Last year the Calgary Flames goaltending was bad. They expected Jonas Hiller to carry the load but he struggled. He posted a .879 saves percentage and a 3.51 GAA. This was one of the worst goaltending seasons in recent memory. Their other options were better than Hiller but still below average in Karri Ramo (.909 saves percentage), Joni Ortio (.902 saves percentage) and Niklas Backstrom (.882 saves percentage). Calgary would improve significantly if they could find a reliable goalie who would merely perform at the league average.
Yesterday they did better than that. They traded with St Louis to obtain Brian Elliott for their second round pick. St Louis selected Jordan Kyrou from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL.
Elliott posted a .930 saves percentage last year which was the highest among goalies who played a significant number of games in the entire league. Elliott received a few votes for the Vezina Trophy as a result but since he shared his time in St Louis with Jake Allen was not taken as seriously as the clear number one goalies.
In 2014/15, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators led all defencemen in the NHL with 66 points. Drew Doughty led the NHL in individual Corsi with the top Corsi team the Los Angeles Kings. Doughty scored 46 points and finished 14th in scoring among defencemen. Karlsson was the best offensive defenceman in the league. Doughty was the best defensive defenceman. In a close race Karlsson won his second career Norris Trophy. I think it was the right pick in that Karlsson was likely worth more wins to his team than Doughty was.
Drew Doughty is a good player who is good enough that a player of his talent level would likely have won a Norris Trophy by now, although there was no single season he was the top defenceman. As the top defensive defenceman and a good Canadian kid a lot of people including Don Cherry began campaigning for Doughty to win the Norris Trophy next year and they did not waiver from their support regardless of what happened the next season.
Erik Karlsson had a historic offensive season. He scored 82 points and finished fourth in scoring in the NHL. This was the first time a defenceman finished that high in the scoring since the 1980's. It was the first time a defenceman led the NHL in assists since Bobby Orr. Drew Doughty had a good year too. He again led the NHL in individual Corsi while playing on the top Corsi team. Offensively Doughty scored 51 points which is slightly up from the previous year. It should have been clear that Karlsson was better than Doughty by an even larger margin than the previous year, even if Doughty was improved as well. However voters gave into the Doughty campaign and gave him the Norris Trophy.
Last night was the NHL awards ceremony. In the past I have written about who I would have voted for if I had an award ballot and my thoughts after the nominees were announced. The voting results are here and also at the end of this post. As always there is no sign of Masterton Trophy voting results. Should anyone have access to them please leave me a message.
If I had an award ballot, the voting results would not have changed anything significant but i would have made some minor differences. I would have changed the Selke voting order as I gave Brad Marchand my third place vote. He was seldom mentioned on a ballot as voters tend to select only centermen for this award, which is a more recent development since Bob Gainey, the man for whom this award was created, often played wing. Marchand finished 25th in voting tied with Blake Wheeler. My vote would have moved him up to 21st place. This would move him past Mikko Koivu, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Cogliano and James Neal. Machand played well enough to earn a spot on Team Canada in the World Cup, which the other players around his ranking in the voting did not. This is a flaw in the voting. I also picked Ryan O'Reilly with my fifth place vote and he was overlooked due to play on the wing. He finished 33rd in the voting. My vote would have put him in 29th spot and moved him past Carl Hagelin, Chris Kunitz, Ondrej Palat and Mats Zuccarello.
The New York Islanders have new majority owner. Charles Wang became a minority owner of the New York Islanders in 2000 and a majority owner in 2001. His run as Islanders owner was not very successful. The Isles struggled throughout much of his ownership. There was controversy with many of his moves such as the contracts given to Rick DiPietro and Alexei Yashin and the hiring and firing of GM Neil Smith and hiring of GM Garth Snow. In 2014 he sold out to Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky. The sale had the provision that Wang would remain majority owner for two years before 2016 when Malkin and Ledecky took over.
Scott Malkin owns Value Retail Plc. which is essentially a designer outlet store in many larger European cities. Jon Ledecky was Malkin's college roommate and owned US Office Products Inc. which owned Mail Boxes Etc. The company declared bankruptcy in 2001 but he sold out in 1998 making a significant profit. Since then he has been involved in venture capital and trying to purchase professional sports teams. He made several unsuccessful bids but had partnered with Ted Leonisis to buy the Washington Capitals and a minority share of the NBA Washington Wizards. He sold his shares to Leonisis in order to make bids on further teams that would compete with his Washington holdings.
I think the presence of Malkin and Ledecky may have kept Charles Wang from crazy decisions in the last couple of years. They may be more low key owners who do not interfere with management the way Wang did. If that is the case, things look up for the New York Islanders.
Yesterday the Toronto Maple Leafs traded to obtain Frederik Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks. It cost them the first round draft pick obtained in the Phil Kessel trade (30th overall) and their 2017 second round draft pick (that likely will be early in the round). Toronto then signed Andersen to a five year contract extension worth $25 million. Andersen is clearly the Toronto Maple Leafs new goalie.
