Monday, October 31, 2011

A Short Note On Second Contracts

I should've posted this last week, but the David Booth trade was interesting to me for a few reasons. If you recall, and who would in this information overload society, the trade was:

From FLA: David Booth, VAN's 3rd round pick
From VAN: Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm

The things that are interesting:

- Vancouver dealt a player they signed in the off-season. Marco Sturm played exactly 6 games for Vancouver before being dealt. That's rare, but I suspect it will become slightly more common.

- Vancouver took more risk in the deal despite getting the younger player. David Booth is only 26, soon to be 27, but taking on his contract which has 3 more years after this one on it, is without question a large gamble. If he tanks, that contract may be difficult to move. Meanwhile, both Sturm and Samuelsson are on the final years of their contracts, and both could probably be moved at the trade deadline for extra draft picks.

The second contract can be an albatross just as much as a contract on a late 30s player. Take Derick Brassard, a player fighting for ice time in Columbus. He's getting less than 15 minutes a game, despite having been signed to 4 year, 12.8 million dollar contract. In the old days, a player like Brassard would never command that kind of money, and would almost certainly be in another organization by this point. This is something to keep an eye on as we see more and more of these enormous second contracts - some players will be cap albatrosses at 25, and some players' careers will be significantly hurt by contracts they sign at age 21 or 22.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How Much of Shooting Percentage Is Skill?

The correct answer, as it is for most questions, is "it depends." In this case, on sample size.

In a recent post at Arctic Ice Hockey, the indispensable Gabe Desjardins argued that we should move away from working on metrics for shot quality because there isn't much payoff. This has motivated me to write a follow up on an article I wrote a couple months ago on how luck vs skill influence shooting percentage based on sample size. In that article, I took two teams, one above average and one below average at shooting, and examined how likely the good team is to shoot at a higher percentage for a given numbers of shots. Here I will look at how much variation in shooting percentage is explained by skill and luck for different numbers of shots.


My methodology is a sort of mirror image of what JLikens did in his article on the same subject and Vic Ferrari's imaginary dice rolling. JLikens assumed each team had the same real shooting percentage and ran simulations to see how much variation in results there would be after a season worth of even-strength shots. In my simulations I will create a distribution of shooting talent and see how much that skill explains variation in results for a given number of shots.

Here are the steps:
- Going by this more recent JLikens article in each of 10,000 simulations I created 30 teams by drawing a shooting percentage from Beta(263,2977), a distribution pretty close to that of actual even-strength team shooting skill in the NHL.
- All 30 teams take the same number of shots, which score a goal or not based on the probability given by the team's shooting skill.
- For each simulation, I calculate the R^2 between shooting percentage on those shots and the shooting talent of the teams. The average of these tells us how much variation in shooting percentage results is explained by shooting ability.
- The rest is luck.


Here is a table with the results. The first column is the time period in question. The second is the number of shots each team took in the simulations. The third column is the percentage of variation in even-strength shooting-percentage results that is explained by the skill component - the average R^2 of all simulations. The last column is simply 100% minus that and represents the percentage of variation that is due to random chance, luck if you will.

Time PeriodShotsSkillLuck
Season to today2509.9%90.1%
1/4 season50015.7%84.3%
half season1,00025.1%74.9%
1 season2,00038.9%61.1%
2 seasons4,00055.4%44.6%
3 seasons6,00064.9%35.1%
4 seasons8,00070.9%29.1%
5 seasons10,00075.3%24.7%
6 seasons12,00078.4%21.6%
7 seasons14,00080.9%19.1%
8 seasons16,00082.9%17.1%
9 seasons18,00084.5%15.5%
10 seasons20,00086%14%

Here's a graph:

Put in words, at this point in the season shooting results are 90% luck and 10% skill. This is likely an underestimate, as I'll discuss below. Over a whole season it goes to a little over 60% random chance. It takes about 140 games worth of shots for results to be 50/50.

Some thoughts

I'm making several assumptions that are not valid. The biggest and most obviously dubious is that shooting-percentage skill will be the same for every shot. In reality, if a team shoots at an 8.5% clip their top line will shoot higher, their fourth line lower, they'll do better against weaker opponents and worse against good goaltenders and so on. Injuries, trades, free agency and coaching changes are obviously a big issue as well. On a related note, I assume that each team takes the same number of shots. In practice, teams obviously take more or fewer shots than average over a given stretch. To make things more problematic, it is probably the case that teams that shoot more often tend to be better at making their shots. One thing all of these factors have in common is that they will increase the randomness factor. Think of the above estimates as lower bounds on how much luck explains variation in shooting percentage or an upper bound for how much skill matters.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Contract I Actually Like: Martin Hanzal

Two days before the Phoenix Coyotes were set to open the 2011-2012 regular season, they announced the signing of Martin Hanzal to a brand-new 5 year, $15.5 million contract extension. Though it wasn’t earth-shattering news and most likely ignored by the majority of NHL fans, there are a few things that stand out making this deal very good for the Coyotes.

1. Term

Hanzal was scheduled to become a restricted free agent after this season. Under the current terms of the CBA, he would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency status after the 2013-14 season, his 7th in the league. Rather than risk the (slim) possibility of another GM firing an offer sheet his way, Phoenix was able to buy the rest of his RFA eligibility and an additional three seasons of UFA status.

2. Salary

Hanzal’s extension will earn him an average annual salary of $3.1 million, his number against the cap. Because he was set to become a restricted free agent, Phoenix had the luxury of exclusive control over Hanzal and did a good job not to overpay for his services. Regardless of how the cap is drawn up in the next CBA, Hanzal's cap hit will not tie up a significant portion of Phoenix's money, always a plus for teams operating with an internal budget.

3. On-Ice Production

Speaking of said services, let’s take a look at exactly what Hanzal brings to the table. Per, here are Hanzal's ice time numbers from his first four seasons:


As we can see, Hanzal is playing in every possible situation for Phoenix, the very definition of versatility. What is more, Hanzal entered the league garnering top-6 minutes and steadily increased his ice time to become the team's leader last season. How has Hanzal handled these assignments? Upon first glance, his point totals don't seem to be passing the test of a top-6 forward:

YearAgeGPES G (Team Rank)ES A (Team Rank)ES Pts (Team Rank)PP G (Team Rank)PP A (Team Rank)PP Pts (Team Rank)
07-0820726 (7)16 (5)22 (6)1 (9)11 (3)12 (T-5)
08-0921749 (6)17 (T-4)26 (T-5)0 (T-14)2 (T-8)2 (T-10)
09-1022819 (T-8)18 (5)27 (T-7)2 (T-7)4 (7)6 (T-7)
10-1123619 (T-7)10 (10)19 (T-9)7 (3)0 (T-11)7 (4)

However, Hanzal is yet another case where applying proper context is vital to determine his value. If we take a look at some key numbers thanks to Behind The Net, Time on Ice and Eric T., we find an entirely different story:

