Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oilers v. Ducks - Judges 16:18-22

When the woman saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to Strachan, "You must trust me once more, he has told me everything." So Strachan went to Californ(ication)a with the hefty sum that he and his cohorts had promised her. She told them all about the Orbs of Power but Strachan was frustrated: "I cannot print this in a national newspaper, even if it is true! Do you think I am just some basement-loving-pygama-wearing blogger!"

Then she called in to the next room, "Pronger, the media are upon us!"
He awoke from his pregame nap and thought, "I need to give him some juicy piece of information in order to conceal this thing I have done." So he decided to follow-through with his request for a trade and he told Strachan all about it so long as he promised to wait until the season was over to report it. At this point Yahweh was angered and decided on that day to crush the hearts of Oiler fans in the Stanley Cup finals for employing such a man as this.

So the media seized upon this story after the playoffs and Oiler fans, not realizing that the sin belonged to them as much as to Pronger himself, burned his furniture and dragged his name through the mud. Oiler fans lashed out at him at every opportunity and eventually Kevin Lowe traded Pronger to a pathetic hockey market. But the punishment that Oiler fans would endure was only beginning.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Oilers v. Wild - Titus 2:1-15

O MacT, you must teach your players to play sound defensive hockey. Teach the older men to stop taking so many stupid penalties so that they will be worthy of respect. They must be self-controlled. They must also remember their faith in Yahweh, their love for their teammates and the endurance they will need in order to win the Lord's Cup.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers of God's chosen city or addicted to tanning, but to believe in what is good. Let them help the younger women to love the city and to take part in cancer fundraising, to be self-controlled and pure in speech, to be busy at their home in Edmonton and to always put the sake of the hockey team first so that no one will malign the word of our God.

Encourage the young men to be self-controlled. Sit them in the press-box if you need to, whatever the reason. In your teaching show integrity and seriousness that cannot be condemned by any player or fan, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because all of the bad they have to say about us is nothing but lies.

Make the Northwest division your slaves. You must discipline especially the accursed Wild so that they will not talk back to you, or steal points from you. Beat them handily so that, by our dominance, every game you play against them will make the teaching about God our Savior look attractive.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to the Oildrop. This grace teaches us to say "No" to puck bunnies and hefty contracts, and instead to live out self-controlled, cap-friendly careers in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious re-appearing of the Cup of our great God and Saviour who gave himself to us to redeem us from our mediocre play and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

These are the things you must teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

The Tiebreakers

If two teams end up tied in the standings at the end of the year the first tie-breaker is wins. If the Oilers and Ducks end up tied in points, the Ducks are almost certain to have more wins so that tie-breaker is almost surely lost there. The Oilers currently have one more OTL than the Predators, Jackets and Wild. They have the same number as the Blues and Stars.

If the teams are tied in wins, the next tie-breaker is the points-percentage in the season series. The Oilers have already won the season series against the Ducks (it probably won't matter) and the Blues. They lose on this tie-breaker to the Predators. If they win in regulation against the Wild they win here, if they lose, they lose here, if they win in overtime it goes to the next tie-breaker. Ties with the Jackets and Stars are set in stone.

If the teams are tied in wins and points-percentage in the season series the next tie-breaker is the goal differential on the season. Barring some crazy change to the way things are now the Oilers will lose this tie-breaker to the Jackets, Stars and Wild.

So... the Oilers hold the tie-breaker on the Blues, Stars and maybe the Wild. They've pretty much lost it to the Jackets, Ducks and Predators.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Oilers v. Ducks - Judges 16:1-17

After many years Pronger moved to Edmonton, and there he saw a fine-looking woman, and he went in to her. The media were told that Pronger had arrived and said to one another, "Pronger has come here! I think he is with a woman!" So they surrounded the place at the orders of their leader, Mr. Strachan, and set an ambush for him all night in front of the woman's house. They kept quiet all night, saying, "We need to wait until he comes out of there in the light of the morning; then we will take pictures." But Pronger awoke at midnight, looked down once again at the woman and snuck out the back door.

After this, when winter came, he loved a woman in the downtown core. So the media came up to her and said, "Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies and what he thinks about Edmonton so that we will have many stories to write, both about his power and about this terrible free-agent repelling city! We will each give you both anonymity in our stories and a hefty sum." So the woman said to Pronger, "You must tell me where your great strength lies and your feelings about the coming bitter January cold."

Pronger said to her, "I will love this city even in the bitter January cold and I always wear a lucky green undershirt in order to play my best." Now she was wearing a wire and when he slipped off her shirt he saw it and the next morning in the paper it was reported that Chris loved Edmonton and had a lucky green shirt. When Chris denied the shirt rumour to the media, Strachan was proved wrong, so the secret of his strength was not known.

On their next illicit rendez-vous the woman said to Pronger, "You have mocked me and told me lies! Please tell me the source of your strength and what might get you off of your game." And he said to her, "If they use racial slurs on my teammates then I will become frustrated and play poorly." So the woman brought this news to Strachan. He was unsure of it so he decided to pass it along to someone who would test the information. This set off a seven game losing streak. Seven being the number of completeness, Strachan concluded that the report was true so he reported that Pronger had been ruined by the racially insensitive remarks and that his play would not recover. The Oilers then won five consecutive games.

Then the woman went back to Pronger and said, "Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me the source of your strength!" Pronger knew that she was upset and wasn't sure what to do. He had been used to these visits being fun. He said to her, "If you make love to me seven times in the next week then my play will become like that of my brother." So she came to Californi(cation)a for the last half of January. Each morning he would wake up and say that he was in a weakened state but his play continued as usual.

At the end of the trip she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies. I am going to tell your wife!" When she pressed him in this way his soul was vexed to death. He immediately went to Kevin Lowe and asked for a trade. When he came back to her he said, "I will tell you the truth! You must not tell my wife! It is the Orbs! The Orbs of Power that give both me and my team our strength!"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oilers v. Coyotes - Psalm 22:21-31

Rescue me from the mouth of the Coyotes;
save me from the advances of the mighty Ducks.

I will declare your name to the Oilogosphere;
I will praise you in Lowetide's game-day thread.

Let us fear Yahweh and give him praise.
You who marveled at Gretzky, honor him!
Revere him, you who watched Marchant on Moog.

For Yahweh does not take joy
in the suffering of his afflicted team.
Yes Yahweh will not hide his face from them
but will listen to their cry for help.

So let us come together and fear Yahweh
that he might fulfill his vows of blessing and destruction:

Those born after 1990 will be satisfied;
they who trust Yahweh
will have joy that will live forever!

Every team
will remember Yahweh's favour:
the Coyotes and Ducks are a first fruit;
they will bow down before him.

For Yahweh is sovereign
and he crushes those who oppose him.

The Oildrop will be restored,
Edmonton will feast and worship
but Calgary will weep with great mourning.

His people remember his deeds.
Our generation has been told about Yahweh.

