One of the toughest trophies to pick this year is the Vezina Trophy. There are about half a dozen goalies having very good seasons and the difference between them is small. The leader has changed with a reasonable frequency. I last picked Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils as the Vezina leader about a week and a half ago. Schneider has dropped from the lead and has been surpassed by Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks. Crawford is posting a .928 saves percentage and a 2.26 goals against average on a West Conference team. The West Conference is higher scoring than the East Conference, so it is an achievement to have as good numbers as East Conference goalies while playing in the West.
I have been skeptical of Crawford as a top goalie. When he first emerged with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Hawks were a top team that had recently won the Stanley Cup with Antti Niemi in goal. Niemi was not an elite goalie. It was clear that Chicago didn't need an elite goalie to win. As Crawford gained experience his play and his numbers improved. Last year he showed himself to be arguably a top five goalie in the league. This year he is continuing to improve. No goalie with more games played than Crawford has a better saves percentage.
The top scorer so far this month has been Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks. He has 17 points and a +13 +/- rating in 12 games so far this month. This is a big improvement from his start to the season. Until February began Getzlaf had only 3 goals and 31 points and a +1 +/- rating in 43 games. At the start of the season Getzlaf was likely considered a lock to make the Canadian Team in the World Cup. His slow start has drawn that into question. Perhaps the fact that he is starting to score might earn him back his spot on Team Canada. Has he done enough to make the first 16 selections for the team which will be announced in a few days. I pick him on my team. Anaheim has been a very hot team lately and the fact that Getzlaf is playing better is a big part of the reason that it has happened. He seems to be salvaging a bad start to the season.
Every once in a while you find a player who is much more involved in a hockey game when you watch him then his statistics appear to show. When you watch a game in TV these are players who the play-by-play announcer keeps naming even when they do not get on the scoresheet. One such player is Jakob Silfverberg of the Anaheim Ducks.
Silfverberg has never scored as much as a point every two games in any season in his career. This season is no different. He has 21 points in 59 games played. This makes him the sixth highest scorer on the Ducks. He has the second most ice time among Anaheim Duck wingers behind only Corey Perry. With a look at his traditional statistics it isn't easy to see his value. However if we look at some less traditional stats we can see value.
Silfverberg plays against the highest competition of any player in the NHL according to behind the net. Despite that he has a positive Corsi. Silfverberg plays against very tough competition and yet the puck is in his team's possession and not his opponents. His raw Corsi is among the best on his Ducks team. Despite this he doesn't have significant scoring numbers. His .965 PDO is the 28th worst in the NHL among players with 40 or more games played this season. Silfverberg has been unlucky this season to not score more than he has. At age 24 he is ready to take a step forward offensively. With some better luck it could have happened this year.
Last year Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks got hurt with 21 games left in the regular season. He came back from injury in time for the first game of the playoffs. That timing is no fluke. Because Kane was on the long term injured reserve, Chicago was able to add salary to offset Kane's loss. At trade deadline time they traded for Antoine Vermette to use that space. They would not have had the cap space to have a healthy Kane and Vermette. When playoffs began there are no more salary cap concerns. Essentially Chicago added Antoine Vermette for their playoff run with this move.
Will any teams stash a player on the long term injured reserve this year so they can add a player in a trade deadline deal? The teams best suited for that are teams that are at the salary cap limit but can exceed it because of injured reserve players. According to general fanager the two teams with the biggest amount of extra salary cap space potentially available are the Los Angeles Kings and the St Louis Blues.
Yesterday I posted my projections for the first 16 players to be named to Team Canada in the World Cup. The World Cup of hockey will be played in September. Teams must name their first sixteen players by the beginning of March. This aligns with the trade deadline, so I am making these projections a few days in advance of the deadline to name players.
To be eligible for team USA a player must be 24 years old by October 1st, 2016. Players younger than this would be on the YoungStars team. Thus American players like Johnny Gaudreau and Jack Eichel would not be eligible.
My picks for the first 16 players are players who are locks to be on the World Cup team regardless of how they complete the season. The final slots are for players who have more uncertainty in whether or not they are the best possible picks.
Here are my picks for the first 16 slots on the USA. Most are alumni of the 2014 Olympics. A few are players who have emerged since that tournament.
