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.
Two kinds of disappointment for two very different reasons. I’m referring, of course, to when the Washington Capitals’ 2010-11 and 2013-14 seasons came to their respective ends. Though no one knew it at the time, April 2011 ushered in the Caps’ descent from near-greatness. Three years later, the Caps were practically at rock bottom, with their Cup-contending window all but slammed shut. A handful of things separated the two teams: offensive firepower, a division title, and Alex Ovechkin’s goal total, to name a few. But they both shared the heartbreak and humiliation we call upon easily come playoff time.
Now that I’ve reopened old wounds, let’s take a look at the key differences between the 2010-11 Capitals and their 2013-14 counterparts. 2010-11 was supposed to be a huge year for the Caps: despite a shocking upset, they were going to bounce back to playoff glory. They were no longer clear-cut favorites to hoist Lord Stanley, but a deep playoff run was expected. Anything less was failure.
Fast-forward to October 2013, after seasons of further disappointment, and we wondered if the Caps’ lockout-shortened success could be replicated long-term (specifically, the part where they went 11-1-1 in the month of April.) Armed with a proper training camp and 48 games worth of regular-season experience, Adam Oates had supposedly worked out the kinks in his system. But the memory of being shut out on home ice by the hated Rangers was still fresh in our minds, and we wanted results. Initially, the Caps didn’t disappoint–much–when they narrowly lost an exciting season opener to the reigning champs, Chicago. But it was quickly evident that they needed more than a top-four defenseman to rise above the ranks of the Metropolitan Division.
This October, we approach the Caps’ 41st season in the NHL and without a Stanley Cup. Have they finally turned a corner? Firing coaches is no longer enough to quiet the masses; George McPhee got the ax in the offseason, too. New GM Brian MacLellan promised change, and we got it: the ailing defense was finally addressed, although the Brooks Orpik deal has been endlessly vilified with good reason. Lest we forget, the Caps still lack a true second-line center (how many seasons will it take before we lock one up long-term?)
On the coaching front, Barry Trotz has been well-received. He’s made clear that he’ll coach in the style best suited to his players–not necessarily with a defense-first mentality. This alone is promising; the Caps have a coach who will properly utilize their roster. Then again, Trotz is another coach with another system ready to be implemented. How long will it take to adjust? Will the power play remain lethal? Will the Corsi-for surpass 50%? Will the puzzle pieces click to form a contending team?
The same questions were asked this time in 2011 (well, maybe not the Corsi.) That season ended in typical agonizing fashion, although the memory of Joel Ward’s series-winning goal against the big, bad Bruins remains a franchise highlight. This time around, will things be different? Well, there’s a new coach in place, and the front office underwent a makeover. Ovechkin is still enigmatic in the eyes of the mainstream media, but his scoring ability is untouchable. The defense got an upgrade. Goalie guru Mitch Korn came along for the ride. All that’s left is watching these adjustments play out.
However, they’re meaningless until the Caps go from ninth in the Eastern Conference to first, or somewhere in that ballpark. As we know well, regular season success doesn’t translate into the postseason–and the playoffs seem light years away. It’s August, and we need something to get us going until October. On paper, we can find plenty of reasons to be hopeful. The players themselves have provided feel-good quotes that make us want to see these new Capitals in action. Brooks Laich even says they “need to win this year.” He’s right. DC needs a Cup; it’s long overdue.
So will the Caps make a Cup Final appearance? Will they hoist thirty-five pounds of gleaming perfection this June? There are no guarantees and much is unproven, but Laich’s sentiments make the possibility just a bit more real. They must become the norm for the players. We, the fans, would do well to reacquaint ourselves with hope and resilience. We should consider that maybe optimism isn’t the enemy, that maybe it’s more than the monotony of the offseason getting to us. Maybe cliches do hold an iota of truth. Maybe this will finally be our year.
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).
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.
Barry Trotz’s projected lines are still a mystery, but his Q&A with Dan Rosen shed light on possible combinations. Trotz revealed who he’d like to keep on the wing and try at center, in addition to his vision for the Caps’ fourth line. With this new information in mind, here’s a look at mixing and matching certain players.