We also will proclaim his greatness
to a people yet unborn—
for the restoration will arrive.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oilers v. Red Wings - Leviticus 1:14-17

If the offering to Yahweh is a crease offering of birds, he is to offer The Black Bird. Roloson, the Elder, shall meet him in the crease, slash at his knees and throw blockers at his head and the blood will pour out all around the crease. He will pick him up and throw him to the east side of the crease, since he does his whining to the referee on the west side. His actions will tear the Wings apart as they look on in horror - except for Chelios... he enjoys that kind of thing - but it will not destroy their morale completely. So the Elder will add to this save after save in order to complete his holy offering to Yahweh. It is a crease offering, an offering made complete by the presence of blood and skill, an aroma pleasing to Yahweh.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dustin Penner - Two Years Later

Recently, Mark Spector remarked that the Dustin Penner signing may be the worst in the last two years. That seems blatantly wrong on its face when you have contracts like Wade Redden's kicking around but leaving aside the fact that it's certainly not the worst, I actually think it was a risky but potentially good play. To this point, it's still pretty difficult to evaluate and I'd like to take some time here to explain why. Most of us remember the Brian Burke tirades, but here's a refresher:

"You go right now from entry-level to what used to be the third contract, thanks to two offer sheets from Kevin Lowe."

That sentence sums up his basic position nicely. It's a pretty funny statement because it's blatantly false. To start, the second contract certainly wasn't disappearing for everyone (think guys like Nilsson, Kesler or Lombardi). It was disappearing for top line players but that wasn't because of Kevin Lowe. Here are a few examples of top line players signed to big money long-term deals before the Penner offer sheet took place with Penner included in his rightful place and Getzlaf and Perry added in since they were Burke signings:

Ilya Kovalchuk:6.4M is 16.4% of 39M Cap
Rick Nash: 5.4M is 13.8% of 39M Cap
Martin Havlat: 6M is 13.6% of 44M Cap
Patrice Bergeron: 4.75M is 12.2% of 39M Cap
Ryan Getzlaf: 5.325M is 10.6% of 50.3M Cap
Eric Staal: 4.5M is 10.2% of 44M Cap
Corey Perry: 5.325M is 9.4% of 56.7M Cap
Ales Hemsky: 4.1M is 9.3% of 44M Cap
Sedin Bros: 3.575M is 9.2% of 39M Cap
Dustin Penner: 4.25M is 8.4% of 50.3M Cap

Now, many here may disagree with Kevin Lowe's talent analysis of Dustin Penner as a first line left wing but given that's how he was used in his first season here and given the quotes from Lowe at the time, I think it's quite obvious that's what he thought he was getting. The offer sheet angle was new, but good RFAs were getting coin and 3+ years before Lowe ever gave it to Penner on his second contract (although Lowe was a part of this change anyway with that beauty Hemsky deal). Taken in this light the upside and downside of the contract are apparent. If Penner is unable to fill the role of 1LW he is going to be overpaid for a nice long while. If Penner does fill the role of 1LW he is going to be a bargain. He doesn't even need to post great numbers for it to work either because in a PvP role, breaking even will be good enough for the guy at the bottom of the pay scale.

So how has Penner done as a 1LW? Honestly, I think he's been fine. He's had some success on the PP and while he's not great at EV when he, Hemsky and Horcoff have been going against the other team's best they have been able to come out on top. This would seem to me to be enough to make the contract signing a success. The Oilers are able to win the PvP matchup with a pretty cheap first line. Success! And yet... laughably, the fact that the line was coming out on top was not enough and this season Penner has seen himself demoted to the fourth line and diminished his role on the PP making his contract look like (and effectively be) an enormous bust. If the Oilers move Penner for pennies this summer it will be a huge mistake. At the very least they should be taking out the pump for next season so that he can look like a cheap but reasonable top line and PP option. Personally, I hope they keep him and put him in a PvP role so that they can afford luxuries (having all of Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert and Grebeshkov) or overpayments (Moreau, Staios and Pisani) in other places.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Playing to the Score

This is a first look at the effect of playing to the score. I will be doing some more work on this in the days to come but thought I would throw some preliminary findings out before doing too much more so that I can add in some improvements if others have some suggestions. So feel free!

As the title suggests, the topic at hand is playing to the score. When I began I decided, rightly or wrongly, that a team is likely to play to the score in close games in the third period but is unlikely to play to the score in the first period. As such I tracked all of the games that have been played in the 2008-2009 NHL season in which the goal differential between the two teams was no greater than two and where no goals were scored in the third period. I then compared the shot totals in the first period of these games with the shot totals in the third period of these games. One of the limitations of this study is that it limits the sample size but I couldn't find an easy way to strip out the different situations easily in games where the score changed frequently. I would also like to have used Corsi numbers instead of shots but couldn't find a place that breaks these numbers down by period. Anyway, we are left with 142 games to this point in the season, 58 in which the teams entered the third period tied and 84 in which one team held a one or two goal lead. The results for the first period do not reflect the game state in that period, so the column that says "First Period Tied" means that these are the shots that were taken in the first period of games that were tied in the third period. Similarly "First Period Trail" are the shots that were taken in the first period by the team that trailed for the entire third period, and so on. These are the shot totals for those games:

In order to get the lead teams did not need to significantly outshoot their opposition, at least in the first period. It may be, of course, that teams got their leads in the second when they had more success outshooting. Nonetheless, this is one piece of evidence that may suggest that outshooting does not necessarily result in outscoring.

Once teams have the lead in the third period they have a tendency to sit back. This is what most observers of the game would intuit and so I think this passes the smell test. It also, to a degree, answers the question of how much: teams that are trailing increase their shot total by 11.3%, teams that are leading decrease their shot total by 21.1% and the overall shots in games where one team has the lead decrease by 5.2%. Given that these are instances in which neither team scored a goal it is quite possible that shot quality is going down for the teams increasing their shot output even as the number of shots is going up.
In tie games there is far more shot attrition with neither team being forced to push the action: there are 21.3% fewer shots when teams are tied in the third period than those same teams produced in the first. Bruce has done a study on the effect of the three-point game and I think that this data confirms his suggestion that teams are playing less aggressively in order to get to overtime.

I also thought it would be instructive to look at the different game states by breaking down the situations even further, both by home vs. road and by the amount of the deficit, i.e. one or two goals. These are the results when the teams are tied and when the home team is in the lead:

The change is significant both with a one-goal lead and with a two-goal lead. Now let's look at the results when the road team is leading:

As expected the road team also plays to the score. The difference in the results when the road team is up by two goals are particularly astounding. They outshot the home team in the first, presumbably to get a lead and were then run over territorially in the third as they protected the lead. The difference is far more pronounced than the same situation when the home team has the lead. This may be the result of the matchups. Of note, however, is that these totals represent only 13 games where the road team is up by two and only 12 games where the home team is up by two.

One final point. Certain teams compete in more of these games than others. The average number of games is 9.5. The highest totals are the Minnesota Wild with 15, the Tampa Bay Lightning with 14 and a few others at 13. The lowest totals are for the Detroit Red Wings with 3, the Columbus Blue Jackets with 6 and the Chicago Blackhawks with 7. The Oilers competed in 8.

Oilers v. Wild - Titus 1:10-16

For there are many teams who are rebellious - nothing but goons and cheapshot artists - especially the Wild from Minnesota. Their trap must be beaten because they are ruining attendance figures across the league by playing in ways that they ought not to play all for the sake of selfish gain. Even one of their own prophets has said, "My players are filthy cheaters, tiresome brutes, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore, defeat them soundly, so that they will know that our teachings about Yahweh are true. Pay no attention to Canadian Hockey Mythologies or to the prognostications of those who reject the truth. For those who believe, all things are a reason to believe, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, God will clutterbuck them forever. As for the Wild, both their bodies and consciences are corrupted. They know nothing of God and by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, boorish and unfit for doing anything good.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Scoring Chances - Games 62-71

This set of ten games may have been the softest part of the schedule that the Oilers will have all season as the majority of the games are against teams that will miss the playoffs and there were no games against the best very best teams in either Conference. The Oilers took advantage of this by playing point-filled .500 hockey with fully six games going to overtime (I like to pretend that they went 7-3-0 instead of 5-1-4). Thanks to Dennis' work on scoring chances here we have an opportunity to see if the Oilers were value for their results.

