Friday, December 30, 2011

Preaching To The Choir - On Why Plus/Minus Is Stupid, Part 38

Plus/Minus is often maligned by fancy stats types as not descriptive - it doesn't take into account the quality of competition or teammates. It doesn't acknowledge whether your team's goaltending is great, horrible, or somewhere in between. There's yet another reason why it's dumb - it describes game states that are not entirely relevant.

Let's take as an example my favorite team, the New Jersey Devils. They are having quite a bizarre season so far - 8-1 in shootouts, their record in regulation is a mere 10-15, but right now they're holding on to a playoff spot. More strange is their special teams play - they've scored a mere 17 power play goals, while allowing a whopping total of 11 short handed goals. Yet while shorthanded, they've only allowed 10 goals and have scored 7 short handed goals themselves. In addition, they've allowed 4 empty net goals and have scored none at even strength. All this has made the team plus minus even more useless than it already is, since as we know, plus/minus includes short handed and empty net goals.

Let's just look at the top 9 forwards' plus minus:

Adam Henrique7
Petr Sykora2
Dainius ZubrusEven
Patrik Elias-4
Zach Parise-5
David Clarkson-10
Ryan Carter-11
Ilya Kovalchuk-12
Mattias Tedenby-14

Looks pretty bad, right? But when we take out short handed goals for and against as well as empty net goals, it looks a lot different:

Forward+/-+/- at ESDifference
Adam Henrique770
Petr Sykora29-7
Dainius ZubrusEven8-8
Patrik Elias-46-10
Zach Parise-52-7
David Clarkson-10-4-6
Ryan Carter-11-10-1
Ilya Kovalchuk-12-1-11
Mattias Tedenby-14-12-2

We see a lot of pluses where there were minuses before. If we were using +/- to talk about even strength play on the Devils, most players have a radically different even strength +/-. We might erroneously think that Ilya Kovalchuk is having a horrible season at even strength, but he's merely been average-ish. What are we even looking to describe when we talk about +/-?

Conclusion: Plus/Minus is stupid. Again.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Is the Power Play Its Own Beast?

To what extent are even-strength and power-play performance linked? If your team is an offensive juggernaut five-on-five, should you expect them to dominate with a man advantage?

One might say that hockey skills are hockey skills and whatever helps you score at even strength should carry over. Thinking more about it, though, there are lot of aspects of the game that are in one but not the other. If your team excels at the breakout, On the Forecheck or has a mean neutral-zone trap then that won't help you too much when the other team simply clears the puck and waits for you at the blue line.

In the analytical community, the most-cited metric for power-play quality is shooting rate. See the recent article that got me thinking about this by Derek Zona or the definitive article on the subject by Gabe Desjardins. Since I am using 5-on-4 shots for per 60, the most obvious stat for comparison is 5-on-5 shots for per 60. So the question at hand is how correlated are 5-on-5 and 5-on-4 shooting rates.

Using data from BTN, over the last four full seasons the correlation between shooting rates 5-on-5 and 5-on-4 is 0.4. Normally I would put out an R^2 interpretation, but for this relationship it isn't one driving the other but some hockey skills and tactics driving both. Here is a graph showing the relationship:

With a correlation of 0.4 one could say there is a relationship between the two, but it isn't particularly strong. Luck is obviously one factor. We tend to focus on shooting rates because that reduces the luck factor, but it is still present. That is particularly true for the power play due to reduced sample sizes.

Here is a chart showing the average difference between 5-on-4 shooting rate and the one predicted by the above regression formula for each team. You can think of this as how good they have been 5-on-4 compared to offensively 5-on-5.

