Unfortunately I didn’t have as much time this week as I had hoped to do a full evaluation of unrestricted free agent centers like I did for wingers but it is free agent day and there was some big news regarding centers yesterday with the buy out of Grabovski so I thought I’d throw a little something together where I look at some offensive statistics of some of the top centers available. Let me start off by presenting you with the summary table.

 G/60 A/60 Pts/60 IPP GF20-TMGF20 FF20-TMFF20 OZBias Ribeiro 0.593 1.512 2.11 80.5 0.113 -0.025 102.6 Filppula 0.769 1.334 2.1 75 0.116 -0.878 104.7 Lecavalier 0.799 1.186 1.99 68.1 0.139 0.381 100.7 Grabovski 0.899 0.961 1.86 65.4 0.196 2.406 96 Roy 0.587 1.146 1.73 67.4 0.039 0.747 98.7 Weiss 0.652 0.821 1.47 65.6 0.07 -0.467 103.3 Bozak 0.566 0.775 1.34 54.2 -0.062 0.292 99.8

The numbers above are 5v5 numbers over the past 3 seasons and the players are sorted by Pts/60. I threw in Lecavalier because he was a UFA for a brief period of time and is at more or less the same level as the others. I included Bozak to highlight just how much he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group.

• G/60 = Goals per 60 minutes of ice time.
• A/60 = Assists per 60 minutes of ice time
• Pts/60 = Points per 60 minutes of ice time.
• IPP = Individual Points Percentage, or the percentage of goals scored while on ice that the player had a point on.
• GF20-TMGF20 = How much better are his team mates on-ice goal stats when playing with him than without.
• FF20-TMFF20 = How much better are his team mates on-ice shot generation when playing with him than without.
• OZBias = OZ Starts*2 + NZStarts and gives an indication of the players usage.

List sorted by G/60: Grabovski, Lecavalier, Filppula, Weiss, Ribeiro, Roy, Bozak

List sorted by A/60: Ribeiro, Filppula, Lecavalier, Roy, Grabovski, Weiss, Bozak

List sorted by Pts/60: Ribeiro, Filppula, Lecavalier, Grabovski, Roy, Weiss, Bozak

List sorted by IPP: Ribeiro, Filppula, Lecavalier, Roy, Weiss, Grabovski, Bozak

List sorted by GF20-TMGF20:  Grabovski, Lecavalier, Filppula, Ribeiro, Weiss, Roy, Bozak

List sorted by FF20-TMFF20: Grabovski, Roy, Lecavalier, Bozak, Ribeiro, Weiss, Filppula

Mike Ribeiro: Easily the best play maker of the group and is most consistently involved in the play.

Valterri Filppula: Better goal scorer than Ribeiro but not as good as a play maker as Ribeiro but better than the rest.

Vincent Lecavalier: Similar to Filppula in value but better at the possession game.

Mikhail Grabovski: Not a great play maker but a good finisher and good at driving shot generation indicating he is probably good at puck retrieval.

Derek Roy: Kind of a poor mans Ribeiro but much less valuable.

Stephen Weiss: More of a poor mans Lecavalier. Easily had the worst line mates of the group and might do better in a different situation.

Tyler Bozak: Weak at goal scoring, bad at play making, not involved in the play and a drag on his team mates goal production. Not anywhere close to the same league as the others (and maybe be better suited for a different league too).

For me, Ribeiro is probably the best of the group in terms of pure offense because of his elite play making ability. Grabovski and Lecavalier are a little more balanced with better scoring and puck retrieval skills while Filppula is pretty solid all round as well and has the flexibility of being used as either a center or a winger (which is valuable if locking in long-term). It’s difficult to compare Weiss to the rest because he simply hasn’t had near as good of line mates but it is probably safe to say he’d be a bit of a step down from Grabovski, Lecavalier or Filppula. Roy, on the other hand, would definitely be a step back but still a decent consolation prize if on a lower priced contract with shorter term. Definitely not anything more than a #2 center though.

As for Bozak, well, you simply don’t want him on your team. Maybe not at any price no matter what the bargain basement price is. I have tried and tried but I just can’t find any redeeming qualities for him outside of his ability to win face offs which has limited value. There simply is no reason why you would want to play him on any of your top 3 lines. None.

Being a Leaf fan and unable to keep Grabovski, my preference would be Ribeiro or Filppula but might be willing to take a chance on Weiss if the contract was right. Ribeiro’s play making skills with the Leafs wingers should be a good combination and Filppula is a good all round player who could shift to wing down if needed. Weiss seems like a solid 2-way player who might be able to step up his game with better line mates which he’d get with the Leafs. If they sign Bozak, I am not sure what I’ll do. It’ll be a sad day.

Last week I introduced player TOI usage charts and one use I thought they had was to look at how a players usage changed during the downside of their careers. Today I will do just that by looking at Nicklas Lidstrom’s TOI charts over the last 5 seasons. Consider this an extension to my earlier article where I took a look at Lidstrom’s last few seasons of his career. Let’s get right at it with his 5v5 chart.

Lidstrom’s last big season was clearly 2007-08 and every year since he has been below his 2007-08 levels in terms of 5v5 ice time. What is interesting to note is how little (relatively) ice time he had during the 2010-11 season, the year he won the Norris Trophy. I think it was a big mistake that he was awarded the trophy that season and this is just a little more evidence of that. In fact, Lidstrom was 4th on the Red Wings in ESTOI/Game by defensemen which is why his TOI% in the chart above were so low that year. Rafalski retired in the summer of 2011 which meant Lidstrom would get a boost to his ice time in 2011-12.

