Ranking the Rebuilds #7….the Colorado Avalanche

colorado_avalanche_ice_logo_wallpaper_by_denversportswalls-d6tbnhr

I think we can agree that the Colorado Avalanche rebuild began on May 10, 2013.

That is the day that Joe Sakic was named Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations.

That’s an odd title and the Avs retained Greg Sherman but he reportedly serves in an advisory capacity to Sakic and head coach Patrick Roy who has a tremendous amount of control over personnel decisions.

Sakic hired Roy on May 23rd of 2013 and the tandem set to work rebuilding a team that had missed the playoffs for 4 of the previous 5 seasons.

The new regime didn’t have to start from scratch since the 2009 draft had produced Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyson Barrie who are all accomplished NHL players.

The 2010 draft produced blue chip goalie prospect Calvin Pickard and 2011 produced Gabriel Landeskog the apparent best player in the draft.

But, in the first draft conducted by the new regime, they hit pay dirt at #1 with Nathan MacKinnon and stud defensive prospect Chris Bigras who may be NHL ready as early as this fall.

The Avalanche would defy the odds in the 2013/14 season, winning the Central Division before bowing out  to the Wild in the conference semi finals.

Pretty much everyone except the Avs most rabid fans saw that season as Cinderella and predicted a much more rational record in the following season and, of course, the expected happened as the Avs fell from 112 points to 90.

But folks, let’s be honest, a team in only the second year of a rebuild, playing in the toughest division in hockey that can accumulate 90 points is nothing to be easily dismissed.

While it’s true the Avs had the second worst possession record in the league last season, it’s important to remember that the LA Kings had the best record in the league with a SAT% of 55.37 and missed the playoffs while 4 teams that fell below 50% did make the post season.

So, while possession stats tell you something, they don’t tell you everything.

Goaltending was not an issue for the AVs last season as Semyon Varlamov posted a decent .921 SV% and the aforementioned Calvin Pickard was stellar in 16 appearances at .931.

No, the issue was that the Avs gave up too many shots at 33.2/G, one of the worst records in the league.

That fact, coupled with an offence that struggled, especially sophomore Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene to a lesser degree, left the Avs gasping for air.

That leaves us wondering if the management team has addressed those issue in the offseason and it seems they have at least somewhat.

In one of the biggest blockbusters of the offseason, Colorado traded 200 foot demon Ryan O’Reilly whose contract demands were “mile high” for former 1st rounds picks D Nikita Zadorov and C Mikhael Grigorenko, University of Michigan Star JT Compher and the Sabres 31st pick in the draft which they later flipped to San Jose for AJ Greer and 2 – 2016 draft picks.

Picking 10th overall in the 2015 draft, the Avs selected Mikko Rantanen who had played the previous 3 seasons against men in the Finnish league who Bob Mackenzie ranked right in that 10th spot.

The 6’4″ 210 RW is thought to be close to NHL ready.
An exceptionally talented playmaker and always a consistent threat on the ice; Rantanen is a combination of elite-level hockey sense, silky smooth hands, and nimble skating. Needs to improve his shot and physical play, as he doesn’t take advantage of his size in many situations. All-in-all, an intelligent, big-bodied forward that oozes skill.

(Curtis Joe, EP 2014) – See more at: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=91186#sthash.Kpm5dZ3D.dpuf

So, if we can agree, as previously mentioned, that the Avs are set in goal, let’s take a look at how they shape up at D and then down the middle.

As well as adding Zadorov in trade, the Avs signed 35 year old Francois Beauchemin to a 3 year contract at $4.5M/season.

Beauchemin has still been very effective but this contract could be a gamble if his play tails off as he ages.

With a top pairing of #1D Erik Johnson and Beauchemin, they should be fine for 20 minutes a night but they will need to find a steady partner for offensive whiz Tyson Barrie who scored an impressive 12 foals and 53 points last season.

The Av’s did not re-sign 37 year old Jan Hejda and Brad Stuart has passed his best before date so, unless Zadorov is ready to step in the #4 role, the team may be gasping agin.

Of course, Chris Bigras may take that spot in camp but there’s not a whole lot behind them on the depth chart although there are some distant bells in the system.

