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Charity raffle: Win a Caps jersey autographed by the 2013-14 team

My family, led by my Mom, puts on an annual bingo event to support Team Fox for Parkinson’s research. My Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years ago and has since put an amazing amount of energy into raising money for Team Fox. This year, we reached out to the Caps to donate an item for the bingo. They completely blew us away by donating a jersey autographed by the 2013-14 team. Yes, it comes with a certificate of authenticity.

Here’s a couple pictures of the jersey and the certificate

caps jersey1caps jersey2certificate

 

How can you win this? Well, you can purchase raffle tickets from us by contacting us at brookslaichyear AT gmail. Tickets cost $10 per chance. There is no limit as to how many you can buy.  We will then email you back with contact information so you can enter this great raffle.

100% of the money raised from this raffle goes to Team Fox. The raffle will be held at the bingo on September 27th, but you do not need to be present to win. However, if you’d like to attend the bingo, you can find event info here.

A review of OOTP’s Franchise Hockey Manager ’14

Full disclosure: I was asked by a member of the OOTP team to write this review. No, I was not paid for it. Yes, I was given a free copy. No one with OOTP saw or edited this review before it was published. 

I am a huge fan of the Out of the Park baseball series released by OOTP developments. For an armchair general manager, given the mind-blowing level of details, it is the best sports simulation game ever created. So, needless to say, I was pretty excited when OOTP released their franchise hockey sim, Franchise Hockey Manager ’14. I was actually so excited about it that I didn’t allow myself to purchase it when it was released because I was in Graduate school and didn’t want to flunk out. Now that I’ve graduated and played the game, I’m glad I waited until after graduation, otherwise graduation day may never have come.

If you’ve ever found yourself daydreaming about being the General Manager of a hockey team, this is the game for you. The detail and and control this game gives you is great. You can take control of teams in about 20 leagues, including the NHL, AHL, KHL, OHL and WHL. You can also take control of any and every NHL season dating back to 1947. I didn’t play any of the historical seasons, as the depth of the game play starting in the present was plenty to keep my attention. However, if, as a Caps fans, you’re interested in seeing the 2009-10 season play out differently, this mode is for you. Or perhaps you often wish the 1998 season had ended differently. Well, here’s your chance to replay that season and trade Esa Tikkanen before he misses a wide open net in the Stanley Cup finals.

Like I said above, I found myself starting with the 2013-14 season and playing as the Caps GM. You have a lot of control that you can customize, a hallmark of the baseball sim series. One thing I really liked was the ability to assign ice time percentages when creating your lines. You have a lot of control over your scouting staff as well, so much that the detail of their reports can be overwhelming at times. The game gives you control over contracts, trade, promotions, etc that allows you to pull off all those moves you’ve been wishing your favorite team could make. For those of you, like me, who like advanced stats, the game tracks individual player Corsi and Fenwick, as well as Corsi Rel and Fenwick Rel. That was a really cool surprise!

This is a new franchise, so I came into this experience expecting for it to be a bit of a work in progress. Certainly, there are things that can be improved (luckily, the OOTP releases frequent patches and listens to feedback on their message boards). For one, the trade engine needs some work. As the Caps GM, I was able to acquire Claude Giroux, Jamie Benn and Jack Johnson without giving up Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Alzner, Carlson or Holtby. With some tricky moves, I was able to stay under the salary cap. I then let the computer control the team so I could simulate a ways forward without interuptions to get a feel for how the game plays out as you move into future seasons. I was completely shocked to find the computer put Ovechkin and Benn on waivers for no apparent reason. Obviously, this wouldn’t happen if you stay in control of all roster moves, but that’s certainly something that should be fixed.

If you are the kind of sports fan that likes to think about the game from the perspective of a GM, this game is for you. My only word of warning is that there will be some small annoyances, as this is a new franchise and it is not yet as deeply developed as OOTP’s baseball sim. However, if the OOTP baseball sim is any indication, Franchise Hockey Manager is only going to get better from the strong foundation provided by FHM ’14.

For more info on the game or to pick up your own copy, visit the FHM website here

 

 

Advanced stats are not scary

Advanced stats have gotten a lot of attention in the hockey world this summer, in part thanks to numerous hires by organizations around the league that indicate the debate is over as to whether NHL teams are using advanced stats as part of their evaluation process. While dubbing it the ‘summer of advanced stats’ (or ‘analytics,’ if you prefer) may discredit the wave that has been building in the hockey world for years, advanced stats are certainly part of hockey conversations more than ever.

