Jun 302015
 

I am sure this post will rattle some feathers in the Hockey Analytics community but hey, it won’t be the first time I have accomplished that.

I have been looking through the list of potential free agents looking for players that are possibly under valued, possibly over valued, or otherwise interesting for one reason or another. There has been a fair bit of discussion around the three players that are the focus of this post. Justin Williams has been a favourite of the hockey analytics community posting outstanding Corsi numbers year after year. Alexander Semin, who was bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes is one of those guys that seems to be hated by coaches, scouts, general managers, and “traditional hockey people” but analytics people look at his numbers and, last season aside, they look outstanding. Matt Beleskey is an unrestricted free agent that hockey analytics people want to warn teams about because he is coming off a career year with 22 goals driven largely by a high, and unsustainable, shooting percentage. The hockey analytics community are predicting he will be one of those guys teams will over pay for and regret the decision a year from now. So, I figured it would be worth while taking a deep look at these players because from my observations the deeper you look the more interesting things become and the story potentially changes.

I am rushing a bit to put this post together so it may come across as just me throwing out some numbers and charts. I apologize for that but bear with me, there is an interesting story that will develop.

For this post all numbers will be 5v5close numbers to minimize the impact of score effects. I am also going to focus on my RelTM statistics which look at how each player influences his line mates. It is like a combined WOWY analysis where we can determine whether the players teammates perform better with him or apart from him.

Corsi

Let’s look at the corsi statistics first starting with the offensive and defensive components and then corsi percentage.

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_CF60RelTM

Here higher is better as it means teammates have a higher CF60 with them than apart from them. The 3-year average is their CF60RelTM over the past 3 seasons. For the most part Williams is the best, Beleskey is the worst and Semin bounces around a bit.

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_CA60RelTM

Here lower is better as it indicates there are fewer shots against when players are playing with them than apart from them. Things looked a little differently this past season but prior to that Williams was always better than Beleskey and Semin bounced around a bit. This past season both Beleskey and Semin were better than Williams.

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_CFPctRelTM

 

Higher is better on this chart. What we see is Beleskey is getting better, Williams is getting worse and Semin is relatively stagnant or maybe a slight drop off. Last season the three players were almost identical. One has to wonder if age effects are taking place here as Beleskey is 27 years old and has been entering his prime years and Williams is 33 years old and is starting to leave his prime years. Semin is 31 has been in his prime years and may just be starting his decline.

Goals

Corsi is a useful metric but I believe if you have multiple seasons worth of data you have to look at the goal data for trends as well because goals are what really matters. What is interesting is that with these three players it tells a somewhat different story.

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_GF60RelTM

Recall that for CF60 RelTM we saw Williams always better than Beleskey and Semin bouncing around a bit. Here we see Beleskey starting off below Semin and Williams but the past couple of seasons has surpasses both of them and has had the better GF60 RelTM. Once again Beleskey is improving, Williams and Semin have fallen off some.

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_GA60RelTM

Lower is better so this is pretty much a repeat of GF60 RelTM. Beleskey is improving and has easily had the better GA60 RelTM, particularly the past two seasons.

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_GFPctRelTM

As one would expect, Beleskey clearly has the better CF% RelTM the past couple seasons. What is interesting is hockey analytics favourite Justin Williams has had a negative GF%RelTM in 3 of the past 4 seasons despite having a CF%RelTM well above 0 in each of the last four seasons. Beleskey has had four straight seasons with a GF%RelTM above zero.

The Percentages

To summarize the above charts, Justin Williams looks far better when looking at Corsi than when looking at goals while for Beleskey it is almost the opposite. Furthermore Williams seems to be starting to show his age and starting to decline while the younger Beleskey appears to still be improving. To explain the divergence between Corsi and goals data lets have a look at two more charts: Sh%RelTM and Sv%RelTM.

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_ShPctRelTM

Higher is better on this chart. Williams has consistently been the worst on this list and has generally been at or below 0 meaning his team mates generally post better shooting percentages when not playing with Williams as opposed to playing with him. Beleskey on the other hand has always had a positive impact and Semin for the most part does as well (save for 2013-14).

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_SvPctRelTM

Beleskey’s Sv%Rel numbers are what really got me to investigate him far more deeply. He has posted positive Sv%RelTM numbers for five straight years (2010-11 not shown) and they seem to be improving as well.  Contrast that to Justin Williams who has had a negative Sv%RelTM in four of the past 5 seasons with only 2012-13 breaking that trend.

