Sep 012011
 

I haven’t yet weighed in on the recent deaths of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien but with the passing yesterday of Wade Belak I have decided to let my thoughts be heard.

First off, it has been a sad summer with the passing of these three players and my sincere condolences go out to their families and friends.  Regardless of the circumstances, any death is a sad and somber event but even more sad and somber when the deaths are sudden and seemingly avoidable.

The above should be the number one thought on everybody’s mind today but clearly these three players are public figures who played a common “tough guy” role in the NHL and that has led some in the media and the general public to start to speculate as to whether there is a link between fighting in the NHL and these deaths.  While it is fair to suggest that the possibility of a link needs to be investigated and researched, we have to be extremely cautious to suggest that there is, or even likely is, a link.  The truth is, we don’t know.

Are the deaths of Boogaard, Rypien and Belak linked in any way to their roles as tough guys in the NHL?  We don’t know.

Do concussions (as a result of fighting) in some way  lead to depression?  We don’t know.

Are hockey players who suffer from depression more apt to become fighters as a way to feel accepted?  We don’t know.

“We don’t know” is the proper answer to all those questions (and many more) and we all should avoid making any speculative claims about anything at this point.  Only when we put the speculation and suggesting behind us and accept “We don’t know” can move to seeking serious and important answers to the questions above.  So with that, my request to the media is to stop the speculating and expressing of personal opinion and start to seek out serious answers.  Maybe I have missed it, but I have yet to hear or read about many (or any) interviews with experts in the field of concussions and/or depression and/or substance abuse in an attempt to connect the dots.  Doing so would truly move the discussion a step forward.

Update:  This post by Kent Wilson at  Houses of the Hockey blog is a worth while read and something I would consider “a step forward” in the discussion.

 

Aug 252011
 

A few weeks ago I questioned whether Luke Schenn was really a quality shut down defenseman as some believe and some people too exception to that.  Additionally, now that Lebda has been traded away the favourite defenseman whipping boy of Leaf fans seems to be Mike Komisarek.  Because of this, I decided we should conduct a comparison of the defensive ability of these two players to see if Leaf fans perceptions of these two players matches reality.

Schenn Komisarek
TOI 864:56 558:53
Goals Against per 20 min. 0.902 0.895
Opposition GF/20min. 0.767 0.757
HARD+ 0.810 0.840
Fenwick Against per 20min. 15.400 15.424
Opposition FenF/20min. 13.708 13.798
FenHARD+ 0.934 0.929
Def. Zone Face Off % 31.9% 37.8%

The above table shows all of the pertinent stats from the 2010-11 season for 5v5 close situations (close being teams are within 1 goal in first or second period or tied in third).  I have included both goal and fenwick based stats because I know some people prefer fenwick but in reality they tell pretty much the same story.

Last season when Luke Schenn was on the ice the Leafs gave up about the same number of goals against per 20 minutes (0.902 vs 0.895) and fenwick against per 20 minutes (15.400 vs 15.424) as when Komisarek was on the ice.  Schenn played against slightly tougher competition based on opposition goals for per 20 minutes while Komisarek played against slightly tougher competition based on opposition fenwick for per 20 minutes.  The end results were Komisarek had a slightly better HARD+ than Schenn (0.840 vs 0.810) but Schenn had a slightly better FenHARD+ (0.934 vs 0.929).  It should be noted that these ratings are quite poor for both players.

HARD+ and FenHARD+ take into account quality of teammates and competition, but they do not take into account zone starts.  For Komisarek, 37.8% of the faceoffs he was on the ice for were taken in the defensive zone while only 31.9% were in the defensive zone for Luke Schenn.  So, while all the other numbers are quite similar, the defensive zone face off percentage clearly means Komisarek faced tougher situations defensively than Luke Schenn.  I didn’t include the data above, but Schenn played with higher quality teammates than Komisarek (for example, Lebda’s #1 defense partner was Komisarek).

For interest sake, and to gain more confidence in the results, here are each players stats over the past 2 seasons.

Schenn Komisarek
TOI 1537:15 853:46
Goals Against per 20 min. 0.976 0.890
Opposition GF/20min. 0.751 0.759
HARD+ 0.783 0.853
Fenwick Against per 20min. 15.053 14.641
Opposition FenF/20min. 13.534 13.679
FenHARD+ 0.932 0.957
Def. Zone Face Off % 31.9% 35.7%

Over the past 2 seasons the edge is distinctly in Komisarek’s favour though in 2009-10 Komisarek had far fewer defensive zone faceoffs than last season (only 28.7%).  For the 2 years Schenn gave up more shots and goals per 20 minutes than Komisarek and faced weaker opponents (offensively at least) and had a much lower defensive zone face off percentage.

