Mar 142013
 

Mikhail Grabovski is starting to get a little heat in Toronto. The other night against Winnipeg he benched for a good chunk of the game and people are starting to question what is wrong with Grabovski this season. Truth is, there is probably nothing wrong with Grabovski except for his line mate Jay McClement.

When one looks at Grabovski’s stats this season you will actually see that his 5v5 Goals/60 is actually up this year to 0.946 goals per 60 minutes of play from 0.895 last year and 0.924 the year before so his 5v5 goal production is certainly there. It is his assist totals that are down dramatically. The problem is his most frequent line mates are Nikolai Kulemin, Jay McClement and Leo Komarov, none of which are dynamic offensive players. McClement has never scored more than 12 goals in any season in his career and Kulemen had a 30 goal season in 2010-11 but never more than 16 otherwise and has just 9 goals in his last 97 games and Komarov is a rookie not known for his offensive ability. You can’t expect Grabovski, who probably isn’t a dynamic playmaking center to start with, to rack up a lot of assists with a pair of third line players on his wing.

On top of that, Jay McClement is actually a pretty bad hockey player. When the Leafs signed McClement in the summer I questioned the signing because he had terrible numbers in Colorado the previous 2 seasons.  In fact, over the past 2 seasons in Colorado and St. Louis he was 4th last in the league in 5v5 ZS Adjusted goals against per 20 minutes (sadly ahead of only Kessel, Bozak and Lupul). He also ranked 230th of 258 in terms of fenwick % over those 2 years. This season he is last on the Leafs in zone start adjusted fenwick % at a terrible 41.1%.

On top of McClement being pretty bad, the player McClement replaced on that line, Clarke MacArthur, is pretty good. MacArthur has the best fenwick % on the Leafs this season and in the 58:11 of 5v5 ice time he and Grabovski played together this year they had a corsi % of 57.1% while Graobovski has been at 41.7% when separated from MacArthur. Last season when Grabovski and MacArthur played together they were at 56.0% and when Grabovski was without MacArthur he was at 50.9%. In 2010-11 Grabovski’s corsi% was 55.3% with MacArthur and 47.0% without.

In summary, there is nothing wrong with Grabovski. It is the coach that took a good player who had very good ‘chemistry’ with Grabovski off Grabovski’s line replacing him with at best a mediocre 3rd liner to go with the other 3rd liner on his other wing. Maybe when Lupul comes back Carlyle will be forced to put a real top 6 winger on the Grabovski line and then people will stop asking “What is wrong with Grabovski?” but until then, blame Jay McClement (with a primary assist to Randy Carlyle).

 

Mar 122013
 

Yesterday I posted an article on comparable players to Tyler Bozak so today I thought I’d tackle the Maple Leafs other key free agent forward, Clarke MacArthur. As with Bozak, I first looked at the offensive stats Goals/60, FirstAssists/60, Primary Points/60 and Primary Points % (percentage of goals scored while on the ice that the player had a goal or a first assist on). Here is a list of offensively comparable wingers:

Player Name G/60 FirstA/60 PPts/60 PPts%
TLUSTY, JIRI 1.094 0.501 1.595 53.01%
PERRON, DAVID 0.991 0.521 1.512 55.75%
MACARTHUR, CLARKE 0.979 0.513 1.492 55.20%
SYKORA, PETR 0.916 0.593 1.509 56.01%
MOULSON, MATT 0.898 0.647 1.545 54.44%
SIMMONDS, WAYNE 0.891 0.563 1.454 59.61%
PARISE, ZACH 0.875 0.533 1.408 58.74%
OKPOSO, KYLE 0.867 0.591 1.458 59.71%
MALONE, RYAN 0.844 0.619 1.463 53.06%
MCGINN, JAMIE 0.796 0.703 1.499 57.10%
PARENTEAU, PIERRE 0.659 0.931 1.59 59.42%

The above list was selected for similar PPts/60 and PPts% to MacArthur and then sorted by G/60 and identifies the most comparable offensive players to MacArthur. McGinn and Parenteau are not the goal scorers of MacArthur and the others so probably deserve to be dropped from the list.

As an aside, it is quite hilarious to think that the Minnesota Wild have committed nearly $100M over 13 years to Parise when Parise’s best offensive comparable the past year+ is Kyle Okposo. The Wild better hope Parise gets back to his 2008-09 and 2009-10 form when he scored 83 goals and 176 points over that 2 year period or else they are spending a ton of money for a second tier winger.

So, what about defensively? In the Bozak article, to evaluate players defensively I looked at their corsi against per 20 minutes relative to their teammates corsi against per 20 minutes and suggested any players that improved their teammates corsi against is probably a decent defensive player. Here is how that comparison looked for MacArthur.