If I were Joe and Patrick, sitting with more than $8M in free cap space, I would have signed Cody Franson weeks ago…hasn’t happened yet.


Down the middle, the Avalanche have an embarrassment of riches even after trading Or’ Reilly.

Nathan MacKinnon

Matt Duchene

Carl Soderburg (signed in the offseason)

Mikail Grigorenko

John Mitchell

Marc Andre Cliche

With Soderburg likely to take a top 6 role, Duchene may find himself playing RW again since it’s an area of weakness for the team so there’s an opportunity for Grigorenko if he is ready to step up.


If Duchene does indeed play on the wing, he’ll be joined by stud Landeskog and the ageless Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay as well as Blake Comeau, Cody McLeod, Patrick Bordeleau and Dennis Everburg.

Hockey’s Future has the Avs ranked 29th in the league in their prospects ranking and I think that’s fair.

Strengths: The Colorado Avalanche boast solid depth on defense in terms of prospects. Chris Bigras has shown excellent growth at the junior level and may be ready to take that next step in his career, while Stefan Elliot and Duncan Siemens are finding their way at the pro level. Will Butcher, Kyle Wood and recent free-agent signing Mason Geertsen add interesting pieces to the organization’s defensive core. Goaltender Calvin Pickard had a very impressive showing with the Avalanche last season, breaking through after three years in the AHL. He should get a chance to improve in the NHL full time next season.

Weaknesses: Skill. Colorado has quantity in prospects who could fill bottom-six roles in the NHL, but the organization is low on high-end, skilled prospects. Connor Bleackley will turn pro after back-to-back point-per-game campaigns in the WHL, but the center projects more as a high-energy, third-line pivot.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Chris Bigras, D; 2. Connor Bleackley, C; 3. Calvin Pickard, G; 4. Stefan Elliot, D; 5. Duncan Siemens, D.

With goal and centre pretty much locked in, they will need at least one D prospect to step in a help right away.

If they hope to finish their rebuild anytime soon, they may have to spend some of that cap space to acquire a couple of skill players to replace the elders in the lineup sooner rather than later. but Rantanen may be able to help in that regard.

Playing in the Central, where I see 5 teams making the playoffs, I doubt they will be contenders this upcoming season but, with some prudent moves in the next 12 months, when many teams will be forced to dump players due to a declining cap, perhaps the best strategy it to wait and pounce when the time is right.

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Ranking the Rebuilds #5…The Florida Panthers

florida_panthers_wallpaper_by_nascarfan160-d6ofwpo

I’ve long been a fan of Florida GM Dale Tallon.

Tallon built the foundation of the Chicago Blackhawks team that has won 3 Stanley Cups in the 5 seasons.

Tallon’s first season as the Blackhawks general manager was a busy one. The 2004–05 NHL season was lost to a labor dispute, and the new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players was signed in July 2005. Between the new financial structure and many rules changes intended to produce a higher scoring game, Tallon was challenged to build a new team. Tallon signed many free agents, including goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin,[5] defenceman Adrian Aucoin,[6] and forward Martin Lapointe,[7] which led to raised expectations. The Blackhawks finished Tallon’s first season with 26 wins, 43 losses and 13 overtime losses for 65 points, ranking the Blackhawks 14th in the 15-team Western Conference, and with the third-least points in the NHL.

Under Tallon, however, the Blackhawks steadily improved, raising their points totals to 71 and 88 in the next two years. Though not enough to make the playoffs either year, their poor overall standing allowed Tallon high draft picks to work with. In 2006, he selected Jonathan Toews third overall, then Patrick Kane first overall the following year. The two forwards went on to quickly become franchise cornerstones and were joined by fellow young talents Patrick SharpKris VersteegMartin Havlát and Brian Campbell, all of whom Tallon either signed or traded for.

With a new core of players in 2008–09, the Blackhawks finished the season with a 46–24–12 record for 104 points. Ranking fourth overall in the Western Conference, the team qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Chicago made it to the Western Conference Finals, where they were eliminated in five games by the Detroit Red Wings.