Based on the above, Leaf fans perceptions of Komisarek are pretty much true.  He has struggled defensively and hasn’t lived up to his contract or expectations but is also nothing to suggest that Luke Schenn has been any better at the defensive aspect of the game.  Schenn has just played more, not better.

Aug 212011
 

I have just updated my stats site (stats.hockeyanalysis.com) to include a number of new features.  The added features are:

1.  I have added a new situation – 5v5close.  5v5close is when the game is tied or within 1 goal in the first and second period or tied in the third period.  This is what I would call normal play where teams are more or less (depending on talent or game play/coaching style) equally interested in  playing offense or defense.  When teams get a larger lead or lead late in the game teams adjust their style of play to either protect that lead or go all out to score a goal to catch up.  It is probably better to use this than 5v5tied and maybe better than 5v5 (all 5v5 game score situations).

2.  I have included zone start data in the form of OZOF%, DZOF% and NZOF%.  OZOF% is the percentage of face offs taken in the offensive zone when the player is on the ice and DZOF% and NZOF% are the same for defensive zone and neutral zone faceoffs.  When we look at these by situation we can get an idea of how a players use gets changed by game score.  For example, last year Manny Malholtra had 38.8% of his 5v5 face offs in the defensive zone (29.1% offensive zone and 32.1% neutral zone) but when the Canucks were up by a goal his defensive zone faceoffs rose to 41.6% and when the Canucks were up by 2 goals they rose to 48.4%.

3.  I have once again put up with/against statistics for each player.  I had this data up a few years ago but when I re-designed my website I removed it but it is back.  Each player page (i.e. the Malhotra one linked to above) has a set of links at the top of the page to with/against statistics for each season (and multi-seasons) for 5v5 and 5v5 close situations for both goal and corsi data.  Each page shows how the player played with each teammate as well as how they played when they were not playing together as well as how the player performed against each opponent and how well the player and the opponent performed when not playing together.  These tables can give you an indication of which players are playing together and which players play well together as well as who a player plays against the most.  As an example, take a look at Manny Malhotra 5v5 goal with/against data for this past season and you will see he played the most with Raffi Torres (even more than with Roberto Luongo!) but it seems both players had better on ice results when apart.

4.  If you hadn’t noticed yet, a while back I added on ice shooting percentage (Sh%) and on ice opposition shooting percentage (OppSh%, subtract from to get on ice save %) which can be found with the goal data (but not with corsi, fenwick and shot data).

All totaled, there is well over 10 gigabytes of html, php and data base files of statistics (90% of which is in the with/against tables) so be warned, if you really wanted to you could spend days looking at it all.

Aug 032011
 

As we all await the results of Shea Weber’s arbitration hearing we are all speculating the salary that the arbitrator will award Shea Weber.  Speculation is that Shea Weber is asking for $8.5M and the Predators are asking for $4.75M.  Damien Cox believes he is probably going to get awarded $7.5-8M.

Dion Phaneuf makes $6.5 million per (all figures U.S.), and Weber is a superior player from the same 2003 NHL draft class. The same goes for Weber as compared to Brent Burns, and Burns signed a five-year, $28.5 million contract (cap hit $5.76 million) with the San Jose Sharks on Monday, eight years after being the 20th pick in that ’03 draft.

So we know the floor here for Weber’s services has to be $6.5 million, and the ceiling around $7.5-8 million.

That seems to be the common sentiment around the league.

Notable Nashville Predator blogger Dirk Hoag from On The Forecheck tweeted his prediction of $7.25M.

I’ll guess Weber gets $7.25 million. Phaneuf’s a comp at $6.5M, but Shea also has the “C” & a Norris nomination.

Personally, I believe these numbers are significantly higher than an arbitrator will award Weber.  First off, Damien Cox uses Brent Burns contract as a comparable but it is not a valid comparable because Burns’ new contract is considered a UFA contract (he would have been a UFA next summer) and thus cannot be used as a comparable in arbitration.

Phaneuf is a decent comparable and I’ll also toss in two additional comparables of Brent Seabrook and Keith Yandle.

