I am continuing my look at sabermetrics and hockey by looking at the worst 20 players in the 2013 season by adjusted +/-. A couple days ago I posted the top 20 players in the season. These players are players who struggled in their role at even strength. They may be useful players in other situations, but they were not top puck possession players in 2013. This adjustment is done as a counting stat. Thus players who played a lot are more likely to have extreme ratings than those who played a lesser amount of time. I am including only players who played 30 or more games with one team on this list in order to ensure that the adjustment is meaningful. If a player played 30 or more games with one team and then was traded, he is capable of making this list with the team where he played 30 or more games.
Here are the 20 worst players by adjusted +/- in 2013:
Yesterday I posted the top players by adjusted +/- rating last season. Leading the group is Pascal Dupuis of the Pittsburgh Penguins with a +24.0 rating and one point behind him is his linemate Chris Kunitz. While this shows that these two players are good hockey players who had good seasons, it is a major endorsement of Sidney Crosby. Crosby was their third linemate and played 36 of 48 games and finished sixth with a +19.0 rating. Since we are looking at a +/- counting number Kunitz and Dupuis continued to increase their totals with Crosby out.
Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz are good puck possession players. Their stats were inflated by playing with top linemates - especially Sidney Crosby. I think this is evidence that Crosby is the best player in the NHL and should have won the MVP. His line was the best puck possession line in the NHL last season by +/- numbers. Alexander Ovechkin actually won the Hart Trophy and for the record he was a +0.6. This is evidence that the Hart Trophy was poorly decided.
As I start this summer's series on sabermetrics and hockey, I will start by looking at the leaders in adjusted +/- ratings. This is a method that uses +/- ratings as a counting stat and adjusts each player relative to a team baseline. Usually I use a 50 game cutoff for players to adjust in order to make sure that judging the players by their team baseline is meaningful. In a shortened season due to the lockout this is not possible. I have reduced the threshold to 30 games in the 2013 season. This increases the chance that a layer will make this list due to a streak and not a strong full season.
Here are the top 20 players by adjusted +/- ratings in the 2013 season:
When I wrote about the (partial) NHL Award announcements, there were a few awards that I wanted to discuss in further detail. One was the Adams Trophy for coach of the year. It was won by Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators.
The coach of the year voting is never well done. The voters tend to support the coach of the most improved team or a team that otherwise exceeded expectation. The assumption is that coaching caused that improvement. There are two problems to that assumption. One is that improvements can come for many reasons. For example, Ottawa had a significant group of rookies who made an impact with the team. They caused some improvement. The second problem is that a team that had a good coach last year should not improve due to coaching this year. There is no marginal chance in coaching from year to year.
While I believe that Paul MacLean was not the best candidate for coach of the year and I supported Bruce Boudreau that is not the main issue I wish to discuss. Let's look at the Adams Trophy voting. There were twelve coaches (out of 30) who received votes. Two who did not receive any votes are the strong coaches I would have given my second and third place votes - Ken Hitchcock and Dave Tippett.
The Philadelphia Flyers have announced that they will buyout the remaining seven years of Ilya Brygalov's contract. This will save them a $5.67 million in salary cap space for each of those years. The Flyers are voluntarily giving away this player that they have made several deals that have weakened their team to accommodate.
In order to accommodate Bryzgalov's contract, the Flyers traded away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Both of them wound up in Los Angeles and were a big reason the Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup. Because Bryzgalov was the Flyers number one goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky was not getting much of a chance. Thus he was traded to Columbus for draft picks. He promptly won the Vezina Trophy this year. That is quite a group of players traded away to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov. Those three players alone make up a sizeable portion of the core of a top hockey team. The Philadelphia Flyers are not a top hockey team. The Philadelphia Flyers missed the playoffs this season and there is no reason to see it as a one-time event.
Currently the Flyers goaltending is a shambles. Steve Mason is their only proven goalie. He is a Calder Trophy winner in 2009. Since then he has been arguably the worst goalie to remain in the NHL. He has seven games played with the Flyers and they have been pretty good, but it is not a solid bet to happen on a regular basis. The Philadelphia Flyers need a goalie and it isn't clear that they will be able to bring in a talented one.
The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup win a 3-2 win. This gives them a four games to two victory in the Stanley Cup finals.
My playoff predictions have done remarkably well this season. I picked 12 series right of the fifteen playoff series. That gives me a 12-3 record (or 80% success rate) for the playoffs. You can look back at my predictions in the first, second, third and final rounds. I think one of the biggest surprises in this year's playoffs was how predictable they were.
My biggest thought on today's game is how quickly it went from a Boston 2-1 lead to a 3-2 Chicago victory. With time running out I had prepared myself for a game seven. With 76 seconds left it was a tie and I started thinking about overtime but only 17 seconds later they took the lead.
