Apr 262012
 

One of the most significant stories of the first round of the playoffs is the early departure of the Vancouver Canucks and the resulting question mark surrounding Roberto Luongo’s future with the Canucks.  With young super prospect Cory Schneider out playing Luongo for arguably the second straight playoff it puts Luongo’s future with the Canucks in doubt.  As of now it seems apparent that Luongo is looking for a new start and the Canucks organization is probably looking more to Schneider than Luongo as their goalie of the future.  There is a lot of speculation about which teams might be interested in Luongo (Tampa, Toronto, Chicago, San Jose, New Jersey are some of the suggested locations) but to me the greater question is, should anyone even be interested in Luongo?

The easiest method to evaluate goalies is their save percentage but because of situational and score effect differences maybe the best save percentage to use is 5v5 close zone start adjusted save percentage.  The following table shows Luongo’s 5v5 close zone start adjusted save percentage over the past 5 seasons along with his rank among goalies who have played at least 1000 minutes of ice time.  I have also included his save percentage and rank among goalies with 3000 minutes over the past 3 years combined.

Year Sv% Rank
2007-08 91.10 17/27
2008-09 92.25 9/26
2009-10 91.57 15/30
2010-11 91.43 17/28
2011-12 91.36 17/31
2009-12 (3yr) 91.45 17/25

As you can see, Luongo is basically a middle of the road goalie and has been consistently a middle of the road goalie for the past 5 years.  Now, for about 10-15 teams, that would be an improvement on their current goaltending situation and for a few teams a significant improvement, but the question becomes, at what cost?  As I am sure everyone reading this is well aware, Luongo has a monster contract.  He is 33 years old and has 10 more years on his contract with a cap hit of $5.333M each year and his actual salary is $6.714M for the next 6 seasons before it begins to tail off.  That is a lot of money and term to commit to an aging (though no signs of declining performance yet) middle of the road goalie who will not likely live up to expectations the near term and will certainly not live up to expectations over the long term.

How this plays out is anyone’s guess.  In my mind, Luongo’s contract is not probably worth trading for, even if Luongo presents a significant improvement over a teams current goaltending situation.  One could argue that acquiring Luongo could put the Leafs and Lightning in a playoff spot, but the long term risk is huge and the ability for Luongo to consistently take a team deep into the playoffs has to be questioned, even in the next few years.  That said, I am sure there will be general managers out there that believe that Luongo is top tier goalie because his actual overall save percentage is pretty good and I am not sure how many of them will adjust for situational and score effects.  The question is, will that even be enough for them to overlook his contract.  I don’t think it will be easy for the Canucks to trade Luongo but I suspect they will find someone will take a chance on him.

(Update:  Read this for why adjusting for zone start is important and how I do the adjustment)

Aug 162008
 

The Hockey News’ Rankings in the Yearly Yearbook were released, and for the West they’re as follows:

1 Detroit Red Wings
2 San Jose Sharks
3 Minnesota Wild
4 Dallas Stars
5 Anaheim Ducks
6 Edmonton Oilers
7 Chicago Blackhawks
8 Calgary Flames
9 Nashville Predators
10 Phoenix Coyotes
11 Vancouver Canucks
12 Columbus Blue Jackets
13 Los Angeles Kings
14 Colorado Avalanche
15 St. Louis Blues

Detroit at the top is an absolute no-brainer. They won the Cup and somehow got better by adding Marian Hossa. They’ve got Pavel Datsyuk locked up for awhile, and it’s hard to see Henrik Zetterberg not follow suit. Niklas Kronwall, and to a lesser extent, Jonathan Ericsson, look to take over Nicklas Lidstrom‘s mantle when he retires. They’re going to remain a powerhouse for years to come.

I have a hard time believing Minnesota will finish atop the Northwest Division. They lost key offensive pieces in Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston, and replaced them with two aging veterans (Owen Nolan, Andrew Brunette) and a mid-level winger in Antti Miettinen. Their biggest acquisition is Marek Zidlicky, but the Flames have improved more – Calgary’s the early division favourite.

I don’t think the Oilers will finish that high. Adding Lubomir Visnovsky was huge, but they will miss Jarret Stoll‘s shot on the PP. Erik Cole was also another nice add, but I don’t think Visnovsky and Cole makes them better than the Coyotes. Their biggest question mark remains in net, and with some quality goaltending in the West that might be their downfall.