Tallon further bolstered his team in the off-season by signing star winger Marián Hossa and Selke Trophy-winning John Madden. That same off-season, however, Tallon and the Blackhawks management came under fire in early July 2009, when the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) claimed the team did not submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents before the deadline.[8] In the worst-case scenario, the team’s unsigned restricted free agents at the time, including Kris Versteeg, would have become unrestricted, earning them additional salary and negotiating rights.[8] Tallon was able to sign all his restricted free agents, although at a cost of millions more than he would have to had he qualified them in time.[9]

Soon thereafter, on July 14, 2009, the Blackhawks demoted Tallon to the position of senior advisor, while Stan Bowman, son of Scotty Bowman, was promoted to general manager.[10] The following day, Martin Havlát, who was no longer a Blackhawk, criticized the team’s management and defended Tallon.[11] He stated, “Every single player on that team is with Dale. I still talk to the guys all the time, hockey players know a phony when they see one.”[11] He specifically berated John McDonough, the team’s president, commenting, “McDonough couldn’t stand that Dale was so successful and getting the credit for building the Hawks from a last place team to making the Conference Finals in 3 short years.”[11]

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in June 2010. The Blackhawks engraved Tallon’s name on the Cup and issued him a Stanley Cup ring.[12] Source

Tallon remained in limbo until May 17th 2010 when he was hired by the Florida Panthers as GM and immediately setting about rebuilding his new team.

After serving as a senior advisor with the Blackhawks for nearly a year, Tallon was hired on May 17, 2010, by the Florida Panthers as general manager, replacing Randy Sexton.[13] The Panthers had finished last in their division, the Southeast, the previous season and had not made the playoffs since 2000. Seeking a rebuilding process similar to that which he accomplished in Chicago, Tallon immediately began trading away several players, most notably forward Nathan Horton and defenceman Keith Ballard.

In his first season as general manager, the Panthers finished last in their division for the second straight year, prompting Tallon to fire Head Coach Peter DeBoer (later replacing him with former NHL player Kevin Dineen) and to continue trading for younger players and draft picks. At the NHL trade deadline, he dealt away captain Bryan McCabe, as well as veterans Cory StillmanRadek Dvořák and Christopher Higgins. In the off-season, he acquired three former Chicago players — Brian Campbell, Tomáš Kopecký and Kris Versteeg— while also signing Tomáš Fleischmann and former Panthers fan favourite Ed Jovanovski.

Tallon’s personnel changes helped lead the Panthers to their first Southeast Division title in franchise history, improving by 22 points in the 2011–12 season. Qualifying for the 2012 playoffs as the third seed, they were eliminated in the first round by the eventual finalistsNew Jersey Devils, ironically led by former Panthers head coach, Peter DeBoer. As a result of his leading the team to their first playoff appearance in twelve years, Tallon was nominated for the 2012 NHL General Manager of the Year Award.

We can assume the rebuild in Florida began with Tallon’s tenure with the Panthers in 2010 but unlike the rebuild of the Edmonton Oilers which began the same season with the drafting of Taylor Hall, Tallon’s efforts were much more complicated,

After 3 year’s of lacking the resources to build a winner, that all changed in 2013 when Vincent Viola bought out a rag tag group of minority owners and committed to providing the dollars and stability the team needs to move forward.

Viola said Friday that he was committed to giving the Panthers “the resources needed to win the Stanley Cup,” which brought a smile to Tallon’s face.

“I believe in what he believes in,” said Tallon, the architect of Chicago’s 2010 championship team.

“He’s committed to putting a winning team out there on the ice. That’s all I can ask for. We’re going to get terrific commitment from him and that’s exciting. The fact I can go to them and say ’this is what we need, what are your thoughts?’ is important. That’s the support we need to fix whatever we need fixed.’’

The Panthers were previously controlled by Cliff Viner and a multitude of minor partners, including local heavyweights H. Wayne Huizenga, Alan Cohen, Mike Maroone and Jordan Zimmerman. They were all bought out by Viola. Viola owns a majority of the franchise now, with only longtime business partner Douglas Cifu joining him. Cifu is the new vice chairman and alternate governor of the Panthers. Source

