Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Wacky Frank J. Selke Trophy

Always a puzzling array of nominees for this one, I've never understood it. And I have no idea who makes the nominations. Does anyone know?

Anyhow, according to the NHL:
The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.


As for Frank himself, he is most famous as the long term g.m. of the Habs in the 40s, 50s and 60s, and is also a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. His bio described him as an "avid chicken fancier", hmmm.

I have no idea how the writers that vote for this award make their decision. Myself, I'd vote for a guy that plays a lot against the other teams best players, and doesn't surrender many goals when he's out there. And is an outscorer at 5on5. As well he should be the player that the coach trusts the most to play the critical minutes when his team is clinging to a lead ... the own zone draws against the other teams top players and the dying minutes with the other team's goalie pulled. Also I'd consider the role the guy has on the PK, you'd expect him to be in the top four in PK icetime for the forwards on his team I'd think, and to have done well in that role. but that's just me.

I remember Jim Matheson writing an article in the Journal at the midpoint of the season and making his own choices for the awards up to that point. I remember he had selected Daniel Alfredsson as a Selke candidate. That surprised me, and it stuck with me because it was so sensible.

Anyhow, I don't like to pick on Mike Fisher, but I will here. He 's been nominated for the Selke this season. Now surely Alfredsson and Fisher did not both play the hard minutes, that just wouldn't make sense unless they played together a lot, and it appears that they did not.

So, I arbitrarily picked Jan.1 as a start date, rolled through the Sens home schedule and picked the game #s for all the teams that they played who had a clear, identifiable star player. The kind of guy that Murray's gameplan would surely be built around.

And here ya go, only as accurate as the NHL.com shift charts:


By way of example: Thornton played 12.7 minutes of 5on5 hockey when the Sharks visited Ottawa in January. 3.4 minutes of that (27%) was against Mike Fisher.

Overall that's about a 20% clip.
i.e. 20% of these star player's total 5on5 icetime in these games was played against Fisher.

I haven't checked, but if you ran the Oiler numbers for the same opponents I suspect that only Laraque, Harvey, Stoll and Torres clock in at 20% or less by the same metric.

Anyone can do the same for Lehtinen and Brind'Amour (both good players no doubt) ... and I suspect that Modano is clearly the guy who should be getting Selke consideration in DAL, and because Brind'Amour's numbers are so good ... I suspect it's either a perfect storm of .985 EVsave% behind him, or more likely he played softer minutes than expected this year. (Cole, before his injury, would be my guess for CAR).

BTW: The Draper nomination and win last season was nonsensical IMHO. Though he is a nice guy who had a helluva offensive year, so c'est la vie. Back to tough minutes for him this year though, yowza!.

EDIT TO ADD:
Just ran a quick script to check Brind'Amour's icetime in the second game of each series (picked them because Koivu was healthy and all were close games played at the RBC). And Rod is clearly the man, played a bit over half of the icetime against Koivu, Elias and Briere, pretty consistently. That's not a hard match, but close. I assume that he was used that way quite a bit in the regular season too, though either the Staal line was thrown into the deep end at times by Laviolette or they were shooting at their own goalie :-) because they were on the ice for a boatload of goals against at 5on5.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Alexei Yashin and the value of draft picks and cap room

I thought this was an interesting trade idea, topic started by a good poster called Trottier on HF. Tangentially, this brings up an issue previously discussed in the Oiler blogsphere – the value of a draft pick.

This same idea appeared in a Boston Globe column 2 weeks later.

Whether the writer lifted the idea from HF, or the rumor is actually a possibility, it sure seems like an intriguing idea to me. What is the value of a 7th overall draft pick, in $$$?

Some other questions:

  • If the 7th overall pick isn’t enough to justify trading for Yashin, how much more would you need for it to be worthwhile? If we pretend that Yashin is worth $4 mil per year as a UFA for the next 5 years, then he is overpaid by ~ $14 mil over the next 5 years (He is reportedly owed ~ 34 mil over the next 5 seasons). Is there any way a 7th overall draft pick has that sort of value?

  • Are there any teams that you think this deal would be a good idea for, as is?

  • Is the value of a draft pick different to different teams? Which teams should now value them more than in the past, or less as the case may be? Why?

  • Mudcrutch once posted, regarding Theodore , that some moves can make sense for a team near the cap floor that don’t necessarily make sense for other teams . Is that true in this case with Yashin? It’s easy to say a team is better off to simply spend the money on UFA’s and get better bang for buck than Yashin + draft pick. What happens if players won’t come to your team without a sizeable overpay? If you have to overpay anyways, are you better off getting a 7th overall pick while you overpay?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Your Name Is NOT Earl

And there is no such thing as Karma. There really isn't. Believe it man, it's true.

I know (hope) that most Oiler bloggers talk about Karma and the Hockey Gods for entertainment reasons, and probably because they haven't got much else to say. And that's cool. As long as it's a good read.

But for crying out loud, half of the callers to The Team after the game last night were focussing on karma. And not in a smartass way, these useless tits were actually serious. Pissed off at a guy in their section for yelling "Shutout!" and for some of the fans for cheering "We want the cup!".

Are these goofy things to say?
Absolutely.

Do they have relevance on the outcome of the game?
Fuck no! Give your head a shake. And if you believe that they do ... then you are just a walkin' 'round moron. Just are.

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BTWs:

Quietest playoff crowd since '99 or '00 last night. Though I'm told that the TV gang cranked up the crowd mics so that wasn't obvious.

I heard that MacTavish was unimpressed with George's thumbs up from the penalty box last night. The English have a phrase "big woman's blouse" ... here MacTavish defines this for non-Anglos.

Sooner or later the Oilers coaching staff will stop playing guys who are not game fit ... just kidding :D We'll see this same mistake repeated another 50 times. They can't help themselves.

Somebody held up a poster with a pic of Craig and "MacTavish for Premier" written there, it was shown on the big screen. The fans cheered wildly. Doubtlessly the same guys who were running him out of town on a rail a few weeks ago at a time when he was actually doing a better job. W's baby. :D

Faster Than Jesus?

Well, maybe not. But as ugly as the skating style is, he just may be faster than the "other Jesus" ... you may know him as Scott Niedermayer.

Much has already been said about this game (goddamn are the Oilers rolling sevens now or what?!) but this struck me. Just by faulty memory, but midway through the game, maybe early third, Horcoff chases down a puck on the PK. Not worth mentioning except for the fact that he started overtaking Scott Niedermayer. Now JesusII has no reason to worry, his partner is well back taking the puck, for all intents and purposes it just doesn't matter. But clearly it mattered to JesusII on a personal level, because he refused to let Horcoff outskate him, just on principle. In his opinion it was worth taking a penalty in order to not be shown up personally.

Good one, Scott!


BTW: I'd kill to be as fast as Horcoff (literally) but I would rather skate like Dvorak. I mean what's the point of being fast if you don't look great doing it?

Monday, May 22, 2006

"No Way You Live. No Way."


That little gem was delivered by Roger Murtaugh (aka Danny Glover) as he gunned down the villain not played by Gary Busey, General McAlister in the first Lethal Weapon. Hopefully the Oilers can dispatch the Ducks in Game Three with a similar attitude but preferably somewhat less unintentional comedy. (As an aside, has anyone noticed that General McAlister is the guy who played Greg's dad on Dharma and Greg? Wow, talk about being defrocked. He went from formidable villain to a bag of suck in a heartbeat. Furthermore, the two bad guys are Greg's dad and batshit crazy Gary Busey?)

Some Game 2 notes:

- Moreau still looks like he left something on the ice in Game 3 against the Sharks. He hasn't looked the same since then and, if I recall correctly, he was the only Oiler to complain that the triple overtime was a serious grind. It's just my opinion, but I think Moreau would benefit from a short series as much as any other Oiler.

- Samsonov had possibly his best playoff game as an Oiler. He was effective in a his own end helping the puck out and gave the Ducks dmen headaches since he seemed to be the Oiler with the most legs last night. One can only assume that his frequent disappearing acts allow him put some energy on reserve. How and when he chooses to use it is beyond me, but I'm glad he did last night.

- Bryzgalov duffed Pronger's goal. I don't think there's another way to see it. He had a clear line of sight to Pronger because one of the dmen had excellent position on Smyth and Pronger didn't exactly put it away. Weak goal. Nice work by Hemsky on that PP though - great rush and scoring chance and then he sent Pronger a perfect little pass for the one-timer after selling a shot from the high slot first.

- Friesen's goal wasn't much to write home about. Stoll was the goat on that one as he failed to do much of anything in front of the net while Pahlsson somehow managed to tie up Pronger. It was funny to see Friesen wake up that young family in the corner after he scored though. They were kind of happy I guess, but mostly just really scared.

- The Oilers played their most passive game of the tournament to my eye, although I should say that I did miss Game 2 in the Detroit series which was played close to the vest by most accounts. Given the fact that several Oilers didn't seem to have the legs for a real forecheck. It was particularly evident in the third period - I agree with mudcrutch's assessment of Horcoff's game in the first two periods but he was conspicuously absent in the third.

