The Phoenix Coyotes situation has dragged on way too long. They are all but guaranteed to spend the upcoming season competing for last place in the league as a result. I think the NHL should have either allowed the move to Hamilton long ago or contracted the team. It is awful to see the mess they created that seems to be getting continually worse.
One part of the mess was coaching. Wayne Gretzky was the Phoenix Coyote coach. He was also a minority owner of the team. He owned about 1.4% of the team when it went in to bankruptcy. This makes him insignificant in the ownership scheme of the team, but important in terms of lending his name to the franchise as a goodwill ambassador. For this role and his coaching job he was paid $8 million a year. That made him the highest paid coach in the NHL - if you ignore his other roles with the team (which make up some of his salary).
With the regular season starting soon, it is time to begin posting my predictions for this season. As I did last year I will post the predicted finish in each division with a little blurb about why I think each team should finish where they are ranked and then I will post a ranked list of where I think the teams should finish in the conference. Of course when a significant injury, trade or other unforeseen event occurs, these predictions will likely begin to look a bit more incorrect. Nevertheless, it is fun to see how close to reality I managed to get before the season.
I will start with the Northwest Division.
We have an opportunity (or two possibly) for a fantasy hockey league that I have been involved with for over a decade. The current league website is here but as geocities is dying we are in the process of moving the website and have not exactly kept it up to date. We have a 30 team deep keeper salary capped league. For a dedicated hockey fan it is fun. The draft is coming up this weekend and in the struggle to get 30 people on the same page, there are always a straggler or two. If you might be able to take over a team in time for a weekend draft please contact me through my email or respond to this message with your contact info.
In this sabermetrics and hockey post, I am looking at adjusting Corsi Numbers for both team effects and zone starts as I described here. This will be a pretty good indicator of puck possession of individual players that has zone starts and team effects accounted for. These should be players who drove puck possession when they were on the ice. These should be some of the more successful players in the roles that they played last season.
Here are the top 20 Corsi Numbers adjusted for zone starts and team effects from 2008/09:
The Boston Bruins were unable to sign restricted free agent Phil Kessel because they had left no salary cap room for the young star. The Bruins have traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for first round draft picks in 2010 and 2011 and a 2010 second round pick. This is most likely a good trade for the Maple Leafs. They get a proven young star and give up nothing immediately.
Boston is a good team now. They finished first in the East Conference last season. Their best window to win the Stanley Cup is right now. They need to strike now while Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard are in their primes. They won’t have this window open when these draft picks become NHL players (if they ever do).
The NHL pre-season schedule is packed with games. 107 pre-season games are played over 18 days. That is an average of almost six games per night with each team playing an average of more than seven times. Is this really necessary? Players come to training camp in good shape. In the salary capped era, the vast majority of team rosters are set by the contract structure of their players. Most teams have at most one to two positions that may be available to be won in training camp. The majority of competition in training camp and pre-season games is to win roster spots in the AHL and not the NHL. The NHL season is enough of a marathon without tacking on an increasing number of pre-season games. These are games that exist for the most part to make the NHL money. Season ticket holding fans are forced to buy tickets to these games. Many of these games are played in neutral sites that have no other access to NHL hockey, so the game will remain a hot ticket despite the fact it is an exhibition game.
I have written a few sabermetrics and hockey about combining Corsi Number and zone starts. I listed the top 20 and worst 20 players by this metric. The main remaining flaw is that team effects are not taken into account. A player will get a good rating merely by playing on a good team and will get a poor rating by playing on a bad team. That effect is the next one to remove. This can be done by taking team Corsi Numbers which are also adjusted for zone starts and doing a team adjustment similar to the one Klein and Reif discuss in the Hockey Compendium. It is necessary to use zone start adjusted numbers consistently throughout the calculation to avoid double counting (or missing out) on zone start effects.
Every year, one or two promising restricted free agents have not signed new contracts when training camp opens up. This is a very poor method to run a hockey team. These young players are the future of the franchise and potential future stars who are being alienated because they have very little leverage in contract negotiations. Last year, the Los Angeles Kings did this with Patrick O’Sullivan. It is a logical consequence of the move that O’Sullivan has since been traded to the Edmonton Oilers (where he is a very promising young player) and all they have to show for it is Justin Williams, who struggled through injuries last year scoring only 14 points (O’Sullivan is younger and scored 44 points). The ill-will created by the tough contract negotiation usually ends badly and forces a trade down the line or else the player leaves as a restricted free agent as soon as he can.
In my look at sabermetrics and hockey, I am looking at the problem of combining zone starts and Corsi Number. Although a method has been proposed by objective NHL, I have made my own which I think better solves the problem.
Raw Corsi Numbers are used as a metric to rank puck possession. Because teams are more likely to allow shots if they are in the defensive zone or take shots if they are in the offensive zone, individual player’s Corsi Numbers are adjusted by 0.8 * (defensive zone starts - offensive zone starts), as it has been shown that an extra zone start on average yields 0.8 shots directed at the goal.
When the San Jose Sharks lost in the first round of the 2009 playoffs many of their fans called for wholesale changes. The team had done increasingly better in the regular season for the last few years but had no significant playoff success. They won the 2009 President’s Trophy and were expected to do better than a first round playoff loss.
The urge was to trade away key players. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were among the candidates to be shipped out of town. That would have been a bad idea for the Sharks. They were not going to get better by subtracting parts. They were highly unlikely to add better pieces in their place if they were trading away their best players.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???