Apr 122013
 

The Toronto Maple Leafs shooting percentage has been predicted to fall for a couple of months now but it has held steady. I know that about 5-6 weeks ago the Leafs 5v5 shooting percentage was at 10.4% and I predicted it was sure to fall but as of this morning their 5v5 shooting percentage is even higher at 10.59%. Here is a graph of their 5v5 shooting percentage through out the season.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2012-13 Shooting %

Toronto Maple Leafs 2012-13 Shooting % (shots across x-axis)

League average 5v5 shooting percentage is normally just shy of 8% and the Leafs are about 33% higher than that which is incredibly high. Over the previous 5 seasons only one team has maintained a 5v5 shooting percentage above 10% over the course of an 82 game season and that was the Washington Capitals in 2009-10 when they shot at a 10.39% clip and only a handful of teams have managed to post a 5v5 shooting percentage above 9%. What the Leafs are doing is quite extraordinary even if it is a shortened season. Only 13.4% of the running 50 shot shooting percentage data points in the above graph fall below the typical league average of 8% so about 86.6% of the time they are at or above average in shooting percentage.

The only other team with a 5v5 shooting percentage above 10% this season is the Tampa Bay Lighting but they have been falling back a bit lately and in danger of falling below the 10% line as they currently sit at 10.01%.

Barring a collapse the Leafs should almost certainly end the season with a shooting percentage above 10% but it is difficult to know how much of it is luck/circumstance/randomness and how much is truly skill.

 

Feb 062013
 

The talk of the NHL these days is the fall of the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin in particular. This is a pretty telling table in regards to Ovechkin’s fall in offensive production. Stats are Ovechkin’s 5v5 stats over the past 6 seasons.

Season TOI G A Pts Shots Sh% TOI/G TOI/Shot
2012-13 149:14 0 1 1 18 0.00%  - 8:17
2011-12 1193:36 19 15 34 206 9.22% 62:49 5:48
2010-11 1230:48 17 30 47 230 7.39% 72:24 5:21
2009-10 1125:08 32 33 65 246 13.01% 35:10 4:34
2008-09 1222:16 27 23 50 305 8.85% 45:16 4:00
2007-08 1302:36 34 27 61 285 11.93% 38:19 4:34

His shooting percentages dropped off a bit the past 2 years at least as important as that is his shot rates have dropped off from a shot every 4-4.5 minutes to a shot about every 5.5 minutes the past two years. This year his shot rate has fallen off a cliff to only getting a shot every 8 minutes which about double where he was during the 3 seasons from 2007-08 to 2009-10.

 

Nov 022008
 

- Add a new team into the Mats Sundin sweepstakes: the Ducks. That’s right, the perpetually financially strained team is reportedly making a pitch to Sundin, and with the Ducks so close to the cap they’re going to have to shed salary (again). This time, the casualty may be Chris Kunitz, the former Ducks alternate captain who hasn’t quite lived up to his $3.5m price-tag since signing it. No doubt that the Ducks would prefer to trade Kunitz to an Eastern Conference team, but Brian Burke continues to put himself in situations in which he has absolutely no leverage – Mathieu Schneider was dealt for close to nothing, Ken Klee and Ilya Bryzgalov were lost through waivers, but the Ducks continue to spend, most recently Bret Hedican. I think Sundin is a long shot to land on the Ducks, because the Ducks’ offer won’t come close to the Canucks’ offer in terms of money and length. However, should the Ducks find themselves atop the Pacific come Christmas time (unlikely considering the way the Sharks are playing), it is a very attractive option.

– After Brendan Shanahan gave up hopes in returning to the Rangers, especially after their hot start, he’s starting to look at other options, and those teams include Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington, Montreal, and Boston, all of them east teams, but all of them close to the cap. Colorado has also figured into the mix, and I think that’s where we may see Shanahan end up. The Avs have always been an enticing franchise for veteran free agents to play for, and although that may not be the case these days, don’t forget that the Avs still have Joe Sakic, who still has a considerable amount of pull, and the two played together at Salt Lake.

