Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Taylor Hall As A Left Wing All Star

The top scoring left winger in the 2013/14 NHL season did not get a single first place vote for the post season All Star Team.  Taylor Hall led all the left wingers in the league with 80 points.  Granted it was a close race.  Jamie Benn and Joe Pavelski had 79 points each and Patrick Sharp had 78.  Nevertheless, Hall was a distant fourth in the all star voting

I argue that a significant reason for this is +/- ratings.  Pavelski was +23, Benn +21, Sharp +13 and Hall -15.  Of course the main reason for that is team effects.  While the three other players all made the playoffs, Hall was on the Edmonton Oilers who finished in last place in the West Conference.  +/- is a poor proxy for defence but it was used as one by many of the voters. 

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Benning Makes His Mark

The Vancouver Canucks have been the most active team making trades at the NHL Entry Draft.  They sent Ryan Kesler and a 2015 third round draft pick to Anaheim for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and Anaheim's draft picks 24th and 85th overall in this year's draft.  They then traded the 85th pick to the New York Rangers for Derek Dorsett.  Next they traded Jason Garrison and Jeff Costello to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 50th pick in the draft.  Today they have traded that 50th overall pick to Los Angeles for Linden Vey.  When all is said and done, by far the best player moved is Ryan Kesler.  The best defenceman moved is Jason Garrison.  The Canucks have not picked up a core player.  They may hope that one may develop from the players acquired but there are no promises.

Vancouver was a top contending team that went to the Stanley Cup finals in 2011.  Many of their core players are beginning to age.  They had a lost season under John Tortorella where they missed playoffs.  In the past year they have given up both of their top flight goaltenders in Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo in trades without bringing back a core player in return.  Is this a team that should be rebuilding?  How effective is a deep rebuild in today's NHL?

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Duncan Keith As A Hart Trophy Candidate

When I look over the Hart Trophy voting (which can be seen here) I see some interesting things.  Sidney Crosby ran away with the award.  I do not know how he didn't win the award unanimously but nine of the 137 voters picked someone else.  Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Semyon Varlamov and Carey Price all received at least one first place vote.

The bggest confusion surrounding the Hart Trophy comes from a misapplication of its definition.  The Hart Trophy is given to the player most valuable to his team.  Some people interpret that as meaning the best player on a team that would otherwise be awful without him.  A hypothetical team made of one average NHL player and bunch of old ladies who cannot skate would have a clear Hart Trophy winner in that model.  The average NHL player would be the most valuable player to his team in that definition.

The best way to show the absurdity of this thinking is by analogy.  Imagine you have two boxes containing diamonds.  One box contains a $10 million diamond and several others worth $3 to $5 million.  The other box contains a $1 million diamond and some shards of glass and gravel.  Which diamond is the most valuable to its box?  It's clearly the $10 million diamond.  Its value is $10 million and that is more than any other diamond.  Do you really think the $1 million diamond is worth more?

When we look at the Hart Trophy voting we see Sindey Crosby far ahead of anyone.  The point I would most argue with is there is no defenceman who finished above Duncan Keith and Keith finished 15th in the voting mentioned on only nine ballots.

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Another Masterton Mistake

The problem with the Masterton Trophy is nobody knows exactly what it is for.  Bill Masterton died in an NHL game in 1968 so the NHL decided to have a trophy in his honor.  They decided that perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship was a good list of qualities to look for in an award recipient.  That hasn't held true in practice.  The easiest of those qualities to quantify is sportsmanship.  Gary Roberts and Ken Daneyko have won this award and both are among the 25 highest career penalty minute totals of all time.  The NHL definition for this award doesn't hold very well.  In practice, I think the best definition for this award is the player who overcomes the biggest hardship to make the biggest impact on his team in the season in question.  That definition hasn't fit with practice perfectly as there have been some strange choices in the past.  Ian Laperriere won the Masterton Trophy in a season in which he didn't play a single game.  It can be hard to make sense of this award.

This year Dominic Moore of the New York Rangers won the award.  While he was deserving of a nomination, he was not the deserving winner of the award.  Moore took an 18 month leave of absence from the NHL to be with his wife who suffered from and eventually died from cancer.  He then made his return to the New York Rangers this season.  This was an emotional roller coaster for him.  The problem is other players had to endure emotional as well as physical roller coasters.  Those players deserved the Masterton Trophy.  My choice is Manny Malhotra of the Carolina Hurricanes.

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NHL Awards Announced

The NHL Awards were yesterday.   I have posted the picks I would have made if I had an award ballot and my opinions about what we learned after the nominees were announced.  The first thing I see is that if I had an award ballot of my own, I would have made little change to any of the results.  I would have moved Duncan Keith from 15th to 14th in the Hart Trophy standings bringing him up past Carey Price, but nothing that anyone would likely have noticed.

