Dec 162010
 

In the Hockey Statistical Analysis world Tomas Vokoun is an interesting case study because depending on how he gets evaluated he either shows up as an very good goalie or in some cases a true elite goalie in the NHL.  Most ways we evaluate goalies has to do with save percentages.  We either look at overall save percentage or even strength save percentage or even even strength game tied save percentage.  Under all of these scenarios Vokoun excels to various degrees.  A recent Behind the Net Hockey Blog post asked several hockey statistic analysts to discuss “elite goalies” and Tomas Vokoun’s name came up frequently.  What is dumbfounding to me is Vokoun’s record because his won-loss record (79-80-25) is notably worse over the past 3 seasons than his backups (32-22-8).  That can’t be a sign of an elite goalie, even if his backups have been relatively good (i.e. Craig Anderson).  One may postulate it is due to facing tougher competition as backup goalies often get the to play against weaker teams or one may postulate it is just due to bad luck.  Or maybe, he just isn’t a great goalie.

Since shots totals and shooting/save percentage is often affected by game score I’ll focus on 5v5 even strength game tied statistics to balance everything out.  Over the last 3 seasons (2007-08 to 2009-10) there are 35 goalies with 1500 or more 5v5 game tied minutes.  Of these goalies, Tomas Vokoun ranks 8th in 5v5 game tied save percentage which may not be elite, but still very good.  Jonas Hiller tops the list with a .942 save % with Vokoun at .933 and Chris Osgood trails the list with a .906 save %.  So, Vokoun looks pretty good.

But, Tomas Vokoun ranks just 23rd in goals against average which isn’t great and probably average at best.  Those who are in love with fenwick numbers will note that Vokoun has the second highest fenwick against of any goalies with 1500+ 5v5 tied minutes and he gives up so many goals because Florida gives up so many shots and scoring chances.  Of course, I believe that not all shots against are equal and shot totals can be influenced by style of play as much as talent.  If you don’t believe style of play affects shot totals and scoring chances, ask yourself why there are score effects on shot/corsi totals?  The answer is depending on the score, teams play differently.  But teams play differently when the score is tied as well.  Some teams play a defense first style, even when game is tied, and others play a more wide open offensive style.  Florida, without any true elite offensive stars, probably plays more of a defensive game which would naturally lead to more shots against, but not necessarily more quality scoring chances against.

So yes, Florida gives up a lot of shots, but how good is Tomas Vokoun’s competition really.  He does play in the weakest division in the NHL and yet he can’t produce a good won-loss record.  Just looking at Vokoun’s opposition, his opponents rank dead last in goals for per 20 minutes so compared to other goalies he is playing against relatively weak opponents offensively.  His oppositions GF% (goals for / goals for + against) is also fourth worst so overall so he plays against very weak opposition in terms of scoring goals and stopping goals.  For those who prefer Fenwick, his opposition has a FF% (fenwick for / fenwick for + against) of .499, good for 27th among the 35 goalies.  So his opposition isn’t good and his performance in goals against average isn’t good either.  That isn’t a good combination if you want to be considered an elite level goalie.

How about a direct comparison with his backups.  In 2007-08 his goals against average per 20 minutes was significantly worse than Craig Anderson’s (0.949 for Vokoun, 0.538 for Anderson) while Anderson’s opponents had a slightly better goals for per 20 minutes (0.678 vs 0.671).  In 2008-09 Vokoun had a much better season giving up 0.697 goals per 20 minutes compared to Anderson’s 0.896 though Anderson played against slightly better offensive competition.  In 2009-10 Vokoun had a much better goals against than Clemmensen (0.621 vs 1.058) but played against weaker competition as well (OppGF20 of .714 vs 0.743 for Clemmensen’s opponents).  Generally speaking Tomas Vokoun had a very weak 2007-08 season but much better 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons even though he always seemed to play against weaker offensive opponents.

In terms of my Hockey Analysis Ratings, Tomas Vokoun ranked 16th out of 35 goalies in 2007-10 HARD and 18th in 2007-10 HARD+ rankings.  Middle of the pack.  The seasonal breakdown positioned him 35th of 38 in HARD+ for goalies with 500+ minutes in 2007-08, 19th of 35 in 2008-09, and 6th of 37 in 2009-10.  So far this season he is closer to the bottom again.

