May 042011
 

I am going to combine the Vezina and Hart trophy discussion into one post because the Vezina discussion is going to be fairly short because I actually agree with the nominees.

The three nominees for the Vezina trophy are Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas and Pekka Rinne.  These are the top 3 goalies in terms of overall save percentage (Thomas first, Rinne second, Luongo third), goals against average (Thomas first, Luongo second and Rinne third) and rank 1, 3 and 4 in my HARD+ 5v5 even strength ratings for goalies with over 2500 5v5 minutes (Thomas first, Rinne third, Luongo fourth).  Incidently, over the past 4 seasons these are the three highest rated goalies for HARD+ for goalies with over 7500 minutes of 5v5 ice time (Thomas first, Luongo second, Rinne third).  These three goalies are probably the top 3 goalies in the NHL today with Thomas leading the pack  Thomas is most deserving of the Vezina trophy this season.

The HART trophy is a little more interesting.  The three nominees are Daniel Sedin, Martin St. Louis and Corey Perry.  Let me address each of these three individually.

Corey Perry – A couple weeks ago I write an article explaining why I didn’t think Corey Perry was as valuable to the Ducks this season as in past seasons.  In short, while Perry put up some great individual numbers and anyone who scores 50 goals in the NHL is doing something right, he accomplished this at the expense of his line mates and his overall team performance.  Of the 116 players with greater than 1000 even strength 5v5 minutes Corey Perry ranked 46th in HARO+ (1.164), 90th in HARD+ (0.852) and just 69th in HART+ (1.008).  Great individual numbers but his teammates performed better when not with him.  Is that indicative of someone deserving the title of “Most Valuable Player”?  I don’t believe so, though I believe there is a great chance he’ll win because he scored 50 goals and put up big numbers down the stretch to help the Ducks make the playoffs.

Martin St. Louis – St. Louis had another great season and I do believe that St. Louis is the most important player for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has been for many years now.  Overall he ranked 16th in HARO+ (1.335), 36th in HARD+ (1.022) and 14th in HART+ (1.179).  I would not suggest that he is a bad nominee, but there might be better ones.

Daniel Sedin – Of the three nominees, Daniel Sedin is the only one I would consider listing as a top three candidate.  He ranked  a close second (to Nathan Horton) in HARO+ (1.474), ranked 13th in HARD+ (1.135) and ranked fourth in HART+ (1.305).  The only negative against Sedin is that there are many other players who play against better competition.  Sedin’s opposition goals for ratio is just .501 which is well below some others worthy of HART trophy consideration.

Here are a handful of others I would consider worthy of HART trophy consideration:

Jonathan Toews – Toews has the third best HARO+ (1.465), the 17th best HARD+ (1.117) and ranked 5th in HART+ (1.291).  Toews numbers are very close to Daniel Sedin’s but it can be easily argued that Toews played against tougher competition (.509 opposition goals for percentage vs Sedin’s .501) and unlike Sedin, Toews kills penalties too.

David Backes – Backes scored 31 goals and 62 points and led all NHL forwards with a +32 rating (one behidn league leader Chara) and he did this on a weak St. Louis Blues team and like Toews, he also plays when the team is short handed.  If he played with better players his individual stats would likely be much better but because he plays on a weak team his performance largely gets unnoticed.  What is impressive is he accomplished this while having the highest opposition goals for per 20 minutes and goals for percentage.  Backes’ performance puts him 4th in HARO+ (1.449), 9th in HARD+ (1.199) and  second overall in HART+ (1.322).  By all acounts Backes had a great season, even if the goal and point totals don’t quite match the league leaders.

Anze Kopitar – I am not sure if everyone realizes how good of a 2-way player Kopitar is.  He puts up good offensive numbers but he  has also defensively sound and kills penalties.  This past season he ranked 10th in opposition goals for per 20 minutes and ranked 15th in opposition goals for percentage so he is trusted to play against the leagues best players and the results are there to back that up.  This past season Kopitar ranked 5th in HARO+ (1.427), 4th in HARD+ (1.239) and first in HART+ (1.333).

The problem with HART trophy voting is they largely choose players who put up the best individual offensive numbers but in general they neglect to take into account defensive ability and responsibility.  In Toews, Backes and Kopitar we have three quality offensive players who also play solid defensive games against top players in the NHL and are given the responsibility to kill penalties.  The other player I would suggest is worthy of consideration for the HART trophy is Zdeno Chara who was clearly the best defenseman in the NHL this past season as I discussed in yesterdays Norris Trophy post.

