Jan 282008
 

It seems The Puck Stops Here and I are having a bit of a disagreement about the importance of drafting well in building a cup contending team. The most recent round was The Puck Stop’s Here argument against my claim that the draft isn’t the only way to build a top level team.

First off I think a significant difference in our opinions can be linked to how much credit we should give a team for drafting star players in the late rounds. The truth is Detroit hasn’t drafted very well at all in the first few rounds but have had a lot of success with late round pick. In particular Holmstrom was drafted 257th overall, Zetterberg 210th, and Datsyuk 171st. Now The Puck Stops Here would claim that those players are a result of good drafting. It is my claim that those players are a result of a good development system and a whole lot of luck. The truth is if ones scouting department had any kind of clue that those players would be half as good as they turned out to be they would have been drafted in the first or at the very latest in the second round. But they weren’t considered serious prospects at all at the time they were drafted so they got lucky.

The Puck Stops Here then tries to rebut a couple other examples of teams that I cite as not having a significant number of draft picks on their roster. One is Calgary.

In the comments of that post, David tried round two. Calgary is a pretty good team and only six players on their team were acquired via draft. Of those six, only Dion Phaneuf can be considered a star.

It is true that Calgary is pretty good, but they are not great. They currently sit in 11th place in the NHL and aside from 2004 have not won a single playoff series since 1989.

Calgary is 11th in the league if you just look at points but they have played fewer games than most teams. Calgary is 8 games above .500 (58 points in 50 games) and only Detroit and San Jose are more games above .500 in the western conference and the western conference is significantly better than the eastern conference. You could argue that Calgary is as good as any team in the league not named Red Wings.

The Puck Stops Here then goes on to say:

Calgary shows that you do not have to draft your young core to win, but you do need to acquire a young core somehow.

Hmmm, thanks for agreeing with me that the drafting isn’t necessary regarding the draft.

That said, I am not sure I completely agree about the young core statement. Detroit has consistently been one of the oldest teams in the league but are also one of the most successful teams in the league. They currently have only Filppula (23) and Hudler (24) on their roster under the age of 25. When they won in 2001-02 all of their top players were above age 30.

There is also a myth that in the new CBA you need a constant supply of cheap young talent. I disagree. I do believe you need a constant supply of cheap talent, but that talent does not need to be young and often a team is better served if it is not young. It is rare that young teams win a Stanley Cup and it is a very common occurence that young teams struggle to win in the playoffs. See the Ottawa Senators as a perfect example that has consistently lost to less talented older teams.

Speaking of the Senators they currently have Patrick Eaves on the roster making $942,000. Eaves has 4 goals and 10 points in 26 games this year and had 14 goals, 32 points in 73 games last year. Eaves at age 23 has shown himself to be a decent player who should have a decent career ahead of hims as a second/third/fourth line player. But in all honesty he is a dime a dozen player. There are a lot of Patrick Eaves out there right now. It is my belief that the Ottawa Senators would be better served having an older veteren player with Stanley Cup winning experience on their roster than a 23 year old Patrick Eaves. Patrick Eaves makes $942,000 this season. For about a million dollars there are a number of veteren players that would be better suited to help the Senators win a Stanley Cup. Trevor Linden and Jeremy Roenick makes less than Eaves and I would argue they have a far superior impact on their teams than Eaves does in Ottawa. Even a guy like Boyd Devereaux on the Leafs could likely provide the Senators with more than Eaves can. Sure Eaves probably has more offensive upside but do the Senators really need more offense? No, but Devereaux has Stanley Cup winning experience, can play any of the three forward positions, is a good forechecker, has more speed than Eaves, is good defensively and can kill penalties.

The point I am trying to make in all of this is it isn’t a good supply of young talent that wins you hockey games and Stanley Cups, it is a good supply of talent (at a reasonable salary) that wins Stanley Cups regardless of age or how it was acquired be it through the draft, a trade or free agency.