Is Tomas Vokoun an elite goalie, or even great goalie?  Probably not.  He just posts good save percentages because his team gives up a lot of shots, but not necessarily quality scoring chances, and he plays against weak offensive competition.

Introducing New Stats Site

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Dec 152010
 

I have been pretty quiet here recently not because of a lack of things I want to write about but because I needed to get my stats site up and running first so I can reference it in my writings.  Plus, getting my stats site up has been on my todo list for a real long time.  There will be a lot more stats to come including my with/against on ice pairing stats which I had up a season or two ago and many of you found interesting as well as team stats but for now let me explain what is there.

What you will find there now is my player rating system which produces the following ratings:

HARD – Hockey Analysis Rating – Defense

HARO – Hockey Analysis Rating – Offense

HART – Hockey Analysis Rating – Total

HARD+ – Hockey Analysis Rating – Defense

HARO+ – Hockey Analysis Rating – Offense

HART+ – Hockey Analysis Rating – Total

HARD is the defensive rating and is calculated by taking expected goals against while on the ice and dividing it by actual goals against while on the ice.  The expected goals against is calculated by taking the average of a players team mates goals against per 20 minutes (TMGA20) and averaging it with the players opposition goals for per 20 minutes (OppGF20).  Similarly HARO is calculated by taking a players actual goals for while on the ice and dividing it by the expected goals against while on the ice.  For both, a rating above 1.00 means that the player helped the team perform better than expected when he was on the ice where as a rating below 1.00 means the player hurt the teams performance when he was on the ice.  HART is just an average of HARD and HARO.

HARD+, HARO+ and HART+ are enhanced ratings which result from an iterative process that iteratively feeds HARD and HARO ratings into an algorithm to refine the ratings.  For the most part this iterative process produced a nice stable state but sometimes the algorithm goes haywire and things fail (i.e. for a particular season or seasons).  For this reason I am calling the + ratings experimental but if you don’t see anything wacky (i.e. large differences in every players ratings) they should be considered reliable and probably better ratings than the straight HARD, HARO and HART ratings.  Anything better than 1.00 should be considered better than the average player and anything less than 1.00 should be considered below average.

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Do good teams Create Good Luck? (Updated)

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Dec 032010
 

(Updated to include 3 seasons of data as I now realize that more luck data was available)

The other day there was a post on the Behind the Net Blog which used betting odds to estimate how lucky a team was during the 2009-10 season.  In many ways it is quite an ingenious way to evaluate a teams luck and I recommend those who have not read it go take a look.  Last night I was watching, sadly, the Leafs-Oilers game and thinking about luck in a hockey game and whether a team has any control over the luck they experience.   It got me thinking, does a team which controls the flow of the play mean that team is more likely to have more ‘good luck’ stuff happen to them than ‘bad luck’ stuff.

I defined luck as being how many standard deviations their actual point totals were from their expected point totals as defined in the document referenced in the Behind the Net blog post and in an updated document with 4 years of data.  I have only included 3 seasons in this analysis since I have only been working with 3 seasons of data recently and I was too lazy to go back and calculate a fourth season right now.

The most used stat to indicate how well a team controls the play is corsi or fenwick percentage which is basically the number of shots a team directs at the goal divided by the number of shots that they and their opponents teams directed at the goal.  I’ll be using Fenwick % here which includes shots and missed shots but not blocked shots.  So how does Fenwick % correlate with luck?

The correlation is fairly low but a correlation exists.  Maybe good teams can generate their own luck.  Here is a table of a teams luck and fenwick% for 2009-10.

Team Luck Fen%
Chicago Blackhawks 0.777 0.578
Detroit Red Wings 0.395 0.541
Boston Bruins -0.534 0.536
Pittsburgh Penguins -0.156 0.530
Toronto Maple Leafs -1.282 0.528
New Jersey Devils 0.459 0.522
St. Louis Blues 0.186 0.519
Phoenix Coyotes 2.092 0.515
Nashville Predators 1.225 0.514
Calgary Flames -0.590 0.513
Washington Capitals 1.883 0.512
San Jose Sharks 1.020 0.512
Philadelphia Flyers -1.157 0.511
Ottawa Senators 0.083 0.508
Los Angeles Kings 1.040 0.498
Buffalo Sabres 0.302 0.496
Atlanta Thrashers -0.347 0.496
New York Rangers -0.753 0.495
Vancouver Canucks 0.471 0.495
Carolina Hurricanes -0.555 0.491
New York Islanders -0.201 0.490
Columbus Blue Jackets -0.855 0.488
Dallas Stars -0.212 0.480
Anaheim Ducks -0.087 0.467
Tampa Bay Lightning -0.604 0.466
Florida Panthers -0.726 0.465
Montreal Canadiens 0.052 0.464
Minnesota Wild -0.486 0.459
Colorado Avalanche 0.599 0.449
Edmonton Oilers -1.993 0.446