So, if we consider the Panthers rebuild got a reboot in 2013, we’re now only a couple of years into the process.
In the past two years, Tallon has been very busy remaking his team while allowing his exceptional draft record to provide his team with young elite players.
After acquiring Roberto Luongo in trade, the Panthers are set in goal.
The D, anchored by possession monster Bryan Campbell propelled the Cats to a middling 2.60 GA/GP last season but Campbell is on the last year of his contract and it’s expected Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad will assume the role of #1 stud defenseman as early as this season.
With Dimitri Kulkov, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Petrovic, Dylan Olsen and Michael Matheson in the under 25 group, the Panthers are loaded with high end D prospects once Campbell, and Willie Mitchell are done.
Likewise, their prospect centre depth, due to astute drafting, is among the best in the league with Alexander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Vincent Trochek, Rocco Grimaldi and 2014 draft Jayce Hawryluk all surging.
The Panthers weakness is, and has been, scoring wingers and they will need Jonathan Huberdeau, Brandon Pirri and newly acquired Reilly Smith to step up.
The addition of the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr gave the Panthers and immediate boost last season but the teams rebuild, while solid in goal, at D and at centre is remarkable, they need more scoring from the wings to make things hum.
Since wingers are the easiest players to acquire in trade or free agent signings, I expect Tallon will solve the issue sooner than later considering he is sitting with almost $12 million in free cap space.

Ranking the Rebuilds

Rebuild

I’ve been holding off on this series while the free agent dust settles and, while there are still more than a few free agents still looking to find a new team, it appears we are moving into the doldrums of off season activity.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll examine teams that previously struggled to the point that they pretty much bottomed out and then, for a variety of reasons, started climbing the standings and became legitimate contenders or, at least appear to be on the way to becoming successful.

We’ll also look at teams, like the Edmonton Oilers who have been rebuilding for a significant period of time but are still floundering as well as a team that is just starting to blow things up and start over…that is the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, going forward, over the next several posts, from best to worst:

Tampa Bay

Dallas

New York Islanders

Columbus

Florida

Calgary

Colorado

Edmonton

Buffalo

Toronto

Your mileage may vary but I think we’ve got the group surrounded but, if you think there should be any other team included, please let me know in comments.

PlayoffFanPack644

No debate, really, about how thoroughly and successfully Steve Yzerman has rebuilt the Bolts into an elite team.

The Lightning were Stanley Cup finalists in Yzerman’s 5th year as General Manager while other teams have been out of the playoffs for that entire period.

Yzerman was hired as GM in TB on May 25, 2010. The team would make this EC finals in his first season but took a step back the following season and Yzerman rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

By the time, the Bolts reached the finals, only 2 players remained on the team that Yzerman has inherited 5 years prior.

Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman are a nice place to start but it was his subsequent moves that made the difference.

A couple of months ago, one of my favourite hockey writers, James Miracle of the Globe and Mail,  took a look at how Yzerman has adapted what he learned in the Detroit organization and implemented it in Florida:

When he retired in 2006, he stepped immediately into the Wings’ front office, where he apprenticed for four years under Ken Holland, learning the off-ice side of the franchise his sweat and tears had helped build.

Where you see those four years in the Lightning is obvious. Tampa has become – along with the Anaheim Ducks – incredibly adept at finding talent in improbable places, which was a necessity for Detroit given Holland and Co. never had high picks.

An example: When no one was drafting Russian and Czech players, Yzerman loaded up, finding immense value in Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Nesterov and Vladislav Namestnikov, all of whom are playing in this postseason.

That was in the 2011 draft alone, with the Lightning picking 27th.

But it hasn’t been only about exploiting Europe. Tampa has also been downright fearless when it comes to focusing on skill over size, drafting more forwards under six feet tall than any other organization. That’s apparent even on the current roster, with the average forward typified by the likes of 5-foot-9 Tyler Johnson.

Even counting 6-foot-7 behemoth Brian Boyle, the Lightning’s average forward in these playoffs is under six feet tall and 195 pounds. Without him, they drop almost an inch and five pounds.

Overall, the team’s philosophy could be summed as the Search for Datsyuks: late picked, supremely skilled, overlooked players. A whole team of them, if they can find them.

The 2011 draft that Mirtle refers to could be arguably his first since Yzerman was hired only a short while before the 2010 draft so likely had little influence.

But it’s also instructive to look at his drafting after that.

In the 2012 draft, Yzerman used the 10th overall pick to take Slater Koekkoek despite Bob McKenzie having him ranked 16th.