The post-game press conferences were interesting and I'm glad that OLN is showing them down here. They're doing a pretty good job, I have to admit. Anyway, Niedermayer came out dressed like Jesus, answered some silly questions with confoundingly vague answers and then vanished after maybe 30 seconds. MacT's time was probably the main one of interest. He mentioned that he didn't help Peca out much at the start of the year, which kind of confused me and makes me wonder if the Oilers are just making stuff up here. Granted, MacT used him pretty strangely to start, but surely they knew he wasn't a PP guy and that he was better served keeping the GAA down rather than trying to poach with the easy minutes. I don't buy the party line here.

I also picked up on one thing that Roloson said last night in Anaheim. Although the rebirth questions obviously irked him, he did specifically give credit to his coach in Worcester when he spent the 2000-2001 year in the AHL. This coincides with him actually putting up decent NHL numbers for really the first time in his career. I didn't really catch the name of the guy, but I think he said Keith Allain, who is now the goalie coach in St. Louis and was probably the goalie coach in Worcester that year. I wonder if he's available?


Lastly...
There are some interesting choices to be made for next year's Oilers. The core group is going to be more expensive next year and someone is going to enter the decline phase of his career. (Staios maybe? Moreau and Smith are potential candidates as well) Combine that with a few significant players likely headed out the door: Dvorak (I hope not, but it's possible), Laraque, Samsonov (I doubt he'll be worth the money), Spacek (ditto) and Peca; and this Oilers club is likely to have a very different look next season.

I think it was Lowetide who used the analogy of five bullets in a gun for the Pronger deal. So far it looks like the first Pronger bullet's aim has been true. At least it has been true enough that we should be satisfied regardless of the outcome of this series. So does this successful postseason change the philosophy for bullet #2? Do you ice a Sharks/Ducks style lineup in 06/07 while hoping that the core guys get you to the playoffs, and that the rookies learn a thing or two that they can use in 07/08? Or do you send a couple of prospects out the door again this offseason to take another serious run with an even more grizzled veteran cast in 06/07? I think that's a difficult decision but that's why Lowe gets paid the big bucks. It will be interesting to see what happens.

P.S.: As soon as blogger figures it out, my most excellent Murtaugh and Riggs photo will be there. It's not from the scene I'm talking about, but rest assured Glover's got his "No way you live" look on in full effect. I promise.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Selanne Factor

Mudcrutch has an excellent post on the problems with the Canucks this season, focussing on the derailment of the West Coast Express line and factoring in Save%. Funny thing about that, you can do the same with any team when looking at big upsurges or failures ... and it just always seems to work. SEE Dallas Stars with Modano and Save% over the past few years ... stunningly consistent with these two things factored in, which just makes sense.

Anyhoo, Using WCE logic on the Ducks ... but with Selanne as the key factor.

Ducks at 5on5 (only as accurate as the NHL.com Event Sheets)

5on5 icetime: 3188 minutes
4on4 icetime: 278 minutes

Which is pretty much the league average split.

Selanne 5on5 minutes: 847 minutes
I've guessed here that he played 40% of the 4on4 minutes, which should be near as dammit.

So, at 5on5 with Selanne on the ice:

ANA Goals-For Per Hour: 4.2 (shockingly good, yowza!)
ANA Goals-Against per hout: 1.8 (pretty decent ... though you'd expect it to be lower given the madass scoring rate, I high-event cat is Selanne, always has been)

And, ANA at 5on5 with Selanne on the pine:
ANA Goals-For Per Hour: 1.8 (bag suckage)
ANA Goals-Against per hout: 2.2 (decent)
Factor in the great EVsave% that Jiggy and Bryz gave them ... then the fact is that they were nearly the worst team in the league, as a group of skaters, when Selanne wasn't on the ice, though WSH without Ovechkin on the ice was beyond terrible, and save them from rock bottom.

This made Selanne the league leader in the Ron-Wilson-Number category, bumping Forsberg to second place for the first time ever afaik (In fairness to Peter he faced much tougher competition and was playing injured, still ...)

All ships rise with the tide. Selanne is the tide. And it's surprising as hell, I mean who gets so much faster as they get older?

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As an aside: If Fedorov gets his speed back in the same way (and for the sake of the game I hope he does) ... then CBJ are going to surge next season. And in stunning fashion. And mediocre Dmen and wingers, as well as mistake prone youngsters, they are going to appear much better. And the perceived IQ of coaches and GMs will skyrocket.

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As an aside #2: Carlyle runs Selanne with the craziest shift patterns imaginable. Huge stretches of inactivity and then monster long shifts, then a series of short shifts. Clearly the game plan is designed around him, and it's nigh on impossible to match that with forwards without running a screwy bench yourself. Doing this really limits Selanne's overall 5on5 icetime too ... but it seems to work for Carlyle. In the Oilers game 81, with MacT finally abandoning the "let's develop Hemsky" mantra and inserting Dvorak up with 10/94 ... that's about as tight a match with forwards that we've seen vs Selanne this season. i.e. You have to like the Oiler's chances at home in this series. And huge props to Huddy and the off-ice coaches for getting a tremendous match of Pronger and Selanne in Game 1. That's been tough to do this season, smart guys like Babcock and Quenneville haven't done nearly as well.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Quick trivia question

*Note* I don't know the answer.

Are the Mighty Ducks the first team in NHL history to play 3 teams from the same division in the same post-season?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Outshined

It's been 14 years of silence, it's been 14 years of pain, it's been..sorry I got off on a tangent there and started quoting the lyrics of the wrong band. But it has been 14 years since the Oilers made it to the final four and I can remember exactly what I was doing at the time. I was chasing this girl and the Oilers run to the Campbell Conference Final was in the backdrop. I ended up having as much success with her as the Oilers did with the Hawks that year, but it's all about the chase anyway.

I always equates time frames with what I was listening to at the time and back then I was huge into Soundgarden's "Badmotorfinger" which I still consider to be track for track one of the absolute best albums of the '90's.

So to honour the Oilers latest run to a conference final I decided to dedicate each of that disc's songs to a particular series storyline. Some of these just wound up writing themselves.

Rusty Cage - This one's for Ryan Smyth who wasn't showing up nearly enough on the scoresheet until G4 when he put up two goals and two assists. Like most of the Oilers he wasn't all that impressive in the series' first two games in SJ and really didn't make an impact until Pronger's clearing attempt made an impact with his lower jaw teeth. He went on to assist on Horcoff's G3 OT goal and then had his breakout game in G5. You had a feeling he couldn't be kept down for long but it worried me a little just the same.

Outshined - Horcoff vs Thornton. One guy doesn't look like dumbo and the other guy's moving onto the next round. In the SJ games Ron Wilson did everything he could to avoid matching Joe T vs Horc and if you watched closely this season you'd see that lots of other coaches would've employed the same methods. In G3-4 MacT would sometimes put Hemsky with Smyth-Horcoff and give them soft mintues against the Goc line but MacTavish changed his philosphy for G6 and went power vs power and matched Horcoff against Thornton basically every chance he had. That resulted in both goals for the Oilers and in what was supposed to be another chance for Thornton to shake his playoff reputation Shawn Horcoff stole the spotlight and did it in front of a national audience.

Slaves and Bulldozers - The Sharks came out like gangbusters in G1 and though their hit total was bloated by a hometown hand there's still no debating they took it to the Oilers in the physicality department. By series end the roles had reversed and guys like McLaren and Hannan were skating like Brad March and Harold Snepts. The lesson learned was that it's a marathon and not a sprint and if you'd better have a few races behind you if you want take on Heartbreak Hill.

Jesus Christ Pose - His tenure as an Oiler has lay dormant for periods longer than two days but Mike Peca looked like a guy brought back to life in G6. He just about won the game for the Oilers before the end of the first period.

Face Pollution - How's your eye today, Milan Michalek? Isn't it funny how the tandem of Staios-Smith put up better +/- numbers once this young Czech was lifted into the air and thus out of the lineup by a Torres hit in G2. Ron Wilson called it the turning point of the series and I don't know if I agree with him 100% but I will say it was easier to match lines once the Marleau-Bernier tandem lost their steam amidst an audition of supplementry wingers. Of course Michalek would return for G5-6 and though his eye was puffy his chest was certainly less prominent.

Somewhere - For the diehard fans who lived through the Tommy Salo era and hoped that somewhere somehow a Dwayne Roloson would emerge. I don't mean the causual fans who only pay rapt attention to the playoffs, I'm talking the guys who watched him play great in the '99 playoffs and then lived through his decline. So I'm not saying that Roloson is Patrick Roy but I am saying that he makes teams work to beat him.

Searching With My Good Eye Closed - This one goes out to the San Jose powerplay which needed five full games before they realized they had to move the puck a heckuva lot quicker in order to get scoring chances. The Oilers did a good job for most of the series but by the end of last night they were running on luck. Two pipes by the Sharks is evidence that they'd finally made the correct adjustments but what took them so long?

Room A Thousand Years Wide - No it hasn't been that since the Oilers played into the month of June but sometimes it feels like it. Times like when you look back at the "bounty" received for Doug Weight and how the whole Mike Comrie dream scnario eventually turned sour. Then you look at the Oilers current depth down the middle and how the failed experiements of Oates and Dopita kicked you in the nuts repeatedly. Now we can finally let this all go and hope that Horcoff and Stoll just remain healthy.

