Saturday, August 25, 2007

GMs and the players that they covet: 2007. Part I.

About this time last year I wrote a post here with the same title, what follows is an extension of that. The principle idea is that GMs and their coaches are influenced by what they saw in the games they viewed live. Over and above what they know from video review, scouts and stats reports, that they were biased towards these games. Just human nature I think.

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First up, Colorado:

Ryan Smyth

This one is easy, so I'll start with it. We've all seen this hard match-up for yonks, I don't think an explanation is necessary. And I doubt that Giguere had to twist Joe's arm in order to get him to place a phone call to Ryan, I'm sure he's sick and tired of playing against The Mullet. Intuitively I would have thought that Smyth had played more head to head icetime against Sakic than any other forward in the league. They definitely saw him good, it would have been impossible to miss in this case.

Remarkably, all of the following Western Conference forwards played even a whisker more 5v5 H2H icetime per game against Sakic; H.Sedin, Iginla, Doan(!), D.Sedin, Tanguay, Halpern, J.Thornton, Moen. And Gaborik, Pahlsson, R.Niedermayer and Demitra were just a shade behind Smyth in this regard. Damn, must have been fewer penalties in those season series.

That's a murderer's row of forward opponents for Sakic, who played largely with Wolski and Brunette on the flanks and Skrastins and Clark behind him, and some frequently dodgy goaltending as well. And he still ended up well in the black at 5v5 +/-. That's a bit good.

Scott Hannan

Played four games against Sakic and it was a hard match all the way through. Here are the NHL game numbers for the curious: 20265, 20419, 20685, 21083.

An impressive 8.0 per game at 5v5. Only Lidstrom, S.Niedermayer, Foote and Markov saw more SakicMinutes(TM), but it wasn't for a lack of trying from Ron Wilson.

If Giguere was watching the games he would have been rating Hannan highly.

So two of the players that Sakic traditionally has gone up against are now on his side. That helps a bunch, especially Smyth. By way of example, there is no way that the Flames will continue to throw both Iginla's line and Regehr's pairing at Sakic, one of the two has to be moved onto Smyth's line or he'll kill your chances to win. The respect that Smyth gets from opposing bench coaches is impressive. Sakic's life just got a bunch easier. Good for him.

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Next up, Calgary:

Cory Sarich

He played a whack against Iginla in the one game where these teams met. It looks like Playfair went for the forward match with Jarome, who as we all know, is every kind of good as a hockey player. So he managed to get Iggy out there kind of erratically, with different centres, but a staggering 30.1 minutes of combined 5v5 icetime against St. Louis, Vinny and Richards. Which is stunning, looks like Playfair tried to make sure that Iggy was out there whenever two of those three were on the ice. I never realized that Playfair was so aggressive as a bench coach, but that's just a phenomenal job on this night. Missed a shift and Vinny/Marty got out against Yelle's line and scored in the third, but meh, what can you do.

In any case that left Tortorella with the easy D matchup and he quite predictably went with Cory Sarich (who is terrific I think) at 10.7 H2H minutes of 5v5 mostly with his regular defense partner Nolan Pratt (who looks awful to my eye, that T.B team is fun to watch, but tragically thin).

Sarich also played the first unit PK except for when he himself was the penalized player. Iginla looks to have played almost all of the CGY powerplays, hopefully MacTavish starts going that route with Hemsky this season.

Unless Sutter was looking the other way all night, he saw Sarich good.

Owen Nolan

I mocked this signing when I first heard about it, but Nolan actually ended up posting decent numbers last season. EV+35 and EV-36 not including empty netters. The NHL opponents that he faced the most were the Shark's Joe Thornton and Teemu's line from Anaheim, not hard matches or big minutes though, and he got killed by them (EV+2 EV-11, ouch!) Besides that his EV numbers are damn good on a terrible team, had a disappointing powerplay year though. No rhyme or reason to the bench coaching in PHX from what I can see. Not with Nolan anyways. Nolan seems to have played a bit with everyone as a linemate; Sjostrom, Roenick, Comrie and Perrault were the top four.

So in this case the "saw him good" rule doesn't apply. Nolan was clearly a top six forward for the Coyotes, in the games against the Flames for sure, but the previous relationship with Sutter is surely the bigger factor in him becoming a Flame.

Aucoin

Iggy was the #1 and #2 opponent by icetime in 2 of the 3 games that Aucoin played against them, so that sounds good ... but it wasn't a hard match and clearly Duncan Keith was the first choice for CHI, and the matchup with Havlat on Iginla was critical one for them, when Havlat was out it was over early for Savard's team.

