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The Puck Stops Here

Vancouver Canucks Make The Stanley Cup Finals

I am back from

GM Place

  Rogers Arena and can report that Vancouver is celebrating.  The Vancouver Canucks have made the Stanley Cup finals for the third time in their history and for the first time ever as the favorites.

For the last several years, I have complained that there are no elite teams in the Stanley Cup finals.  For example last year both Philadelphia and Chicago did not qualify.

When I speak of elite teams, I am using a definition which can be debated, but it works well.  Historically all the elite teams - those teams that are in the discussion of the best teams of all time - have had several players (at least three and many times more) who wound up in the Hockey Hall of Fame.  For the most part we can identify players who are on the way to having Hall of Fame careers well before they are over.  I have written many posts identifying players ( here is the most recent one) that I would induct regardless of what happens in the rest of their careers.  Of course there are players who are not yet secured as Hall of Famers who are well on track.  By that, I mean that a reasonable projection of their career would make them a Hall of Famer.  I would include both of these groups as likely Hall of Famers on a team. 

It isn’t enough to merely collect future Hall of Fame players to make an elite team.  For example, it is possible to have a group of over-the-hill players who were once superstars who had Hall of Fame careers but are no longer above average NHL players.  So we must specify that these players must be at or near the peaks of their careers - or at the very least be all star level players at the time in question.

This is not enough.  Goaltending is extremely important to an elite team.  A team must have one of the better goalies in the NHL.  Their goalie must be in the top group of goalies (for the sake of argument this group is approximately five goalies big - but as circumstances dictate might be slightly smaller or larger at any point in time).  This is a slightly weaker condition than demanding that the goaltender is a Hall of Famer, but it is possible that this goalie is a Hall of Fame goaltender and is included in the previous group.

Of course all of this does not guarantee that a TEAM is an elite team.  It merely says that they have some elite players.  A team is more than a group of elite players.  That said an elite team is a group of elite players who play well together.  It is necessary but not sufficient for the group of elite players to exist.  That can be used as a test to immediately decide if a team is an elite team candidate or not.

The Stanley Cup finals have historically been a battle between elite teams.  Most of the historical playoff battles have included one if not two elite teams.  It is a pet peeve of mind that this doesn’t happen much if at all anymore.  This has happened because of expansion, which has spread out the number of places where top talent has been distributed.  This has happened because the salary cap has significantly reduced the ability of a team to keep their talent even if they can acquire it.

So when all is said and done, does Vancouver qualify as an elite team candidate?  They have no players who I would induct into the Hall of Fame if their careers ended today.  They do have four players that can reasonably be considered to be on Hall of Fame tracks.  They are Roberto Luongo, Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler.

Luongo has probably been the most consistent star goaltender over the past ten years.  Though he has not won a Vezina Trophy, he could have done so.  He had more than one Vezina worthy season.  Both 2004 and 2007 were seasons where Luongo played better than many Vezina Trophy winners of the past.  He is criticized for his failure to have won a Stanley Cup yet, but he has a remarkable track record of winning internationally and at the junior level.  He is definitely on a Hall of Fame track and could cement his position this year with a Stanley Cup victory.  He definitely qualifies as an elite goalie for the Canucks and is a likely Hall of Famer as well.

Both Sedins have been top scorers in the NHL.  Henrik last year and Daniel this year.  Henrik was the Hart Trophy winner last season and Daniel may be this season.  These two players have only had two seasons where they have been truly among the top scorers in the league.  The fact that they were both 29 when they made this jump is unusual.  It has helped to keep their career totals quite low for future Hall of Fame forwards at their age.  However, it is quite reasonable to suggest that recent Art Ross trophy winners are on Hall of Fame tracks.

Ryan Kesler is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL.  He has played a less defensive role this season and as a result has made a huge jump in the NHL scoring race.  Kesler was the fourth highest goal scorer in the NHL this year.  However he has never had a point per game season and at age 26 it is possible he never well.  That doesn’t necessarily make Kesler a non-Hall of Famer.  His defence is good enough that if he has an effective career with several more seasons as good as his last couple of seasons he could be on a Hall of Fame track.  It is less certain than any of the players I have already discussed, but it is quite possible.

Vancouver has enough elite players to meet the necessary but sufficient condition to be an elite team, but do they play together well enough?  Vancouver won the Presidents Trophy by a margin of ten points.  They led the NHL in goals for and against in the regular season.  They had the best power play in the regular season and finished third in penalty kill, but were barely out of first place.  This is certainly evidence that they can play well together.