– The Jackets have tried everything, including moving Rick Nash to centre during practise, but it still hasn’t ignited a potentially high-octane offense. Since the first days of the franchise the team has always lacked a playmaking centre for Nash to play with, even though RJ Umberger (I predicted he would be a bust alongside Nash) and Kristian Huselius were signed, it still didn’t work. Derick Brassard is playing well, but he’s not quite ready for number one centre duties yet. This has prompted the Jackets to revive their search for a number one centre… and I don’t think it’s going to happen this year.

Nikolai Khabibulin is making a strong case for himself to stay, and the Hawks must be giddy about his rising stock. The Hawks seem to be fairing well with both Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet, which means that another $6m on the Hawks’ roster, Martin Havlat, could be out the door instead. The injury-prone winger will be an UFA this summer, which makes him an attractive trade bait, especially if (a big one at that) he manages to stay healthy at least until the trade deadline.

Mathieu Garon is also playing fairly well, despite the Oilers’ recent cold streak. There haven’t been any public grumblings from Dwayne Roloson, but it’s common knowledge that the 39-year old veteran doesn’t like playing second fiddle. There have been, unsurprisingly, no takers so far, and it’ll be a long season for Roloson from the bench. The Oilers are eager to get Roloson’s $3.667m cap hit off their books, paving the way for Jeff Deslauriers to handle backup duties full-time.

Rumours courtesy of Bruce Garrioch from the Ottawa Sun.

Oct 312008
 

1 – Alexander Semin had some choice words for the NHL’s poster boy, Sidney Crosby. The Caps forward is off to a hot start and with the team being hailed as favourites to win their division again, didn’t hold back any punches. In short, Semin believes Crosby’s overrated – and that Chicago’s Patrick Kane is the superior player. He believes that stats, in particular Crosby’s, have made him out to be a better player than he actually is. I’m never turned off by some good sound bytes, but this sort of personal trash talk doesn’t really stoke any fires for the Pens-Caps rivalry, and I also believe that the Caps needs to reach the finals before they say anything more.

2 – Adam Proteau at THN thinks Gary Bettman needs to go. I agree… as do many others. Does Bettman?

3 – I think Doug Weight‘s hit on Brandon Sutter was clean. I don’t think Weight had any other choice than to lay him out – if he hadn’t it would’ve created an offensive rush for the Canes. Sutter’s concussion was unfortunate, and I hate to say it, but it was his fault. He had his head down in a prone position, reaching for the puck in the neutral zone. What did he think was going to happen? The players have to protect themselves – I don’t think there’s an easier way to put it, and getting rid of the instigator rule is a step in the right direction.

4 – Marian Gaborik‘s been a staple in the rumour mill since the end of last year. However, despite losing him to injury, the Wild are 6-2-1 and at the top of their division… which makes you really wonder if Gaborik is worth the reported $85-100 million the Wild have apparently offered him. There’s no mistake that Gaborik’s a world-class player, and even though I am attributing Antti Miettinen‘s recent scoring surge as a flash in the pan, I don’t think the Wild need him, especially at that price. Jacques Lemaire plays a system that doesn’t require a bona fide offensive player, although it is nice to have one. The Wild are just as happy winning games 2-1 than 6-1. Gaborik has proven himself to be injury-prone and seems to be intent on testing the waters on the market, and if that is indeed the case the Wild should just trade him.

Oct 152008
 

The reds have caught the US capital by storm. Literally. With a completely turnaround midway through the season leading to the club’s first division title in 7 years, the Capitals have completely swept the people of DC off their feet. Hockey in DC is as popular as ever, and backed by an owner who isn’t afraid to throw some money around or change conventional thinking, and a general manager who isn’t afraid to pull the trigger, the Caps are back.

No other player in the NHL is as exciting as Alexander Ovechkin. The Russian phenom just came off a 65-goal campaign and has since been named as the city’s mayor for one day and launched his own clothing line. The charismatic (and not coincidentally the league’s most marketable player) goal-scoring machine may not have mastered the English language, but his passion for the game is second to none, and it shows. Under Bruce Boudreau, the Caps moved towards a relentless forechecking game, a fantastic strategy given the Caps’ foot speed and size up front. Over the years the Caps have toiled, but George McPhee and Ted Leonsis have remained patient, and after hoarding draft picks over the years, the players have started to blossom. Nicklas Backstrom showed flashes of playmaking brilliance that will surely figure into an outstanding career, while Alexander Semin has really become a sniper of sorts. Even the forgotten draft picks and free agents the Caps have picked up, namely David Steckel, Matt Bradley, and Brooks Laich, have all found their respective niches in Boudreau’s system. Mix in a couple of savvy veterans in Sergei Fedorov and Michael Nylander some grit in Chris Clark and Donald Brashear, the Caps have a very well-rounded and well-coached forwards corps. Especially with captain Clark healthy for a full season, the Caps could very well improve on their offense (ranked 8th last year) and powerplay (9th).