Player Name CA20 TMCA20 CA20/TMCA20
MACARTHUR, CLARKE 18.634 19.686 0.947
PARENTEAU, PIERRE 18.782 19.269 0.975
PARISE, ZACH 15.671 15.904 0.985
SYKORA, PETR 14.741 14.567 1.012
MOULSON, MATT 19.445 19.112 1.017
MCGINN, JAMIE 19.053 18.678 1.020
OKPOSO, KYLE 19.398 18.983 1.022
PERRON, DAVID 16.821 16.247 1.035
SIMMONDS, WAYNE 19.346 18.558 1.042
MALONE, RYAN 19.422 18.539 1.048
TLUSTY, JIRI 20.576 19.400 1.061

The list is sorted by CA20/TMCA20 and the lower the number the greater they improved their teammates corsi against rate. In this list, MacArthur comes out on top which is a suggestion that he is probably a good defensive player, or at minimum not a defensive liability. Since Perron, Parise and Sykora have significantly better defensive teammates it is more difficult for them to improve their teammates CA20 so I am not convinced that MacArthur is better than them, but MacArthur’s defensive numbers look good.

So, with that in mind, what is MacArthur worth? Ignoring the Zach Parise comparison, he is probably worth in the $3-4M/yr range. Matt Moulson is in the middle of a 3 year deal worth a little over $3.1M/yr. Okposo is in the second year of a 5 year RFA deal paying him $2.8M/yr. Wayne Simmonds signed a long term extension at just shy of $4M/yr. Parenteau signed as a UFA in Colorado for 4 years at $4M/yr. David Perron signed an RFA deal that pays him an average of just over $3.8M. Ryan Malone is in the middle of a contract that is paying him $4.5M/yr.

For me, I would like to see the Leafs sign MacArthur to a 4 year contract extension, preferably in the $3.5-4M/yr range. That would be a fair contract for both sides.

Feb 212013
 

Over the past few years I have had a few discussions with other Leaf fans about the relative merits of Francois Beauchemin. Many Leaf fans argue that he was a good 2-way defenseman who can play tough minutes and is the kind of defenseman the Leafs are still in need of. I on the other hand have never had quite as optimistic view of Beauchemin and I don’t think he would make this team any better.

On some level I think a part of the difference in opinion is that many look at his corsi numbers which aren’t too bad but I prefer to look at his goal numbers which have generally not been so good. So, let’s take a look at Beauchemin’s WOWY numbers and see if there is in fact a divergence between Beauchemin’s corsi WOWY numbers and his goal WOWY numbers starting with 2009-11 5v5 WOWY starting with CF% WOWY.

Beauchemin200911CFWOWY

I have included a diagonal line which is kind of a ‘neutral’ line where players perform equally well with and without Beauchemin. Anything to the right/below the line indicates the player played better with Beauchemin than without and anything to the left/above they played worse with Beauchemin. As you can see, the majority of players had a better CF% with Beauchemin than without. Now, let’s take a look at GF% WOWY.

Beauchemin200911GFWOWY

While a handful of players had better GF% with Beauchemin, the majority were a little worse off. There is a clear difference between Beauchemin’s CF% WOWY and his GF% WOWY. What is interesting is this difference can be observed in 2007-08, 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 (he was injured for much of 2008-09 so his WOWY data is not reliable due to smaller sample size). Looking at his 5-year WOWY charts you get a clear picture that Beauchemin seemingly has a skill for ‘driving play’ but not ‘driving goals’. Let’s dig a little further to see if we can determine what his ‘problem’ by looking at his 2009-11 two year CF20, GF20, CA20 and GA20 WOWY’s.

CF20:

Beauchemin200911CF20WOWY

GF20:

Beauchemin200911GF20WOWY

As you can clearly see, Beauchemin appears to be much better at generating shots and shot attempts than he is at generating goals. The majority of players have a higher corsi for rate when with Beauchemin than when not with Beauchemin but the majority also have a lower goals for rate. What about ‘against’ rates?

CA20:

Beauchemin200911CA20WOWY

GA20:

Beauchemin200911GA20WOWY

For CA20 and GA20 is is better to be to be above/left of the diagional line because unlike GF%/CF%/GF20/CF20 it is better to have a smaller number than a larger number. There doesn’t seem to be quite as much of a difference between CA20 and GA20 as with CF20 and GF20 so the difference between CF% and GF% is driven by the inability to convert shots and shot attempts into goals as opposed to the defensive side of the game. That said, there is no clear evidence that Beauchemin makes his teammates any better defensively.

There are two points I wanted to make with this post.

  1. Leaf fans probably shouldn’t be missing Beauchemin.
  2. For a lot of players a corsi evaluation of that player will give you a reasonable evaluation of that player but there are also many players where a corsi evaluation of that player will not tell the complete story. Some players can consistently see a divergence between their goal stats and their corsi stats and it is important to take that into consideration.

 

Feb 162013
 

Ok, let me justify that headline a little before people get all over me.  He isn’t completely terrible as in he shouldn’t be in the league terrible.  He’s just a terrible first line center, and probably not a very good second or third line center either (at least not until he improves defensively). He’d be an OK 4th liner and injury fill in depth player at close to minimum salary. Let me explain.

The last 2 seasons Bozak has mostly played with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul became his second winger when he joined the Leafs. Those are two pretty solid wingers to play with so lets look at Bozak’s production with those two solid players.