Vancouver may be an elite team.  At the very least, they are a strong elite team candidate.  They are likely the best team to make the Stanley Cup finals since the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.  The potential exists for this to be an elite team.

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Comments

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No way are they an elite team.  They beat up on a ton of bad teams all year and, while we’ve been over this, I just don’t see the Hall of Famers on this team.  Last year’s Hawks would have smoked them.

Posted by RoneFace on 05/25/11 at 07:31 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

RoneFace

Your post is built on a lot of claims I can dispute.  Let’s start with the most obvious one.  You argue that Henrik and Daniel Sedin are not on Hall of Fame tracks?

That is an extraordinary claim. 

Name the last player to win an Art Ross Trophy who is Hall of Fame eligible and not there. 

The answer is Herb Cain in 1944.  That was in the heart of World War II when many would be NHLers were away at war.  Cain scored more points that year than he did in his two next best seasons combined.  Only three years later when the NHL returned to normal conditions after the war, Cain was permanently out of the league and playing in the AHL.

That alone is enough to argue that both Sedins are certainly on track to have Hall of Fame careers isnt it?

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/25/11 at 08:05 AM ET

Avatar

Name the last player to win an Art Ross Trophy who is Hall of Fame eligible and not there.

The answer is Herb Cain in 1944.  That was in the heart of World War II when many would be NHLers were away at war.  Cain scored more points that year than he did in his two next best seasons combined.  Only three years later when the NHL returned to normal conditions after the war, Cain was permanently out of the league and playing in the AHL.

That alone is enough to argue that both Sedins are certainly on track to have Hall of Fame careers isnt it?

That is the worst argument you could make.  What does one year have to do with a Hall of Fame career?  The fact that no Art Ross trophy winners have fallen apart is an anomaly as much as it is proof of greatness.  Heck, Jonathan Cheechoo won the Rocket Richard and he’s out of the NHL so things can change in a hurry.  Up until the last 2 years they’ve been 70-80 pt players who don’t play elite defense, hardly what I would consider a Hall of Fame career trajectory.

All-time pts/gm:
http://www.hockey-reference.com/leaders/points_per_game_career.html

Please try to make the case that the players ahead of them, such as Stevens, Broten, LeClair, and Tocchet, are HOF worthy.

Active players pts/gm:
http://www.hockey-reference.com/leaders/points_per_game_active.html

The twins barely crack the top 25 (and only because a couple of players listed are actually done) for pts/gm among active players.  Meaning compared directly to their peers, over the course of their careers, they are good but not in what I would consider the rarefied air of the HOF.  Consider that Weight, Spezza, Tanguay, and Recchi are among those ahead of the twins, and I’m not sure anyone considers those players better than borderline Hall of Famers.  Also keep in mind that Weight and Recchi have already gone through a loss of production during the tail end of their careers and still have a higher pt/gm mark than either twin.

Posted by RoneFace on 05/25/11 at 08:26 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Please try to make the case that the players ahead of them (Sedins), such as Stevens, Broten, LeClair, and Tocchet, are HOF worthy.

Why would I make such a case?  I do not believe that any of those players are worthy.

You have three problems in this argument.

1) Each of those players had their prime during a higher scoring era than today, hence their raw point totals or points per game will be higher when reasonable adjustment their points for scoring rates puts them well back of where their raw unadjusted numbers are.

2) Both Sedins have much higher peak value than any of the players you name.  Clear proof of that, none of the other players on your list have ever been Hart Trophy nominees.  Both Sedins have.  Henrik has won the Hart Trophy and Daniel is probably the favorite to do so this year.

3) I am not arguing that either Sedin should be inducted to the Hall of Fame if they retured right now.  I am arguing they are on track with a reasonable projection of their careers.  At this point, it would be shocking if their next season does not have them scoring above their career point per game rate wouldn’t it?  Hence that number is likely going up from its current vaue.

The fact that no Art Ross trophy winners have fallen apart is an anomaly as much as it is proof of greatness

This “argument” is grasping at straws.  Do you believe that either Sedin will fall apart?  If not why on earth are you discussing it?  History shows that if you win the scoring title you are almost certainly on a Hall of Fame track.  It took some extraordinary circumstances almost 70 years ago for the last time such a thing occurred.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/25/11 at 08:37 AM ET

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1) Each of those players had their prime during a higher scoring era than today, hence their raw point totals or points per game will be higher when reasonable adjustment their points for scoring rates puts them well back of where their raw unadjusted numbers are.