Who will play alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom?
While Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have two of the top line’s three slots locked up, questions still abound. Will Trotz play Ovechkin as a right or left wing? Once that’s decided, who will complete the trio?
Marcus Johansson typically played with Ovechkin and Backstrom, but Trotz plans to try him at center. Should Johansson perform well, it’s unlikely that we’ll see him playing with Ovechkin and Backstrom–he’s a viable candidate for second-line center, and it’s possible that Trotz will move Ovechkin back to left wing to account for the Caps’ surplus of right wings.
Should Ovechkin line up on the left, Troy Brouwer seems like the Caps’ go-to guy. He’s seen plenty of ice time as a second-liner, so making the transition to top-line minutes is feasible. However, the majority of his production came on the power play–a problem that plagued Ovechkin and Backstrom. Furthermore, Brouwer’s Corsi-for with Backstrom was 49.5%.
So, is Brouwer really the best fit to play right wing on the top line? Given the excess of right wings in the Caps’ system, I say no. Throw in Trotz’s belief that Tom Wilson should play top-nine minutes, and it’s almost difficult to see where Brouwer fits into the equation. He could very well be a trade candidate. Second-line center, anyone?
This leaves Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, and Wilson. Trotz expressed his desire to keep Ward on a line with Jason Chimera, so Fehr and Wilson are probably the most likely options. Wilson isn’t a likely choice, given his relative inexperience. On the other hand, playing Fehr and Ovechkin saw time together as wings and boasted a Corsi-for of 50.9%. Fehr and Backstrom are an even more promising combination, as their career Corsi-for clocks in at 54.4%. (Last season’s 47.6% was a bump in what’s been an otherwise smooth road.) Statistics aside, Fehr is a creative player and good skater. He can get the puck to his teammates and capitalize on chances himself. Should Ovechkin return to left wing, I’d like to see Fehr as one of his linemates.
What if Ovechkin remains a right wing?
Of course, the above scenarios assume that Trotz doesn’t keep Ovechkin at right wing. An opening still remains, so who fills it? We can rule Johansson out for aforementioned reasons, thus leaving Evgeny Kuznetsov and Brooks Laich. Note: even if Andre Burakovsky cracks the lineup, I’m skeptical of how he’ll handle top-line minutes during his rookie season. As I said earlier, Trotz would be foolish to split up Ward and Chimera. However, he stated his intentions to try Kuznetsov and Laich (assuming he’s healthy) down the middle. Both are promising options.
However, someone will be the odd man out, and in turn, likely play an important role on the second line. The need for a 2C is no secret, and Johansson could trump Kuznetsov and Laich in that department. If he can’t find his scoring touch as a winger, he might be more successful at setting up plays than finishing them. He also has previous experience playing center and tallied 36 assists last seasons, second only to Backstrom.
If Trotz wants to use Kuznetsov to supplement the top line’s offense, he’s narrowed the search down to Laich and Johansson. Since there are no guarantees of Laich’s health, Johansson might be the better option–it’s hard to find good centermen, and the Caps need consistency down the middle. Johansson’s also in the last year of his contract, and his role with the Caps is still uncertain. If he succeeds as a 2C, he’s made a strong case for a contract extension.
Where do Burakovsky and Wilson fit?
Two players I haven’t discussed in detail are Burakovsky and Wilson. Trotz has made known his plans for each: Burakovsky is a possibility down the middle, while Wilson should see top-nine minutes. The former will, at the very least, begin his season in Hershey. If he sees NHL ice time, I’d prefer it to be at his natural position, left wing. If the Caps wish to mold Burakovsky into a center, Hershey is the best place to make that happen. A player of his talents shouldn’t be stuck on a checking line.