S.J 8.19
ANA 7.94
DET 6.21
MTL 3.93
WSH 3.57
VAN 3.41
N.J 3.31
MIN 2.04
T.B 1.89
DAL 1.64
L.A 1.57
CBJ -0.17
FLA -0.22
BOS -0.76
COL -1.03
PIT -1.09
BUF -1.67
CGY -1.75
NYR -1.75
TOR -1.9
PHI -1.99
OTT -2.44
STL -2.45
NSH -2.69
ATL -2.76
NYI -2.89
PHX -3.62
CHI -3.67
CAR -4.25
EDM -6.59

As you can see, the Sharks, Ducks and Red Wings are outliers at the positive end. Their power plays have performed better than you would expect based on their 5-on-5 shooting rates. The Sharks under McLellan have been very strong with the man advantage. The huge outlier in the graph above is the ungodly 72.6 5-on-4 shots/60 they put up last year. They currently lead the league this year at 68.8. Getting slightly off-topic, I think a safe prediction is for the Sharks to improve their power-play results since they top the league in 5-on-4 SF/60 but are only 10th in PP%.

On the bad end, the Edmonton Oilers stand alone. This is saying something, since the Oilers haven't exactly been machine gunning pucks at the net 5-on-5. Going by 5-on-4 shots for per 60 they have finished the last four years 30th, 30th, 30th and, you guessed it, 30th. This year Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can barely miss on the power play and perhaps he's helped their shooting rate out as well since they are currently all the way up to 24th in the league.

Given how consistently the Sharks, Ducks and Red Wings have outperformed expectations with the man advantage and how terrible the Oilers' power play has been, I think it's pretty clear that there is some skill component of the power play that is distinct from 5-on-5.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

CBA Look - Part 2 - The Salary Cap

Salary caps are now as big a part of our sports lexicon as touchdown, goal, and sex scandal. 3 of the 4 major sports have them, and the 4th has a luxury tax system that effectively functions as a salary cap for most of the MLB franchises.

Let's take a look at each sport's system (the Revenue Split is Players %/Owners %):

LeagueRevenue SplitCurrent CapCurrent FloorRoster Size
NHL57/43$64M Hard Cap$48M23
NBA50/50$58M Hard Cap¹$49M12
NFL50/50$120M Hard Cap89% Of Cap47
MLBNone$178M Luxury Tax²None25

¹ Hard Cap to become Soft Cap with Luxury Tax in 2013 and each year thereafter.

² The MLB Luxury Tax Threshold year to year is set in the CBA and not as a function of revenues.

Salary caps have a two-fold function - first, they limit the amount that top revenue teams can spend on players. This is under the guise of competition, but we'll see that it doesn't exactly work that way. Second, they depress salaries for top players. Both the NHL and NBA have a maximum dollar amount per year for a player contract, yet while the NBA has had several max contracts, the NHL has only had one. It's not just that the cap-bending huge deals have altered the NHL landscape for player contracts - despite the fact that revenues have clearly returned to pre-lockout levels, the salary cap restricts teams from signing players to the kind of deals we were seeing before the introduction of the salary cap. People with long memories will remember the summer of 2002, when both Bill Guerin and Bobby Holik received $9 million per season. Both of these guys were fine players, but neither one is going to the Hall of Fame except perhaps to visit. The only player currently making that more than that over the entire length of his contract is Alexander Ovechkin, and I suspect it will stay that way.

One thing that is interesting about the present NHL salary cap is that players on one-way contracts who are sent to the minors or overseas don't count on the cap. It's unclear whether or not this will change in the next CBA - on the one hand, someone like Wade Redden probably doesn't want to play in the AHL, but on the other hand, he certainly makes more money doing that than if he were bought out or signed to a less risky contract. The rumblings in journalists' columns suggests the NHL wants it so that all one-way contracts count against the cap, but we'll see how the NHLPA reacts - I can't imagine they're married to the idea of guys riding buses for millions of dollars, so they could give that up in exchange for NHL concessions.

