Probably the most important piece of news that was buried in the free agent signings yesterday was the official announcement that Glen Sather is stepping down as New York Ranger general manager. He will remain president of the organization. He had been the Ranger GM since 2000. Before that he had been the Edmonton Oiler GM for twenty years winning five Stanley Cups. At age 71 it is time for Sather to slow down.
Taking over as general manager is Jeff Gorton. He has been with the Rangers organization since 2007 and has been Sather's chosen successor for years. Gorton is ready for this chance and has been well schooled under Sather. It will likely be a seamless transition. Matt Hunwick signed with the Rangers yesterday. It seems like business as usual.
I am sure that Sather and Gorton knew well in advance that this transition would occur and everything is running according to plan. The transition was buried in the free agent frenzy in part due to modesty. There was no need to make the Rangers transition a big story. Glen Sather didn't need a big send off. Jeff Gorton didn't need big media scrutiny. It is business as usual in New York - at least that is how they want to run things.
With evening upon us we are well into the 2015 free agent frenzy. Yesterday I posted a 2015 All UFA Team. This is the best team that I could make with pending unrestricted free agents. Many of them have already found a new home and a big payday. My question is how good a team could you build if you were to buy all the best free agents available. To answer that let's look at last year's All UFA Team.
Last year's team wasn't too bad. One player in Daniel Alfredsson retired instead of playing the season, but the remainder all played NHL roles. The 2014 wasn't too bad. They had two legitimate goalies in Jonas Hiller and Ryan Miller. Anton Stralman probably turned in the top performance on their defence. Radim Vrbata played well enough to appear in the All Star Game. Others including Jarome Iginla, Mike Ribeiro, Thomas Vanek and Paul Stastny all showed some scoring ability.
Here are the 2014 All UFA players with their salary and statistics:
Free agency begins tomorrow. We should see a frenzy of questionable contracts signed within a few hours of its start. I like to post an All UFA Team on the eve of free agency in order to gage how good that team would be. Could you build a solid team from nothing just by signing free agents? Here is last year's team. In the next day or two, I want to attempt to quantify how good they would have been.
Here is this year's All UFA Team. Should there be any last minute signings before tomorrow, I will update the team.
The 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame class has just been announced. Going in are first time eligible Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov and Chris Pronger. They are all clear Hall of Famers. In fact Sergei Fedorov and Chris Pronger are players that I wrote about when I first considered them Hall of Famers. I wasn't blogging yet when Nicklas Lidstrom reached that threshold. I also wrote posts for the retirements of Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov and Chris Pronger. Of course the Chris Pronger retirement is a controversy as it hasn't officially happened yet. We all know that he will never attempt to play another NHL game but for salary cap reasons he remains active on paper and was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for his salary cap hit over the weekend. He works for the NHL and yet somehow they still consider him an active player.
Phil Housley joins this group. He has been long overlooked. His retirement in 2003 predated my blogging but I have long seen him as a Hall of Famer. Housley is the fourth highest scoring defenceman of all time with 1232. The next highest scoring eligible defenceman who is not in the Hall is Gary Suter who is almost 400 points behind Housley. Not including Housley in the Hall made a mockery of point totals for defencemen.
The NHL draft has come and gone. If this is an "average" draft three of the players selected will go on to have Hall of Fame careers. Most likely one of them was not a first round selection. It is hard to make any definitive statements about which team had the best group of draft selections. That will become clear over the next few years but right now we have to wait to see how a bunch of boys that we have often never seen play a single hockey game grow up. The more immediate impact that is easier to comment upon are the trades. I will look at the more interesting trades - those that involve NHL players and not the ones that involve trading a couple of draft picks so a team can move up in the draft.
Ottawa trades Robin Lehner and David Legwand to the Buffalo for a first round pick (Colin White). The Sabres are setting an early price for a goalie. Buffalo has to take on a salary of a player in Legwand who is slowing down and is coming off a 27 point year and give up a first round pick to get Robin Lehner. Lehner better be the Sabres number one goalie into the future. Other goalies were available and they paid a big price to bring him into the fold.
I have had a busy few days and am only now starting to comment on the recent happenings in the NHL. Today I want to talk about Wednesday's NHL awards. Here are the voting results and here are the people I would have voted for if I had a ballot.
One ballot rarely changes anything of significance, but it is always fun to see what the effect of my ballot would have been. My fourth and fifth picks for the Selke Trophy in Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom were not serious players in the actual voting. They had not placed among the top 20 vote getters. I think the tough defensive role they played with more defensive zone starts than anyone in the league made them good candidates. My second place Jack Adams Trophy vote for Bruce Boudreau would have moved him from 13th to 11th in the voting passing Gerard Gallant and Mike Yeo. I think he should be much higher than that. My Lady Byng voting would have shuffled a couple people further down in the voting. I picked Patrick Kane to win this award. He finished tenth in the voting. With my vote he would have passed Ryan O'Reilly into ninth. My fourth place vote went to Logan Couture. He finished eighth in the voting. My vote would have moved him into seventh passing Matt Moulson. I was the only person to give Cory Schneider a Vezina vote with my third place selection. I am surprised he didn't show up on any ballots. On the all star teams, my third place vote at centre for Tyler Seguin would have pulled him into a fourth place tie with Steve Stamkos - although Stamkos has first place votes that Seguin doesn't so he would stay ahead. Thus I wouldn't have changed anything significant - like a finalist - but I could have shuffled a few people further back in the award voting results.