Player Year Prior Two Year Prior Three Year Prior
Shea Weber 82GP, 16g, 48pts, 56PIM, +7 78GP, 16g, 43pts, 36PIM, even 81GP, 23g, 53pts, 80PIM, +1
Dion Phaneuf 82GP, 17g, 50pts, 182PIM, +12 79GP, 17g, 50pts, 98PIM, +10 82GP, 20g, 49pts, 93PIM, +5
Brent Seabrook 82GP, 9g, 48pts, 47PIM, even 78GP, 4g, 30pts, 59PIM, +20 82GP, 8g, 26pts, 62PIM, +23
Keith Yandle 82GP, 11g, 59pts, 68PIM, +12 82GP, 12g, 41pts, 45PIM, +16 69GP, 4g, 30pts, 37PIM, -4

The closest comparable to Weber as far as their stats in the years prior to signing their contracts is Phaneuf.  Their goal and point totals are very close though Phaneuf has far more PIMs and a better +/- rating.  Seabrook has lower point totals 2 and 3 years back and is much less of a goal scorer than Weber.  Yandle on the other hand signed his contract after a great 59 point season in which he was third in points by a defenseman.  He is a better goal scorer than Seabrook but not quite to the same level of Phaneuf and Weber and has a shorter track record of performance.

As far as contracts go, Phaneuf signed a 6 year contract with a cap hit of $6.5M,  Seabrook signed a 5 year deal with a cap hit of $5.8M, and Yandle signed a 5 year contract with a cap hit of $5.25M.  Based on the stats that can be used in any comparison, it is difficult to argue that Weber is measurably better than Phaneuf was in his pre-contract season(s).  From that one would suggest $6.5M is an upper limit on Weber’s contract.  Under normal circumstances one would suggest that Seabrook’s contract is a lower limit but we must remember that Seabrook’s contract eats up several seasons (4) where he could have had UFA status where as Weber’s contract only covers a single RFA season and Weber would still be an RFA next summer.  In that respect, Yandle’s contract might actually be a better comparable, plus is it based on more recent market conditions, not 3 years ago.  Yandle is one year younger than Weber and has 3 more RFA seasons to Weber’s 2.  Yandle’s contract pays him $4.75M, 5.0M, 5.25M, 5.5M and 5.75M over the next 5 seasons.  The overall average is $5.25M but his 3 RFA season average is $5.0M.

Two other possible comparable players are Duncan Keith and Dustin Byfuglien.  In Keith’s case he signed a 12 year deal with a cap hit of $5.538M but I really don’t know how to compare a 1 year deal with a 12 year deal.  In Byfuglien’s case he signed a 5 year deal with a cap hit of $5.2M but with his history of playing both forward and defense makes any comparison much more difficult.

So with that we have the best comparables being Phaneuf at $6.5M and Yandle at $5.25M and that I think is the range I think the arbitrator is looking at.  There is only one defenseman in the NHL with a cap hit over $7M (Brian Campbell at $7.142M) so I would be shocked if there was an award above $7M.  Furthermore, there are only 8 defensemen with a cap hit over $6M (Campbell, Chara, Bouwmeester, Boyle, Phaneuf, Redden -not really in NHL though, Timonen, Lidstrom) and only Phaneuf signed his contract as an RFA so even arguing that he is worth $6M is a tough sell IMO.  In the end I suspect Weber will get awarded a contract somewhere around the $6M point, possibly a little more, possible a little less.

Update:  The arbitrator awarded Weber a 1 year $7.5M contract.  This tells me that the arbitrator is using actual dollar figures in his decision and using players like Duncan Keith ($8M) and Seabrook ($7M) and their front loaded contracts.  This means front loaded contracts are hurting the NHL owners in arbitration now.  This means had Parise gone to arbitration he could have used Malkin ($9M) and Spezza ($8M) as comparables and got a contract significantly higher than the $6M he agreed to with the Devils.

Jul 202011
 

So I woke up this morning and started reading the usual morning news and blogs and one of the first ones I happened to read was an article at Maple Leafs Hot Stove on the Luke Schenn contract negotiations.  One comment early in the post really caught my attention.

While he may not be an offensive machine (I believe there is still some upside there), at 23, he has blossomed into one of the leagues best shutdown defensemen.