(For those unfamiliar with the metric a player is awarded a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is awarded with a “chance for” if someone on his team has a chance and awarded with a “chance against” if someone on the opposing team has a chance to score. The results are broken down into three game states, EV (even strength), PP (Power Play) and SH (Short-Handed). The players are organized according to their jersey numbers.)

Games Sixty-two Through Seventy-One, February 28 to March 20:
21=Potulny and 21*=Kotalik

This is the first segment that includes both Ales Kotalik and Patrick O'Sullivan so I thought I'd start with them. Kotalik is struggling at EV which won't surprise very many observers but the -8 he put up against Chicago is the majority of that shortfall. That said, the Chicago game is the only one played against a top ten team in the league. At least he can score in the shoot-out. O'Sullivan has managed to play the opposition to a tie at EV and has stabilized a top line that had been bleeding badly. To put in perspective how bad things were Shawn Horcoff was -37 in the 8 games between Feb. 21 and Mar. 10. They started coming out of it before O'Sullivan made his way to 1LW, but things are working there now, which is very important.

As was mentioned with Kotalik, both Nilsson (-8) and Gagner (-5) had a terrible game against Chicago (a tremendous pass, a nice breakaway goal and a walk-off shot in the shootout will mask a whole lot of bad). In their other games, both guys played really well. Hopefully yesterday was just a blip but it may also be indicative of the fact that they were playing against some tougher competition in Chicago than they'd had to in the recent past.

The "third" line managed to do quite well in this segment. Cogliano and Pisani have been the pair that's stuck together and they both ended up close to even. The captain only played half of the games, but this is his first segment in the black. Congratulations Ethan.

Marc Pouliot > Liam Reddox (It's sad that Reddox was injured against Chicago but the result will be the Oilers icing their best possible line-up although not against Boogaardville). The only thing worse than Reddox has been the PP. You don't even need ice time to see that those chance numbers are pathetic.

As for the defense, Denis Grebeskov is still looking good even without Visnovsky. He might be the real deal which puts the Oilers in an awkward spot this summer. They really can't afford to pay him what he's worth so contract negotiations could get interesting. If they could somehow convince him to take a one-year deal they'd have a much better idea of what the 2010 cap holds and could then adjust but it sounds like he wants a multi-year contract instead. His situation is the most interesting of the summer. Until then, I'll make sure to enjoy his play.

So were the Oilers full value for their results? Probably not. But it doesn't matter! The Oilers are now in pretty good position for the playoffs and would really need to blow up not to make it... which means that the next time I throw out a ten game review either we'll all be gearing up for round one or it will be after the first ten games of next season.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Oilers v. Blackhawks - Mark 8:34-38

Then MacTavish called the fans to hear him as well, along with his players: "If anyone believes in my ability to coach he must deny logical lineup choices, take the criticism of his peers and defend me. For whoever wants to save himself from frustration will be frustrated with me, but whoever trusts in my decisions will be free from anger. What good is it for a man to be right, yet forfeit cheering for his team? What does a person gain by cheering for Yahweh's team to lose? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words on this road trip against the adulterous Blackhawks and sinful Wild, the Greatest Coach Ever will be ashamed of him when that Coach hold's the glory of Yahweh above his head as the holy Cup's angels look on."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oilers v. Avalanche - Psalm 107:1-9

Let us give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good.
His favour on us will never end.

Let us who will be redeemed tonight shout to Yahweh with joy:
He will let us prevail over the sticks of the Avalanche.

Let us who are scattered be happy together,
whether in Toronto, Vancouver, Newfoundland or Germany.

Though the Oilers may wander through desert wastelands,
unable to impose a style of play;

Though the Oilers may hunger for victories grand,
some careers are trickling away.

So they will cry out to Yahweh,
and he will deliver them from distress.

He will lead them on the straight path,
to the playoffs, to find success.

So, let us give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good.
He will let us prevail over the sticks of the Avalanche.

He satisfies his hungry people with small victories,
and will quench their thirst with a drink from the Cup.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Player Evaluation at the Deadline

The trade deadline has come and gone and there has been much analysis of each individual trade around the internet. I've decided to add my voice to the fray on a more macro scale, namely, to look at one way the teams that made these trades may have been evaluating players. A popular topic around the Oilogosphere is the dichotomy between "saw him good" scouting and scounting via evidence provided by statistical analysis. Jonathan Willis recently did a post on the Edmonton Oilers recent aquisition of Patrick O'Sullivan and speculated that one reason that the Oilers may have liked him is his particularly good play against the Oilers. O'Sullivan's boxcar numbers (goals, assists and points) were much better against the Oilers than his performance against the rest of the league. Is this significant? In an attempt to answer that question I looked at all of the NHL players who were traded at the deadline (with the exception of Erik Cole since his circumstances are quite unique) and compared their performance against the team that had acquired them with their performance against the rest of the league over the last two NHL seasons. I believe this is the same method that Jonathan used earlier. The following table is organized by the difference in the player's points per game between these two groups:

What can be concluded from this? First of all, a couple of caveats: these are all small sample sizes so teams shouldn't really be using these games to decide on the merits of a given player. Similarly, it may be difficult for us, as observers, to judge how much this data is getting used. In addition, not all of these players were obtained to play in an offensive role so these statistics probably aren't helpful for judging whether or not San Jose picked up Travis Moen because he played well against them.

With those caveats in mind these statistics look pretty random to me. On the whole I think it's doubtful that NHL teams as a whole prioritize these games in their overall evaluation. They may play a part, but I doubt that it's a dominant role. A good team to illustrate this is Phoenix who obtained a couple of players near the top of this list (Lombardi and Prust) and a couple of players near the bottom (Upshall and Dawes). Anaheim did this as well with their aquisitions of Wisniewski and Christensen. Other teams that made significant aquisitions fall anywhere from the bottom of the list (Moore, Morris), to the middle (Jokinen, Antropov) and of course to the top (O'Sullivan, Eminger). It's perhaps true that certain teams (like Edmonton or Florida) do depend heavily on how a player has performed against them in the past but I think it's more likely that O'Sullivan and Eminger's overperformance against their new teams is just the luck of the draw (some are bound to overperform and some underperform, especially given the small sample size).

This does not, of course, answer how much value is placed on statistical analysis and how much on first-hand scouting reports but it does hopefully provide some insight into how teams are evaluating players.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oilers v. Blues - Jude 17-25

Do remember, Oilogosphere, the destiny of the team favoured by the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us remember that, "Toward the end of the regular season there will be scoffers who believe in their own ungodly playoff hopes." These ones are from other divisions, they sometimes pretend to be Saints but are really devoid of the Spirit. But you, Oilogosphere, must remember our most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, staying in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to the playoffs and even to the Lord's Cup. Have pity on those who doubt; save the Blues from heartbreak by snatching them out of the fire of hope early so that they might be moved by your compassion for them and serve you with fear, hating every uniform that does not belong to Yahweh's chosen in the final weeks.

