Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

I was only in third grade. What had happened was alluded to over morning announcements. I think the teachers understood. My teacher told us what happened, but didn't tell us about the number of fatalities, or that the third plane, headed for the Pentagon, may have even flown over us that morning. People started getting taken out of school one-by-one, but I think eventually the principal ordered that no one else leave (a lockdown, effectively). When I went home only then did I learn that thousands had passed away, New York City was a giant cloud of dust, and that there was a fuselage sticking out of the Pentagon.

I don't think that getting rid of Al-Qaeda or whomever is going to fix this problem. It seems to me like the the real issue is that the West (or rather, the more developed world) has taken the "invader" or "imperialist" stance several times towards the Middle East, which some smooth talkers like Osama bin Laden can misconstrue into an attack on Islam or whatever. You have Lawrence of Arabia, the English and French post-World War II, the creation of the state of Israel (and its inevitable backing by the West, even in light of frequent questionable actions), the Gulf War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and so on. It doesn't help that some of Western culture (clothing and sexuality are the two most obvious examples) goes against Islamic teachings.

A friend of my father's phrased their motivation nicely: "greed for good deeds." In Islam, the ultimate good deed is dying while fighting for Islam--martyrdom. Martyrs are guaranteed heaven. Thing is, there isn't always a martyr-inviting situation ready. So the terrorists fabricated one. In Islam, it is forbidden to kill innocents, and killing a Muslim is explicitly referred to as comparable to having "killed all of humankind." Obviously, they feel like their supposed martyrdom carries more weight than the heavy sins of murder (or maybe they don't even understand what the Qur'an says, Greg Mortensen suggests). If that is what the Qur'an truly means, that's fine. But I have a hard time thinking that this was any sort of "holy war" at all. There is no physical war on Islam, and there hasn't been since the caliphate. Thanks to my basic education in a Western school, I know that. I guess the mountain-billies hiding in caves who've been planning these attacks don't know that.

Killing them is only going to encourage more young boys and girls to join their cause, as they see friends and family die, of whom many are innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, given time, the presently-dysfunctional governments all over the Middle East can get these lawless areas under some more control and educate their people.

May God protect us from those loons.

(If you think this is a hateful or bigoted piece, send me an email and I'll explain to you why it most certainly is not)

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Thought on Competition Metrics

There are three available from QualComp, Corsi QoC, and Corsi Rel QoC. All are calculated in the exact same way (the average of opponents' ratings, weighted by ice time), save for the base statistic. With QualComp, that basic statistic is relative plus minus (on-ice plus-minus per 60 less off-ice plus-minus per 60). With Corsi QoC, it's Corsi On (on-ice Corsi per 60). With Corsi Rel QoC, it's relative Corsi (on-ice Corsi per 60 less off-ice Corsi per 60).

I get the feeling that if you want to see who faced top scorers, you use QualComp. QualComp puts "rating" (relative plus-minus) into context, but not so much Corsi. If you want to see who faced the tougher competition, use Corsi QoC. If you want to see who the coach intended to take the toughest competition, use Corsi Rel QoC. The last two match up most of the time, but due to opponents faced differences, not always.

All comparing intra-team, obviously. Inter-team is a whole 'nuther ballgame.

Semin's (Regular) Inconsistency, Part 1

I looked at these basic numbers for Alexander Semin (courtesy of Hockey Reference) over the regular season. The list of data is here. I made two charts.

This shows 10-game rolling averages over Semin's post-lockout games played. As one would expect, for the most part, Semin was getting more shifts when he was shooting a higher percentage. The penalty minutes line paints a very interesting picture, and perhaps one fans might expect: when Semin's shooting percentage has its peaks, his PIM totals have their nadirs, and when shooting percentage falls sharply, PIM totals rise. I'm not quite sure how definitive of a trend that is, but it certainly does suggest Semin gets frustrated when he cannot convert, but when he is converting, he doesn't take those silly "HHT" penalties.

To normalize (no pun intended) the scales a little, I calculated z-scores for each point and plotted those against one another.

Aside from one point about 1/6th of the way through the graph, we see shift totals and shooting percentage follow each other. It also seems like Semin has lower PIM totals when he has lower shift totals, perhaps because he "gets the message" that he's being partially benched. Similarly, it looks like higher PIM totals are accompanied by higher shift totals, and although more TOI = more PIM, we're talking a couple of minutes here and there for the most part. In short, I give much more credence to the idea that Semin's mental state affects his play on-ice to a pretty significant extent.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Breakout Candidates

A few players per team who up to this point have been a little off the radar but from whom I'm expecting big years.

Anaheim: Luca Sbisa. He's the one young player on that team who has yet to establish himself.

Los Angeles: Andrei Loktionov. He's a complete prospect, right up there with the Schenns and Halls of the world, and should be able to post strong numbers now that he's healthy and can soak up soft minutes that Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar will leave for him.

San Jose: Martin Havlat. Feeding pucks to Logan Couture and other San Jose snipers should boost his counting stats.

Phoenix: Oliver Ekman-Larsson. With Jovanovski moving on, OEL should see an increased role, and coupled with general development curves and his raw tools and I think he'll be a solid offensive option behind Keith Yandle. Recent acquisition Daymond Langkow and Martin Hanzal should benefit from each other as well, since they can split tough minutes now.