First off, Schenn is 21 not 23 but what really caught my attention is the assertion that he is one of the leagues best shutdown defensemen.  This isn’t an uncommon sentiment regarding Schenn, especially among Leaf fans.  There are a lot of people who believe Schenn has developed into a superior shut down defenseman, or at the very minimum is on track to becoming one.  The thing is, the stats don’t back that up.

2010-11 GA20 TMGA20 OppGF20 ExpGA20 GA20-ExpGA20
Tomas Kaberle 0.638 0.843 0.756 0.800 -0.162
Keith Aulie 0.745 0.845 0.780 0.813 -0.068
Dion Phaneuf 0.783 0.846 0.786 0.816 -0.033
Carl Gunnarsson 0.838 0.831 0.741 0.786 0.052
Luke Schenn 0.838 0.785 0.753 0.769 0.069
Francois Beauchemin 0.884 0.792 0.759 0.776 0.109
Mike Komisarek 0.994 0.782 0.740 0.761 0.233

The above table shows the most used defensemen for the Leafs last season.  Numbers are for 5v5 ice time.  GA20 is the players on ice goals against per 20 minutes.  TMGA20 is a defensive quality of teammates measure in goals against per 20 minutes.  OppGF20 is an offenwive quality of opponent measure in goals for per 20 minutes.  ExpGA20 is an expected goals against average based on quality of teammates and quality of opponents and is simply an average of TMGA20 and OppGF20.  The final column is GA20-ExpGA20 which tells us whether fewer or more goals were scored against than expected when the player was on the ice so negative values are better than positive values.  Note:  Kaberle and Beauchemin’s stats include their time with Boston and Anaheim respectively.

What it all means is Schenn was far from a good shutdown defenseman last year.  His defensive numbers are actually quite poor.  He didn’t play against especially tough opposition (especially compared to Phaneuf and Aulie) and had a very poor GA20.  Overall one could say he was a weak defensive defenseman.  Based on the numbers above, only Beauchemin and Komisarek were worse.  So how does he stack up against the rest of the leagues defensemen?  Lets take a look.

Season(s) GA20 Rank OppGF20 Rank HARD+ Rank CorHARD+ Rank
2010-11 0.838 122/163 0.753 94/163 0.888 121/163 0.922 142/163
2009-10 0.930 145/169 0.744 152/169 0.846 140/169 0.929 142/169
2008-09 0.971 152/159 0.774 44/159 0.818 143/159 0.870 156/159
2009-11 (2yr) 0.876 138/157 0.753 128/157 0.880 138/157 0.922 146/157
2008-11 (3yr) 0.907 161/169 0.762 123/169 0.868 154/169 0.930 160/169

The above table shows how Schenn compares to the rest of the defensemen in the league at 5v5 even strength ice time.  GA20 and OppGF20 are the same as above.  HARD+ is a composite defensive ranking that takes into account the players GF20 as well as defensive quality of teammates (TMGA20) and offensive quality of opponents (OppGA20).  CorHARD+ is similar to HARD+ but instead of using goal data to calculate it uses corsi data.  Personally I think this is somewhat meaningless but this is for those out there who put stock in corsi based stats.

As you can see, his 5v5 even strength defensive numbers range from bad to horrible, his quality of opponent is mediocre at best, his HARD+ rankings are quite poor, and his CorHARD+ rankings are even worse.  IT is really tough to find a compelling argument that Schenn is even an average defensive defenseman let alone one of the best shut down defensemen in the NHL.

His 4v5 PK numbers are even worse.  Of the 87 defensemen with 400 4v5 PK minutes over the past 3 seasons, Schenn has the highest (by a decent margin too) goals against per 20 minutes on the PK.  His 4v5 PK HARD+ rating is also the worst at 0.652 which is pretty atrocious.  His PK corsi numbers aren’t quite as bad, but are still below average (67th of 87 in corsi against per 20 minutes).

All in all it is really difficult to suggest that Schenn is even an average defensive defenseman.  He is certainly not among the leagues best shut down defenseman.

Now, with all that said, I am all for signing Schenn to a new 3 or 4 year contract in the $3-3.5M range.  He is a physical defenseman who blocks shots (as noted by the Maple Leaf Hot Stove article) and gives a good effort all the time.  It could be that he is just a little over zealous with the hits and blocked shots that he gets out of position a bit too often and just needs to learn when to take chances going for the hit or blocked shot.