Now to him who is able to keep Tom from swatting at pucks flat-footed and to close Dwayne's fivehole even when he is tired and to prevent Jason from taking the ice in overtime, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory and sovereign authority, which he has had since before the PCHA and which he will continue to have forever. Amen.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Scoring Chances - Season To Date

In the comments to the last post someone asked if I could put up the running totals for scoring chances this year on a somewhat regular basis. Given that I haven't done it since the half-way mark of the season that seems like a pretty reasonable request. I'll try to update the numbers at the beginning of each week. Also, a big thanks to Coach who let me know how to import my charts from an Excel document into blogger. He, I and everyone else should all now be much happier. Anyway, these are the scoring chances from the beginning of the season.

(For those unfamiliar with the metric a player is awarded a chance anytime someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is awarded with a “chance for” if someone on his team has a chance and awarded with a “chance against” if someone on the opposing team has a chance to score. The results are broken down into three game states, EV (even strength), PP (Power Play) and SH (Short-Handed). The players are all organized according to their jersey numbers.)

Games One to Sixty-Eight, October 12 to March 14
Missing Games 22 at St. Louis, 33 at Vancouver and 40 vs San Jose
21=Potulny and *21=Kotalik

Thanks again to Coach for helping things look a tad more professional and making things a whole lot easier to read. Thanks also goes to Dennis for being the Boxer of the Oilogosphere. Work harder man! I may go back and edit the charts into my other posts since I still have them all on hand.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Scoring Chances - Consistency

One thing a lot of fans are constantly on about is a team not playing with enough consistency. Matt Fenwick had a great piece on consistency a while back which I will quote at length here:

"I have posted before that whenever a coach or media type says that Local Team X needs "more big _____", that can easily be shortened (and made more accurate!) by deleting the word 'big'. Today's lesson in hockey/sports lingo is that more consistent = better. If the coach says the powerplay needs to be more consistent, then what he means to say (even if it's subconsciously) is that the powerplay needs to be better. If your team needs a more consistent goalie, what they actually need is a better goalie. And if the Flames can only win their 1st round series if they play very consistently, what that actually means is that the can only win if they play very well.And if I play a round of golf with Tiger Woods, I might tie him on the first hole, but when he beats me by 12 or 15 on the round, it won't be because I lacked consistency."

I think that there is a ton of truth to that. Most times when people are clamouring for more consistency from their team they actually just want the players to be better. Nonetheless, I thought that it would be interesting to look at consistency for the Edmonton Oilers through the lens of scoring chances, as counted by Dennis here. Are some players really more consistent than others? If so, in what ways is this the case?

I struggled a little bit in deciding how to present this data, so I'm actually going to present it in two different ways (all at EV). In the first chart we'll see the player followed by the number of games the player was +3 or better in scoring chances, followed by the number of games the player was between +2 and -2, followed by the number of games the player was -3 or worse: decidedly good games, medium games, and decidedly bad games.

(For those unfamiliar with the metric, a player is awarded a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is awarded with a “chance for” if someone on his team has a chance and awarded with a “chance against” if someone on the opposing team has a chance to score. The players are all organized according to their jersey numbers.)

Games One to Sixty-Eight, October 12 to March 14
Missing Games 22 at St. Louis, 33 at Vancouver and 40 vs San Jose

I would be prepared to label anyone with more good and bad games than they have medium games, with neither the good nor bad being dominant, "inconsistent." The guys in this category are Gagner, Hemsky, Gilbert, Souray and Horcoff, also known as, most of our best players. I find this fascinating to say the least. Nilsson, Cogliano, Pouliot, Penner and Stortini look to be the most consistently average players. The young guys, the guys that tend to be stereotyped most often as being "inconsistent." The only guy on the team kicking ass and taking names with some consistency is Visnovsky though he does have a few bad games sprinkled in too. It's kind of frightening that he might end the year leading the team in "good games."

The next chart will hopefully provide a little bit more information and it's something that I think people will find interesting anyway. This is simply the player followed by the games which he has outchanced the opposition, followed by ties, followed by games in which he's been outchanced:

Looking at the data this way gives a bit of a different impression but gives some clearance for a guy like Nilsson over a guy like Stortini who may not get totally destroyed but is on the wrong side of the ledger on most nights. Looking at the data this way also makes Gagner, Penner, Visnovsky and Grebeshkov look the most consistenty good, though even then only Penner has more mildly poor games than he does awful ones. Pisani, Strudwick, Moreau, Staios and Smid aren't inconsistent, they just aren't very good.

I think the bottom line is still with Matt's assessment, namely, our top players just aren't good enough. Still, it's interesting that they play more than half of their games dominating or being dominated in roughly equal measures. At the other end, the many of the younger players generally have a narrower range of performance, generally staying within +/-2. It seems to me that consistency really is an issue for some players more than it is for others.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Oilers v. Avalanche - Matthew 26:6-19

While Kevin still had his Stanley Cup hangover, two men came to him with huge grins and ludicrous contract demands. They laid them out as Kevin was reclining at the table and when some of the Ten saw this they were indignant: "Why this waste?" they asked, "This money could have been better spent and the cap space could have been given to players who are more deserving."

Aware of their malicious hearts Kevin said to them, "Why are you bothering these men? They are the heart and soul of this team. There will always be more free agents to pine for but you will not always have a run to the Stanley Cup to reward. When they laid out these demands, they did it to prepare for another run. I tell you the truth, wherever my story is told throughout the Oilogosphere and the world, what Steve and Ethan are paid will also be told in memory of their greatness."

Then one of the Ten — the one whose name is "Heart and Soul" — went to his agent and asked, "What are you willing to get me if I hand him over to you?" So the agent counted out for him five and half million silver coins. From then on Ryan hardened his heart and waited for an opportunity to get paid.

On the day of the Mark Messier retirement gala the Ten came to Kevin and asked, "Where do you want us to be for the ceremony?" He replied, "Go into the city to a certain bartender and tell him, 'The Teacher says: The appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate Mess with the Old Boys Club and we need you to MC.' " So the Ten did as Kevin had directed them and prepared themselves for the Mark Messier retirement gala and for the dinner they would share beforehand.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Who Drafts Goalies Well (1995-1999)

Well it's taken a good long while, but this is actually the second installment in a series of posts about drafting goaltenders. The first took a look at who did a good job of drafting goaltenders between 2000 and 2004. I used the following criteria in determining the number of points that a team received for any particular goaltender:

The goalie plays an AHL game - 2
The goalie plays 40+ AHL or NHL games in a single season - 2
The goalie plays an NHL game - 1
For the team that drafted him - 1
The goalie plays in 50 NHL games over his career - 1
For the team that drafted him - 1
The goalie plays 40+ NHL games in a single season - 4
For the team that drafted him - 3
The goalie plays 40+ NHL games in at least five different seasons - 4
For the team that drafted him - 3
The goalie is nominated for the Vezina trophy - 4
For the team that drafted him - 3

Each pick was given an expectation as well, as follows:

1st to 10th overall - 22 (starting goalie on your team for at least five seasons)
Rest of 1st round - 15 (starting goalie on your team for at least one season)
2nd round - 6 (should at least play in one NHL game for your team)
3rd round - 5 (should at least play in one NHL game for somebody)
4th round - 4 (should manage to be an AHL starter)
5th round - 3 (should have a 50/50 chance at being an AHL starter)
6th round - 2 (should play in at least one AHL game)
7th round + - 1 (should have a 50/50 chance at playing an AHL game)

Those seem like pretty reasonable expectations to me. However, with the sample being taken from 2000-2004 the higher picks haven't really been around long enough to cover their bet. As such, the teams that took goalies in the first round generally received a lower grade. With this earlier sample (1995-1999) we might get a better idea of the value of drafting goalies in the early rounds.