That statement also applies to Wilson, who saw minimal ice time last season. Since Chimera and Ward will likely comprise two-thirds of the third line, that leaves an opening for Wilson on the second line (granted, Brouwer would have to be playing on the top line or with a different team for that to happen.) Wilson cannot spend another season trapped on the fourth line, and it appears as though Trotz will give him the chance to step up offensively with increased minutes and tougher competition.
There were 6 coaching changes in the NHL this off-season, with 4 of them coming in the Eastern Conference. While a change in a team’s system can often be the biggest difference a new coach can make, deployment of the roster is also something that can affect the quality of impact a new coach can have. Here is a look at combinations that each new coach in the East should consider, based off of the success players on their new team’s roster have had together in the past. I’ve excluded the Caps from this post because I will have a more detailed look at Barry Trotz’s options closer to the start of the season.
Carolina Hurricanes-Bill Peters
It will probably be pretty easy for Peters to put together a top line of Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty, and Alex Semin, given the success that trio had has together. After all, while Semin is generally a positive possession player regardless of his linemates, Staal and Tlusty both see a considerable drop when not playing with Semin. In fact, they both become negative possession players. When playing with Semin, Staal (53.2% CF) and Tlusty (51.5%) both find their team on the right side of the possession game. However, in the time the 3 have all played for the Canes, taken away from Semin, Stall and Tlusty both see their CF % plummt to 48.5% and 48.7%, respectively.
However, I still think another combination could prove very successful, depending on how Peters decides to deploy his forwards this year. In over 413 minutes of ice-time (general sample size warnings apply to this, as well as the article in general) together over the past two seasons, Jordan Staal and Alex Semin have been very successful. JStaal’s CF is 55.8% with Semin vs. 53.4% without him. On top of this, the duo has seen a 70% GF ratio when playing together. An argument could easily be made that JStaal seems to hold his own, possession-wise, with or without Semin, whereas his brother Eric doesn’t, so Eric should play with Semin. That’s a fair point, but JStaal and Semin are a duo worth considering.
Nathan Gerbe could be a good fit as the 3rd forward on that line. Gerbe has only played 207:21 with Semin, but the two have been downright dominant in that limited time posting a 58.6% CF. Gerbe’s CF without Semin is a medicore, if not bad, 47.3%.
Florida Panthers-Gerard Gallant-
Tomas Fleischmann had a down year offensively, netting only 8 goals after scoring 27 in his first season with the Panthers and then 12 in the lockout shortened season. However, expect a bounce back this season. Fleischmann shot just 4.3% last season, a far cry from the 11.0% career shooter he is. Many of the players Fleischmann has shared the ice with the most since joining the Panthers have since moved on. However, a couple remain that Gallant should consider playing him with, in what I think will be a bounce back year for him.
Both Scott Upshall and Tomas Kopecky are intriguing options to play with “Flash.” In 357 minutes with Fleischmann, since the start of the 2011 season, Upshall has a 55.8%, as opposed to 49.7% in the 1177 apart from him. Fleischmann sees his CF% go up from 49.4 to 55.8 when playing with Upshall. The duos GF% of 36.4 is sure to rise if they can continue those possession numbers over a larger sample.
Kopecky and Fleischmann have also had strong possession numbers when playing together. In the 576 minutes they played played together, Fleischmann sees his CF% improve from 49.8 to 50.1. But the real story of this duo is the improvement in Kopecky, from 48.5 to 51.4 CF, when he plays with Fleischmann.
Pittsburgh Penguins-Mike Johnston
With the departures of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, the Pens D will have a different look this year. Johnston should play Paul Martin with Kris Letang. Since the 2010 season, the two have played 610 minutes together. A somewhat significant amount of time, sure, but both have spent far more time other partners than with each other. However, when united, Martin and Letang have a CF% of 58.0. When apart, they seem their CF drop to 52.% (Martin) and 53.5% (Letang). I could see the argument that they are both solid possession players, so perhaps they should be split up, but they certainly offer Johnston a formidable top pair in his first season as the Pens coach.
It will be interesting to see how these coaches deploy the new personnel at their disposal. In the near future I’ll take a look at line combinations for the new coaches in the West to consider and then, as I said above, I’ll take a more detailed look at line combinations for Barry Trotz to consider.