Part of the problem is also that he was rushed to the NHL and put in a high pressure situation with a lot of expectations placed on him so we was never really given an opportunity to really learn the craft.  I really hope that with the addition of Liles and Franson and the further development of Aulie and Gunnarsson that some of the pressure comes off Schenn and he can take a bit of a step back and really learn the details of playing defense (maybe some new assistant coaches will help too).  Some good goaltending and team success will take some pressure off him as well.

Finally, as fans, I really hope we stop putting pressure on him to be one of the best shutdown defensemen today and one of the faces of the franchise and we begin to view him for what he really is: a young 21 year old defenseman with lots of ability and drive but with lots still to learn.  There really haven’t ever been many elite shut down defensemen at 21 years of age so we should stop expecting him to be that now and instead hope he can be that a year or three from now.

(Final note:  Strangely enough, Schenn’s on ice offensive numbers are actually reasonably good.  His 3 year on ice GF20 is 0.833 which ranks 44th of 169 defensemen and his HARO+ is 1.030 which is good for 42nd.  His 2 year numbers are even better.)

Jul 192011
 

An interesting statistical debate sprung up today started by Tom Benjamin who wrote about his skepticism of the Corsi statistic.  In it Tom comments on the fact that Ryan Kesler and Ryan Clowe ranked so highly in corsi in response to Greg Ballentine’s posts at The Puck Stops Here.

Greg’s examples, it seems to me, make a good case against the Corsi statistic. First, both the Kesler and Clowe stories tell us how much influence context has – neither Kesler nor Clowe could have done it playing on a different team or even playing in a different role on the same team. In other words, this is not really an individual statistic.

Of course, this got some in the Corsi crowd up in arms and states that Corsi can’t be used on its own without considering its context.  Gabe Desjardin’s comments on Tom’s post with the following:

Corsi, like any other statistic, needs to be understood in the context of other factors. Sneering at it because, like any other simple statistic, it doesn’t provide a unified measure of a player’s complete value doesn’t contribute anything to the larger discussion of hockey analysis.

Ok, so I am glad we have that cleared up.  Corsi is just a stat without meaning unless you consider the context.  Oh good, now it is on par with nearly every other stat in hockey.  Unfortunately people actually use corsi to actually draw conclusions about players.

Here is the thing that really irks me about some in the Corsi crowd.  They just assume that shot quality doesn’t exist.  An anonymous commenter using the name ‘Name’ writes the following:

Even the basis of corsi, that shot quality always evens out, so we just have to measure shot quantity, is inherently flawed. The strategies and styles some teams play lead to giving up a greater number of shots, but reducing quality ones, whereas some teams strive to block or prevent every single shot, no matter where it comes from. Therefore some players, just by playing on a certain time, will inherently be on the ice for more shots against. It doesn’t mean they’re giving up more quality scoring chances, or making lots of defensive mistakes, or failing to control play offensively.

To this comment Gabe comes back with his favourite response to any challenge put his way:

Name these teams and players. Thanks.

Now that is a fair response, unfortunately he ignores anyone who actually names these players.  The reality is shot quality doesn’t even out.  Some players drive shot quality and some players suppress it.  Some players have a significantly different +/- than corsi +/- year in and year out.  I gave an example the other day in Brendan Morrison.  Here are some other names for Gabe to consider.

Some guys who can drive shooting percentage: Sidney Crosby, Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton, Bobby Ryan, Martin St. Louis.   Henrik and Daniel Sedin.  Alex Tanguay.  Jason Spezza.

Some guys who can suppress shooting percentage:  Marco Sturm, Travis Moen, Tyler Kennedy, Taylor Pyatt, Shawn Thornton, Chris Drury, Jeff Carter. Torrey Mitchell. Kamil Kreps.

No one in the second group had an opposition shooting percentage above 7.6% in any single season over the past 4 years.  Only a handful of times over the past 4 years has any of the players in the first list had an on ice shooting percentage below 9% and only Bobby Ryan’s 23 game 2007-08 season was below 7.6%.

Now, you’ll probably notice that the first group are all first line players who are expected to produce offense while the second group are mostly third line players asked to shut down the opposition.  It’s difficult to suggest it was just luck that this is how things panned out.  No, some combination of talent and style of play will affect your on ice shooting and opposition shooting percentages.  And again it needs to be stated that shooting percentage is much more highly correlated with scoring goals than corsi.