The salary cap as a whole doesn't interest me all that much - anyone paying attention will see that it will come down if the revenue split changes. I'll show just how much it might come down when I focus on the NHL's escrow system in a later post. What's more interesting to me is the salary floor, a mechanism that forces teams to spend money whether it's in their best interests to do so. We already saw a strange move earlier this season when the Dallas Stars picked up Eric Nystrom because otherwise they would have been under the salary floor.

Salary floors have three functions:

A: Ensure that teams receiving revenue sharing spend it on player salaries

B: Ensure that teams do not intentionally lose by fielding a horrible roster (see also: 2004 Penguins)

C: Ensure that players are properly compensated

In practice, however, salary floors often necessitate superfluous free agent signings or superfluous trades. Some markets quite simply won't be appealing to free agents and will, for whatever reason, have a dearth of existing expensive contracts. We saw that as a possibility this summer when the Florida Panthers had less than $25 million in contracts on the books, but the Panthers quickly signed half the available free agents. Regardless, the salary floor is currently $9 million above where the salary cap was set in 2005 - have hockey-related revenues in markets near the floor really risen that much since then? I doubt it.

These are estimates, but Derek Zona via Putting On the Foil provides us with these numbers for the profits that NHL clubs reaped in 2010:

Top Six Most Profitable Teams (average): $37.9 million

Everyone Else (average): -$2.79 million

Now since these are estimates based on estimates, we can't be sure that these are even close to correct, but it doesn't take a financial whiz to figure out that there are some teams in the league whose revenues are off the charts, and likewise a lot of teams at the bottom of the food chain who struggle to make anything.

(This will be a feature on each of my CBA articles outlining what I think should happen. I by no means think that they will happen - that will go in my predictions.)

Triumph's Take: The salary cap should come down from its current high of $64 million, as it is driving the middle market teams to spend above their means. The NHL should institute a luxury tax above a soft salary cap - teams would pay $2 for each $1 spent above the salary cap, with that money going towards revenue sharing. There should be a hard ceiling of 15% above the soft salary cap where teams interested in paying luxury tax can spend to. Furthermore, all one-way contracts should count on the cap whether or not the player is playing in the NHL.

The salary floor should reflect the revenues of the bottom teams, and not the league as a whole. The salary floor should be set according to a percentage, say 60%, of the revenues of the bottom 15 revenue teams in the league plus, say, 80% the total amount of revenue sharing received by these teams divided among them equally. This enables the NHL's lower revenue teams to spend without having to spend above their means.

The NHLPA's ability to increase the salary cap by 5% each year by placing a greater amount of their money into escrow should be eliminated or scaled back.

What Will Happen: I think despite the clear need for reform, the NHL owners will be persuaded that a falling salary tide raises all their boats. The system in place will remain largely the same, all that will change is the percentage of revenues, which will likely fall at 50/50 as they have in the other two major sports leagues that have a salary cap. This revenue change will also result in salary rollbacks and the possibility of amnesty buyouts.

Now a question for the reader - was this post clear? Should it have more citations from the NHL CBA? The NHL CBA is written so jargon-y that it's usually best to avoid it unless we need it for some sort of clarification, but I'm not sure if I'm assuming too much knowledge here (for instance, on what the revenue split means).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Corsi and Fenwick Power Rankings through Dec. 18

Here are the updated power rankings through yesterday. If you are unfamiliar, I get these by using a logit model to take into account schedule, score effects and special teams.

The big movers this week were the Kings and Jets. The Kings are an interesting case as they jumped up this week largely on the back of their performance against the Red Wings, who have topped these and other Corsi/Fenwick based power rankings since early in the season. This is somewhat odd since the Kings got beat 8-2. In that game, the Kings put up a Corsi of +8, 54.4% at even strength. We expect a team to win the territory battle when they are behind, but given how good the Red Wings have been those are still strong numbers. They also had two more shots on the power play than the Red Wings.