I want to compare Bozak to other top 9 players and conveniently if we look at all forwards with 1250 minutes of 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time over the past 2 seasons we come up with 270 players which is precisely an average of 9 per team, or 3 lines per team. So, how does Bozak rank among these players?

So, despite playing predominately with first line players his individual offensive stats are at a 3rd line level.

So, what about PP situations?  There are 169 forwards with 250 5v4 PP minutes over the previous two seasons while Bozak has played 417:28 which puts him among the top 65 forwards in the league. How has Bozak fared?

Think about that for a minute.  Of 169 forwards with >250 5v4 PP minutes over the past 2 seasons he ranks 5th last in shots/60 and has the 30th worst first assists/60 rankings. That means he is playing on the PP but isn’t shooting much and isn’t a primary set up man for the shooters either.

The only redeeming factors for Bozak is that he seems to be developing into a really good face off guy and he seems to be able to play with an elevated shooting percentage. His 5v5 ZS adjusted shooting percentage ranks 30th of 270 over the past 2 seasons while his 5v4 PP shooting percentage ranks 14th of 169. If you look at Bozak’s shot locations for last season you will see that the majority of Bozak’s shots and goals come from close in and 5 of his 11 5v5 goals last season came on rebounds.

So, to summarize, Tyler Bozak doesn’t shoot much, isn’t a great playmaker, isn’t good defensively (explained elsewhere) and yet coaches seem to insist on using him as a first line center. His main contribution to a team is winning face offs and going to the opposing teams net waiting for the puck to come to him so he can pot an easy close in goal. It is not completely unreasonable to believe that a guy like David Steckel could give you as good or better performance on face offs and similar lackluster offensive results with better defensive play if given the same opportunities to play with top end players that Tyler Bozak has had. That isn’t to say I want Steckel to be the Leafs new first line center, I was just trying to put Bozak’s usefulness (or lack of) into perspective.

 

Feb 052013
 

Before Leaf fans get all over me, let me say that there is nothing wrong with being a complementary player. Every team has and needs them and they can be valuable pieces of the puzzle. When I say complementary player I mean he is a player that needs others to help him get the most out of his game rather than someone who can elevate his game and those around him on his own. The complementary player isn’t as valuable as the guy who can elevate his game and the game of his line mates on his own (I call this a core player) but every good team needs a good cast of complementary players. Let me explain further with this chart of 2007-12 (5yr) even strength 5v5 data.

Sh% TOI/G
with Savard 13.9% 39:40
without Savard 8.9% 61:08
with Lupul 12.8% 46:34
without Lupul 9.1% 58:46
with Savard or Lupul 13.3% 43:07
without Savard or Lupul 7.7% 68:44

In my opinion, the two best (offensive) players that Kessel has played with over his career are Marc Savard and Joffrey Lupul so I focused on Kessel’s play with and without them. In the chart above, you can clearly see that Kessel has been substantially better when he is on the ice with either Savard or Lupul and in reality somewhat ordinary otherwise. When those two guys are on the ice Kessel’s shooting percentage, and thus goal production, sky rockets. Whatever Savard and Lupul are doing, they make Phil Kessel better. Does that make Savard and Lupul core players and Kessel a complementary player?  Maybe.  Let’s take a closer look at Lupul and see if his boost in Kessel’s performance extends to some of the other line mates he has had over the years (again, using 5 year 5v5 shooting percentages).

Linemate with Lupul without Lupul
Phil Kessel 12.8% 9.1%
Tyler Bozak 12.9% 13.4%
Scott Hartnell 12.1% 9.3%
Jeff Carter 12.4% 9.2%
Mike Richards 14.3% 9.0%

Aside from Tyler Bozak (and Kessel may be a factor as he has only played with Bozak when Kessel is also on the ice), he has improved the shooting percentage of each of his line mates over the past 5 seasons. This is fairly significant evidence that Lupul is in fact a core player that improves the performance of his line mates.

Every team needs core players, but there aren’t enough core players in the NHL to fill out your roster so every team also needs quality complementary players. From my perspective, Kessel is a good complementary player that guys like Lupul and Savard can elevate into very good very productive players, but because Kessel is also dependent on Lupul to be highly productive, Kessel isn’t worth the money that you would pay a core player. For this reason, if I were the Leafs management, I’d be very cautious about paying Kessel big money (i.e. in excess of $7M) on his next contract since, if something happens to Lupul (as is the case right now) he quickly becomes ordinary.

Now with that in mind, and the fact he is currently on a significant goal drought (12 games dating back to last season, mostly without Lupul) I think it is up to the Leaf coaching staff to mix up the lines and see if you can find another core player that can maximize Kessel’s production. Bozak and van Riemsdyk don’t seem to be the guys. Personally, I’d put him with Grabovski but it might also be interesting to see him with young energy players like Kadri and Frattin. The coaching staff has to do something but the current line is not working at all.

Jan 172013
 

Yesterday evening James Mirtle from the Globe and Mail posted an article on The Curious case of Tim Connolly and the Leafs.  It’s worth a read so go read it but the premise of the article is how the narrative around Tim Connolly in training camp is he had a poor year last year and he needs to perform better this year.  Makes sense from most peoples view points but Connolly tries to present a different perspective.