Jeff Carter is an especially interesting case in that you can in no way argue that he has played in front of especially good goaltending that would drive down his shooting percentage against and yet he has a really slow shooting percentage and yet has one of the highest corsi against of any forward over the past 4 seasons (20.1 corsi events against per 20 minutes over the past 4 seasons ranks 300 of 310) but his goals against (0.753 per 20 minutes)  is decidedly average or even slightly better than average (ranks 139 of 310).

So Gabe, those are some players for you to consider.  I look forward to your response.

Jul 162011
 

Last night after news came out that Brendan Morrison had re-signed with the Calgary Flames, Kent Wilson tweeted the following:

Morrison back in Calgary. Check out his corsi tied rating fellow stats nerds: http://bit.ly/q1ywUj

The link is to the Calgary Flames 5v5 game tied corsi ratings which show Morrison had a 0.452 corsi rating (Corsi For %) which was dead last on the Flames.  The problem with jumping to the conclusion that Morrison is bad is two fold:

1.  Corsi generally speaking isn’t good at evaluating players.

2.  One year of 5v5 game tied data is not enough to evaluate players, even with corsi.

Lets take a look at Brendan Morrison over the past 4 years and I’ll show you exactly what I mean.  First lets look just at 5v5 any game score situations.

Season(s) CorF% GF%
2010-11 0.484 0.562
2009-10 0.514 0.627
2008-09 0.498 0.569
2007-08 0.430 0.500
2007-11 (4yr) 0.491 0.577

In each and every year the goals for percentage is significantly higher than his corsi for percentage.  His corsi ratings make Morrison look mediocre at best but his goal ratings make him appear to be quite good.  This isn’t a fluke.  It is occurring systematically, every single season, over 4 seasons in which Morrison played for 5 different teams (Vancouver, Anaheim, Dallas, Washington, Calgary).

Now what about 5v5 game tied situations.  Morrison’s 4 year game tied corsi for percentage is 0.482, his 4 year game tied goal for percentage is 0.592 (which ranks 28th of  217 among forwards with at least 1000 5v5 game tied minutes over the past 4 seasons).

Personally, I’d rather have good goal ratings than good corsi ratings.  Morrison is a good signing by the Flames.

Evaluating Tim Connolly

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Jul 132011
 

Yesterday I described my player analysis method and used Brad Richards as an example.  Over the next little while I’ll apply my analysis method to a number of players so if there are any players you are interested in seeing my analysis for let me know.  First up is Tim Connolly.  The Leafs lost out on the Brad Richards sweepstakes so lets take a look at how Tim Connolly stacks up.

Let’s start off with a table of what I consider Tim Connolly’s most pertinent information – his 5v5 HARO+ (offense), HARD+ (defense) and HART+ (overall) ratings over the years.

Season(s) HARO+ HARO+ Rank HARD+ HARD+ Rank HART+ HART+ Rank
2007-11 (4yr) 1.171 18/310 0.985 152/310 1.078 31/152
2008-11 (3yr) 1.242 23/319 0.980 158/319 1.111 36/319
2009-11 (2yr) 1.169 67/319 0.975 170/319 1.072 85/319
2010-11 1.045 156/336 0.856 268/336 0.951 220/336
2009-10 1.289 32/338 1.082 100/338 1.185 34/338
2008-09 1.615 2/335 0.941 187/335 1.278 16/335
2007-08 1.322 38/328 0.974 159/328 1.148 55/328

Generally speaking Connolly’s offensive rankings have been well over 1.00 and ranking very highly among all forwards with at minimum 500 minutes of 5v5 time per season and his defensive rankings have been middle of the pack.

Based on Connolly’s offensive statistics he is legitimately a first line center though he has played against relatively weak defensive competition (232/310 in 4 yr OppGA20) as he has played behind Derek Roy in Buffalo.  Last year he played against somewhat tougher defensive competition than he did in 2008-09 and 2009-10 as Derek Roy was injured for more than half the season and he had his worst offensive (and defensive) season so that should be a bit of a concern for Leaf fans.  Still, one season is too short to draw any conclusions so it could just be an anomaly as well but it is something to watch for next season as he’ll likely be given top line duty in Toronto with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul and play against the oppositions better defensive players.

Of interest to Leaf fans who have suffered through several years of poor PP and PK play is Connolly’s special team numbers.  Over the past 4 seasons Connolly has been played a significant role on Buffalo’s power play and the results have generally been good (his 4 year 5v4 HARO+ rating is 1.169).  Connolly has also played a fair amount (about 100 min/season) on the Buffalo PK unit and his performance has been better than what one would expect from his 5v5 defensive numbers.  His 4-year 4v5 PK HARD+ rating is a more than respectable 1.196 so maybe he can play defense when is he trying to stop the opposition from scoring as opposed to trying to produce offense himself.