Yup, this is my second post about ex-Caps player Mikhail Grabovski in the past week. While it’s not my intention in writing this, this is further proof of how wrong Jeremy Roenick is about Grabovski. But this post is more about the fact that the loss of Grabovski hurts the Caps, while the Isles will benefit from signing him.
On a personal level, Grabovski was the Caps player I most enjoyed watching last season. From a team level, he was a possession monster and a nice solution to the Caps problems at 2C that could have been had long-term for a reasonable salary. But I shouldn’t be the only one missing Grabovski. In fact, most everyone of his teammates should be missing him because almost every Caps player saw an improvement in their possession numbers in the minutes they played with Grabovski vs. when they played without him.
Here is a look at how every Caps forward fared while playing with Grabovski vs. while playing without him. I cut off the minimum minutes at 19:48, so as not to exclude possession anchor Aaron Volpatti. Sample-size warnings obviously apply, but you can see a trend. SA% is the % of shot attempts the Caps saw go in their favor while that player was on the ice.
|Player||TOI w/Grabovski||SA% w/Grabovski||TOI w/out Grabovski||SA% w/out Grabovski||Grabovski effect|
-10 of the 12 Caps forwards who played 19:48+ with Grabovski this past season saw an increase in SF% with Grabovski vs without him, the only two exceptions being Backstrom and Volpatti.
-Remember when Adam Oates started the season with his obvious 2C (Grabovski) on the 3rd line and obvious 2W (Erat) on the 4th line? One wonders what the two could have done if ever given extended minutes together (something I, and many others, called for all season) given their dominating 58.5% SF in the very small sample.
-One interesting tidbit not shows here is that Backstrom, the player with the worst “Grabovski Effect,” saw his highest Goals For % with Grabovski out of all Caps forwards. Certainly just a sample size thing, but interesting nonetheless.
Here’s how are the Caps top 7 D, in terms of minutes played with Grabovski, fared with and without him last season at 5-on-5. Again, sample size warnings apply, but a clear patterns emerges.
|Player||TOI w/Grabovski||SA% w/Grabovski||TOI w/out Grabovski||SA% w/out Grabovski||Grabovski effect|
-Other than Nate Schmidt, every defender listed saw an improvement in their possession numbers, many of them pretty drastic improvements, when on the ice with Grabovski.
-It’s especially interesting that the two worst puck possession players on the list, Oleksy and Erskine, both became positive possession players in their minutes with Grabovski, which were admittedly limited.
-I know it’s only 166 minutes, but the Caps were dominant when Grabovski was on the ice with Orlov.
Like I said above, sample-size warnings obviously apply here. It should also be noted that none of these numbers include any caveats such as zone starts or quality of competition. But make no mistake about it, regardless of that, the Capitals were a better team with Grabovski on the ice, and his new Islanders teammates will start reaping the benefits in October.
All stats pulled from http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/
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With Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen signed, the Caps’ defense looks set for opening night. The Caps now have six NHL-caliber defensemen to defend their blueline, in addition to Orpik and Niskanen: Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Mike Green, and Dmitry Orlov. There are no gaping holes, and the only real question surrounding the defense is how the pairings will be constructed.
This obviously shakes up the depth chart and leaves little room for call-ups, so prospects will likely have to bide their time in Hershey. This isn’t a terrible fate. Spending extra time in the AHL is beneficial, unlike playing unwarranted minutes in the NHL. But injuries and other unforeseen circumstances are inevitable, so defensemen will inevitably be called up.
At present, the defense is perfectly balanced with an equal amount of right- and left-handed shots. Barry Trotz will hopefully base call-ups on overall fit instead of shooting sides, like Adam Oates did. This article will focus on the three prospects I believe are most likely to see NHL time this season, and what the Caps’ latest transactions mean for their development.
This time last year, Carrick was unsure if he’d be playing in the OHL or the AHL. Yet he unexpectedly cracked the opening-night roster and wound up playing 34 games in the NHL. Had the Caps been in a better place defensively, he probably wouldn’t have seen that much ice time.