Mind Riot - For Ron Wilson the man who's most likely supplanted Roger Neilson as the NHL's most analytical coach. Be it pure arrogance, naivety or simple gamesmanship there was hardly ever a crack in his facade in this series.

Drawing Flies - Just a little something for the carcass of the '06 Sharks. There is a lot to like about this team heading into the future. I personally think Michalek is a Radek Dvorak clone but guys like Bernier, Marleau, Georges and Carle should only get better. Even a guy like Cheechoo could round into all around better player. Toskola was great in G6 when the Sharks tanked and gave up a bevy of odd man rushes. And hell a guy like Thornton will always be regular season money and will at the very least afford you a good playoff seeding;) But will it happen next year or will they have to keep waiting? This team's awfully young in some areas and it could be awhile before it grows up. There's no guarentee that grit will eventually befriend skill.

Holy Water - I'm not an overly religious man but how else do we explain Todd Harvey charging out of a mothball cocoon to take more than a few shifts on a top line that was matching against SJ's top unit? Not to mention the fact that he closed the lid on their coffin with a super shift midway through the third period. It's easy for a team to look blessed when the netminding's solid, the bounces are going their way and they're getting contributions from just about everyone.

New Damage - All of the remaining teams in the playoffs didn't make the '04 playoffs. That's the only example needed to show that the new league truly does promote parity. Fans in Anaheim and Carolina saw long runs in '03 and '02 respectively and even Buffalo made the finals in '99. For Oilers fans it's hopefully it's the beginning of a 3-5 year window where they're no worst than a coin flip away from winning a couple of rounds. If that isn't the case at least they'll have the memories of '06 to keep them warm.

Horcoff v Thornton In Game 6

Not much time right now, but I thought I'd post a bit on this because I have not heard any mention of it all series from the radio or print media.

Horcoff is already getting a lot of love from Oiler fans, but he should be getting more. Really the Horcoff/Smyth tandem.

Pronger gets a whack of credit for playing tough minutes (and he should) but Horcoff does the same, and though they play fewer minutes obviously the forwards drive results a hell of a lot more than defencemen, that's why virtually every head coach runs the forward matchups themselves and delegates the D matchups to an assistant.

Anyhow, last night vs Thornton at 5on5, and only as accurate as the shift chart:

Joe's 5on5 icetime ...
vs Oilers: 11.7

vs Pronger: 9.8
vs Spacek: 1.4
vs Bergeron: 0.8

vs Horcoff: 6.9
vs Peca: 2.1
vs Stoll: 2.0
vs Murray: 1.3

Using Ruff's "shots directed at net metric" while Joe Thornton was on the ice at 5on5:
Joe vs Horcoff ... SJ had 9 shots, EDM 12
Joe vs the rest ... SJ had 14 shots, EDM 2

I think that says it all.

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And a couple of bits and pieces:

* The Peca line logged a bunch of icetime vs the Marleau line and did well. As did Staios and Spacek.

* Matt Greene played all of 6 seconds vs Thornton. Looks like Dennis and Huddy are on the same page with this one. :D

* Harvey somehow only played 7.4 minutes in 14 shifts. All 5on5. All of it against either Thornton or Marleau, and he did well.

* Hemsky played only 5.9 5on5 minutes. Most of it soft icetime (1.1 vs Thornton, 1.7 vs Marleau) ... got a couple of minutes with 10/94 as well. At this point he's a depth forward at 5on5 and a PP specialist. And for those calling talk radio clamouring for Schremp in the lineup ... he's probably 3 years away from being where Hemsky is right now. Seriously.

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If this team is healthy, then when Dvorak gets back they are going to have a tremendous top nine forwards IMO, and a terrific PP specialist in Hemsky and tough guy in Georges besides.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Your Oiler Fan Power Rating: An IOF Quiz

You know that you are a big hockey fan and a bigger Oiler fan, but you probably don't know how you stack up to the other hardcore nutjobs out there. That's why we have this quiz. From now on we'll be using the symbol on the left to denote IOF posts that are quiz based.

To keep the scoring system clean, the answers and points rewarded system is attached in the comments section of a post entitled Have You Seen Junior's Grades? which is located near the bottom of this page (no peaking). Bonus points are awarded for detailed answers, so show your work! Questions may or may not be true.

Q1. The symbol above was the original logo of which NHL team? (Proof with hockey card earns extra points ... but that's your last clue on the scoring system)

Q2. This current Oiler frequently posts on the internet using the handle "WyldBerri" (btw: If you, like me, are a Buffy fan, then you know how confusing this is on that fanboard where there are two WyldBerris.) Who is he?

Q3. This Oiler is terrified of moths, who is he?

Q4. Pat of BDHS fame has hundreds of photos of college girls flashing their breasts. True or False?

Q5.
Match the Oiler fan blogger with the man-crush:

Oiler fan:

sacamano
riversq
loxy
mudcrutch
cosh
lowetide

Target:
Gretzky
Horcoff
Pronger
Dvorak
Reasoner
MacTavish


Q5. This Oiler player takes candid pictures of the puck bunnies he nails ... then emails them to young Oiler entreporneurs. Who is he?

Q6. As a child, this Oiler's parents ritually beat the back of his legs with a knotted rope. Who is he?

Q7. When I popped into St. Pete's strip club at noon (for the buffet) I noticed five Oiler players there. Two were as drunk as skunks. And one was the designated driver. Name them.

Q8.
This Oiler player once spent over $10,000 on teen chat lines in a single month. Who is he?

Q9. This Oiler fan blogger, while trying to write a romantic poem to lure in Loxy or Moreau's wife (he sent it to both!) emailed me asking if I knew of any words that rhymed with "boobs". Who is he?

Q10. This Oiler was regional spelling bee champion as an 11 year old. Who is he?

.

Good Luck! Please post your answers and tally up your own Oiler Fan power ranking.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

With a Commodore64 and a Couple of VCRs

There are some good comments in the Ron Wilson post below, which sort of got me going on Roger Neilson. The point was raised that maybe some of these guys have been into the stats thing a lot longer than we thought, and I think that is absolutely true. The NHL's fans may not be heavy into stats like many MLB fans, but many of the coaching staffs seem to have been a mile ahead of their MLB counterparts for decades, in terms of hard core analysis.

Things like the TOI sheets (the raw data used to compile the shift charts) has been produced by the NHL for 15 or 20 years. Though they just started publishing them publicly this January.

There was a cool academic paper entitled The Development Of A Data Base Management System For A National Hockey League (NHL) Team published in 1994. It was good because the guy who wrote it knows buggerall about hockey (as is obvious in his reasoning for why the NYR wanted this data) but writes the paper about his involvement in developing the software. This is the only thing he ever wrote on the subject of hockey as far as I know.

Although nobody is named, this is very obviously driven by Roger Neilson. Going by the content, and I think he coached there during the era they did the work during ('89 to '92).

Anyhow, some excerpts below in green, just on the specific info that NYR wanted compiled, my comments in black:

An example of some of the reports that are generated frequently are:
(a) game summary (listing of all events coded)
(b) scoring chances report (listing of all chances for and against
(c) defensive error summary (broken down by player and by reason,i.e., man unchecked)
(d) individual summary (which will range from the simplistic listing of all chances for and against to the very complicated, generating reports and ranking players with respect to their involvement as a subsidiary player on a rush on a power play divided by the average time they spend at the power play).

This is the stuff they had been compiling for yonks, but didn't have the data stored in a useful way.

This section concludes with a partial listing of the types of individual player data that are considered relevant by this NHL team. These are:
(a) number of minutes played
(b) number of scoring chances (both for and against, broken down by type of chance, such as on a power play, and by reason for chance, such as man-unchecked)
(c) the opponent on the other team who is involved in any highlight
(d) performance on face-offs broken down by place on ice and man advantage situation
(e) game particulars from schedule (such as the name of the opponent team and where the game took place)
(f) performance of player ranked by any combination of the above statistics (i.e., number of "scoring chances" a player has during power plays against certain teams as well as against certain players on that team categorized by whether the game was played at home or on the road and by whether they were successful, goal or not, all divided by minutes of playing time in that game for that player).

. . . . . .

Second Generation Statistics
These include the types of data that could be captured through the use of video replay and subsequently analyzed further. Although most of these statistics are now captured in real time through the use of dedicated personnel, it was video analysis that formed the impetus for their initial capture. These statistics can also be found in official league documents and specialized journals They include: face-off performance (by opponent), minutes played, power play minutes, shorthanded minutes, scoring chances, plus/minus, shots on net (by player).

The comment in bold is damn fascinating, or at least I think so. How long had some of these guys been tracking these things if they were into real time capturing of data 15 years ago? Damn.