So with all that said, I expect that Sedin or Perry will win but my top five HART trophy candidates would be: Daniel Sedin, Jonathan Toews, Zdeno Chara, Anze Kopitar and David Backes and if pushed to make a pick I’d probably choose Sedin ever so slightly over Toews and Chara.

May 032011
 

Over the next little while I am going to take a look at the major NHL award nominations and toss in my thoughts on who is deserving and who is not.  Let’s start with the Norris Trophy.

The NHL has announced that the three finalists for the Norris Trophy are Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom and Shea Weber.  While all are good defensemen and all had good season, it is my opinion that of the three, only Zdeno Chara is deserving of a nomination.  Before I get into who I think should have been nominated let me discuss why I don’t believe Lidstrom or Weber should have been.

Nicklas Lidstrom – On the positive side, of all defensemen who played 1250 even strength 5v5 minutes Lidstrom had by far the toughest quality of competition.  On average Lidstrom’s opponents had the highest goals for per 20 minutes and the best goals for percentage.  Lidstrom was call on to play big minutes against the oppositions best forwards.  On the down side, he didn’t perform well as he ended up 52nd of 62 in goals against per 20 minutes which resulted in a HARD+ defensive rating that was 46th of 62. In real stats, he had a -2 rating, the first time in his career he has been a minus player (previous low as +7 in 1992-93).  So while Lidstrom produced offensively, his defensive game took a step back this season and as a result I cannot support him as a candidate for the Norris Trophy.

Shea Weber – Like Lidstrom, Weber played some tough minutes against quality competition (8th highest opposition goals for per 20 minutes and 13th highest opposition goals for percentage) but like Lidstrom, he didn’t perform as well in those minutes as I would want from an Norris Trophy nominee as he was 26th in goals against per 20 minutes on a team with a stellar goalie.  The result is a HARD+ rating of 0.955 and an overall HART+ rating of just 0.978 which really is a little lackluster and puts him well behind defense partner Ryan Suter.  Weber’s 4 year HARD+ rating is just .982 and his 4 year HART+ rating is just 0.957 so Weber might actually be one of the more over rated defensemen in the NHL.

I’ll get to Chara in a bit but if I don’t believe Lidstrom and Weber are deserving of being Norris Trophy finalists, who are the two others that I believe should be?  The answer may surprise you.

Drew Doughty – Last season Drew Doughty was a Norris Trophy nominee but lost out to Duncan Keith but I believe he again should be a nominee.  Doughty played against some of the toughest opposition of any NHL defenseman (10th in opposition goals for per 20 minutes and 6th in opposition goals for percentage) but he finished with a HARD+ rating of 1.005 (which is mediocre) but due to his stellar HARO+ rating of 1.265 finished the season with a HART+ rating of 1.135, well above that of Lidstrom and Weber.  Even though Doughty’s defensive ratings are middle of the pack his offensive production was good enough and his quality of competition tough enough that I think he is deserving of Norris trophy consideration, but I don’t believe he should win.

Toni Lydman – I am sure many of you are asking yourselves what kind of drugs I am on to suggest that Lydman is deserving of Norris trophy consideration but hear me out before you jump to any conclusions.  Next to Lidstrom he faced second toughest quality of competition as his opponents ranked second in goals for per 20 minutes and second in goals for percentage.  When Lydman was on the ice his team produced goals at a rate of 1.028 goals per 20 minutes (good for 5th among defensemen with >1250 minutes) and had a goals against per 20 minutes of 0.675 which puts him 13th best and combined he had the 4th best goals for percentage by a defenseman.  The end result is Lydman had the 5th best HARO+, 10th best HARD+ and 4th best HART+ among defensemen.  He also led all NHL defensemen in short handed time on ice.  In my opinion Lydman is a very deserving candidate for the Norris trophy this season.

What is interesting is this isn’t new to Lydman.  He has been a very good defenseman for quite a while now.  Over the past 3 seasons of 59 defensemen with 3500 minutes of 5v5 even strength ice time, Lydman ranks 15th in HARO+, 10th in HARD+, and 8th in HART+.  Lydman was probably one of the best free agent signings from last summer as the Ducks signed him to a very reasonable 3 year, $9M deal.  He is definitely an under rated defenseman.

Zdeno Chara – In my opinion, Chara is most deserving of winning the Norris Trophy this past season.  His opponents had the 9th highest goals for per 20 minutes and the 11th highest goals for percentage so he lined up against some pretty stiff competition.  He ended the season with the lowest goals against while on the ice and the sixth highest goals for while on the ice resulting in by far the best goals for percentage by any defenseman.  When Chara was on the ice in 5v5 even strength situations the Bruins scored a whopping 64.3% of the goals scored.  The result is Chara had a HARO+ rating of 1.232, good for 9th among defensemen, and a HARD+ rating of 1.248, good for second among defensemen which gave him the best HART+ rating at 1.240.