When I was looking through the table something caught my attention.  Of the bottom 15 teams in Fenwick%, only four teams had positive luck.  These were Buffalo, Vancouver, Montreal and Colorado.  Generally speaking, these four teams had good to very good goaltending.  Of the top 15 teams in Fenwick%, only five teams had negative luck.  These were Boston, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Calgary and Philadelphia.  Boston and Calgary had good to very good goaltending (especially once Boston switched mostly to Rask) but Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Toronto had mediocre to poor goaltending.  That got me to wondering whether goaltending correlated with luck at all so I took a look at the correlation between 5v5 game tied shooting and save percentages with luck.

Like fenwick%, there is an indication of a small correlation between shooting percentage and luck and there is a bit more of a correlation with save percentage.  Next I looked at combining all three factors.  Initially I was going to look at combining all three through some sort of average but then decided to look at goals for percentage instead (goals for divided by goals for plus goals against) since that basically encompasses everything anyway and we find that combined we get a relatively strong correlation with luck.

Now we are getting into correlation that might actually mean something, but what does it all mean?  To be honest, I am not sure.  Regardless of what ‘skill’ we look at there does seem to be a small positive correlation between how good a team is and how good their luck is (as calculated from the betting lines).  Does this mean that a bad team and especially a team with bad goaltending opens itself up to more bad luck than good teams or teams with good goaltending, or does it mean that luck manifests itself mostly in bad goals against or does it simply mean that the people who bet on hockey games trend towards betting the underdog which would push their expected winning percentage up and good teams expected winning percentage down which would result in a poor estimation of luck?  I am not sure how you determine what the exact cause of the correlation is but if it is the latter I have a word of advice, always bet the favourite.

Nov 222010
 

There are two things that must occur to score a goal.  The first way is to get an opportunity to score and the second is to capitalize on that opportunity to score.  There are a number of statistics that we can use as a proxy for opportunity to score but one of the most common is Fenwick numbers which are shots + missed shots (some call this Corsi but I define Corsi as shots + missed shots + blocked shots).  We can then define the ability to cash in on opportunities as shooting percentage, or in this case fenwick shooting percentage.  So let me define the following:

Opportunity Generation = Fenwick shots per 20 minutes of ice time.

Capitalization Ability = Fenwick Shooting Percentage = Goals Scored / Fenwick shots

So the question I pose today is this:  What is more important in scoring goals, generating opportunities or the ability to capitalize on those opportunities.  To answer this I calculated each teams Fenwick per 20 minutes (opportunity generation) and each teams Fenwick Shooting Percentage (capitalization ability) and compared them to the number of goals they generated per 20 minutes of ice time and I did this for each of the past three seasons (I only considered even strength five on five data).  I also did this for both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice for a total of 90 data points offensively and defensively.

First for the offensive end of the game:

As you can see, shooting percentage (opportunity capitalization) has a much stronger relationship with scoring goals than getting shots (opportunity generation).  What about the defensive end of the game?

Again, opposition capitalization rates are much more correlated with scoring goals than opportunity generation.  In fact opportunity generation appears to have no correlation with giving up goals at.

The conclusion we can draw from these four charts is when it comes to scoring goals, having the ability to capitalize on opportunities (shots) is far more important than having the ability to generate opportunities (getting shots).  Controlling the play and generating shots does not mean you’ll score goals (just ask any Maple Leaf fan), having the talent to capitalize on those opportunities is what matters most.  From my perspective, this means the usefulness of ‘Corsi Analysis’ to be minimal, at least for the purpose of evaluating players and teams.  For evaluating goaltender workload, as it was initially intended by its originator former NHL goalie and Buffalo goalie coach Jim Corsi, it still has merit.