Based purely on his performance over the past 4 seasons it seems Connolly is a more than reasonable gamble as one could argue he has legitimate first line offensive capabilities and is at least middle of the pack defensively.  The big question of course with Connolly is his health.  Has has played just 48, 48, 73 and 68 games over the past 4 seasons.  The good news is he hasn’t had a significant concussion in several years and his injuries over the past couple of seasons have been non-serious in nature.  If he can be healthy enough to play 70+ games I think a year from now we could look back and say that Connolly was one of the better free agent signings of the 2011 off season, even with a $4.75M cap hit.

Jul 122011
 

Over the past couple of weeks I have had several comment discussions regarding some of my recent posts on player evaluation and Norris and Hart trophy candidates which centered around which is a better method for evaluating players:  corsi vs goal based evaluation.  A lot of people, maybe the majority of those within the advanced hockey stat community, seem to prefer corsi based analysis while I prefer goal based analysis and I hope to explain why with this post.  I have explained much of this previously but hopefully this post will put it all into one simple easy to understand package.

There are two main objectives for a player when the coach puts him on the ice:  1.  Help his team score a goal.  2.  Help his team stop the opposing team from scoring a goal.  Depending on the situation and the player the coach may prioritize one of those over the other.  For example, a defensive player may be tasked primarily with shutting down an opposing teams offensive players and scoring a goal is really a very minor objective.  Late in a game when a team is down a goal the opposite is true and the primary objective, if not sole objective, is to score a goal.

I think we can all agree on the previous paragraph.  Goals are what matter in hockey so right there we have the #1 reason why goals should be used in player evaluation.  The problem is, goals are a relatively rare event and thus ‘luck’ can have a serious impact on our player analysis results due to the small sample size that goals provide.  This brought on the concept of corsi which is nothing more than shot attempts and is used as a proxy for scoring chances.  The benefit of corsi is that shot attempts occur about 10 times often as goals which gives us a larger sample size to evaluate players.

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Jun 302011
 

Anyone who knows anything about hockey, save for Florida GM Dale Tallon it seems, immediately thought ‘bad contract’ when they heard that the Florida Panthers had signed Tomas Kopecky to a 4 year contract at $3M/year.  But how bad is that contract?  Well, lets take a look.

Goal based stats (i.e. any stats that requite goals to calculate which is pretty much everything except things like shots or corsi) are heavily influenced by random events over the short term but over the long term tell a much more accurate picture than shot or corsi based stats.  Personally I consider goal based stats over a 3 or 4 year period to be a fairly reliable indicator of a players talent level so lets see how Kopecky compares over the past 4 seasons.

There are 183 NHL forwards who have played over 3000 minutes of 5v5 ice time over the past 4 seasons and Tomas Kopecky is one of them.  Here is how Kopecky compares to his forward peers over that time.

Statistic Value Rank out of 183
Goals For/20 minutes 0.719 150
Goals Against/20 minutes 0.798 106
Goals For % 0.474 157
Opposition GF/20min 0.737 183
Opposition GA/20min 0.760 71
Opposition Goals For % 0.492 183

To summarize, his performance numbers are bad and he has arguably played against the easiest competition of any forward with 3000 minutes of ice time over the past 4 seasons.  On top of that he has never played any significant time on the penalty kill.  Last season he got increased ice time on the Blackhawks top 2 lines and on the PP which boosted his offensive numbers to a career high of 15g and 42 points (previous high was 10g, 21pts) but that is more a result of who he was playing with and not his own talent level.

Kopecky for the most part has been a third line player who got some top six minutes last season because of the post-Stanley Cup salary cap induced fire sale that left the Blackhawks short of experienced forwards. For the past 2 seasons Kopecky earned $1.2M and I don’t think he deserved a raise from that level.  To pay Kopecky $3M over 4 years is probably a $1.5-2M/yr over payment and probably 1-2 years longer than he deserved.  It might be the worst $3M/yr contract ever signed in the NHL but he may be in good company soon because I suspect Maxime Talbot will get a similar contract and his numbers are equally bad, if not worse (though Talbot has played significantly more on the PK than Kopecky).  I pray that the Leafs do not sign Talbot.