Winnipeg is more straightforward - they played a weak schedule: Minnesota, Washington and Anaheim all at home. While they got two wins out of that, their possession numbers were bad. At even strength with the score tied they put up a Corsi percentage of 47.1%, 48.7% for Fenwick. They were worse taking all even-strength time, which is to be expected given score effects. Still, their shooting stats were pretty weak when you consider how bad their opponents were as a group and that they were playing at home.

Corsi RankteamCorsi%FenwickFen Rank

I'm working on testing this with older data, and quite likely will be tweaking the formula to improve the way I deal with special teams.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Assessing Zone Entry Methods

Over at Broadstreet Eric T. and Geoff Detweiler have been collecting and analyzing zone-entry data for all Flyers games this year. They track each entry into the offensive zone, recording who is on the ice, how many shots and scoring chances there were before the puck left the zone and whether the puck was carried in, dumped in, passed in etc. Here is a post archiving some of their previous work. I think it is an excellent idea and the early data look promising.

In recent articles, which can be found here and here, Eric uses early data to make the argument that carrying the puck into the offensive zone is better than dumping it in and teams, or at least the Flyers they've got data on, should be more aggressive, carrying it in more often. He does put in a couple caveats that the fourth line should be more inclined to dump the puck in and top 3 lines should perhaps be more cautious late with the lead. While intuitively I think he's correct, the extra pressure you put on your opponents with the puck seems more valuable than the risk of a bad turnover, I don't think the results he cites tell us anything about whether or not teams should try to carry it in more often in marginal situations. I have a different interpretation of the data.

Their results: teams do better when they carry the puck in.

One thing there is no doubt about whatsoever is that in their dataset teams get substantially better outcomes when they carry the puck in than when they dump it or even pass it in. (Before you ask, they exclude situations where a team dumps the puck and makes a line change with little to no effort to go after the puck) As an example, when the puck was carried in the team doing so generated 0.57 shots before the puck was sent out of the zone. The similar number is only 0.22 when the team dumps it in.

On the face of it, it seems reasonable to think that this means carrying the puck in is smarter and that teams should be doing it more often. However, this ignores the circumstances. Most of the time when a player can easily carry the puck across the blue line into the zone it is both correct to do so and what he does. These situations tend to overwhelmingly favor the attacking team. In extreme cases you have breakaways and odd-man rushes. In general the defense will not be very well set up - if they were the offensive team would not be able to waltz into the attacking zone without risking losing the puck.

Now think about times where it would be very difficult for the player to cross the blue line with possession of the puck. The defense is set up, putting pressure on the puck handler. He is likely to be facing a very good defenseman. He might even have multiple defenders perfectly executing a trap. In these situations, dumping the puck is the correct move and usually what is done.

Looking at the two together, when the situation is favorable to the team about to enter the offensive zone they tend to carry it in. When it is unfavorable, they will usually dump it. Let's flip that around - when teams carry the puck in the conditions are usually very good for the offensive team and when they dump it in they are usually bad. I think it's pretty clear that the circumstances would drive the numbers in exactly the way they appear. From the numbers alone it's not clear whether or not the teams in question attempt to carry the puck into the offensive zone too rarely, too often or about the right frequency. Intuitively I agree with Eric's conclusion, but I don't think the data provide any evidence for it.

Let's shift the focus.

In my view Eric focused too much on the decision the puck carrier makes and not enough on what is happening on the ice when, and just before, he makes it. I'm not saying this to be negative, in fact it's quite the opposite. He, Geoff and Broadstreet in general write some of my favorite hockey stuff, and that's saying something since I'm a Pens fan and the Flyers are my least favorite team. I love the idea of looking at zone entries and, perhaps paradoxically, my interpretation puts more value in these metrics than his does.