Everyone knows the situation with Aucoin: Terrific when healthy ... but he isn't healthy. I'd have to think that Keenan's influence is at play here. I'm guessing that Aucoin must have told Keenan that he would be fully fit for 07/08, or close to it. Purely speculating, but he did nothing to move Sutter's opinion in the season series with the Flames ... so that seems likely.

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That's it for now, this takes longer to write up than I thought it would. I'll get back it again when the mood strikes me. In the meantime, somebody find out who they gave the Selke to this summer, go get it, and take it to Sakic's house. Maybe you should let Iginla hold it for a week or two, I dunno, I'll leave you to decide that yourself.

13 Comments:

Blogger PDO said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/25/2007 9:45 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

Can it be given to Pahlsson?

Seriously.

If not, I'm still looking at that Kid in Pittsburgh, the captain in Ottawa or the "choker" in San Jose.

Loved these posts last year, and they're just as interesting this year, so keep 'em coming when you can Vic, they're always a great read.

8/25/2007 9:46 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Great stuff Vic.

Further on Sakic - how old is he now? That's what makes these numbers even more impressive.

Remember Nagano and the wailing and gnashing of teeth - the "What is wrong with Canadian hockey?" - Joe Sakic in the stands for that semifinal explained a lot of that. Four years later he stated his case in SLC.

Was Sakic included on that list that was floating around a few weeks ago? Lists are goofy but he's got to be considered one of the alltime greats. How many years has he been at the top of the game now? Even guys like Yzerman, Forsberg, Francis - these guys all had their numbers fall off as they aged.

Not yet for Sakic.

8/26/2007 5:16 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Even guys like Yzerman, Forsberg, Francis - these guys all had their numbers fall off as they aged.

Yeah, Yzerman's all kinds of overrated though. He might be at the top of that particular list.

Has Forsberg's production really dropped off? His GP certainly have, but he still seems to go at a good clip when he's actually out there.

8/26/2007 9:18 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

PDO: Yeah, Crosby is just so good, at such a young age, it's crazy. I think that he is hands down the best player in the league, like Forsberg in his prime, he just does everything well. And he isn't cheating for offense the way Gretzky and Lemieux did right through their careers. He earns it.

I have to wonder how much better he can get though? I mean it takes most players years to figure it out, and he has already.

8/26/2007 9:19 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Pat/Rivers

Ya, I was kind of thinking that Sakic had outlived these guys. Fedorov just can't skate any more. Modano is still awfully good, but he doesn't strike fear into your heart like he once did. I think he's lost his drive as well. There was a time when he was the best player in the NHL IMO, without a doubt.

Forsberg couldn't skate well the last game I saw him play either, but the puck is on and off his stick so fast now its like it's a practice drill on one touch passing. He's still dangerous.

Yzerman was ever so crafty, but even in his prime he gave a lot back the other way I always thought. By my memory it was always Fedorov's line that faced off against Modano and Forsberg in the big games.

Larionov should be on any list of great players as well, IMO. Beauty player.

8/26/2007 9:35 am  
Blogger PDO said...

VIC:

Agreed with everything on Crosby, he is the best in the league today, and is very similar to Forsberg.

How much better can he get? Well, he can still get stronger and faster. Even though he's a genetic freak at his age, you have to imagine at 27 he just simply will be stronger and faster. I think his shot can still get a lot better as well, especially his snap shot. How much will the benefit of the doubt from officials help him? ex: The Chelios Factorâ„¢? Tough to say, but there's that too.

Outside of that, the Kid just needs some teammates.

And, while I certainly think Modano was one of the best players of this era... I don't think he was ever the best. Modano's prime would've been what about 97-00? Dominik Hasek was super human during that time, Forsberg was healthy during 97-98 and 98-99, CFP had a few ridiculous years in there, Lidstrom was Lidstrom..

Heck, even Jagr was tearing up the league offensively, Lindros was still a Flyer and Kariya hadn't realized he was a pussy quite yet ;)

8/26/2007 1:04 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

pdo:

That's a lot of good stuff there on a topic that's kind of rolling on the Oilogosphere now, that being Great Players.

I'll defend my Modo comment. In those two years that the Stars made it to the finals Modano was a beast. Hitchcock had him driven.