YearAgeGPCorsiRelQoC (League Rank - Min 20 GP)Balanced CorsiBalanced Corsi RelZone Start %Zone Finish %Corsi/60ZS Adjusted CorsiScore-Tied Fenwick %
07-0820720.873 (37)4.564.6647.149.1-1.52-0.99852.8
08-0921741.177 (7)3.2911.2938.445.5-5.76-3.67245.5
09-1022811.006 (11)7.613.0746.650.94.95.51254.3
10-1123610.837 (21)9.28.346.549.17.17.7352.8

During his rookie year, Hanzal was thrown to the wolves at even strength, facing the 37th toughest CorsiRelQoC score in the entire league. He hasn't slowed down since, routinely showing up on the list of players who face the league's elite night-in and night-out. His Balanced Corsi scores show that he is performing well above his expectation pushing the play forward in these situations, handling extremely tough assignments with relative ease. Though his Power Play stats have been less than impressive, Phoenix has never ranked above 19th in SF/60 on the PP during Hanzal's time in the desert. Regardless, his excellent play at even strength means that Phoenix will have a young and versatile tough-minutes forward locked up no matter where the franchise finds itself at the expiration of the contract.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the Chris Kunitz Extension

Since there is no time like two weeks after it was signed, let's take a look at the Chris Kunitz contract extension.

The Terms

Kunitz's current cap hit of $3.75M was extended for another 2 years with salary to match. There are a couple things to note about this. For one, it was signed at the start of the season, a practice Triumph discussed in a recent post. From the Pens' perspective, this opens them up to risk in case Kunitz gets an injury or is otherwise drastically less productive this year than he has been in recent years. I don't think this is quite as bad for the Penguins as other teams since they should be willing to spend over the cap by burying his contract if necessary. On the positive side of things, Shero doesn't risk Kunitz testing the free-agent market which could drive his price up.

Kunitz's age is a factor here. At 32 it seems likely that his skills will start to decline. Based on that, it may be surprising that he's not taking a salary cut but you have to remember the salary cap. The first season of his current deal, 2008-2009, the salary cap was $56.7 million. It is currently at $64.3M so his cap hit is down from 6.6% of the salary cap to 5.8%. Putting it in 2009 cap-hit dollars would make his salary $3.3 million, so it is a small drop.

Pittsburgh's Cap Situation

The Penguins are a unique team due to having Crosby, Malkin and to some extent Staal down the middle. I'll discuss the player-evaluation side of that later, but there are major salary-cap implications as well. Next offseason looks pretty standard as far as the cap goes, but bombs are about to fall on the Pens' cap situation. Here are the major players hitting unrestricted free agency, their current cap hit and the summer they become free agents.

PlayerCap Hit $MYear
Sidney Crosby8.72013
Jordan Staal42013
Evgeni Malkin8.72014
Kris Letang3.52014
Brooks Orpik3.752014
Chris Kunitz3.752014

Orpik seems like the odd man out there, but the rest of that group figures to get a raise and to be honest it's hard to see Shero being able to keep all of them together. In any case, cap space will be at a premium those seasons and Kunitz's contract runs out the summer after Crosby and Staal would need to be re-signed.

Even-Strength Production

The traditional fans would discuss his leadership and Cup experience helping tremendously in the 2009 Cup run. As important as that may have been, I prefer to look at measurable contributions.

Due especially to Crosby, one needs to take a with-or-without-you (WOWY) approach to analyze the production of wingers for the Penguins. Kunitz is a good example of that; he has spent more than half his time in Pittsburgh on Crosby's wing. Here is a table of the Corsi rate for Crosby, Malkin, Staal and none of those with and without Kunitz, as well as the time in minutes that Kunitz spent with them. I'm excluding time where two of Crosby, Malkin and Staal were on the ice together.

Centerw/ Kunitzw/out Kunitzwith TOI (m)

As you can see, Kunitz improved every line. Crosby's Corsi rate was nearly twice as high when Kunitz was beside him and in smaller samples Malkin and Staal's production was substantially higher with him. I should point out that Malkin's possession numbers without Crosby were drastically better in his shortened 2010-2011 season than previous years and over half of Kunitz's time with Malkin was last year. Kunitz gets some credit for that, but it seems like Malkin was better as well. The fourth line got marginally better results.

It's pretty clear that Kunitz has been a big boost.

Two Potential Concerns: Injuries and Scoring

In the summer, Pensburgh wrote a nice summary of both Kunitz's injuries and scoring with the Penguins. For a left winger, his points totals have been underwhelming due in part to his injuries. According to this guideline at PPP, an average first-line left winger would put in 27 goals. In the last three seasons, Kunitz put up 23, 13 and 23 goals. Going to points, the average for a first line left wing is 50 and Kunitz put up 48, 32 and 53 the last three years. So he's somewhere between an average first-line winger and an average second-line winger when it comes to scoring. A big reason for this is obviously missing significant time the last two years.

Another factor is that Kunitz's individual points percentage is nothing to write home about. He registered a goal or assist on 69.4% of all 5-on-5 goals scored with him on the ice, 7th highest among forwards on the team. This combined with his Corsi numbers make sense given his role - he is important in driving play, helping to move the puck into the offensive zone and keep it there, but Crosby is typically the man with the puck in the attacking end. I don't think his somewhat low scoring for a first-line winger is an issue given his role.

The Verdict

Overall, I think it's a good deal for both sides. Kunitz has been a very good role player the last 2+ seasons for the Penguins. While he is on the wrong side of 30, it seems reasonable to expect a similar level over the life of the contract. Injury concerns and his contract ending the season after Crosby and Staal are due to sign their extensions keep me from saying it is a great deal for the Pens, but even Shero would have to spend some money on wingers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zone Start Adjustments: A Rejected Idea

We got a lot of feedback from my recent article going over a method for adjusting for zone starts. Among the suggestions was actually my initial idea which I later rejected - look at the player's Corsi rate in each situation and weight them using average ice time in each situation. I rejected this idea in favor of the reverse - use the player's ice time and the league average Corsi rate in each situation to determine what the average player would get with the player's ice time and subtract that. In this article, I will discuss my initial idea, why I rejected it and how the results differ. The good news is that both methodologies yield quite similar results.

The idea is to use each player's Corsi rate in each type of start - the first shift after an offensive-zone faceoff, time after offensive-zone faceoffs but where a change has been made, time after neutral-zone faceoffs, time after defensive-zone faceoffs following a change and the first shift following a defensive-zone faceoff. Take those rates, assume the player has average ice time and you get an idea what that player's Corsi would be with even starts. To see how it works in practice, let's use the player that made me rethink things, Dan Carcillo.