As the season dragged on, Carrick looked increasingly out of place in his own zone. This concern was made worse as he got outmuscled–the opposition would take advantage of his size and use physicality to outplay him.
With the above in mind, it’s easy to forget that Carrick’s skating ability and vision are among the best of all Caps prospects. However, he doesn’t fit the mold of a bruising, shutdown defenseman–the type of player the Caps lack. The Caps have an abundance of offensive-minded defensemen in their system, so it’s hard not to wonder where Carrick fits into the equation.
Hockey’s Future is almost dismissive of Carrick’s defensive ability:
You won’t really be investing in Carrick for his defensive play. He’s competent in his own zone, but what you are looking for from him is a powerplay quarterback and an aggressive and explosive offensive defenseman.
Finding someone to play point isn’t a problem for the Caps, as they already have three viable options in Carlson, Green, and Niskanen. While Green’s role with the Caps is hazy, Carlson and Niskanen will be defensive cornerstones for years to come. Future projections shouldn’t stop Carrick from seeing some NHL minutes, though. Spending the majority of the upcoming season in Hershey will allow him to develop further, and his previous NHL experience makes him an appealing call-up possibility. Furthermore, the Caps have a plethora of quality partners available for him to skate with. Playing Carrick alongside a physical, defensive defenseman not named John Erskine would be ideal. Orpik is an obvious candidate, should Carrick be needed in D.C.
Carrick’s hockey sense might be more refined than that of his peers, but I wouldn’t pin him as a go-to call-up. Others are sounder defensively, and the Caps aren’t in desperate need of an offensive-minded blueliner. After all, if one of the core defensemen is out of action, they’re going to want someone who prioritizes defense, instead of stepping up in the offensive zone. Unless Carrick makes tremendous strides and the Caps lose an offensive-minded blueliner, he’ll likely be passed over.
Schmidt recently signed a two-way, one-year contract with the Caps after seeing a decent chunk of action (29 games) in the NHL. His season was unfortunately cut short due to a knee injury, but his time with the Caps gave viewers plenty to think about. As an offensive defenseman, he scored 6 points (2G, 4A) and was a plus-four (if you’re into that sort of thing) while suiting up for the Caps.
Point totals aside, Schmidt posted impressive possession numbers. His Corsi-for came in at 50.6%, while his relative Corsi was 3.1%. Despite these numbers, he received little ice time and didn’t see NHL action after late January.
Like Carrick, Schmidt is known for his offense first and defense second. Sound familiar? While Schmidt is a promising defender, the Caps have unfortunately stockpiled too many blueliners in this mold: young and offensively-inclined, with no guarantee of making it to the NHL. (Granted, there’s never any certainty in that department.)
I’d love to see Schmidt get power-play minutes with the Caps, but think about it–with Green, Niskanen, and Carlson already established, what are the odds the Caps would take a chance on him? Were Schmidt a potent penalty-killer in Hershey, he’d be more valuable to the big club. After all, there’s nothing he can do that the Caps’ current blueliners can’t. However, Schmidt now has more partner options, should he be called up. Schmidt was frequently paired with Green last season, and the two saw tremendous success in terms of possession. Skating with Niskanen, a similar type of defender, might yield comparable results.
In regards to the future, the brevity of Schmidt’s new contract is concerning. The Caps’ overabundance of offensive defensemen doesn’t help Schmidt’s NHL chances, and I have to wonder if they intend to focus on other prospects and let Schmidt walk if he doesn’t have a breakthrough season of sorts. Of course, he’s only 22, and defensemen typically develop at a slower rate than forwards. The upcoming season will be pivotal for Schmidt, who’s the most likely candidate for a recall. Hopefully he’ll escape the Caps’ logjam of young defenders and earn some NHL minutes.