Jan 282008
 

I have said all along that I believe that the next CBA negotiation will be about the players wanting more say in how the league is run so long as their salaries are tied to league revenues. The NHLPA leadership was still in limbo so there was no offiicial response but when the Nashville Predators sale to Jim Balsillie was a go and then a no go there were rumblings of player dissatisfaction at the possible Gary Bettman interference in the sale. The players would have liked the Predators to be moved to Hamilton, as Balsillie would have done, because it would generate far more revenue in Hamiltion than in Nashville or Kansas City or anywhere else. As you all know the players salaries are directly tied to revenue.

This past weekend the NHL announced that four teams (Ottawa, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers and Tampa Bay) are set to begin next season with a couple games in Stockholm and Prague. The NHL also announced that the Rangers would play in an exhibition tournament in Bern Switzerland before heading off to Prague for its games against Tampa. Shortly after the official announcement was made the NHL announced that they are not too happy that the NHL announcing these games without getting permission of the players.

“If they want us to be a true business partner, then they need to include us from the beginning,” Kelly concluded.

That quote from Kelly is very telling. In the last CBA negotiations Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the owners constantly said they want a partnership with the players. In fact they only wanted a revenue sharing deal and not a real partnership but now the NHLPA is calling them out and saying, ‘if you want a partnership then…’ I have little doubt that the NHLPA will approve the NHL’s plan to play games in Europe to start next season but I think we should all view this as a marker in the sand for where the NHLPA is going under the leadership of Paul Kelly. The NHL will then have to either give up say in league business decisions to the players or else give up significant concessions in the way the salary cap works.

Jan 252008
 

I think the first month or so of this season was one of the stranger starts to the season we have seen in recent years. Chicago and Columbus surprised everyone with great starts. Ottawa put up an unbelievable start. Pascal Leclaire had 5 shutouts in his first 10 or so games. Anaheim and LA started the season in London, England and Anaheim struggled early. New Jersey started the season with 9 straight road games and only won 2 of them. Sidney Crosby got off to a slow start (for him) as did the Penguins. Atlanta and Washington changed their coaches early and Dallas fired their GM. A lot has changed since the first month of the season so lets take a look at how teams have done since then. So if we threw out approximately the first 6 weeks of the season, how have each team played since then? Here are each teams record after November 15th.

Teams Wins Losses OTL WinP
Detroit 24 6 3 0.773
New Jersey 21 9 1 0.694
Pittsburgh 19 8 3 0.683
Calgary 18 9 5 0.641
San Jose 16 8 5 0.638
Phoenix 19 11 2 0.625
Dallas 21 13 1 0.614
Vancouver 18 11 4 0.606
Philadelphia 16 10 4 0.6
Washington 17 11 4 0.594
Anaheim 18 12 3 0.591
Minnesota 18 13 1 0.578
Montreal 16 11 5 0.578
Buffalo 15 11 5 0.565
Nashville 15 12 4 0.548
Boston 16 13 3 0.547
Edmonton 16 13 4 0.545
Ottawa 16 13 4 0.545
Columbus 16 14 3 0.53
Florida 14 13 4 0.516
St. Louis 13 12 7 0.516
NY Islanders 15 14 6 0.514
Atlanta 15 15 4 0.5
Colorado 15 15 3 0.5
NY Rangers 13 14 5 0.484
Chicago 13 15 3 0.468
Toronto 13 15 3 0.468
Carolina 13 19 1 0.409
Tampa Bay 11 17 4 0.406
Los Angeles 12 20 1 0.379

Detroit has been good all year so no surprises there but New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Calgary have really picked up their games since. If you still don’t think that the NHL is a goaltending league, take a look at Phoenix’s record since November 15th. Sixth best in the league. Incidently Ilya Bryzgalov’s first game for the Coyote’s was November 17th and he has been the key cog in their 19-11-2 record since. Another turnaround story is the Washington Capitals who fired coach Glen Hanlon on November 22nd with a 6-14-1 record and have posted a 17-8-4 record since that point and have the 10th best record in the NHL since November 15th. A playoff spot looks to be in their future if they can keep it up.