Let's take a different view of some of the data from the three recent articles, including comments:
- the top line (Hartnell, Giroux and Jagr) carried the puck in 3.1 times as often as they dumped it in. For second and third liners this drops to 2.2 times as often and for the fourth liners it's all the way down to 1.4 times. Better players tend to carry the puck in more compared to dumping it.
- when the puck is carried in the results are better than for any other type of entry going by shots/entry, chances/entry, goals/entry and how often the next play is in the defensive zone.
- the team carrying the puck in gets the next shot off 69.8% of the time, just above passing it in (68.6%) and well above both deflecting (62.4%) and dumping it in (56.3%)
- carrying the puck into the zone is substantially more advantageous than getting a faceoff in the offensive zone, going by any of the above metrics.
- when the Flyers have a lead of 2+ in the first two periods or any lead in the third, so their opponents are taking risks, 58% of their zone entries are carried in or passed in where they maintained control. When trailing, their opponents are more defensive minded, this figure drops to 48%. When the game is close and the opponents are more balanced it is in the between at 55%.

What does all this say to you? To me it screams out that the ability to carry the puck, or pass it in with control, is a fantastic proxy for winning the neutral-zone and transition-game battle! Giroux isn't good because he carries the puck in, he carries the puck in because his strong play has given him the opportunity. The more the conditions dictate the decision, the better controlled entries measure how well teams and players are doing in the neutral zone. It is precisely because as I see it the conditions drive the entry decisions that I think it's such a good thing to track.

Conclusion and Suggestions

While Geoff and Eric only have 22 games so far this season, a preliminary look at the data indicates that zone entries, especially those where the puck is carried in, may tell us a lot about who is excelling in the neutral zone, on transitions from offense to defense and vice versa. This is quite promising and I have a few quick suggestions for ways they could use these stats.

Firstly, I would put it in percentages as we do for Corsi. In other words carried-in entries for divided by carried-in entries for and against. I would also consider weighting them differently to come up with one overall number. People often ask about high-value shots and other notions related to shot quality. In this case, there appear to be high-value entries and low-value entries. Another thing to look at is how often the opponents carry it in with different defenseman on the ice.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Power Rankings through December 11th

First off, you, dear reader, have my humblest apologies for the lack of update last week. I made a bonehead move and didn't save my name database and by the time I had everything set up again it was late in the week so I decided just to wait until the end of the weekend. In the future, I'll try to make updates every Sunday night and if that fails I'll make them on Monday with results through Sunday.

As I explained in the previous version, these rankings use a simple logit model to account for schedule, score effects and special teams. The numbers you see in the chart represent the expected even-strength score-tied Corsi/Fenwick if the team played each team once, at home and away, and the total number of shots per game stayed the same.

Before getting to the rankings, here are a few notes, comments and anecdotes.

- Things have stabilized for the most part. The average team's rating has moved up or down only 0.6 percentage points for both Corsi and Fenwick. That's with the addition of about 6-8 games per team.

- Minnesota continues to amaze and... bewilder. Their rating dropped off the most in the league since the previous version, going from a mighty expected Corsi rating of 45.1% down to 43.2%, a drop of 1.9 percentage points moving them down to worst in the league in both Corsi and Fenwick. Their record in that time? 7-0-0. Is Tebow secretly suiting up for them?

- The team with the second-biggest drop in rating is Washington. The model has the Caps' effects-adjusted Corsi at 50.4%, a drop of 1.2 percentage points. The last time I did these rankings was just before Boudreau was sent packing in favor of Hunter, so the change is all on Hunter's watch. The Capitals have put up a Corsi of 45.2 since Hunter took over. Six games is a meaningless sample size, but it'll be something to keep an eye on.

- Remember when people were talking about the Stanley Cup hangover for both Boston and Vancouver? With Boston's fantastic November and Vancouver's great last 4 or 5 weeks, both have pulled themselves up in the standings after somewhat slow starts. They are both in the top 5 in the Corsi ranking. I don't think anybody expected the Canucks, at least their skaters, to forget how to play hockey but that is an improvement for Boston - the Bs were pretty average last year.

