Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,
Michael Schuckers acknowledges he has not discovered the foolproof method of drafting future NHLers. No such solution exists.
If Schuckers had uncovered something to this degree, he would be claiming ownership not just of the pending Las Vegas franchise but all of the city’s casinos.
Instead, Schuckers, professor of statistics at St. Lawrence University, is a proponent of marginal gains. It is the approach that guided his authorship of “Draft by Numbers: Using Data and Analytics to Improve National Hockey League Player Selection.”
The paper, which Schuckers presented at the 2016 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, details Schuckers’s creation of a model that examined two clusters of players: those drafted from 1998 to 2002, and prospects taken between 2004 and 2008. Schuckers’s “Draft by Numbers” model predicted NHL performance for players drafted within each set.
Schuckers used games played and time on ice for a player’s first seven NHL years as performance benchmarks.
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from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star,
“Do you go to a movie and hope you’re not entertained?” says TSN analyst Ray Ferraro, when I called to ask. “If the game is no fun — let me put it this way. An assistant general manager told me they should change the name of the game from ‘hockey’ to ‘work.’ ”
To be clear, the sharp-eyed Ferraro — who scored 408 NHL goals as an undersized winger from little Warfield, B.C., — is not opposed to work. He just thinks goals are fun. In the post-season, teams averaged 2.63 goals per game, a shade under the playoff average of the last 10 post-lockout years, 2.67. In the regular season it was 2.71 — all of this includes empty-net goals — which was the fifth-lowest scoring year since 1956. We said that exact thing in 2012 and 2013, too. Since expansion in 1968, the league had 25 seasons of teams averaging at least three goals per game. There has been one since 1996.
“I think the problem, if you want to say that, is so multi-layered that there’s not one fix to it,” says Ferraro. “As the game has gotten faster, what I thought would happen was there would be more offence. But what I’ve learned is speed is the absolute detriment to offence, because there’s no time to make a play anymore. There just isn’t. You can be the most skilled guy in the world. There’s no time.”
Others around the game echo this, or offer other options: restore the red line, or Scotty Bowman’s ringette line, maybe some kind of illegal defence? Goaltending equipment is shrinking, and one NHL official recently said, “All we need to do next is ban the coaches.” A smart front-office man echoed, “Hockey is not willing enough to realize that we’re in the entertainment business, and not willing enough to do something to get the coaches under control.” It’s like Wayne Gretzky told the New York Times last year: “All in all, it’s sort of a grinding game now.”
a Globe and Mail editorial,
The NHL has been diluting the culture of hockey for so long that nothing the league does comes as much of a shock or a surprise. Las Vegas is going to get a hockey team. That sounds about right. Quebec is denied. But of course.
Surely by now they should have convinced us that professional hockey was meant for the easy comforts of the American desert, not some God-forsaken place where rivers freeze and the cold chills your soul. But at least we have a soul, Canadian hockey fans will say as they mourn the passing of Gordie Howe, who honed his game and character on the frozen ponds of Saskatchewan back when hockey was inseparable from the culture in which it thrived.
The NHL doesn’t care. Las Vegas is as soulless a place as you can hope to find, in hockey terms as in much else. But it has a ready-made arena and an owner prepared to cough up the $500-million expansion fee, plus a prospective fan-base of tourists desperately in need of a distraction from Celine Dion and Cirque du Soleil.
from Dave Stubbs of NHL.com,
For days, Commissioner Bettman has heard suggestions from fans and those inside hockey for ways to honor Howe, who truly was a pioneer of the game for his sensational performance on the ice and exemplary manners and generosity off it.
Some, including Wayne Gretzky, have been quoted as saying Howe's No. 9 should be retired from the game forever, as Gretzky's No. 99 was retired on Feb. 6, 2000 at the NHL's 50th All-Star Game. Others have suggested all 30 NHL teams wear a No. 9 patch on their jerseys next season.
