8th place Tampa. The Rangers have been struggling with inconsistency recently and they need to improve on that to make the playoffs. Both the Leafs and Rangers have suffered from inconsistent goaltending.

On another note, this will be the last time I will post game predictions on HockeyAnalysis.com. Beginning tomorrow I will start posting game predictions on my new website PredictHockey.com. PredictHockey.com is the replacement website for my game pick’em pool. It will run much like the pickem pool where you can predict the outcome of NHL games and test your prediction ability against my algorithm as well as other people. There will hopefully soon be other things you can predict like who will make the playoffs, who won’t, who will win the Stanley Cup, who will win league trophies, etc. Should be fun so go check it out, sign up and begin predicting games yourself.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
NY Rangers -152 Toronto 134 NY Rangers Good
Edmonton -213 Columbus 153 Edmonton Strong
Anaheim -174 Phoenix 142 Anaheim Good
Jan 302007
 

There are two challenges that I have on occassion put out to my readers. The first is to name one positive thing that Bettman has done for the NHL in the past 15 years. The second is, can you point me to an article in which Steve Simmons has anything good to say about the Leafs. Both things are somewhere between very rare to completely non-existent.

Today Steve Simmons has the gaul to suggest that the Philadelphia Flyers are better off than the Leafs. Steve Simmons premise for the arguement is that:

a) The Flyers suck so bad they will get a prime prospect in this June’s draft.
b) The Flyers have sniper Simon Gagne.
c) The Flyers young players like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Joni Pitkanen are better.

Point a) is pretty much true but I would like to mention the names of Patrick Stefan and Alexandre Daigle both first overall flops. Drafting first by no means nets you a superstar player.

On point b) let me say that almost everyone over rates Simon Gagne. He is a good player and a good guy to have as a first line winger with a play making center but he is not a bonafide franchise player in any way. His offensive skills aren’t really that much better than Darcy Tucker. He’s got a good shot but needs someone to get him the puck.

On point c) Pitkanen is good, but is he better than Kaberle? And Jeff Carter and Mike Richards haven’t proven squat in the NHL and appear to be no better than second line NHLers. In 110 NHL games Carter has just 59 points. In 112 games Richards has 44 points. On the Leafs side, Steen has 66 points in 125 games and Wellwood has 76 points in 117 games. Would I trade Wellwood and Steen for Richards and Carter? Not a chance.

The Leafs also have Stajan who appears to be a very nice defensively sound player with a bit of offensive ability as well. Colaiacovo if he can stay healthy should be a solid defenseman for years to come and Ian White is looking to have some good upside as well.

Salary cap wise,Toronto and Philly are in similar situations. Toronto has ~$24 million commited to 11 players next season (not including Sundin’s option) while the Flyers have about the same committed to 9 players. Now tell me, which group of players would you rather have locked up for $24 million.

Flyers: Gagne, Hatcher, Rathje, Gauthier, Knuble, Zhitnik, Umberger, Carter, Richards
or
Leafs: McCabe, Kubina, Kaberle, Gill, Raycroft, Kilger, Wellwood, Steen, Ondrus, Pohl, Stajan

My vote would be for the Leafs easily.

So, aside from the potential of a first overall draft pick (and mid-first round draft picks have also been known to net a star player) there really isn’t anything that is better about the Flyers situation than the Leafs. Now, if this was Sidney Crosby’s draft year the story might be different, but there are no Sidney Crosby’s in this years draft. Or even an Alexander Ovechkin.

Jan 302007
 

Not a lot of movement in this weeks Power Rankings. The top 4 teams remain the same as do teams ranked 10-15 and the bottom 5 teams. Guess that makes sense considering most of the week was spent on the all-star break.