Going the other direction are the Ottawa Senators, who had the top record as of November 15th but have just the 18th best record since while early surprises Columbus and Chicago have fallen to 19th and 26th best records since November 15th. St. Louis, Carolina, and the Rangers have also taken steps backwards after good starts to the year.

Just for fun, here are each teams records since December 15th.

Teams Wins Losses OTL WinP
Detroit 14 4 1 0.763
Pittsburgh 11 4 2 0.706
Anaheim 12 5 2 0.684
Phoenix 12 5 2 0.684
Calgary 10 4 3 0.676
Montreal 10 4 3 0.676
Washington 10 4 3 0.676
Philadelphia 11 5 2 0.667
New Jersey 11 6 0 0.647
San Jose 10 5 3 0.639
Nashville 11 6 3 0.625
Minnesota 10 7 1 0.583
Columbus 11 8 0 0.579
NY Islanders 9 6 4 0.579
Vancouver 9 7 1 0.559
Ottawa 10 8 1 0.553
Colorado 8 7 3 0.528
Dallas 10 9 1 0.525
Atlanta 9 8 3 0.525
Florida 8 8 3 0.5
NY Rangers 8 9 3 0.475
Chicago 8 9 2 0.474
Edmonton 7 8 3 0.472
Boston 7 8 2 0.471
St. Louis 6 8 5 0.447
Los Angeles 8 10 0 0.444
Buffalo 5 7 5 0.441
Carolina 7 10 1 0.417
Tampa Bay 6 9 2 0.412
Toronto 6 10 2 0.389

Detroit is still on top but look at how Pittsburgh, Anaheim and Phoenix have played over the past month or so.

Jan 242008
 

I am a believer that most people over-rate the draft as a tool to building a successful team. This is not to say that I don’t think it is an important tool, but rather that it isn’t the only tool and probably not the most important tool. Successful teams, even in the post-lockout NHL, can and have been built significantly through trades and free agent signings.

I looked at every teams current rosters and added up how many players on the roster was drafted by that team. For forwards and defensemen the player must have played 20 games this year in the NHL and for goalies they must have played 10 games. Some exceptions have been made for significant players who have not met the games played requirements due to injury as I think the team deserves credit for these players too. Joe Sakic is an example. Lesser established players such as Carlo Colaiacovo was not counted even though he likely would have played 20 games had he been healthy.

Based on those requirements here are how each team fared.

16-Buffalo

13-Montreal
13-Pittsburgh
13-San Jose

12-Dallas
12-Ottawa

10-Colorado
10-Minnesota

9-Columbus
9-Detroit
9-Florida
9-New Jersey
9-St. Louis
9-Toronto

8-Chicago
8-Edmonton
8-NY Rangers
8-Vancouver
8-Washington

7-Boston
7-Los Angeles
7-Nashville

6-Atlanta
6-Tampa Bay
6-Phoenix

5-Calgary
5-Carolina

4-NY Islanders
4-Philadelphia

3-Anaheim

At the top of the list you find a lot of pretty good teams though the team at the very top, Buffalo, currently sits near the bottom of the eastern conference standings. At the bottom of the list you will find many bad or mediocre teams such as the NY Islanders, Carolina, Phoenix, Tampa and Atlanta but at the very bottom of the list you will find two pretty good teams, including last years Stanley Cup winner, who have largely built their teams through trades and free agent signings. In Philadelphia’s case the team was almost completely rebuilt in the past year. Also in the lower part of the list is Calgary who are a pretty good team but whose only draft picks that are playing a significant role on the team are Dion Phaneuf and Matthew Lombardi.

Is smart drafting important? Sure. Is it the be all and end all in building a successful team? Definitely not.

Click more for a list of each teams draft picks currently playing on their roster. If I have missed anyone post a comment.