A word on the term “advanced stats”: Does calling these stats “advanced” increase the divide, perceived or real, between the “watch the game” crowd and the “advanced stats” crowd? The current state of advanced stats within hockey uses a lot of the same basic math required to understand the more well-known stats we’ve all been familiar with for quite some time. While the stats may be different and, at times more in-depth, the math is largely the same. Using the word “advanced” may dissuade those unfamiliar with what “advanced” stats are.

Truth be told, both watching the games (scouting) and using numbers are essential, and you should be skeptical of anyone who tells you otherwise. Why are (advanced) stats important? Well, for a lot of reasons. First off, no one watches every game. On top of that, every fan I’ve ever spoken to uses numbers and stats as part of a conversation about sports. Advanced stats aim to provide the most accurate, telling, and/or predictive (depending on the stat and sport) statistics possible. Advanced stats do not aim to replace the sports that we all love with spreadsheets and data.  If we’re already using stats to quantify things about sports, shouldn’t we seek to quantify these things in the most meaningful way possible? Advanced stats are not the start of a new conversation. Rather, they are a continuation of and an attempt to better inform conversations we have been having about the games we love for as long as they’ve been around.

Today, Puck Daddy broke the news that the Maple Leafs have hired, among others, Darryl Metcalf, the founder of Extraskater.com. Extraskater.com has been the site I’ve used the most when combing through advanced stats. I’ve seen some people on Twitter wonder where to turn for their advanced stats needs now that Extra Skater is offline. The good news is, there are other similar sites out there. The two I have used the most (other than Extra Skater) are HockeyAnalysis.com and Behind the Net. With so many smart people out there that have an interest in advanced stats, I fully expect similar sites to pop up sooner rather than later (as I was writing this, I saw this tweet from Peter of RMNB). Editor’s Note:  More details are now available about Peter’s plan. Check them out and contribute to the conversation here.

The bulk of this post was initially intended for something else but it felt relevant today with the news about Extra Skater. To those of you opposed to or skeptical of advanced stats: Dig around online, ask questions, and don’t be scared of them. To those of you mourning the loss of Extra Skater: I’m with you, but there’s still useful resources out there and more help is likely on the way.

 

 

Caps reportedly interested in Paul Bissonnette

As reported by Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post, the Caps are reportedly interested in signing free agent winger Paul Bissonnette. Considering the Caps already have a crowded situation at wing, and the fact that Bissonnette is more known for his Twitter account than his production as an NHL player, I immediately questioned the reason for the Caps potential interest. Bissonnette has played in 202 NHL games and has totaled 7 goals, 15 assists, and 340 PIM during that time. He has averaged 5:18 TOI in those 202 games.

However, Bissonnette, as pointed out in The Post article linked to above, has tried to change his style of play as the enforcer role in the NHL has begun to fade. This past year Bissonnette fought 3 times, a career low. But does it make sense for the Caps, a team with just over $1 million in cap space and depth at wing, to pursue a player with such marginal production? Well, it depends. Given the Caps crowd at wing, it would seem signing another winger would have to come with a corresponding move. Aaron Volpatti would be the obvious candidate to be moved out, as I discussed on Twitter with Katie Brown of District Sports Page when she brought up the scenario.

While switching out Volpatti for Bissonnette is far from an impact move, it would be a beneficial one, as the chart below shows (2013-14 stats).

Player TOI FF% FF REL
Bissonnette 184.8 55.1 +4.4%
Volpatti 299.4 39.7 -9.2%

 

So, the Coyotes were actually a better possession team, by 4.4%, with Bissonnette on the ice than without him. The Caps fared 9.9% worse when Volpatti was on the ice. In fact, since posting a -2.3% FF Rel in 2010-11, Bissonnette has been a positive relative possession player in each of the past 3 seasons.

So, if the Caps want to bring in Bissonnette and move out Volpatti, without having much impact on the cap situation, I can get behind the idea. While their reported interest in him surprises me, I was also surprised to find Bissonnette’s possession numbers to be so favorable, which could benefit the Caps 4th line.