To summarize, my vote for the best defensemen in the NHL this past season goes to Zdeno Chara with Toni Lydman in second and Drew Doughty in third and I’ll toss out a trio of honorable mentions to Christian Ehrhoff who performed very well albeit against weaker competition, John Carlsson who had a stellar rookie season (I’ll discuss him more when I discuss the Calder trophy candidates) and Alex Pietrangelo who is probably a defensemen to watch for as a Norris candidate in future seasons.

Apr 212011
 

The best and most consistent line for the Maple Leafs this past season was the Grabovski-Kulemin-MacArthur line.  This trio of forwards are all just entering their primes at ages 27, 24 and 26 respectively and they were the second, third and fourth leading point producers on the Leafs.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how these three guys careers have progressed up to now.  Here are each players basic stats over the past 4 seasons (3 for Kulemin) along with their 5v5 even strength HARO+, HARD+ and HART+ statistics (my HockeyAnalysis.com offense, defence and total ratings).

Mikhail Grabovski:

Season Games Goals Assists Points +/- HARO+ HARD+ HART+
2007-08 24 3 6 9 -4 1.185 0.641 0.913
2008-09 78 20 28 48 -8 0.959 0.891 0.925
2009-10 59 10 25 35 3 1.209 0.904 1.057
2010-11 81 29 29 58 14 1.343 1.064 1.204
2008-11 (3 yr) 218 59 82 141 9 1.137 0.972 1.055

In limited ice time he showed some decent offensive capabilities in his rookie 2007-08 season and progressed nicely in 2008-09 statistically but his ratings suffered some.  Many people considered his injury shortened 2009-10 season to be a bit of a disappointment but his HARO+ rating indicates that he really helped his team offensively when he was on the ice and in 2010-11 he took his offensive game to another level again.  Of the 221 players who have played at least 1500 minutes of 5v5 even strength ice time over the past 2 seasons, Grabovski ranks 18th in HARO+ and 24th in HART+ which is outstanding.

Nikolai Kulemin:

Season Games Goals Assists Points +/- HARO+ HARD+ HART+
2008-09 73 15 16 31 -8 1.092 0.757 0.925
2009-10 78 16 20 36 0 1.050 1.034 1.042
2010-11 82 30 27 57 7 1.264 1.024 1.144
2008-11 (3 yr) 233 61 63 124 -1 1.109 0.952 1.030

Kulemin had a more than respectable 15 goal rookie season and he showed that his good shot will work in the NHL but last season was a bit of a breakout year for him even though he didn’t dramatically improve his offensive numbers.  It was a breakout season because he really learned how to assert himself physically.  He isn’t a big physically imposing player, but he is strong on his skates and has learned that he can hold his own against opposing forwards.  This has really helped his defensive game and then this year he took his offensive game to another level.  Kulemin ranks 57 in HARO+ and 40th in HART+ among forwards over the past 2 seasons.

Clarke MacArthur:

Season Games Goals Assists Points +/- HARO+ HARD+ HART+
2007-08 37 8 7 15 3 1.219 0.922 1.070
2008-09 71 17 14 31 -4 0.941 0.902 0.922
2009-10 81 16 19 35 -16 0.983 0.792 0.887
2010-11 82 21 41 62 -3 1.206 0.971 1.089
2008-11 (3 yr) 234 54 74 128 -23 1.025 0.904 0.964

Of the three players, MacArthur has clearly been the lease consistent so far in his career, offensively anyway.  He showed some good things in limited action in his rookie year but his offensive production stagnated for a couple seasons before taking a jump forward his season.  Defensively he has been mostly mediocre for his whole career so far.  Overall we can be less certain about what MacArthur will bring to the Leafs in the future.  At best I think he is a decent second line center who can provide some secondary offense.

Of the three players, I think MacArthur is the least valuable and the Leafs will have to make a decision on where he fits in going forward.  He probably has more pure playmaking skills than either Grabovski or Kulemin which makes him a good fit for that line.  Overall thought he is easily replaceable and a decision will have to be made as to whether to whether to keep him around and at what salary.  An alternative would be to work a youngster such as Kadri onto that line either at wing or at center (moving Grabovski, who struggles at the face off dot, to wing) and use MacArthur as trade bait to fill a hole elsewhere.

Apr 182011
 

By all accounts, Corey Perry had an exceptional season in 2010-11 and this is particularly true down the stretch when he flew by Steven Stamkos for the lead in goals scored and pushed himself into serious contention from the Hart Trophy as the leagues most valuable player.  There is no doubt that Perry’s production level surpassed anything he had previously done in his career, but was he truly more valuable to the Ducks than in previous seasons?  Let’s look at the numbers.