So, what about his special teams play?

On the powerplay, Lidstrom maintained his level of playing ~60% of his teams 5v4 power play minutes but his penalty kill ice time dropped significantly over the final 2 seasons of his career.

Based on the above charts, the last year I think you could consider Lidstrom a true heavy work load stud of a defenseman was in 2007-08. He was still awfully good for a couple more years and quite good until he retired but his slow decline in ice time had begun.

I have written a few controversial pieces here at HockeyAnalysis.com (for example, my post on Luke Schenn back when Leaf fans thought Schenn was the best thing since sliced bread) and I suspect this might generate some controversy as well because of the conclusions made about Zetterberg’s weak defensive ability.  I also want to do this post to show how I believe we should be doing player evaluation because I believe that most people evaluate players in a poor way.

The first thing I believe is that we must evaluate players based on goals and not corsi/fenwick/shots because there is ample evidence that players can influence shooting percentage (for example here and here) and there is some evidence that players can influence save percentage (for example here).  Because of this, conducting a corsi based analysis will not give you a complete view of a players ability, and I think you will see some of that with Zetterberg.  Furthermore, I believe to get a more full and complete understanding of a players abilities we need to evaluate the players defensive ability and offensive ability separately which is what I will do.

As we are dealing with goal data which can fluctuate from season to season it is best to conduct a multi-season analysis to observe the greater trends, not what could be somewhat luck driven single season results.  Let’s start by looking at Zetterberg’s goals for per 20 minutes (GF20) and goals against per 20 minutes (GA20) on-ice stats and see how they rank league wide and on the Red Wings.

 Year GF20 Team Rank League Rank 2011-12 1.157 3 of 11 21 of 312 2010-11 0.931 6 of 12 99 of 321 2009-10 1.073 1 of 10 34 of 319 2008-09 0.860 7 of 12 135 of 318 2007-08 1.193 2 of 12 16 of 312 2009-12 (3yr) 1.054 27 of 295 2007-12 (5 yr) 1.045 23 of 274

The data above is for 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time and the ranks are among forwards with 500 minutes of ice time for single seasons, 1500 minutes for the 3 year average and 2500 minutes for the 5 year average.  As you can see, from the league-wide rankings we are taking the top 9 or 10 forwards on each team so we are getting the majority of the players who get regular shifts in the NHL.  As you can see, offensively Zetterberg performs quite well and while there is some year to year fluctuation, the overall trend is that he has awfully good on-ice offensive numbers.  Now let’s take a look defensively.

 Year GA20 Team Rank League Rank 2011-12 0.840 10 of 11 193 of 312 2010-11 0.969 11 of 12 278 of 321 2009-10 0.970 9 of 10 275 of 319 2008-09 0.795 7 of 12 158 of 318 2007-08 0.638 10 of 12 65 of 312 2009-12 (3yr) 0.924 261 of 295 2007-12 (5 yr) 0.845 184 of 274

Defensively, he is not only generally among the worst on his team, he is generally speaking among the bottom half of the league, or worse.  Over the past 3 seasons he ranks 261st of 295 players in terms of GA20 which puts him in the bottom 12 percent which to many I think is surprisingly bad.

So the word out of Phoenix last night was that the announced attendance for the Coyotes game was 6,899 but that probably more like 5000 people actually showed up. Clearly attendance in Phoenix is going to be a major issue this year, but it won’t just be Phoenix if early attendance numbers are any indication. Here are attendance numbers for three other southern U.S. teams that have played at least 3 home games so far.

Carolina Hurricanes

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
18680 18680 0
18680 16186 -2494
15016 13597 -1419
15635 14053 -1582

Nashville Predators

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
17113 14797 -2316
13259 14209 950
12042 12179 137
14704 13103 -1601

Tampa Bay Lightning

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
18552 17454 -1098
14420 14212 -208
15191 14126 -1065

It is still early but those are significant drops in attendance figures. Nashville is going to be particularly interesting to watch because they need to keep attendance above the 14,000 mark to maintain a full share of revenue sharing. Failure to achieve an average of 14,000 will cause them to lose 25% of their revenue sharing allotment which would equate to close to \$4,000,000 which is significant to any team, particularly one that is struggling to break even. If Tampa struggles on the ice and fans become more disinterested because of it this could become a problem for them as well and we already know how unstable their ownership situation is. This despite a significant drop in average ticket price for Lightning games.

What is also interesting is that falling attendance may not be limited to non-traditional southern US hockey markets.

Ottawa Senators

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
20182 18075 -2107
20179 19360 -819
19318 17014 -2304
18952 17732 -1220

The rise in the Canadian dollar will help offset some of the drop in attendance revenue and if Ottawa can play well then I can see their attendance improving, but clearly some of the luster of high flying Senators teams of a few years ago when they sold out every game has faded away.

Detroit Red Wings

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
20066 20066 0
19011 19122 111
20066 17782 -2284

We all know that Detroit is an extremely hard hit city economically and it may start reflecting in the Red Wings attendance this year. The 17,782 that showed up to watch the Red Wings last night is 1,080 fewer fans that last years lowest attendance level of 18,862.

I revisit these teams and also take a look at a few other franchises (Atlanta, Florida, Dallas, etc.) in a few weeks once each team has played a few more home games but early indications are not all that good for some franchises.