Mike Green is a microcosm of the Caps’ turnaround. The former 1st round pick (in 2004) was almost forgotten before he exploded onto the scoresheets last year after spending 5 years in the WHL with Saskatoon. Green was never short on talent – in his first full season as a pro with Hershey of the AHL he managed to pot 43 points in 56 games, and another 18 points in 21 playoff games, earning a late call-up and finished with 22 NHL games under his belt. His first full NHL season saw him post just 12 points in 70 games, and it seemed (for a little while) that Green was another one of those talented players who could never translate his skill game to the NHL level. When Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon early in the season, and with a strong familiarity between the two, Green exploded and went on to lead the league with 18 goals. Hailed as the Caps’ new go to defenseman, he’s well supported by a veteran group led by Brian Pothier (currently injured) and Tom Poti, but also by a core of young players that will no doubt be hoping to replicate Green’s success, including Shaone Morrisonn, Jeff Schultz, and Milan Jurcina. As much offense as the Caps’ defense can generate, their defensive play as a whole is still a little suspect. The team doesn’t feature a shut-down guy, much less a shut-down pair, so it might be a little optimistic to think the Caps’ defense will improve over last year’s, especially with so much uncertainty in net.

The Caps wanted to keep Cristobal Huet, but when negotiations weren’t going anywhere the French goalie bolted to Chicago where the grass was greener, and the Caps had no choice (and I really mean no choice) to settle for Jose Theodore. Top goalie prospect Simeon Varlamov is still a couple years away from making the jump, and despite his inconsistencies and the mental baggage that Theodore seems to carry around with him, he’s an adequate short-term solution (he’s only signed for 2 years). Brent Johnson is more than capable as a backup, but the Caps are still hinging on Theodore to at least show flashes of his former MVP form in order for them to stay competitive. Ovechkin and Green and the rest of the crew may be able to score a lot of goals, but you can’t win if you can’t stop them either. With the Southeast Division filled with hotshot snipers, perhaps with the exception of Florida, defense and goaltending will be key to winning the division. The Caps are leading in those categories, but it’ll have to hold for 82 games, something which may be a bit of a stretch.

Their division is fairly weak, and by virtue the winner of the division will get home-ice advantage in the first round, but that doesn’t mean the Caps will be the underdogs going in. If all goes well, the Caps may very well end up as high as first (yes, first) in the conference. With Ovechkin finally getting a taste of the playoffs, you can bet that the exuberant Russian wants more, and the Caps may not disappoint at all this year. They’re not quite Cup favourites yet, but they don’t have to wait long before that happens.

Lineup:
Alexander Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Viktor Kozlov
Alexander Semin – Sergei Fedorov – Brooks Laich
Tomas Fleischmann – Michael Nylander – Chris Clark
Donald Brashear – David Steckel – Matt Bradley

Shaone Morrisonn – Mike Green
Jeff Schultz – Tom Poti
John Erskine – Milan Jurcina

Jose Theodore – Brent Johnson

Coach: Bruce Boudreau
GM: George McPhee

Predicted finish: 1st Southeast, 3rd East

Sep 202008
 

The Thrashers were interested in Mathieu Schneider, but felt that given the veteran’s price tag and current skill set it was just too expensive. Don Waddell claims that Schneider’s age was not a factor in the decision.

Nikolai Khabibulin is looking forward to the start of the season, but admits he was surprised when the Hawks signed Cristobal Huet to a multi-year deal. He also admits that even though he hasn’t been at his best, he didn’t have a “championship calibre” team in front of him either. Not exactly the words management wants to hear, but Khabibulin has to make do with what he’s got in front of him (and it’s not bad) and hope to land another fat contract. Meanwhile, veteran Keith Carney has been invited to camp.