I've presented the findings in the following chart. The first column is the team, the second, any significant goalies (at least 50 NHL games). The next set of columns represent points that the team has accumulated based on their goalie picks: their net points (actual - expected), actual points and expected points based on the criteria outlined above. The final set of columns will isolate what strategy each team uses in the draft (whether they draft a lot of goalies, or only a few, in the first round, or only in the later rounds). These are the number of goalies drafted, number drafted in round one, in rounds two to four and in rounds five and over.

A few notes:

1. Of the 26 goalies drafted in this time period who played 50 NHL games 17 of them played for one of the nine top ranked teams in this system. The two that are probably the best were first round picks on teams who otherwise did a poor job of drafting goaltenders.

2. 13 goalies were drafted in the first round from 1995-1999 compared to 14 between 2000-2004. 118 goalies were drafted from 1995-1999 compared to 157 between 2000-2004. The scores also tended to be closer to 0 in this segment than in the last one.

3. The two teams with a positive score in both time periods are Colorado and Tampa Bay. That's unexpected. This makes me think that the system is somewhat flawed. The importance placed on games played means that teams with weak goaltending will be more willing to try out their draft picks than teams with strong goaltending (why did New Jersey choose two goalies in the first round anyway). Still, Colorado had Roy around for almost this entire time so they don't benefit from that effect so much here.

4. The teams that drafted goalies in the first round didn't fair nearly as poorly because they have had more time to cover the bets made. Still, many of the teams didn't actually get their points from the first rounder working out as much as they did from a late rounder making up for it (Pittsburgh's first rounder was Craig Hillier, without him they would have scored +11, Phoenix took Patrick DesRochers, without him they would have scored +7...). I'll do a separate post on first rounders, but right now, they still look like a pretty bad bet to me.

5. The Oilers were actually okay in terms of drafting goaltenders. Their best over this period was Mike Morrison which isn't great, but they also didn't waste many high round picks on goalies. Their highest pick, Patrick Dovigi, was a complete bust.

6. This segment is where San Jose gets their reputation as a goalie machine from. Both guys were drafted out of Finland in the same year (1995). They picked another goalie ahead of those two in the same year (Scott Roche) who didn't work out as well. I'd say their reputation is overblown.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oilers v. Thrashers - Proverbs 3:30-35

Do not accuse Marty Reasoner who has done no wrong
He is still one of Yahweh's chosen.

Do not envy a fraudulent man
Yahweh has redeemed you from his evil.

Yahweh forces detestable men into retirement on waivers,
but loves those who take defensive assignments with humility.

Yahweh's curse has been on the house of Waddell,
a curse that will bless the righteous at home.

Yahweh mocks proud mockers
but gives grace to those who walk in the way.

The wise will inherit a playoff spot,
but fools will glory in their shame.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On Tanking

Last season the Edmonton Oilers were a bad team. By the last month of the season there was very little chance that they would be able to make the playoffs but the fans of the team still hoped for them to win every single game. This was at least partly due to the fact that they did not have their own first round pick. This made for a much more enjoyable fan experience than the year before when the Oilers were tanking after the trade of Ryan Smyth. I don't blame fans (or management) for hoping that their team loses once they've fallen out of the playoff race since that's how the league is set up: either be very good or be very bad. This, to me, is the problem.

The reward of the first overall pick should not go to a team that has carefully managed to consistently lose. That is foolishness and is contrary to the competitive nature of sport. As much as players are trained to win, it's difficult to imagine that they're so unaware of game theory that they aren't aware it's better for the long-term interests of the team that they lose. I would imagine that overcoming those feelings is a pretty daunting task and that some players have their performance negatively effected. I'm not saying that they're throwing games as they obviously have a personal (monetary) interest in performing as well as they can, but it would still be a difficult feeling to overcome, especially if they believed that management was hoping for them to fail.

I would propose that the team finishing with the most points but still missing the playoffs is more deserving of the first overall selection in the draft. They have demonstrated that they are trying to win, but are still in need of help in order to catch the really good teams that are finishing first or second in the conference. There is a significant monetary incentive for both player and team to make the playoffs, so I wouldn't be very worried about teams throwing games in order to get a better pick, especially if the weighted lottery didn't give them a particulary good chance at success. I would advocate for a 105 ball lottery where the number of balls would depend on the team's finish in the regular season. The team with the most points that missed the playoffs would get fourteen balls (13% chance). The second best team, thirteen, and so on down the line. Eliminate the rule where a team can only advance or fall so many spots and then televise the draw (maybe do the envelope reavealing thing that the NBA does). For the second round, go back to the regular order where the team that finishes last gets the first (31st) pick.

This system would prevent tanking and would let fans hope for their team to win no matter the circumstances, which is the way that I think both sports and fandom ought to be.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oilers v. Canadiens - Psalm 135:1-12

Praise Yahweh.
Praise the name of Yahweh.
Praise Yahweh, all of you who who would love his team,
you who worship at Rexall Place,

you who lift your hands in the house of our God.
Praise Yahweh, for he is good.

Shout his praise when the red light glows.
For Yahweh has chosen Edmonton to be his own,

the Oilers to be his most treasured possession.
I know that Yahweh is great,

that Yahweh is greater than any man.
Yahweh is concerned with his own pleasure,
in the stands and on the ice,
in the bars and on team flights.
He blesses the sticks of those he has chosen:

they will catch lightning in a bottle
and fill their storehouses with standings points.
He struck down the chosen one of Montreal,

a man covered in the sin of the Stars.
He sent this as a sign to his people,

against Gainey and his riotous people but also for us.
Yahweh has destoryed many nations

and executed mighty coaches:
Carbonneau, leader of the Canadiens,

Savard leader of the Blackhawks:
every coach associated with les Habitants
has been destined for destruction.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Outliers: Hall and Nash... I mean Draper

When I was calculating which forwards take the biggest load in the defensive zone for their teams I was quite struck by the use of Adam Hall in Tampa Bay. He currently leads his team in defensive zone faceoffs at even strength, yet he only plays 8.5 minutes per game. He has taken 219 defensive zone draws and 98 offensive zone draws. Yet among forwards with at least 40 games played he ranks third last in Quality of Competition. Having already seen a similar phenomenon with Kris Draper, it seems that this is a role that many coaches are using on their hockey team: the fourth line plugger that takes on the soft starting in the bad end of the rink. The Edmonton Oilers employ a player like this as well in Kyle Brodziak who has taken 275 draws in the offensive zone and only 121 in the offensive zone. If we can find some other comparable players perhaps we can evaluate Brodziak's performance against some of his peers. Looking for comparables I'm trying to find players who have at least 50 more defensive than offensive zone faceoffs, who play 12 minutes a game or less and who are in the bottom three forwards on their team in Quality of Competition (min. 20 GP). All of these stats can be found either at Vic's time on ice site, or at Behind the Net. I've decided to only take one player per team. The chart shows defensive zone draws, offensive zone draws, the difference between the two, the quality of competition rank relative to the rest of their team and EV time on ice per game:

The next chart will give their results using their Corsi (*5), the Corsi of their team, the difference between the two, their goal differential (*5), the goal differential of their team and the difference between the two.