Season GP Goals Assists Points +/- PPG PPA PP Points
2010-11 82 50 48 98 9 14 17 31
2009-10 82 27 49 76 0 6 17 23
2008-09 78 32 40 72 10 10 14 24
2007-08 70 29 25 54 12 11 6 17

Based on the raw stats, he has been better in 2010-11 in terms of goal scoring and fairly consistent in terms of collecting assists but despite his increase in goals and points, his +/- hasn’t increased significantly.

Let’s look a little deeper into Perry’s even strength 5v5 statistics.

Season GF20 GA20 GF% TMGF20 TMGA20 TMGF% OppGF20 OppGA20 OppGF%
2010-11 0.928 0.882 0.513 0.876 0.843 0.510 0.774 0.745 0.509
2009-10 1.047 0.828 0.558 0.694 0.807 0.463 0.776 0.759 0.505
2008-09 1.113 0.754 0.596 0.712 0.775 0.479 0.756 0.751 0.501
2007-08 1.003 0.683 0.595 0.674 0.551 0.550 0.724 0.725 0.500

(source:  http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/showplayer.php?pid=2)

For those unfamiliar with my terminology, GF20 is Perry’s goals for by team while on the ice per 20 minutes of ice time, GA20 is the same for goals against and GF% is GF20/(GF20+GA20) and represents what percentage of all goals scored while he was on the ice were scored by his team.  The TM stats are the same but for his team mates when they are not playing with Perry and the Opp stats are the same but for Perry’s opponents when they are not playing against Perry.

Now, the first observation you may make is that Perry’s GF20 was lower in 2010-11 than in any of the previous season so while Perry produced more offense (goals in particular) in 2010-11 individually, the team produced somewhat less when Perry was on the ice.  In other words, Perry’s goal/point production may have come at the cost of his line mates goal/point production.  The same thing is true defensively.  More goals were scored against Perry while Perry was on the ice than in any previous season.

Now, looking at team mate production when his teammates are not on the ice with Perry we find that they produce slightly fewer goals per 20 minutes (0.876 without Perry vs 0.928 with) but also give up slightly fewer goals too (0.843 without Perry, 0.882 with).  What is interesting though is Perry’s line mates this season appear to be better offensive players than in prior seasons as their 2010-11 GF20 was 0.876 vs 0.694 in 2009-10 though they also had a slightly higher GA20 in 2010-11 as well.  So from these numbers it seems that overall Perry played with significantly better offensive players in 2010-11 than in prior years and slightly worse defensive players in 2010-11 than in prior years.

As for quality of opposition, the offensive production of Perry’s opponents in 2010-11 was about the same as in 2009-10 while defensively they were slightly better.

So, in summary we can state that when Perry was on the ice in 5v5 even strength situations the Ducks produced less in 2010-11 than they did in 2009-10 and gave up more goals in 2011-10 than they did in 2009-10.  Furthermore, overall his line mates appear to have been significantly better offensive players in 2010-11 than in 2009-10 and only slightly worse defensive players while his opposition appears to be similarly skilled offensively and marginally less skilled defensively.

So, what does this all mean?  Here are Perry’s offensive and defensive ratings:

Season HARO+ HARD+ HART+
2010-11 1.164 0.852 1.008
2009-10 1.300 0.917 1.109
2008-09 1.391 0.953 1.172
2007-08 1.325 0.979 1.152

With all things considered, despite scoring 50 goals this past season, one could make an argument that 2010-11 was well below his performance during the three previous seasons.  It seems that his improved individual numbers may have come at the cost of his team mates and that made him less valuable to the Ducks overall.

Apr 152011
 

Before I get into the main subject of this post let me first point out that I have updated stats.hockeyanalysis.com to include all 1, 2, 3 and 4 year player ratings that can be calculated using the last 4 years of NHL data.  For more information on my player ratings read this.

