I am continuing my regular season predictions by ranking the teams in the West Conference. I will not write blurbs for each team as I already have done this in the divisional prediction posts. Here are my Northwest Division predictions, here are my Pacific Division predictions and are my Central Division predictions.
This is my predicted finish for the West Conference:
1. Chicago Blackhawks - This is a team with a very good core of Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It is possible that any of this group could post career best seasons. If they still had the depth of their 2010 Stanley Cup winner, this team would be the favorite this year. The loss of depth moves the a few steps back as a Stanley Cup contender, but they still have a good team. Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are very good depth forwards. Dave Bolland provides a very good defensive game, but they don’t have the depth to be the top team in hockey. On defence, Brent Seabrook is a very good partner for Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson is counted upon to give a good season. Corey Crawford is a solid goalie, but he has shown little reason to believe he can be a great one. This team will rely on all star seasons from Keith, Toews and Kane and they should get them. It is strong enough to win the division and a couple years ago had the depth that they could have been Stanley Cup favorites.
I continue with my regular season predictions today. Yesterday I looked at the Northwest Division and today I am looking at the Pacific Division.
1. San Jose Sharks - The Sharks won the season last year and they should be able to repeat. They came out better (at least in the short term) in a series of trades with the Minnesota Wild by picking up Brent Burns, who should be their top defenceman. They also acquired Martin Havlat, who is a solid scorer if he stays healthy. Gone are Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. The Sharks have a deep offence. Their three top scorers from last year in Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski remain along with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe. On defence, Burns will lead a group that includes Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers. Antti Niemi is an unspectacular starting goalie, but he is solid. This is one of the better teams in the NHL and they could have a Stanley Cup run with the right bounces. That would go a long way to end the undeserved criticism the team has had recently.
With the regular season fast approaching, it is time to begin my predictions for the regular season. I want to begin with my standard disclaimer. I have seen several people attempt to predict the winner or every game (or a significant number of them) over a season. I have never seen anybody post as good as a 60% success rate. If we assume that 60% is a theoretical limit for the maximum possible longterm success rate (and that number is probably too high), then we can see that 20% of the time the better team wins because of their talent (i.e. they are the better team) and the rest of the time the game was won by luck. There is an equal chance that either team can win because of luck, so there is a 40% chance the favorite wins and a 40% chance the underdog wins. This leaves us with one game in five won because of the talent of the better team. That is the signal I am trying to predict. I cannot predict the other games.
In the regular season things get even harder. It is September and some of the games I am trying to predict will not happen until next spring. By then there will be trades, injuries, new coaches, streaks, slumps and a bunch of other things nobody can expect today.
So here are my predictions for the finish in the Northwest Division and a little blurb for each team:
I have been looking at Justin Kubatko’s point shares system at hockey-reference.com. Yesterday I listed the top 20 seasons ever by this system. Bobby Orr is quite dominant on this list. His seasons rank 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th and 11th all time. That gives him five of the top twenty seasons of all time. Wayne Gretzky also has five of the top 20 seasons but his ranks are a bit lower at 6th, 7th, 8th, 17th and 18th all time. Orr’s 1970/71 season ranks first overall on the list. He is credited with 22.92 point shares that season. Orr earned 13.5 of those point shares from his offence and 9.4 from his defence. He was first in the league that season in terms of defensive point shares and second in terms of offensive point shares (teammate Phil Esposito beat him). Bobby Orr finished second in league scoring from defence with 37 goals and a then record 102 assists for 139 points. This 139 point total was Orr’s career best. Orr posted a +124 +/- rating that year, which is a record that still stands today. This was clearly a great season, but is it the best ever?
As I look into the point share method developed by Justin Kubatko of hockey-reference.com, I have listed the top 20 seasons by the offensive, defensive and goaltending portions of the system. It is now time to look at the top seasons by the total system, which is the sum of the three portions.
Here are the top 20 seasons ever by the point shares system:
It is no big surprise that Wayne Gretzky has the top career of all time. The surprise is that Ray Bourque is second. He is slightly less than ten point shares behind Gretzky and more than 25 point shares above any other player. Bourque is considered one of the best defencemen of all time, but not the best one. He is never considered in the race to be the best player in hockey history by any serious listing of players. So why does he appear this high on the point shares list?
I have posted the top 20 careers by offensive , defensive and goaltending point shares. Now it is time to put it all together and look at total point shares, which is the sum of the three portions. As we have seen, offensive point shares is the most accurate, though it is rather arbitrary the way it treats assists relative to goals. Defensive and goaltending point shares are largely a sharing of the goals prevented by a team among the various players. This is a poor technique because it doesn’t attempt to find the actual value of a player, but rather it gives his portion by their position on the ice. This can lead to some problems in defensive valuation.
Nevertheless, let’s add the three portions and see who leads in career point shares.
I have taken a bit of a break from my sabermetrics and hockey posts, but there are still a few points I want to revisit before the season opens. I had last been looking at goaltender point shares and posted the top 20 seasons by goaltender point shares. At the top of the list all time is Roberto Luongo’s 2003/04 season with the Florida Panthers. This season is worth 20.85 point shares. No goaltender has ever had a better season according to this system. How reasonable result?
Luongo did not win the Vezina Trophy that season. That award went to Martin Brodeur. Luongo was nominated, but he finished third in the race behind Brodeur and Miikka Kiprusoff. If Luongo had as historic a season as the point shares system says, the voters did not notice.
One of the big stories in the NHL this season is Brendan Shanahan taking over for Colin Campbell as the NHL’s vice president of hockey operations in charge of suspensions and discipline. Campbell had been criticized for his NHL suspension policy. Shanahan taking over is a chance for Campbell is a chance for expectations to be reset. It is a chance to fix some of the problems that exist or to create new ones. So far Shanahan has issued two suspensions and it seems he is off to a good start.
In Tuesday’s pre-season game between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks which Calgary won 5-1, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond of the Flames hit Matt Clackson from behind in the third period. He drove Clackson hard into the boards and finished the check. The new NHL policy is that hits from behind should be avoided or minimized to prevent injury or the offending player will be suspended. Letourneau-Leblond broke it.
About The Puck Stops Here
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