Continue reading »

Jan 222008
 

It is almost unbelievable how the west dominates the top of this list. With Ottawa losing some key games there are no eastern conference teams in the top 10. Some of you may decide that this makes these rankings bogus because of the ‘how can that be’ argument but my rankings aren’t the only rankings that show this. The Massey Rankings only have Ottawa in the top 10 and the Sagarin rankings only have Ottawa and Philadelphia in the top 10. In both of those rankings as well as mine the bottom 10 teams are dominated by the eastern conference. Now I don’t think that Columbus is better than Ottawa (though with Heatley and Alfredsson injured Columbus is likely better) but Ottawa’s superiority over Columbus is likely not as large as many people would think and Columbus is 7-3-4 vs the east this year.

Rank 7 Days
Ago
Team AdjWinP SchedStr Power
Rank
1 1 Detroit 0.704 0.532 0.726
2 3 Minnesota 0.583 0.546 0.636
3 2 San Jose 0.564 0.552 0.634
4 5 Vancouver 0.531 0.540 0.580
5 4 St. Louis 0.500 0.554 0.576
6 10 Nashville 0.521 0.546 0.571
7 8 Anaheim 0.539 0.546 0.570
8 13 Dallas 0.529 0.537 0.563
9 12 Phoenix 0.500 0.548 0.559
10 11 Colorado 0.531 0.533 0.553
11 7 Columbus 0.500 0.554 0.552
12 6 Ottawa 0.635 0.444 0.552
13 9 Calgary 0.500 0.543 0.540
14 18 Philadelphia 0.589 0.448 0.512
15 14 Chicago 0.448 0.553 0.501
16 17 Boston 0.521 0.460 0.484
17 16 Pittsburgh 0.531 0.458 0.482
18 15 New Jersey 0.543 0.445 0.475
19 21 Montreal 0.532 0.442 0.461
20 20 NY Islanders 0.479 0.460 0.449
21 19 Buffalo 0.468 0.463 0.444
22 24 Los Angeles 0.378 0.564 0.436
23 22 NY Rangers 0.459 0.463 0.436
24 25 Carolina 0.480 0.443 0.418
25 23 Edmonton 0.360 0.553 0.410
26 27 Washington 0.458 0.449 0.403
27 26 Atlanta 0.440 0.451 0.401
28 28 Florida 0.408 0.450 0.368
29 29 Toronto 0.398 0.462 0.367
30 30 Tampa Bay 0.385 0.447 0.341

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 212008
 

The Puck Stops Here recently had a story regarding the Leafs woes and pointed the finger at their drafting record.

Putting aside the ridiculous situation in management of the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is a simple hockey-related reason the team is doing poorly. That reason is the draft. Toronto has not drafted well.

Now, I am not writing this article to defend the Leafs drafting record but rather to bust the myth that you have to keep your top picks and you have to draft well to be successful. Take a look at this list of players:

Anders Eriksson
Jon Coleman
Kevin Hilton
Yan Golubovsky
Mathieu Dandeneault
Sean Gillam
Maxim Kuznetsov
Phillippe Audet
Darryl Laplante
Jesse Wallin
Aren Miller
Johan Forsander
Yuri Butsayev
Petr Sykora (not the good one)
Quintin Laing
Jiri Fischer
Ryan Barnes
Tomek Valtonen
Jari Tolsa
Andrei Maximenko
Kent McDonnell
Niklas Kronwall
Tomas Kopecky
Stegan Liv
Igor Grigorenko
Drew MacIntyre
Miroslav Blatak

For those of you who may not have clued in, that is the very unspectacular list of the top 3 picks in each draft year from 1993 to 2001 of the Detroit Red Wings, also known as the most successful team of the past dozen or so years. That is a pretty unspectacular list don’t you think and none of those players would be considered key members of any of their Stanley Cup wins and only Kronwall is of any significant impoartance to the current NHL squad.