 

A look at potential free agent defensemen for the Caps to target

New Caps GM Brian MacLellan is on record saying that he will be more likely to upgrade the Caps through trade than free-agency this off-season. While the class of pending free agents certainly isn’t spectacular, there are still some players who the Caps should take a look at, especially if the trade market doesn’t pan out in the manner MacLellan seemed to indicate he hopes it will.

I had a long paragraph here about why the Caps need to acquire a top-4 defender, but I figured I’d save you the time of reading it since we all know it’s true.

(If you are unfamiliar with the stats below, there are a few places where you can read up on them. One is Extra Skater, which is where the stats for this article were pulled from. Fenwick Close % (FenClose) is the one used the most heavily. Before dismissing Fenclose as too nerdy, consider that the league leader in FenClose for the 2013-14 regular season season was the LA Kings. Here is a chart of how well the best regular season FenClose teams since 2007-08 have fared in the playoffs. For the more curious reader, go here or here to see how FenClose has been shown to be an excellent predictor of a team’s future success.)

Anton Stralman

There are conflicting reports as to whether Anton Stralman(1 goal, 12 assists, 19:25 TOI/G in 2013-14) turned down a 3 year-$9 million deal, but nonetheless, he is a pending free agent at the end of the year. Stralman is not a guy who will satisfy the crowd that want the Caps to bring in a hard-nosed defender, but he will satisfy the crowd that wants the Caps to possess the puck more than their opponents.  Stralman’s FenClose has risen steadily over the past 3 seasons, from 48.4 to a monstrous 55.7, and continuing to rise to 58.3 this past season.  The 58.3 was good for 3rd among all NHL defensemen. Stralman was also 3rd in the NHL in FenClose rel, which measures a player’s FenClose relative to his teammates. According to QoC TOI, Stralman faced the 4th toughest competition among the 7 defenders who appeared in more than half of the Rangers games this past season. Stralman also ranked 4th in defensive zone starts (the amount of Stralman’s shifts that started in the defensive zone) among those 7 D.

Of the Caps D who played 54 games or more this past season, Stralman would easily rank 1st in FenClose.  Stralman’s QoC TOI would fall 3rd, behind only Alzner and Carlson and his zone starts would be 4th among qualifying D, behind Alzner, Carlson, and Orlov. (This article was drafted at the end of the regular season. With the Rangers deep playoff run, Stralman’s price, while hopefully still in a range that makes sense for the Caps, will be higher than it would have been.)

Matt Greene

Unlike Stralman above, Matt Greene (2g, 4a, 15:52 TOI/G) would satisfy those who want to see the Caps add more “toughness” on the blue line. Greene played in 82 games 3 years ago, posting a FenClose of 55.4. Greene’s 2012-13 numbers aren’t really worth discussing because, due to injury, he only appeared in 5 games during the lockout shortened season. Staying on the ice was again a concern for Greene in 2013-14, but he posted a glowing FenClose of 60.7% in 38 games. In the limited time Greene saw this year, his QoC TOI ranked 6th out of the 7 Kings defenders who played in at least as many games as him. He finished 5th among the same 7 Kings defenders the percentage of shifts he started in the defensive zone. Greene has been a bit injury-prone and has, at times, fallen out of the top-6 on the Kings depth chart. However, a healthy Matt Greene would certainly help a much shallower blue line here in Washington.

Greene’s FenClose would rank 1st among Caps defenders who played at least as many games as him (38) this past season.  If you compare Greene to John Erskine (since they 1) played a similar amount of games and 2) are both thought of as “tough”), who played one less game than Greene this year (37), Erskine had a FenClose of 45.1, compared to Greene’s already mentioned 60.7. However, the Kings are a much better possession team than the Caps, so looking at how each fared in relation to their teammates would be a better comparison. Erskine’s 45.1 is 6.7% lower than the Caps FenClose when he was not on the ice. The Kings FenClose was improved by 4.3% when Greene was on the ice. They faced the same level of competition (27.7) in terms of QoC TOI. Greene’s zone starts also weren’t particularly tough, with only 27.7% of them starting in the defensive zone. This is not to say that simply because a player compares favorably to Erskine that he should be targeted by the Caps, but Greene was not just a little better than Erskine (and the majority of the Caps blue line), he was significantly better. He comes with injury risk but that, combined with being a bit buried on the Kings depth chart, could help get him at a cheaper price.