Here is the table:

Corsi RankTeamCorsiFenwickFen Rank

Monday, December 5, 2011

NHL Trends That I've Spotted, November Edition

I like JaredL's Power Rankings, though they do take some of the wind out of my monthly column about NHL trends. Since this column is just a hodgepodge of stuff I notice, I'll just focus on the player level. Today's edition will involve forwards.

Predict The Future And Win The Praise Of Basement-Dwelling Bloggers Everywhere, aka Finished Or Not Finished

Shots on goal trends are starting to emerge - information-wise with regard to shots, we begin the NHL season with chaff and build slowly up to wheat. A decline in shots on goal rate can have many causes - the biggest one, it seems to me, is shifting ice time. Since shot rates increase on the power play, less time on the power play and more time on the penalty kill is going to take a bite out of a player's shot rate. Still, we're at the point where we can begin to make pronouncements about a player's direction.

#1: Jarome Iginla

Finished or Not Finished? Finished.

Iginla's ice time has been cut slightly, but his shot rate is lowest since 98-99. With over 1100 games at the age of 34, it's hard to imagine Iginla's numbers coming back up, but perhaps a change of location would help him out.

(Naturally, Iginla had an 8 shot game in between when I first wrote this and when it will be published. Still, I think Iginla will not be a 30 goal scorer for much longer.)

#2: Brad Richards

Finished or Not Finished? Not finished.

Richards's shot rate has to be worrisome, but right now his shooting percentage is making the issue. His shot rate is a full shot below his career mark, and nearly a shot and a half below last year. My suspicion, however, is that linemate Marian Gaborik is 'taking' his shots - he's a full shot higher than last season. Richards has 13 5 on 4 shots according to behindthenet - last season he was credited with 108 - he essentially went from a shot and a half per game on the PP to a half-shot. Sometimes tactical changes can reduce a player's shot rate.

#3: Alex Ovechkin

Finished Or Not Finished? The jury's out.

Alex Ovechkin came into the league and led the NHL in shots on goal for 6 straight years. He's still shooting nearly 3.5 times per game, a rate which most NHLers would envy. Still, at his peak he shot over 6.5 times per game.

Let's see if we can't identify some causes.

1: Ice time reduction. Ovechkin's career average ice time is nearly 22 minutes a game, but he's only averaging 19 minutes a game so far this season. Assuming the decline to be linear between power play ice time and even strength ice time, that should result in a reduction in his shot rate - in fact, assuming that Ovechkin and his linemates still have the same true talent, we'd expect him to shoot 4.51 shots per game instead of his career 5.22. Still, that doesn't explain the decline completely, as he is below 4 shots a game.

2: Linemates. As we saw above, his linemates may be taking shots away from him. This doesn't seem to be the case - Ovechkin shot just over 1 time per game on the power play last year, and while he is shooting less often than that this year, it's the entire Washington power play that seems to have fallen. Last season, it generated 59.1 shots per 60 minutes, good for 3rd in the NHL. This year it's generating 48.2 shots per 60 minutes, which ranks it solidly in the middle of the pack. The difference is only 1 shot per 5 power play minutes, which doesn't seem like a lot, but over the course of a season, it adds up to 8 expected goals.

3: Shooters have a peak, perhaps Ovechkin has passed his. If we look at the careers of pure scorers, like Paul Kariya, Brett Hull, and Phil Esposito, we can see that they had a clear prime. Kariya had 6 years where he was top 10 in the league in shots, and a 7th year where he would've led the league in shots had he not both held out and been injured. Brett Hull led the league 3 straight years, then finished 2nd in the league 3 straight years, and was never again top 10 in the league in shots after his 33rd birthday. Esposito had 5 straight years where he had 5+ shots per game, but never had a season where he approached that number either before or after. This is sobering news to Ovechkin and Washington Capitals fans, but it's entirely possible that Ovechkin will never lead the league in shots on goal again. We can't make that pronouncement for sure, but players have leveled off at his age from being a top 5 player to being a top 20 player.