Still not convinced? How about this list:

Lance Ward
Wes Mason
Josh DeWolf
Jean-Francois Damphousse
Stansislav Gron
Licas Nehrling
Mike Van Ryn (didn’t sign, re-entered draft)
Scott Gomez
Christian Berglund
Ari Ahonen
Mike Commodore
Brett Chloutier
David Hale
Teemu Laine
Alexander Suglobov
Adrian Foster
Igor Pohanka
Tuomas Pihlman
Anton Kadeykin
Barry Tallackson
Jason Ryznar

For those unsure, that is the top 3 draft picks of the New Jesey Devils in each year from 1996 to 2002. Aside from Gomez none of those players played a significant role in any of the Devils 3 Cup wins and none of those palyers are currently playing a significant role with the current New Jersey team that is fighting for second spot in the eastern conference this season. Most people consider New Jersey to be one of the better drafting teams in the NHL. Strange concept when you see the list above.

I want to make it clear that I am not defending the Leafs drafting record which is mixed (though certainly on par with or better than the above lists of players) but rather I want to attempt to put to rest the myth that you can’t win if you trade away your top draft picks or don’t draft well with them. Clearly based on the success of the Red Wings and Devils you can have some, or even lots, of success. It certainly helps to draft well, but it is not a prerequisite and isn’t the only, or even the main, problem with the Leafs.

(For the record, both New Jersey and Detroit drafted some very good players with late round picks but is that really what we should call good drafting or should we call it luck with a bit of good development thrown in. Plus, I have never heard people bitterly complain when the Leafs, or anyone, trade away a 6th or 7th round draft pick.)

Jan 152008
 

Wow, look at where all the teams from the southeast division sit – #25, 26, 27, 28 and 30.
Is the division really that bad? They may very well be and sadly one of those teams may get the 3rd seed and not even be among the top 8 in points. Won’t that make the NHL look goofy. Not one of those teams has an above .500 record outside of their division (Carolina is the best at 13-13-3) and as a group that are 54-70-14 against teams outside their division.

Rank 7 Days
Ago
Team AdjWinP SchedStr Power
Rank
1 1 Detroit 0.717 0.532 0.738
2 2 San Jose 0.602 0.541 0.649
3 4 Minnesota 0.589 0.545 0.636
4 5 St. Louis 0.535 0.556 0.620
5 3 Vancouver 0.567 0.536 0.612
6 7 Ottawa 0.670 0.445 0.580
7 9 Columbus 0.500 0.556 0.557
8 13 Anaheim 0.521 0.546 0.552
9 6 Calgary 0.500 0.547 0.550
10 10 Nashville 0.500 0.543 0.546
11 8 Colorado 0.511 0.539 0.542
12 12 Phoenix 0.489 0.544 0.541
13 11 Dallas 0.511 0.533 0.537
14 14 Chicago 0.433 0.555 0.490
15 16 New Jersey 0.557 0.444 0.485
16 17 Pittsburgh 0.533 0.460 0.485
17 15 Boston 0.511 0.463 0.483
18 18 Philadelphia 0.560 0.447 0.483
19 19 Buffalo 0.488 0.469 0.479
20 22 NY Islanders 0.500 0.459 0.462
21 20 Montreal 0.534 0.442 0.462
22 21 NY Rangers 0.457 0.460 0.430
23 26 Edmonton 0.359 0.569 0.428
24 24 Los Angeles 0.359 0.567 0.421
25 23 Carolina 0.478 0.443 0.418
26 25 Atlanta 0.446 0.444 0.399
27 29 Washington 0.432 0.449 0.381
28 27 Florida 0.413 0.450 0.371
29 28 Toronto 0.378 0.462 0.348
30 30 Tampa Bay 0.367 0.440 0.316

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 112008
 

I just wanted to make a short post to introduce Frank who will be contributing to the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks blogs here at hockeyanalysis.com. Frank is a long time Blackhawks fan who has moved to Florida and is now a Florida fan as well. I look forward to Frank’s comments on these two teams he is passionate about.