Kyle Quincey

Kyle Quincey (4g, 9A, 20:48 TOI/G) is 28 years old, and is headed for free agency after playing for Detroit since being traded there during the 2011-12 season. Quincey, like Stralman, is not the tough-nosed, hard-hitting, no-nonsense type defender that many Caps fans have long-called for, but the Caps could do (and have done) much worse than to give a player like Quincey 20 minutes per game. Quincey is a quick, puck-moving defender who boasts solid possession numbers over the past few seasons. His FenClose over the last 3 seasons has been 51.7, 57.2, and 50.2, respectively. This past season, Quincey faced the 4th toughest Qoc TOI of the 7 Red Wings defenders who played 48 games or more.  Of these 7 defenders, Quincey started the highest percentage of shifts in the defensive zone.

Of the Caps D who played 54 games or more this past season, Quincey’s FenClose woulds rank third, behind only Green and Orlov.  In terms of QoC TOI, Quincey played tougher minutes than any Caps defender not named Alzner or Carlson while his zone starts would fall 4th behind Alzner, Carlson, and Orlov amongst Caps D who played 54 games or more.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

All three of these players likely benefit from playing on teams with more defensive depth than the Caps, and therefore would almost certainly draw tougher assignments if they came to Washington. However, I still think the numbers above suggest that any one of these three players could strengthen the Caps defense and, obviously depending on the cost, should be considered when free agency opens.

 

 

 

With new slogan and simple apologies, NHL still doesn’t seem to get it

Backyard hockey

Announcing their return from another lockout, the NHL’s new slogan states, “Hockey is back.” In reality, their brand of hockey is back. Other leagues—from college to juniors to the minors and even recreational and instructional ones—carried on, as did thousands of informal street and pond games. The NHL may be home to the best men’s hockey players in the world, however, the sport exists outside the boundaries of their business.

But the NHL’s new marketing copy goes along with the way the league and the players’ association often appeared to be operating during the latest lockout: as if they are the only thing that matters.

As has been written many times at this point, the two sides turned their back on fans, businesses and arena employees by not getting a deal done in time to for the start of the season in September and then dragging out their work stoppage for four months. The NHL and the NHLPA even released statements in their back-and-forth on the day of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, while many were focused on that tragedy, hammering home the fact that the two parties seemed to be living in a clouded world of their own.

And with their new slogan, the NHL still doesn’t appear to get it. Hockey never left. A bunch of guys who waited too long to start seriously negotiating a deal deserted thousands who were invested in them. The game of hockey itself is more than just a business and goes on, with or without those men.

If the league and the players want to engage fans who are feeling uninspired to watch the NHL brand of hockey, many of them need to rethink the way they’re issuing their post-lockout statements.

Some players and owners have been thanking fans for their patience and some have apologized; I do not question the sincerity of these statements. If this had been the first time the league had shut down on its fans, perhaps words of sorry and thanks would be enough.

But after four work stoppages in the last two decades, more players and owners, as well as Commissioner Gary Bettman, need to not only thank people for their patience and apologize, but show true regret and that they understand they flat-out screwed up by allowing another lockout to occur.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller came out with some of the more honest talk I’ve seen from a player since the lockout ended, telling ESPN:

“The best thing to do is acknowledge that it was stupid,” Miller said Friday, before turning his attention to Sabres fans. “I appreciate their patience. I know it’s a hard situation. I still don’t even know the right message because it was just a stupid, useless waste of time.”

Miller, who played a role in negotiations, called himself “embarrassed” that it took more than six months of negotiations to reach an agreement.

Roughly worded but honest statements like Miller’s are a good place to start as more in the NHL draft their own messages. NHL hockey may be back, but some fans will be slow to return until more is done by the league and the players to show they truly grasp what they’ve been responsible for.

As my six-year-old daughter likes to say, “Sorry isn’t magic.” To win more people back, the NHL and NHLPA need to show that they understand just how big of a mistake they made and then, like any good team must do, stop making the same ones over and over and over.

Uninspired to watch: The NHL is back and I don’t care

The NHL is back and I don’t care.

Strike that. I care because of the innocent businesses and arena employees whose income was affected by the work stoppage. I’m excited for them that the lockout that began in September has finally ended. But other than that, there’s not a bone in my body that’s excited about NHL hockey at the moment.