The Jackets are prepared to possibly enter the season with rookie Derick Brassard as their new number one centre. Ken Hitchcock reportedly liked Brassard and Kristian Huselius on the top line with Rick Nash, while the second line consisted of rookie Jakub Voracek, RJ Umberger, and Fredrik Modin.

The Stars have also tinkered with their lineup, with Mike Modano lining up to the left of Brad Richards and Sean Avery. It gives Modano some playing time in the top six and getting him away from the checking line role that’s better suited for someone else.

Marian Gaborik certainly isn’t helping his own case after being listed as day-to-day with a pulled right quad. The sniping winger is expected to land a lucrative contract this summer – whether it’s with the Wild or someone else remains to be seen. The injury-prone winger has to have another healthy season if he wants to cash in big time.

It’s obvious, so don’t expect Martin Brodeur to play 77 games like he did last year. Both Brodeur and Brent Sutter admitted that the games took a toll on the veteran goalie, and that Avery didn’t help in that department either. Look for Kevin Weekes to do a little more than usual last year to collect his six-figure paycheque.

Tom Renney and the Rangers remain mum on Brendan Shanahan, and says that his focus is now on training camp.

Derian Hatcher‘s career seems to be in jeopardy due to a bum knee, and Wayne Fish believes that it’ll really hurt the team’s chances this year (I beg to differ), but claims that with the addition of Ossi Vaananen and camp invite Bryan Berard it should lessen the pain (Fish is comparing the “irreplaceable” Hatcher to two journeymen? Okay.)

The Sharks are ready to open up their camp with the following lines:
Marleau – Thornton – Clowe
Michalek – Pavelski – Cheechoo
Goc – Mitchell – Grier
Plihal – Roenick – Setoguchi
Ron Wilson also had Patrick Marleau on Joe Thornton‘s wing in order to get his game going last year, but it didn’t last.

The Blues kicked off their training camp with a snooze, and I daresay that the rest of the season wouldn’t be too different. Coach Andy Murray suggested that the Blues could start the season with rookie Patrick Berglund on the top line with Paul Kariya. Murray also acknowledged that the losses of Ryan Johnson, Jamal Mayers, and Bryce Salvador, all three great locker room guys, means that veterans Kariya and Keith Tkachuk, neither been known as vocal captains, will need to step up.

Move aside “Seen Stamkos.” It’s time for “WWGRD?” in Tampa. Now that wunderkind Steve Stamkos is officially signed the focus moves to training camp. For the Lightning, who had a major overhaul in its front office staff and approach to the new season, it’s a chance to capitalize on a resurgence of interest in Lightning hockey. Just ask yourself, What Would Gary Roberts Do?

The Caps are excited and raring to go. So much so that they had to ask sophomore Nicklas Backstrom, who was early and the first on the ice, to get off after half an hour for precautionary reasons. When your rookies are that excited, you know your team is in good spirits, and for the Caps, why shouldn’t they?

Aug 172008
 

1 Montreal Canadiens
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
3 Washington Capitals
4 Philadelphia Flyers
5 Ottawa Senators
6 NY Rangers
7 New Jersey Devils
8 Carolina Hurricanes
9 Tampa Bay Lightning
10 Boston Bruins
11 Buffalo Sabres
12 Florida Panthers
13 Atlanta Thrashers
14 Toronto Maple Leafs
15 NY Islanders

Again, I’m going to have to disagree with THN over this. If the Pens had managed to keep Ryan Malone and/or Marian Hossa I’d be inclined to agree that they would finish atop their division, but they won’t. When you potentially have Miroslav Satan as your top scoring winger you’re not going to go anywhere fast. The rest of the team remains largely the same.

I have a hard time believing the Sens will finish ahead of the Rangers and Devils. Despite the fact that Wade Redden‘s game is in decline, losing him will hurt because they didn’t replace him. The Sens are still looking for ways to fill out the rest of their roster, but like so many other teams in the East, goaltending is their primary concern. If Martin Gerber doesn’t hold up, they’re slightly above average at best by virtue of their incredible top line.