Here are Carcillo's numbers in each zone:

Dan CarcilloCorsi / 60
Ozone - faceoff shift67.071
Ozone - after change-0.777
Neutral Zone-15.666
Dzone - after change-13.988
Dzone - faceoff shift-64.128

Here is the average percentage of minutes in each type of start:

Ozone - faceoff11.4%
Ozone - change19.3%
Dzone - change19.3%
Dzone - faceoff11.4%

Averaging using those percentages as weights, gives us -8.574. In other words, if Carcillo got the results he did in each type of start and faced average time his ES Corsi rate would be -8.574. That seems pretty reasonable, the fancy thing I came up with last time put him at -9.956 and his even-strength Corsi rate was -11.441 with a 5-on-5 ozone% of 40.6 according to BTN.

The part that concerned me is that Carcillo's Corsi rate the first shift in the offensive zone was 67.071. He played 38 such minutes, which is a small sample and puts him 595th in such time but he did play 57 games last year. Someone playing a decent number of games and getting 40% ozone starts is just the kind of player we'd likely be the most interested in finding adjustments for. Among players with his ozone faceoff shift time or more, Carcillo had the 12th highest Corsi in the league the first shift after an offensive-zone faceoff. This fails the eye test and his ice time is an indication - he was only 21st on the Flyers at PP time.

This raises a theoretical problem with the metric - we are taking the average of five averages, some of which have very small sample sizes. Eric T from BSH suggested lumping in all the situations which are more-or-less neutral - neutral-zone faceoffs and time after faceoffs at either end after a change has been made. That's a great suggestion, which I'll look into later, but time the first shift after a faceoff at either end is the most problematic so it won't help. For Carcillo, it's very clear that his numbers are skewed for that first average. In contrast to the idea I proposed last week, the methodology of averaging averages will lead to bigger problems with small samples. It's not surprising that Carcillo's numbers in the rejected metric are better than the version that made the cut.

What's the Difference?

While I didn't know this at the time I published my article last week, I was quite happy to see that there is very little difference between the two ways of adjusting for zone starts for players that have played a decent amount. Here is a graph with the Zone Start Adjusted Corsi using the methodology I put forward about a week ago and the rejected idea I've discussed in this article for all players with at least 300 minutes of even-strength ice time last year. Needless to say, they are extremely similar.

Given how little difference there is in results, I think the better method to use is the one in the previous article - subtract off what the league average Corsi player would get with the player's ice time. It should do better with the smaller samples common in one season.

Here is a link to a google spreadsheet with ZSAC and ZSAC2, which is the methodology discussed here. I've also included the Corsi rate for each player following offensive-zone starts, defensive-zone starts and in neutral situations.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On The Practice Of Signing Players To Contracts A Year Before Their Current Contract Expires

On Tuesday of last week, the Boston Bruins announced that they've signed Rich Peverley to a 3-year contract extension. On Thursday of last week, Pittsburgh announced that Chris Kunitz had agreed to a two year extension. This in itself isn't really news - teams are signing players 365 days a year. But that trend is news - teams are now much more willing to negotiate with players a year in advance, even players who aren't superstars.

According to the CBA, a player signed to a multi-year contract can sign a new contract beginning on July 1 the year before his current contract expires. A player signed to a one-year contract is eligible to sign a new deal beginning on January 1 before his deal expires.

Unfortunately, the Internet isn't that good at logging contracts before 2008, but the thing that's interesting to me is that we're not just seeing star players sign deals a year before their current one expires - 'star' players who've done this recently include Zdeno Chara, Tyler Myers, Chris Pronger, and Marc Savard. We continue to see it even though there are plenty of cautionary tales for both player and team - Marc Savard took his brutal blindside hit from Matt Cooke later in that season, and has only managed to play 25 games under his new deal. It's very likely that Savard will never play again. We've also seen the player get screwed over - Jeff Carter was traded from Philadelphia to Columbus before the 11 year deal he signed with Philly even took effect. It's very likely that had Carter not signed that deal, he would not have been worth the 1st round pick and Jakub Voracek that Philadelphia acquired in exchange for Carter - Columbus would have had no idea whether he wanted to stay there. Now he's stuck there.

What's more interesting to me is that this trend has trickled down to less important players. I already mentioned Peverley, but the Capitals locked up Jason Chimera for 2 more years a few weeks ago. Why? I don't know. Chimera played 13 minutes a game last season. Still, the Capitals saw fit to give him a 2 year deal worth 1.75M per season that doesn't take effect until next year.

Let's look at the pros and cons of this move from the team's perspective.


Get The Player Locked Up - This is self-evident, but it needs mentioning. There's no need to scour the trade market or free agency at season's end, you know this guy is going to be on your team.

Perhaps Get A Discount? - The earlier a player is signed, the more vague next season's cap number will be. If a player is signed in July of the year before his contract expires, he and the team will likely be negotiating a contract based on the current year's salary cap number. The cap has gone up every year, and only once by an insignificant amount - the team is likely gaining some sort of savings. Remember, for teams that have effectively unlimited budgets (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Philadelphia, New York R., Washington, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo), this is huge - it's not a question of how much money you spend, but how much money you spend relative to the cap. If a guy is theoretically worth 1/30th of the cap today, and also worth 1/30th of the cap next season, signing him at 1/30th of the cap now means that he will be more valuable next season when the cap rises - there's going to be $X additional dollars available in the budget.

Give The Player Additional Trade Value - There's a sizable portion of the NHL that has trouble attracting free agents. Either the team is bad or plays in an undesirable place. It's disingenuous for teams to sign players to contracts they have no intention of honoring, but it's a practice I expect to see more and more often. If you're a team that struggles to sign players, getting a guy who's been extended is almost certainly more favorable than getting a rental.

As More Teams Adopt This Policy, The Price of All Available Free Agents Rises - This seems a tad paradoxical, but bear with me. Each early signing takes another potential body off the market. It also incrementally raises the price for each body that ends up on the market - teams always need players, and since there are so many teams who effectively don't have a salary cap, those teams are always looking to improve if they have available dollars. Furthermore, a team that loses a player to free agency will often try to replace that player via free agency. Demand always outstrips supply when it comes to free agency.

This leaves teams in a bind - they may want to risk that their potential UFA player gets to market for fear of overpaying him. On the other hand, they may already see that potential replacements either aren't on the market now, or quite possibly won't be on the market when July 1 rolls around. Furthermore, even if their replacements are on the market, they may well be overpriced because of demand. One would think that the market would correct for this, that players would recognize that they figure to make a lot more money by waiting until July 1 and playing all the bidders against one another. However, it's become clear in the salary cap world that not every player is out for the biggest dollar amount - many are willing to give up the promise of potential dollars if they're being compensated fairly and they're comfortable on the team, in the city, etc. The players who are unhappy in their current situation are the ones who figure to reap the greatest financial rewards.


Risk. We've already seen more than one of these deals go bad. I don't think the Bruins are being significantly affected by the Savard signing, but it can still be a pain to work around these things, as it can dry up the amount of cap room a team has at the deadline. Yes, it's true, if you have a player on injured reserve, you can replace his salary with People yelled and screamed about the Flyers never getting anyone at the deadline from 2008 to 2010, but that was for a simple reason - they had all kinds of dead IR money on their cap preventing them from banking cap space and thus discouraging them from making any but the most minor of moves. That's of course not the only risk - the other risk is that the player's performance declines precipitously. or that they suffer a calamitous injury before their current contract is up. Tom Poti was signed to an extension by the Capitals during last season's training camp and has played 21 games since then. It's thought that he may have to retire.