The Conn Smythe Trophy was a problem. Chicago won the cup and voters wanted to give the Conn Smythe to a Blackhawk. Problem is the best forward in the playoffs was David Krejci, the best defenceman was Zdeno Chara and the best goalie was Tuukka Rask. None are Blackhawks. Patrick Kane was the best player in the Stanley Cup finals, so he was given the award. The problem is he did not play particularly well until the late third round. Nevertheless he was the Blackhawks top playoff scorer.
When I posted on (most of) the NHL Award recipients, there were a few awards that I noted would need further discussion. One is the Norris Trophy that was won by PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens. Subban was the highest scoring defenceman in the season with 38 points. He put up a solid +12 +/- rating which led the Montreal defence. Statistically he is a strong choice for the Norris Trophy. The problem is he wasn't playing against a particularly tough opposition. In fact he was sheltered from the big minutes that a typical Norris Trophy winner. His slightly over 23 minutes per game was 35th among defencemen in the NHL. This was because he is not as trustworthy in all circumstances. Of the top Norris Trophy candidates, Subban is the least reliable defensively.
The other two Norris nominees Kris Letang and Ryan Suter were more reliable in more situations. Letang scored as many points as Subban and he did it in only 35 games played. He also did it while playing more than two minutes a game more for a strong Pittsburgh team with more competition for ice time. Letang was more reliable defensively and scored at a higher per game rate. That made him a better Norris candidate.
Chicago is a game away from winning the cup after a 3-1 win with an empty net goal to make the margin of victory look larger than it should have been. This series is clearly a battle where stamina and health play a big role in the eventual winner. Three games so far have gone to overtime. Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron both missed the third period today and it is uncertain how available they will be in the remainder of the series. Many players are playing hurt. One notable example is Marian Hossa who missed a game due to undisclosed injuries in this series.
Boston is better able to survive a war based on stamina and health because they had a much easier regular season playing in the East Conference than Chicago did playing in the much larger West Conference, with much less travel. Chicago is the better team and that appears to be a more significant factor - at least so far. Let's see if they can close out the series.
One interesting question that I wonder about is the Conn Smythe Trophy. I assume a Chicago win would mean that they would like to give the Conn Smythe to a Chicago player. There isn't a Chicago player who has outplayed the equivalent Boston player at this point in the playoffs. I take this to mean that Chicago is winning despite the fact their best players have been beaten up. Chicago has more depth and more recently, Patrick Kane has been the best player on the ice. There is no argument that Kane has been on his game throughout the whole playoffs but he may be MVP of the finals.
When the NHL Awards were (mostly) announced, I promised to write a few pieces about the awards that were most poorly decided. It was given to Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
The first thing that needs to be discussed is how the Hart trophy should be decided. I will do this by analogy. Imagine there are two boxes. One contains a $2 million diamond and several other $1 million diamonds. The other box contains a $1.5 million diamond and several worthless shards of glass. Now which diamond is most valuable to its box? The $2 million diamond clearly is. It has a value of $2 million and that is more than the value of any of the other diamonds. Now some people like to argue (and vote) for the $1.5 million diamond. They argue that its box would be totally worthless without it and the other box has value without the $2 million diamond. The problem is they miss the fact that $1.5 million is less than $2 million.
When we look at the Hart Trophy voting we see that it was a tight race between Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Ovechkin was named at the top of more ballots. He had four more first place votes than Crosby. Crosby was named more times on ballots overall. He was named two more times than Ovechkin. Nine voters did not place Crosby in the top five on his ballot. Eleven voters did not name Ovechkin on their ballot. The main reason for not picking Crosby was that he only played 36 games. He missed 12 games. In the 36 games he was clearly the best player in the NHL but he obviously had no value in the 12 games he missed. The main reason for leaving Ovechkin off the ballot was that he didn't play very well for the first part of the season and he significantly inflated his point totals by playing in the weakest division - the Southeast Division.
Game four was the highest scoring game to date in the finals. Chicago won 6-5 in overtime. Not coincidentally it was the game with the best ice surface in the series so far. I find it hard to imagine that these teams could score eleven total goals on the bad ice of a couple earlier games. It was a defensively sloppy game which went a long way to showing that neither team has an elite goaltender. This is especially true of Corey Crawford who may have won but he only stopped 28 of 33 shots for a .848 saves percentage tonight. Chicago's offence came alive for the first time in the series. Patrick Kane had a good game and Jonathan Toews scored a goal. If this keeps going, Chicago will be hard to beat. I am still supporting David Krejci as the Conn Smythe leader. He only scored one assist in this high scoring game but his top rival Tuukka Rask allowed six goals and that re-opened some space between the two in my mind. Should Chicago win the Stanley Cup, I still support Krejci as the playoff MVP but I recognize that voters are likely to want to pick a Chicago player. If I had to pick a Hawk player as their playoff MVP, I would pick Duncan Keith their defensive stalwart but that pick is questionable as Zdeno Chara has been a better a defenceman but on Boston. It will be interesting to see what the voters do with the Conn Smythe Trophy if Chicago wins the cup.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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