Third Generation Statistics
Sophisticated computerized database systems and video editing software have enabled the capture and subsequent analysis of a third generation of statistics. For the most part, these statistics are not available for public consumption. These include: scoring chances in first two minutes of the game, players on ice two minutes before a goal is scored, amount of time between bodychecks and goals, face-off performance by location on ice and manpower situation, type of defensive error made (i.e., beaten to the outside on a rush), type of scoring chance that results most frequently in goals, number of scoring chances by player per minute played at even strength, number of scoring chances by player per minute played in game where number of minutes is less than ten compared to games where minutes played are greater than ten.

I've got a lot to say on all of this, for starters that last sentence is fascinating, something magic about that 10 minute threshold ... at least for the Oiler players in the last two years, that's all I've checked. Of course I'm not crazy enough to be counting scoring chances, so can just use EVgoals, EVpoints, EV+ and EV-. Still, it's compelling I think.

I guess the larger point is that most of these coaches are a helluva lot smarter than we fans give them credit for. And have been for a very long time. And though I'm sure that people think that mudcrutch is batshit crazy for compiling those second and third generation stats on his site ... really he's just helping the rest of us catch up with the things that Bowman, Johnson, Neilson, Keenan, Murray, etc have been monitoring for a couple of decades or more.

If nothing else, I hope this is a starting point for conversation.

Some Off Day Randomness

Some completely unrelated stuff here:

* Who the hell is the big Russian in the Sydney Crosby road hockey commercial? The camera stops on him, Crosby looks at him ... it's like we're supposed to know. WTF? So I checked an online Cyrillic to Roman alphabet convertor, and if I caught the guy's Russian name right, he is somebody named Keeptok. i.e. Hmmm, maybe this is a made up guy that they are pretending is Malkin?

* On a related note, in the Cyrillic alphabet "Igor" translates to "Игор". Which is sort of like "porn" spelled backwards. Just thought you'd want to know in case you were getting a jersey named and numbered today.

* Brian Burke and Ron Wilson were Providence College teammates for a few years in the mid seventies. Lou Lamoriello was their coach all four years. Small world. That may be common knowledge, but I didn't know it.

* Personally I'm mostly just an Oiler fan, not so much for the rest of the NHL. But I've added a couple of non-Oiler hockey blogs to the sidebar. Kukla's Korner is really useful, he essentially gathers up a shitload of interesting hockey articles from newspapers and sports TV and gives the first paragraph or so of the article with a link to more. Sidearm Delivery is also excellent, they are Hartford Wolfpack fans, and also translate a bunch of stuff from Russian ... that's the cool bit, pretty unique. There are a bunch of other very good hockey blogs out there of course, too many to list. Though if riversq or Dennis feel moved to do it ... they will add some I'm sure.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Paul Maurice Applauds The New Parity

Of course this was before he became the Leafs new coach. :) In fact it was before the season started when he was doing some work for SportsNet. These preseason remarks are intelligent I think, pegged it pretty well, or at least better than anyone else.

I shrank this down to 2 MB so the quality isn't very good.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Planets Are Aligning

Damn! What a game. The Oilers buried their chances, Toskala didn't make it too difficult for them either. :)

Now the young Sharks team has to come back to the face wild Rexall crowd with the series on the line and a goaltending controversy behind them. I mean the Oilers haven't won the series yet, but you have to like their chances right now.

And the beautiful thing ... if they get past the Sharks then the Ducks are up next. An uberpassive team, and nobody has had any success playing the Oilers passively in these playoffs, not the Wings nor the Sharks, and both tried for stretches.

After that you would have expected to be facing the Senators and need a combination of great play, terrific goaltending and more than your share of fortunate bounces to win. And probably some dodgy goaltending at their end as well. But not to worry ... Buffalo already found that recipe and bumped off Ottawa :D Life is good.

Still a helluva long way to go I know. But this could be the year. Seriously. The planets are aligning.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ron Wilson


Several years ago I went to a Capitals game at the MCI Center in Washington DC, I don't remember exactly when, but pre-Jagr for sure, maybe 1998. A surprisingly knowledgable crowd, at least around where I was sitting, and a beautiful building in a shopping centre kinda way.

Anyhow the guy next to me was a hardcore Caps fan and a decent guy, he told a story about Adam Oates' unwillingness to take shots. Oates was still a very useful NHLer then, but as we all know he was a 'pass first' guy to a fault. According to the Caps fan; Ron Wilson had made a video of all Oates' goals, edited in with a bunch of nearly identical plays where Adam had made the pass instead, trying to convince him to take more shots. The stats at hockeydb.com tell us that this didn't work, but I love that type of stuff, so I've always sort of followed what Wilson was up too since then.

He was a hardass with the media too, long before that. And not just to be a jerk, but pointing out why a question was stupid in a constructive way (though I doubt that guys like Spector, Jones, etc will ever print a kind word about the guy because of it :D ). And I like that too, back in the day I would die a little bit each time Dave King would agree with idiocy from a reporter, even if it meant directly contradicting something he had said himself moments earlier, but I digress.

Anyhow, Ron Wilson is into some madass heavy analytical shit. Dude has realtime stats recorded during games and sent to him on the bench, over and above the stuff that the NHL records real time. Obviously the analysis it is only part of what he does as a coach, but it is clearly some pretty evolved stuff. And he's in cohorts with Doug Wilson and Joe Will, who started in the drafting side of the Sharks business I think (forget Pierre McGuire and his obsession with Parise ... Will and the Wilsons traded up to take Bernier one spot ahead of Parise, right now I'd say that's a better subject for the draft junkies at HF to be dissecting).

You all know how to Google, but here are a couple of good tidbits to get you started if you're into this sort of thing.

An article from the Washington Post with a funny little quote, this is about two years old.

Baseball these days, relies heavily on statistical analysis to mine previously unrecognized talent. The philosophy was made famous last year by the Michael Lewis bestseller "Moneyball." Wilson said he found Lewis's book "interesting, because I've been doing something similar for 10 years in hockey."

Hmm.

This business article interviewing Joe Will provides some fascinating insight as well. A shame that the writer didn't know more about hockey, because he got Joe Will talking and really could have gotten some relevant information out of him if he knew what to ask.

Best are the TV or radio interviews though, the curious stuff that he says rarely seems to get transfered to print.

Of course there is always a danger of outsmarting yourself as well. And one could argue that Wilson is one of the guys pushing it too far. You could also argue that a smart guy doesn't give away his edges by telling every other effer how he's doing it. The good thing about him though, is that he loves to talk, you can piece together what he's up to if you listen to him speak enough, at least somewhat.

I could ramble on this subject until absolutely nobody was reading any more, but I won't, I promise. :-) Just a couple of points.

I noticed in the Bernier interview between periods that this young player acknowledged that Thornton usually plays against the other team's top defensemen and best forwards. That his line's job was to score and they'd been doing that, something to that effect. That may seem minor, or even obvious to the type of person that reads this blog, but that's damn unusual for an NHLer to have any clue as to the 'hows' and 'whys'. A guy like Bowman would never even think of letting players in on that shit, clearly Wilson does.

I've got a good read on a lot of things they are up to, common sense really. And clearly a lot of this analysis is derivative of the time-on-ice data, from different leagues. This is the source material for the shift charts. But some things I don't get, the focus on 2nd period data, and on shifts length and pattern. Hell in an brief interview with Doug Wilson on CBC in either game 1 or 2 he brings up shift lengths as one of the keys in the series too, WTF?, I mean there are a million other things to talk about. And what happened the shift before the shift that something else happened ... I mean anyone who has kicked at Ruff's 'shots directed at net' metric and has a feel for the way the lines rolled can see some obvious patterns, but I have no idea how a guy would even begin to quantify that.

Interesting guy, this Ron Wilson.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Game Two Review

I started this idea off with the full intention of detailing shift for shift highlight especially dumb turnovers and the like. That lasted for the first period and then I decided I'd just highlight scoring chances and give you the matchups that lead to them. I will give you what I noted from the first period and then it will get a lot more sparse. I'll also throw in my idea of the scoring chances per period and some observations. One problem is I didn't pay close attention to the D matchups but I think right now it looks solid that 21/44 are against Joe T and 24/6 are going against Marleau.

Last note: I won't count PP scoring chances. I'll detail them for the first period of play but they won't be listed in my period tallies.

1st period: 18-37-27 start against the Thornton line. Vic showed you the last game that Stoll played the majority against Joe but given MacT's druthers it looked like he wanted Peca against Thornton. I think Wilson wanted Stoll first, Peca second and Horcoff third which makes sense when you think about it. So the first shift followed up with Horc vs Marleau. The game's first scoring chance came with the by now standard Stoll vs Goc shift and it lead to Bergeron walking in a little bit from the point. The play was whistled dead but both lines stayed on. The play moved to the Oilers end and Edm came with the Peca line on the fly. Priessing made an ill-advised pinch at the right point and that lead to the Torres scoring chance when he came down the wing on a quasi two-on-one with Pisani.

18-22-34 starts off against Thornton but both coaches quickly go to a Horc vs Marleau matchup. Smyth gets the puck in the crease and Winchester gets a couple of whacks but can't put it home. Three Oilers forwards are in deep and Michalek shows his speed by blasting by Horc just outside of the SJ blueline. That leads to a scoring chance by Marleau and eventually Priessing pops the first goal of the game for San Jose

The first post game matchup has Stoll vs Goc and I thought I'd mention this because of an atrocious play by Hemsky. Neminen had the puck in the Oilers zone but turns it over to the left of Rolo. Hemsky has enough time to gather it and shovel the disc to Bergeron who's directly to his right and is uncovered. Hemsky basically runs out of the way and Scott Thornton reclaims the puck and begins a shift of O-zone pressure for San Jose.