Aside: I get that people are skeptical that players can influence save percentage (I’ve seen and done the research) but I have also seen too many players show consistent trends to believe that it can’t and doesn’t happen. I have shown recently that coaches generally don’t dole out ice time based on defensive statistics which leads me to believe that it isn’t a trait that coaches emphasize. If coaches don’t emphasize it, it is understandable why not many players exhibit that skill. This would make it difficult to find league-wide correlations but it doesn’t mean that players with these skills don’t exist. It in fact could actually be a sign of untapped value.

Point Production

The last couple of charts I want to present are related to point production. First lets look at 5v5 close Points/60.

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_PtsPer60

What is interesting here is how much better Beleskey has been the past two seasons and how both Semin and Williams have experienced an equally significant drop off. Is aging a factor in these trends?

SeminWilliamsBeleskey_IPP

 

IPP is the percentage of goals that are scored when the player is on the ice that the player had a point (goal or an assist) on. This is an indication of how involved the player is in the offense that is being created when he is on the ice. Until this past season Williams numbers were pretty good while Semin went from OK to terrible this past season. It appears that both Semin and Williams had anomaly seasons but again, is aging a factor here. Conversely Beleskey appears to be improving and his last two seasons were very respectable, particular for a player who also seems to have good defensive numbers.

In Summary

  • There is ample evidence that Justin Williams possession (corsi) statistics are over inflating his value as he has fairly consistently had a poor influence on both shooting and save percentages.
  • There is also ample evidence that Justin Williams is already into his declining years and giving him a longer term contract may not be wise.
  • Beleskey on the other hand appears to be better overall than his possession statistics indicate and also appears to still be improving in all aspects of the game as he has entered his prime years.
  • Semin once had outstanding statistics no matter what you looked at. He has shown a decline the past two seasons and last season he fell off the cliff in a number of areas statistically. At only 31 if the price was reasonable he is worth the gamble on a shorter term contract because if he can get anywhere close to where he was he’d be outstanding value.

My final thought is likely to generate some buzz and controversy amongst the analytics crowd but of the three players I believe Matt Beleskey may be the best currently and almost certainly will be the best over the next several seasons as Williams and Semin age and Beleskey continues in his prime years. There, I said it. Discuss amongst yourselves.

 

Jul 052013
 

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

Some comments on each player:

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.

 

May 262011
 

The biggest hole in the Leafs lineup that GM Brian Burke has been trying to fill for a couple of summers now is the first line center role and that hole in the lineup still exists and needs to be addressed before the Leafs can be serious playoff contenders.  Tyler Bozak was given a chance and failed (though it was probably overly optimistic to expect him to be that level of player) and the hopes of getting a top center in a Kaberle trade also did not pan out (though Colborne is a fine center prospect and may be a quality center a few years from now).  High first round draft pick Nazem Kadri is another option but as of yet hasn’t developed into that level of player.  That said, if nothing changes Kadri is the guy penciled into that role but that wouldn’t be an ideal situation entering the 2011-12 season.  Not only is that putting a lot of pressure on Kadri (who has enough on his shoulders already)  but some within the organization have suggested Kadri might be better suited as a winger than a center.  Regardless of the reason, Burke is desperately in search of a true, established first line center.  Let me take a look at a few of the options.

The only real first line center option in the unrestricted free agent market is Brad Richards.  At 31 years of age he probably has at least 4 or 5 really good seasons left in him and he is a very good playmaker and overall offensive player and likely be a significant boost to the woeful Leafs power play but he is a liability defensively which is a concern for me.  The question is, what are you willing to pay for him as there will be ample competition for his services from Dallas, the NY Rangers and probably others.  Since Burke is against handing out long term deals more than 5 years it may cost Burke 5 years at $8-8.5M per season to get Richards signed.  The Leafs have the cap space to do it, but should they commit that much to Richards?  Would you? Personally, I think if you can get him for $8M or less you do it.  Anything more is getting a bit rich.

