Yesterday I wrote about the Detroit Red wing offence. Specifically, I wrote about how they have had the biggest dropoff in scoring in the NHL from last year to this one. I attribute the dropoff to three interrelated factors: injury, player losses due to the salary cap and a natural aging decline of the team. The comments show a lot of interest and in some cases denial of these factors, so I thought a quantitative study would help.
I looked at the goals created by individual Red Wing players so far this season and compared them to totals from last year (but pro-rated over the portion of the season that has been played so far).
One of the more surprising developments so far this season is the drop in the Detroit Red wings offensive production. In 2008/09 they were the highest scoring team in the NHL with 3.52 goals per game. One season later, they are the fourth lowest scoring team with 2.49 goals per game. They have dropped off by more than a goal per game. How can that big drop happen in only one season?
Last year’s Detroit Red Wings had three players scoring at near point per game pace, including Pavel Datsyuk who was well above it with 97 points in 81 games (the other two were Henrik Zetterberg and Marian Hossa. This season the only near point per game player is Zetterberg who has 32 points in 34 games. Zetterberg is currently out with a separated shoulder.
The top two scorers so far in December have been Henrik and Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. Henrik has 22 points in 13 games so far this month and Daniel has 20. Henrik has 50 points and is second in league scoring behind Joe Thornton. Injuries have limited Daniel to 21 games (where he has 27 points). Their play is a large part of the reason that Vancouver has a 23-16 record. The Canucks are sixth in wins in the NHL but the NHL’s crazy point system only places them seventh in the West Conference. The Sedins have been a big reason for the Canucks success. It looks like this may be the year where they make the jump from being very good players to being among the best in the game. It has been a long ride to get there. In almost a decade with the Canucks, neither had significantly exceeded a point per game before this year (Daniel had 84 points in 81 games in 2006/07).
When I listed the players I would select for the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team, I picked Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the third goalie on the team. This is a choice that is highly unlikely to be made by the powers that actually pick the Olympic Team. It appears quite likely that Marc-Andre Fleury will be the team’s number three goalie. In all likelihood, there is no consequence in either decision, as it is not too likely the number three goalie plays at all, but I would like to explain why I think Giguere is the better pick.
Yesterday I posted my my picks for the Canadian Olympic hockey team. Today, I will give my picks for the American team. This team will be announced during the winter classic game in Boston on January 1st.
This is not my prediction for who will be selected to the team. It is the selections I would make if I was given the chance to pick the team. I expect that at least a handful of these players will not be selected to the actual team.
With Olympic Teams starting to be named (and Canada scheduled for December 30th) here are the selections I would make for the Canadian Olympic Team. This is not a prediction of who will be selected. I know a few of my picks are not likely. I expect the actual Canadian team to have about 3/4 of these players and to have passed over some of the young players in favor of more experienced but slightly less talented veterans - and likely in hindsight this will result in questionable picks like the 2006 omission of Sidney Crosby. I expect it does not make a significant difference to the success or failure of the team.
I think the biggest criticisms of this team will be the lack of a dedicated shutdown forward. This is something I don’t think is necessary given the talented defensive forwards already selected (many with Selke nominations in their past). Picking a Patrick Sharp or a Mike Fisher is a mistake given the talent Canada has available. It results in a better player being omitted and doesn’t add much to shutdown situations that cannot be done with players already being selected.
With Martin Brodeur breaking the career record for shutouts last night with his 104th of his career, he is now the holder of the significant career records for goaltenders. I gave a top 10 list of goaltenders all time to place Brodeur in his appropriate place in history and today will rerun that list.
10. Ken Dryden Dryden was a top goaltender for a relatively short career. He was a five time goals saved leader with the Montreal Canadiens - although this was a team with such a good defence (and thus allowing such low shot quality - which is not taken into account by this method) that Denis Herron and Richard Sevigny could lead the league in goals saved after Dryden left. The controversey with Dryden, much like Brodeur, is that he played on a top team. How good would he have been on a weaker team? Dryden’s Habs were far more dominant than the Devils under Brodeur and due to his short career; he has less top level years than Brodeur.
One recurring trade rumor so far this season is that the New York Islanders will trade Martin Biron as soon as they have Rick DiPietro healthy. Along with Dwayne Roloson, the Islanders would have an extra goalie. The problem with that theory is that Martin Biron has not been playing well so far this season. In sixteen games played, Biron has a 2-12 record (with two regulation ties). No other goalie with a double digit number of games played has less than four wins. Biron has a .897 saves percentage and a 3.30 GAA. There are few if any teams that would consider it an upgrade in goaltending to add Biron to the fold.
This has been Martin Biron’s worst NHL season to date and it comes when he is on the trading block. Should no team want Biron, he would probably find himself relegated to the minors. It is unlikely that the Islanders would carry three goaltenders and he is the clear odd man out. Biron is 32 and will be 33 before next season. There isn’t much market for a goalie who has begun aging who has just played himself out of the NHL. Should the Islanders be unable to move him, which would be hard given his level of play so far this year, his NHL career might soon be over.
In November I picked Chris Pronger as the best defenceman so far this year. Since then his Philadelphia Flyers team have run into problems (they are 14th in the East Conference). The Flyers have struggled lately and Pronger has not avoided those struggles.
My current pick as top defenceman in the NHL so far is Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. Green is clearly the best offensive defenceman in hockey. He leads the NHL’s defencemen with 33 points. His puckmoving ability is instrumental to the Capitals offence. The criticism has been his defence, which is clearly improving. Green is playing in more and more tough defensive situations with the Capitals. Green’s defence was good enough to make him a Norris frontrunner last year and it is better now.
Yesterday I wrote a post complaining about the NHL’s standings system that gets distorted by offering a point for losing games - if you lose in overtime or a shootout. This system appears designed by the NHL to create a false parity in the standings. It is set up to prevent good teams from getting too far ahead in the standings so that weaker teams appear to be in the race for as long as possible. Some people support this idea such as Paul in Miami Beach who writes IMO, it makes the playoff race MORE exciting because it keeps things closer in the standings. more teams have a chance to make the playoffs later in the season - which was the goal, wasn’t it? but it isn’t good for the quality of hockey.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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