I found an article a while ago where Terry Frei (btw: How come all of the smart hockey writers are American, and the Canadian guys write about hockeymagik(TM) and shit that flat out never happened on the ice? Curious is that.)

Anyhow Frei was/is a big Sakic fan and he's praised him mildly for going head to head with Yzerman in the previous series in 2000, though he diminishes it by pointing out Yzerman's bad knees. Still, to me that was the middleweight battle, and Forsberg/Fedorov was where that series was won and lost. But that's just me, Frei watched a lot more Avs hockey than me and is convinced that Sakic was the one playing the other teams best players for a couple years before and after that, I'm sure that was Forsberg, and surely only the Edmonton media and Flames fans were blind enough to think the Avs had a checking line, I dunno.

Anyhow, in a Denver Post article he roasts Sakic for getting outplayed by Modano's line in the first two games in DAL. Accuses him of thinking too defensively and not being confident enough against Modo (and to a lesser extent his wingers Hejduk, who was just a lad then, and Andreychuk, who had been acquired with Bourque I think, no?)

They get back to Denver and the Avs built a Lindy-Ruff-style-5-some of Forsberg-Bourque-Foote-Deadmarsh-Yelle to square off against Modano's line.

Modano wins.

How good is that? As terrific as he is, Jagr can't cut that shit, if he'd been born in a different era he'd be a legend, but not now. Throw him out against fellow floaties Kozlov and Yashin and he looks unstoppable ... but when Smyth and T.Hunter come over the boards you don't even know that Jaromir is on the ice much of the time.

I like Jagr, few have ever been more fun to watch, and that year in Omsk has made him a different player I think. But equal to the enigmatic Modano in his prime ... Nope.

BTW: Why the fuck did Tippet think it was a good idea to stop playing Modo vs Sakic/Hejduk/Tanguay after game 1 of the playoffs two years ago? And replace him with Niko F. Kapanen in that gig for game 2 (all by my rusty memory, I'll happily be corrected) ... I think Niko was -3 after about 5 minutes of icetime, poor fucker. He did have Morrow and Lehtinen as wingers ... still.

I remember after the Stars were eliminated Tippet gave an emotional little speech about "people I thought we could trust" ... WTF? Then Niko gets traded, and they take the C off of Modo.

There is a great story there somewhere. In any case, for the sake of the Oilers run, I'm glad for whatever happened. The planets really did align for the Oil after they killed Goliath (Red Wings).

8/26/2007 1:55 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

Vic:

What? You mean it wasn't Yelle that kept shutting down Yzerman and Draper that kept shutting down Sakic? Blasphemy! ;)

As for why the good writers are in America and the HockeyMagikâ„¢ (great phrase, btw) writers are in Canada? Well, that's simple really. Hockey's mainstream in Canada, and most people are idiots, so our writers (likely unintentionally) are appealing to the masses. At least that's my theory on the matter, but I'm going to stick by it because it passes the sniff test to me. Dennis has gone on for a while about how there's going to be a guy who'll come along with a great personality and get into a Niche market and start making matchups and 5v5 results and scoring rates seem normal and it'll slowly change the hockey world... and I gotta think he's right.

Maybe Hrudey can get a colour job in Carolina one of these days ;). Always liked him, then again I'm usually half out of my tree by the time he's on TV, so maybe it's just the Gibsons and Molson talking.

Jagr has always been one of my favourites as well. He's shit defensively, but he's generally gotten away with it simply because he's so dominant with the puck and always has it on his stick. I think the question that a '98 Jagr vs a '98 Modano brings us back to is by how much does a Jagr have to dominate the Lupul's and Petersen's of this league to make up for the fact that Modano is throwing up 80 points against the Sakic's and Fedorov's? And how much value do we put in a guy like Jagr being able to take a guy like Lang along for the ride with him? Of all the things that we talk about on these blogs, that is honestly one of the ones that interests me most. I think LT's in that boat with me too.

Looking at 98-99, and correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think any information is available outside of what's on NHL.com's player pages. Jagr went 81-44-127 (+17), and likely spent most of his time with a combination of Straka, Lang and Kovalev. In fact, those are almost the only other forwards on the team even worth mentioning =D. Meanwhile Modano was 77-34-81 (+29). I know he played with Hull a lot, if memory is serving me correctly anyway, which is an accomplishment in itself (though... what's harder, playing with Hull, or with Kovalev? ;) ), though I can't remember the other winger for the life of me. Was it Lehtinen? Or was it someone like Verbeek who was just along for the ride? Complete blank.