The other option for filling the first line center hole is through trade.  Two teams that I can think of that are deep at center and may be (or need to be) looking to make changes are the Flyers and the Sharks.  The Flyers have depth at center, very little cap space, would like to re-sign Ville Leino (but would be at a significant increase in salary) and need to spend some money improving their goalie situation as well (Vokoun?).  They have Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Danny Briere, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux who have or can play center.  I’d love to see a Jeff Carter or James van Riemsdyk in a Leaf uniform but van Riemsdyk is still on a cheap rookie contract so doesn’t really solve the Flyers money issues and Carter has one of those long term deals that Burke doesn’t like to hand out.  Briere would probably be available and not cost much but his cap hit is $6.5M for four more seasons and he’ll be turning 34 around the time the 2011-12 season starts so he isn’t really someone I see Burke being interested in.

San Jose just suffered another playoff disappointment at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks so one has to wonder if they finally bite the bullet and make a significant change to their core group of forwards.  They have Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski and my rookie of the year pick Logan Couture as players able to play the center position and all are capable of being first or second line centers.  Of the four, Pavelski might be the most ‘available’ but he is also probably the least suitable as a first line center so I am not sure the Sharks are an ideal trading partner for a center.

Continue reading »

May 242011
 

This is the first of several posts I will dedicate to what I expect the Leafs will do this upcoming off season.  In this post I outline where the Leafs are at now and what holes need to be addressed over the summer months.

The Leafs ended the 2010-11 season on a high note being backstopped by solid goaltending from James Reimer and an improved offense including significant offensive contributions from Dion Phaneuf for the first time in a Leaf uniform and Nazem Kadri among others.  This late season surge has given Leaf fans renewed optimism entering the 2011-12 season but before we get to the 2011-12 season we need to take a look at what the Leafs might do during the summer and before we get to that lets take a look at the team that finished the season.  After all the trades made at the trade deadline, this is the lineup that finished the 2010-11 season.

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Joffrey Lupul Nazem Kadri Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur* Mikhail Grabovski Nikolai Kulemin
Fredrik Sjostrom** Tyler Bozak* Colby Armstrong
Colton Orr Tim Brent** Mike Brown
Jay Rosehill** Darryl Boyce** Joey Crabb**
Defense Defense
Dion Phaneuf Luke Schenn*
Keith Aulie Carl Gunnarsson*
Mike Komisarek Matt Lashoff*
Brett Lebda
Goalie
James Reimer*
JS Giguere**
Jonas Gustavsson

*Restricted Free Agent

**Unrestricted Free Agent

There are essentially 6 restricted free agents that need to be re-signed and an additional 5 unrestricted free agents that decisions need to be made on.

Restricted Free Agents

James Reimer – Maybe the most important RFA to be re-signed is James Reimer.  In Reimer the Leafs hope to have finally found a true #1 goalie but as of yet Reimer can’t claim to be that having only started 35 NHL games.  I expect Reimer to get a similar deal to the one Gustavsson signed (2 years at 1.35M/year) after his first season in the NHL in which he started 39 games.  Now Reimer performed better so might deserve a little more but I think 2 years at $1.5M/year is reasonable.

Luke Schenn –  If Reimer isn’t the most important RFA to be re-signed, Luke Schenn is.  The question is, what is he worth?  The New York Rangers re-signed Marc Staal to a 5 year deal at an average salary of $3.975M per season last summer.  It could be argued that Staal is a better defenseman than Schenn but the difference would not be great so I’ll suggest that $4M/year is an upper limit on Schenn at this point in time.  I think Schenn’s contract will probably come in around $3.5M/year on a three year deal or a more Staal-like $4M/year deal if the contract length was 5 years.

Carl Gunnarsson – I like Gunnarsson as a defenseman and he has done some really good things in his brief NHL career.  He has good long term upside but as of right now is still not yet proven.  I think a fair price for him is a 2 year deal at $1.25M/year and lets see what he can do in a full time, possibly top four, role.

Clarke MacArthur – I wrote an article a month or so ago on the progression of the Grabovski-Kulemin-MacArthur line in which I suggested that MacArthur might not have as much value as we think.  Brian burke was listening to trade offers on MacArthur at the trade deadline and I think he will continue to do the same, especially if MacArthur is asking for $3M/year type money.  I personally don’t think he is worth that.  He isn’t that great defensively and while he was important as a playmaker for Grabovski and Kulemin, I don’t consider him someone that isn’t easily replaced and I think Kadri might be good replacing MacArthur on the wing if the Leafs manage to find a proven #1 center.  If he is asking for much more than $2.0M/year I’d seriously consider trading him.