Nov 162010
 

Every year we hear Leaf fans making the argument that they are a patient bunch and are willing to wait out a lengthy 5 year rebuilding plan and yet a mere 15 or so games into the season (and barely 40 games into the overhaul of the group of forwards) I am reading stories about Leaf fans wanting to fire Ron Wilson, some are jumping all over GM Brian Burke calling him a failure and some are even pointing out that this is just more of the same old thing that has been happening in Toronto the past 40 seasons.  I have even witnessed people who bemoaned the demotion of Nazem Kadri after last seasons training camp claiming Kadri was ready based on a good pre-season and now bemoaning his promotion 15 or so games into this season as Kadri isn’t ready for the NHL yet.

With this post I am calling on Leaf fans to just chill and give the process a chance.  I understand your dismay at how the Leafs have played the past 10 or so games, but show a little patience that you always claimed you had and if you are honest with yourselves you will realize that there is real progress here regardless of record.  This is not the same team as last year and in fact it is vastly different, and for the better.  Here are some things we need to remember.

  1. This is a very young team, especially at forward.  Kessel, Bozak, Kulemin, Caputi, Kadri, and Versteeg are all age 24 and younger and with youth you will experience ups and downs as they develop.  They need time to develop and we need to be patient with them.  Players don’t become reliable veterans overnight.
  2. The goaltending, while still not great, is improved and as a result the Leafs have been in almost every game they have played this season and few losses can be directly blamed on the goaltending.  That’s a far cry from the past couple seasons when you can pretty much turn the game off after one period for a significant portion of the games largely due to horrific goaltending.  Plus their prospect goalies look promising as well.
  3. The defense has actually been pretty good.  They are among the league leaders in fewest shots against and combined with their decent goaltending they are middle of the pact in goals against average.  That is a huge improvement from one year ago.
  4. Most importantly we need to remember that this is still not the team Burke wants.  He isn’t finished the rebuild yet, especially the forwards. Specifically, he is looking for at least one, maybe two, offensive forwards, preferably with size, for the top 2 lines.  There may be other changes he needs to make as well as even the best laid plans need to be tweaked from time to time.  We need to give him some more time to finish the job.

I understand the concern about the team and its fortunes.  I share that concern.  I don’t like watching the team lost and I certainly don’t know how Burke’s plan will continue to unfold.  Truth is, Brian Burke feels the same and doesn’t know either.  Maybe Bozak and Kadri never develop into useful NHLers.  Maybe Burke can never find another dominant offensive forward to go with Kessel.  Maybe Gustavsson, Rynnas, etc. never develop into reliable NHL goalies and the Leafs continue to flounder with sub-par goaltending.  I don’t know how it will all unfold, but we need to at least give Burke some time to finish his rebuild and then we can evaluate him fairly.

Oct 292010
 

Attendance across much of the NHL appears to be trending downward this season which may create new trouble spots for the NHL and with the Canadian dollar unlikely to rise as significantly this year as the previous couple years, we could, for the first time, see the salary cap fall.

Last year there were 19 games with fewer than 10,000 fans, 13 of them in Phoenix and one of them being a snow storm related issue in New Jersey. So outside of Phoenix there were only 5 games where fewer than 10,000 fans showed up. This included one game in Atlanta, one game in Carolina, and three New York Islander home games. Not including the San Jose-Columbus game played overseas there have already been six NHL games with fewer than 10,000 fans, two in Columbus, two in Atlanta and two in Phoenix.

The table below shows each teams average attendance in their games following their home openers (since most teams sell out their home openers, games played in Europe not included) along with their 2009-10 Attendance.

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Do the Senators have any Tradable Parts?

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Oct 212010
 

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray spoke to the media about his teams poor start to the season and during the discussion he mentioned he was talking with other general managers to see if there was anything he can do to improve his team via trade. In particular he was looking to add a rugged defensemen to his team. The question I have though is, does Bryan Murray have anyone on his team that he would be willing to trade that any other team would have an interest in? I am sure other teams would have an interest in Daniel Alfredsson, but Alfredsson isn’t going to be traded. So is there anyone that another team might be interested in that Murray would consider trading?

The difficulty for Ottawa, in my opinion, is they view themselves as a playoff team, and maybe even a long shot contending team for the Stanley Cup. So long as they view themselves as this they won’t go into a full rebuild mode that might see them trade core players like Chris Phillips, Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, Milan Michalek, etc. You might get some interest from other general managers in the Senators third liners Jarko Ruttu, Chris Neil and Chris Kelly but those three have been three of the better players for the Senators this season and I don’t think trading them would fill any holes bigger than the hole you created by trading them.

