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The Puck Stops Here

AHL Playoffs: Finals

The AHL playoffs concluded last night.  Here are my summaries of the first, second and third rounds.  This is the summary of the finals.

Texas Stars defeat St John's IceCaps four games to one.  Texas is the Dallas Stars affiliate and St John's belongs to the Winnipeg Jets.  There was some drama in this series as the final three games were all overtime wins by Texas.  The Texas offence was led by Travis Morin, Mike Hedden and Branden Ranford, Derek Meech led their defence and Cristopher Nilstorp was their goalie.  St John's had Andrew Gordon and Will O'Neill leading their offence, Zach Redmond was their top defenceman and Michael Hutchinson had a strong performance in their goal.

Travis Morin was the playoff top scorer and was named playoff MVP.  He was also the top scorer and MVP in the regular season.  That makes a very successful year for him.

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Matt Niskanen Has The Best Adjusted +/-

I posted the top 20 players in 2013/14 by adjusted +/- and Matt Niskanen of the Pittsburgh Penguins leads the bunch.  Niskanen is an interesting player.  At the beginning of the 2013/14 season, I would have told you he was a solid but unspectacular defenceman.  He hadn't exceeded 21 points in a season in the last four years.  He was a solid part of a depth defensive pairing.  The Pittsburgh Penguins certainly didn't expect him to become their defensive leader.

In 2013/14 he had the best year of his career.  He scored 46 points and was a +33.  He led the Penguins defence in ice time over the season.  Now that he is an unrestricted free agent, the question is what should we expect into the future?   Was this a fluke year or is it repeatable?

One big hint is his 1031 PDO.  This places Niskanen in the top 30 in the NHL.  Since a PDO largely measures luck (it is shooting percentage plus saves percentage when a player in on the ice), a high value indicates that a player was lucky to do as well as he did and that luck likely won't last.  Usually adjusted +/- leaders have league leading PDO values - which is one reason that Corsi is more valuable to rate puck possession.

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Top 20 Players By Adjusted +/-

Today I will begin my summertime series on sabermetrics and hockey.  I will begin by looking at adjusted +/- ratings.  This is a rough method to try to gage puck possession relative to one's teammates.  It is not as exact as Corsi (which I will discuss later) to gage puck possession because it has a far smaller sample size.  It can be significantly affected by shooting percentages and saves percentages when a player is on the ice.  It is not a measure of the same thing as Corsi but it does give a good measure of players who succeeded in the role that they played with their team.

Here are the top 20 players last season by adjusted +/- rating:

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Game Five

The Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanley Cup.  Since it is their second cup in three years some people have already begun suggesting this Kings team is a dynasty.  It shows how much we have accepted the fact that there are no elite teams.  A team wins two cups - not in back to back years - both times without having a good enough regular season for home ice advantage in the first round and they are a dynasty.  Los Angeles fans are happy.  Most of the rest of the NHL's fans probably haven't noticed yet.

Justin Williams wins the Conn Smythe Trophy.  I would have picked Anze Kopitar.  It will be interesting what this does for Williams's profile.  He is usually seen as a more supporting player on the Kings and not one of their biggest stars.  He has had very good puck possession numbers over the last few years.  He is sometimes seen as an example that Corsi doesn`t work.  How can a player like Williams have such a high Corsi?  Now that he is playoff MVP, there will have to be some other whipping boy for that failing argument.

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Hockey Hall Of Fame Predictions

On June 23rd the new class of inductees will be announced for the Hockey Hall of Fame.  There are several candidates worthy of induction that have been overlooked in the past few years including Sergei Makorov, Eric Lindros, Rob Blake and others.  I think they will remain overlooked by the Hall.  There are four first time candidates who are worthy of induction and that is more likely how the Hall will chose to go.  First year candidates are Dominik Hasek, Peter Forsberg, Mike Modano and Mark Recchi and I think that more than likely be the Hall of Fame class of 2014.  If any of these players are overlooked Recchi is the most likely candidate.  I think the strong 2014 first time group means that longtime Hall of Fame candidates won't be inducted this year.

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Game Four

The season isn't over yet.  The New York Rangers won game four.  The Los Angeles Kings should have won this game.  It's fitting that they won a game they should have lost since they lost games one and two that they should have won.  It is probably going to end as they return to Los Angeles.  Winning on home ice is better for the fans anyway.

In my game three comments, I pointed out that the lack of elite teams in the NHL did not prevent a one-sided Stanley Cup final.  It is true that in a league where nobody is elite there is a better chance that a series is close.  I argue that isn't a good thing.  A close game isn't necessarily a good hockey game.  A close series isn't necessarily a good series.  When great teams play you get great series.  When no great teams exist you may get a close series but it isn't a great series.  Essentially what you can get instead is a long dramatic drawn out coin toss to decide the game.  Who wants that (aside from gamblers)?