It was one of the best drafts for defensemen in many a year and it appears that Yzerman picked a good one. Koekkoek has appeared in only 3 NHL games thus far but reports from his time in Syracuse of the AHL are glowing:

“We’re pretty happy with [his development] as an organization,” said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler, who played 569 NHL games as a defenseman. “He really needed to improve on his down-low defending game and he’s made a lot of strides in that area. He’s got a great plus/minus; he’s a guy that we count on the penalty kill and in late-game situations. His speed allows him to do a lot of things defensively, not just offensively.”

The Winchester, Ontario native is plus-12 on the season, tied for third among AHL rookie defensemen. In addition, Koekkoek paces Crunch defensemen in goals (five, tied), assists (19), points (24) and shots on goal (104).

Looks like an NHL player there but Yzerman didn’t leave the 2012 draft with just 1 solid prospect…he also picked up the top ranked goaltender in the draft, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has already established himself as a quality NHL backup.

But, wait, there’s more!

In the 4th round of that draft, Yzerman took a flyer on another smallish skilled player (see above) who was overlooked by nearly everyone else despite scoring 103 points in only 63 QMJHL games.

Cedric Paquette scored 12 goals 19 points (in 64 games) with the big club last season while playing 3rd line minutes.

That’s likely 3 NHL players in that draft (there could be others) after finding 4 the previous draft!

We’re now getting into the territory (the 2013 draft), where it’s a little early to be making calls on players drafted but I would wager the Lightning will walk away with at least 2 more NHL players.

Selecting 3rd in the draft, the Lightning took Jonathan Drouin, who despite being brought along slowly, has 70 NHL games to his credit while racking up 32 points. I don’t doubt he’ll take off sometime soon.

Then, in the second round, Yzerman took another flyer on Adam Erne, who exploded for 41 goals in his post draft season in the QMJHL.

But, perhaps an even bigger steal came in the 2014 draft…Yzerman again stuck with his “skill over size” mantra, selecting 5’11’ 177 defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.

All DeAngelo did last season in OHL was finish 13th in league scoring with 25 goals 89 points and did I mention…he’s a defenseman!

(for you Oiler fans stopping…by Darnel Nurse scored 13 goals and 50 points at the same age).

I’m sure DeAngelo will need some time to bulk up a bit but it appears there is something there.


Even more impressive than Yzerman’s draft record (if that’s possible) has been his ability to find undrafted  players who have impressed at the NHL level.

Much has been said about Tyler Johnson who is among the elite, but Andrej Sustr has also been a solid contributor on the Lightning D.


Speaking of D, the Lightning had also been adept at procuring high end defensive players from other teams or in free agency, often at a bargain.

The most sought after UFA last season was Anton Stralman, who Yzerman signed to a VERY cap friendly deal of $4.5M over 4 years.

By way of contrast, the Edmonton Oilers singed an arguably inferior defenseman, Andrej Sekera, to a 6 year $5.5M contract just a year later.

At the time the contracts were signed, Stralman  was 27. Sekera is 29.

Nuff said.

The Stralman signing wasn’t in isolation, as Yzerman also acquired Matt Carle as a free agent, traded a couple of draft picks to Philly for Braydon Coburn and then sent Vancouver a late second round pick for Jason Garrison.

Let’s take a look at theTOI among Lightning D last season:

Hedman (1st round pick) 22:41

Stralman (UFA) 21:56

Carle (UFA) 20:29

Garrison (trade) 20:00

Sustr (undrafted UFA) 17:42

Coburn (trade) 17:01

That’s a very solid top 6 led by an elite #1C…anyone who tells you you can’t build a D outside of the draft just isn’t paying attention.

I believe you have to do everything you can to acquire than #1 guy, but filling out the rest of the roster doesn’t mean you have to spend years drafting and developing players who have no more than 2nd or 3rd pairing potential. They’re available every offseason to an astute GM.


We’ve mentioned the Lightning backup goaltender earlier but another big piece of the elite team Yzerman has built includes the trade where he shipped Cory Conacher to Ottawa for Ben Bishop.