That's really the only downside, though, and for teams who figure to spend near the cap, it's not much of one. I expect to see more and more of these signings going forward.

I can see why teams are locking up young players like Tavares, Van Riemsdyk, and Myers to contracts like this - it's entirely possible that those players will improve greatly this season, making their value difficult to ascertain. The player and the team are each taking some risk there (with the exception of Van Riemsdyk since that contract is insane). However, with older players, the risk is more on the team than on the player - the player probably isn't passing up very much money by signing early. We've already seen some of these deals go bust before they start - it will be interesting to see which teams are either emboldened by success or dissuaded by failure with these sorts of contracts, and who's still signing them several years from now.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Part III: The Aftermath of the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter Deals

Earlier this summer, I wrote extensively on the deals that sent Mike Richards and Jeff Carter from dry island Philadelphia to L. A. and Columbus respectively, promising a trilogy of sorts. After looking at what the Flyers gained in both the trades and free agency, the final step is to evaluate what the Flyers lost in those deals. While this post is certainly long overdue, the aftermath of last night’s 3-2 Kings victory over the Flyers in their only meeting this season seems like the perfect remaining opportunity to bring closure to this saga.

Beginning with my familiar approach, let’s take a look at both Richards and Carter’s average ice time from last season per

PlayerGames PlayedES TOI/GameTeam RankPP TOI/GameTeam RankSH TOI/GameTeam RankTotal TOI/GTeam Rank

Unsurprisingly, we see that both guys gave the Flyers a good chunk of minutes in all situations. With the exception of Carter’s reduced role on the PK thanks to the emergence of Darroll Powe, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette was not afraid to send out either player when he felt he needed a boost in any particular area of the ice. In order to give these minutes their proper context, we will begin by looking into where both players stacked up amongst Flyer forwards in point production, once again thanks to

PlayerES G (Team Rank)ES A (Team Rank)ES Pts (Team Rank)PP G (Team Rank)PP A (Team Rank)PP Pts (Team Rank)
Richards15 (T-5)24 (4)39 (6)5 (T-4)16 (1)21 (1)
Carter28 (T-1)21 (5)49 (3)8 (1)9 (T-3)17 (3)

As we can see, both players seemed to match their top-6 ice time with top-6 scoring numbers both at even strength and on the power play. If we take a look at a few more key statistics according to Behind the Net and Time on Ice, it will become quite apparent why Richards and Carter are so good at what they do:

PlayerCorsi ONCorsiRelScore-Tied Fenwick %CorsiRelQoCSF/60Zone Start %Zone Finish %

Breaking these numbers down, beginning with Richards, his negative Corsi score is perhaps the first thing that stands about his totals. However, if we judge his performance according to Eric T.’s Balanced Corsi, we see that according to his zone start he is actually around 3 shots better per 60 minutes than we might expect. His balanced zone shift is also a little higher than we might expect, and if we couple this data with his extremely impressive 53.6% Fenwick with the score tied, there is a lot here to suggest that Richards is carrying the water at even strength.

Moving to Carter, his totals are just as impressive. Carter actually was put in tougher defensive spots than Richards, and his Corsi ON score is a little more than 4 shots higher per 60 minutes. His Balanced Corsi is around 7 shots higher than what we might expect from a player put in similar situations, and his BZS is around 3 percent to the good. His Fenwick score, though lower than Richards still suggests that he was also doing a major part driving the play forward for the Flyers considering his zone starts.

What is even more impressive is that the above analysis doesn’t even take into account the elephant in the room: quality of competition. Below is a chart of the toughest CorsiRelQoC scores of every player listed as a Center on Behind the Net last season, minimum 20 games played:


Both Richards and Carter show up in the conversation with guys who are playing against some of the toughest players in the league. Though they may not score upwards of 80 points per season, both players are certainly producing at elite levels considering the players that they are expected to face night-in and night-out.

What is more, thanks to JaredL we are able to take a look at how the Flyers performed during the past two seasons with and without either Richards or Carter on the ice:

Player On-IceCorsi/60Time (mins)Corsi QoC

Unsurprisingly, these numbers fall in line with everything else we’ve seen – they were able to send the play in the right direction while eating the majority of the team’s tough-minute assignments. Jared was also kind enough to provide data that looks into how some of the Flyers’ other key players performed in situations both with and excluding one of Richards or Carter on the ice during the same time-frame:

Player On-IceWithCorsi/60Time (mins)Corsi QoC
van RiemsdykEither2.1941148.4670.528
van RiemsdykNeither4.426704.967-0.169

Once again, we see that no matter the situation, each player was better with one of either Richards or Carter on the ice except for James van Reimsdyk whose data has a noticeable discrepancy in quality of competition. In order for the Flyers to remain one of the premier Stanley Cup contenders in the Eastern Conference, it is looking more and more like the big line of JVR, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr is going to be asked to carry the mail against top-tier competition in the absence of Richards and Carter. These numbers seem to suggest that it is certainly possible, but we will have to wait until each plays an adequate number of contests before we can finally say whether Paul Holmgren’s plan will pay off in the long run. So far, the Flyers are off to an excellent start, but Giroux & Co. will have to keep up their play in the absence of what was one of the league's most formidable one-two punches up front.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Adjusting for Zone Starts: Zone Start Adjusted Corsi

In a previous article I discussed zone starts and introduced a new approach to analyzing the effect of zone starts - breaking up performance by each type of ice time: offensive zone the first shift after the faceoff, offensive zone faceoff after a change, after a neutral-zone start, defensive-zone start after an on-the-fly change and the first shift after a defensive-zone faceoff. In this article, I will introduce a metric that adjusts for zone starts and a simplified metric that provides a good rule-of-thumb for you to use when looking at BTN.

Zone Start Adjusted Corsi

The idea is simple: take a player's ice time and use the league average Corsi for each type of start to determine what an average player's Corsi would be with the same ice time. Subtracting that off will give you how much he is above, or below, what the average player would get with his ice time. To see how this works, let's look at the poster child for zone-start adjustment, Manny Malhotra. Here is a chart summarizing Malhotra's time in each start, along with his Corsi numbers:

Manny MalhotraTime (mins)Corsi / 60
Ozone, first shift55.248.913
Ozone, after change170.8-7.376
Neutral Zone340.3-6.524
Dzone, after change142.3-13.073
Dzone, first shift178.7-31.234
All Time887.2-9.265

Here are the league averages for each type of ice time:

League AverageCorsi / 60
Ozone, first shift40.147
Ozone, after change2.818
Neutral Zone0
Dzone, after change-2.818
Dzone, first shift-40.147

Weighting by Malhotra's ice time gives us -5.496, meaning that if someone performing at the league-average level was given Mr. Malhotra's ice time he would have a Corsi of -5.496. To get Manny's Zone Start Adjusted Corsi we subtract that off, in other words add 5.496, to get -3.769.