"We're going to come up with something that's an enduring testament to Gordie," Commissioner Bettman said Thursday from his office in New York. "There will be something that appropriately celebrates his life and creates a lasting tribute to his immortality. It will be something that will be special and enduring and permanent."
from Sean McIndoe at The Guardian,
So today, let’s look back on the just completed year in the NHL and hand out some awards. Not the real hardware – that part’s also on the schedule for next week. Instead, we’ll make up a few of our own, to recognize the best and worst of a season that already feels like it’s fading into the distant past.
Breakout star of the year: Brent Burns
The Sharks defenseman has been one of the league’s better blueliners for years now. But he posted career-best numbers this season, earning a nod as a Norris finalist and a spot on Team Canada in the process. And he did it all while being… well, being Brent Burns. Which as it turns out, is a pretty interesting thing to be.
Whether it was the crazy beard or the Don Cherry-esque wardrobe or the solid soundbites or the whole Chewbacca thing at the all-star game, Burns emerged as a fun personality in a league that doesn’t have many. He may have flown under the radar for too long, thanks to West Coast start times. But the Sharks run to the Cup final put him solidly in the spotlight, and he embraced it.
And the hockey world embraced him right back … at least for now. No doubt, it won’t be long until Burns gets the PK Subban/Alexander Ovechkin treatment and we all start complaining about him being too eccentric or enigmatic or whatever other word we come up with. But for now, we can enjoy the presence of a star player who actually seems to enjoy the role.
Best trade (for both teams): the Phil Kessel deal
from Frank Seravalli of TSN,
Sidney Crosby edged Phil Kessel in what may have been the closest vote in the 51-year history of the Conn Smythe Trophy, according to ballots obtained by TSN.
The award, established in 1965 to honour the most valuable player to his team during the Stanley Cup playoffs, is voted on by 18 members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The rotating panel of 18 voters is comprised of a blend of American and Canadian national media, as well as local writers covering the two Stanley Cup finalists.
All 18 voters disclosed their ballots to TSN.ca on the condition of anonymity.
Crosby captured his first Conn Smythe with nine first-place votes. Kessel finished just behind Crosby with seven first-place votes. Kris Letang earned the other two first-place votes.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
So NHL expansion is on, an NHL source confirming what some of us have been predicting for years: That the league’s desire to go to Las Vegas trumps any concern they might have about the long-term viability of the market.
William Foley, the Vegas owner-in-waiting, has been patiently, discreetly, quietly waiting in the wings for the process to unfold, which is part of the protocol that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the league’s executive committee demands.
They do not want loud, boisterous, tub-thumping people joining their ownership group. They want sober, well-heeled businessmen, the lessons of previous expansions not lost on the key decision-makers, beginning with the Boston Bruins’ Jeremy Jacobs, the chairman of the league’s board of governors, who doesn’t need a quick-fix expansion payment to stabilize his already successful franchise.
Even Bettman talked about this publicly at the start of the Stanley Cup final: That any decision to go into Las Vegas, or Quebec for that matter, would be based solely on whether it enhances overall NHL goals.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
from Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal,
Bettman in announcing two years ago the league’s intent to consider expansion called Las Vegas “a city that has national and international prominence.” We will now see if it’s also one that can successfully confirm the NHL’s confidence in Foley and, in a much larger sense, this town.
This is bigger than UNLV winning its national championship in basketball and Greg Maddux making the National Baseball Hall of Fame and every Grand Slam trophy Andre Agassi held aloft. This is sports at a level Las Vegas has never known, an entirely different dynamic than ever experienced here. The potential impact of an NHL team, socially and economically, is immeasurable.
And you can bet others will be watching.
I always believed hockey would act as, for lack of a better term, the guinea pig when it came to which American sports league would arrive first in Las Vegas. An outfit such as the NBA would view from afar how the market embraces and supports the NHL before considering such a move.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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