Conclusions? About a quarter of the league employs a player that works in this assignment. It isn't a fun assignment. Even playing soft competition, consistently starting in the wrong end has a negative effect on the Corsi and GD relative to the rest of the team. Adam Hall stands out here among his peers, as does Kris Draper. I defended Draper somewhat in the last post and this data suggests that he didn't deserve it. I imagine that the Wings will soon be moving on. Hall is signed to a three year deal at 0.6M per with the Lightning which looks like it's a pretty good deal. Brodziak, for his part, doesn't look like a disaster but isn't excelling here either. I would suggest that the Oilers really shouldn't be giving him better than fourth line money (i.e. 1M or less) this coming off season.

The Curious Case of Kris Draper

The Quality of Competition metric at Behind the Net gets a lot of attention because it brings information that we know is important into numerical form. Recently, many people have come to equate playing the most difficult minutes with the playing the most difficult competition. This isn't totally unreaonable, but it does lack a little bit of context. The QC stats come brom BtN. All the others are from Vic's Time on Ice site.

Take the case of Kris Draper, a center playing for the Detroit Red Wings. Conventional wisdom is that QC is most useful when compared with others on the same team. Using this method Kris Draper ranks third to last on the team among forwards ahead of only his linemate, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty who managed to appear in only 13 games. And he's getting killed. His Corsi for the season is -12, which is terrible on the Red Wings and ahead of only McCarty. So what's going on? Is Draper just terrible?

Kris Draper is also taking an abnormally high number of defensive zone faceoffs which are going to effect his ability to succeed. To this point in the season, he's taken 243 defensive zone faceoffs compared with 192 in the offensive zone. He's on the ice for 31.11% of the team's defensive zone draws and only 22.38% of the team's offensive zone draws. His differential is 51 which leads the the Detroit forwards by 32 (Franzen is second).

Could Kris Draper be doing a better job? Yes. On a team that has a Corsi of +760 you'd need a pretty good excuse to be a minus (Franzen, for instance is +256). But this does provide some more context for what Draper is doing. The coach seems to rely on the Zetterberg/Franzen line against top players. A defensive zone faceoff against a team's top line will draw Zetterberg, but if there's a defensive zone faceoff and Zetterberg is getting off the ice or the opposing coach is throwing out a secondary scoring line then it's Draper time.

This is something to keep in mind with the Quality of Competition statistic. That's all it's measuring! There may be a high correlation with the difficulty of minutes, but if you want to talk about difficulty of minutes, more context is probably needed.

Because this is a blog about Yahweh's favourite hockey club, I figure I may as well append a chart providing some context for the Oilers forwards. The players will be organized top to bottom in their ranking in terms of quality of competition among forwards that have played at least twenty games and will include each player's Defensive - Offensive Zone Faceoffs beside his name:

Given these numbers, if we were measuring difficulty of minutes and not just the quality of the competition, I think that guys like Penner, Gagner, Nilsson and Gagner should be coming down the list while Stortini and especially Brodziak should be pushed up. If we value QC and starting position equally, organizing this list by ranking, we would get the following list in terms of difficulty of minutes: Horcoff, Moreau, Pisani, Brodziak/Hemsky, Penner, Reddox, Stortini, Gagner/Nilsson/Cogliano, Pouliot. There are probably some adjustments that need to be made, but I think this list looks a lot closer to what I would expect a "difficulty of minutes" list to look like for the Edmonton Oilers after actually watching the games.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shawn Horcoff - Mandelbaum on Ice

Slipper and Bruce were having a very interesting discussion in the comment thread of Thursday's game against Ottawa. Slipper asked the following question and/or statement:

"Can you find any other forward in the whole NHL who leads his team in d-zone draws? Then take into consideration that while with every other team the defensemen lead the charge over the forwards by a wide margin, Horcoff leads his closest defenseman (Souray) by 70 faceoffs.
.. But this team's "numero uno finito benito #1!!1!" centerman has been 120th out of 120 in terms of position to succeed all season long where, considering the margin, 119th place might as well be 75th... There's barely a handful of defensemen who have been on then ice for more d-zone draws."

The discussion continued but I was struck by some of what Slipper was asking/saying and decided to see how tough Shawn Horcoff really has it and how well he's handling his assignment compared to others in a similar situation. First things firts though, finding the comparables. The following chart includes the forward and defenceman on each team that has taken the most defensive zone faceoffs. The columns include: dzone draws - ozone draws - the difference between the two - % of possible dzone draws given the number taken by the player's team - % of possible ozone draws given the number taken by the player's team. Defenders will be in grey and forwards will be in black. The data is all taken from Vic's site and is as of games ended on Friday March 6.

To start off by answering Slipper's question: Horcoff (Edm), Carter (Phi), Staal (Pit) and Richard Park (LI) lead their team in defensive zone faceoffs as forwards but Horcoff certainly is an outlier. There are only two defenders that outstrip him in % of defensive zone draws taken for their team and his 45% is 4% clear of the next highest forward. There are some other interesting things here like the use of Draper compared to his rank in QC by Desjardins, the crazy use of Adam Hall in TB, the impressive nature of Jay Bouwmeester's minutes, Mark Streit's easy yet not-so-easy ride, the appearance of Matt Greene and Jan Hejda etc. Perhaps I'll get to some of those things later but for now I'll focus on determining how Horcoff is doing in comparison with some of his peers doing the heavy lifting.

For this second part I picked out the forwards that are starting from a similar hole to Horcoff (italicized above, the criteria is at least 50 more dzone than ozone draws, at least 34% of team dzone draws and at least a difference of 8 in the percentage of ozone and dzone draws). The list is: Carter, McClement, Ladd, Malhotra, Staal, Smithson, Kesler, Niedermayer, Hanzal and Richard Park. Before going further it's interesting to note that none of these guys is really considered a star player. There's no Joe Thornton, Henrik Zetterberg, Jarome Iginla etc. Granted most of those guys play on better teams who take fewer dzone draws, but still, most of the elite players in the league aren't thrown into the position of having such a heavy defensive burden. Anyway, I will compare these players by looking at their Corsi(*3) as compared to their team and their goal differential (*3) as compared to their team under the assumption that each player plays about one third of his team's even strength minutes. It's not perfect by any means but it should give a reasonable reference for comparison. This list will be organized top to bottom by the difference between their Corsi (*3) and that of their team.

I think that this shows that Shawn Horcoff is doing a fantastic job in his defensive role. Not only is he taking more dzone faceoffs than any other forward in the league but he's also excelling. Horcoff has had a rough last ten or twenty games but even still, his season has been terrific. It won't show up in the boxcar statistics but Shawn Horcoff may well be the most valuable forward on the Edmonton Oilers.

As for the other guys on this list, if the Canucks sign Kesler to an affordable extension sometime in the next two years, that team will be in fantastic shape. Martin Hanzal looks like a terrific young player by this measure, even allowing for his poor real numbers. The kid's only 21 and is outperforming his team taking on a difficult role. Richard Park at 0.75M is a great deal for LI. Andrew Ladd is an outstanding player. Rob Niedermayer is lucky he's famous for playing tough minutes because even considering that, he probably shouldn't be playing in the NHL.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Oilers v. Maple Leafs - Isaiah 64:1-6

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
so that our mountainous opponents would tremble before you!