A Rule of Thumb: Simplified Zone Start Adjusted Corsi

That's all well and good, but it would be nice to have something a little more portable. Even with all the data, I'd like to be able to just pull up BTN and get an idea how to adjust for a guy's Ozone%. To get something simpler, I recorded the Ozone% according to BTN for all of the players with at least 600 minutes of even-strength-goalies-on ice time and ran a regression to get the average adjustment for a given ozone%. Here is a scatter plot of the 508 players. The numbers on the x-axis represent how far off from 50% Ozone%, the y-axis is the size of the adjustment or the negative of what the average player would get with the same ice time:

As you can see, a simplified formula will come very close to the more complicated version above which forces us to look at the individual data. Any differences are based on how much time a player spends in the relatively neutral situations where he is jumping on the ice after a faceoff at either end. The result of this is a simple formula. To adjust for zone starts, multiply how many percentage points the player's Ozone% is from 50% by 0.18 and add or subtract accordingly. In formula, with Ozone% out of 100:

Simplified Zone Start Adjusted Corsi = Corsi/60 - (Ozone% - 50)*0.18

Another way to think about it is to add or subtract 1.8 for every 10 percentage points. So if you gave a guy with even zone starts 60% Ozone starts then we'd expect his Corsi rate to go up 1.8. If you put him in more defensive spots with just a 30% Ozone% then his Corsi will drop about 3.6.


I don't want to clutter it with a 900-row table, so I'll make a table with the top 25 and another with a few players of interest with particularly high or low Ozone%. Here is a google spreadsheet with all the Zone Start Adjusted Corsi stats from 2010-2011.

RankPlayerTeamPosZone Start Adjusted CorsiCorsiTime On Ice
1Kyle WellwoodSJSF22.12522.203462.1
2Torrey MitchellSJSF18.50418.336791.9
3Joe PavelskiSJSF17.30415.9391039
4Ryane CloweSJSF16.57116.7151148.7
5Alexandre PicardMTLD16.53817.308634.4
6Mason RaymondVANF16.51517.695922.3
7Ryan KeslerVANF16.50916.5881135.7
8Brian RafalskiDETD15.30516.0831033.4
9Nikolay ZherdevPHIF15.02914.418653.4
10Justin WilliamsLAKF14.84314.7171043.7
11Evgeni MalkinPITF14.77315.509607.4
12Sean BergenheimTBLF14.65213.625916
13Tim JackmanCGYF14.64516.275726.3
14Viktor StalbergCHIF14.21716.208799.6
15Pavel DatsyukDETF14.03913.3848.1
16Logan CoutureSJSF13.74314.0781133.7
17Alexander SteenSTLF13.72214.481081.5
18Jason DemersSJSD13.68513.5911169.9
19Mikael BacklundCGYF13.37614.034761
20Patrik EliasNJDF13.27513.3061082.2
21Mark LetestuPITF13.26214.613759.6
22Tomas HolmstromDETF12.9113.418840.7
23Chris HigginsVANF12.18311.156790.6
24Brian GiontaMTLF12.0812.1511185.1
25Tyler KennedyPITF11.81312.581996.8

People of interest:

PlayerTeamPosZone Start Adjusted CorsiCorsiTime On Ice
Henrik SedinVANF7.18511.8031235.3
Patrick KaneCHIF10.5213.7381139.9
Marian GaborikNYRF-7.194-4.829882.1
J-P DumontNSHF2.4764.62662.4
Ville LeinoPHIF-3.973-2.1871097.6
Manny MalhotraVANF-3.769-9.265887.2
Blair BettsPHIF-15.221-18.412501.9
Steve OttDALF-4.526-8.3461020.9
Jerred SmithsonNSHF-6.98-10.442965.3
Dave BollandCHIF-1.198-3.2806.3

Please Leave Feedback!

As this is my first effort in coming up with a new statistic, I would love some feedback on this. Does the methodology make sense? Is the Ozone% adjustment of .18 per percentage point pretty close to what you've been doing? Any and all comments appreciated.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Driving Play Season Preview Rankings Are Revealed

As the sun rises on what figures to be a classic NHL season, Matt and I figured that we'd post a table revealing each of our rankings. Without further adieu:

Carolina19172325215San Jose
Colorado2922282826.757Los Angeles
Columbus1814111614.758New Jersey
Dallas2730242225.759Tampa Bay
Los Angeles713467.513Buffalo
Montreal81010109.515NY Rangers
New Jersey9999917St. Louis
NY Rangers1415121814.7518Calgary
NY Islanders2821262725.519Carolina
San Jose5564524Toronto
St. Louis1616171415.7525Ottawa
Tampa Bay13887926Minnesota
Toronto2426212624.2527NY Islanders

Do you agree? How do you think the league will shake out? Feel free to copy and paste the following in the comments with your predictions:

Eastern Conference:


Western Conference:


Eastern Conference Playoffs:


Semifinals 1:
Semifinals 2:


Western Conference Playoffs:


Semifinals 1:
Semifinals 2:


Stanley Cup:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Driving Play Season Preview: Teams 3-1, The Stanley Cup Favorites

3. Washington

Key Statistics:

Fenwick- 50.4%
Even Strength Shooting%- 7%
Even Strength Save%- .928

2010-2011 Review:

Washington's year last year was filled with up and downs.  Most notable was their extended losing streak in December that provided some sweet Bruce Boudreau rants on '24/7'.  After this lull however, the team played extremely well, finishing first in the Eastern Conference and second overall in total points.  Unfortunately for Caps fans, the playoffs brought another early exit, as the Caps were swept in the Eastern Conference Semis, a series which was much closer than a sweep would indicate.

Offseason Changes:

Where do we start?  George McPhee was a busy man this offseason, with resigning key players (Brooks Laich, Karl Alzner), fleecing teams in trades (Semyon Varlamov for a 1st round pick), signing elite goalies for a back-up's cap hit (Tomas Vokoun), and filling out the rest of his team with veteran players capable of playing tough minutes.  The team added precious forward depth with the additions of Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, and Jeff Halpern.  They also bolstered their blueline with the addition of Roman Hamrlik.  George McPhee took a team that was already very good and turned them into Stanley Cup favorites.  The Capitals now have it all.

Key Questions for 2011-2012:

Will the Capitals be better territorially this year?
  • Last year the Capitals were a middle of the pack team territorially, though some of their signings are players capable of driving the play forward (Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer).  It'll be interesting to see if this has any impact, as Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin are the only remaining forwards who can be counted on to control play.  
Was last year's mediocre Power Play just variance or should it be a cause for concern?
  • After spending the last handful of years with one of the league's best power plays, last year's Capitals saw their success with the man advantage dwindle, posting the NHL's 16th best Power Play.  Was this bad coaching or bad luck?  Either way, if these problems creep back up it could be a problem, as Washington probably has less margin for error here given their relative weakness at even strength.