The Bruins are going to make some noise this year, especially with a completely healed Patrice Bergeron. Michael Ryder will head into camp as the favourite to land the first line right winger slot, and considering the success Claude Julien had with Ryder, along with an elite playmaking centre in Marc Savard, he could be a very nice surprise. Once again, however, they head into training camp with a 1A-1B tandem of fan favourite Tim Thomas and the disgruntled Manny Fernandez.

The East is much more clear cut than the West because so many teams have holes. The Habs, arguably the best team in the East, also has a shaky goaltending situation considering how Carey Price fell apart last year. These goaltending problems also plague at least 3 of the playoff teams listed. It’ll be interesting to see how this season plays out – a lot of teams have areas to improve, and considering the mass exodus of players from the East heading West, this year could be rather different.

Feb 112008
 

Today we saw the first significant trade leading up to this years trade deadline as the Ottawa Senators traded Patrick Eaves and Joe Corvo to Carolina for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore. Although this trade should help the Sens this season, a word of caution has to be put out concerning the trading for players from the southeast division.

The southeast division is one horrible division and it could be argued that 5 of the worst 10 teams in the league play in the southeast division. A big reason for this is bad defenses and outright horrible goaltending (Tomas Vokoun aside). The three worst teams in terms of team save percentage are Tampa (.881), Washington (.889) and Carolina (.891) while Atlanta (.904) is a marginally more respectable 12th worst. Because of this weak goaltending offensive players who play in the southeast division often look better than they probably are. Cory Stillman is a perfect example.

Cory Stillman vs SE division: 18GP, 11G, 11A, 22PTS
Cory Stillman vs rest of league: 37GP, 10G, 14A, 25PTS

In double the games he has fewer goals and only slightly more points.

And it isn’t just Stillman. Here are a few other big name trade acquisition possibilities.

Marian Hossa vs SE: 19GP, 11G, 10A, 21PTS
Marian Hossa vs Others: 36GP, 13G, 14A, 27PTS

Olli Jokinen vs SE: 20GP, 9g, 15a, 24pts
Olli Jokinen vs others: 38GP, 20g, 14a, 34pts

Jokinen has actually done well in terms of scoring goals against the rest of the league but his overall point totals are still lower.

Vaclav Prospal vs SE: 22GP, 12g, 15a, 27pts
Vaclav Prospal vs others: 34GP, 11g, 13a, 24pts

When it comes to acquiring offensive players from the southeast division it is definitely a case of buyer beware. They may not be everything you hoped they would be.

Sep 272007
 

Atlanta Thrashers
Strengths:
-Top end talent in Kovalchuk and Hossa
-Excellent young goalie in Kari Lehtonen
Weaknesses:
-Lack depth and secondary scoring
-Just an OK defence and not deep.
Question Marks:
-Is Lehtonen ready to take his game to the elite level?
-Will Atlanta re-sign Hossa or be forced to trade him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer?
-Is Steve Rucchin’s career done?
Outlook:
A few of the bodies changed but I the outlook for the Thrashers is pretty much the same as last year. They will compete for the division title once again but only because they play in a weak division and are otherwise a borderline playoff team whose success or failure is pretty much dependent on the performance of Kovalchuk, Hossa and Lehtonen.

Carolina Hurricanes
Strengths:
-Strong down the middle with Staal, Brind’amour, Cullen and Jeff Hamilton.
-Pretty good set of wingers too.
Weaknesses:
-They have 7 NHL calibre defensemen but none of them are really top pairing defensemen on most good teams in the NHL.
-Despite winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy goalie Cam Ward has still not yet established himself as a good consistent dependable goalie in the NHL.
Question Marks:
-Will goalie Cam Ward take his game up a notch?
-Can Eric Staal return to the level of play he showed in 2005-06?
Outlook:
-Like most teams in this division they are a decent team but not a great one. They have a chance to compete for the division title but may also miss the playoffs like they did last season. Which outcome they obtain will depend on the play of Cam Ward and the Hurricanes weak defence group.