Connolly can be prickly to deal with and wasn’t particularly interested in talking about last season, but when pressed, you could tell he felt he did more of value than the narrative – that he’s been an unmitigated bust in Toronto – would suggest.

Here was his answer when asked (maybe for the second or third time) about needing to “rebound” this season.

“Even strength, I think I had my second highest career points last year,” Connolly said. “I’d like to improve my play on the power play and maybe play a bigger role. Penalty killing, I think, my individual percentage was 89 per cent I read somewhere. I was able to lead the forwards in blocked shots.”

He makes two points in there.  The first is that he had his second highest even strength points last year and the second was something about individual percentage was 89 percent. Lets deal with the first one first by looking at his even strength points since the first lockout.

Season Goals Assists Points
2011-12 11 20 31
2010-11 7 16 23
2009-10 9 27 36
2008-09 12 16 28
2007-08 3 20 23
2005-06 9 20 29

(Note: Connolly only played 2 games in 2006-07 so I have omitted it from the table and discussion)

Tim Connolly is actually correct.  His best even strength point total came in 2009-10 when he had 36 points followed by his 31 even strength points last year.  But let’s take a look at those point totals relative to even strength ice time.

Season ESTOI Points TOI/Pt
2011-12 940:12 31 30:20
2010-11 840:31 23 36:33
2009-10 966:41 36 26:51
2008-09 631:26 28 22:33
2007-08 603:18 23 26:14
2005-06 708:47 29 24:26

The last column is time on ice per point, or time on ice between points.  Last year he was on the ice for an average of 30 minutes and 20 seconds between each of his even strength points. This was his second worst since the locked out season. So, while Connolly was technically correct in saying that he had his second highest even strength point total last season, it was a somewhat misleading representation of his performance.

Now for the individual PK percent. It generated a bit of twitter conversation last night questioning what it actually is.

One might think it is the penalty kill percentage when he was on the ice but that seems like a strange thing to calculate.  Is it goals per 2 minutes of PK time?  Is it goals per PK he spent any amount of time killing?  I really didn’t know so I dug into the numbers deeper by looking at the Leafs PK percentages on my stats site and noticed that Connolly had the best on-ice save percentage (listed as lowest opposition shooting percentage) of any Leaf last season during 4v5 play and that save percentage while he was on the ice was just shy of 89% (88.68%). It seems that maybe what Connolly meant to say was that he had an on-ice PK save percentage of 89%.

How good is an 89% save percentage on the PK?  Well, of the 100 forwards with at least 100 4v5 minutes of ice time last year, Connolly ranks 42nd in the league so league wide it isn’t that impressive but considering the Leafs weak goaltending it might actually be fairly good.

Here is the thing though. Single season PK save percentage is so fraught with sample size issues that it is next to useless as a stat for goalies let alone forwards.

One could evaluate Connolly based on PK goals against rate in which he came up 3rd on the Leafs (trailing Lombardi or Kulemin) but that is still fraught with sample size issues. More fairly we probably should evaluate Connolly’s PK contribution based on shots against rate or maybe even more fairly fenwick or corsi against rates. In each of those categories he ranked 5th among Leafs with at least 50 minutes of 4v5 ice time with only Joey Crabb being worse. Furthermore, among the 110 players with 100 minutes of 4v5 PK ice time last year, Connolly ranked 99th in fenwick against rate.

I don’t mean for this article to be a Connolly bashing article. I actually do think Connolly was a little misused and would probably do better with a more well defined role and not bounced around in the line up so much so in that sense I agree with the premise of what Connolly is saying. With that said though, it probably is fair to say that he didn’t have a great season and if he wants a regular role in the top six with time on the PP and PK he needs to perform better as his use of stats to attempt to show he had a good season is really just evidence to how statistics can be misused to support almost any narrative you want.  As they say, there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.

 

Jan 102013
 

The news that shocked the hockey world yesterday had nothing to do with the CBA or Bettman or Fehr but rather that the Maple Leafs ownership group decided to make a strangely timed move to remove Brian Burke from his President and General Manager position of the Maple Leafs.  I think it is only fair to take a look back at the Burke years and evaluate where the Leafs are after his 4 years at the helm.  Let’s look at the Leafs position by position starting with the good and heading downhill from there.

Defense

Burke made some mistakes on defense (Komisarek, maybe Liles contract and to a lesser extent Beauchemin) but generally speaking defense is the Leafs strong point.  Phaneuf and Gunnarsson really developed into a quality top pairing last year capable of playing big minutes in any situation.  Jake Gardiner still has lots to learn but has shown flashes of brilliance, particularly as a puck moving offensive defenseman.  Cody Franson hasn’t been given much of an opportunity in Toronto but there is certainly a decent amount of potential there and at the very least trade value.  Morgan Rielly is the Leafs best prospect and has a chance to be a quality NHL defenseman in the not to distant future.  Beyond those guys there are some decent depth prospects close to ready like Korbinian Holzer and Jesse Blacker and second tier prospects a year or two away like Stuart Percey and Matt Finn.  Even more veteran players like Mike Kostka and reclamation project Paul Ranger provide some nice depth.  There is certainly a need for the organization to add another quality shut down defenseman but overall there are a number of quality defensemen on the active roster with good depth in the organization and a number of quality prospects on the way.

