Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Good Teams, Bad Games

I took the teams with 54+% Corsi close at the end of each season and looked at their Corsi percentages over each three-game stretch (overlaps included).

According to Extra Skater, the Capitals are at 46.8% over their first three games of the 2013-14 season. A little over four percent of three-game stretches here fall in that range (less than and not including 47%).

Caps under 46.8%: Fehr, Brouwer, Chimera, Alzner, Hillen, Ward, Green, Carrick, Oleksy, Beagle. Caps over 50%: Erskine, Ovechkin, Erat, Backstrom, Wilson, Latta, Carlson, Johansson.

I'm not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, it's probably a good bet that the Capitals are not an elite possession team. (I thought they'd be around 52-53%...eight percent of three-game segments for 52+% Corsi close teams are under 47%. The figure is four-and-a-half percent for 53% Corsi close teams. Still not good odds, but there's a little more hope on the 52% front.) On the other hand, four percent of the time is still three or four times a season (80 three-game segments in 82 games).

I still think this team is a 52% possession team that'll be on the good side of PDO (assuming Erat moves up the lineup and Laich down). But, obviously, this slow start is less than encouraging, especially given that last season wasn't that great possession-wise for Washington.

The 17 teams above 54% Corsi close: 07-08 Red Wings, 07-08 Rangers, 07-08 Capitals, 08-09 Sharks, 08-09 Red Wings, 08-09 Blackhawks, 08-09 Capitals, 08-09 Flames, 09-10 Red Wings, 09-10 Blackhawks, 11-12 Red Wings, 11-12 Penguins, 11-12 Devils, 11-12 Kings, 12-13 Devils, 12-13 Blackhawks, 12-13 Bruins, 12-13 Kings.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Metropolitan Division Thoughts

1. Pittsburgh*

What conventional wisdom gets right: Crosby, Malkin, and Letang can carry this team.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: This team isn't that deep anymore. If Crosby and Malkin go down, they're done—no Jordan Staal-level player to pick up the slack. Their goaltending also looks merely average or slightly below—Fleury hasn't been bad during the regular season in awhile now. I highly doubt the situation in net can derail this team, unless Fleury and Vokoun are simultaneously out for a long period of time.

Recent developments: Kris Letang got hurt. Out indefinitely. Tomas Vokoun was also hospitalized for a blood clot and although he's been discharged, he's out indefinitely as well.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Atlantic Division Thoughts

1. Boston*

What conventional wisdom gets right: The Bruins are deep up front and have great goaltending.

What conventional wisdom gets wrong: Their defense isn't proven to be that good—I think their success has been mostly forward- and goalie-driven, Chara aside, of course—although with young players like Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug it could be. Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson may not be an upgrade over Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin. But given how good Tuukka Rask is, I'll give Boston the edge over the rest of the teams in this division.

Recent developments: none

Friday, September 27, 2013

Central Division Thoughts

1. Chicago*

Losses: F Michal Frolik, F Dave Bolland, F Viktor Stalberg, G Ray Emery
Additions: G Nikolai Khabibulin

Forwards: Still stacked (although perhaps not quite as much as last season). Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa make for a strong top-six, and younger players like Marcus Kruger, Brandon Saad, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, and perhaps Brandon Pirri add talent across the rest of the lines. The only real weakness is having Michal Handzus—if last season is any indication, he'll be a 2C, and he's a bad 2C. (It's just that Sharp and Kane/Hossa are more than good enough to carry him.) Bolland and Stalberg should be easy to replace; Frolik will be a little tougher to replace, but there's so much talent in the system that it's hard not to see a couple of players stepping up in the next couple of seasons.

Defense: Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook make a terrific top pair, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya make for a surprisingly solid second pair, and developing Nick Leddy and veteran Michal Roszival make a good third pair. (If you haven't noticed, there's a common theme here: "good".)

Goaltending: We can be pretty sure Corey Crawford is a competent starter. Probably not much more or much less.

tl;dr : Pretty much the same team that won the Cup. Not way better than anyone else (like 2012 Los Angeles), but one of the two or three best teams around for sure.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Testing my optimism

I thought this would be a fun exercise. I'll project every player's goal, assist, and point total. At the end, I'll add them up and see whether the totals make sense.