May our enemies be like the dryest of forests
whose large trees are destroyed by the smallest spark,
Come down, O Yahweh! Proclaim your favour on MacT's midgets!
Cause the Eastern Conference to tremble whenever they think of you!

We remember a time when you did awesome things,
a time when you came down; the Cup was our permanent possession.

Since the foundation of the NHL no ear has heard,
no lips have testified,
and no eye has seen any God besides you,
who will act for the sake of those who wait for him.

You will help us when we skate in your ways,
and when our pugilists act within the ancestral Code.
But when we continue to sin against you,
you are angry and let us lose to the lowly among us.
How then can we be saved?

We have all become like the Flames!
whose righteous acts are no more than filthy rags.
We have shriveled up like the Leafs!
swept down the standings, our shame on full display.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Budgeting for 2010-11 After the Trade Deadline

The trade deadline was a good one for the Edmonton Oilers. The gist is, Erik Cole and 5th round pick are going out while Patrick O'Sullivan and Ales Kotalik are coming in. The trade has been looked at in numerous places around the Oilogosphere, and I'll add my voice to the chorus that thinks that this is great value for what is essentially a quarter of a season of Erik Cole. Kotalik is a free agent after this season and may or may not be in the long term plans of the organization. O'Sullivan however has a contract that runs through 2010-11. Prior to the deadline I was hoping to avoid getting any more salary on this team for that time period, but O'Sullivan's contract is small enough that it should be manageable. This is where the Oilers sit in 2010-11 right now (grouped into five categories, 1st line F; 2nd line F; Bot 8F/3D; Top 4D; G):

Horcoff (5.5M), Hemsky (4.1M) and Penner (4.25M) = 13.85M

Nilsson (1.85M), O'Sullivan (2.95) = 4.8M

Moreau (2M), Stortini (0.7M), Staios (2.7M) = 5.4M

Visnovsky (5.6M), Souray (5.4M), Gilbert (4M) = 15M

No Commitments = 0M

I’ve addressed their situation heading into 2010 already but with the addition of O'Sullivan a few things need some tweaking. First, I'd start with the assumption that the cap will be moving toward 50M for 2010-11 and will start with the following budget:

1st line - 30% = 15M
2nd line - 15% = 7.5M
bot 6F and bot 3D - 20% = 10M
top 4D - 30% = 15M
2G - 5% = 2.5M

The first line has been struggling for a few games lately, but with Penner on the left flank they've been outchancing most of this year. It's somewhat frustrating that line isn't staying together since they're effective and they're all locked up long-term, combining to make an effective line. Any trade involving Penner will almost surely be a mistake since the perception seems to be that he's less than his results and as such a salary dump is likely to be coming back. Total savings: 1.15M

For the second line, it's quite possible that Nilsson is on his way out. Personally, I'd be inclined to move him if Cogliano is willing to sign for that figure or less. If he isn't, then I think Cogs is the one on the way out, though they should keep him until he goes RFA. If the cap doesn't decline so greatly they can then use the extra cash to keep him and perhaps use him on the third line. I'm a huge Gagner fan and would try to sign him to a long-term deal this summer at no more than 3M over a period of 4 to 6 years. I'd prefer 6 but can understand how some might find that too big a commitment. His counting numbers this season are hiding some real progress in his game and it would be good if the Oilers could take advantage. Further, the kid probably won't feel too hard done by either with a guaranteed 18M in his pocket. Total extra cost: 0.3M

The depth on this team is where there's some trouble. It's absolutely essential to ditch Moreau and Staios. The contracts simply don't fit the roles that they play on this team. They need to be moved. A lot of these slots will need to be filled with depth from the farm or veteran journeymen. I'd try to distribute the cash for the forwards as follows: 1.3 (Pisani?), 1 (Brodziak?), 1 (?), 0.7 (Stortini), 0.7 (Reddox?), 0.7 (?), 0.6 (?), 0.6 (?). This summer is an important one for re-signing Ladislav Smid to an affordable deal. Something around 1.4M over three or four would be my goal and I really wouldn't want to budge much higher. The guy's not going to have much of a case going into arbitration so they should be able to put the screws to him by using that as a hammer and offering the longer term deal if he wants it. The three D-men would be assigned as follows: 1.4 (Smid?), 0.7 (?), 0.6 (?). Total savings: 0.7M

I'll go out of order here because the top 4D is the most up in the air. Basically, I don't believe in paying goalies. Pick three or four all signed at a million and let them fight it out in training camp. In the end, two get waived and two get to play. Keep them all on one or two year deals and rotate them through. Total savings: 0.5M

With three top 4D signed we already have 15M tied up. That's the entire budget. That's a problem. 2.05M has been saved so far to punch in a replacement. It's really too bad that Grebs is RFA this season because it would be nice to wait and see where the cap goes before making any kind of deal with him for the long haul this summer. Earlier on, I had thought that the Oilers should try to keep all four but now I'm leaning toward moving one of the big four defenders (unless Grebs feels like signing either a one-year deal or a deal with some term at 2M per). Under no circumstances Vishnovsky. Probably not Gilbert. As for the last two, I think it really depends on the return. I'd assume Grebs gets you more but hope Souray can be moved somewhere in his stead, though the NTC complicates that. Ideal trades might include either one to Phoenix for Kurt Sauer or to Boston for Mark Stuart. Sauer, because his cost is under control going forward and Stuart because he's RFA in 2010-11 and the team can re-evaluate their situation when they know the actual number. Otherwise, one is gone for picks and a stop-gap moves in for a year as the fourth D.

I'll probably do another update just before the trade deadline when there will hopefully be more information on whether or not the cap is headed for 2009-10. At that point, we can analyse how to fit things together for next season while still looking ahead to 2010-11.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Oilers v. Senators - 2 Chronicles 36:9-10

Murray was sixty-four years old when he became leader of the Senators, and he has ruled in Ottawa for one year and eight months. His betrayal of Muckler, who was favoured by God, was utter evil in the eyes of Yahweh and he will continue to be punished for his sins. In the Spring King Melnyk will send for him and will berate him and will fire him, cursing the fact that he did not worship Yahweh as Muckler had, and he will reinstate Muckler as leader over the Senators in Ottawa knowing that if he does not, Yahweh's favour will stay far from him forever.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The NW at the Deadline - Looking Ahead to 2010-11

Heading into Tradeapalooza I decided to take a look at the longer term commitments for each of the teams in the Northwest Division. I will be comparing them against my own budgeting strategy to start and then describe some of the adjustments that I think they will need to make. The assumption that I have is that most teams will want to be planning for a cap of about 50M while at the same time allowing for the possibility of the cap falling further or of the cap maintaining its current level. The budget that I will be using will be as follows:

1st line – 30% or 15M (13.5M low and 16.5M high)

2nd line – 15% or 7.5M (6.75M low and 8.25 high)

Bot 7F and Bot 3D – 20% or 10M (9M low and 11M high)

Top 4D – 30% or 15M (13.5M low and 16.5M high)