This is followed up by a couple of non-descript shifts. First it's 4th line vs 4th line and then Peca takes on the Thornton line. We have a TV timeout and it's the same matchup again and Thornton handles the puck on the right wall but the Oilers keep their cool and him to the outside. SJ changes on the fly and now it's Marleau against Peca and here comes a two-on-one off a terrible pinch by Spacek. It's the kind of pinch where you'd have to dive to keep the puck in and if you've gotta dive then it had better be the last minute of a game where you're trailing. This leads to another SJ scoring chance.

Off the whistle now it's Horc vs Marleau and the Sharks keep some pressure in the zone but it's eventually allieviated by a nice play from Horc. Staios carries the puck over the Oilers blueline but then fails to make the safe play of dumping it into the zone. The puck goes back to the Oilers zone but this time Edm manages to clear it and we've got another edition of Goc vs Stoll. Hemsky carries the puck into the middle of the ice and subsequently three of the Sharks and SJ dumps it in and beings to change on the fly to a Thornton vs Stoll match. Joe drives down the left wing and gets a weak shot on net. Horc comes out and wins the draw clean and the Oilers excute a nice breakout play and a nice easy dump-in to the O-zone. A clean shot from the point results in two scoring chances with the first from Horcoff and then the second from Smyth. We see a rare Peca vs Goc shift and now the Oilers keep the pressure on but Torres gets called for a pick.

Oilers get whistled again and go down two men but SJ garners just one scoring chance. Excellent work by Horcoff nearly puncuated by a goal when he bats a rebound off a Pronger shot out of the air and onto Toskola. Yes, it was a scoring chance;)

A TV timeout's followed by a Horcoff vs Goc matchup but here comes the usual when Thornton comes off the fly and eventually Josh Gorges steps off the left wing for a 20 footer. That's another scoring chance.

Another timeout and we have 14-16-37 against Thornton. Torres misses an easy pass in the N-zone and the Sharks quickly send it back and Thornton drives down the right wing and forces Pronger to take a penalty.

SJ's PP yields once scoring chance and Stoll faces off against Goc which means it's Joe on the fly again and this time he gets Murray. Nothing happens of note in either shift and then Marleau's line comes on for the first time in awhile and matches up against Horcoff. Once again it's pretty uneventful and the periods ends with Goc vs Peca.

I had the even strenght scoring chances at 5-4 for San Jose. The Sharks had two SC's on the PP and Horcoff had a SH chance for the Oilers. Of the Oilers four scoring chances two of them were created against the Goc line and two of them against Thornton's. Which means Marleau's line didn't allow anything. I had Marleau's line creating three chances and Thornton's line creating two. Regarding matching Wilson managed to keep Thornton away from Horcoff. I had them facing off just once and in that situation the Oilers created two scoring chances on that shift. It's strange because we'd consider Marleau's line to be weaker but Wilson seems fine to let Marleau go against Horcoff but he doesn't want Thornton against Horcoff.

Great start to the period by the Oilers but they lost momentum after taking some penalties and by the end of the period they were making bad decisions in the neutral zone. The Sharks were deadly at picking on those chances as well. Not in terms of scoring but in terms of throwing the puck back in the Oilers zone where obviously nothing bad will happen to San Jose.

2nd period: things will be a little less detailed but I'll still list the matchups and point out when the scoring chances were created.

Horcoff starts against Thornton and this is followed up Peca vs Marleau. Then it's back to Goc vs Stoll and someone wakes up Rissmiller and Stevenson because the Sharks throw their fourth line against the Oilers fourth line. The game has some nice flow now and we're back to Thornton vs Horcoff and the Oilers create the period's first scoring chance off a play by Smyth from behind the net. Winchester doesn't manage to home the pass though. It's back to Peca vs Marleau and Peca's line has to stay on because of a stupid icing by Jason Smith. 21 was five feet away from centre but just dumped it in. I really thought he showed a little wear and tear in this one. Wilson keeps out Marleau for the O-zone draw and that's the shift that leads to Torres tuning Michalek.

Oilers pick up some steam off that play and grab their second scoring chance when Laraque makes a nice tip. Moreau and BG were bookending Peca for that line and they went up against Goc. Greene then ices the puck heading into a TV timeout and when we come back MacT elects to keep the Stoll line fresh and thus they take on Thornton. Nothing happens on that front and the same can be said of subsequent matchups of Horc vs Marleau and Murray vs Goc. Marleau steps in for a shift as the centre on the Goc line and they square off with Peca. That new unit grabs two scoring chances off a terrible clearing attempt by Bergeron. Greene eventually ices the puck again.

So that leads to Thornton coming out to take on Peca and this leads to Greene throwing the puck over the glass. The resulting PP only manages one shot. The Oilers continue to do a spectacular job killing penalties.

A new line of 14-16-34 takes on the Sharks 4th line and nothing happens except for a TV timeout. MacT comes back with Stoll's line vs Goc's crew and a bad change leads to a two-on-one and a scoring chance for Goc. Off the whistle it's 18-22-34 against Cheechoo-Thornton and special guest start Patrick Rissmiller and the new guy takes the first of two consecutive penalties for the Sharks. Of course a two man advantage, and also hilarity, ensues and the Oilers knot the game at 1-1.

It's Peca vs Marleau off the next puck drop and Staios takes a penalty in his own zone when Pisani fails to make a 10 foot pass to clear the zone. This leads to the Sharks second goal. Horcoff takes another penalty off the next faceoff and the Sharks just about finish the period on the PP. Rolo makes a great save off Michalek.

Some noteoworthy things about the second period. The last six min were basically PP time so there's only 14 minutes of ES time to discuss. MacT changed things around and had Horcoff out there against Thornton more than half the time and thus Marleau's line was neutralized by having to face Peca. So I guess what we know is that the Smith/Pronger tandem probably have the most to do with Thornton/Chechoo's lack of even strenght success. Then again maybe Peca's a better ES matchup for Marleau because Patrick continued to work against the Spacek/Staios tandem but didn't look as good doing it with Peca squaring off against him. I had the even strenght scoring chances at 3-2 for the Oilers.

I'd imagine you're well bored by now so I'll just break down scoring chances for the third period with who was on the ice and I'll throw out the occasional sea change in line matching.

SJ scoring chances:
Marleau's line against Peca with a tip from Marleau.
Goc grabs a chance from a matchup with Murray
Rismiller does the honours for the fourth line as they get a chance against the 94-10-83 line
Two scoring chances for the Goc line against a 94-10-16 line. To be fair it had more to do with a brutal shift from the 6/24 tandem.
Marleau against the Peca line and this is the one where he hit the post. Smith made a ghastly turnover just behind his own blueline.

Edm scoring chances:

Spacek on a Peca/Marleau match
Stoll when his line grabed a match against the Sharks 4th line.
Moreau off a another Peca/Marleau match
Bergeron as the mintues wained and off a 37/Thornton showdown.

I had the scoring chances at 15-10 for SJ but keep in mind that's even strenght numbers only.

Lots of crazy things happening with the Oilers lines here in the 3rd. The 94-10 combo stayed intact but they basically saw everyone on their right wing. All of Stoll, Hemsky, Laraque, Winchester and Pisani took a turn. Nothing seemed to work really. Laraque's shifts were probably the best. Torres wound up taking a backseat as Moreau joined Peca-Pisani. Samsonov had at least four hits by my eye. If his name was Ville Neminen he'd probably have been credited with 17. On the rare occasions that Winchester saw the ice he was actually pretty effective physically. I'm still not convinced he can't be a little help on the first line. I think that line's lack of productivity has more to do with Smyth's slump more than anything.

On the SJ side Wilson continues to try and get away from the Horc match which I guess means that's what we'll see from MacT tonight. Personally I liked Peca/Marleau and Horc/Thornton as our best bet. In rethinking my whole Winchester musing I'd like to see someone else on Horc's starboard side because we've seen a little bit of scrambling from the Thornton line when they're forced to play in their own end. I haven't heard anything but I'd like to see Samsonov go up there and then we'll really go power vs power. That leaves the 18-37-34 troika to take on Marleau and Torres goes back to his old buddy Stoll along with Hemsky on the third line. I don't think there's any question though that Goc is getting the better of those guys when MacT gets to match up "3rd line vs 3rd line"

So with all those changes that would leave Winchester/Murray or Harvey/BG as the fourth line. Just take those guys and go 4th line vs 4th line on the rare occasions when Wilson lets his lesser lights play. Which will be basically zero if SJ falls behind after the first period.

Final thoughts: I thought the whole shot count for the 3rd period was overblown. Lots of shots from the outside to be sure. Roloson is playing great though and gives us a real chance to get back in this thing. Regarding whether we should switch up the D pairings or not I'd say that Smith looked to be lagging a little in the last game. Of course that tandem still got the job done which speaks to just how bloody awesome Pronger is playing right now. I can't decide which guy to play with Pronger for the next game be it Spacek or Staios. I thought they've both had their bad moments. Nothing overly poor though.