And throw in a little extra from Volpatti, Latta, and the other irregulars.


And throw in a little extra for Strachan, Orlov, Kundratek, and other irregulars.


Total: 243+ G, 407+ A, 650+ P

Let's say the irregulars bring that up to 245 goals. That's 2.99 goals per game—pretty reasonable, actually. In 2011-12, it would have ranked fourth in the league, and in 2010-11, fifth. (The Caps were fifth in the lockout-shortened season.)

Yeah, so I'll stick with these.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pacific Division Thoughts

Lots of interesting storylines in this division, from potentially the last hoo-hah of Thornton, Marleau, and Boyle in San Jose, to seeing if Phoenix can rebound with Mike Ribeiro in the mix, Edmonton's experiment with saying they'll do things their fanbase loves (puck possession), seeing if Anaheim can become that decent puck possession team we've seen glimpses of each of the last two seasons, and, of course, John Tortorella versus Canadian media.

I vacillated a lot between Anaheim, Phoenix, and Edmonton—I can see a good case for any order there. I felt there was a lot of uncertainty with Vancouver. Other than that, I feel pretty good with my picks here...unless I missed something huge.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Magical Metro Effect

A lot of people have discussed about how the Capitals will struggle in the new Metropolitan Division, being a borderline playoff team at best. Their arguments basically are derived from this:

Caps vs Southeast, last two seasons: 27-11-4 (a 113pt pace)
Caps vs Metro, last two seasons: 19-20-7 (an 80pt pace)

I have several issues with that reasoning.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

AO/Backstrom WOWY

In the vein of what MC79 did here:

It's probably worth noting that the decline in 2011-12 was in large part thanks to Backstrom's injury—it led to Ovechkin being centered by players like Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson instead. I'm guessing Green's injuries had to do with the downturn in 10-11 and 11-12, too.

Regardless, not a pretty picture.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TOIComp Effects, Part 1

When I ran the numbers for TOIComp, I was a little disappointed—but not surprised—that the spread between top and bottom competition (for valuable regulars) was so small. After all, we observe the same thing for Corsi Rel QoC, and differences at the season level in that metric don't appear to appreciably alter players' results. I felt that a similar study on TOIComp would be more work for the same result, but I'll do it anyway (after prompting from @garik16 and @pcunneen19).

Hopefully, there's something interesting in the data this time.

Monday, August 12, 2013

2013 TOIComp leaders

Here are the top 30 skaters by TOIComp. I only included the 609 skaters who played at least 36,000 man-minutes versus forwards—at three forwards per second, this is about 200 5v5 minutes. You can find the complete lists here, and I posted a preliminary version of the code here.
Top 30 vs F:


Z. Michalek
B. Gionta










The entire spread here is about 20 seconds—not exactly a lot. I'm a little more impressed by the offensive options here, since those guys will get ice time against the low-TOI defensive players when their team is down by a goal, meaning that in their tough minutes, they played an elevated TOIComp.

If you're surprised to see Backstrom here, given my post the other day, note that he still ranks behind Brouwer and Carlson, and he would have ranked behind Brooks Laich, but Laich didn't make the TOI cutoff.

And vs D:

St. Louis

H. Sedin

D. Sedin



E. Staal

Van Riemsdyk









Lots of linemates here—no surprises. The spread is again only about 20 seconds from 1 to 30. A little interesting to see both Crosby and Malkin (I'm guessing that's a result of Malkin taking top opposition with Crosby out).

Friday, August 9, 2013

Caps TOIComp 07-10

In case you missed it, yesterday I broke down TOIComp for the three recent Caps coaches (Boudreau, Hunter, and Oates) to see how they deployed their players. To follow up, I want to look at Glen Hanlon's team in 07-08, followed by Boudreau's habits during the Ovechkin-led Caps' peak.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Caps TOIComp

It took awhile, but I finally got this done. (I'm still tweaking the code, so it'll be a few days before I publish it here.)

