I like to write a career perspective when future Hall of Famers retire. Today Joe Sakic is expected to announce his retirement in a press conference in Denver. This retirement is one that I feel close to because I grew up near Joe Sakic and first met him (though I doubt he would remember) when I was a four or five year old child and Sakic was a slightly older child starring in Burnaby Minor Hockey.
Joe Sakic was born on July 7, 1969 in Burnaby, British Columbia. He grew up playing in the Burnaby Minor Hockey Program. He was first noticed by scouts in 1985/86 playing for the Burnaby Selects of the BC Amateur Hockey Association when he scored 156 points in 80 games. This was good enough to get him a three game tryout with the Lethbridge Broncos of the WHL. Lethbridge moved to Swift Current the next season and this is where Sakic became a junior star. In his first full junior season, Sakic scored 133 points in 72 games and was named to the WHL East Second Team All Star, WHL East Rookie of the Year and WHL East Player of the Year. This was good enough to get him selected by the Quebec Nordiques 15th overall in the 1987 entry draft.
In this summer’s look at sabermetrics and hockey I have began by looking at +/- ratings and the results of a couple standard methods of their adjustment. +/- ratings are sometimes considered a problematic starting point. One problem is “signal to noise” there may be slightly over 100 goals scored in even strength for a given player in a given season. Their +/- is the difference between the goals for and the goals against. If there are a few fluke events they can carry the majority of the signal (i.e. if a player is on for a few fluke goals those goals can greatly influence their +/-). One way to try to get around this is to increase the number of events we are looking at. Buffalo Sabres goaltender coach Jim Corsi has pioneered another metric. Why not keep track of all even strength shots directed at the net both for and against a team when a player is on the ice. This includes goals scored, shots on goal, blocked shots and missed shots. The NHL keeps enough data in its games online that this can be calculated for each game. The main benefit of this method is that it gives roughly sixteen times the number of events for a player that standard +/- does. This is intended to increase the signal to noise (in experimental physics any counting number has an experimental error that scales with its square root so in principle the Corsi Number could be four times better).
I have been looking at +/- ratings and their adjustments in some of my recent posts. I have written about adjusted +/- as a counting stat and given the top 20 and worst 20 players from last season by this method. I am comparing it to the rate stat adjustment that Gabe Desjardins of Behind the Net does. I have listed the top 20 players by this method. Here are the worst 20 players last season by this method of +/- adjustment (with a minimum of 50 games played).
The Chicago Blackhawks appear to have made a very big procedural mistake. Six of their players, Cam Barker, Troy Brouwer, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Aaron Johnson and Kris Versteeg (many reports have called this group the Chicago Five - it is unclear if that means one of these six is not involved), may have not received qualifying offers correctly. If this is the case, these players would become unrestricted free agents. Apparently, these players had their qualifying offers mailed to them on June 29th. The deadline for players to receive their qualifying offers is 4PM ET on June 29th (early stories incorrectly listed July 1st as a deadline). Usually, qualifying offers are sent by courier or by fax to the player’s agent, but this was not done in these cases.
I have written about the top 20 and worst 20 adjusted +/- ratings when adjusted as a counting stat from last season. This is not the only way to adjust +/- ratings. Gabe Desjardins of behind the net calculates them in a different manner. He calculates the */- per minute when a player is on the ice and his team’s +/- per minute for the team when a player is off the ice and compares them to make an adjustment. This uses +/- as a rate statistic. As a result, his method is better at finding players who do not play as many games or as much playing time than the previous method.
Here are last year’s top 20 adjusted +/- ratings by this method (among players with 50 or more NHL games played):
One question I have tried to think about is how good a team would be if they could sign unrestricted free agents in order to completely fill their roster. This summer and last summer I made 23 man all star rosters of UFA players. Assuming one team signed all of those players in a given year, how good would they be? 22 of the 23 players on the 2008 team signed in the NHL (with Jaromir Jagr signing in the KHL). They had a total salary cap hit of a little over $101 million for the season. Given a $56.7 million NHL cap this team is clearly unfeasible as an NHL club.
In order to get a bit of a handle on how good this team might have been, we can look at their 2008/09 NHL numbers
A while back I posted the top 20 adjusted +/- ratings using a counting stat method developed in the Hockey Compendium by Jeff Z. Klein and Karl-Eric Reif.
Here are the worst 20 players last season according to their adjusted +/- ratings. This group is limited to players who played at least 50 games last season and played only for one team - that is necessary for the method to give good results.
Last year, I wrote that a team is poorly run if they go into the draft and free agent signing period without a clear coach and general manager. These are the key times when a team is built for next season (and beyond) and not having the people in charge that will run those teams when those decisions are made is a problem.
The Florida Panthers do not have a clear general manager for next season. After Jacques Martin left to coach in Montreal, they have had Randy Sexton as the acting GM, but it is expected that somebody else will be brought in long-term. That is a crazy way to run any organization. Whenever the new GM comes into place, it will be too late for him to make any major moves for next season. He will basically inherit a team and not be able to make significant changes to it for months. Should Florida decide they want Sexton as GM, they should make it official. Sexton has GM experience. He was the Ottawa Senators GM during some of the franchise’s darkest years when they were among the worst teams in the league. That doesn’t give him the most impressive resume, but it is better than some people who are hired as NHL GMs.
I like to make an All Star Team of players who will be unrestricted free agents just before free agency begins in order to get a feel for the strength of the free agent market. Here is last year’s team. The most successful player on it this past season was Marian Hossa, who made the second team All Star this year and is a free agent again. Mark Streit of the New York Islanders is one of the few other success stories. Most of the players on the list are in decline and signed for contracts that are worth more than they will produce. This group of players signed for almost two times the salary cap and it is not clear that they would have been a playoff team. The exercise shows that, despite what the media often says, you cannot build a winner through free agency.
Here is this year’s team:
I am comparing these players to my Hall of Fame standards by using the questions Bill James asks about potential baseball Hall of Famers. These are very good questions that clearly get to the heart of the matter of what makes a Hall of Famer.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???