Wingers

At the NHL level Burke has left a nice stable of quality wingers with guys Kessel, Lupul, van Riemsdyk, MacArthur, Kulemin and an emerging player like Matt Frattin.  Generally speaking that is a pretty good set of wingers for your top 3 lines and there is also a decent group of role players to fill out the fourth line and depth winger positions.  Unlike the defense position, there are not an abundance of quality winger prospects that project to top 2 line duty.  There are some prospects like Tyler Biggs, Brad Ross, Greg McKegg, Jerry D’Amigo, Carter Ashton, etc. but they all have significant question marks and in the cases of D’Amigo, Ashton and McKegg poor seasons with the Marlies this year have dropped their status from maybe prospects to not players we can seriously count on.  Luckily Burke has done a decent job at putting together some quality wingers who are mostly young or in their NHL primes because there isn’t a lot of top talent in the pipe line.

Centers

Now we get to Burke’s failures.  Although not someone Burke brought in, Grabovski has really grown during Burke’s tenure and has proven himself to be at least a very good second line center if not a second tier first line guy.  But beyond Grabovski the center position is somewhat of a disaster.  There are some decent bottom of the line up guys like Steckel and McClement but Burke has failed miserably in finding a center to complement Grabovski on the top 2 lines.  Bozak has some skills but is not the guy for the job, maybe in part because he was never properly developed for the job but rather was just thrown to the wolves.  Tim Connolly was expected to be a short term fix but so far that has failed miserably.  Long term there was hope for Nazem Kadri and while there is still reason for some hope (he is having a decent year with the Marlies) management seemed to have more interest in publicly criticizing Kadri (from everything from his fitness level, to his attitude, to his defensive ability) than properly developing him.  The other great hope at center was Joe Colborne who was picked up from Boston in the Kaberle trade.  At the time I didn’t know much about Colborne but when I looked at his numbers I was underwhelmed but lots of people thought he had a ton of potential so I kept an optimistic view of him.  But two years later and he is struggling big time with the Marlies and his status as a prospect center for the top 2 lines is all but gone.  The only hope for Colborne now is he can learn to play defense and become a big, strong, defensive third line center not unlike what Manny Malhotra has done with his career but that is probably being too optimistic.  And beyond Kadri and Colborne there is very little in terms of center prospects.  This is an area that desperately needs attention at both the NHL and at the prospect level.

Goaltending

So the score card so far is the defense situation is good all round, the winger situation is good at the NHL level, a little weak at the prospect level and the center situation needs a fair bit of work at both the NHL level and especially at the prospect level.  That leaves the goaltending situation which is a complete and utter mess.  The current Leaf goaltending situation has the Leafs with James Reimer as their starter who is really only on anyone’s radar because he had a stellar second half of a season with the Leafs in 2010-11.  If it weren’t for that stretch nobody would have any hope for him because for the several years prior to that he wasn’t even a full time starting goalie at either the AHL or ECHL (hadn’t played more than 30 games in a year since 2006-07 in WHL).  After Reimer there are second (or third) tier prospects like Ben Scrivens, Jussi Rynnas, Mark Owuya and Garret Sparks.  Scrivens is having another solid year (not quite as good as last year though) with the Marlies and might be close to at least being a back up at the NHL level but predicting goalies development at the NHL level is extremely difficult.  In the end the Maple Leaf goalie situation can best be described as one big question mark with a grand total of 81 NHL games started experience in the entire organization.  The goaltending situation was a disaster before Burke got here, was a disaster when he was here, and is still a disaster.  Easily the absolute worst and uncertain goalie situation of any NHL franchise.

 

Jul 022012
 

The only real dip into the unrestricted free agent market yesterday by the Toronto Maple Leafs was the signing of 3rd/4th line center Jay McClement.  Jay McClement’s best season in the NHL point wise was in 2009-10 when he had 11 goals and 29 points and last year he had 10 goals and 17 points for the Avalanche so clearly he wasn’t signed to produce offense.  The question is, how good is he defensively.  Let’s take a look at how McClement compares to his Avalanche team mates last year in terms of goals against per 20 minutes of ice time.

Player Name GA20
LANDESKOG, GABRIEL 0.645
O_REILLY, RYAN 0.657
DUCHENE, MATT 0.780
STASTNY, PAUL 0.812
HEJDUK, MILAN 0.837
JONES, DAVID 0.839
KOBASEW, CHUCK 0.878
MCCLEMENT, JAY 0.920
MCGINN, JAMIE 0.957
DOWNIE, STEVE 1.094

The only players who saw goals get scored against the avalanche at a higher rate when they were on the ice last year were McGinn and Downie, and a good part of Downie’s time was spent with the extremely defensively inept Tampa Bay Lightning so you can’t really include Downie.  So, essentially McClement had the second worst goals against rate of any Avalanche forward.  Now, what about quality of competition.  Let’s look at the average goal scoring rate (goals for per 20 minutes of ice time) of the players McClement lined up against.