Here were my comments when I saw who had been announced as finalists. Below will be my comments on the actual winners.
A couple days ago I began my summer sabermetrics and hockey series. I posted the top 20 players in 2014/15 by adjusted +/-. Two of the more curious players on the list are Daniel Winnik and Stephane Robidas of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Winnik is fifth place with a +23.4 rating. Robidas is twentieth with a +16.4 rating. While both have shown some puck possession skills in the past, these rankings seem too high.
Winnik was traded to Pittsburgh for Zach Sill, a 2015 second round draft pick and a 2016 second round draft pick. Nevertheless he played enough games in Toronto to have his +/- adjusted as a Leaf for those Leaf games. Robidas had shoulder surgery and missed the last month of the season. Both Winnik and Robidas missed the end of the season in Toronto.
The Toronto Maple Leaf season can be broken into two parts. Before Randy Carlyle was fired and after. Before the Leafs had a 21-19 record with three regulation tie points. They were a playoff team. After with Peter Horachek coaching they were an awful 9-33 with five regulation tie points. The assumption when adjusting +/- is that a player can be compared to the average of the team during the season. This average is assumed to be a constant over the season. In the case of the Leafs it isn't a constant. It got worse as the season progressed. If a player missed a significant portion of the late season then they missed a portion of the bad that would have hurt their +/-. Thus the +/- adjustment for the games that Winnik and Robidas played is better than the full season adjustment that was actually used.
Yesterday, I began my summer sabermetrics and hockey series. I listed the top 20 players in 2014/15 by adjusted +/-. At the top of the list is Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens who posted a +31.6 rating. This is a two point lead above Nikita Kucherov in second place. The two of them were tied in +/- during the NHL season. Pacioretty does better after adjustment because Montreal was a weaker +/- team than Tampa Bay.
Pacioretty is a good player. He was the top scorer on the Montreal Canadiens. He was a member of the US Olympic hockey team in the Sochi Olympics. He has the best adjusted +/- in the league, does that make him the best puck possession player in the league?
I would argue that it doesn't come close. One problem with +/- is that it is strongly affected by saves and shooting percentages while a player is on the ice. This can be measured using a stat called PDO. PDO is the sum of saves percentage and shooting percentage. By definition the average in the NHL will be exactly 1 (or 1000 defending upon how you write things). Usually if a player has a high PDO, it is a sign that he has been lucky and he will not be able to repeat his current numbers. If a player has a poor PDO, they have likely been unlucky and things will soon get better. This is because shooting and saves percentages are transient things. No one player can control the shooting and saves percentages for all the players that are on the ice with them. There are a few contradictory examples - for example a checking player who is usually played against another team's stars will usually have a low PDO. However in most cases, including that of Pacioretty, it is usually a good measure of luck.
Today I begin my summer sabermetrics and hockey series. I am not sure that this series will be as significant as in other years due to Paul's plans to reboot with Kukla's Korner 2.0 over the summer. I will start by looking at adjusted +/- treated as a counting stat. I find this more useful that adjusting +/- as a rate stat as that method selects forwards over defencemen almost exclusively.
+/- is a good way to measure puck possession when it is done in coordination with Corsi. There is a clearer relationship between goals in +/- than attempted shots in Corsi to winning hockey. The problems with +/- are that it has a smaller sample size and can be strongly affected by transient effects such as save and shooting percentages.
Here are the top 20 players in 2014/15 by adjusted +/- (among players who played 50 or more games with one team):
Chicago won the Stanley Cup. It was a 2-0 victory. Chicago wins the series 4-2. Duncan Keith wins the Conn Smythe deservedly. It is fitting that Keith scored the Stanley Cup winning goal. Patrick Kane scored the other goal. It was his first of the finals. That goal along with an assist on the Keith goal gave Kane a tie for the playoff scoring lead with Tyler Johnson. Corey Crawford, perhaps the weakest link on the team, puts up a shutout.
The worst part of a Stanley Cup victory us that Gary Bettman is on display to hand out the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy. I wish he could keep himself out of view and not ruin a good moment.
This is Chicago's third Stanley Cup in six years. That is impressive. It does NOT make them a dynasty. People are trying to water down the definition of dynasty because we haven't seen one in ages. At the very least, a dynasty must win the cup twice in a row - and I wouldn't argue that alone would make a dynasty.
Chicago probably is an elite team. I argued that they could be an elite team before the finals began. Their Stanley Cup goes a long way to showing that they are elite. I am not entirely certain they are elite. They probably are but there is still room that my mind can be changed. There has to be continuity. Chicago must be a good team next year - in as much as there is continuity in their roster.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???