On March 2nd the first 16 players for the World Cup teams must be named. The World Cup is to be played in September before the NHL season opens up. With the trade deadline coming at February 29th, I am worried that I may not get a chance to make my projections for these picks before they are announced. I may get caught up in the trade deadline moves instead. I want to start by picking the first 16 players for Team Canada. To be eligible a player must be 24 years old or older by October 1st, 2016. Younger players are left for a Young Stars team.
Here are my first sixteen picks for Team Canada:
One thing that analytics people regularly preach about regarding goalies is sample size. In order to have a meaningful idea about how good a goaltender is a significant sample size of games is needed. Often a single season doesn't provide enough games to be meaningful. One example that shows that case is Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators.
Hammond was an AHL goaltender who had played four years at Bowling Green University in the NCAA. At 27 years old it was hard to imagine that he was on an NHL track. Especially as he was posting a .898 saves percentage and a 3.51 goals against average in the AHL. Nevertheless he got an NHL shot and he ran with it. Hammond posted a 20-3 record with two regulation tie points and a .941 saves percentage. That success was a significant reason that the Ottawa Senators made the playoffs. This story of not giving up until making the NHL made him a Masterton Trophy nominee - it is a poor choice to nominate a player for having a good season after years of struggling to succeed. Andrew Hammond was the toast of the town in Ottawa. He only had 25 NHL games played and that isn't a particularly big sample size.
The highest paid forward on the Florida Panthers is Dave Bolland. He has a $5.5 million salary cap hit annually until 2018/19. In December he was sent to the minors - the Portland Pirates (Florida's AHL affiliate) for a conditioning stint. He hadn't been playing well in the NHL and wasn't getting much playing time and had been a healthy scratch. This was an attempt to get him some playing time. While he was there he re-aggravated an injury related to a torn tendon in his ankle in the 2013/14 season. As a result of injury he was called back up but he hasn't been placed on the injured list and he hasn't played an NHL game since December 12th. This means that Bolland has officially been a healthy scratch in every game since mid-December.
The cost to Florida is that Bolland uses up one of their 23 roster spots and he isn't playing. Effectively they are playing with only 22 players on their roster.
Is there any benefit to the Panthers for this strategy? It isn't obvious that one exists. They save the NHL salary of the player who could be on their roster in Bolland's spot if he was on the injured list. However there is no rule that says you must have 23 active players on your roster. There is no reason that you cannot put Bolland on the injured list and then play with a 22 man roster.
The Flint Firebirds are a new team in the Ontario Hockey League this year. They are not a good team. They are in last place in the West Division. In November the entire coaching staff was fired. This was done by owner Rolf Nilsen because his son Hakon Nilsen, a defenceman on the team, wasn't given enough playing time. The entire Firebirds team including Hakon Nilsen stormed the front office, turned in their jerseys and quit the team. As a result ownership apologized and reinstated the coaching staff. Two days ago, the coaching staff has been fired again and for the same reasons of Hakon Nilsen's playing time. The OHL has stepped in. Commissioner David Branch has suspended ownership and offered counselling to Firebirds players at ownership cost. There is a league investigation of the situation.
Here is a story about this fiasco.
That may not be the worst thing about playing for the Flint Firebirds. The tap water in Flint has been poisoned. This was done when the water source was changed to untreated Flint River water. This water is corrosive and leached lead out of pipelines. The lead poisoned water is so bad that it qualifies as toxic waste according to some measurements.
Here is the wikipedia article about the Flint water crisis.
The young players who have gone to Flint to play in the OHL deserve better than this. They have been subjected to an unliveable situation.
A little over three weeks ago I picked Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators as the Lady Byng Trophy leader. While I like the idea of a defenceman winning the Lady Byng Trophy as the player who best combines outstanding and gentlemanly play because it is harder to play a sportsmanlike game on defence than it is at forward, I would not force it. There is another player who is playing better than Weber and has fewer penalty minutes. He is Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars. Seguin is the third highest scorer in the NHL. He has 63 points to go with 14 penalty minutes.
Tyler Seguin is becoming one of the better players in the NHL. He has probably exceeded expectations from his high draft pick second overall in 2010. The Boston Bruins selected him and made a significant error in trading him. A big part of the Dallas Stars renaissance has been their acquisition of Tyler Seguin. He is playing well enough to be the current Lady Byng Trophy leader.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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