Player Name OppGF20
O_REILLY, RYAN 0.790
LANDESKOG, GABRIEL 0.787
DUCHENE, MATT 0.775
DOWNIE, STEVE 0.775
STASTNY, PAUL 0.763
HEJDUK, MILAN 0.762
JONES, DAVID 0.760
KOBASEW, CHUCK 0.746
MCGINN, JAMIE 0.746
MCCLEMENT, JAY 0.737

McClement’s opposition was by far the weakest offensively that any Avalanche forward faced last season.  This isn’t very good news for Leaf fans who might be expecting a defensive forward.

In 2010-11 he split time between the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche and put up a goals against per 20 minute of ice time of 1.147.  The only two forwards on either team to put up a worse GA20 was Brandon Yip and Kevin Porter.  His quality of competition was a little tougher in 2010-11, about middle of the pack of those two teams.

Three seasons ago in 2009-10 with St. Louis he did seem to have a good defensive year.  He posted the third lowest goals against rate of any Blues forward and faced the toughest offensive opponents.  In 2008-09, also with the Blues, he was 5th best in goals against rate and 3rd best in offensive quality of opponent.  In 2007-08, again with the Blues, he had the worst goals against rate but second toughest offensive quality of opponent.

When we take his statistics league-wide we see some bad news as well.  Of the 308 forwards with 1000 or more 5v5 zone start adjusted minutes of ice time over the past 2 seasons, McClement ranks 303rd in terms of goals against rate, 270th in terms of opponents goals for rate and 139th in terms of teammates goals against rate.  So, to summarize that, he had above average defensive line mates, played against very weak offensive opponents and had a dreadful goals against average while he was on the ice.

The two years prior McClement looked much better.  He ranked 119th (of 310) in goals against rate, 124th in teammate defensive ability, and had the 87th toughest quality of opponent offensively.

In summary, the last 2 seasons McClement’s statistics show him to be a dreadful defensive player.  The two years prior he seemed to be useful to good defensively.  Which player will the Leafs get?  Who knows, but Leaf fans better hope it is the 2008-10 version because the McClement of the past 2 years has him as one of the least valuable players in the league.

 

Jun 292012
 

I generally have had little expectations/hope that Burke can dramatically rebuild this team into a serious playoff contender this season because of the large contracts that nobody wants on the roster, but after some thinking, I think there is way he can do it.  This is all pure speculation and hope, but don’t we all like to do that from time to time?  And as Maple Leaf fans, hope is pretty much all we have right now.

When Burke traded for James van Riemsdyk a week ago he indicated that he expects to see him playing the wing, and in particular Mikael Grabovski’s wing.  This is interesting because JVR is a left winger and the left winger for Grabovski the past couple of seasons has been Clarke MacArthur and they have seen substantial success together with Nikolai Kulemin on the right side.  I figured it meant that either MacArthur or JVR would move to the right side, but the optimist in me is hoping that Burke actually has another plan.

That plan, I hope, is signing Alexander Semin as an unrestricted free agent.  Semin is a true right wing with elite level offensive talent and as good as MacArthur has been for the Leafs, would be a significant upgrade.  As good as the MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin line has been at times over the past couple of seasons, a JVR-Grabovski-Semin line has the potential to be a true #1 line with 80 goal potential.

Signing Semin will not come cheap even though he is coming off a down year (in large part because he played with lower tier line mates like Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perrault and Jason Chimera) because I think there will always be teams looking to add high end talent and there is always the KHL option for Semin.  But what it does mean is that Semin likely won’t command the mega long-term deals that Brian Burke refuses to hand out.  It is quite possible, maybe quite likely, that you could get Semin on a 4 year deal at $6M per year.  That is an increase of $2.75M over MacArthur’s salary but the benefits far out weigh the extra cost.  Not only is Semin is significantly better than MacArthur it will mean not having to play someone (MacArthur or JVR) on the wrong wing and it also means that it makes MacArthur available to trade for other assets.  In particular, a center for Kessel and Lupul.

I am not a fan of Bozak between Lupul and Kessel because he has no defensive abilities, just like Lupul and Kessel don’t.  It’s a bad combination.  I wish we had seen more of Connolly there last year.  He isn’t an ideal option either but at least has some defensive capabilities, but he is undersized too so still isn’t a great option.  So with that said, I think Burke needs to look elsewhere for the center for those two.

As far as pieces we could trade to acquire that center, well, they are actually quite abundant.  MacArthur would definitely be available after a Semin signing.  Kulemin could be traded as well and would be an attractive player to many teams.  Kadri is a trade possibility as there won’t be an immediate opening on the top 2 lines.  Franson is too but with Schenn traded would mean having to acquire another defenseman to replace him.  A package of MacArthur, Kadri and maybe a prospect or draft pick should be able to land at least a second tier first line center, or maybe even a guy like Paul Stastny.  With Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly in the mix at center for the Avalanche I can’t imagine why the Avalanche would want to keep Stastny and his $6.6M salary.  Stastny wouldn’t be ideal because he isn’t great defensively but would definitely be an upgrade on Bozak.  So, now let’s take a look at the top 2 lines if all this unfolded as I laid out.