The killer in this series thus far on the offensive end is not getting the puck to the right places on the SJ defense. They've been playing great for awhile now so I guess some of their rearguards are better than I give them credit for. I still can't see Carlile or Georges or their top pairing being able to stand up to a good forecheck though. There's no secret to SJ's success though. They play the hell out of their top two lines and then the 6-10 forwards do just enough to keep you honest. In this series thus far it's been the Marleau line that's giving the Oilers fits. Not just in goals but even in scoring chances created vs scoring chances allowed. The Oilers are doing a whale of a job on the Thronton line but the Marleau line's picking up the scraps. It will be interesting to see if MacT shakes up the top two defensive pairings to try and address this a little.

To close with a basketball analogy I'd say everything's going right for SJ right now. I'd say this series is at halftime and the Sharks are shooting 60%. But the Oilers are at home now and they can do things to make the hoop look a heckuva lot smaller. Things like MacTavish holding the hammer when it comes to last change and a relatively green Sharks defense having to deal with an Oilers team buoyed by the loudest crowd in the league.

Reasons For Optimism

I don't know if anyone else around here is feeling the shift towards the positive, but I am personally gravitating in that direction with momentum. So some reasons for optimism:

1. The Oilers are a good home team, the chips may not have fallen their way at home this year, but they play better at Rexall. (As has been said by Moreau a couple of times this year, and he's dead right IMO. Dude is going to be a helluva coach one day, he is the personality photo negative of Niinimaa that way)

2. If you care about the 'how much' and not just the 'how' ... then you should be encouraged by the fact that the Oilers directed about the same number of shots at net as S.J at even strength last game. 36 to 37. Granted 2 or 3 of those probably came with Roloson on the bench in the dying moments. But compared to game 1 of this series ... and the vast majority of the periods in the last series ... that's a vast improvement, they're getting back to their game.

3. There is a confidence coming from the Oiler's leaders. And even a hint of "Jesus, stop worrying, nancyboy" in the voices of the unflappable Pronger and Moreau when they address the media. I love that.

4. Roloson has been stellar. When your goalie is that good in the playoffs; sooner or later you start winning games.

5. Some of the young defenders on San Jose (who have impressed so far I think) are going to be moving the puck a little bit quicker this game, faster ice and a few of them took belting hits last game ... they'll often be making their decisions in 1.00 igniseconds or less. Tis human nature.

6. The Oilers didn't win enough battles last game, but it probably wasn't for a lack of effort. Sometimes that's just the way it rolls, you can't win 'em all, and sometimes everyone has games where they just don't seem to get the breaks to win many. I'm sure we've all had plenty of games like that no matter where/when we played. And in this regard, the long term track record is a helluva lot more important than the way the last game shook out.

7. The crowd is going to be inspired, I can sense it.

8. Wilson is into a lot of obscure shit, one of those things is shift patterns and possession. If MacTavish can March out Horcoff against Thornton, that brings Hannan onto the ice (pretty clear matchup with Hannan v Horcoff by Wilson in San Jose, no reason for him to change opinions today). Winchester is a weak link, but I still think that line can play evens or better against Thornton. And if they can drive him into long shifts that end with the Oilers in possession ... it will be a good night for Oiler fans unless the refs or hockey gods fuck with us.

.

Feel free to add more. :-)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Thoughts Of The Night

Briefly, because I'm despondent right now:

1. They can send a man to the moon, but they can't develop the technology to put a button on my remote that gives Greg Millen a painful electric shock. 8|

2. Hemsky is just 22, Hemsky is just 22, Hemsky is just 22. Everyone repeat it 100 times. Sweet Christ, It couldn't have been easy for MacTavish to get this fucker almost every shift against the Goc types on San Jose. Hemsky is just 22, Hemsky is just 22, Hemsky is just 22. Serenity fucking now.

3. That big shark mouth that the San Jose players skate through at the start of the game ... that's gayer than figure skating, just is.

4. Being down 2-0 in a best of seven series against a good team ... that's a bad thing. But 3 other teams are in the same boat right now, and 22 beyond that are much worse off.

Well, That Didn't Go So Well

I think Lowetide summed up the game pretty well here, and there really is only so much to be said about one hockey game. San Jose played well and carried long stretches of puck possession through the last two periods, and for the most part it was good hockey to watch. But I'll take a few kicks at the detailed stuff that most people don't bother with.

NinjaSteve was right, MacTavish rolled four lines tonight, Wilson three lines. The bottom six Shark forwards were fit in here and there, but two out of three shifts at even strength were either the Thornton or Marleau lines. As a consequence, there were hard matches on the D by Huddy, as shown below. And pretty much a mishmash with the forward matchups.

These are the Oiler players that Thornton saw the most of last night at 5on5. (e.g. 70% of the time that Thornton was out there at 5on5 ... so was Pronger)



And now for my next trick :) These are the Oiler icetimes vs the S.J top two lines. (e.g. if you tally up Rem Murray's icetime ... 75% of it was played against either Thornton or Marleau)



I think (hope) it's time to shorten the bench. And start matching the forward lines.

And for Christmas sakes, why on earth did the Oilers play so passively in their own zone at 5on5? The Oiler inside the box was just sitting back for the most part, yeesh. They aren't Minny or Anaheim, they haven't played that way all year, and now is no time to start. Methinks MacTavish has got to learn to do a little less thinking and just dance with the one he brung.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

PP tidbit #2

The way the NHL calculates PP and PK efficiency is a pet peeve of mine. The goals/opportunity method of determining the efficacy of a PP or PK unit is extremely misleading. Furthermore, it just so happens that the NHL doesn't filter out the EN goals out of these numbers either further compounding the issue in my opinion.

Recently, mudcrutch has posted his situational team TOI numbers for the 2005-2006 regular season here. Since he's already done this, it's really easy for me to just steal the data and do something with it.

The first thing is to just take out the EN goals. It doesn't really change things all that much but it does tweak it a little bit for a few teams including the Oilers, who scored a couple of EN PP goals this year. Here are the top 10 in NHL and adjusted NHL PP efficiency:
The next thing to do is recalculate PP efficiency as PPGF/hr of PP icetime or PPGD/hr of PP icetime using mudcrutch's team TOI numbers. This approach to PP efficiency is superior because it effectively weights the PP opportunities by the number of PP minutes. Essentially this gets rid of the situation where a team gets stuck with a 10 sec man advantage and an 0/1 on the PP that it probably couldn't avoid no matter how dangerous their PP unit happens to be.

Lastly, I favour the PPGD/hr number. Why? The other numbers junkies out in cyberspace have a perfectly good reason for trying to ignore them most of the time. They pollute the +/- stat and they happen fairly rarely compared to the other situations in which goals are scored. The SH goal is also frequently touted as a "momentum changer" by hockey traditionalists, so I think they like to ignore it particularly because the mainstream thinks they are such critical events. ;) However, I do think they matter to evaluating special teams - some teams score them in piles, and therefore, some teams give up a significant number of them as well. The top 10 lists for both measures (plus the Oilers and Sharks) are here:

This changes the lists somewhat, especially once the SHGA get factored in. It's interesting to me that both Sutter and MacT like to use 2 defensemen on the PP a significant amount of time, and yet they aren't really able to avoid SH goals against much more than teams like the Rangers or Thrashers that routinely employ 4 or 5 forwards.

The next step for evaluating the PP is to find out the 5-on-4, 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 icetimes for each team. This would allow a better idea of how teams are getting their PPGD/hr. As of right now, all I can do is show the percentage of goals a given PP unit has scored against 3-man PK units (ie. both 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 advantages). I'm not sure if it really does bear out but based on the number of 4-on-3 goals scored, the likelihood that there's very little 4-on-3 icetime and by my eye, it seems to me that the 4-on-3 advantage is better than the 5-on-4. Admittedly, this might be a erroneous assumption.


The league average for %PPGF vs. 3-man PK units was 17.8%. I think what you'll find (maybe mudcrutch's script can lift these numbers form NHL.com?) is that the teams with the higher percentages probably had significantly more icetime against 3-man PK units and therefore had an easier time of it with respect to scoring PP goals.

Basically, if you're comparing the Shark and Oiler power plays, I think the edge should go to the Oilers. They had fewer SH GA and less than league average %PPGF against 3-man PK units.

The last thing left for adjusting PP efficiency would be to handicap the numbers for the PK units they had to face. I won't put up anymore tables here, but the Oilers' NW division opponents had a SH GD/hr of -5.26 while the Sharks' Pacific opponents put up an SH GD/hr of -6.26. Granted, the Sharks had something to do with that number, but I think the 1 GD/hr difference probably means that the Sharks had an easier time in their own division anyway in terms of facing solid PK units.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Can The Stoll Line Go Toe To Toe With Marleau's Line?

That's the question for these first two games I think. And since the game is still over 50 hours away we may as well start with some speculating. :D

I mean we know that Wilson has run a short bench against the Oilers in the three games that they have played with Thornton in the lineup, though looking at a few random shift charts he used four lines a bit more against most teams. Still, I think we can expect mostly a three line game from him in the first two games of the series, even though they are back to back.

