Jun 112012
 

Last week I took a look at the crop of 1012 NHL free agent forwards and today I will take a look at the group of free agent defensemen.  As I did with forwards, I will use my HARO+ (offensive), HARD+ (defensive) and HART+ (total/overall) rating system which takes into account on-ice performance, quality of teammates, and quality of opposition.  Generally speaking, a rating over 1.00 is an above average rating and a rating below 1.00 is a below average rating.  By that I mean, if a player had a HARO+ rating of 1.10 it would mean if he played with and against perfectly average players his team would score 10% more goals than the average team.  In this example the player would drive goal scoring to a level 10% above average.  A HARO+ rating of 0.90 would mean the player would drive (or hinder) goal scoring to a level 10% below average.  As usual, my preference is to use 3 year 5v5 zone start adjusted ratings and that is what I will do here.  Let’s first look at the group of defensemen under age 30.

HARO+, or offensive rating, is along horizontal axis and the vertical axis is HARD+, or defensive rating.  Players to the right are good offensive players and players towards the top are good defensive players.  The size of the circle is indicative of the players 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time over the past 3 teams relative to the other players in this table.  Matt Carle is the top offensive player available and is a solid defensive player as well and is quite likely the best defenseman available, though everyone believes he will re-sign in Philadelphia and may already have a deal agreed upon but can’t sign it until July 1st due to salary cap issues.  Ryan Suter doesn’t have the offense of Carle but is a better defensive player and can also play big minutes.  After those two top end big minute defensemen you get a group of lesser minute guys who seem to be quite capable defensively.  These include Lepisto, Garrison, Woywitka, Colaiacovo, O’Brien, and Gilroy.  If Garrison can repeat his offensive season of 2011-12 then he is probably the top defenseman after Suter and Carle and Colaiacovo would be right there as well.  Guys to avoid include Bruno Gervais,  Milan Jurcina, Aaron Johnson, Dylan Reese, and Dennis Wideman.  If you are looking for a guy who can play secondary offensive minutes maybe Shaone Morrisonn is your guy, but don’t expect him to contribute defensively.

Now, let’s take a look at the age 30-34 crowd.

There aren’t really any elite level offensive defensemen in this group but there are a few solid defensive and second tier defensemen.  The guy hidden at the far top right is Kent Huskins who always seems to have good offensive and excellent defensive ratings but never gets the recognition I feel he deserves.  He might be the best ‘unknown’ defenseman in the NHL.  Michal Roszival is a pretty solid 2-way defenseman as well and Sarich, Jackman, White and Zanon are solid defensive contributors.  Brad Stuart would be a decent addition as a 4-5-6 guy but I would probably avoid Hannan, Allen, Foster and Mottau.

Now for the older 35+ crowd.

There are some pretty decent veteran players here.  I have included Lidstrom for reference but as you know he has retired.  Kuba is a solid offensive defenseman but has a lot of holes in his game defensively.  Spacek is probably nearing the end of his career but may still be a useful depth defenseman at the right price.  Kubina isn’t as good defensively but probably has a little more left in the tank.  Bryce Salvador, Willie Mitchell (both still playing in the Stanley Cup finals) and Adrian Aucoin are quality defensive defensemen who can still play a solid shut down role on any team.  Staios, Eaton, Commodore, Gill are definitely in the can no longer contribute category and probably should retire while everyone else might be able to contribute as depth defensemen on a team looking to add some veteran experience.

In the interest of comparing the age groups above, here is the somewhat cluttered chart showing all defensemen colored according to age group.

When all factors are considered, the top unrestricted free agent defensemen are Matt Carle, Ryan Suter, Michal Rozsival, Carlo Colaiacovo and Barrett Jackman while older players such as Willie Mitchell, Adrian Aucoin, Cory Sarich and Bryce Salvador can contribute in defensive roles while Filip Kuba is a solid offensive defenseman but a defensive liability.