Lupul – Stastny – Kessel

JVR – Grabovski – Semin

Ok, just reading that has me a little excited.  Both those lines are capable of producing 80+ goals and the Grabovski line in particular is a defensively capable line as well.  I have plugged some numbers into cap geek and came up with the following fictional lineup.

FORWARDS
Joffrey Lupul ($4.250m) / Paul Stastny ($6.600m) / Phil Kessel ($5.400m)
James Van Riemsdyk ($4.250m) / Mikhail Grabovski ($5.500m) / Alexander Semin ($6.000m)
Matt Frattin ($1.200m) / Tyler Bozak ($1.500m) / Nikolai Kulemin ($2.750m)
Colby Armstrong ($3.000m) / David Steckel ($1.100m) / Mike Brown ($0.737m)
Matthew Lombardi ($3.500m) /
DEFENSEMEN
Dion Phaneuf ($6.500m) / Carl Gunnarsson ($1.325m)
Jake Gardiner ($1.117m) / Cody Franson ($2.000m)
John-Michael Liles ($3.875m) / Korbinian Holzer ($0.700m)
Mike Komisarek ($4.500m) /
GOALTENDERS
James Reimer ($1.800m)
Ben Scrivens ($0.700m)
BUYOUTS
Darcy Tucker ($1.000m)
——
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $70,200,000; CAP PAYROLL: $69,303,333; BONUSES: $212,500
CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $896,667

You will notice no MacArthur, Kadri (both hypothetically traded to Colorado for Stastny) or Connolly.  I think Burke should be able to find a taker for Connolly as he is on just a 1 year contract with no long term salary cap ramifications (which some teams might find important with the uncertainty surrounding a new CBA) but will not get much in return.  Dallas (to replace Ribiero), Calgary (to replace Jokinen) and Pheonix (to replace Langkow) seem like possibly destinations to me.  For now I have also left Armstrong, Lombardi and Komisarek in the line  and gone with Reimer/Scrivens in goal but some moves could be made with those guys to improve the defense or goaltending situation or improve on Bozak in the #3C position.  With the moves up front, it does make trading for Luongo more unlikely, but if he gets traded to Florida, I’d be ok with acquiring Theodore to backup/mentor/support Reimer.

So Leaf fans, what do you think?  Are you hopeful something like this could happen this off season, or pessimistic that Burke can’t/won’t be able to make any significant moves to improve the team?

 

Jan 262012
 

With the re-signing of John-Michael Liles the Leafs now have an abundance of defensemen signed under control for a number of years, many with big dollar contracts too.  We all have our varying opinions on the relative values of each of these defensemen but I thought it would be an appropriate time to take a closer look at them statistically.

Offensively

2011-12 HARO+ 2010-11 HARO+ 2010-12 HARO+ 2011-12 FenHARO+ 2010-11 FenHARO+ 2010-12 FenHARO+
JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 1.23 1.03 1.11 0.96 0.99 1.00
CODY FRANSON 1.20 1.06 1.10 1.05 1.05 1.03
LUKE SCHENN 1.10 1.08 1.08 0.85 1.02 0.99
DION PHANEUF 1.01 1.08 1.05 1.00 0.99 1.03
CARL GUNNARSSON 1.05 1.00 1.02 1.04 0.92 0.94
MIKE KOMISAREK 1.10 0.96 1.00 1.02 0.90 0.86
KEITH AULIE 0.90 1.02 0.99 0.78 0.86 0.89
JAKE GARDINER 1.18 0.94

The above list are my own offensive ratings (goal based and fenwick based) for 5v5 zone start adjusted (10 seconds) situations sorted by their year and a half (2010-12) HARO+ ratings.

The list generally fits with what we might expect though the one surprise is probably Luke Schenn being rated so highly offensively.  I had a debate with a few people last week where I suggested that Schenn is as good offensively as Phaneuf and got ridiculed for making that statement but the numbers do in fact support that.  The above are based on ‘on-ice’ numbers but individual stats make Schenn look good too.  This season Phaneuf has 2 even strength goals and 13 even strength points while Schenn has 1 even strength goal and 11 even strength points but Phaneuf has played more than 30% more even strength minutes than Schenn.  Last season Phaneuf had 5 goals and 17 points at even strength versus Schenn’s 5 goals and 21 points in 20% more minutes.  Combined Schenn has 6 goals and 32 points in 2237 ES minutes while Phaneuf has 7 goals and 30 points in 2207 ES minutes.  That’s awfully close offensive production if you ask me.  The difference in their overall totals is solely due to Phaneuf’s PP minutes and Schenn’s lack of them.

Getting back to the rest of the team, it is no surprise to see Liles and Franson at the top of the list.  They are known to be more offensive specialists and the stats bear that out.  The reverse is true for Komisarek and Aulie who are viewed as more defensive defensemen and that is the role they are assigned.  They simply do not produce much offense.  We only have half a season of Jake Gardiner, but so far so good.  While his fenwick offensive numbers aren’t crazy good, his HARO+ rating is very very good.  I think Gardiner is someone we can be cautiously optimistic will develop into a very good (maybe Liles-like) offensive defenseman.