Tyler Bozak – I am not quite sure what to make of Bozak yet.  He has some offensive skill, but not good enough to be a first line center.  He has shown some ability defensively and on the PK but his defensive ratings are still quite poor (HARD+ of 0.816 over past 2 seasons is actually pretty bad) but he is the Leafs best faceoff guy (54.6%) and I think the potential is there that he can be a solid 2-way third line center.  As such I would like to see him re-signed and see if he can excel in that role.  A fair value might be a 2 year deal at somewhere around $1-1.25M/yr, certainly no more.

Matt Lashoff – I liked what I saw from Lashoff in his short time with the Leafs at the end of last season.  In limited ice time over the past 4 seasons he has a weak 0.611 HARO+ rating but a very solid 1.288 HARD+ rating.  I’d like to see him as the #6/7 defenseman and see what he can do.   He has good size and skates well and as a former first round pick was once highly thought of.  He might be one of those guys that just needs to be given a chance and he’ll be cheap so why not.

Continue reading »

Free Agent Signings

 NHL  Comments Off on Free Agent Signings
Jun 302009
 

The following are free agent (or pending free agent) signings.  I’ll update as free agents are signed. Newest free agent signings will be at the top.

Player Team Yrs Cap Hit Comments
Alexei Kovalev Ottawa 2 5.0M Expensive for a streaky 36 year old who most years ends up with ~65 points.
Francois Beauchemin Toronto 3 3.8M Decent price for a solid defenseman. Leafs likely to trade a defenseman now.
Shane O’Brien Vancouver 1 1.6M Needed to keep O’Brien after Ohlund left for Tampa.
Andrew Raycroft Vancouver 1 500K Dot he Canucks now have the best goalie and the worst goalie in NHL?
Christopher Higgins NY Rangers ? ? Had a break out season last year but can he repeat or improve?
Shane Hnidy Minnesota 1 ? Useful depth defenseman.
Ryan Clowe San Jose 4 3.5M Had a break out season last year but can he repeat or improve?
Ruslan Fedotenko Pittsburgh 1 1.8M Surprised he went with just a one year deal.
Mikael Samuelsson Vancouver 3 2.5M Will provide the Canucks with some decent secondary offense and all-round play.
Chad LaRose Carolina 2 1.7M Good solid 3rd line guy who may still improve some.
Jordan Leopold Florida 1 1.75M He is no Bouwmeester but will fill the hole on defense at a relatively low cost.
Rob Scuderi Los Angeles 4 3.4M The Kings are putting together a pretty solid defense, just need a good goalie.
Karlis Skrastins Dallas 2 1.375M
Adrian Aucoin Phoenix 1 2.25M Aucoin’s best days are behind him but still useful.
Nik Antropov Atlanta 4 4.0M This and the Kubina trade are to show Kovalchuk they are committed to winning to get him to sign an extension.
Mark Recchi Boston 1 1.0M Good veteren leadership and he’ll chip in a few goals too.
Chris Thorburn Atlanta ? ?
Martin Havlat Minnesota 6 5.0M Havlat has the talent and if he stays healthy $5 million is a reasonable cap hit.
Jason LaBarbera Phoenix 2 ? An average at best backup goalie
Fredrik Sjostrom Calgary 2 750K Flames need some cheap players to fill out their roster and Sjostrom achieves that.
John Madden Chicago 1 2.75M Good defensive center that Blackhawks hope can help them go deep in the playoffs.
Marian Gaborik NY Rangers 5 7.5M If he is healthy, might not be a bad deal but he has only once played more than 65 games since 2002-03.
Brian Gionta Montreal 5 5.0M Gotta love how Montreal is adding size to their lineup.
Chris Neil Ottawa 4 2.0M That’s a lot of money for a 3rd liner with 9g and 30 points over the past 2 seasons.
Mathieu Garon Columbus 2 1.2M Nice experienced backup for Steve Mason.
Jason Strudwick Edmonton 1 700K
Samuel Pahlsson Columbus 3 2.65M Nice player, but way too much money.
Steve Sullivan Boston 2 3.75M If he stays healthy he’ll put up 60+ points.