This makes it easier for Huddy to match the D in a way (3 D pairings vs 3 forward lines). And tougher for MacTavish to run tight matchups with the forwards unless he shortens his bench as well.

As the road coach you don't have last change, you can only do so much, you list your priorities and other preferred matchups get sacrificed. And in this case I think (hope) that the item at the top of the page is "Stoll line does not play against Thornton line". And with Thornton playing every third shift roughly, and a few times a game playing every second shift or every fourth shift, then really the only way for MacTavish to avoid the Stoll-Thornton matchup completely is to play them only on shifts immediately after Joe has left the ice. If he is getting double shifts for a stretch then the 4th line gets some "after Joe" shifts as well.

So assuming that this is the priority, then the ball is back in Ron Wilson's court, and presumably he'll opt to play the Marleau line after Joe ... giving him the clean matchup with the Stoll line. I would imagine that he would like that matchup, and I would also guess that he would not be too enamoured with Marleau v Horcoff ... so two birds killed with one stone. Plus the "after Joe" shift usually starts with puck possession for San Jose.

Same goes for the bottom D pairing but to lesser degree I think.

.

The other possibility is that MacTavish really wants to try and roll four lines over these first two games, to win the war of attrition. I really hope that he doesn't do this, mostly because the Oiler fourth line played to varying degrees of terrible in every game in Round 1. But if he does then I suppose he'll just be matching the D hard and the forward lines loosely, probably just keeping the 4th line away from both Thornton's and Marleau's line and the rest will be a bit of a mishmash.

So with rolling four lines, as terrifying as the inevitable Samsonov-Stoll-Hemsky vs Joe Thornton's Line head-to-heads seem at first blush, maybe it's not THAT bad ... Stoll is a pretty reliable guy even though he hasn't been played in that role much this year, and Samsonov is a bit of a wildcard to me, but should have the game to hold his own, he certainly knows Thornton well enough. Hemsky is the obvious weak link, but he has actually seen much more icetime than most Oilers against Joe Thornton this season, so it's not like he's being thrown completely into the fire. Hopefully he's picked up a few things along the way.

Just rereading that paragraph and hmm, maybe it really is that bad. :( Life would be easier for MacTavish right now if he had Dowd or Reasoner in the fold right now. Depth down the middle at playoff time is a good thing.

I don't know how coherent any of that is, but a starting point for conversation anyways. :-)

The way the D will be run is pretty straightforward I think. Pronger will end up with 2/3rds or so of Thornton's icetime, Staios with most of the rest, and Bergeron will be phaneufed (that's a new verb, it means 'kept away from star players').

Personally, I'd like to see MacTavish be willing to run with a short forward bench, let the Stoll line out after Thornton's shift ends, try to get Horcoff out against Joe, and failing that Peca.
But I have a sneaking suspicion that this is NOT what we will see.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

It's A Shark!!!

Just like expectant fathers, not that I've experienced this nor do I ever care to, Oilers fans sat back tonight and watched the Ducks/Flames game and waited to see who the Oilers would face next. It turns out it's San Jose and though many Oilers fans wanted Calgary and another BOA I think that if you look at things logically you'd say San Jose is a better matchup for Edmonton.

Let the games begin.

One last note because I can't let this go;) In terms of what happened to the Flames let's just say Simon played like Simon, Donovan played like Donovan and I could use that for about seven other Flames forwards which is impressive considering you can only ice 12 at a time. Phaneuf was a post season pumpkin and MC's description of Hamrlik as a double agent was proven to be quite apt. I have a delivery for Flames fans. It's called a dose of reality. You can sign for it right now. Thanks.

Patrick Marleau: Internet Message Board Superstar

I'm going to love this series. Ron Wilson is a clever bugger, a new school guy, as a bench coach he's similar to MacTavish in a lot of ways. And though I doubt it's a hugely popular subject, I won't be able to stop myself from tearing apart the way these guys run the bench (both shift away from the young'ins at game 81 of the regular season btw).

Anyhow, Marleau is from Meadow Lake Saskatchewan, right near the Alberta border. Maybe that's why he gets so much love from Oiler fans, I dunno. In any case it's always gotten on my tit a bit. So here's some perspective, from the last game against the Sharks at Rexall. Below is the shift chart for Marleau (dark green) and Thornton (dark red). This goes from the start of the game to the first penalty, then the middle part of the game is chopped out (it had seven penalties coming fast and furious there, so it gets pretty muddy with the matching) and then it carries on from the end of the last penalty to the end of the game.





Time to play "Spot The Pattern" :-) No prizes today.

Thornton is a dominant player of course. Playing the shift after him usually means that you come onto the ice:
1. With puck possession.
2. At the same time that the other squad's best 5on5 players are leaving the ice.
3. When the players that are coming onto the ice are the guys that the other coach really wants to make sure don't play against Thornton.

A little off track now, but just some other bits and pieces:

- On this night Pronger and Spacek saw the most of Thornton, though not a hard matchup like we'll see this series at home.

- On this night Smyth and Horcoff were the forwards that saw the most of Thornton. And big Joe had an unlucky night against them (outdone 8-1 by Ruff's 'shots directed at net' metric) ... at all other times Thornton was dominant by this measure. Again not a hard match by MacTavish here (43% of Joe's icetime against Smyth, 42% for Horcoff).

- I remember this game pretty well I think thought (stunning goal by Hemsky to win it late) and I would have sworn that the 94-10-83 troika played as a unit all night, but Pisani marches in with more minutes against Thornton than Hemmer according to the TOI and ShiftChart sheets from NHL.com. Presumably defensive zone draws are the reason, I haven't checked yet, and in any case I'm sure that Hemsky will have forgotten what Thornton looks like by the end of this series ... it's playoff time now guys and gals. :-)

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I'm going to love this series. Ron Wilson and Doug Wilson are clever effers I suspect, and though they aren't related they must be as close as brothers judging by the way that Ron overplays the kids at critical times during the regular season (i.e. S.J is better than their record shows).

In short: It's going to be great hockey, and the team that hits the fewest goalposts will probably win the series. Seriously.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Sound of Sucking

I know one thing after tonight's Ducks/Flames Game 7. That lonely frail "Go Flames Go" horn bleating like a tormented goat from the middle of the 2nd period on until the emptynetter is forever etched into the soundtrack of my life as the sound of sucking.

This is truly bittersweet because the Battle of Alberta would have been glorious with a Flames team as hapless as that one turned out to be.

That is all.

Wings still better on balance?

I not 100% sure which game it was. Maybe someone can help me here. I'm thinking it was the 2-0 defeat to the Red Wings on April 11. Might have been a Dallas game, I suppose. It was almost surely a game in an American city. I believe this because I was listening to the local crew's colour commentator and play-by-play guy as they gradually, but persistently, lowered the intelligence of the listening audience. It was already the third period, so the game-day beer was well into fulfilling its engineered purpose of numbing my brain. Between the commentary and the beer my senses were dulled sufficiently that I'm not sure exactly what was being said, but it went something like this:

Voice #1: Blah blah blah Oilers blah blah seem to suck blah blah.

Voice #2: Yeah, you know a lot of commentators are saying that this Oilers team is a team they wouldn't like to meet in the first round of the playoffs.

#1: Blah?

#2: Definitely. I..I just don't see it. Unproven goalie, unable to generate offense, and several other shortcomings that are likely to be true.

I know what you're thinking, of course: that there's a lot of #2 in most TV commentators. True. I hope someone can recognize that specific conversation and recall that exact exchange and can report it here. And for the sake of the Irony Gods, I hope it really was the Detroit crew, because we now have a pretty good idea who won the first round series between the Oilers and Wings (even though the stat to prove it hasn't been fully invented yet).

The main reason I think it was the Detroit game is because I seem to remember a strong reaction of indignation to what was being said. Not because of the suggestion that the Oilers were sucking. I believe they were at the time. It was the idea that the commentators were looking down from the top of the standings when their home team was perched there only because they had the luxury of taking easy route up via the Central division. Yes, despite the beer, and ignoring the blood gushing out of my ears, I was thinking about the unbalanced schedule.

So, really, just how good was that Red Wings team that may or may not have lost to the Oilers in 6 occasionally thrilling games?

Balancing the schedule

One way to try to answer this is to weight the actual 82 game regular season schedule in a way that accounts for the differences in strength. Sagarin, for example, is known for his use of uneven tournament models to create team rankings. But since I'm not a journalist or lawyer, I find these heavy math models difficult to work with.

A different approach would be to simply make up my own weighted schedule by subsampling the real 82 games schedule. The results on this schedule can be used as a basis for estimating ranking. The Wings had 8 games against Chicago and the Oilers only 4? Take only 4 Chicago games each. If one just selects the western conference, for example, there was a virtual 56-game season played in a 16 team league: 4 games against 14 opponents (each team in the west played each other a minimum of 4 times). Simple, right?