2. Vancouver

Key Statistics:

Fenwick- 53.9%
Even Strength Shooting%- 8.2%
Even Strength Save%- .939

2010-2011 Review:

Vancouver was the class of the NHL last year, earning 117 points on their way to winning the President's Trophy.  Their postseason nearly ended in disaster before Alex Burrows scored an OT winner in Game 7 of the first round, and from there they handled Nashville and San Jose en route to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1994.  The rest, as they say, is history, as Tim Thomas and the Bruins won the final two games of the series as Vancouver began to burn.

Offseason Changes:

Mike Gillis (correctly) resisted the temptation to overreact, as nearly all of their regulars return, with Christian Ehrhoff as the only key piece to leave.  Marco Sturm was their most notable endeavor in UFA.  Most of the offseason work came with re-signing their own players, as Kevin Bieksa, Max Lapierre, Jannik Hansen, Sami Salo, and Andrew Alberts all re-upped this summer.

Key Questions for 2011-2012:

Is Vancouver deep enough along the blueline?

  • This is slightly nitty, as Vancouver is clearly an elite team, but one chink in the armor is their depth along the blueline, especially after nothing was done to replace the departure of Christian Ehrhoff. If Vancouver runs into injuries which is a possibility given the history of Sami Salo and (to a lesser extent) Kevin Bieksa, there could be issues, as giving big minutes to players like Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome is a recipe for disaster.  Keith Ballard returning to form is essential.

1. Chicago

Key Statistics:

Fenwick- 54%
Even Strength Shooting%- 6.5%
Even Strength Save%- .919

2010-2011 Review:

Last season was a disappointment for the Blackhawks.  Coming off a Stanley Cup and the ensuing cap hell, Chicago was really hamstrung with last year's lineup, and it showed, as players such as Fernando Pisani, Jack Skille, Jake Dowell, Nick Boynton, and Jassen Cullimore all played substantial minutes at various points throughout the season.  The team got better later on after adding Chris Campoli and Michael Frolik, but still needed a lot of luck to even make the playoffs.  Chicago ended up losing in 7 games to the eventual Western Conference champions.

Offseason Changes:

The Hawks FO was not shy this summer, as they moved two key cogs from the 09-10 cup run on draft night, sending Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for a 1st round pick.  Later that night they moved Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers for Rostislav Olesz.  The money freed from the Campbell deal was quickly put into use, as the Blackhawks then acquired and signed Steve Montador, and on July 1st, signed Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers, Daniel Carcillo, and Sean O'Donnell.  Sami Lepisto was also signed later in the Summer.

Key Questions for 2011-2012:

Did the Blackhawks do enough to replace Brian Campbell?
  • While the Campbell move was a huge win from a cap management perspective, it left the Blackhawks with a huge hole on defense.  The Hawks brass continues to insist that Nick Leddy is indeed ready to fill the void, but that obviously remains to be seen.  Campbell played a huge role for the Blackhawks, one that was often under appreciated by certain types of Hawks fans.  Chicago's possession game is predicated on quick transitions from the defensive zone to the offensive zone.  Losing his skating and his offensive skills will be hard to replace.  The depth should be better than last year, but the Blackhawks could find themselves in trouble if Leddy doesn't take a step forward.
Driving Play Power Rankings from 30 to 1:

30. Edmonton
29. Colorado
28. Dallas
27. New York Islanders
26. Minnesota
25. Ottawa
24. Toronto
23. Florida
22. Phoenix
21. Winnipeg
20. Anaheim
19. Carolina
18. Calgary
17. St. Louis
16. Nashville
15. New York Rangers
14. Columbus
13. Buffalo
12. Philadelphia
11. Boston
10. Montreal
9. Tampa Bay
8. New Jersey
7. Los Angeles
6. Detroit
5. Pittsburgh
4. San Jose
3. Washington
2. Vancouver
1. Chicago

Monday, October 3, 2011

Driving Play Season Preview: Teams 6-4, The Second Tier Elites

6. Detroit Red Wings

Key Statistics:

Fenwick- 53.6%
Even Strength Shooting%-8.5%
Even Strength Save%-.922

2010-2011 Summary

Once again, Detroit was near the top of the league in both territorial play and in points, all this despite losing 26 games from Pavel Datsyuk, 13 games from Dan Cleary, 19 games from Brian Rafalski, and 15 games from Brad Stuart.  Detroit got decent enough goaltending, as well as good years from all of their supplemental pieces.  They simply ran into a slightly better team in the playoffs.

Offseason Changes

The only major move made this summer was the retirement of Brian Rafalski and his subsequent replacement with Ian White.  As Triumph and I chronicled, this was a definite upgrade for Detroit.  White is a superior player who comes at less than half the price.  The saved cap space didn’t really come into play in further offseason moves, though it also gives Detroit a cushion if they needed to make an in-season move. 

Key Questions for 2011-2012

Is Detroit deep enough along the blueline?    
  • While Detroit features a formidable top 4, I believe there are legitimate concerns past that point, especially in the event of injury.  Jonathan Ericsson took a big step backward last year, and Jakub Kindl has shown little to give the impression that he wouldn’t be overmatched playing heavy minutes.  Other than that, I think forecasting Detroit’s success is pretty straightforward.  This is largely the same team as years past, and every NHL fan can understand what that means.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins

Key Statistics

Fenwick- 54.3%
Even Strength Shooting%-6.8%
Even Strength Save%-.929

2010-2011 Summary

In a word: injuries.  Pittsburgh’s two best players spent significant time on Injured Reserve, with Evgeni Malkin missing nearly 40 games with various knee injuries and Sidney Crosby missing 41 games after noted headhunter David Steckel viciously ran Crosby in the Winter Classic.*  The Penguins still managed to put together a good season, even finishing first in the league in Fenwick, but the ability to consistently put pucks in the net was glaringly obvious. Thanks to a great season from Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh was able to remain relevant, finishing with 106 points. 

Offseason Changes

Pittsburgh lost two bottom-6 forwards to division rivals with Mike Rupp’s departure to the Rangers and Max Talbot’s move to Philadelphia. Outside of that, their roster will generally look the same as last year, with the most major addition coming with the signing of veteran winger Steve Sullivan. 

Key Questions for 2011-2012

At what point can we expect Sidney Crosby to return?
  • Crosby has already been ruled out of the season opener, which while not a good sign is still not the end of the world assuming Malkin and Staal remain healthy.  But still, the team needs him in the line-up.  A Crosby-less Penguins team still makes the playoff, but #87 is the difference between an elite team and a team that makes it as a bottom seed before losing in the first round.