2 Goalies – 5% or 2.5M (2.25M low and 2.75M high)

Calgary Flames

Iginla (7M) and Langkow (4.5M) = 11.5M

Backlund (1.3M) = 1.3M

Glencross (1.2M), Vandermeer (2.3M) and Giordano (0.9M) = 4.4M

Phaneuf (6.5M), Regehr (4M), Sarich (3.6M) = 14.1M

Kiprusoff (5.85M) = 5.85M

Looking at the Flames roster going forward they have clearly decided to budget differently than I would, allocating about 6.5M for their goalies. In order to do this they’re going to need to find space in other places. So where is this money going to come from? Well, the top two forwards look to be set in stone. Both are excellent players signed for market value contracts or better. There is enough money in the budget to fill that line with a capable free agent addition (3.5M) and if need be that amount can be somewhat reduced if the cap sees itself fall. I think Cammalleri should be as good as gone from the Flames in the off season both because the flexibility going forward is valuable and because he will probably demand something north of the 3.5M that the Flames can realistically afford. The second line is where this team needs to look in order to save money, perhaps by promoting Glencross to that line item and then adding another player in the 1M dollar range thereby balancing the extra money being given to Kiprusoff. The top four D can be filled out nicely by promoting Giordano to that line item and staying within budget. If Sarich can be moved for a cheaper option, that would give the Flames some extra options and so should at least be considered. Regardless, the Flames do need to move Vandermeer. That 2.3M cap hit will get in the way of signing the quality depth players that have been driving the team’s results to this point in the season. The Flames have already showed a willingness to put some bad money in the minors, so ditching Vandermeer from the cap if not the payroll should be possible. Still, I think that should be one of their main tasks on deadline day. It will be interesting to see what the Flames will be able to afford to give guys like Bourque, Boyd and Moss who have all performed very well. With only about 14.5M to give for 12 spots (1 first line F, 1 second line F, 7 bottom F and 3 bottom D) some of those players may need to be moved while others come in.

Vancouver Canucks

No Commitments = 0M

Burrows (2M) = 2M

Hordichuk (0.75M) = 0.75M

Bieksa (3.75M), Salo (3.5M) and Edler (3.25M) = 10.5M

No Commitments = 0M

The Canucks have a huge amount of flexibility and should be able to capitalise on a down salary market going forward. The market is coming down at the perfect time for them to get Luongo (and Kesler) at a discounted price. The recently signed Burrows contract looks to put him solidly into a secondary role and into the core of the team. The defenders are all signed to contracts that should keep costs under control. Given Salo’s injury problems that contract is a bit of a concern but given their flexibility elsewhere, the Canucks are in very good shape. If the Sedin twins are resigned (in the 5-6M range) then the Canucks have a first line ready to go. If they aren’t they have tons of money in order to buy something of value (though really guys, you should be signing the Sedins). This team is in a very good position going forward and may well add an expensive forward at the deadline. If the Flyers really want to move a body and can’t find any takers for the lesser lights (Lupul, Briere) the Canucks might take a run at one of the better forwards (Gagne, Carter) either at the deadline or this summer.

Edmonton Oilers

Horcoff (5.5M), Hemsky (4.1M) and Penner (4.25M) = 13.85M

Nilsson (1.85M) = 1.85M

Moreau (2M), Stortini (0.7M), Staios (2.7M) = 5.4M

Visnovsky (5.6M), Souray (5.4M), Gilbert (4M) = 15M

No Commitments = 0M

I’ve addressed their situation heading into 2010 already but the quick recap involves Staios and Moreau leaving town pronto. Their contracts simply don’t fit into this pay scale. With the defence and top line budget already spent it looks like the Oilers will need to go cheap in net if they hope to retain the services of both Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. At this point, it looks like Denis Grebeshkov may not fit into the pay structure of this team, while Ladislav Smid may well get the bump into the top 4D. Also, 13.85M on a top line that outscores is excellent value. A trade that involves Dustin Penner will almost certainly be regretted. The Oilers cannot afford to bring in any big long-term contracts at this time, so Briere at the deadline or Hossa in the off-season should not happen.

Minnesota Wild

Bouchard (4.1M), Koivu (3.25) = 7.35M

Brunette (2.35M), Miettinen (2.35) = 4.7M

Gillies (1M) = 1M

Burns (3.55) and Schultz (3.5M) = 7.05M

Backstrom (6M) = 6M

I thought I knew you. Seriously. That Backstrom extension is a head-scratcher because if it weren’t for that these guys would be in great shape. As it stands they’re not in terrible shape because they can save some money in other areas because of the fabulous contracts they’ve negotiated with Koivu, Burns and Schultz. I’d imagine that they’ll take half of the money from each pile leaving about 12M left to be divided among one forward and two defenders. They could well be in the market for a big time addition, someone like Pronger, Hossa or Gaborik in the 6.5-7.5M range. If they had gone with Harding instead of Backstrom this would be even more true as they’d have about 3-4M extra dollars to spend on difference makers at those positions. Fools. That said, the three exceptional contracts already mentioned leave them in very good shape moving forward. They don’t really need to move anyone out at the deadline and can afford to bring some long-range salary in, so they might well be buyers of someone like Jordan Staal for their second line if they think they can make up the difference with their scrubs.

Colorado Avalanche

Smyth (6.25M), Stastny (6.6M) = 12.85M

No Commitments = 0M

No Commitments = 0M

Hannan (4.5M), Liles (4.2M) = 8.7M

No Commitments = 0M

This is a pretty interesting case. None of these contracts really scream value. They’re all either at or above value by my eye. That Scott Hannan contract looks terrible since he’s basically doing what Sauer did for them last year, except that (1) he’s not as good at it and (2) he’s twice as expensive. Two Names Liles is flat-out overpriced. Paying him is kind of like paying Two Names Bergeron. Liles may be a bit better than Bergeron was for the Oilers, but that “may” should really be “is” when you make 4.2M. So far this season he’s taking the soft and coming out on the bottom. The Smyth contract looks to be fair value but it’s certainly not good value and by 2010-11 I can’t imagine Smyth will be any better than he is today. If anything, he’ll be worse. Finally, Stastny has some chance of outperforming his deal but it’s nothing like what the Oilers got with Hemsky or the Wild have with Burns and Koivu. Basically, if these guys can unload everyone they have signed except for Stastny and start over, they should do it. They don’t really have cap problems, but they’re not in a strong position either to contend or to plan on contending for 2011. That sucks (for them). Plans for the deadline may actually be most interesting for the Avalanche. If I’m them, I’d be trying desperately to make a move for Bouwmeester. Something like Hannan, Liles, Svatos and a prospect/pick for Bouw and Boynton would do them a world of good. Plus, Florida might think it’s great in spite of the fact that it could screw them over long-term. Obviously it works best if they can actually sign Bouw but even if they don’t, they’re probably in better shape going forward.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oilers v. Predators - 2 Peter 2:1-10

Now there are also false prophets coming out of Nashville, just as there have been false teachers among you. They will try to come in with destructive body checks and taunting, even denying the sovereign Lord, who is our salvation, and bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many fans will follow their shameful ways, booing the team that God has chosen, and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. These teachers will exploit you with stories of playoff grandeur that they are forced to make up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction will not lay asleep forever.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to Calgary putting them into gloomy night clubs to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the World Hockey Association when he brought financial difficulties on its ungodly people, but protected Edmonton, the team of his choosing, and three others, at least for a time; if he condemned the cities of Toronto and Montreal by ridiculing their sacred shrines, making them an example of what will happen to all of the ungodly; and if he rescued Lubomir Visnovsky, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) — if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the Edmonton Oilers in our own day from the trials of the Predators and to hold those unrighteous Southerners for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment in the present. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and maim those with actual talent.