Jan 092008
 

I have been away for most of the past 3 weeks so my posts here have been pretty sparse to non-existant. But I am back now so hopefully things will get back to normal. Anyway, here are this weeks Power Rankings which are dominated by the western conference teams. What do you guys think? Is the western conference really that much better than the east? The western conference dominated inter-conference play last year and seems to be doing so again this year and the Ducks fairly easily beat the Senators in the cup finals last year.

Rank 7 Days
Ago
Team AdjWinP SchedStr Power
Rank
1 1 Detroit 0.739 0.528 0.747
2 2 San Jose 0.598 0.539 0.641
3 6 Vancouver 0.595 0.527 0.624
4 3 St. Louis 0.538 0.552 0.620
5 4 Minnesota 0.571 0.541 0.609
6 5 Ottawa 0.683 0.438 0.574
7 10 Calgary 0.511 0.550 0.571
8 9 Colorado 0.512 0.548 0.558
9 14 Phoenix 0.500 0.542 0.552
10 12 Nashville 0.500 0.542 0.547
11 11 Dallas 0.511 0.534 0.544
12 7 Columbus 0.488 0.550 0.538
13 22 Anaheim 0.500 0.542 0.523
14 8 Chicago 0.452 0.551 0.509
15 16 Philadelphia 0.551 0.451 0.483
16 19 Boston 0.512 0.464 0.483
17 21 Pittsburgh 0.512 0.468 0.483
18 20 New Jersey 0.548 0.446 0.481
19 17 Montreal 0.536 0.449 0.477
20 13 Buffalo 0.488 0.466 0.472
21 15 NY Islanders 0.488 0.458 0.449
22 18 NY Rangers 0.465 0.460 0.435
23 23 Carolina 0.500 0.442 0.433
24 24 Los Angeles 0.341 0.568 0.402
25 27 Atlanta 0.443 0.446 0.400
26 29 Edmonton 0.330 0.566 0.392
27 25 Florida 0.419 0.454 0.383
28 26 Toronto 0.405 0.462 0.377
29 28 Washington 0.429 0.447 0.374
30 30 Tampa Bay 0.360 0.446 0.320

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 022008
 

I hope you all had a great holiday season. I didn’t get around to posting last weeks power rankings but here are this weeks.

Rank 7 Days
Ago
Team AdjWinP SchedStr Power
Rank
1 1 Detroit 0.712 0.517 0.703
2 7 San Jose 0.603 0.517 0.614
3 6 Vancouver 0.603 0.512 0.604
4 3 Minnesota 0.590 0.523 0.603
5 4 St. Louis 0.527 0.545 0.601
6 2 Ottawa 0.667 0.458 0.594
7 8 Columbus 0.513 0.542 0.566
8 5 Chicago 0.500 0.540 0.548
9 9 Colorado 0.526 0.529 0.546
10 15 Dallas 0.538 0.510 0.535
11 10 Nashville 0.474 0.542 0.532
12 11 Calgary 0.474 0.540 0.526
13 12 Buffalo 0.513 0.479 0.504
14 16 Phoenix 0.459 0.531 0.503
15 21 NY Islanders 0.526 0.469 0.501
16 19 Philadelphia 0.542 0.465 0.493
17 23 NY Rangers 0.500 0.472 0.485
18 13 Montreal 0.526 0.463 0.485
19 14 Boston 0.500 0.476 0.481
20 18 New Jersey 0.539 0.455 0.478
21 17 Anaheim 0.463 0.525 0.473
22 24 Pittsburgh 0.474 0.486 0.472
23 20 Carolina 0.500 0.455 0.448
24 29 Los Angeles 0.366 0.546 0.415
25 26 Florida 0.436 0.467 0.408
26 22 Toronto 0.425 0.475 0.406
27 25 Atlanta 0.438 0.459 0.401
28 30 Washington 0.425 0.463 0.389
29 27 Edmonton 0.300 0.555 0.354
30 28 Tampa Bay 0.363 0.461 0.332

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