Andersen posted a .919 saves percentage and a 2.30 GAA with the Anaheim Ducks last year. Those are solid numbers behind a solid defence. Let's compare those numbers to Toronto's goaltending last year.
James Reimer was the Leafs backup goalie. While a Leaf he posted a .918 saves percentage and a 2.49 GAA. He was traded to San Jose and played behind a better defence posting a .939 saves percentage and a 1.62 GAA. He only played eight games with San Jose, so there are sample size issues but he posted similar numbers to Andersen with Toronto and those numbers got better when he went to a better defensive team. Jonathan Bernier remains in Toronto as Andersen's backup. He struggled last year posting a .908 saves percentage and a 2.88 GAA but was posting better numbers than Andersen as recently as two years ago.
Marleau is a well-established NHL player with 1036 career points. He has appeared in three NHL All Star Games and won two gold medals with the Canadian Olympic Team. As such he is a candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame when he retires. I wouldn't induct him without further achievements in his career. He hasn't got any reasonable claim to being the best player in his position at any point in his NHL career. He will need better career numbers and some more successful NHL seasons.
The problem is his ability is in decline. While he once could score 86 points in a season last year he was limited to 48. His defence isn't what it once was. When he is on the ice, the opposition tends to have the puck more than his team.
Today I will continue my summer sabermetrics and hockey series by listing the 20 worst players in 2015/16 by adjusted +/- ratings. The idea behind adjusted +/- is that a baseline is determined for each team which is taken as the zero point for players on that team so that comparisons can be done from one team to the next. A few days ago I listed the top 20 players in 2015/16 and today I want to look at the bottom players. This is a group of players who struggled in the roles they played with their teams. When they were on the ice, the opponents were far more likely to score than their team.
Here are the worst 20 players in 2015/16 by adjusted +/- among players with 50 or more games played with one team:
With Pavel Datsyuk announcing that he is retiring from the NHL today in order to play in the KHL it is a natural time to assess the KHL relative to the NHL. Two of the 16 currently active Hall of Famers on my list in Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk play there. That is one eighth of the group. While it is nowhere near a majority it is a significant enough minority that it is worthy of notice. The league is expanding from Russia into several European countries and China. It cannot be ignored.
Are its players NHL quality? For the most part they are not. The majority of the KHL players could not play regularly in the NHL. Many of the better players in the KHL have played in the NHL at one point. If we look at last year's KHL All Star game, players such as Cam Barker, Milan Jurcina, Kaspars Daugavins, Nigel Dawes and Linus Omark are all examples of players with NHL experience. Many of these players could be role players or depth players if they came back to the NHL. They are largely interchangeable with the current players in those roles in the league.
Many Russian players (and increasingly Europeans from other countries) grow up in the KHL. They are well established key players on their teams. It would be a risk for them to try to come to the NHL. They would have less security in their position with their team. If they were to require time in the AHL they would take a significant pay cut. This is a barrier to players coming to the NHL. The best ones still will make their way to the NHL as Artemi Panarin or Evgeni Kuznetsov show us. However there are likely more NHL capable players who never come from the KHL.
A couple of days ago I listed the top 20 players in 2015/16 by adjusted +/-. At the top of the list was Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings. He has a +27.8 adjusted +/- which is one point above linemate Anze Kopitar.
Toffoli is a player who regularly does well in puck possession stats such as Corsi and +/-. This is a reason why he was considered a candidate to make the Canadian World Cup team despite having a career best 58 points, which he scored last season. Toffoli is a good two way player with the Kings.
The problem with using +/- is that it is a relatively rare event for a goal to be scored. That only happens a few times in a game. As a result statistical flukes can occur. One way to determine when these flukes are occurring is to look at PDO (the sum of a team's saves and shooting percentage when a given player is on the ice). By definition, the average PDO in the league must be 1000. A given player has very little ability to control this number in any significant way. When a player is well above 1000 he has been lucky and will thus have higher than expected +/- ratings (and points and other stats). When a player is well below 1000 likely he has been unlucky and his +/- and points will likely improve over time. Toffoli had a 1032 PDO last season. This was the highest among LA King players who played more than 20 games played. Thus Toffoli's top adjusted +/- rating is partly talent and partly luck.
The NHL hasn't made an official announcement yet but plenty of people are reporting that the NHL has decided to add one expansion team in 2017 in Las Vegas. This move is typical of the NHL. It is a high risk move that brings out a large immediate cash stream. Potential problems in the future can be overlooked as long as they bring money now.
Las Vegas is another team in the desert. Expansion to the American southwest hasn't done very well in Phoenix, Arizona. The Coyotes are one of the NHL's basketcase franchises that is barely surviving financially. They have been through one bankruptcy and haven't had a a playoff berth since 2012. There is a significant risk that Las Vegas will become a second team stuck in the desert with little support.
Las Vegas is an entertainment mecca. It is full of casinos and big name shows. Is there room for NHL hockey or will it get lost on the strip? The casinos will likely "comp" hockey tickets to their patrons. If people do not bother to go to these games with their free tickets the Las Vegas hockey team could easily be playing to an empty house.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???