A few notes:

a) I calculated TOI/60 by dividing individual 5v5 TOI by team 5v5 TOI (only counting games in which the player played). This differs from Behind the Net's TOI/60, which is 5v5 (and 6v5) TOI per game.
b) The bubble size is total 5v5 TOI this season (well, almost—it's actually the amount of man-seconds played against forwards. Let's just say that this only differs from time on ice when a team does not put three forwards on the ice).
c) Small sample caveats apply to the smaller bubbles, and remember context and line changes and such will play a role.

Red is forwards, blue are D. Hover over a bubble for additional information.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ideas for a touches app

With all the coding I've been doing recently (both for my NHL code and for real-life projects) I got to thinking about maybe writing a puck-tracking app. I've written something similar for tracking shot locations for basketball, and I thought the only changes I'd have to make would be to track the location of the mouse, not just clicks, and somehow incorporate a clock as well as figure out a way to separate carries from passes and dumps as well as changes of possession. One person could chart the movement of the puck, and someone else, watching later, could match that information up to which players handled the puck. Not only do we quickly consolidate the scoring chance, zone entry, and zone exit projects (the latter two of which are looking for help for next season), but we add a ton of data on top of that.

Then, I remembered this article from Arctic Ice Hockey. Tracing the path of a puck on a tablet is much faster and more accurate, I'm guessing, than tracing the path on a computer screen. One person could track the movement, and one person the players, as before. Since so many people have iPads, I thought about writing an app, but then I saw it costs $99 to get a developer's license for a year—more than I want to spend for just one app. But it's free (I think) to put up Android apps, a lot of people have Android tablets or phones, and thanks to this tool I discovered from MIT, it might be surprisingly straightforward to get this thing up and tested relatively quickly.

Before I start, I'd like some feedback.

a) Do you think it's feasible to track touches for entire games? (It would basically need to be done without looking at the tablet/phone at all.)

b) How would you design the app?

Obviously, I think the answer to (a) is "yes." To (b), here's my vision:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ribeiro will be missed

One thing I've been meaning to do for awhile is look at how good a playmaker Mike Ribeiro is at even strength (along the lines of this post examining other top playmakers, like Sidney Crosby, Henrik Sedin, and Pavel Datsyuk).

If you look at Ribeiro's Behind the Net player card, you'll notice that he consistently has a very good on-ice shooting percentage. That does not mean that he is a good playmaker by itself, though: good players play with other good players, and good scorers can elevate shooting percentage though their own efforts (shooting skill, like Steven Stamkos and Ilya Kovalchuk, or getting to better locations, like Alexander Semin with his little toe-drag before every wrist shot). But Ribeiro in particular doesn't really shoot or score enough to elevate that on-ice shooting percentage himself, and he's usually been a second-line center, so it's likely that he does have some significant playmaking skill that elevates his on-ice shooting percentage to top-line level. The question is, how much, and how much will the Capitals suffer as a result.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Picking the European contenders

To follow up from my post over the weekend picking USA and Canada, I continue by picking Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Admittedly I'm not familiar with the talent in the SHL, SM Liiga, and KHL, so I'll leave some roster spots open. In Vancouver, Sweden brought one G, one D, and two F that were not playing in the NHL (and one of them was Peter Forsberg), and Finland brought one G, one D, and three F, so I'll leave one roster spot open at each position for the the two top Scandinavian teams. Russia, on the other hand, brought nine KHL players—three D and six F—but four were in the NHL the previous season (Dmitri Kalinin, Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Alexander Radulov). I'll just leave at least three forward and two defense spots open, maybe more.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pretending to be an Olympic GM

Since everyone has been doing these now that an agreement for NHLers to go to the 2014 Olympics has been reached, I figured I'd have a go, too.

