I have been blogging about hockey for about five and a half years and have seen the hockey blogosphere grow from a small group of bloggers, where it was possible to read everything that everyone wrote, to such a large group that no matter how hard you try there is always somebody out there doing good stuff that you are completely unaware of. I think a rather significant milestone has occurred this week and it is worth writing a blog post to note it. As far as I am aware, we have had the first time that mainstream media sources have ripped off a hockey blog.
Pension Plan Puppets is probably the best Toronto Maple Leaf blog on the net. Their name is a bit of a joke about the fact that the Ontario Teacher`s Pension Plan owns the Toronto Maple Leafs as well as many other businesses in downtown Toronto. The joke is that a Toronto Maple Leaf Stanley Cup victory might lead to rioting that damages the other Pension Plan properties and hence they are happier keeping the Leafs as a bottom feeder. Thus the fans emotions are held hostage (as puppets) by the pension plan.
Yesterday I began looking at the sabermetrics and hockey problem of goals versus threshold as formulated by Tom Awad. I began by looking at the offensive portion of this system. Today I want to look at the top offensive players in this system. This will be similar to the scoring leaders in the NHL except it values goals over assists and takes into account ice time by subtracting off the scoring that a replacement level (threshold) player would have provided with that ice time.
Here are the top 20 players by offensive goals versus threshold compared with their rank in the NHL scoring race:
One goal in hockey sabermetrics is to have one number to show the value of a player above a replacement player. The idea is that any team should be able to find players of a low enough level either by call-ups from the minors or by waivers or some other method. The idea is to find the production level of a replacement player and then show how many more (or less) goals a player produced than that level. The idea comes from the baseball idea of value over replacement player or VORP.
Tom Awad has done a significant amount of work to devise a system to try to approximate this. Bear in mind that it is an approximation and cannot be used to get more than an approximate value for a player. Tom Awad has written three articles on it here, here and here.
Now that I am essentially finished with this summer’s look at Corsi numbers, before I move onto some other sabermetric problems I would like to present my top 50 players. This is something done by the Hockey News annually. My list will differ from the Hockey News list and I will try to justify my selections especially when they significantly differ from those of THN.
When I rank the top 50 players, I ask myself which fifty players would I most want on my team going into the upcoming season. I am not sure that is the same question asked by THN. They do not specify exactly how they come up with their list and a different selection procedure might explain some discrepancies.
One player who is quite interesting from the standpoint of sabermetrics and hockey is Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings. He is one of the better scorers on his team. This season he scored 56 points, which was good for third in Kings scoring. Dustin Brown does not do very well from a puck possession standpoint. He has the 16th worst team and zone adjusted Corsi rating last year. When Brown was on the ice, he usually started in the offensive zone, yet the opposing team controlled the puck and took far more shots than the Kings did. This is not a strong showing from Brown. Brown used up a lot of Los Angeles’s offensive opportunities and did not have a lot to show for it. These offensive opportunities frequently wound up with the Kings’ opposition controlling the puck.
Every summer the NHL GMs rush to hand out big contracts to a group of free agent players that they hope will be the future of their franchises. Some work out to be good signings, but many do not. When a player signed to a longer-term contract worth a significant amount of money does not work out it can be a problem that handcuffs the franchise into the future. I think that one such situation this year is the Pittsburgh Penguins signing of Zbynek Michalek, formerly of the Phoenix Coyotes, to a five year contract worth $20 million in total.
Michalek has been with Phoenix since the lockout year and played a regular shift on their defence. He frequently plays against relatively tough competition and has far more defensive zone starts than offensive ones. Accordingly, his offensive contribution has never been significant. He scored 17 points last year and has a career best of 28, which he got in 2006/07.
One thing that adjusted Corsi ratings are good for is to identify players who are failing to provide value to their team at even strength. These are the players with limited ice time who have the worst adjusted Corsi ratings in the NHL nonetheless. At the top of this list is Jason Strudwick of the Edmonton Oilers. This past season, Strudwick played 72 games on the Edmonton Oiler defence. He had no goals and six assists and put up the worst team and zone adjusted Corsi rating in the NHL, which shows he was a horrid player at puck possession. He isn’t a strong player without the puck either. Strudwick won’t top any defensive lists. For those efforts, the Edmonton Oilers re-signed Strudwick with a small raise.
Jason Strudwick is the kind of player who is given a lot of chances to play in the NHL despite his failures. He is a very hard working player and a very good teammate off the ice. This puts him in coaches’ good books. He is cheap. With his raise, he is still making $725,000 this year and in a salary capped environment that can be important. The problem is he is not an NHL calibre hockey player.
The arbitration decision is in. llya Kovalchuk’s 17 year contract with the New Jersey Devils circumvents the salary cap. That means that Kovalchuk is a free agent again and for all we know could wind up in the KHL if he cannot find an NHL deal to his liking. The problem with the decision is that several other contracts that have been accepted by the NHL are also front-loaded to circumvent the salary cap. In fact, Marian Hossa was one of the key players on the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks and he has the most outrageous front-loaded contract before the Kovalchuk one. It is too late to try to enforce a rule interpretation if its lack of enforcement in the past may have played a part in deciding the Stanley Cup.
The clear result of this process is that Gary Bettman holds even more control over the NHL and that cannot be seen as a good thing given his history.
With the announcement that Chris Chelios has accepted a job in the Detroit Red Wings front office, comes his retirement announcement. Chelios is a future Hall of Fame player and here is his career retrospective.
Chris Chelios was born on January 25th, 1962 in Chicago, Illinois. His desire to be a professional hockey player was strong. As a teenager, he went to Canada to play for the Moose Jaw Canucks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He spent two years in Saskatchewan before being drafted in the second round, 40th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 1981. Chelios scored 87 points in his final 54 game season from defence, but was seen as a big fish in a small pond and thus not drafted earlier.
Corsi ratings are the difference between the number of shots directed at goal (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots) in 5 on 5 situations for a given team and their opponents when a given player is on the ice. It is a strong measure of puck possession. There are several factors independent of the player in question that I have attempted to remove. They are team effects - as good teams will tend to possess the puck more than bad ones regardless of which player is on the ice and the player’s usage, namely if he starts a lot more shifts in the offensive or defensive zones.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???