I generate offense, defense and overall ratings for each and every player in the NHL and I wanted to get an idea of how much each position contributes to the performance of the team.  To accomplish this I multiplied each players offensive and defensive ratings (HARO+, HARD+) by their ice time (5v5 ratings and ice time used) and summed them up by position and then compared the positions total to the overall total.  I did this using the ratings calculated for the past 4 seasons combined as well as for each of the past 4 individual seasons.  This is the result I came up with :

Offense:

Season(s) Center RW LW D D
2007-11 24.64% 18.04% 17.14% 20.09% 20.09%
2007-08 26.91% 16.22% 16.47% 20.20% 20.20%
2008-09 25.23% 18.01% 16.66% 20.05% 20.05%
2009-10 23.93% 18.47% 17.49% 20.06% 20.06%
2010-11 25.13% 18.02% 16.76% 20.04% 20.04%

Defense:

Season(s) Center RW LW D D G
2007-11 20.67% 15.08% 14.27% 16.72% 16.72% 16.55%
2007-08 22.46% 13.83% 13.81% 16.75% 16.75% 16.39%
2008-09 21.06% 15.49% 13.76% 16.67% 16.67% 16.35%
2009-10 19.98% 15.46% 14.79% 16.73% 16.73% 16.30%
2010-11 21.35% 15.08% 14.21% 16.51% 16.51% 16.35%

Average of Offense + Defense:

Season(s) Center RW LW D D G
2007-11 22.65% 16.56% 15.71% 18.40% 18.40% 8.28%
2007-08 24.69% 15.03% 15.14% 18.48% 18.48% 8.19%
2008-09 23.14% 16.75% 15.21% 18.36% 18.36% 8.17%
2009-10 21.95% 16.96% 16.14% 18.39% 18.39% 8.15%
2010-11 23.24% 16.55% 15.48% 18.27% 18.27% 8.17%

Note:  I split the defense contribution over 2 positions.

Now, the first thing I noticed with these numbers is how surprisingly consistent they are from season to season, especially for defense and goaltending.  Up front players frequently shift from center to wing and from left wing to right wing so that may account for some of the (still relatively small) seasonal fluctuations.  Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at this consistency but it does give me some confidence in my rating system that it is consistent across seasons as well as with multiple season ratings.

The second thing that caught my attention was the importance of defensive contribution to the offense.  Approximately 40% of offensive production can be attributed to the two defensemen on the ice and the defensemen are more important than the wingers. Part of this is simply that defensemen get more ice time than forwards since there are only 3 defense pairs versus 4 forward lines.  The other part is probably that they play an integral part of collecting rebounds and transitioning the team from defense to offense so they may have greater influence in the percentage of time played in the offensive zone.

Of the three forward positions, the center position is clearly the most important but we probably figured that.  Face offs might be a contributing factor but also we might just find that the most talented players end up playing center.  Right wings are slightly more important than left wings but the difference is not substantial.

Next I wondered what this data would mean to what teams should allocate for salaries.  For a 60 million payroll the average salary for position should work out to the following:

Pos Salary (Million$)
Center 13.6
RW 9.9
LW 9.4
D 11.0
D 11.0
G 5.0

Of course elite players skew the team payroll structure a fair bit.  As a LW earning over $9.5M Alexander Ovechkin is eating up the entire Capitals allotment for LWs and Crosby, Malkin and Staal are way over budget for the Penguins but you have to work around the talent you have.  A couple months ago Behind the Net Hockey Blog had a post outlining the salary allocated to players by position (split between forwards, defense, and goaltending).  Forwards were allocated 59.1% of a teams payroll, defense 32.2% and goaltending 8.7% over the past 4 seasons which compares to 54.9%, 36.8% and 8.3% for my ratings.  That would mean that forwards are overpaid (relative to their contribution) by about 4.1%, defense under paid by 4.6% and goalies over paid by about 0.4%.

For interest sake I decided to take a look at the Vancouver Canucks performance distribution since they have a fairly well balanced team and are a serious cup contender.  Here is what I found:

2007-11 2010-11
Position Offense Defense Average Offense Defense Average
Center 23.44% 19.96% 21.70% 21.04% 17.15% 19.10%
RW 11.44% 9.88% 10.66% 9.97% 10.34% 10.15%
LW 25.14% 21.88% 23.51% 31.12% 25.11% 28.11%
D 19.99% 17.21% 18.60% 18.94% 15.92% 17.43%
D 19.99% 17.21% 18.60% 18.94% 15.92% 17.43%
G 0.00% 13.86% 6.93% 0.00% 15.55% 7.77%

(Note:  The above is calculated using the current roster using the ratings and ice time over the past season or four seasons regardless of whether that ice time was with the Canucks.  This is an evaluation of the team ending the 2010-11 season with the Canucks, not the Canucks team performance over past seasons.  Also four season ratings should give a better player evaluation than single season ratings due to the larger sample size so I would consider them closer to true value.)

The Canucks are definitely a team driven by a group of quality left wingers or at least players listed as playing LW such as D. Sedin, Burrows, Raymond, Torres but I suspect some get shifted to RW from time to time.  Also, as good as Luongo is the quality and depth of the team in front of him reduces his relative contribution to his team to below average levels.  In the future I’ll take a look at some other teams as it’ll be interesting to see how goalie contribution changes from good teams with subpar  goalies (Detroit maybe) to bad teams with good goalies (Florida – Vokoun!! Though my ratings don’t value him as highly as many others do).