The day the trade was made there was a hue and cry that Yzerman has made a major mistake…here’s a sampling and a link to some others:

steve yzerman is about three personnel decisions away from being a less fat jay feaster

11:15 AM – 3 Apr 2013

Bishop won 40 of his 63 starts with the Lightning last season…Cory Conacher is the Swiss League.


Obviously Yzerman took the lessons he learned at the knee of Ken Holland to heart.

He built a team from the back end out and up the middle and then filled in the missing pieces with an inspired choice of draft pick and free agents.

Centre Depth:

Stamkos (1st overall 2008)

Johnson (undrafted UFA)

Brian Boyle (UFA signing)

Filpulla (UFA signing)

Killorn (3rd 2007 )

Paqeutte (4th round 2012)

Namestnikov (1st round 2011)

(note: not all of the these natural centres played the position last season)

RW Depth:

Kucherov (2nd round 2011)

Callahan (trade)

Erik Condra (UFA)

JT Brown (undrafted UFA)

LW Depth:

Palat (7th round 2011)

Drouin (1st round 2013)

Tye McGinn (UFA signing)

On the surface, with the departure of Brendan Morrow, the Bolts would seem to be weak on LW but they have enough centres on the roster to move one over.

They also appear to be right up against the cap but have Mattias Ohlund’s contract on the books and can once again place him on LTIR when the season starts.

If Yzerman feels he is ready, I can see Adam Erne making the team in the fall or they may move a D (Coburn?) for cap relief and the chance to being in another winger.

In any event, the Lightning are one of the youngest teams in the league at 26.54 (only 6 teams are younger) so it’s highly likely that Yzerman’s brilliant rebuild will have long term sustainability and the Lightning will remain among the elite teams for an extended period.

Next up will look at the work of another Ken Holland disciple, Jim Nill, in Dallas.

Hockey Notes

take-notes

 

 

1) The third week of the NHL season kicks off tonight with only one game scheduled…The Tampa Bay Lightning are in Edmonton to take on the Oilers. This will be the second game the Oilers have played against a team that made the playoffs last season…the first being a 6-1 bitch slapping at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.

The Lightning aren’t quite the Kings and will be without Victor Hedman tonight but expect the result to be about the same. Steven Stamkos has his mojo back and should find little resistance from the Oilers’ defense. Stamkos has 5 goals in his last 3 games and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he leaves this game with another 2-3.

 

2) Stamkos was honoured with the “3rd Star of the Week” this morning by the NHL . Taking 2nd Star was Frederik Anderson, the Ducks goaltender who posted a .955 save percentage but the 1st Star was Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars who led the NHL with 8 points in 3 games.

You may recall I forecast that Seguin would flirt with 50 goals and 100 points while being in the race for the Hart Trophy.  Well, still early days of course, but Seguin is on pace for 66 goals and 131 points. That’s my boy!

 

BsSUTqlIMAAGLNX

 

 

3) Dallas coach Lindy Ruff loaded up his 1st line on Saturday night against the Flyers with Jason Spezza centering  Jamie Benn and Seguin. The trio produced 4 goals but you have to wonder if putting all your firepower on one line might come back to bite you.

4) Now, here’s an oddity. The Stanley Cup champion and possession darlings, the Los Angeles Kings, are getting absolutely hammered on the shot clock early this season. The Kings  are giving up an average of 36 shots/game…and have a shot differential of almost -10 per game. Only the hopeless Buffalo Sabres are worse. The Kings also sport a record of 4-1-1. Go figure.

5) Speaking of the Kings, “That 70’s Line” continues to be lethal. Tanner Pearson has 5 goals  and 7 points (+7) while Tyler Toffoli has 3 goals and 7 points (+9).   With remembering that Toffoli was selected 47th overall in the second round of the NHL draft while Tanner Pearson was 30th overall in 2012. Once again, Kings head scout Michael Futa looks like a genius.

6) Every season there is a Cinderella team in the NHL. Last season it was the Colorado Avalanche who rode the percentages and, now that the wheels seem to have fallen off the pumpkin in Denver, it appears the Calgary Flames might be the team headed to the ball. The Flames, while being outshot by 9 per game have been riding hot goaltending (Hiller .942 and Ramo .920) and the stellar play of Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie to a respectable 4-3 record while playing only 1 game at home. The Flames start a 5 game homestand tomorrow so have a chance to remain in the black through October. That won’t sit very well with fans at the other end of the QE II.