You might think the Senators would love to trade Alexei Kovalev but they would probably prefer he just decided to put in an honest work ethic each and every day because when he does he can be a decent enough player. Besides, you probably would only get an equally overpriced malcontent in return (Rangers would be willing to send Redden your way).

They wouldn’t consider trading Sergei Gonchar but he wouldn’t have much value if they tried. Ottawa was one of the few, if not only, team willing to give Gonchar a 3 year deal and he is still on that 3 year deal and while he hasn’t played poorly, he hasn’t been great either.

Many Senators fans talk about trading former first round pick Brian Lee and hoping to get something in return for him, but lets be honest, no one really wants Brian Lee. He hasn’t shown he can be a reliable NHL regular and yet he earns $875,000 this year and next on a one-way deal. Murray has had Lee on the trading block for a while now and there just isn’t much interest in him.

Matt Carkner is their sole rugged defenseman so he won’t be traded. Jesse Winchester is a serviceable fourth line player and could be used as a component in a larger trade but really doesn’t add much value on his own.
Chris Campoli is nothing special but does have some offensive skill as a #5/6 defenseman. Maybe you could trade him for a more physical physical #5/6 defenseman but that isn’t really a trade that would shake up the team any. You’d just be shuffling bit parts.

Two players that would have some value are Nick Foligno and Peter Regin. Neither have shown that they can be top line players but they both have second line upside and at the very least could be solid performing third line players. They won’t net the Senators a top pairing defenseman but they might land them a similarly underachieving young physical defenseman. But the problem is, the Senators are severely lacking in depth up front. If they traded Foligno or Regin they don’t really have anyone ready to step into the spots they filled (maybe Bobby Butler will be ready in the not too distant future but who really knows). Maybe someone could be found cheaply or on the daily waiver wire but it would have to be addressed if one of them were to be traded.

The Senators are actually deep on defense prospects with Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch and others in the system a year or two away. Would the Senators be willing to trade a defense prospect for help now? Alternatively, would they be willing to trade young offensive defenseman Erik Karlsson for a more reliable and physical defenseman now? I suspect not but if they get desperate, you never know.

That leaves us with Jason Spezza. Jason Spezza you say? Yes, Jason Spezza. It was reported this past summer that Spezza was at least a little bit unhappy about playing in Ottawa and that he would be willing to waive his no trade clause if Bryan Murray felt he could improve his team. It is pretty difficult to trade a $7M a season player early in the season but if he was put up on the trading block there would probably be some interest even though he generally hasn’t played up to his salary. Two teams that would almost certainly be interested are the Rangers and the Leafs. Would the Rangers do a deal of Rozsival and Dubinsky for Spezza and Campoli? Would the Leafs do Bozak and Komisarek for Spezza? Bryan Murray said he spoke to Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher. Would a trade built around Jason Spezza for Brent Burns or Nick Shultz work? If Bryan Murray gets to the point he really feels he needs to shake up his roster, Jason Spezza might be his only viable trading card as trading Campoli, Lee, Regin or Foligno isn’t going to shake up much of anything.

Overtime/Shootout Stats

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Oct 202010
 

Gus Kastaros this morning posted some NHL overtime statistics on his twitter account this morning which got me digging into the stats a little more.

KatsHockey > Overtime on the other hand is at #NHL record setting pace of 208 games .. in past week (7 days) have been 8 OT games

KatsHockey > Only six shootouts in #NHL thus far & only two shootout games in past 42 games one week ago .. pace has dipped to post-lockout low of 96