Mar 182011
 

The guys over at Behind the Net have initiated a ‘prove shot quality exists’ competition and in response to that Rob Vollman took a quick and dirty look at shooting percentage suppression.  As I showed the other day, Rob’s logic was a little off.

Rob started off by identifying a number of players with high on ice save percentages over the past 3 seasons.  Some of these guys included low minute players mostly playing on the fourth line against other fourth line caliber players, but there were a handful of players who played relative significant number of minutes and still put up good on ice save percentages.  Let me remind you of a few names that Rob identified:  forwards Marco Sturm, Manny Malhotra, Tyler Kennedy, Travis Moen, Taylor Pyatt, Michael Ryder, defensemen Kent Huskins, Sean O’Donnell, Mike Weaver, Mark Stuart.  I’ll get back to these guys later but I’ll claim that Rob dismissed some of them prematurely by claiming they played against weak competition.

As you may or may not know I have developed offensive and defensive ratings for every player and these can be found at http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/ Furthermore, I have created these using goals for/against as well as shots for/against, fenwick for/against, and corsi for/against.  For clarification, fenwick is shots + missed shots while Corsi is shots + missed shots + blocked shots.  For this study I decided to use fenwick instead of shots because I had the data handy and I was too lazy to get the shot data in the right format but there shouldn’t be a significant difference (the two are very highly correlated).

Continue reading »

Mar 162011
 

I have posted a few articles here recently about the existence of shot quality, one of which related to last seasons Washington Capitals and one related to how shot quality varies according to game score but there are still shot quality deniers out there.  One of the comments I received from a shot quality denier to those posts was as in depth as “You did it wrong” but offered no further explanation.  So there it stands.

Derek Zona and Gabe Desjardins over at Behind the Net Hockey (mostly shot quality deniers) have put up a $150 prize for anyone who can show that shot quality exists.  One method they suggested one could pursue to prove such a thing was the following:

Are there players or teams with the ability to drive or suppress on-ice shooting percentage?  What are their characteristics?

This prompted Rob Vollman (who I presume is a shot quality denier, my apologies if not) to look into just that and to do so he identified a group of players who had the highest save percentage against while they were on the ice.  The theory is, if shot quality suppression was a talent then there should exist players who experience a very good save percentage for their team while they are on the ice.  The group of players identified varied significantly from George Parros to Kyle Wellwood to Sean O’Donnell to Marco Sturm.  In the end Rob came to the conclusion that these players all had high save percentages while they were on the ice because they mostly played against weaker quality of competition.

But none of them are facing their team’s toughest minutes.  If they truly had the ability to suppress shooting percentage, why would Kesler and Burrows hop out against Ovechkin instead of Malhotra?  Why would Pronger keep an eye on Crosby instead of O’Donnell?  Kudos to each of them for playing their roles very well, but the explanation still appears grounded in Quality of Competition.

And there is the fault in logic.

  • Claim:  Shot quality doesn’t exist.
  • Counter-evidence:  Some players do experience higher save percentages while they are on the ice.
  • Rational:  They do so because they play against weaker quality of competition.
  • Claim Confirmed:  Phew, my claim that shot quality doesn’t exist remains valid.

Now the whole problem with that theory is the rational part because the rational part requires shot quality to be real for it to be true.  The only way you can have a better quality of competition (in terms shooting/save percentage) is to have shot quality exist.  If shot quality didn’t exist all competitors would have the same level of shooting percentage talent.  The claim and rational can’t both be true, so the logic fails.

And that is where identifying shot quality becomes difficult.  Players that are generally good at reducing the quality of shots against are lined up against opponents who are generally good at creating quality shots for.  The net result is their talents cancel each other out to some extent making it difficult to identify shot quality driving/suppressing talent just by looking at the numbers in isolation of who they are playing with and against.

Mar 152011
 

I thought this debate had been fully hashed out already but apparently some people still don’t believe that the game score has an impact on shooting percentage (and shot quality).  The following table shows the shooting percentages by game score over the past 3 seasons (2007-08 to 2009-10) during even strength situations where neither goalie is pulled for any reason (including delayed penalty situations).