For interest sake, here are the players raw offensive numbers for the last 2 seasons combined sorted by GF20.

2010-12 GF20 2010-12 FF20
LUKE SCHENN 0.88 12.62
CODY FRANSON 0.88 13.22
JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 0.87 12.66
DION PHANEUF 0.85 13.01
CARL GUNNARSSON 0.83 11.96
MIKE KOMISAREK 0.81 11.00
KEITH AULIE 0.81 11.41

Gardiner’s GF20 is 0.96 and FF20 is 12.62 so far this season.

Defensively

This is the defensive equivalent of the above offensive rating chart.

2011-12 HARD+ 2010-11 HARD+ 2010-12 HARD+ 2011-12 FenHARD+ 2010-11 FenHARD+ 2010-12 FenHARD+
CODY FRANSON 0.77 1.39 1.15 1.02 0.98 1.00
KEITH AULIE 0.71 1.22 1.05 0.89 0.87 0.85
DION PHANEUF 0.87 1.07 1.00 1.04 0.94 0.97
CARL GUNNARSSON 1.04 0.86 0.95 1.00 0.94 0.99
LUKE SCHENN 0.83 0.88 0.88 0.89 0.93 0.90
JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 0.85 0.86 0.87 1.00 1.00 0.99
MIKE KOMISAREK 0.78 0.74 0.76 0.90 0.93 0.95
JAKE GARDINER 0.94 0.97

There are definitely some surprises in the above list and there are probably some small sample size issues going on.  Franson looked awesome defensively last season but terrible this season when considering their goal based HARO+ numbers.  The same is true for Aulie, and to some extent Phaneuf while the reverse is true for Gunnarsson.  For each of them their Fenwick numbers are a little more consistent.

All-in all though, Franson looks like he could be a more than respectable defenseman defensively.  His fenwick ratings are pretty solid and his 2-year goal ratings are very good.  On the other side of the spectrum, Komisarek looks awful, regardless of whether you consider goal ratings or fenwick ratings.  This is not good for a guy who doesn’t produce offense either.  Luke Schenn’s defensive numbers are a little better than Komisarek’s but still not great, but at least he is producing offensively.

Again, for interest sake, here are each defenseman’s 2-year raw defensive numbers.

2010-12 GA20 2010-12 FA20
CODY FRANSON 0.67 13.06
KEITH AULIE 0.73 15.36
DION PHANEUF 0.78 13.48
CARL GUNNARSSON 0.83 13.30
LUKE SCHENN 0.88 14.51
JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 0.92 13.05
MIKE KOMISAREK 1.02 13.75

Gardiner’s GA20 is 0.80 and FA20 is 13.83 so far this season.

Contract Status and Moving Forward

Phaneuf and Komisrek are signed for 2 more seasons at $6.5M and $4.5M cap hits respectively.  Liles and Schenn are signed for 4 more seasons each at $3.875M and $3.6M cap hits respectively.  Carl Gunnarsson is signed for another season at $1.325M when he becomes an RFA and will be due a substantial raise.  Cody Franson is set to become an RFA this summer and will deserve a sizeable raise from his current $800K salary.  Jake Gardiner has 2 years left on his entry level deal with a $1.1M cap hit and Keith Aulie is an RFA this summer.  The Leafs also have Korbinian Holzer, Jesse Blacker and others in the farm system ready to make a push for a roster spot on the Leafs in the next year or two.

The Leafs salary cap hit for their defensemen next season will be $21M plus whatever Cody Franson gets on a new contract which quite likely will be around the $1.5-2.5M range.  That would bring their expenditures on defensemen to $23M which actually isn’t all that ridiculous if the salary cap is $65+M.  That said, if they are looking to free up salary to spend on forwards and/or are looking to open up a roster spot for their young defensemen there are a few options.

The first option is to trade (if possible) Mike Komisarek.  He provides no real value to this team but then he will probably provide no value to any team so trading him might be difficult.  He also has a limited no trade clause limiting the number of potential trade partners as well.  He would be a perfect candidate to have his contract buried in the AHL (in actual dollars he’ll earn $3.5M in each of the next 2 seasons and coincidentally Jeff Finger’s buried $3.5M contract expires this summer) but he has a no movement clause which means he cannot be demoted.  The only option to get his contract off the books is via trade.

Another option is to trade Luke Schenn.  He provides some value to the Leafs with his offensive ability but that is not an area where the Leafs are lacking (most of their defensemen have offensive capabilities).  His poor defensive numbers make him expendable in my opinion and being young and on a reasonably priced long term contract he should have a lot of value on the trade market.  He could feasibly be used in a package to land the Leafs the big two-way forward they desperately need.

The other options are trading either Franson or Gunnarsson.  Neither would save the team as much cap space as either Komisarek or Schenn but both would have good value on the trade market.  That said, I would not be a proponent of this as I think they both provide good value to the Leafs, and are likely to provide good value for many years.  Gunnarsson has developed into a solid all-purpose defenseman and I think Franson has that ability too.