If that wasn’t interesting itself, there have been 20 overtimes this year.  In the first 11 overtimes there were 3 power plays awarded and no overtime game winning power play goals were recorded.  One of those three power plays were given with just 7 seconds left in the OT so really there were only 2 full power plays in the first 11 over times.  Contrast that to the past 9 over times in which 6 power plays were awarded and 5 over time power play game winning goals were scored.  The power play that did not result in a goal was awarded with just 16 seconds left.
It is probably just a coincidence that 3 of the first 11 overtime games had an overtime powerplay and 6 of the next 9 did but it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the NHL, in an attempt to reduce the number of shootouts, issued a notice to the referees not let up in calling penalties in the overtime.  Four of the first 11 overtime games went to a shootout while 2 of the following 9 did.  If I get an opportunity I’ll dig a little deeper and compare what we have seen so far this season with past years data.
The other I pondered was related to penalties taken late in the overtime.  As it is right now there really isn’t much to dissuade players from taking penalties very late in the overtime, especially if they are facing any kind of pressure in the defensive zone from the opposition.  If there is only 10 seconds left in overtime the risk/reward equation of taking a penalty to take away even a mediocre chance to score by the opposition probably leans towards taking the penalty.  There have been two such cases where penalties have been called with 16 or fewer seconds left in overtime this year.  I generally don’t like it when it is actually beneficial for a team to take a penalty (one of the reasons I don’t particularly like basketball) so a minor rule tweak that might be worth considering is that all overtime power plays must be served for at least one minute unless the power play gets cancelled out by an offsetting penalty against the team with the man advantage.  So, for example, if someone takes a hooking penalty late in the overtime, the overtime period will be extended until that player has served 1 minute of his penalty.  So if a penalty was called at 4:45 of the overtime, the overtime would extend until 5:45 have been played or a goal was scored or the team with the man advantage took an offsetting penalty, whichever occurs first.  This would also reduce the number of games that go to a shootout.  I don’t necessarily see this as being inplemented, but it is an interesting concept nonetheless (and I suppose something similar could be implemented for the end of regulation time in one goal games).

Everything you need to know about the Coyotes (non)Sale

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Oct 152010
 

Yesterday David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail wrote a story that the potential sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to Matthew Hulsizer has stalled in part because the reportedly Hulsizer wanted a discount to the $165M the NHL is asking for to cover all their costs in purchasing and operating the team out of bankruptcy court.  Later last night Darren Dreger of tsn reported that although nothing had been signed indications of a deal to purchase the team was close and that for the most part an agreement in principle had been agreed to.  Obviously this conflicts somewhat with what David Shoalts wrote.

Today NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said

“We’re moving toward an agreement, which we’re hopeful can be concluded relatively quickly.  The next step will be proceeding to the NHL ownership approval process.  We are hopeful this represents the beginning of the end of this long process, which if successfully completed, will ensure the long-term future of the Coyotes in Glendale.”

So the question is, who are we to believe?  I know for a fact that I have to question anything that comes out from the NHL.  Remember, it was the NHL that stated that they were about to present former owner Jerry Moyes with a purchase agreement from Jerry Reinsdorf way back in May 2009 when Moyes first took the team into bankruptcy but we now know that at best that offer would be full of conditions relating to concessions Reinsdorf must get from the City of Glendale with respect to the lease agreement.  Bill Daly also stated last December that he was confident that an Ice Edge purchase of the Coyotes would occur though clearly that didn’t happen either so forgive me if I don’t put too much stock in what he is saying.

The reality is, the Coyotes will only remain in Phoenix if one of the following things occur:

1.  A deep pocketed owner steps up who really wants to keep the team in Phoenix and is willing to lose $15-25 million per year.

2.  The City of Glendale steps up and is willing to significantly renegotiate the Coyotes lease agreement or provide significant concessions so that a new owner won’t be in a position to lose $15-25 million per year.

3.  Or some combination of #1 and #2.

The reason for this is that the Coyotes cannot survive under the current lease agreement.  That’s a fact.  There just has not been enough of a fan base and corporate support to sustain the team.  So, if the Coyotes are to stay in Phoenix, someone has to be willing to eat those losses.  As of yet no deep pocketed owner has stepped up to the plate willing to take on those substantial losses and while the City of Glendale has discussed a variety of options to help out a new owner, none of the concessions they have discussed in the past year and a half have resulted in a new owner stepping up.

Could the Coyotes remain in Phoenix?  Sure, but until someone (the city or a potential new owner) steps up and states that they are willing to fund the teams significant losses for the forseeable future I won’t be betting on that to occur.

Eastern Conference Predictions

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Oct 072010
 

Here are my eastern conference predictions.  Basically there are 6 teams that I think should make the playoffs followed by another 6 teams that will battle it out for the final two playoff spots followed by 3 pretty bad teams.

1. Washington Capitals, 116pts – Washington is far and away the best team in the eastern conference.  They had 121 points last year and will come close to that again.  Playing in the worst division in hockey helps too.