Situation Shots Goals SH% Prob<= Prob>
Down2+ 23650 1852 7.83 0.3794 0.6206
Down1 30447 2356 7.74 0.1696 0.8304
Tied 60753 4427 7.29 0.0000 1.0000
Up1 26842 2288 8.52 0.9999 0.0001
Up2+ 19351 1779 9.19 1.0000 0.0000
Overall 161043 12702 7.89 0.5024 0.4976

The Situation, Shots, Goals, and SH% columns are self explanatory.  As you can see, shooting percentage is at its lowest in game tied situations, increases slightly for teams that are trailing and increases significantly for teams that are leading.

The second last column titled Prob<= show the probability (according to a binomial distribution) that that number of goals or fewer would be scored on that number of shots if the expected shooting percentage was 7.89%, the same as the overall 5v5 shooting percentage.  The last column titled Prob> is simply 1-Prob<= and shows the probability of getting more than that number of goals on that number of shots.  So, in down 2+ goal situations, there is a 37.94% chance of their being 1852 or fewer goals scored on 23650 shots which indicates that the down2+ shooting percentage isn’t different from the 5v5 mean at any reasonable confidence level.  The same conclusion can be drawn about down1 situations.  But, the shooting percentages in game tied, up1 and up2+ situations are statistically different at an extremely high confidence level.  Essentially there is zero chance that game tied, up1, or up2+ situations have the same natural shooting percentages as game overall 5v5 situations.  In no way can luck be the sole reason for these differences.

So, does this conclusively tell us that shot quality exists and varies according to game score?  It probably does, but I can’t say it is conclusive as it could mean that teams that trail a lot have bad goaltending (the reason they are trailing) and this results in the team leading having an inflated shooting percentage.  So, what if we looked at shots against a particular team.  Let’s say, for example, against the NY Rangers.  Here is what that looks like.

Situation Shots Goals SH% Prob<= Prob>
Overall 5159 386 7.48 0.5135 0.4865
Up1 843 73 8.66 0.9116 0.0884
Up2+ 485 46 9.48 0.9571 0.0429
Leading 1328 119 8.96 0.9800 0.0200
Tied 2004 138 6.89 0.1658 0.8342

I chose the Rangers because they use predominantly one goalie and that goalie is generally speaking a quality goalie.  As you can see, the confidence levels aren’t quite as strong as league wide mostly because of the smaller sample size but if we combine the up1 and up2+ categories we can say that shot quality against the Rangers when the opposing team is leading is statistically different than shooting percentage against the Rangers overall.

If you are interested in seeing what happens with a team that has had chronically bad goaltending, here is the same table for the Maple Leafs.  We see the same sort of things.

Situation Shots Goals SH% Prob<= Prob>
Overall 5309 491 9.25 0.5120 0.4880
Up1 938 94 10.02 0.8098 0.1902
Up2+ 906 100 11.04 0.9698 0.0302
Leading 1844 194 10.52 0.9712 0.0288
Tied 1985 149 7.51 0.0034 0.9966

So what have we learned.

  1. Shooting percentages vary according to game score.
  2. Those shooting percentage differences can’t be attributed to luck.
  3. Those shooting percentage differences can’t be attributed to goaltending.

That means, it must be the quality of the shots that varies across game scores.  In short, we can conclude that when teams get down in a game they open up and take more chances offensively which in turn gives up higher quality shots against which makes perfect sense to me.

When we combine this with my previous post on the Washington Capitals shooting percentage last season, it is probably safe to assume that shot quality exists and we can’t safely assume that all shots can be treated equal in all situations.

Feb 182011
 

First off, it should be a sad day in Leaf land as we all say good bye to Tomas Kaberle.  It seems many people are unaware of just how good Kaberle was and still is.  Here are some facts about Tomas Kaberle:

  1. Since Kaberle entered the NHL in 2008-09 the only defenseman with more assists than Kaberle is Niklas Lidstrom and only Lidstrom, Gonchar and Pronger have more points.
  2. Since the lockout only Lidstrom has more assists among defensemen and only Lidstrom and Rafalski have more points.
  3. Among all skaters, not just defensemen, Kaberle ranks 20th in assists since the lockout and has more assists than Vincent Lecavalier and Eric Staal.
  4. His point production has not tailed off significantly the past several seasons despite many people seemingly believing otherwise.  He had 49 points last season and is on pace for about 52 this season.
  5. Only 2 defensemen (Keith, Enstrom) have more combined assists this season and last and only 8 defensemen (Green, Keith, Boyle, Lidstrom, Enstrom, Visnovsky, Doughty and Yandle).

That is pretty good if you ask me and while he had his flaws he truly was an elite puck moving and passing defenseman.  He’ll be missed in Toronto.

Now, it is time to take a look at the Leafs future.  What Burke has done the past couple years has actually been pretty extraordinary and for all those who have begged for the Leafs to go with the build through the draft method of team building here is some of the assets currently in the Maple Leaf organization.

