One sabermetric issue that I am watching this season is how well is Brendan Morrison of the Calgary Flames doing. Brendan Morrison is a test case on the Corsi theory. The idea behind Corsi theory is that counting attempted shots both for and against is a very strong gage of puck possession. This is more useful that looking at goals scored based analysis because goals are strongly dependent upon shooting percentages and saves percentages of all the twelve players on the ice. This is something individual players have little control over in general. I have written about this here.
David Johnson of the Hockey Analysis website is a proponent of the contrary position. He has chosen Brendan Morrison of the Calgary Flames as a test case to make his argument. Before this season, Morrison looked good by Johnson’s goals based analysis and looked like a poor signing by conventional Corsi analysis.
The KHL All Star Game will be played this Saturday in Riga, Latvia. It is always interesting to see which players make the AHL All Star rosters as almost all of them have been seen in North America in the past.
The game is West Conference against East Conference. Each team has a big name player as their captain. In the past it was Team Jaromir Jagr representing the East and Team Alexei Yashin representing the West. This season Jagr is playing in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers and Yashin missed the beginning of this season while trying to catch on in the NHL. Thus new captains are needed. Hometown boy Sandis Ozolinsh captains the West and Sergei Fedorov captains the East.
Here are the rosters:
There is no clear leader in the NHL standings at this point in the season. Two teams have 60 points each to tie for the lead. Given that the New York Rangers have 43 games played and Chicago has 46 games played in that tie, the Rangers are first overall in the league.
The New York Rangers were not considered a serious candidate to be first overall in the NHL. After all last season they finished 18th in the league. They grabbed a playoff berth by winning the eighth seed in the East Conference. They have taken a big step forward so far this year.
The biggest single reason for this is better team defence. Henrik Lundqvist is having an extraordinary season that puts him in the Vezina lead. Their young defence has taken a big step forward as Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto have become top defencemen.
The Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals affiliate) have a four point lead over the rest of the AHL with 55 points. They have a 24-15 record with seven regulation tie points. This is the team with the best offence in the league. The two top scorers in the AHL are both Hershey players in Keith Aucoin and Chris Bourque. Jacob Micflikier and Graham Mink are other Hershey players among the top scorers in the league. This team has averaged 3.84 goals per game. By comparison, the Boston Bruins lead the NHL with 3.58 goals per game.
Perhaps the team most likely to catch Hershey is the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames affiliate). They are in a three way tie with 51 points behind the Bears. Abbotsford has a 24-14 record with only three regulation tie points. Neglecting the regulation ties, their record would have them in first place. Abbotsford has to overcome significant travel issues. They are in the large AHL West Division. Its other teams are in Texas and Oklahoma.
It was mid-November when I picked Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators as the top defenceman so far this year. He played so well that about a month later he became my pick for MVP. Then he missed a few games with a concussion and lost his momentum. I am now picking Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins as the top defenceman so far this year.
Chara won the 2009 Norris Trophy and has been a top defenceman in the league for years. Chara has 26 points in his 38 games so far this season. He has a +28 +/- rating which is tops among the league’s defencemen. He does this playing against some of the top competition in the league. Chara is having a very strong season. Perhaps it could be the strongest in his already great career.
It is All Star season in hockey. Yesterday the NHL announced their All Star players. Another All Star Game on the schedule is the CHL Top Prospects Game. The game will be played February 1st in Kelowna BC. It consists of CHL players who are eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The teams are divided into a Red Team (historically called Team Cherry) and a White Team (historically called Team Orr). The Red Team will be coached by former NHL player Mark Recchi and the White Team coached by Pat Quinn.
Here are the rosters for the game (which may change due to injury):
The NHL announced their All Star Game lineups today. They can be found here. Earlier I posted my picks for the game. The biggest difference between my picks and the NHL picks is that I have at least one player per team involved in the game. The NHL has 12 rookies who will take part in the skills competition only and some of these rookies are the lone representatives for their respective teams. Five teams will have no All Star Game representation. They are Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Edmonton and New Jersey. This frees five roster spots on my team that I had given to Jeff Skinner, Ryan O’Reilly, Fedor Tyutin, Ryan Smyth and Patrik Elias. The only representation for their respective teams are rookies Justin Faulk, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Johansen, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and both Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson of New Jersey. These teams are short changed in the All Star Game. Edmonton is shortchanged the most as it is doubtful that Nugent-Hopkins will be healthy by gametime.
A couple days ago coach Scott Arniel was fired by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus has been in last place for essentially the entire season so far. Currently they are five points behind any other team in the NHL. Columbus has an 11-31 record so far this season with five regulation tie points. At no point this season has Arniel shown he is a competent NHL coach. It looked as though he was going to be fired about two months ago and it didn’t happen. Nothing happened since then to help his case. Perhaps an early season firing and replacement by a good coach (Ken Hitchcock was available when the idea of firing Arniel first was discussed in the media) could have saved the season or at least kept Columbus from last place. At this point it looks like it may be too late.
Perhaps the biggest shock is that GM Scott Howson remains employed after waiting this long on a clearly failing coach.
When I last took a look at the top goalie in the league so far this year, partway through December, I picked Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. While Thomas is still having a very good season, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers is doing even better. Lundqvist has a better saves percentage (.939 vs. 938), a better goals against average (1.89 vs 1.99) in more games played (29 vs. 26). Both goalies play on teams that are strong defensively, but the Bruins are likely better defensively than the Rangers, so it is quite an accomplishment for Lundqvist to be putting up better numbers.
Henrik Lundqvist is a top goalie who has been a Vezina Trophy nominee three times but has never been the top goalie in the league. He has always finished a good distance back of the winner in terms of votes. Nevertheless Lundqvist looks like he could breakthrough as the top goalie in the league.
In early November I picked Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings as the Lady Byng Trophy leader. Kopitar is the top scoring player on the lowest scoring team in the NHL. Like the Kings, Kopitar hasn’t scored well lately. He only has one goal since mid-November. As a result, I am picking a new Lady Byng Trophy leader. He is Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers.
Campbell is the second highest scoring defenceman in the NHL with 33 points. His offensive success has largely come on the power play. While doing this, Campbell has only four penalty minutes.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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