Wey’s first pro season was eventful, as he saw time in the ECHL, AHL, and NHL. His promotion to the AHL demonstrated the depth of his development, and he finished his season in Hershey with 6 points (1G, 5A) in 28 games played. Wey has always racked up penalty minutes, and this season was no exception–he took 26 penalties. The physical component of Wey’s game sets him apart from Carrick and Schmidt, as does his commitment to defense.
However, Wey’s style of play doesn’t set him up for much NHL action this season–if any. I believe he’s the least likely of the three to make the team, much less be called up. Hockey’s Future does a great job of summing up Wey and what he brings to the Caps:
Wey is another of several puck-moving defense prospects in the Capitals’ system. Long-term, he projects as a sound, two-way defenseman who can generate offense off the rush.
I don’t mean to discredit Wey, but his play doesn’t address any pressing needs the Caps might have on the blueline. While we haven’t seen Orpik and Niskanen in action, it’s hard to imagine a scenario at this point in time where Wey’s skills would be desperately needed. He’s a puck-mover like Carrick and Schmidt, so he will have to bring something unique to the table if he wants a good look from the Caps.
Way has been assessed as a two-way defender in the making, but logging serious penalty kill minutes will increase his chances of a call-up. It’s difficult to predict how he’ll mesh with the Caps’ current blueliners, but the preseason will allow for mixing and matching to take place. With the Caps’ current lineup and one year remaining on Wey’s deal, it’s unlikely that he’ll be rushed into playing in the NHL.
I know that Jeremy Roenick’s tweet about the Islanders inking Mikhail Grabovski is old news at this point, but the stupidity of the tweet still hasn’t worn off for me, so I decided to look at it just a little closer.
Jeremy Roenick was a very good hockey player. Jeremy Roenick is now paid to analyze hockey. Jeremy Roenick is proof that being a very good hockey player does not necessarily make you very good at analyzing the game. Given that Roenick is paid to analyze hockey, I think it’s reasonable to expect him to spend say, oh, the 10 minutes of time it took to put this post together, in order to research his opinion on things before he spouts them off on Twitter just prior to running to the gym. In case you haven’t seen the tweet, here it is.
(Grabovski did respond to this tweet, you can check it out over on RMNB.)
I decided to look at this from only the angle Roenick looked at it, that being Grabovski’s point production the year prior to signing the deal. I’ll leave out prior years. Heck, I’ll even leave out Grabovski’s glowing possession numbers. Why? Because Roenick’s argument is so unfounded that it’s easily proven wrong, even on the turf that he defined. $5 million per year, at 4 years, is actually a perfectly reasonable contract for a second-line center (and any decent hockey analyst or hockey fan knows this fact without having to do any research).
Here’s how Grabovski compares to the two other Centers in the NHL who have a cap hit of $5 million per year on a deal that was signed as an unrestricted free agent. The chart is ordered by the far right column, points per 60 minutes.
|Player||Season prior to FA||Contract||Games||Points||P/60|
|Grabovski||2013-14||4 yr/$5 mil per||58||35||2.30|
|Cammalleri||2013-14||5 yr/$5 mil per||63||45||2.16|
|Filppula||2012-13||5yr/$5 mil per||41||17||1.40|
Like I said above, there is a lot more nuance and context that could be added to the discussion about Grabovski’s contract. But my point is that Roenick’s analysis is wrong, even within his own narrowly defined parameters.
You would hope that someone who gets paid to “analyze” hockey, even when doing shallow analysis, could do so in a way that his point isn’t easily defeated by 10 minutes of work done by a random blogger on the internet. Do better, Jeremy. I’m going back to the gym. Good God.
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Those looking to buy 2015 Winter Classic tickets through resellers like StubHub or NHL TicketExchange should focus on two things right now if they’re wondering how much they might have to pay for tickets:
- Where the game will be held: The venue for this game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the host Washington Capitals has not been determined but, when it comes to ticket prices, a football stadium would be preferable over a baseball stadium. As you’ll see below in data from SeatGeek, this often results in lower secondary market ticket prices since the football stadiums have a larger seating capacity.