Division D is rough

Some of the yellow ones could have gone either way, and I might have been a bit generous with the greens. It's also worth noting that it's tough to judge the West teams moving east because there was no interconference play. (If you follow the people that I do on Twitter, you know that quite a few fans of Western Conference teams thought the West was much better than the East this year. Not sure I believe that, especially with the emergence of Montreal as a strong possession team.) That being said, certainly looks like the Capitals got stuck in the tougher conference—the one with better team quality and more teams competing for the same eight playoff spots—and perhaps in the toughest division as well.

Unless George McPhee makes a major upgrade to the team between now and October (hint: signing Grabovski would do the trick), the Capitals don't stand out from the many second-tier teams in the East. (The first tier would be Detroit, Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, and maybe Ottawa.) That means that there's a realistic shot Washington misses the playoffs. The same goes for every other second-tier team.

I really hope this is somehow all worth it in the end for Caps land.

  • Boston—lost Seguin, Peverley, and Ference, added Iginla and Eriksson. Not sure they covered their losses, exactly, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt: they have young D that could step in.
  • Montreal—did the Canadiens do anything?
  • Tampa Bay—added Filppula, lost Lecavalier. Meh.
  • Florida—lost Weiss, but he was hurt most of the year, anyway. Young team, but I'm not convinced their youth will lead to rapid improvement immediately.
  • Detroit—lost Filppula, added Weiss and Alfredsson. Sounds like a win.
  • Buffalo—Re-acquired Tallinder.
  • Ottawa—lost Alfredsson, but signed MacArthur and should have Erik Karlsson healthy again.
  • Toronto—net loss of talent up front, but Randy Carlyle will actually play Clarkson more than he did Grabovski and MacArthur (who couldn't do much good on the bench or in the bottom six).
  • Columbus—added Horton, get a full year of Gaborik.
  • Washington—full year of Erat and Laich, no slow start again (probably)
  • New Jersey—lost Kovalchuk and Clarkson, got Clowe, who doesn't replace either of them. Old team, too.
  • Philadelphia—added Lecavalier and Streit. Still need to dump a contract, but even if it's Coburn, I'm calling this a net win.
  • Carolina—nothing to note here. Skinner should bounce back, and I anticipate better possession numbers from Eric Staal and Alexander Semin, but I'm not certain.
  • N.Y. Islanders—young team got better as the year went along, but lost Streit and Boyes.
  • Pittsburgh—will have more health from Crosby and Letang.
  • N.Y. Rangers—new coach...dunno what will happen here.
  • Colorado—MacKinnon is one of those guys I think will be a game-changer right from the start. Also, more from Ryan O'Reilly.
  • Chicago—nothing much to note here. Don't like Handzus staying in the lineup, but they ditched Bolland (who wasn't as good last season as he was a few years ago) and have young players ready to step in.
  • St. Louis—young team that replaced Perron with Paajarvi and added Roy, who may or may not be an impact player (he used to be, but he's been hurt a lot recently)
  • Winnipeg—Yawn.
  • Nashville—Added Seth Jones and a bunch of bottom-six forwards. Okay...
  • Dallas—I like adding Seguin for Eriksson. Throw in Gonchar, Peverley, and Horcoff, and this team is better.
  • Minnesota—Lots and lots of good youth here.
  • Vancouver—Lost Roy, but he was hurt a lot.
  • Phoenix—lost Gordon, got Ribeiro. Net possession negative.
  • Anaheim—Yawn.
  • Calgary—Already bad team, lost Iginla and Bouwmeester via trade, and not enough youth to compensate.
  • Los Angeles—sometimes they seem like they build with Corsi, sometimes they trade for Robyn Regehr and sign him to extensions while letting Rob Scuderi walk.
  • Edmonton—lots of really good youth (i.e. first-overall picks). Also may not have a single AHL-level D playing in the NHL this year, which is a departure from recent history.
  • San Jose—Yawn.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Free agency targets--Sign Grabovski!

My take on notable UFAs and trade targets, and whether they may be a fit in Washington:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Thoughts on the draft

I only had the stamina to sit through the first round and most of the second, but luckily that's when most of the interesting stuff happened.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Play-by-play since 2007

If you know or are learning some coding, this might be helpful. It's really annoying to parse through the HTML. Hopefully this helps, and you can be on your way analyzing some nice tab-separated text file spreadsheets instead of those error-filled monsters.