Actually, there are a lot more virtual seasons that one could define since certain teams played each other 8 times, meaning there are 8 choose 4 = 56 combinations of games one could sample for each pair of such teams. Can something better be done? Well, one could treat each season series between teams A and B as providing an estimator a longer series. If Calgary and Edmonton played each other 82 games, presumably the results would closely resemble the results after 41 games projected to 82, which would (perhaps) somewhat less closely resemble the results after 20 games projected to 82, and so on. Using this idea, one could try to project all head-to-head season series to an 8 game series, making use of more of the head-to-head data. However projecting a 4 game to an 8 game, it might be argued, also magnifies the inaccuracy of using a smaller number of games. One might prefer projecting down to the level of a 4 game series. Or one could instead select a 6 game series and project the 4 games up and the 8 games down.

If one can even out the schedule differences thusly, the remaining question is how to develop a ranking from the virtual results. It seems like everyone since Mullet has been using goal differentials to assess the strength of a team. Given a simulated season and a scaling factor for each head-to-head series, one could then calculate goal differentials and use these to rank the teams.

It turns out there is program on my computer that does just this. It discards all empty net, OT, shootout, and penalty shot goals. If I run the thing for western conference games using a weighting of 5.9 (just less than the 6 mentioned above), I get the following rankings:

RANK TEAM  GD(PROJ)  GD(ACTUAL)  GD_DIFF
1 DET 81.12 96.00 -14.88
2 DAL 57.53 41.00 16.53
3 COL 32.45 28.00 4.45
4 ANA 28.76 33.00 -4.24
5 NAS 25.81 30.00 -4.19
6 MIN 22.12 13.00 9.12
7 EDM 18.44 3.00 15.44
8 CGY 11.80 23.00 -11.20
9 SJ 5.16 30.00 -24.84
10 LA -8.11 -18.00 9.89
11 VAN -27.29 -5.00 -22.29
12 PHO -30.24 -23.00 -7.24
13 CHI -68.59 -60.00 -8.59
14 CBJ -72.27 -59.00 -13.27
15 STL -76.70 -74.00 -2.70

The 5.9 scale factor effectively projects the goal differential to an 82 game season, with 5.9 head-to-head games against each team. This table is not to be taken very seriously, I think, though it's arguably useful in using numbers to mull over Detroit's luck, or lack thereof. By this model, the goal differentials of Detroit is inflated by the division they're in, but if you treat all other teams fairly too Detroit still outclasses the rest.

I suppose this table just adds another rough voice to the chorus that mudcrutch79 is singing in, namely that some things likely went the Oilers way this year. And just think: just two bounces in the regular season and the Oilers are out of the second season and the savages are hunting for the heads of MacTavish and Lowe. As it is, they're in the second round and Stevie Y is asking "why?"

What a game!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Flames D vs Teemu Selanne

A while ago on this blog I posted an article after a Flames game against Colorado. The Oilers were going to be playing the Flames soon, so I had a quick look at how Sutter was managing his defencemen against Joe Sakic.

Now, a month later, it looks like there is a pretty good chance that the Oilers will be playing the Flames in the next round. So here's a look at how Sutter has run his Dmen against Selanne in the three playoff games on home ice so far (I didn't bother to check the road games, should be similar but not quite as clean). For your consumption and commentary, this is how the icetime at even strength shook out, only as accurate as the NHL shift chart.


Now a quick look at a Sutter castoff, Toni Lydman. This was a damn strange move by Sutter, considering he relied on Lydman to play the toughest minutes for the Flames when he was healthy in the previous couple of seasons. I didn't understand it at the time, still don't. Anyhow, Lindy Ruff seems to think a lot of the guy too. Here is Lydman vs Forsberg during the home playoff games for BUF vs PHI this postseason.


Wow! Good on Lydman. Is Lidstromian a word? How about Prongerish?


Maybe there is a good reason in there somewhere, but I have no idea why Sutter dumped Lydman and picked up Roman "Playoff Hero" Hamrlik for more coin, I mean Lydman is PP garbage, but Hamrlik has only been marginally better in his career. Ruff and Regier's solution (4 forwards on the PP the vast majority of the time) seems like a more cost effective solution
there.

Food for thought, that's all.

Special teams review

In a previous post I had said that Det would be expected to be ~ 1.3 goals better than the Oilers (assuming 50 PP and PK opps per team, and using the season long net numbers) on special teams in the series. That didn't account for the addition of Samsonov (at least, it only partially acounted for his addition)

In any case, here was the final tally:

Note - there were no SHG scored in the series.

DET PP - scored 8 goals, on 40 opps, for a 20% success rate.

EDM PP - scored 8 goals, on 37 opps, for a 21.6% success rate.

So special teams were a wash over the series, though as a team I would probably prefer DET's stats even though they ran at lower efficiency. Reason being is DET was on the PP for a total of 61:10 vs. EDM's 50:29, so that was 10 minutes extra that EDM was playing SH (obviously with a lower GF rate than at ES) compared to DET.

Daryl Reaugh Gives The Oilers Some Love

I suspect that most people who read hockey blogs have Dallas TV colour man Daryl Reaugh's blog on their bookmark list. If you don't, you should check it out, dude is hilarious.

Anyhoo, Reaugh has a hate on for Detroit so that probably colours his view of the Oilers a bit in this circumstance. Still, kind words backed up with some numbers on his entry today, which I've excerpted below.


Reaugh:
...
Why are these other paper upsets not real upsets? Well let's examine them on a case by case basis starting with the grand daddy, Oilers-Red Wings.

The Oilers weren't really an 8 seed and the Wings weren't Gods gift to the NHL.

Give the Oil Dwayne Roloson in goal and Sergei Samsonov on the wing for the entire season and Edmonton would have been neck and neck with the Wings and Stars atop the Western Conference.

And here's another thing, if you take the records of the eight Western Conference teams that made the playoffs against those other seven teams the pecking order is as follows:

Dallas 24-9-3
Detroit 20-7-5
Edmonton 20-14-2
Calgary 18-13-5
Nashville 16-13-3
San Jose 16-13-7
Colorado 13-17-6
Anaheim 13-19-4



And from a post a few days ago discussing Turco's struggles, a Salo comment that should resonate with some Oiler fans.

Reaugh:
...
For reasons that are beyond any ones comprehension, in the regular season Marty Turco is fully deserving of being included in an elite class of goalies that boasts Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek and Miikka Kiprusoff in the four-some, but come playoff time it's becoming harder and harder not to group him with the Tommy "Just Good Enough To Lose" Salos, the Chris "It's All Your Fault" Osgoods, and the Dan "Can't Get It Done" Cloutiers of the world.


Mudcrutch has an excellent post today in his blog, Edmonton-Detroit Aftermath: The Night Of
I suspect that he'll struggle to find people that agree with him on this though.

I'm sure that everyone who reads here is well aware of Oiler blogs: Lowetide, Covered In Oil and The Battle Of Alberta ... all of which are excellent and linked on the occasionally disappearing IOF sidebar. Black Dogs Hates Skunks is also linked there now. Always a good read, chronic optimist Pat won't let you lose your faith. An important first blog stop after an Oiler loss. :)

Oilers Advance

A terrific crowd last night, and obviously an amazing game. And already a lot of good stuff has been written about it. Just thought that I'd add a few bits here.

I don't know how long the goal review lasted in real time. But it felt like about 45 minutes, and aged me about 2 years. :-) Would it kill them to replay these on the jumbotron? Just as I was getting a dark feeling, you could see McGeough talking to the captains by the penalty box, Smith started grinning ear to ear, and going by Yzerman's emotional gesticulating I'd say he was whining like a young Gretzky Crosby. Good times!

After the first period the Oilers had played their best 20 minutes of the series. Turns out that they were yet to play their worst and best periods of the season. Crazy game.

One madass aggressive game from the Oilers on the forecheck. I thought they were pushing it too far while I was watching, but no arguing with results.

All the young players (Torres, Bergeron, Stoll and Hemsky) came through with solid games. Didn't give up as much as they did earlier in the series, except when Hemsky got his shifts with Horcoff and Smyth ... that was a series of giveways at the blue lines. :D Old groove I guess. Torres especially is a guy who seemed to get better every game by my eye ( I just about called Raffi "reliable" there, yowzers! 8-| )

The Oilers clearly got way more than their share of bounces in this series, but I don't think they should apologize for that, they were due for some love from the hockey gods.

I watched some of the players exit the ice, a lot of fans always lean over the corridor to congratulate and high five the players when they win, especially in the playoffs. Winchester killed me :D dude is living a dream. Staios was the vet I noticed who was feeling the joy down the gauntlet, good for him, #24 had a really good series I thought.

Everyone on talk radio seems to want a battle of Alberta. Me ... not so much. I'd rather see the Flames lose to Anaheim. The Oilers can take San Jose, and it would be better hockey to watch.

Turns out that speeds was right about the special teams being closer to equal than we thought intuitively, and riversq was right about Pronger being a playoff performer. Personally, I won't need an optimism fix for the next round ... but it was nice to have it for this one. :-)

The planets are aligning here. Everyone else remaining in the West is very beatable by this Oiler team. If Roloson keeps playing well and the young guys continue to improve ... lots of reasons for optimism right now methinks.