Whenever a player who I consider a future Hall of Famer retires, I like to write a career retrospective for him. This can be problematic when sometimes a player never officially announces retirement when he quits playing hockey. Announcing retirement is not mandatory. In Tim Thomas's case it is clear that he is retired as he didn't play in the NHL last year and is making no effort to play this year.
Thomas was born on April 15, 1974 in Flint, Michigan. He was first noticed by hockey scouts while playing high school hockey at Davison High School in Michigan. From there, he moved onto the University of Vermont. He was a star in college he made the ECAC All Rookie Team in his first year. After that season he was drafted in the ninth round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques 217th overall. He never signed with the Nords. In the NCAA, he followed that up with a berth on the ECAC First All Star team and the NCAA East Second All American Team. His third year saw him make both the ECAC First All Star team and the NCAA East First All American Team. Though his numbers fell off a bit in his senior year, he left the University of Vermont as their all time leader in games played for a goalie, wins and saves.
This is the final installment of my pre-season predictions. I am listing my predicted oreder of finish for the East Conference teams just as I did with the West Conference. I have already written blurbs for these teams in their divisions: the Metropolitan and the Atlantic.
Here is my predicted order of finish in the East Conference:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. New York Rangers
4. Washington Capitals
5. Montreal Canadiens
6. Detroit Red Wings
7. New York Islanders (wild card)
8. Columbus Blue Jackets (wild card)
The Atlantic Division is the final division that I will post predictions for. I have a few qualms about the name of the division and the teams that are playing in it. How is it that Detroit and Toronto are Atlantic teams when the New York City teams that are actually n the Atlantic Ocean are not?
I have already posted West Conference predictions including its two constituent divisions: the Pacific and the Central. I have also posted my Metropolitan Division predictions. Here are my Atlantic Division pre-season predictions:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning - Often when a team makes a long playoff run it is smart to pick that they have a slow start in the following season, but I think the young Lightning will avoid this. Steve Stamkos is a proven offensive star. Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat took big steps forward to join him last season, can they repeat their efforts? Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn will provide depth. On defence, Victor Hedman is very good and Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison provide depth. Ben Bishop is a solid unspectacular starting goalie. This is a pretty god team.
I am continuing my regular season predictions today. Today I look at the most poorly named division in the NHL. This is the Metropolitan Division. Is a city like Los Angeles or Chicago not metropolitan? They are more metropolitan than Columbus or Carolina but those are Metropolitan Division teams and the Kings and Hawks are not.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins - This is the team with the largest group of offensively talented players. If Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can stay healthy, that will propel the Pens to the top of the standings. Phil Kessel joins them from Toronto and he is ready to show us that Toronto was his problem (as opposed to the Leaf fan belief that he was Toronto's problem). Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz will provide some strong depth. On defence, Kris Letang is a top offensive defenceman if he stays healthy. Olli Maata should be healthy enough to provide some depth. Marc-Andre Fleury has proven himself to be an acceptable choice as a goalie, though he is not an elite choice. With health, this team should be a league leader.
I am continuing my predictions by listing my predicted order of finish for the West Conference teams. Blurbs for the individual teams are written in the divisional predictions threads. The Pacific Division is here and the Central Division is here.
1. Anaheim Ducks
2. St Louis Blues
3. Los Angeles Kings
4. Chicago Blackhawks
5. Nashville Predators
6. San Jose Sharks
7. Dallas Stars (wild card)
8. Minnesota Wild (wild card)
I am continuing with my regular season predictions today by looking at the Central Division. I have already looked at the Pacific Division.
Here are my thoughts on what might happen in the Central Division. Of course a surprise injury, trade, rookie etc. will render it all moot and you can count on several of them occurring this season.
1. St Louis Blues - Ken Hitchcock is a very good coach who keeps this team motivated all season. They have some solid offensive talent in Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny and Jaden Schwartz. Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk are a solid group of defencemen. Jake Allen and Brian Elliott are good enough goaltenders to succeed behind this group, but goaltending won't be a strength. This is a team with strong depth that is motivated and will play well.
I have been AWOL from this site for quite a while. Sometimes life gets in the way. When it is the hockey off-season it is possible to get away.
I want to start my regular season predictions by looking at the Pacific Division. Here we go:
1. Anaheim Ducks - Bruce Boudreau is a top coach who keeps his team on task and gets the most from his club. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are among the best one-two punches of any team in the league. Ryan Kelser and Jakob Silfverberg provide some depth. There is a solid defence built on Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and newcomer Kevin Bieksa. Frederik Andersen had a solid season last year, but I am not entirely sold on it being repeatable.
When I posted the league leaders in 2014/15 by excess defensive zone starts (defensive zone faceoffs - offensive zone faceoffs) when a player is on the ice, Paul Gaustad of the Nashville Predators leads. Gaustad has 457 excess defensive zone starts. This makes him the player who had the role most defined by zone starts. Mike Ribeiro, the offensive zone start leader, has 302 excess offensive zone starts. Since both the offensive and defensive leaders play on Nashville, it is clear that they were the strongest users of the strategy of getting offensive players into offensive zone starts and defensive players into defensive ones.
Gaustad played a tough role defensively. This showed up in his puck possession numbers. His team adjusted Corsi rating is sixth worst in the NHL last year at -248.8. That doesn't make him one of the weakest players in the NHL. It means that his Corsi shows the context of a tough defensive role. If he starts his shifts in the defensive zone, he is more likely to face a shot attempt against. In order to better use Corsi to single out the best and worst puck possession players, it is necessary to correct for zone starts. I will do that soon. In fact despite Gaustad's poor Corsi, I would have given him a fourth place Selke vote as best defensive forward because his role is so tough defensively.
I am continuing my sabermetrics and hockey series with the top 20 players in 2014/15 by excess defensive zone starts in 5 on 5 situations. These are players who play in tough defensive situations. By starting their shifts in the defensive zone they are more likely to have poor Corsi ratings. I will adjust for this in Corsi analysis in the future.
Here is a group of players who played - often anonymously - in tough defensive situations and deserve credit for it if they succeeded.
Here are the top 20 players in 2014/15 by defensive zone starts:
A few days ago I posted the 2014/15 league leaders in excess offensive zone starts (this is faceoffs a player is on the ice for in 5 on 5 situations in the offensive zone minus those in the defensive zone). Leading the league is Mike Ribeiro of the Nashville Predators with 302 excess offensive zone starts. Thus Ribeiro was given a cushy role in Nashville where his offence could be maximized.
Ribeiro is an interesting case in the NHL in the last couple of seasons. Ribeiro spent his 2013/14 season with Phoenix. He was moderately successful scoring 47 points in 80 games. This placed him fifth in scoring in Phoenix. He was bought out of his four year contract after one year in Phoenix. Largely this was done because of off-ice issues, but if he played better hockey that might have been excused. Nashville took a chance on him signing him for barely over a million dollars in a one year contract. It paid off. Ribeiro scored 62 points in 82 games. He was second in scoring on the Preds. Nashville signed him to a contract extention of two years worth $3.5 million per year.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???