Post and some instructions.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Stuff to watch for

With the draft up tomorrow and free agency opening up right after the holiday (Independence Day), here are the stories I'm watching.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Moving up

It's a little hard to believe, but it's now been nine years (to the day) since the Capitals drafted Alex Ovechkin first overall in 2004. Among Caps players, Ovechkin only has the second-longest tenure with this organization—Brooks Laich came on board during the 2003-04 season (and Jeff Schultz and Mike Green are only minutes behind Ovechkin at third and fourth, respectively.) While the Capitals haven't had as exciting a player to watch develop as young Ovechkin, they have had some real difference makers race through the pipeline: Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Mike Green, John Carlson, and, most recently, Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Filip Forsberg might have become another, but for the time being there's no one else on the radar.

I felt that during this season, the Caps sort of came to a crossroads. Early in the year, when the team was near the bottom of the standings, I thought the team should sell and reload for next season. It could have traded Mike Ribeiro for a first-round pick and more, maybe acquired and re-signed Stephen Weiss—who, luckily, wouldn't be able to contribute until next season, thanks to injury—kept Filip Forsberg, used the season as practice time for Oates to develop his players further (e.g. playing Backstrom and Ovechkin power versus power), and, finally, drafted Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Seth Jones, or Aleksander Barkov (all four of whom should be able to step into the NHL within a year and have all-star potential) with their own first-round pick.

Instead, they decided to gun for the playoffs, and thanks to a hot run at the end of the year, made it, falling in the first round to the New York Rangers. They traded Forsberg for Martin Erat—a trade I don't mind for a team that's looking to bolster an already formidable lineup. (Erat is a top-line, two-way player. Forsberg's upside, from what I've read, is similar in terms of impact, but Forsberg is a little more of a scorer. As it is, he won't reach his potential for at least six years, if at all.) They also kept Ribeiro on board, even though the playoffs were still a longshot at the deadline and the Erat trade meant it would be tough to find cap room to keep Ribeiro. They wanted results this year, and that's okay.

But it's tough to trade for top-end talent you need year after year. (Brouwer, Ribeiro, Erat.) If you want impact players without giving up important roster players, you have to trade from a limited draft pick pool and, for the Caps, a thin prospect pool. Moreover, these players are getting added to a team that could be getting worse and worse. 

Recall that in 2009-10, George McPhee added Joe Corvo, Scott Walker, and Eric Belanger to a team that was already headed for a comfortable President's Trophy win. 

In 2010-11, he added Jason Arnott and Marco Sturm for a team that had not yet wrapped up the division, but probably would have taken it along with a top-two seed in the conference. 

Now, you're adding players to a team that some people will no doubt predict to miss the playoffs next season. (The question is: how much do you trust the larger sample of games over which the Capitals' Corsi was brutal, and how much do you trust the smaller sample later in the year over which the Capitals' Corsi was almost playoff-level? If the former, you predict them to miss the postseason, probably.)

At some point, this team will need to boost its "baseline talent level"—how good it is before trade deadline additions come in. You do that with young players, since they're the ones most likely to improve a lot while with the team. Marcus Johansson, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner are halfway or more to developing into the players they'll be at their best, I think, so we can't look for huge improvement there. Dmitri Orlov will still improve a lot, probably, but into a reliable second-pair D at best. While Braden Holtby is still pretty young, he already looks like an above-average starter, and it's hard to expect him to improve much more, if at all. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson could provide that improvement, but Wilson probably won't be a dynamic offensive presence (which every scoring line needs) and there's still uncertainty about Kuznetsov's future plans (although he said he's coming to the NHL after next season). With Filip Forsberg now with Nashville, the team has to bank on a permanent return to ES dominance from Ovechkin and Backstrom, or for Kuznetsov to pan out in a big way (i.e. "perennial All-Star").