Wayne Gretzky said that 100% of the shots you don't take don't go in, and it's a truism that NHL fans don't quite understand. When your favorite player isn't generating as many shots as he once did, it's a sign that he probably won't return to his previous level of play.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The NHL CBA - A Very Long Series of Articles - Part 1

NBA fans and NHL fans have always had a kind of rivalry. Whereas baseball and football seasons have minor overlap, people don't often identify themselves by not liking the other sport. However, NBA and NHL fans tend to look down on one another - their seasons run concurrently, and in my experience, you will rarely meet a passionate NBA or NHL fan who also has a serious passion for the other sport. There's only so much time in the day for professional sports.

For the past few weeks, if you're like me, you've been enjoying a few chuckles at the NBA's expense watching the league circle the drain and nearly throw away the season. Schadenfreude isn't mankind's noblest feeling, but if you've heard years of jokes from smug fans weaned on SportsCenter about how no one likes the NHL, it might tickle you to hear that that sport might miss a season. You might've been looking forward to sports-starved NBA fans learning how to pronounce David Krejci. All that is over with now that the NBA and NBAPA has settled their differences - they have a new collective bargaining agreement, with the league set to begin in less than a month.

Thus, my glee turns to dread as I remember that the NHL's CBA expires in September of next year. We've seen both the NFL and NBA lock out, and I'm virtually certain that the NHL owners will once again lock out the players. Furthermore, unlike the NFL and NBA whose CBA expiration dates were well in advance of the beginning of the season, the NHL's CBA expires less than a month before regular season games are scheduled. If the two sides cannot agree to a new CBA before that time, we're going to see at the very least another shortened regular season.

So far, there's yet to be much saber-rattling. Larry Brooks commented in his November 13th Slap Shots column: "A high-ranking executive of one of the league’s most successful clubs on and off ice matter-of-factly told Slap Shots during the course of a conversation about something else entirely this week that the players, “will get 48 to 50 percent, and there will be a rollback” in the next CBA as if it is a fait accompli and [NHLPA president Donald] Fehr doesn’t exist." '48 to 50 percent' refers to the revenue split between owners and players as enforced by the salary cap. At present, the NHL players receive 57% of the revenue. Doing a little basic math, this means that the salary cap and likely NHL salaries would be rolled back by between 10 and 15%. Now we know that Larry Brooks is an NHLPA shill, as we'll see in the coming months, but I can recall him breaking the news during the summer of 2004 (at least to me) that the NHL was prepared to offer the NHLPA a $32 million salary cap. This seemed totally bonkers, since there were many teams spending upwards of $50 million on player salaries in the 2003-04 season. Yet when the dust settled, the salary cap was $39 million and the players were earning three-quarters of their 2003-04 salaries. Brooks will attempt to spread fear and panic, but his sources are generally good.

Between the salary cap machinations of the Devils in 2006, the Malakhov fiasco, and the Kovalchuk circumvention, I've gotten to know my way around the current NHL CBA pretty well. Furthermore, as a former philosophy student, I think I've trained myself to plow my way through jargon into what the hell a thing is actually saying. I will also be looking at the other three major team sports' CBAs, since they all ratified one this year, seeing what the NHL and NHLPA should look into and what they should shy away from. I'll focus more on the NBA CBA as that sport seems to share a similar mindset and similar problems and will be discussing issues related to:

- The Salary Cap and Salary Floor
- The Revenue Split
- Revenue Sharing
- Free Agency and Contract Length
- Entry Level Contracts
- Escrow, Escrow, Escrow!
- Guaranteed Contracts
- Other Stuff TBD!

I will also be discussing some of the 'unintended consequences' of the present CBA and how those issues might be resolved in a new CBA. I don't have a lot of faith in either the Players' Association or the owners, but I'm hoping that like the NBA, everyone can return to their senses long enough to at least get a season played.