Rank Last Week Team AdjWinP SchedStr Power Rank
1 1 San Jose 0.660 0.515 0.663
2 2 Detroit 0.627 0.527 0.653
3 3 Anaheim 0.647 0.518 0.653
4 4 Nashville 0.676 0.504 0.643
5 6 Vancouver 0.550 0.544 0.622
6 5 Calgary 0.561 0.541 0.606
7 8 Dallas 0.550 0.526 0.572
8 9 Edmonton 0.490 0.554 0.561
9 7 Buffalo 0.598 0.465 0.555
10 10 Minnesota 0.461 0.551 0.530
11 11 New Jersey 0.600 0.454 0.530
12 12 Montreal 0.549 0.473 0.520
13 13 Ottawa 0.548 0.473 0.519
14 14 Colorado 0.469 0.541 0.507
15 15 Carolina 0.538 0.463 0.497
16 19 Toronto 0.480 0.482 0.466
17 17 Atlanta 0.510 0.454 0.459
18 16 Phoenix 0.420 0.533 0.457
19 23 Columbus 0.420 0.536 0.456
20 22 St. Louis 0.400 0.541 0.450
21 18 Boston 0.438 0.485 0.443
22 20 Tampa Bay 0.471 0.466 0.439
23 25 Chicago 0.400 0.538 0.436
24 21 Washington 0.470 0.469 0.434
25 24 Pittsburgh 0.510 0.448 0.434
26 26 Florida 0.431 0.475 0.421
27 27 NY Rangers 0.460 0.457 0.416
28 28 NY Islanders 0.449 0.461 0.413
29 29 Los Angeles 0.337 0.554 0.393
30 30 Philadelphia 0.265 0.468 0.253

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

Jan 302007
 

Here are the game predictions for tonights games.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
Buffalo -217 Boston 154 Buffalo Strong
Philadelphia 129 Tampa Bay -142 Tampa Bay Good
Carolina -129 Toronto 123 Carolina Some
Atlanta -105 New Jersey 105 New Jersey Some
Ottawa -101 Washington 101 Ottawa Some
NY Islanders 123 Detroit -129 Detroit Good
Pittsburgh -125 Florida 120 Pittsburgh Some
St. Louis -103 Minnesota 103 Minnesota Some
Colorado 103 Nashville -104 Nashville Some
Calgary -187 Los Angeles 146 Calgary Strong
Vancouver -165 Columbus 139 Vancouver Good
San Jose -141 Dallas 129 San Jose Good
Jan 292007
 

Hopefully we’ll start to see far more of this written in the main stream media and hopefully the hockey governors will begin to listen and finally realize that Bettman must go.

Dan Wetzel writes:

There has never been a commissioner of a major North American sports league this inept, yet the league’s board of governors keeps employing him, keeps giving him another chance to sink this once-proud, once-vibrant league to new depths.

He goes on to talk about how the schedule was set up to create new rivalries but in the process killed key rivalries like Toronto-Detroit. And on the new rivalries Wetzel had this to say:

And, since fighting has been curbed, the “new” rivalries haven’t really taken because a hockey rivalry without fighting is like non-alcoholic beer.

That pretty much sums it up. Bettman is a disaster for hockey and he must go.

Jan 292007
 

Only 2 games tonight but a couple of important ones. As reported yesterday in my predicted standings, the Bruins and Rangers are amongst the group of teams fighting for the final couple playoff spots and tonight these two teams face off for 2 important points in the standings. The other game sees the struggling Canadiens face the hot Senators. The Canadiens need to get back to winning some games consistantly or else they face the threat of falling back in the standings to the point where they could join the pack of teams fighting for the final playoff spot or two. If they struggle for another week or two that is right where they will be.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
Boston -134 NY Rangers 125 Boston Some
Montreal -117 Ottawa 114 Montreal Some
Jan 282007
 

The NHL all-star break is over and it is now time for teams to put up or shut up when it comes to making their push for the playoffs because about a month from now they will have to decide once and for all whether to be buyers or sellers in the trade deadline market. So, I figure this is a good time to take another look at where each team stands when it comes to playoff positioning.

The predicted standings below are utilize our knowledge of past performance and past schedule of strength and develop an estimated future schedule of strength and ultimately a prediction on the final point totals for each teams. Lets take a look at what they show.

Eastern Conference Predicted Standings

Pos Team GP Pts Schedule Strength Future GP Future SchedStr Pred Pts Total Pts
1 Buffalo 51 70 0.463 31 0.469 41 111
2 New Jersey 50 65 0.452 32 0.428 44 109
3 Atlanta 51 64 0.455 30 0.482 35 99
4 Montreal 50 59 0.472 32 0.468 38 97
5 Ottawa 51 60 0.473 31 0.463 37 97
6 Carolina 52 58 0.463 30 0.456 33 91
7 Pittsburgh 48 54 0.447 34 0.462 37 91
8 NY Rangers 49 52 0.457 33 0.450 35 87
9 NY Islanders 49 51 0.460 33 0.445 35 86
10 Tampa Bay 51 54 0.468 31 0.468 32 86
11 Toronto 50 52 0.485 32 0.462 34 86
12 Boston 47 48 0.483 35 0.464 37 85
13 Washington 50 49 0.472 32 0.464 31 80
14 Florida 51 48 0.475 31 0.458 30 78
15 Philadelphia 48 27 0.466 33 0.480 17 44

