I like to pick the NHL award leaders as soon as there is a front-runner each season. It is valuable to see when the eventual award winner first emerges as the front-runner. It is normal that many of the early leaders will fade into the season, but some may not. I have been a bit busy in the early few weeks of the season and have not posted the leaders that have emerged for the various awards, so here is one post with my picks.
Calder Trophy: Tomas Hertl San Jose Sharks - Hertl is a 2012 first round draft pick who is among the early season top scorers. A big part of that was his four goal game against the New York Rangers. He hasn't had a multiple point game since, which makes it possible that game was an anomaly, but he remains one of the top scorers this season and as such is the top rookie.
Norris Trophy: PK Subban Montreal Canadiens - The reigning Norris Trophy leader is off to a good start. He is the top scoring defenceman so far this year. His defensive responsibility and success is growing over the last two years. If he keeps this up, he looks like a Hall of Famer in the making
I like to write career retrospectives when players that I think will make the Hockey Hall of Fame retire. In today`s case, Chris Pronger isn`t actually officially retired but he is almost certain to never play another game in his career. His general manager Paul Holmgren is on record saying that Pronger is very unlikely to ever play again. Today I am deciding to treat him as retired.
Pronger is on the longterm injured reserve and is not trying to make a comeback to play again. Pronger is signed until 2017 and his contract counts toward his team`s salary cap regardless of if he plays again, unless he stays on the LTIR. Pronger hasn`t played a game since 2011. If he doesn`t play again, he will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2015. He will likely not retire officially until 2017 when his contract ends. Thus he could make the Hall of Fame, while still an active player on paper.
The NHL salary cap dropped this season to $64.3 million. This number was negotiated in the last CBA negotiations and has no link to NHL revenues. Many teams would happily exceed this number and nine have so far this year. They are the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a broad cross-section of NHL teams that includes three who missed the playoffs last season. All of these teams are using the long-term injury exemptions to exceed the salary cap.
The Boston Bruins have Marc Savard and Carl Soderberg on the long-term injured list. Savard has been there since 2011. He is not expected to ever play another game but the Bruins intend to keep him on their roster and on the injured list until his contract expires in 2017. This gets the Bruins out of his salary cap hit in the long-term contract he signed. Savard is no longer making an attempt to return to the NHL. He is effectively retired but the Bruins will keep him on their roster for years into the future.
Carolina is exceeding the salary cap due to Tuomo Ruutu and Joni Pitkanen on the long-term injured list. They used their increased cap space to sign Radek Dvorak and recall Ryan Murphy.
This is my final prediction post for the 2013/14 regular season. I have posted an order of finish for the West Conference and Metropolitan Division and Atlantic Division blurbs. Here is my order of finish for the East Conference:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Boston Bruins
3. Detroit Red Wings
4. New York Rangers
5. Ottawa Senators
6. New Jersey Devils
7. Montreal Canadiens
8. Washington Capitals
The season has just begun but it is too early to find any meaningful trends this season. I am completing my predictions by looking at the Atlantic Division. This misnamed division is one of the newly aligned divisions this year. It is odd that Detroit is in the Atlantic Division while New York teams are not. Which city is closer to the Atlantic?
1. Boston Bruins - Fresh off a Stanley Cup final berth, this is one of the better teams in the NHL. Patrice Bergeron leads their forwards and may be the best two-way forward in the game. David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic provide some depth with Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla joining the group. Zdeno Chara may be the best defenceman in the game and he leads a group including Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton. Tuukka Rask is a good starting goalie.
The name of this division is silly. It is probably the worst named division I have ever heard of in any sport. Nevertheless the NHL has given us a Metropolitan Division. The rest of the NHL names are geographic. I guess they think the Metropolitan area ranges from Ohio to New York to North Carolina. That's not any geography I have ever heard of.
I am aware that my predictions come a bit after the start of the season, but it is too early to identify any meaningful trends that will change my predictions at all.
Here are my predictions for the Metropolitan Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins - The most talented club in the division is led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang and Paul Martin. Their weakness is goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury has fallen on hard times, but he has been a good enough goalie to have success behind a talented team. Tomas Vokoun is aging and suffering from blood clots, but he could be the solution to any goaltending problems when he becomes ready.
1. Los Angeles Kings
2. Chicago Blackhawks
3. Vancouver Canucks
4. San Jose Sharks
5. St Louis Blues
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. Minnesota Wild
8. Pheonix Coyotes
I am continuing my pre-season predictions today. Yesterday I posted my predictions for the Pacific Division and today I move on to the Central Division. The new alignment makes my predictions a little uncertain. I don't expect to have my predictions completed for the East Conference until a few games have been played and those games may affect my predictions. I don't care much about a single game result. It will be long term trends that become clear (for example a key longterm injury) that would affect my predictions.
Here are my Central Division picks:
1. Chicago Blackhawks - They are the defending Stanley Cup champions and were clearly the best team in the NHL last year. There will likely be a Stanley Cup hangover but they have a lot of talent. It will be hard to beat the team of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. If there is a weakness it is in goal where Corey Crawford has never proven himself to be a top flight NHL goalie.
2. St Louis Blues - Ken Hitchcock is a very good coach and will get the most out of this team. Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk lead a very good defence but I am not so sold on their forwards. Chris Stewart was their only forward who exceeded 28 points. In goal Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have looked good at times but have been largely inconsistent. This isn't a top flight team but they will likely exceed their talent levels.
With the regular season coming up, I am going to begin making my predictions for the 2013/14 season. We have a new alignment which will make things a little bit interesting and harder to predict than usual. Nevertheless I plan to try to make my pre-season predictions starting in the Pacific Division.
1. Los Angeles Kings - The 2012 Stanley Cup champions have recovered from their Stanley Cup hangover and have a talented team that led the NHL in puck possession last year. Jonathan Quick is one of the top goalies in the game. Drew Doughty is one of the top defencemen in the game. Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams lead a solid deep group of forwards. This is one of the best teams in the NHL.
2. Vancouver Canucks - The Canucks window to win the Stanley Cup is beginning to close. In a perfect world Roberto Luongo and the Sedin brothers can lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup but since they are all in their 30s their best days are likely gone. If Ryan Kesler can remain healthy it will really help. On defence, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa lead a group which is solid but is not the Canucks biggest strength.
3. San Jose Sharks - This is another team that is probably on its way down without having won a cup. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are no longer young men. Logan Couture may be ready to take over the scoring lead, but he isn't the player they were in their primes. Dan Boyle remains the top defenceman and he too is getting old. Antti Niemi was a surprise Vezina Trophy nominee last year, but few consider him a truly top goaltender.
I have been writing several posts about sabermetrics and hockey over the off-season. I have been looking at Corsi ratings. These are the difference between attempted shots by a team and their opponents when a player is on the ice in even strength situations. This number is then adjusted for the team which the player plays on and the situation in which he plays. The situation a player plays in is measured using zone starts. This is the number of times a player is on the ice for a faceoff in a given zone. Each excess zone start is worth 0.8 points of Corsi. This is used to rank a player's puck possession ability. The adjustments attempt to make this an individual ranking that ranks an individual player's puck possession.
Here are the worst twenty players in the 2013 by team and zone adjusted Corsi. These are players who usually have the puck under their opposition's control while they are on the ice. This is not a strong group of players.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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