Steve Begin Boston 1 850K Nice 3rd/4th line center
Greg Zanon Minnesota 3 1.66M
Vernon Fiddler Phoenix 2 1.1M
Mike Komisarek Toronto 5 4.5M He and Schenn make for two solid physical defensive defensemen.
Byron Bitz Boston ? ?  
Michael Cammalleri Montreal 5 6.0M Pricey but he’ll add some needed scoring punch
Kent Huskins San Jose 2 1.7M Nice 5/6 defenseman with Stanley Cup experience.
David Koci Colorado 1 575K  
Ian Laperierre Philadelphia 3 1.17M Adds some toughness and grit.
Mike Rupp Pittsburgh 2 825K Useful role player.
Hal Gill Montreal 2 2.25M I like Hal Gill though many do not. Not a bad signing.
Scott Clemmensen Florida 3 1.2M Good replacement for Craig Anderson at a decent price.
Adam Pardy Calgary ? ?  
Nikolai Khabibulin Edmonton 4 3.75M Oilers had to do something after being unable to re-sign Roloson.
Erik Cole Carolina 2 2.9M Cole should be a Hurricane
Jaroslav Spacek Montreal 3 3.83M I like Spacek as a #4 defenseman at this point in his career but not at that salary
Brian Boucher Philadelphia 2 925K Boucher and Emery = NHL backup and KHL starter. Can Pronger play goal?
Joel Ward Nashville 2 1.5M Seems like a lot but then I haven’t seen Ward play a whole lot.
Aaron Rome Vancouver 1 $525K Yawn…
Lukas Krajicek Tampa 1 ?  
Scott Niedermayer Anaheim 1 6.0M Plus bonuses. Good signing considering Pronger trade.
Mike Knuble Washington 2 2.8M Nice addition of a more physical second line player.
Donald Brashear NY Rangers 2 1.4M Colton Orr replacement.
Steve Montador Buffalo 2 1.5M Solid all-round defenseman for 3rd pairing.
Tomas Kopecky Chicago 2 1.2M  
Dwayne Roloson NY Islanders 2 2.5M What does this say about DiPietro’s health?
Ty Conklin St. Louis 2 1.3M Good backup for Mason
Matt Walker Tampa Bay 4 1.7M Is Tampa once again going by the lets sign a bunch of players and hope someone pans out theory?
Marian Hossa Chicago 12 5.2M Two Stanley Cup appearances, 13 games and 3 goals (and maybe not coincidentally no ring).
Craig Anderson Colorado 2 1.8M He is better than Raycroft but can he repeat last years good season.
David Booth Florida 6 4.25M Good signing so long as he doesn’t pull a Nathan Horton and take a step back after signing long term.
Andy Greene New Jersey 2 737.5K Useful depth defenseman
Colton Orr Toronto 4 1.0M Some toughness that Burke desperately wanted.
Radek Dvorak Florida 2 1.7M Re-signed at a reasonable price.
Mattias Ohlund Tampa 7 3.75M A Swedish mentor for Hedman.
Daniel Sedin Vancouver 5 6.1M Probably never seriously considered leaving Vancouver.
Henrik Sedin Vancouver 5 6.1M  
Erik Christensen Anaheim 1 ?  
Jay Bouwmeester Calgary 5 6.68M Better hope he learns how to win because he didn’t in Florida.
Jere Lehtinen Dallas 1 1.5M If healthy, very good deal for Stars
Johnny Oduya New Jersey 3 3.5M Good signing, reasonable price
Peter Budaj Colorado 1 1.25M Still in market for goalie help
Rob Blake San Jose 1 3.5M Affordable after good season
Bill Guerin Pittsburgh 1 2.0M Quality veteren at very good price
Brad Winchester St. Louis 1 800K  
Mike Weaver St. Louis 1 800K  
Jussi Jokinen Carolina 2 1.7M Rewarded for good playoff.
Craig Adams Pittsburgh 2 550K  
Dave Bolland Chicago 5 3.375M Needs to continue improving to make contract worthwhile for Blackhawks
Cody McLeod Colorado 3 1.03M  
Keith Tkachuk St. Louis 1 2.15M Will provide size and mentor kids again.
Petr Prucha Phoenix 2 1.1M  
Steve Reinprect Florida 3 2.05M  
Alex Goligoski Pittsburgh 3 1.83M Important signing after Whitney traded
Ray Emery Philadelphia 1 1.5M Taking a gamble but could work out
Marty Reasoner Atlanta 2 1.15M  
Curtis McElhinney Calgary 2 525K  
Anssi Samela Atlanta 2 ?  
David Krejci Boston 3 3.75M Good to get him locked up.
Rick Rypien Vancouver 2 550K  
Jay McLement St. Louis 3 1.45M  
Steve Bernier Vancouver 2 2.0M  
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.