2. New Jersey Devils, 105pts – A first line of Parise-Zajac-Kovalchuk has the potential to be as good as any in hockey.  Offensively at least.  I like the addition of Jason Arnott as well making the Devils strong down the middle.  They need an offensive defenseman but otherwise they are a solid all-round team.

3. Boston Bruins, 97pts – They will get to 97 points if they maximize the usage of their two goalies, Rask and Thomas, because they are probably going to struggle offensively again, especially if Savard doesn’t get healthy.  Gets third seed as top northeast team.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins, 99pts – I am not certain the defense shuffle in Pittsburgh made them a better team, but probably not a worse team either.  They will come close to their 101 points from a season ago.  If Fleury plays better in goal they might challenge the Devils.

5. Philadelphia Flyers, 95pts – The Flyers could be a great team if only they had a good goalie.  Instead they have chosen to go with a pair of backups in Boucher and Leighton in hopes they can maximize the ‘ride the hot goalie’ theory.  Unfortunately that doesn’t often work and a potentially great team will be merely good.

6. Buffalo Sabres, 94pts – Ryan Miller had an exceptional year last year pushing the Sabres to 100 points.  Miller will still be good, but can he repeat that?  Probably not so expect a small fall back in the standings.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs, 89pts – This is predicated on Giguere/Gustavsson providing reliable, if unspectacular, goaltending resulting in a team save% above 0.900 which still isn’t great but a significant improvement from the .892 save percentage from a year ago.

8. Ottawa Senators, 88pts – Last season the Senators rode an 11 game winning streak to 94 points and the fifth seed in the eastern conference.  Make that an 8-3 stretch and they end up with 88 points which is what I am predicting this year.  Their PP might improve with Gonchar but their PK might fall back without Volchenkov and goaltending has to be the big concern.  Might have one of the worst goalie tandems in NHL.

9. Tampa Bay Lighting, 87pts – There will be improvement in Tampa this year.  They are certainly going to score goals but defense and goaltending could be issues yet again.  They will be in the playoff hunt though.

10. New York Rangers, 87pts –Unlike many, I think they will miss Redden.  Not having him on the team makes them a worse team though they now have cap space to add another forward if one comes along which could help them score more goals which has been their main problem the past few years.  They are a playoff bubble team.  Might sneak in, might just miss.

11. Montreal Canadiens, 85pts – If Carey Price can have a break through season Montreal should end up higher in the standings but from pre-season there is little evidence that will happen based on his pre-season performance.  The potential is there to be a playoff team, but I’m not predicting it. Getting and keeping Markov healthy is key too.

12. Carolina Hurricanes, 85pts – They have one star forward in Eric Staal and then a bunch of hope for the bests.  Mark Cullen is gone, Ray Whitney is gone, and I am not sure we can expect Jussi Jokinen to repeat as a 30 goal scorer.  Truth is, they might struggle to get to 85 points.

13. New York Islanders, 77pts –This is probably a bit optimistic considering Mark Streit is out for most or all of the season but their goaltending might be OK and Tavares and the other young forwards should take another step forward in their development.

14. Florida Panthers, 76 pts – They are not a great team despite having a very good goalie.  They just lack a go to guy up front to be a leader for the younger forwards coming along.  That makes it difficult develop young talent.

15. Atlanta Thrashers, 73 pts – Lets see, they lost Kovalchuk, Afinogenov, Armstrong, White, Kozlov, and Kubina and didn’t adequately replace any of them.  I do like Chris Mason in goal but my fear is they are going to have him split duty with Pavelec who isn’t very good.  This could be a disaster year in Atlanta which doesn’t bode well for the health of the franchise in Atlanta either.

More Predictions

League MVP: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Vezina Trophy – Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Norris Trophy Winner – Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Rookie of the Year – Tyler Ennis, Buffalo Sabres

Stanley Cup Finals – Detroit Red Wings over New Jersey Devils

Other Predictions – Sheldon Souray will eventually find an NHL team, Wade Redden won’t (this year anyway), Tomas Kaberle ends the year as a Devil or a Bruin, Mike Comrie scores 30 goals again playing with Malkin, Washington and San Jose both fail in the playoffs again and Gary Bettman is finally forced to pull the plug on NHL hockey in Phoenix.