- When to buy tickets: Based on previous Winter Classics, the key to buying tickets through the secondary marketing will be to wait. History shows that if you can wait until just under a week before the Winter Classic to buy your tickets, you’ll likely pay less for them.
Here’s some data and insight from Jason Weingold at SeatGeek that dives deeper on this:
- “The Washington Capitals will be participating in the Winter Classic for the second time, and will be hosting the game for the first time. While the location is yet to be announced, prevailing speculation says that the game will take place at Nationals Park over FedEx Field, which does not bode well for fans hoping to score cheap tickets. Nationals Park can hold 41,418 fans — less than half of FedEx Field’s capacity of 85,000 – which means there would be less supply and higher prices on the resale market. For the last Winter Classic held at a baseball stadium (Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia in 2012), the average price paid for a seat on the secondary market was $471, nearly double the combined average ticket price of the 2011 and 2014 games held at football stadiums ($245). [Author's note: See the next bullet point from SeatGeek for how last year's game in Michigan had a big effect on this].”
- “An average ticket for the 2011 Winter Classic featuring the Penguins and Capitals at Heinz Field (capacity of 68,111) cost fans an average of $409 on the secondary market, and there were a total of about 11,000 tickets resold. The 2012 game pit the Rangers against the Flyers at Citizens Bank Park (seats 46,967) in Philadelphia, and the average price of a ticket rose 15% to $471; there were also more tickets resold — an estimated total of 13,000. The next Winter Classic in 2014 featured a long-anticipated matchup between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at the Big House, Michigan Stadium, which welcomed a record 105,491 fans, and that increased supply of tickets (an estimated 24,000 were resold on secondary markets) brought the average resale price down to $172 per seat.”
- “The NHL has also experimented with other outdoor games in the past. The 2013-2014 season featured five other outdoor games: the Heritage Classic in Canada and four games in the United States collectively called the “Stadium Series.” The first Stadium Series game took place at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, where the average ticket cost $190. The Rangers then played twice at Yankee Stadium — first against the Devils (average ticket price of $231) and second against the Islanders ($141). The fourth game was between the Penguins and Blackhawks at Soldier Field in Chicago (average ticket price of $248). The 2011 Heritage Classic featured the Flames and Canadiens at McMahon Stadium in Calgary (average ticket price of $253), and the 2014 game set the Canucks against the Senators at BC Place in Vancouver (average ticket price of $153).”
- “The 2015 Winter Classic should end up being a record-breaking home game for the Capitals in terms of demand. Since 2010, the most in-demand regular season home game for the Caps was on Feb. 6, 2011 against Pittsburgh, when fans spent an average of $166 per ticket on the secondary market. Even in the playoffs, the highest average ticket price we’ve recorded for a Caps game at the Verizon Center is $221 for Game 4 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers.”
- “The Capitals have only hosted the Blackhawks once since we began collecting pricing data, and that came on April 11 earlier this year. The average ticket to that game at the Verizon Center cost $122 on the resale market.”
- “By taking a look at pricing trends for the past three Winter Classic games, we’ve found that the best time to buy a ticket has been a little less than a week before the game. In 2011, the average ticket price bottomed out at $343 five days before the game, having fallen 24% in 17 days from a peak of $450. Prices for the 2012 game followed a similar pattern, dipping to a low of $391 six days before the drop of the puck (down 22% from $500 with two weeks to go before the game). Last season, the average price fell continuously throughout December, dropping 57% from $239 with 30 days to go before the game to just $103 per ticket the night before.”
Thanks to Jason and SeatGeek for pulling that all together. They also provided the chart below, which illustrates how waiting until just under a week before the game is often the best approach for finding the lowest secondary ticket market prices for a Winter Classic.
When the Caps signed Matt Niskanen to a 7 year, $40.25 million contract, new coach Barry Trotz was given another intriguing option to play the point on the power play. Niskaenen is an offensively-gifted defenseman, finishing 12th among all defesemen in scoring last season with 46 points (10 goals 36 assists). While it remains to be seen if Trotz will use 2 defenders on the PP or skate one defender with Alex Ovechkin playing the other point, the Caps coach has 3 formidable PP options from his defensive corps in Niskanen, John Carlson, and Mike Green.