  • 2011 Boston 1st round pick
  • 2011 Philadelphia 1st round pick
  • Nazem Kadri – 7th overall 2009
  • Luke Schenn – 5th overall 2008
  • Joe Colborne – 16th overall, 2008
  • Jake Gardiner – 17th overall, 2008
  • Phil Kessel – 5th overall, 2006
  • Dion Phaneuf – 9th overall 2003
  • Joffrey Lupul – 7th overall 2002
  • Mike Komisarek – 7th overall, 2001
  • Fredrik Sjostrom – 11th overall 2001
  • Colby Armstrong – 21st overall, 2001

Now we don’t know what Kadri, Colborne, Gardiner and the two 2011 draft picks will turn out to be, but that is what rebuilding through the draft is all about (and isn’t that what Leaf fans have been demanding).  So while it may not be the traditional build through the draft, what Burke has done to the depth of young talent on these Leafs has been amazing, even if we haven’t seen the results on the ice yet.  On top of that, the Leafs should have about $25M in cap space available for next season (though MacArthur, Bozak, Schenn and Gunnarsson need to be re-signed). Fear not Leaf fans, I believe good times are ahead, and not too far away.

Feb 102011
 

I have seen and heard a lot of comments on the Beauchemin for Lupul and prospect Gardiner trade with respect to Lupul’s value and most of them suggest Lupul was the cost Burke had to pay to have Gardiner included in the trade and that Lupul doesn’t have a lot of value and won’t likely score 25 goals.

From Bitter Leaf Fan Page:

Lupul may be a top six player on the Leafs but this is more a testament of just how thin the Leafs top six is, than it is an indication of Lupul’s so-called talent;

I doubt Lupul pushes the 25 goal mark as many have suggested. He’s only crested that mark twice in 6.5 seasons and it’s rare for an oft-injured 28 year old to suddenly find a scoring touch;

In general, that seems to be the sentiment though there are exceptions.  But honestly, I think everyone is down playing Lupul’s potential to perform.  If you just quickly take a look at his stats you’ll see this:

  • 2005-06:  28g, 53pts, 81 games
  • 2006-07:  16g, 28pts, 81 games
  • 2007-08:  20g, 46pts, 56 games
  • 2007-09:  25g, 50pts, 79 games
  • 2009-10:  10g, 14pts, 23 games
  • 2010-11:  5g, 13pts, 26 games

So, in 6 years he has only scored 25 goals twice and only scored 20 goals half the time, but that is in large part due to his injuries.  If we prorate his goals scored to 82 games each season his goal totals would be 28, 16, 29, 26, 35, 16.  Looking at those totals and things seem a little more impressive.  He’d have been a 4 time 25 goal guy in the past six seasons.  The two seasons he didn’t reach 25 goal pace was an awful season in Edmonton on an awful team and this current season when he has been recovering from a serious back injury and has seen his ice time fall and has played more time with lesser talented players.  Over his entire career he has scored 117g in 421 games which works out to 23 goals over 82 games.  In the playoffs he has scored 14g in 39 games which equates to 29 goals over 82 games.  Based on this there is no reason not to expect Lupul to be a 25 goal guy, maybe even more, if he is healthy.  Over the past 3 seasons there has been an average of 63 twenty five goal scorers (or just over 2 per team) and 110 twenty goal scorers (or under 4 per team) so I am perfectly happy to see the Leafs add another one to their lineup which already included 3 guys (Kessel, Grabovski, Kulemin) who should reach 25 this season and two more who should/could reach 20 (MacArthur, Versteeg).

Now I’ll grant the naysayers that Lupul’s health is a question mark and whether he can return to pre-back surgery and subsequent infection form is a question mark, but it is certainly a question mark that is smaller (probably much smaller) than any question marks that would come with a draft pick or a 20 year old prospect who has never played an NHL game (see Caputi, Luca).  As for Lupul’s salary, who cares.  Yes, it is probably $1.5M on the high side, but the Leafs have ample salary cap space this season and going forward and if they need more have the financial ability to bury contracts in the AHL (see Finger, Jeff).  I don’t see it as an issue.

All in all, I love this trade for the Leafs.  They traded a good, but not irreplaceable defenseman for a potential 25 goal winger and a good defense prospect.  They haven’t really solved their #1 center hole yet, but they have really filled in the parts around that hole nicely.  If they could just plug in Brad Richard’s I’d be more than happy with next seasons group of forwards.

Kessel-Richards-Lupul
MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin
Versteeg-Kadri-Armstrong
Brown-Brent-Orr