My current disinterest in the league has nothing to do with protesting. This is not a situation where I’m ignoring a game I enjoy, just to stick it to the NHL and the NHLPA. I’m simply feeling uninspired to watch after sitting through yet another of the league’s work stoppages—the fourth in the last two decades and the third lockout of the Commissioner Gary Bettman era—with this latest version having lasted for well over 100 days.

In the early stages of the lockout, I felt disgust toward Bettman, the owners and the players’ association. I expected that, once NHL play started up again, my skipping games would be part of a personal boycott due to the greedy parties appearing to forget about the fans as they dragged out their back-and-forth.

But at some point in the last few weeks, my frustration gave way to apathy and, eventually, I found myself comfortably thinking I could live without NHL hockey. Now, I’m at a point where I need no convincing; I have no urge to turn on an NHL game as soon as they start-up.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the NHL brand of hockey, I’m very much feeling inspired to watch the sport itself. If I still lived in the DC area, I imagine going without NHL games would be tougher, as there aren’t high quality hockey options in that region other than the Washington Capitals. The AHL’s Hershey Bears are over two hours away and high level college hockey is even further. Perhaps I’d reluctantly go to Caps games, just to see some hockey, until my passion for the NHL eventually returned.

Harvard at Quinnipiac, January 5, 2013

Harvard at Quinnipiac, January 5, 2013

But a few weeks ago, my family and I moved to Connecticut and on Saturday night I attended my first Division I college hockey game in over 10 years, watching the Quinnipiac men’s team defeat Harvard to extend their unbeaten streak to 14. The hockey was exciting, the arena was great and at no point did I find myself feeling like I was watching a lower quality product than I’d see at an NHL game (though obviously there is a difference in the overall skill level). I can’t wait to get back to another college game and I imagine it will be weeks or days before I attend my next, not years like last time.

I’m not sure when I’ll feel the urge to invest time and money in the NHL again. It could be weeks or days or months. I doubt I’m gone for good. But the end of the lockout hardly has me excited to watch. The last of that desire left me weeks ago, drained while witnessing two sides bicker as if they didn’t care much about when NHL hockey started up again either, or for anyone but themselves. The agreement they are finalizing now would have been great news last summer.

How Caps fans are feeling after Game 1

This morning on Twitter we asked how Caps fans are feeling after the Game 1 loss to the Rangers. The answers:

Boycott Boston until after Game 7

Boycott Boston

There are over 48 hours to go until the Caps and Bruins meet Wednesday night in Boston for Game 7 of their first round playoff series. There’s a lot at stake and there’s also a lot of time to fill between now and then; we suggest you spend it NOT consuming any products from the Boston area.

BrooksLaichyear.com is calling for a boycott of all things Boston between now and Wednesday night. To get this started, below we’ve listed some things to avoid and have suggested a local DC area product as a replacement. Boycott Boston, Support DC!

Drop the Dunkin’ Donuts
Giving up delicious Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for a few days will be tough, but we suggest the excellent Rockville-based Mayorga Coffee instead. You can get Mayorga from their local locations in the DC area and on the shelf at many local grocery stores. Or maybe you have your own local favorite…but avoid Runnin’ on Dunkin’ until this first round series is over.

So long, Sam Adams
I’m actually not a huge Sam Adams fan to begin with (take that, Boston!), so this will be a smaller sacrifice for me personally. But this gives me another reason to support local brewers DC Brau! I’ll be picking up a couple six packs of The Corruption between now and Wednesday.

See ya, Staples
Need office supplies between now and Wednesday night? Avoid Massachusetts-based Staples. We’re not sure about a local substitute you can use instead, so just avoid doing any office work between now and Thursday. There’s a Game 7 to focus on anyway.

It’s your turn…tell us what other Boston products to avoid
Now we need your suggestions for other products to boycott plus a DC area replacement for it. Use the comments to make your suggestions, email them to us at brookslaichyear AT gmail.com or tweet them to us at @brookslaichyear. And thanks to Adam Vingan for inspiring this with a tweet.

Big TV ratings for Caps-Bruins Game 6

The game drew an 8.6 in Washington, a new record for a non-Stanley Cup game in the market. Washington’s only advance to the Final was in 1998. It drew better numbers than the 2011 Winter Classic, which scored a 7.9 in Washington.

via Puck the Media

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