Jun 052012
 

With the Los Angeles Kings on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup and teams already making moves towards next seasons (i.e. Vokoun to Pittsburgh) it is time to take a closer look at class of unrestricted free agents.  Today I’ll take a look at the free agent forwards.

As I have mentioned previously, I feel the best and most reliable player ratings are my 5v5 zone start adjusted HARO+ offensive rating, HARD+ defensive rating and the combined HART+ rating (yes, I am biased but as far as single all inclusive ratings go, I feel these are the best) using the past 3 seasons of data.  So, with that in mind, here are how the 2012 unrestricted free agent forwards stack up.

Continue reading »

Jun 042012
 

I have a ton of information on my stats website stats.hockeyanalysis.com but one of the things I have always wanted to do is to make it more visual and I’d like to announce the first step in that process.  Thanks to google and their cool google chart api I have now added bubble charts when you do a stats search that returns no more than 30 players (more than 30 players makes the bubble charts too cluttered).  For example, if you did a search of all Maple Leaf Skaters with 500 minutes of 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time this past season you will see a nice bubble chart at the bottom plotting each players defensive rating (i.e. HARD+) along the horizontal axis and their offensive rating along the vertical axis (i.e. HARO+).  Or you can see the same thing using corsi ratings (i.e. CorHARD+ vs CorHARO+) if you are one of those people who prefer corsi based ratings.  Or, if you prefer, you can even look at multi-year goal ratings such as 3 year 5v5 zone start adjusted goal ratings for the Toronto Maple Leafs (though still not perfect, I believe 3 year goal ratings are the best indicator of a players value).

In the charts, forwards and defensemen are differentiated by different colors and the size of the bubble is indicative of the amount of time the player was on the ice for (the largest bubbles for the players with the most ice time and the smallest bubbles for the players with the least).  As always with my ratings, any value over 1.00 is above average and any rating below 1.00 is below average and these ratings take into account quality of teammates and quality of opposition and the players on-ice statistics.  This means players with bubbles to the right side of the chart are stronger defensive players and players with bubbles towards the top of the chart are stronger offensive players.  The best players are good at both and thus have their bubbles in the upper right quadrant.   Players with bubbles in the lower right quadrant are the worst performing players.  The nice thing about these charts is it gives a very easy to read visual representation of every player on a team.

I am hoping that this is just a start of things to come with more charting enhancements (and others as well) to be implemented in the future.  As always, if you have any suggestions submit a comment below or drop me a message.

Sep 262011
 

A week or two ago I presented a prediction of the eastern conference using a purely statistics based analysis.  There were a number of limitations with the process which I outlined at the beginning of the post but I have fixed some of those so this is version 2.0 of the prediction algorithm.  Let me summarize the process.

  1.  I took each teams current rosters and estimated the amount of even strength, power play and shorthanded ice time each player on the roster would play.  For veteran players, the estimates were loosely based on previous years ice time which should give us a pretty accurate number for the majority of the players, serious injuries aside.
  2. I then combined the ice time data with my 3-year 5v5close, 5v4 power play and 4v5 shorthanded HARO+ and HARD+ ratings.  I used 3-year ratings because I think they more reliably reflect each players true abilities where as one year, and even two year, ratings have significant margins of error associated with them.
  3. For rookies and other relatively un-established players I had to take guestimates at their ratings and their ice times.  Most rookies or players with little NHL experience to develop ratings with I guestimated them to be below average players, except for players who are premiere prospects in which case I rated them more like an average player.   It is actually somewhat rare for rookies to perform significantly above average, especially defensively.
  4. Unlike my previous ratings, I did make adjustments for strength of schedule.
  5. Also, unlike my previous ratings, I did make adjustments for teams that might get more or less than an average number of power play or penalty kill opportunities.  To do this I used each teams total power play and short handed situations over the past 2 seasons and compared them to the league average.  For teams which more powerplays than the average team had their power play goal production increased and those with less had their power play goal production decreased accordingly.  The same was done for the penalty kill.  Of course, if a team changes their playing style to take or draw more or fewer penalties than in the previous 2 seasons the reliability of the predictions will be degraded somewhat.