\

Right, this explains why they rank relatively low on the career pts/gm list but how do you explain their low rankings among their peers, ie players who have played in the same low scoring era?

3) I am not arguing that either Sedin should be inducted to the Hall of Fame if they retured right now.  I am arguing they are on track with a reasonable projection of their careers.  At this point, it would be shocking if their next season does not have them scoring above their career point per game rate wouldn’t it?  Hence that number is likely going up from its current vaue.

Over the next 3-4 years that number is likely to increase, but it’s also likely to then decrease as their production slips towards the end of their careers.  If I had to guess their final pts/gm number will be very close to what it is today.

This “argument” is grasping at straws.  Do you believe that either Sedin will fall apart?  If not why on earth are you discussing it?  History shows that if you win the scoring title you are almost certainly on a Hall of Fame track.

It’s not grasping at straws at all.  You don’t find it fluky that in 70 years not a single Ross Trophy winner experienced severe health issues that ended their career prematurely or derailed their HOF career track?  I’m not saying the Sedins will get hurt or lose their talent and there’s no way I could know that one way or the other.  What I am saying is that taking one year and proclaiming it as a HOF justification is just stupid.

In my view there are 2 ways you get into the HOF in any sport:
1. play at a high level over an extended period and reach certain milestone counting stats
2. A period of historic dominance, say 5-7 years, like a Pedro Martinez or even a Bobby Orr.

In either case where you rank among your peers is the single biggest indicator for me, and thus far the Sedins do not rank very highly among the other elite players in the league who are in their peer group.  As it stands now they are not among the best of their generation unless you think this generation will produce 35-40 HOF players.

Posted by RoneFace on 05/25/11 at 08:55 AM ET

VooX's avatar

What I am saying is that taking one year and proclaiming it as a HOF justification is just stupid.

On this blog any statistical advantage is hyped excessively, while any statistical figure which contradicts the argument TheLinkGoesHere is trying to make is ignored.

Roneface you make compelling statistical arguments against the Sedins’ induction into the HHOF.  Using stats, the bread and butter of this stale blog, you tried to show the Sedins’ not rising above their peers. It’s too bad your stats are being ignored over other stats.  Myself, I too agree that the Sedin brothers are not yet HHOF worthy.

Regarding elite teams, the author of this blog has clearly demonstrates he cannot recognize an elite team at all.  For instance, he was highly critical of Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team saying he knew more about putting a winning team together than Steve Yzerman, because Yzerman didn’t “watch as much hockey” or use “advanced” stats like this blog’s author.

The fact remains that when it comes to elite teams and players, the author of this blog is handicapped by his own over-dependence on statistical metrics.

When I spoke to Jim Nill over the summer, the head of Detroit’s
scouting and drafting program, arguably the league’s best for two decades, he scoffed at the notion of using advanced statistical metrics like Corsi numbers, etc. 

He literally scoffed at the idea of using stats to scout pro and amateur players, and he is the best in the business with the track record of successful late-round draft picks to show for it.

I highly doubt that Yzerman used Corsi numbers, etc., when building the Lightning team this season.  Many guys like Bergenheim and Roloson were not playing nearly as well in recent years as they have this season.  But they would not have been considered using TLGH’s statistical fetish to
scout players.  Arguably, both players have been key parts of the franchise’s success this season and playoffs.

But stats don’t account for chemistry, coaching, and gameplans which players have little or no control over.  The success of Roloson and Bergenheim this season is likely attributeable to being in a more positive environment with better leadership and coaching off and on the ice.

Statistical metrics would not have predicted the level of success Roloson and Bergenheim had this season.  Not should they be the only basis for HHOF elgibility.  To do so would ignore the game these players played individually.

While his stats may not be as flashy as the Sedin twins’, I would honestly put Holmstrom in the HHOF before the Sedins.  Homer has excelled and specialized in his on-ice role screening the goalie and digging pucks out of the corner, that he has literally changed the ways the game is played, his style has been so effective.

To me, the HHOF should be for both elite and game-changing players.  While I would argue that the Sedin twins have not reached that level yet, I believe Holmstrom has as a gamechanger.

With that said, I don’t expect Holmstrom to ever be in the HHOF, I think his role may be under-rated by voters and his eligibilty is less clear-cut as he is not an “elite” scorer despite having scored more clutch and game-winning playoff goals than most players will ever dream of doing.

Excuse the diversion, erase this comment if you want TLGH, that is your M.O. after all.