One consideration when deciding how to divvy up ice-time, as pointed out by Peter from RMNB, is that Carlson plays a significant amount of time on the penalty kill. We don’t yet know how the coaching and personnel changes in Washington will impact PK deployment, but last season Carlson saw the ice for 65.2% of the time the Caps were on the PK, while Green played 8.6% and Niskanen saw 13.8% in Pittsburgh.
Glossary for chart
FF% rel-The % of unblocked shot attempts the player’s team saw with him on the ice, relative to with him off the ice
SA per 2:00-The number of total shot attempts (SA) for a team with the player on the ice, per 2:00
Setup Passes per 2:00-Estimated number of passes by a player that led directly to a shot attempt, per 2:00
All of the numbers are PP only. Per 2:00 was obviously chosen to represent the time of a standard PP.
|Player||FF% rel||SA per 2:00||
Setup Passes per 2:00
-The Caps perform significantly better, FF%-wise, with Carlson on the ice during the PP while the Caps saw a significant drop in FF% with Green on the ice during the PP. This is interesting, considering Green was the Caps best possession player in 5-on-5 close game situations. The Pens PP generated slightly more unblocked shot attempts with Niskanen on the ice.
-The differentials in SA per 2:00 may look insignificant but they add up quite a bit when given proper context. The Caps averaged 3.54 PP per game, so the difference between Carlson (13.8) vs Green (11.9) amounts to just about 2 additional SA per game in a hypothetical world where they each separately play 100% of the team’s PP minutes.
-Green has a significant advantage in setup passes per 2:00. Discussing his numbers relative to Niskanen’s here is probably apples to oranges, since they played on different PP. There are all kinds of factors, such as set plays and who they are funneled through, that could impact this rather than passing ability and vision. For example, one possible reason Green’s numbers are so high is that he was often funneling the puck to shooting machine Alex Ovechkin for his patented PP one-timer. However, when comparing teammates, Green (3.82) would produce nearly one more setup pass per game than Carlson (2.93) were each to play 100% of the team’s PP minutes.
-One interesting tidbit not shown in the chart is that opponents’ average shorthanded shot distance with Carlson on the ice was 52.7 feet compared to 34.6 feet with Green on the ice. That’s the difference between 7.3 feet inside the blueline vs. 5.4 feet inside the top of the faceoff circle. While not proof in and of itself, those numbers could serve as a launching point for someone who wants to show that Green is prone to take risks that can backfire (I’m skeptical of that theory).
|Individual SA per 2:00|
-Carlson generates .08 more SA per 2 minutes of PP time than Green and Niskanen (Like above, reading too much into Niskanen’s numbers at face value vs. Green and/or Carlson is probably a bit faulty since they played on different PP). Last season, the Caps average 3.54 PP per game. Over the course of a season, at 3.54 PP attempts per game, Carlson would generate 23.2 more PP SA than Green or Niskanen, were they each to play 100% of their team’s PP minutes (this also assumes, for the sake of simplicity, that each PP attempt is 2 minutes) . The Caps scored on 8.3% of their PP SA this past season. This would mean that, through his SA alone, Carlson would generate 1.93 more PP goals per season, in a hypothetical world where all 3 players assume the Caps average PP goals per shot attempt % from last season (8.3%) and the Caps average 3.54 PP per game for a season.
From all of this data, it appears that John Carlson should be first choice to play the point on the PP in 2014-15 for the Caps. The team generates more unblocked and overall shot attempts with him on the ice, and he personally takes more shot attempts than Green or Niskanen. However, should Trotz choose to manage Carlson’s PP time in order to keep him fresher for PK and 5-on-5 play, and depending on what position Ovechkin plays on the PP, both Green and Niskanen offer Trotz viable options.
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S/T to ExtraSkater.com for being such a great resource for this article (and in general).