Sep 292010
 

Ok, let me start by stating that Wade Redden is not worth $6.5M.  He may be never was and the contract (6 years, $39M) the Rangers gave Redden was one of the worst ever handed out in NHL history.  In part because he is not worth that and in part because there is no evidence that any other team had any interest in offering anything close to that amount so the Rangers were bidding against themselves and still paid well over market value.  But that isn’t the point of this article.  The point I want to make is that Redden was, and still is a good defenseman that should be in the NHL.

Ok, now for some straight forward stats:

Year Team GP G A PTS Pts/GM
2005-6 OTT 65 10 40 50 0.77
2006-7 OTT 64 7 29 36 0.56
2007-8 OTT 80 6 32 36 0.45
2008-9 NYR 81 3 23 26 0.32
2009-10 NYR 75 2 12 14 0.19

As you can see there is a clear drop off in his offensive production.  The question is, can Redden be fully blamed for that dropoff?  Here are his teams goals per game production during that time compared to Redden’s points per game production.

Year Redden Team
2005-6 0.77 3.76
2006-7 0.56 3.45
2007-8 0.45 3.11
2008-9 0.32 2.39
2009-10 0.19 2.64

Clearly Redden’s offensive production, up until last year, was in part due to the fact that his teams overall offensive production dropped.  In Ottawa it was due to losing some quality talent off the team as well as becoming a more defensive team than an offense first team.  Then he went to New York where the Rangers offense was awful because they played a defensive style and had no real elite offensive players.  Not all of Redden’s offensive production drop off can be explained by team influences but a good chunk of it can.

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Sep 242010
 

While I am not yet ready to make formal predictions on the upcoming season (that’ll come in a couple weeks) I believe that the Leafs have the potential to be a dramatically improved team and could/should contend for a playoff spot.  Last year was a disaster year for the Leafs and nothing went right for the team, at least until late in the season when the team seemed to come together a bit.  Here are the three keys to watch for during the Leafs upcoming season.

Giguere/Gustavsson – The Leafs have suffered through several seasons of inconsistent and troubled goaltending, and that is being generous.  For much of the past 4 seasons it has been downright awful.  Giguere is probably past his prime and no longer an elite goalie but he is a dependable presence in goal which they haven’t had.  Even with just dependable goaltending the team should be much improved.  In Gustavsson there is more upside potential than in Giguere and combined they should provide the Leafs with the best goaltending they have had since before the lockout.

Tyler Bozak – The Leafs have an abundance of decent wingers (Versteeg, Kulemin, Armstrong, etc.) and one very good one in Kessel but their center ice position is a bit uncertain.  Bozak is the key here.  He finished strong last season and ended up with 8g, 19a, 27 points in 37 games which is pretty solid performance for a rookie.  Had he scored at that pace for the full season he would have ended up with almost 60 points to lead all rookies.  If the Leafs are to become a middle of the pack offensive team the Leafs Bozak needs to repeat that performance, if not improve on it, for a full season.  I think he has the potential to score 20 goals and 70 points which would give the Leafs an unspectacular, but more than decent first line (with Kessel and Kulemin).  Bozak also represents the down low playmaking presence on the PP that the Leafs desperately lacked for much of last season.

Phaneuf/Versteeg/Armstrong – For much of the past 5 seasons the Leafs have lacked any true identity or personality.  They had a bunch of decent players but none of whom really could light a spark for their teammates.  Phaneuf, Versteeg and Armstrong should all play with more passion and intensity than the guys they replaced and should give this team with an identity.  It isn’t just about the truculence and toughness that GM Brian Burke desires, but the energy and passion that they bring that can be contagious.  A healthy Komisarek will help as well as might Caputi or Kadri should they make the team, either right from camp or as a mid-season callup.  These guys are like the Tucker’s, McCabe’s, Robert’s and Domi’s of the past.  Energy players that define what it is to be a Maple Leaf and have a contagious passion for the game.

If Giguere/Gustavsson can provide dependable to good goaltending and Bozak can be a 65-70 point player and the contagious energy of Phaneuf, Versteeg and Armstrong spread throughout the team, there is no reason to believe that the Leafs cannot be in the hunt for a playoff spot.  Getting off to a good start to the season to build some confidence would be helpful but there are a number of reasons to be optimistic about the Leafs upcoming season.

Sep 162010
 

On Monday I outlined an all-encompassing player evaluation model that allows us to evaluate every forward, defenseman and goalie under the same methodology.  In short, the system compares how many goals are scored for and against while a player is on the ice and compares it to how many goals scored for/against one should expect based on the quality of his line mates and opposition.  That model, I believe, makes a reasonable attempt at evaluating a players performance, but it can be improved.

The first method of improvement is to utilize the additional information we have about the quality of a players line mates and opposition once we have run the model.  Initially I use the goals for and against performance of his line mates and opposition when the player being evaluated is not on the ice at the same time as his line mates and opposition.  But now that we have run the model we, at least theoretically, have a better understanding of the quality of his team mates and opposition.  I can then take the output of the first model run and use it as the input of the second model run to get new and better results.  I can then continue doing this iteratively and the good news is that after every iteration the difference between the player rating from that iteration and the previous iteration trends towards zero which is a very nice result.

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Sep 132010
 

One of my goals has always been to create a fair and true player evaluation model.  Myself and many others have attempted to do this to varying degrees of success.  The recent trend is to stray away from goals for and against type methodologies towards shot attempts for or against methodologies (i.e. corsi analysis).  One of the key reasons for doing so is to increase sample size to reduce errors in the evaluation including errors that might be associated with nothing more than pure luck.  There is merit to wanting to achieve this goal and to some extent looking at shots attempts for/against achieve this goal but you will also find the method fail in many situations due to the fact that it treats all shots equal, which we know is not true.  Some shots are simply better than others and more likely to produce goals.  A prime example of where corsi analysis fails is with the Toronto Maple Leafs of recent years.  Recently the Leafs have produced a ton of shots but relatively few goals in large part because while they have had quality players to move the puck up the ice and get opportunities they haven’t had the elite level offensive players to convert those opportunities into great scoring opportunities.  Corsi Analysis can make many Leaf players appear like top level players and make the team itself appear to be an average or even better than average team but in the standings this clearly hasn’t been the case.

Because of this I still prefer to consider a goal based approach because really, goals are what matter in hockey.  If you are on the ice for more goals for than goals against, that is a good thing.  The stat that measures this that everyone knows and understands best is plus/minus but it has major drawbacks.  A below average player that plays on a great team with great teammates can have a very good plus/minus while a great player that plays on a bad team with below average teammates can have a poor plus/minus.  Furthermore, a defensive specialist that goes head to head with the oppositions best offensive players may also have a poor plus/minus but still be getting the job done for the most part.  The standard plus/minus stat is, in general, a very poor stat for evaluating players.

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