7) And, about those Oilers. Worth noting that Alex Galchenyuk is on a PPG pace with the Montreal Canadiens while Nail Yakupov remains almost an afterthought in the Oilers offence and continues to be the subject of trade rumours. And, just asking, what the hell is wrong with Jordan Eberle? More on Yakupov here.

8) Jonathan Drouin might make his NHL debut tonight against the Oilers but, according to Bob McKenzie, tomorrow night in Calgary is more likely. As Bob points out, Drouin should make the rookie of the year race much more interesting but he’ll have an uphill climb adjacent the aforementioned Tanner Pearson who barely still qualifies and has been lights out so far this season.

10) And, even more importantly, why is Dustin Penner still unemployed? Although he is getting slammed on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fancier Stats

fancy

 

By now, I’m sure all you hockey stats fanatics are familiar with Schrodinger’s Cat.

The scenario presents a cat that may be both alive and dead, this state being tied to an earlier random event.

Now, we all know that random events are the most likely events to occur in a hockey game…tip ins…deflections…bouncing pucks…broken sticks…bad passes…bad ice…hungover players…injured players…random events.

The problem is…random events cannot be quantified in any meaningful way so those trying to make some mathematical sense of the absolute chaos that is the wonderful game of hockey just ignore them and focus instead on whether the cat is alive or dead with no reference to the random events which make up the vast majority of what actually occurs in a hockey game and actually determine the health of the cat in almost every case.

I say all this on the same evening that the esteemed Bob McKenzie reveals that in his summertime interview with “Vic Ferrari” that the stat he espoused, “Corsi”, was so named because he was impressed with the former goalies moustache on the Buffalo Sabres’ website. That folks is a RANDOM EVENT and, in this case, the cat is alive (and, as we’ll see, dead at the same time).

Now, Jim Corsi had been tracking shots/blocked shots/missed shots for years as a means of determining how busy a goaltender was during a game. Ferrari decided to take those same metrics in an attempt to prove that Shawn Horcoff was a really good hockey player.

When that dream died, Ferrari faded away like Horcoff’s career (now a $5.5M 4th line winger for the Dallas Stars.)

But, in a strange twist of fate, Jim Corsi’s Moustache is now being used as a measure of individual player’s prowess in a team game which, in and of itself, is ridiculous but has been compounded by the use of Relative Corsi which is even more odious than the raw numbers.

All Relative Corsi measures is how much better an individual player (playing with 5 other team mates) is at advancing possession than the players on his team.

Which means a mediocre player on a shitty team might look like a superstar because his team mates are crap and a great player on a championship team might look mediocre. (See Drew Doughty for reference).

Which brings us to the latest edition of “Fancier Stats”.

The Toronto Star…long a publication that was, at best, agnostic on the stats movement in hockey has come out with a study which has tracked over the past 2 non-lockout seasons, what KIND of shots are most successful in the NHL.

Here’s the gist:

Three seasons ago, 892 slapshots went in, compared to 859 last year for roughly a four per cent drop. The slapshot was responsible for 12.8 per cent of goals in 2011-12, 12.2 per cent last season — when only 5.4 per cent of all slapshot attempts led directly to goals.

Scoring via the backhander was also down — 695 last season, compared to 776 in 2011-12 — but the success rate was greater, with 10.5 per cent winding up in the net.

By comparison, the success rate for deflected shots was 20.6 per cent. Others: tip-ins (19.3), snapshots (9.1 per cent), wrist shots (8.6 per cent) and wraparounds (6.7 per cent).

Source

As we can see, the most successful types of shots, by a very wide margin, are deflected shots and tip ins…many of which could be classified as “random events” since very few players would tell you with a straight face that they tipped or deflected a shot perfectly into the upper right corner of the net.
Now, I think we can all agree with what coaches have been preaching for decades….“get the puck on the net” but suggesting there is anything “advanced” or fancy” about that is just poppycock.
Christ, go back and watch Howie Meeker from decades ago on HNIC and he was trumpeting exactly the same thing.
“Remember kids…shoot the puck!” or you’ll never find out if the cat is alive or dead or both.