Posted by VooX from Behind the Bar in the Hasek Club Car on 05/25/11 at 10:10 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Imagine that; author spends years complaining about the lack of elite teams in the Stanley Cup Finals until his favorite team makes the Stanley Cup Finals.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/25/11 at 11:02 AM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

We’ve had this stupid argument 100 times, but all I’m saying is that I’m pretty sure you’re from B.C., and suddenly a B.C. team is in the finals, which it appears you are a fan of, and amazingly they are an elite team in your elite eyes. o

How very elite of you.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 05/25/11 at 11:27 AM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

damn, I missed your post JJ!

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 05/25/11 at 11:28 AM ET

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yep, the hawks had NO future possible hall of famers… Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook…they shouldn’t even be in the NHL…

Lets also not mention that Toews alone had more to do with Canada’s gold medal than Luongo did… I am sick of the argument, Luongo won gold in the Olympics…He was on the gold medal team, but he was not the reason they won. And Toews is also averaging more points per game than either twin, and he is just 4 years in the league, compared to the sedins 10…and Kane’s ppg are even better than Toews, but no one would argue Kane is the better player than Toews or the Sedins, just like no one would argue that the Sedins can compare defensively to Toews. Should we bring up the argument that no one knows how the Sedins would play without each other? So would they have to go to the HOF as a package deal?

Hossa’s numbers and defensive abilities are better than either Sedin as well…

so why are the hawks not “elite”? cause they didn’t have a HOF goaltender? Well their rookie goaltender played better than your supposed HOF goaltender…so who cares?

“Luongo has probably been the most consistent star goaltender over the past ten years.  Though he has not won a Vezina Trophy, he could have done so.  He had more than one Vezina worthy season.  Both 2004 and 2007 were seasons where Luongo played better than many Vezina Trophy winners of the past.” Hilarious argument there. He could have won it, but he didnt feel like it. Also, who cares if 2004 and 2007 were better than Vezina winners of the past? Last time I checked the Vezina was for best goaltender that season…

the only one performing at an “elite” level right now is Kessler, the twins have turned it up, but mostly on the PP. Seriously, they have very few even strength points in the playoffs, and are negative players overall. They are hardly going up against the other teams best offensive lines, so that doesn’t look good for them.

and give me a break with the presidents trophy crap. Your division had, by FAR, the two worst teams in the ENTIRE LEAGUE. Most good teams would pad their stats against them if they got to play them as much as the nucks did.

Posted by pstumba on 05/25/11 at 12:42 PM ET

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While I would not argue Vancouver as an elite team myself, even though I am a Canuck fan, I would want people to check their facts before talking about the weak division.  The Canucks’ regular season record against the three divisions in the West is here:

Vs Central: 12-5-3 (.675)
Vs Northwest: 18-4-2 (.792)
Vs Pacific: 13-5-2 (.700)

Average point percentage assuming balanced schedule: 0.7222

Let’s look at the other two division winners:

San Jose:
Vs Central: 13-6-1 (.675)
Vs Northwest: 12-6-2 (.650)
Vs Pacific: 14-5-5 (.6875)

Average point per game assuming balanced schedule: 0.6708

Detroit:
Vs Central: 12-10-2 (.542)
Vs Northwest: 15-3-2 (.800)
Vs Pacific: 8-8-4 (.500)

Average point per game assuming balanced schedule: 0.6139


Vancouver would be the Presidents’ Trophy winner with a balanced schedule

Posted by Kel on 05/25/11 at 03:53 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

yep, the hawks had NO future possible hall of famers… Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook…they shouldn’t even be in the NHL…

Ridiculous statement that you do not believe and I do not believe either.

Chicago’s problem last year was goaltending.  Antti Niemi isn’t an elite goalie.  Not even close to being one.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/25/11 at 04:10 PM ET

Avatar

This is all coming from the guy who said Patty Kane had the easiest job in the NHL with his high number of offensive zone starts, rendering his stats “hollow” and “inflated”. Because everyone knows being put out on the ice in the offensive zone automatically means the puck is in the back of the net…. In fact, you mention that Patrick Kane is not (and most likely will not be) defensively responsible or have art-ross level scoring. I’ll address this soon.

At the same time, it’s an incredibly “intelligent manner of usage” when the Sedins have the highest differential in the league. No mention of their offensive success as hollow or inflated or unwarranted. Returning to my previous point, exactly what incredible defensive skills do the Sedins show? The Art-Ross scoring is already in the bag… but they are over 30 years old. Kane is a child, scoring at a much higher pace than the Twins were at his age, but you’re supreme statistical knowledge has told you that he will be unable to attain that echelon of point production. I mean, he’s only going to be playing with the game’s best two-way center, and arguably a top-5 two-way forward in marian hossa, for the foreseeable future.