Dallas: Jamie Benn. Under the shadow of Brad Richards no longer, Benn is a young power forward who drives Corsi, like Eric Fehr but younger, more durable, and "toolsier." I think he'll emerge as the best forward on that team.

Calgary: I'm at a loss. Poorly run organization. Backlund, maybe.

Edmonton: Several options here. Jeff Petry has lots of potential. Taylor Hall looked like he'd finally figured out this NHL thing just before he got hurt. Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark didn't get favorable percentages, but assuming those rebound, they develop, and Eric Belanger helps out that line could actually be very strong both ways. And Jordan Eberle keeps defying the odds.

Vancouver: Gotta go with Cody Hodgson here. He's reaching that age, around 22-24, when many offensive players hit their first peak.

Colorado: Semyon Varlamov gets very little respect for how good he can be. If I had to pick one goalie for a game tomorrow, there isn't more than a handful of goalies I'd take ahead of him. What I think will help him most is the huge contrast I'm looking for between his numbers and those of JS Giguere, who may next season be the worst goaltending partner Varlamov has ever had.

Minnesota: Pierre-Marc Bouchard is finally healthy after missing over 100 games with concussion-related issues. He'll play with one or more of Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley, the best scorers he's had since Marian Gaborik.

Chicago: Michal Frolik. He shot an atrocious percentage for no discernible reason last year, and playing with a dominant possession team like Chicago should boost his numbers through the roof.

Detroit: Look for Ian White or a young player like Brendan Smith to step into the lineup and make an impact. I think Detroit's NHL roster depth is pretty overrated, but their prospect pool is the best there is.

Columbus: Derick Brassard had a strong showing his first year, struggled the next, but returned to form last year. He'll get softer minutes as Carter can step in and beat toughs singkehandedly.

St. Louis: T.J. Oshie was on track to post over sixty points before breaking his ankle. Patrik Berglund took the proverbial next step, nearly hitting sixty points last year after only getting 34 the year before. Both look like they'll improve some more, and as St. Louis looks like it'll be a better squad this year, btw are set for some strong counting stats. As is Alex Pietrangelo, who is nipping at Tyler Myers' heels for second best defenseman drafted in 2008 but is only nipping at Vyacheslav Voynov's heels in terms of hype among 2008-drafted D.

Nashville: Easy choices here--Ryan Ellis and Jon Blum. Ellis had the first 100 point season by a defenseman in the CHL since the mid 90s, while Blum took the next step and became a top-4 defenseman on that Predators team.

Boston: Another easy pick here with Tyler Seguin, who had a very disappointing rookie season.

Montreal: PK Subban was a top pair defenseman outscoring toughs by year's end. With Markov due to return and Gorges stepping into Hamrlik's spot, Subban should see more favorable ice time and post great numbers.

Buffalo: I'm going to switch this around a bit and pick who I think is due for a big regression. Sorry, Pegula and Regier, but Ville Leino isn't all that good. He's Tim Connolly but more durable, and played with noted playoff scorer Daniel Briere.

Ottawa: David Rundblad might have posted the best season by a defenseman in the SEL ever last season, considering he was only 20 (point pet game). I honestly expect him to QB their PP and beat soft minutes and be a Calder finalist.

Toronto: It's Nazem Kadri time. Carl Gunnarsson is easily the second best defenseman from 2007 behind Karl Alzner and is reaching the age where physical maturity will play in his favor.

Philadelphia: Brayden Schenn is the best player outside the NHL and James van Riemsdyk is entering his third season, which seems to me when power forwards start showing off their potential.

Pittsburgh: James Neal got a lot of press after being traded, and the media must like him considering the "Crosby needs a winger" talk died down thereafter, bugi still think he has much more than he's shown us thus far. Malkin and Crosby (and even Staal) are the best enters he's ever had.

New Jersey: I think Mattias Tedenby will end up playing with Kovalchuk and Elias, which makes for a very deadly combination, especially considering the inevitable regression in shooting percentage.

New York Rangers: Artem Anisimov is already 2C caliber and is due for a huge season. Similarly, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer, and Tim Erixon are all top four and probably capable of playing top lines.

New York Islanders: I would like to pick Nino Niederreiter, but I don't see his spot in the top six. John Tavares should challenge forty goals and Mark Streit will remind everyone that he's a legitimate 1D who can play at a Norris level.

Carolina: Alexei Ponikarovsky is one of the best tough minutes wingers in the game, and may very well find himself next to Eric Staal.

Florida: Let's go with Tomas Fleischmann here, but in the Buffalo sense. I wouldn't even pay him $1.5 million, let alone $4.5 million.

Winnipeg: Andrew Ladd will get much more press thanks to CBC and TSN, and Evander Kane is entering his third season and is set to shine.

Tampa Bay: Everyone had forgotten about Victor Hedman. While he had a "meh" rookie season, everything clicked for him in his sophomore season as he went from being killed by first-toughs to killing second-toughs. With Lundin moving on, Hedman should figure more prominently in every situation, and more ice time equals more points. 

Washington: Easy choice for me here with Marcus Johansson, though, like with Anaheim, it's more because I don't really see anyone else. Maybe Tomas Vokoun.