Should Evgeni Malkin move to wing?
  • This only happens if Crosby is healthy, but is a move I think should be made (and is a move a few of us on this blog have talked about for a while).  Malkin’s contributions at Even Strength have fallen each of the last few seasons.  He’s never been great at faceoffs, and center depth (again, assuming Crosby’s health) isn’t much of an issue for Pittsburgh, and I believe the lightened responsibility could help bring his game back to where it was in 2008.   

* - Don’t worry, I’m only joking.

4. San Jose Sharks

Key Statistics from 2010-2011

Fenwick- 53.7%
Even Strength Shooting%-7.2%
Even Strength Save%-.942

2010-2011 Summary

The Sharks had a pretty boring year last year (I mean this in a good way), as they won another Pacific Division title and again came within one postseason round of the Stanley Cup Finals.  San Jose’s biggest story last year was the emergence of Logan Couture, who centered what was San Jose’s best line for most of the year, and whose presence ultimately made Devin Setoguchi expendable (more on this later). 

Offseason Changes

Outside of Washington, San Jose had the busiest summer of any of the NHL’s elites.  The offseason bonanza began on Draft Day, with Doug Wilson sending Devin Setoguchi, top prospect Charlie Coyle, and a 2011 1st round pick to the Minnesota Wild for Brent Burns.  This was the first of two blockbusters between the Sharks and Wild, as the two teams swapped All-Star wingers, with the Sharks sending Dany Heatley and receiving Martin Havlat.  The Sharks also signed Michal Handzus, ostensibly to play the role of 3rd line center.

Key Questions for 2011-2012

How will Joe Pavelski do on the wing and whom will he play with?
  • Logan Couture’s rise gave Doug Wilson the flexibility to move a top 6 winger in Devin Setoguchi, primarily because he had another top 6 forward who was then being used on the 3rd line.  I think it’ll be interesting to see what (if any) impact this has on Pavelski’s game.  I also think it’ll be interesting to see what line he plays with, though this will obviously change throughout the year.

Were last year’s troubles on the PK just an aberration or a legitimate cause for concern?
  • Known in previous years for having one of the league’s best kills, San Jose had an uncharacteristically bad year on the PK.  Michal Handzus should help up front, and Colin White and Brent Burns should help on the back end, but it still remains to be seen if that is enough, especially with the departure of Jamal Mayers and Scott Nichol.
The final 3 will be posted tomorrow morning.  

Here is a recap of our rankings to date:

30. Edmonton
29. Colorado
28. Dallas
27. New York Islanders
26. Minnesota
25. Ottawa
24. Toronto
23. Florida
22. Phoenix
21. Winnipeg
20. Anaheim
19. Carolina
18. Calgary
17. St. Louis
16. Nashville
15. New York Rangers
14. Columbus
13. Buffalo
12. Philadelphia
11. Boston
10. Montreal
9. Tampa Bay
8. New Jersey
7. Los Angeles
6. Detroit
5. Pittsburgh*
4. San Jose

* - With Sidney Crosby

On The Problem With Corsi Rel

Advanced hockey statistics are in their infancy. There's a lot about the game that is going ignored or being glossed over in the hockey numbers community, and we're still years behind others sports. I've seen the baseball community make tremendous strides in the five or so years that I've been aware of sabermetrics. The sabermetrics overview book Baseball Between The Numbers, published around 2006, contains many notions that are outdated - we just know more about the game now. I also used to be a fan of the site Football Outsiders, until I saw that too many of their articles took logical leaps based on less-than-solid evidence. I certainly didn't have the answers to the questions they were posing, but I sure as hell didn't believe in their answers. We can get only so far with statistics that remove certain aspects of play and focus on others. All this preamble leads up to the point of this article: Corsi Rel is a flawed statistic. That doesn't mean we should reject it outright, but it does mean that we have to be careful when using it. (All numbers in this post courtesy of, except where indicated).

Examples of where Corsi Rel can lead us astray:

A. A poor territorial team

Let's take the Islanders, who according to Vic Ferrari's Time On Ice script, were 46.5% Fenwick in all even strength situations this year. We know they were driven back a lot. This is going to create a problem if we just look at one player's Corsi Rel with his Zone Start, because a player may have a positive Corsi Rel with a below 50% Zone Start - these two things together are assumed to indicate skill.

The other issue with the Islanders is their atrocious 4th line. Trevor Gillies had a woeful 26.4% Fenwick. Expressed in Corsi/60, he was -52.07. These horrendous results are going to skew all the Islanders' Corsi Rel numbers, because they pull down the team's total Corsi by a not-insignificant amount.

B. A team with lots of injuries

Take the Islanders again, where no defenseman played more than 64 games for the team. They also had lots of players going in and out of the lineup at forward - 10 forwards played 42 or fewer games last season for the Isles. Perhaps I'm just unclear on the meaning of Corsi Rel, but as I understand it, it compares a player's results to the players who are also on the team when he is playing. Depending on what lineup the team is icing, it may give a skewed picture, especially if that lineup is particularly worse or better than the lineup the team 'typically' puts out.

C. An excellent team

This is basically A reversed. A team like the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks, which featured 11 players with above a 50% zone start and most players with out of this world Corsi production, could make things look ridiculous. For instance, Dustin Byfuglien had a -5.4 Corsi Rel that year, but he had a 10.1 Corsi On. He was still probably an excellent bottom-6 forward, despite the negative Corsi Rel on a great team.

D. Quality of Competition

My colleague JaredL helpfully pointed this out, and I think he wrote it so well that I won't even change it: "Corsi Rel tends to exacerbate usage issues. If a player plays against tough competition then that means his team's competition when he's off the ice is going to be easier. That makes it a double whammy - his Corsi On takes a hit because of the tough competition and his Corsi Off gets a boost because of the weaker competition. The same thing applies to O-Zone Starts."

E. What are we really measuring, anyway?

We've mentioned before the thought experiment where we consider two hockey teams playing against one another with static lines - line A goes against line A of the other team, line B vs. line B and so forth. We know that hockey is a more fluid game than that - teams match up different lines against different lines, whether by chance or by choice, and players move around on lines due to injury and performance. Regardless, what exactly does the first line have to do with the fourth line? How much influence does the third line's play have on the first line? Corsi Rel assumes that that relationship is particularly meaningful.

I'm certainly not smart enough to synthesize Zone Start, Quality of Teammates and Competition, as well as Corsi, into one statistic that would comprehensively define territorial play. I'm hoping for that day soon. Until that day comes, we will be stuck with Corsi Rel - it's far from perfect, but in some ways it's still the best we've got.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Driving Play Season Preview: 10-7, The Near-Elite

Sorry about the delay, everybody. I didn't realize that I had a previous engagement with a baseball game in South Philadelphia yesterday. Without further adieu, here are teams 10 through 7 on our countdown as promised.