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Pittsburgh’s Hiring Of GM Jim Rutherford

On Friday the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that Jim Rutherford would be their next general manager.  He takes over from recently fired Ray Shero.  Shero was a very good GM who was jettisoned because Pittsburgh lost in the playoffs.  The problem was Penguins ownership had no idea what to do next and that is clear from the Rutherford hiring. 

Jim Rutherford is a 65 year old who was the Hartford Whaler/ Carolina Hurricane GM from 1994 until earlier this year when he stepped aside to let Ron Francis take over.  At that point it was presumed he was retiring.  The highlight of his run as GM was winning the 2006 Stanley Cup.  That success was the exception rather than the rule under Rutherford.  In twenty years the team's record was 571 wins, 698 losses and 20 ties.  He had 167 regulation tie points over that time.  That record is well below .500.  A Rutherford team was usually a losing team.  They never were the worst team in the league and sometimes were above average but it is not a spectacular record.  Rutherford appears to be a competent NHL GM but well below the best in the game.  As he went into retirement it looked like there would be no desire for another team to give him a run.

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Game Three

The Los Angeles Kings won 3-0 today.  It was the first game where the Kings were the better team in the Stanley Cup finals.  We are now looking at a situation where it looks like we will have a short one-sided Stanley Cup final.

I know that I am a pariah for stating that there are no elite teams in the NHL this year and there haven't been any for many years.  This is by the NHL's design and it comes at a real cost to the hockey fan.  Hockey fans want to defend their game against such attacks whether they are true or false.  One common attack is that we don't want one-sided Stanley Cup finals where an elite team dominates a weaker team.  At least in the no elite team NHL there will be close playoff series.  This supposes that all we want from hockey games is for them to be long dramatic three hour coin tosses.  No team is better than the other.  Anyone can win.  It all comes down to which team is luckiest that day.  That isn't something I want.  I don't want 30 equal mediocre teams.  I want elite teams that will play elite games.  The fallacy that one elite team means that there cannot be any team to challenge them is easily shown to be false.  Through much of the 90's and early 2000s there were at least two elite teams in the NHL that would face one another in exciting well played Stanley Cup finals.  It is a shame we cannot have that anymore.  That doesn't mean we don't get one-sided Stanley Cup finals.  We have one now in 2014 without any elite teams.  The entire attack laid out here is a big logical fallacy.  The NHL is better with elite teams.

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Washington’s Hiring of GM Brian MacLellan

A couple weeks ago the Washington Capitals named Brian MacLellan as their new GM and I have not yet commented on that move, so i want to do so today.  MacLellan takes over from the former Caps GM in George McPhee.  MacLellan has been working in the Washington Capitals organization for fourteen years.  He joined the team in 2000 as a pro scout and eventually took over their scouting staff and became their assistant GM.  He isn't a new start for the Capitals.  They fired their GM and replaced him with the number two guy.

Worse the Caps picked MacLellan's coach in Barry Trotz and announced both hirings at the same time.  Trotz is a good coach but it sends the wrong message.  A general manager should pick the coach.  In this case ownership named the coach.  A top flight experienced general manager would not allow this.  He would demand his own coach.  These moves seem to show that Ted Leonsis is effectively the new GM.  Leonsis will make the important moves.  MacLellan goes from being George McPhee's assistant to Leonsis's assistant.  It is a step up the ladder but he really isn't in charge.

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Game Two

The second game went to a second overtime period before Dustin Brown ended it.  Lengthy overtime games can be exciting and memorable.  This series has had that going for it.  The problem is it hasn't had the great teams that should be in a Stanley Cup final.  There isn't anything memorable or elite about the New York Rangers or the Los Angeles Kings.  Neither was able to finish higher than sixth seed in their conference.  Neither is a team that anyone would have seriously picked as the best in the NHL at any pint this season.  Essentially we have the main event on the season without main event participants.  That takes away from the prestige of the series.  It takes elite teams to create the drama and expectation to make a truly memorable series.

After two games it looks like Los Angeles has a good shot at winning the Stanley Cup.  That probably shouldn't be a surprise.  The West Conference has been stronger than the East Conference for several years.  The West Conference team in this series was the stronger team in the regular season.  One problem is that New York has been the better team despite not winning.  Los Angeles hasn't held the lead at any point during any game and they are up 2 games to none.  I guess it is a fitting result in the no elite team NHL if the Stanley Cup champion is neither the best team in the regular season or the Stanley Cup finals.

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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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