Here are my thoughts on the award winners for the significant awards:

Calder Trophy - Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche.  A deserving winner.  He was the best rookie in the league and is likely to be the best player from this season's crop of rookies for years to come.

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Hockey Hall Of Fame Inductions

Today the 2014 class for the Hockey Hall of Fame was announced.  Four players in Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek and Mike Modano were inducted.  This is the maximum number of players that can be inducted in any given year.  There are several more players who are deserving of Hall of Fame induction and will have to wait until next year or beyond.  I predicted that Mark Recchi would join Forsberg, Hasek and Modano in a group of first year inductees.  Recchi did not get called this year - though he likely will soon.  Rob Blake takes his place.  I cannot argue with any of these player choices.  They along with several others belong in the Hall of Fame.

Referee Bill McCreary was also inducted today.  While it is hard to see referees on the same level as the best players in hockey history, McCreary belongs in the Hall if referees are inducted.  I think it might be more meaningful to induct referees on the level that media inductees are selected and not make them full-fledged inductees.

Pat Burns was the final inductee as a builder.  I take the unpopular position that he shouldn't have been inducted.

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Alex Ovechkin Has A Bad Adjusted +/-

A couple days ago I posted the worst 20 players in the 2013/14 season by adjusted +/-.  One of the most talented players in the NHL was second worst.  Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals posted a -30.8 adjusted +/-.  Only Alex Edler of Vancouver was worse.  What does it mean when one of the best players in the NHL (the reigning MVP) is among the worst players in these puck pssession numbers?

On the simplest level it means that when Alexander Ovechkin was on the ice at even strength, Washington's opponents tended to score.  This is a bad situation and a big part of the reason Washington missed the playoffs.  It is very hard to win when your number one line is losing its match-up. 

This doesn't make Ovechkin a useless player to Washington.  He was dominant on the power play with 39 power play points.  This was second in the league behind teammate Nicklas Backstrom.  Power play situations are not recorded in stats like this and clearly have significant value.  The problem was  Ovechkin played at even strength the same way he played on the power play.  Namely he didn't worry about defence.

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Alex Edler Has The Worst Adjusted +/-

Yesterday I posted the worst 20 players in the 2013/14 season by adjusted +/-.  Leading this list was Alexander Edler of the Vancouver Canucks.  He posted a -35.4 rating.  This was further from the zero point than Matt Niskanen who led the league with +30.8.  That is a remarkable and rare achievement.  Usually struggling players who have poor puck possession do not get enough ice time to lead the league by as big a margin as successful players who will get lost of ice time.

Edler has been a solid member of the Vancouver Canuck defence since he arrived in 2007.  He made the NHL All Star Game in 2012.  While that is quite an achievement, he was a weaker choice for the All Star team. 

Things really fell apart in 2013/14.  Edler was limited to 22 points.  This was his lowest total since his rookie year.  He struggled defensively.  He seemed lost at times.  I think he was significantly affected by a knee injury that he never fully recovered from.  However this season is not representative of what should be expected from Edler.  His 938 PDO was the worst in the NHL.  He was very unlucky throughout the season.

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Worst 20 Players By Adjusted +/-

In my summer look at sabermetrics and hockey, I began by looking at the top 20 players in 2013/14 by adjusted +/-.  Today I am looking at the flip side, the worst 20 players.  These are players who had puck possession issues in the 2013/14 season.  When they were on the ice at even strength, the opposing team was more likely to score than their own.  There are uncertainties in the exact rankings because of the limited number of events that go into them and that is why people have turned to Corsi to better show these effects.  Nevertheless, it is clear that players on this list did not succeed in their roles in the 2013/14 season.

Here are the worst 20 players by adjusted +/- in the 2013/14 season:

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Ondrej Palat Has A Top Adjusted +/-

A few days ago, I posted the top 20 players in 2013/14 by adjusted +/-.  I then took a look a Matt Niskanen of the Pittsburgh Penguins who was the league leader.  My general conclusion is that he is a solid player who was lucky to have a career year and since he is an unrestricted free agent this summer will likely be overpaid as a result.  This is quite common when using adjusted +/- to measure puck possession.  It is strongly influenced by the small sample size of goals scored.  Players who happen to have high team shooting percentages or saves percentages while they are on the ice tend to be overrated by this method.  That is the reason people tend to Corsi based rankings.

Today i want to look at another case.  The second place finisher in adjusted +/- last year was rookie Ondrej Palat of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  He was the second highest rookie scorer with 59 points and posted a +27.0 adjusted +/-.  It was a good rookie season for a 23 year old who had not been a high draft pick and was not expected to be a serious Calder Trophy candidate.  Was it a career year?

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About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com

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