Even if Kuznetsov does pan out, though, without the addition of another top prospect, the team will really be looking at him and Wilson to offset other players' declines (which will be especially difficult if Ovechkin and Backstrom don't age as well as, say, Datsyuk and Zetterberg). That's a lot to ask for.

Assuming a lot of things, here's what the lineup might look like in April 2018, along with ages:

Kuznetsov (25) - Backstrom (30) - Ovechkin (32)
Laich (35) - Johansson (27) - Wilson (24)
TBA - Perreault (30) - Galiev (26)
TBA - TBA - Brouwer (32)

Alzner (29) - Green (32)
Orlov (26) - Carlson (28)
TBA - Kundratek (28)

Holtby (28)

And if the team continues to trade young (picks/prospects) for old, this lineup will be even older. And there will still be three full seasons left on Ovechkin's contract. This may be a formula to be a pretty good team for some time, but I don't see a way to hit that next level without some pretty good prospects, which the team has had some success drafting late in the first round...but hit a dry spell and there will be some serious issues. (Remember Tampa Bay when they had to trade Brad Richards and Dan Boyle?)

All of this is basically saying that the team isn't on a dramatic rise, nor does it have the assets or prospects to go on a quick rise at the moment. The solution is to get a good young player with high upside, and the almost surefire way to get that guy is by picking near the top of the draft. A player picked in this year's draft will be 22 or 23 in April 2018, still improving but likely already one of the best players on the team.

It might cost too much to move into the top four in this year's draft, but the 5-7 range (Carolina, Calgary, Edmonton) might be more realisticCarolina and Edmonton are both teams that need to improve sooner rather than later, and both need D, which the Capitals have an excess of. If the #5 team is lucky, one of MacKinnon/Drouin/Jones/Barkov drops; if not, there's still Nichushkin, Monahan, and Lindholm, all of whom project as second liners at the lower end, with top-line upside. If you wait until next year's draft, the guy will be 21 in 2018, still taking huge strides every year and ready to be The Guy once Ovechkin's contract is up.

The 4-7 spot in the draft is far from a sure bet as far as forwards are concerned, but if management believes the top of this draft is strongand it seems like everyone who has something to say only praises it at the top, so I have trouble believing that McPhee disagreesthen you're looking at the 4-7 guys in this draft being 2-3 guys in other drafts: near-locks.

The next question is how much it would cost to trade up. According to this study by Broad Street Hockey, it looks like the Caps have half of what they need already with their own first-round pick (23rd overall). Add the second-rounder (46th) and you're three-fourths of the way there. Substitute Orlov or Johansson for that second-rounder and maybe you've got enough to hook Edmonton or Carolina. You might be able to grab Elias Lindholma guy who compares favorably to Nicklas Backstrom on the scoresheetor Valeri Nichushkin, whose production hasn't come along but boasts a variety of high-end tools, including great skating.

Yes, five years is a long time from now, and I don't think a drastic cupboard-restocking is something that needs to happen this year. But while we can infer management's short-term plans (Backstrom-Ovechkin-Erat, depth on D) and medium-term plans (hope Ovechkin and Backstrom stay good, Kuznetsov and Wilson), I don't see a long-term plan in place. (A team like the Flyers has done alright while thinking short-term and figuring things out on the fly, but I think everyone saw their recent troubles coming.) It can't be "Ovechkin-Backstrom age really well or bust." You have to really buckle down and make a draft pick on the level of Kuznetsov, Claude Giroux, or Mike Green, a star with one of your picks in the 20s that can give you that strong push to the next level, or you can trade up, spend the equivalent of an early 20s draft pick in addition to that original 20s pick in order to be sure your pick will be good. (You could also go for quantity of picks over quality, but I think this team needs high-level talent sooner rather than later, and the higher picks will be more impactful individually while coming along a year or two sooner.) It's probably against the odds that this team wins a Cup with Ovechkin at this pointtime is getting a little short. With a smart trade—dealing someone who can be adequately replaced in UFA—that lands a good pick, you could bolster your chances of winning a title every season for the remainder of Ovechkin's contract and beyond.

Just something to think about.