The Coyotes to me are a playoff team – they’ve got a talented forwards, a responsible captain, a respectable defense highlighted by a rejuvenated Ed Jovanovski, and good goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov. The dogs have tons going for them, and with Kyle Turris expected to make the squad out of training camp the team will be loaded with offense, led by the newly-acquired Olli Jokinen, who might get his first taste of playoff hockey this season.

How the Kings are ahead of the Avs and Blues is beyond me. Technically, they don’t even exist in the NHL because they’ve yet to reach the salary floor. Even with they do be re-signing all their RFAs, their team is laughable at best, and just might win the Calder Cup. This team needs at least two more season to grow before they’re even a playoff contender – it looks like they’re going for the John Tavares sweepstakes and rebuilding Pittsburgh-style.

The Avs, even without Joe Sakic for most of the season, remained competitive until the late stages of the season. Should Sakic retire, they don’t have a player to take over as captain or offensive dynamo yet, although Paul Stastny comes close. A healthy Ryan Smyth and having Adam Foote for a whole season, with some of Darcy Tucker‘s toughness, will make them a respectable squad, but like the Oilers, their biggest question mark remains in net.

Stay tuned for the East.

Aug 132008
 

As Canada’s #1 sports network, and hockey obviously at the forefront, I’m a little disappointed and frustrated at times by their hockey coverage, especially those of their staff writers. They’ve recently coughed up a short article on the Canucks. (The Leafs and Habs have also been covered). You’d think that for a sports network as large as theirs they’d take a little more prudence when writing these things, but they don’t.

In the Canucks article, they noted that Jason Jaffray as a potential “youngster” that could be thrust into a scoring role should Mats Sundin not sign, but Jaffray is 27 years old – hardly considered a “youngster,” unless by “youngster,” they mean “inexperienced,” in which Jaffray has only 19 NHL games under his belt, all of them coming last year. Another thing that really bugs me is their lineup projections. Now these lines are based on personal opinion, but how can you misspell “Ryan Kesler?” Vancouver’s arguably most prized forward must deserve at least a spell-check. It’s not like we’re asking them to spell “Schwarzenegger.” I also think sitting Darcy Hordichuk in favour of Jeff Cowan is a little ridiculous.

These short articles are for die-hard hockey fans like us to pass a little time, but you’d think they’d take a little more prudence and give a little more thought to, or even proofread, what they write.

Aug 132008
 

Despite the fact that the Lightning defense still seems a little suspect, boasting little veteran presence or even a big name, Oren Koules maintains that he is satisfied with his current defensive corps. The Lightning still have to get under the cap enough to ensure that they can accommodate Steven Stamkos‘ cap hit, which would be 3.75 should he reach all performance bonuses. Remember that this upcoming season is the last year of the current CBA agreement, and that there will be no performance cushions. Nashville, as noted in the article, remains a very enticing trading partner, with 13 draft picks in 2009 and a plethora of young talent on their blueline. A trade makes sense for both teams, as JP Dumont has voiced his opinion that the Preds need more bite. Jussi Jokinen, who will be replaced by Vaclav Prospal on the top line, Michel Ouellet, and Jason Ward remain their biggest trading chips. The Lightning enter next season as a Southeast Division contender once again, although it remains to be seen if a young defensive corps and Mike Smith will hold up. David has a more in-depth look at the Lightning’s roster here.

Mark Parrish apparently is the Canucks’ answer should they fail to land Mats Sundin. Folks at TSN are calling it Mike Gillis‘ “Plan B,” although it should be more like “Plan D,” considering the discrepancy between Parrish and Sundin. As the Sundin saga dragged along (it’s now rumoured that he is leaning towards retirement, if only anyone knows what means nowadays), it was clear that the Canucks had no answer should Sundin not sign. Gillis maintains that he has been talking trade with several teams regarding one or two defenseman on his team, but I would think that he would like to keep his defense intact. When Parrish was bought out, he was immediately linked to Vancouver and Nashville, two western teams that have had plenty of looks at the big forward. Both teams were in similar situations and needed to get bigger and better offensively. A lot of fans in Vancouver aren’t very happy with how things have gone this summer, after all, Gillis had promised sweeping changes and a drastically different team with offense as its number one priority. So far, the only sweeping changes have come upstairs and the team remains arguably as potent offensively as it was last year, which is to say, still not very potent. Should Parrish find himself in Vancouver he will get looks on the top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, but for now Steve Bernier seems to be the favourite going into camp. It’s tough to gauge what sort of money Parrish will get, but I would be very surprised if it is anything over a year.