Wow. Talk about a tight playoff race. In my opinion Buffalo, New Jersey, Atlanta and Ottawa are all but locks to make the playoffs. Montreal should make the playoffs based on their excellent start to the season but I can’t call them a lock because I believe their mediocre play of the last month and a half is more indicitave of their talent level than their first 30 or so games. But, they should be able to hold on to a playoff spot. Carolina should make the playoffs as well because I expect them to improve a bit as their defense gets healthy again. At the other end of the spectrum you can certainly count the Flyers out of a playoff spot and Florida and Washington don’t appear to have any reasonable chance to make the playoffs either.

And that leaves us with the amazing race for the final couple of playoff spots. Pittsburgh’s 2 wins post all-star break has given them a slight edge but with all the youth on that team they are likely to suffer from inconsistant play and that will stop them from separating from the pack. After that we have the pack including Rangers, Islanders, Lightning, Maple Leafs and Boston all predicted to be within 2 points of each other. And honestly, it is all but impossible to predict who will make the playoffs from that group. Probably the team that can avoid those lengthy slumps (i.e. losing 8 of 10 games) will make the playoffs but it is wide open.

Western Conference Predicted Standings

Pos Team GP Pts Schedule Strength Future GP Future SchedStr Pred Pts TotalPts
1 Nashville 51 75 0.503 31 0.552 41 116
2 Anaheim 50 68 0.517 31 0.529 41 109
3 Detroit 50 66 0.525 31 0.508 42 108
4 San Jose 49 66 0.516 32 0.533 41 107
5 Dallas 49 60 0.525 32 0.535 38 98
6 Calgary 48 57 0.542 33 0.531 39 96
7 Vancouver 49 57 0.546 32 0.525 38 95
8 Minnesota 51 56 0.551 31 0.538 34 90
9 Edmonton 50 52 0.556 32 0.522 35 87
10 Colorado 48 52 0.537 33 0.559 34 86
11 St. Louis 50 48 0.541 32 0.540 30 78
12 Phoenix 50 48 0.535 32 0.556 29 77
13 Columbus 50 45 0.533 32 0.545 28 73
14 Chicago 49 41 0.534 32 0.548 26 67
15 Los Angeles 52 40 0.556 30 0.536 23 63

The western conference playoff race isn’t near as tight as the eastern conference race. Teams that I believe are all but sure bets to make the playoffs are Nashville, Anaheim, Detroit, San Jose, Dallas and Calgary. I am not quite ready to put Vancouver in that group but their hot streak of late has them in a relatively comfortable position as well. Despite the recent surges by Phoenix and St. Louis I don’t feel either of them really have a chance at the playoffs. They just got too far behind early on and have too many teams to catch and pass to make the playoffs. So, those two teams along with Columbus, Chicago and Los Angeles are likely to be early golfers this spring.

That really leaves just 3 teams, Minnesota, Edmonton and Colorado, (4 if we include Vancouver) fighting for the final playoff spot (or two). Of those three teams I would have to give the edge to Minnesota right now. They seem to have the least number of holes in their lineup and Gaborik is now back and playing well. I am a bit surprised at how well Colorado has done this year but their success has largely been a result of Sakic’s excellent play (improved play from last season) and the play of rookies Stastny and Wolski. Peter Budaj has played well in goal and is slowly being given more games. If those 4 players continue their excellent play Colorado should stay int he playoff hunt. For me, Edmonton’s playoff chances are the most precarious of the three. I believe the Oilers are in tough to make a playoff spot with their current roster. They are really missing the steady force (both offensively and defensively) that Pronger provided on the blue line and none of their other defensemen have adequitely stepped up their play. They really need another top pairing type defenseman as well as a bit more consistency from their forwards if they really want to make a strong push for that final playoff spot.

Jan 282007
 

Here are the game predictions for todays games.

Home Team Fair
HTOdds
Road Team Fair
RTOdds
Predicted Winner Confidence
Chicago 118 Calgary -122 Calgary Good
Atlanta -344 Philadelphia 171 Atlanta Strong
Detroit -152 Colorado 134 Detroit Good
Anaheim -134 Dallas 125 Anaheim Some
Vancouver -109 San Jose 108 San Jose Some