Florida Panthers
Strengths:
-Finally have a proven star goalie.
-Lots of good young talent.
Weaknesses:
-Not a lot of depth up front which means staying healthy will be critical.
-Not a lot of experienced talent.
Question Marks:
-Can Vokoun stay healthy enough to play 65+ games?
-Can Olesz, Horton, Weiss and the other young players take their games up a notch.
Outlook:
-There is no doubt that adding Tomas Vokoun is going to have a major impact on this team. With a lot of young players on the roster, having a proven star goalie back that can help make up for a lot of ‘rookie’ mistakes. If Vokoun can play 65+ games and they get some improvement out of their young forwards there is no reason why Florida can’t compete for a playoff spot or even the division title in this weak southeast division. If neither of those happen it will likely be another playoff miss for the Panthers. I am optimistic about their playoff chances though.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Strengths:
-The big 3 forwards in Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards are among the best in the league.
-Boyle and Kuba are two solid offensive defensemen to compliment the big three forwards.
Weaknesses:
-Goaltending.
-Defensive play.
-Goaltending again.
Question Marks:
-Can Dan Boyle make a quick recovery from his freak accident and return to being a star offensive defensemen?
-Can they finally get some consistent, solid goaltending?
Outlook:
-The story in Tampa since they won their Stanley Cup just prior to the lock out has been all about goaltending. They have squeaked into the playoffs two years in a row now despite having horrible goaltending, in part because of a weak division and in part because they have been stellar in shootouts (combined 16-6 the past 2 years). In fact, last year Tampa’s goalies had a better save percentage in the shootout (.887) than they did during the rest of the game (.884). That is unlikely to happen again and with the potential improvement of Florida and Washington it makes Tampa’s playoff spot seriously up for grabs. Best case scenario for the Lightning is they squeak into the playoffs again.

Washington Capitals
Strengths:
-Next to Pittsburgh might have the best set of young forwards in the NHL with Ovechkin, Semin and rookie Nicklas Backstrom.
-Added some nice complementary forwards in Nylander and Viktor Kozlov.
Weaknesses:
-Below average defence
Question Marks:
-Can Nicklas Backstrom have a solid rookie season?
-Does 37 year old goalie Kolzig have another good year in him?
Outlook:
-The Washington Capitals are one of the interesting teams to watch this year. They finished 14th in the eastern conference last season with 70 points but have added Michael Nylander, Viktor Kozlov, Tom Poti and rookie of the year candidate Nicklas Backstom to their roster. They have the makings of two very good offensive lines, one anchored by a Nylander-Ovechkin duo and the other by a Backstrom-Semin duo with 30 goal scorer Chris Clark and 25 goal scorer Viktor Kozlov added to the mix as well. They have the potential to have a better forward group (top to bottom) than either Tampa or Atlanta and that is saying a lot. Like Tampa and Atlanta though, their defence is suspect though it could be serviceable if everyone plays to their potential. The question is if and when will this offensive talent come together and play like a cohesive unit (much like what happened in Pittsburgh last year). If it happens by the mid-point in the season the Capitals could challenge for a playoff spot but I suspect they are still a year or two and a quality defenseman or two away.

Sep 122007
 

Based on the same forumula as the western conference ratings, here are the eastern conference ratings. As usual, if you disagree feel free to post your thoughts and if you can back up your arguement, who knows, maybe you can get me to change my mind.

Forwards Defense Goaltending Total
Talent Depth Exp. Talent Depth Exp. #1 goalie Depth Exp. Score
Ottawa 10 6 7 8 7 7 8 7 6 53.2
Buffalo 8 8 6 7 8 7 8 7 6 52.8
Pittsburgh 10 8 6 8 7 6 7 6 6 52.5
NY Rangers 9 7 8 6 7 6 9 6 6 52.2
Toronto 7 8 7 8 9 7 6 6 6 50.7
Philadelphia 8 8 6 7 7 7 7 7 6 50.3
Florida 7 6 5 7 7 6 9 6 7 49.5
New Jersey 7 6 7 6 6 7 9 6 10 49.5
Montreal 7 6 6 7 7 7 8 7 6 48.8
Atlanta 9 6 7 7 5 6 8 6 5 48.0
Carolina 8 7 7 6 7 8 6 6 6 47.0
NY Islanders 6 7 7 6 7 6 8 5 6 46.8
Boston 7 6 6 7 7 6 7 6 6 46.5
Tampa 9 6 6 8 6 6 6 5 6 46.5
Washington 8 6 5 6 6 5 7 6 7 45.2