As with the previous post, I haven’t converted goals for/against into points in the standings but this gives you an indication of how the numbers seem to view the teams talent levels.  So, with that said, here are your eastern conference predictions.

Predicted Last Season
Team GF GA GF-GA GF GA GF-GA
Boston 227.1 203.5 23.5 244 189 55
Pittsburgh 242.0 219.9 22.1 228 196 32
Buffalo 235.4 217.7 17.6 240 228 12
Washington 236.3 218.9 17.3 219 191 28
Philadelphia 239.3 222.1 17.2 256 216 40
Toronto 245.3 235.6 9.6 213 245 -32
Tampa Bay 233.6 224.4 9.3 241 234 7
NY Rangers 217.5 210.8 6.8 224 195 29
Montreal 226.5 225.6 0.9 213 206 7
Carolina 227.5 231.0 -3.5 231 234 -3
Florida 211.4 216.6 -5.2 191 222 -31
New Jersey 202.3 210.1 -7.8 171 207 -36
NY Islanders 227.4 240.5 -13.1 225 258 -33
Winnipeg 210.3 235.5 -25.2 218 262 -44
Ottawa 189.5 251.8 -62.3 190 245 -55

Before getting into some team specific observations, a first observation worth noting is that the goals for and against predictions seem to be more compressed than what typically occurs in the NHL standings.  The predicted goals for totals range from a high of 245 to a low of 189.  The low of 189 is perfectly reasonable (the lows from the previous 3 seasons are 171, 196 and 190) but the high of 245 is well below the high totals of previous years.  Last season the Canucks scored a high of 258 goals, the previous season the Capitals led with 313 followed by the Canucks with 268 and in 2008-09 the Red Wings led with 289 goals.  I am not sure if this is evidence of increased parity or whether it is a flaw within the ratings system and/or the prediction algorithm.

Team GF Team GA
Toronto 245.3 Boston 203.5
Pittsburgh 242.0 New Jersey 210.1
Philadelphia 239.3 NY Rangers 210.8
Washington 236.3 Florida 216.6
Buffalo 235.4 Buffalo 217.7
Tampa Bay 233.6 Washington 218.9
Carolina 227.5 Pittsburgh 219.9
NY Islanders 227.4 Philadelphia 222.1
Boston 227.1 Tampa Bay 224.4
Montreal 226.5 Montreal 225.6
NY Rangers 217.5 Carolina 231.0
Florida 211.4 Winnipeg 235.5
Winnipeg 210.3 Toronto 235.6
New Jersey 202.3 NY Islanders 240.5
Ottawa 189.5 Ottawa 251.8

 

The teams with the largest predicted improvements in goal differential are the Leafs (42 points), the Devils (28), Panthers (26), Islanders (20), and Jets (19) while the teams predicted to fall back the most in terms of goal differential are Boston (-31), Philadelphia (-23) and the Rangers (-22).   The predicted top 6 scoring teams in the east are Toronto, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Buffalo and Tampa while the lowest scoring teams are predicted to be Ottawa, New Jersey, Winnipeg and Florida.  The teams with the predicted worst defense are Ottawa, Islanders, Toronto, Winnipeg and Carolina and the predicted best defensive teams are Boston, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Florida and Buffalo.  While there are a couple of surprises in there, most of those seem quite reasonable.  Now for some team specific observations.