For the record, I have been a die hard Vancouver Canucks fan for nearly 25 years.

I digress. This is the definition of a homer blog.

Posted by Liam on 05/25/11 at 06:38 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Wow Liam

You manage to pull something out of context and out of left field like that as an attack.  That must have taken some effort.  Good research there.

You can say the same things about the Sedins this year and Kane last year in that their numbers are somewhat hollow since they play such offensive roles and have so few defensive zone starts.  You also must notice that the Sedins significantly outscore Kane in the NHL today and that all three are likely on Hall of Fame tracks, though Kane is probably least certain of it because of his lack of an MVP candidate season.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/25/11 at 06:43 PM ET

Avatar

Vancouver would be the Presidents’ Trophy winner with a balanced schedule

I’m not saying they were a black hole of suck vs the other divisions but you also can’t pretend that playing against a lower level of competition isn’t an advantage.  Playing better teams, in more meaningful games, has an impact beyond the individual games themselves.  It’s easier to gear up for games outside the division when the games inside the division are practically exhibition games.

Chicago’s problem last year was goaltending.  Antti Niemi isn’t an elite goalie.  Not even close to being one.

Just so we’re clear: Luongo gets credit for riding Toews’ coattails to a gold medal, but Niemi doesn’t get credit for riding Toews’ coattails to a Stanley Cup?

Let me put it this way: if there was a draft that included every player currently in the NHL, for just 1 year, and assuming everyone is healthy, where does the first twin get drafted?  My guess would be in the 10-15 range behind players such as Toews, Lecavalier, Crosby, Ovechkin, Chara, Keith, Weber, Suter, Thornton, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and St Louis.  Being totally honest with yourself, and knowing you’d probably only get 1 of the twins, would you really pick either of them over any of those players and possibly a few more that I haven’t listed?

Posted by RoneFace on 05/25/11 at 06:50 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

http://espn.go.com/nhl/standings/_/year/2008

It appears that three points is all it takes to become elite by your standards?  And this monkey business about Anaheim being one in 2007 all rests on an interference call made on a Hall of Fame player named Datsuyk with 85 seconds left in game five of said series.

I enjoy your stats driven blog, your conclusions sometimes confuse me.

Keep up the interesting work and good luck to your favorite team in the cup finals.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 05/25/11 at 06:56 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Just so we’re clear: Luongo gets credit for riding Toews’ coattails to a gold medal, but Niemi doesn’t get credit for riding Toews’ coattails to a Stanley Cup?

This is one of the most disingenous things you can write.  Luongo has had a strong career with many highlights and many great seasons.  The Olympic gold might be the easiest one to point at, but it come after years of all star seasons.

Niemi would be a forgotten goalie we hardly mention if he hadn’t wn his cup.

This comparison you are attempting is false.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/25/11 at 06:57 PM ET

Avatar

Actually, I pulled the reference on Kane from your article on Chicago not being an elite team, which is linked in this article. The Sedin article on offensive zone starts was a search to cross-reference your arguments for why Chicago was not elite (via its non-HHOF players) by comparison to Vancouver’s players.
As a caveat it was not an attempt at an ad hominem, however I did feel a line had to be drawn.
Your argument for elite-teams is based entirely on player performance, so really it was not out of left field (if a list is compiled of the “50 best players in hockey, an elite team should have several on the list”) and was supplementary to my point and the basis of your argument.
The problem I have is that the statistics used in your arguments that support your point are qualified, where as the ones that propose a counter view are nullified. I am not doubting the figures that show that Vancouver was an extremely dominant team this year given their team statistics and individual efforts within the roster. But arguments for the Twins to be in the HOF when you have an entire body of work to look at (and no cup), versus merely a few years for other players, such as the example I used in Kane, (who have a cup), there is certainly a grey area that makes itself visible.
I find it very hard to believe that the Sedins will end up in the hall of fame. Certainly they will be in the ‘nucks Ring of Honor, but unless they create a dynasty in the next 4 years, the former is nearly impossible.

Posted by Liam on 05/25/11 at 07:01 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Voox

You might be interested in this article about the use of puck possession numbers by NHL GMs.  I conclude that what you say Jim Nill told you was either misdirection by Nill or else you are misreporting the conversation.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/25/11 at 07:51 PM ET

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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.

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