But regardless, both players had fantastic years that year, but once again, what's worth more? I'd agree that Modano meant more to his teams success (though he was also in a softer division) though.

If I'm making arguments for the best player in 98-99 it starts and ends with Forsberg (78-30-97, +27) and Hasek (1.87 GAA and .937 SV% on a horrid, horrid team). 99-00 is very interesting though, and I think I'd have a very hard time arguing Modano to be anything less than a top 3 forward that year. Looking around and going off of memory, Sakic (60-28-81) and Demitra (71-28-75) seem to be the only other forwards mentioning. Shanny had a great year (78-41-78), but he was always a personal favourite of mine because of his style rather than who he's played against. Yzerman and Fedorov were both PPG players that year, but what Modano did was more impressive there as well.

Bure scored 58 that year too, you know. I'm sure he may have even known that Sean Burke played 7 games for the Panthers that year because he could still kind of see that his goalie was 6'5" from center ice :D

And as for the Oilers run, I think we would've had it in easier against Modano than Thornton, and the God's certainly spat on us in the SCF because that series should have been over with the cup in Edmonton in 5.

8/26/2007 3:35 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

Maybe I'm wrong about this but it seems like 94 has murdered the Avs the last couple of years, and for some reason it seems like he does his best work in Col.

I'm taking Sakic high in my draft this year because A: he's either gonna get 94 as his linemate and they are gonna tear up everyone on sight or B: if they're on seperate lines, there's only one guy you can chose to check.

Anyway, cool thread Vic and if you get a chance, check something out for me. Two guys that went for cheap this past summer as FA's but looked to have real value to me were Scott Nichol and our old buddy Devereaux. To my eye it looked like they were playing stiff comp and coming out quite well in doing so and considering what they were making, it was some awesome work. Can you check that out for me if you get a chance?

8/27/2007 10:19 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Terrific thread.

Forgot Modano.

Riversq - I think Forsberg has lost a step but you would not get a huge argument from me if you were to argue the opposite - he can still play. His body has just fallen to pieces.

First season in the league (88-89) Quoteless Joe was 23-39 in 70 games. The following season he was 39-63 in 80. Also a -40. Its amazing how terrible this team was.

Last season 36-64 in 82 games.

His sixth season with 100 plus points.

Wow.

So we're looking at nearly twenty years where this guy has been doing some good work in the NHL. Who the else can say that?

8/27/2007 10:30 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Good thread.

PDO:
I don't know about Jagr. I mean he's better now, but even at that, as much as he dominates he's not a good choice to play against good comp (though in fairness to him he played more against Crosby than any other Ranger iirc) ... partly because he dominates lesser opp, partly because he takes chances with the puck that he really shouldn't sometimes. Partly because he cheats terribly when he's the weak side winger, he's never the first guy back, the next time he ends a shift by getting the puck in deep (as opposed to trying to beat one more guy) ... well that will be a while yet. And if he's cherrypicked for 40 seconds and is still fresh ... well he'll just stay out for the next shift, he's Jaromir F. N. Jagr after all.

Contrast that with a guy like Crosby ... Staal is blossoming behind Sidney (still just 19, Jesus) and I think that he'd be struggling if he played on Jagr's team, and he'd be struggling mightily if not for the fact that Shanahan is a wonderful player and Lundqvist is terrific.

The guys you picked: Hasek and Forsberg in their primes, they moved the game lines more than anyone with an injury (can't say on 80s Gretzky or 70s Orr) ... so you've picked guys that are hard to argue against.

Maybe the memories of him against the Oielrs is colouring my opinion, in fact that's likely. Still, to my mind Modano was the best for a couple of years in there at the turn of the millenium.

8/30/2007 7:58 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Dennis:

I like Nichol too, I remember when he played for CHI just before the lockout, he shouldered a lot of the load there, tough guy to play against. Just checked hockeydb.com and Nichol is 32 years old, wow!, I thought he was a bunch younger than that.

I just checked using timeonice.com Dennis. I'll take a check for him if get a chance later. Looks like NHL.com isn't posting the 06/07 sked and game numbers now though.

I'd be surprised if they had to use him a bunch for tough assignments on that Nashville team though.

I haven't checked Deveraux either, though I noticed on the icetime sheets that he was playing Kovalchuk minutes in a game vs Atlanta near the end of the year. With Stajan I think.

I'll try to get up some sort of searching tool for head-to-head matchup game numbers up at some point.

8/30/2007 8:11 pm  

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