Washington Capitals – The Capitals played a different game last season from the previous two seasons.  In 2008-09 they scored 268 goals but gave up 240, in 2009-10 they scored 313 and gave up 227.  Last season they improved significantly defensively giving up just 191 goals but their offense also suffered as they scored just 219.  The predictions are predicting the offense will come back next season but will cost them a little defensively.  Mathematically speaking it makes sense, but in reality it is difficult to say whether they will change their playing style back to a more offensive game or not at the cost of defense.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Toronto Maple Leafs – One of the biggest surprises in these predictions is the offense of the Maple Leafs.  They are predicted to score the most goals of any team, eastern or western conference.  A big reason for this is both Joffrey Lupul (who played just 28 games with the Leafs) and Tim Connolly have very good HARO+ ratings as do many of the returning Leaf forwards including Kessel, Kulemin, Grabovski, and MacArthur.  Even projected third line players Armstrong and Bozak have solid HARO+ ratings.  If the ratings are true, scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem for the Leafs and in fact the late season surge last year was predominantly a result of increased goal production and not solely due to the play of James Reimer.  The Leafs problematic defensive ability is still an issue for the Leafs though.

New York Rangers – It is difficult to fathom how a team that added Brad Richards will see their goal production drop from 224 to about 217.  This is a little dumbfounding, but the Rangers did lose 16 goals from Frolov and Prospal and the algorithm is certainly not predicting another 21 goals from Brian Boyle (his previous career high was 4) so it is certainly possible that Richards won’t dramatically increase the Rangers offensive output.  We’ll see.

Philadelphia Flyers – Unless some of the younger players really step up their games it is difficult to see them being as good a team as the Flyers from last season.  They are predicted to score 16 fewer goals but give up 6 more (despite Bryzgalov).

New Jersey – The Devils will be a dramatically better team this year, but they still may not be a very good one.  They have some highly talented forwards (Parise, Zajac, Kovalchuk) but they depth is weak and they will produce very little offense from the back end and who knows what Brodeur has left in the tank.

Florida Panthers – They brought a lot of players in this past off season and they should have an improved team but like the Devils it might be a stretch for them to make the playoffs.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the predictions for the western conference standings.

 

Jun 302011
 

Anyone who knows anything about hockey, save for Florida GM Dale Tallon it seems, immediately thought ‘bad contract’ when they heard that the Florida Panthers had signed Tomas Kopecky to a 4 year contract at $3M/year.  But how bad is that contract?  Well, lets take a look.

Goal based stats (i.e. any stats that requite goals to calculate which is pretty much everything except things like shots or corsi) are heavily influenced by random events over the short term but over the long term tell a much more accurate picture than shot or corsi based stats.  Personally I consider goal based stats over a 3 or 4 year period to be a fairly reliable indicator of a players talent level so lets see how Kopecky compares over the past 4 seasons.

There are 183 NHL forwards who have played over 3000 minutes of 5v5 ice time over the past 4 seasons and Tomas Kopecky is one of them.  Here is how Kopecky compares to his forward peers over that time.

Statistic Value Rank out of 183
Goals For/20 minutes 0.719 150
Goals Against/20 minutes 0.798 106
Goals For % 0.474 157
Opposition GF/20min 0.737 183
Opposition GA/20min 0.760 71
Opposition Goals For % 0.492 183

To summarize, his performance numbers are bad and he has arguably played against the easiest competition of any forward with 3000 minutes of ice time over the past 4 seasons.  On top of that he has never played any significant time on the penalty kill.  Last season he got increased ice time on the Blackhawks top 2 lines and on the PP which boosted his offensive numbers to a career high of 15g and 42 points (previous high was 10g, 21pts) but that is more a result of who he was playing with and not his own talent level.

Kopecky for the most part has been a third line player who got some top six minutes last season because of the post-Stanley Cup salary cap induced fire sale that left the Blackhawks short of experienced forwards. For the past 2 seasons Kopecky earned $1.2M and I don’t think he deserved a raise from that level.  To pay Kopecky $3M over 4 years is probably a $1.5-2M/yr over payment and probably 1-2 years longer than he deserved.  It might be the worst $3M/yr contract ever signed in the NHL but he may be in good company soon because I suspect Maxime Talbot will get a similar contract and his numbers are equally bad, if not worse (though Talbot has played significantly more on the PK than Kopecky).  I pray that the Leafs do not sign Talbot.

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.

Continue reading »

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.

Continue reading »

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).
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.

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.