10. Montreal Canadiens

Last Season’s Results:

5-on-5 Fenwick/Corsi %: 52.7/51.7
5-on-5 SF/60 (NHL Rank): 31.6 (7)
5-on-5 SA/60 (NHL Rank): 30.0 (16)
PP SF/60 (NHL Rank): 53.6 (9)
SH SA/60 (NHL Rank): 48.5 (10)

The Montreal Canadiens’ results from last season are interesting to say the least. Despite sporting very good possession numbers, the Habs were ranked 22nd in the league in scoring, shooting only 7.0% at even strength. On the defensive side of the puck, Montreal was a middle-of-the-pack team in allowing shots but solid play from Carey Price helped propel them to the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. Montreal would meet division rival Boston in the first round, and like this commercial, the series wouldn’t disappoint. Boston would squeak out a 4-3 OT win in game 7 and advance to the second round.

Offseason Changes:

Montreal wasn’t very active this offseason, but they were able to shake up their personnel without handcuffing themselves against the salary cap. They let James Wisniewski, Roman Hamrlik, and Jeff Halpern walk to free agency and awarded Erik Cole a new 4 year, $18 million contract. They also re-signed Andrei Markov to a 3-year deal, hoping that he can stay healthy and give that defensive unit a much-needed spark.

Season Outlook:

Montreal is another team that looks very similar to the one we last saw in April. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – they were very good at controlling the play against their opponents last season. If Andrei Markov can give them any semblance of a healthy season and P.K. Subban continues to improve, Montreal has a chance to challenge the top half of the standings in the Eastern Conference.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last Season’s Results:

5-on-5 Fenwick/Corsi %: 52.2/50.7
5-on-5 SF/60 (NHL Rank): 31.5 (8)
5-on-5 SA/60 (NHL Rank): 27.3 (3)
PP SF/60 (NHL Rank): 50.0 (13)
SH SA/60 (NHL Rank): 46.0 (4)

Tampa Bay was perhaps the surprise team of the Eastern Conference last season. GM Steve Yzerman had a busy offseason re-tooling the lightning in 2010, and his first season in the front office saw his team improve from 12th to 5th in the standings. Tampa had above-average to elite totals in just about every category except one – goaltending. Yzerman would of course infuse the team with a much-needed upgrade mid-season, acquiring the ageless Dwayne Roloson from the Islanders. The Bolts would prevail against both Pittsburgh and Washington before losing the 7th game of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Bruins.

Offseason Changes:

Tampa is another team that remains largely unchanged from a season ago which certainly is not a bad thing. The Bolts signed forward Ryan Shannon to a 1-year, no risk contract and also added Matt Gilroy and Tom Pyatt. They managed to re-sign core contributors Steven Stamkos and Teddy Purcell to multi-year contracts while Dwayne Roloson agreed to come back for at least one more shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

Season Outlook:

Considering that this team finished 12th in the standings just two seasons ago, it is quite remarkable how tremendous of a job Steve Yzerman has done re-tooling the franchise. It will be interesting to see how Dwayne Roloson performs during a full-season of play for the Lightning, though whatever he can give them figures to be an improvement over the Mike Smith/Dan Ellis tandem of last season. Tampa seems to have all the pieces in place to challenge for a division title, though unseating the Washington Capitals atop the Southeast will be a tall task.

8. New Jersey Devils

Last Season’s Results:

5-on-5 Fenwick/Corsi %: 53.3/53.8
5-on-5 SF/60 (NHL Rank): 28.0 (24)
5-on-5 SA/60 (NHL Rank): 25.8 (1)
PP SF/60 (NHL Rank): 49.6 (14)
SH SA/60 (NHL Rank): 43.0 (2)

Another of the teams with the most peculiar results from last season is the New Jersey Devils. They were an elite possession team, and boasted the least shots allowed per 60 minutes average in the NHL. Though they near the bottom in generating shots, they still managed to average a positive shot differential without Zach Parise for a majority of the season. At the end of the day, poor goaltending from Martin Brodeur and a 6.7% shooting percentage at even strength hurt their bottom line on the scoreboard. After a late-season surge, the Devils would finish 11th in the East and miss out on the playoffs.

Offseason Changes:

I’ll fix this broken record that keeps reporting little to no offseason movement sooner or later. This offseason was more about retention in New Jersey, as they re-signed Zach Parise to a 1-year, $6 million contract and brought back Andy Greene for the price of $12 million over 4 years. Thanks to their poor finish last season, the Devils were able to select Adam Larsson 4th overall giving the team a very good defensive prospect.

Season Outlook:

I think I speak for all of my co-authors when I say that we will be very surprised if the Devils repeat their performance from a season ago. Adding a healthy Zach Parise to a cast that performed amongst the NHL’s elite in controlling the play last season means that the offense will receive a luxurious boost up front. The biggest question New Jersey figures to face is goaltending. If Martin Brodeur shows us more of the same from last season, don’t be surprised if Johan Hedberg is eventually given the reigns. Barring another set of unforeseen setbacks, the Devils will definitely be in the mix in the Atlantic Division.

7. Los Angeles Kings

Last Season’s Results:

5-on-5 Fenwick/Corsi %: 50.8/52.0
5-on-5 SF/60 (NHL Rank): 27.9 (26)
5-on-5 SA/60 (NHL Rank): 27.9 (6)
PP SF/60 (NHL Rank): 50.4 (12)
SH SA/60 (NHL Rank): 48.1 (9)

The Los Angeles Kings made the playoffs as the 7th seed in the Western Conference last season, sporting a below-average offense, very good defense and slightly above-average goaltending. The Kings would draw a first round match-up with the San Jose Sharks, but would fall short to the Pacific Division Champions in six games. In the end, the Kings just could not overcome losing superstar center Anze Kopitar(rrrrrrrggggghhhhhh) to a broken ankle near the end of the season.

Offseason Changes:

Finally, some moves to report on! The Kings acquired center Mike Richards from Philadelphia for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round draft pick. They also signed Richards’ former partner in crime Simon Gagne to a 2-year contract, adding both offensive and defensive depth up front. Franchise cornerstone Drew Doughty recently agreed to an 8-year, $56 million contract, keeping intact what was a very good defensive unit a season ago.

Season Outlook:

Though a few of my fellow bloggers disagree, I think L.A. is ready to take the next step. They should certainly contend for a Pacific Division title this season, as Mike Richards and Simon Gagne figure to give them added tough-minutes help up front. Jonathan Quick might be the only thing standing in their way as he will need to improve in order for Los Angeles to truly be in the conversation with the league’s elite.

Matt will lead us to the promised land, taking us from number six through one on the countdown. Our list so far:

30. Edmonton
29. Colorado
28. Dallas
27. NY Islanders
26. Minnesota
25. Ottawa
24. Toronto
23. Florida
22. Phoenix
21. Winnipeg
20. Anaheim
19. Carolina
18. Calgary
17. St. Louis
16. Nashville
15. New York Rangers
14. Columbus
13. Buffalo
12. Philadelphia
11. Boston
10. Montreal Canadiens
9. Tampa Bay Lightning
8. New Jersey Devils
7. Los Angeles Kings