Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Brad Richards Question

With Brad Richards reportedly on the trading block, there has been a lot of discussion about this hockey player in this corner of the internet.

Bruce, mike w, slipper, Dennis, Lowetide, Tyler ... hell pretty much everybody else around here as well, they have all weighed in with a nay vote. Bruce has written dissertations on the subject in various comments sections, I'm expecting him to start the site any day now.

Off the top of my head, kinger and jon k are the only yea votes down here in blogland.

The first real blast of Richards criticism that I read came in the comments section of this post comparing Lecavalier to Zetterberg, this post was written on December 20th, just a bit past the midpoint of the season to date.

At the time Richards had abysmal counting numbers, but good underlying numbers. The lightning were outshooting the opposition at a good clip when he was on the ice. The save percentage behind him at evens was a brutal .862, and the EVshooting% when he was on the ice was a 4th line calibre 6.4%.

So I thought I'd check and see what happened to the underlying numbers since, this just for even strength:

The ZoneNumber thing is an indicator of where shifts are starting and ending. A negative number indicates that your shifts are ending in your own zone more than they should. And it's going to be highly repeatable of course, because leopards rarely change their spots. Simply put, a lot of Vinny's shift start in the good end of the rink and end with him trying to beat one last defender one-on-one, and that won't change anytime soon.

All these underlying numbers are obviously very steady, which tells us that neither player has been playing injured or had a significant change in role. Hockey players really don't get that much better or worse over stretches, the bounces are the only thing that are madass.

And on the EV+ and EV- front:

The biggest factor here is the EVsave% behind Richards, which has improved from nightmarish (.862) to decent (.908). Or at least decent for that Tampa team, which continues to struggle to find good goaltending. The EVshooting% has improved while he's been on the ice too. Tied into that is the fact that the goalpost gods grew tired of bitch-slapping him, and have been very kind since December 20th.

I have more to say on this, and probably will add to this when time permits. Just generally I think that for a team that finds themselves in a the situation that the Oilers are in ... it might not be a bad bet to make.


A couple quick notes before I go back to bed:

* I've seen Richards good in the past.
* He is a very effective PP point man, which is an expensive commodity in this league.
* I'm not at all sure that he can create enough offense to justify the salary.
* The reason that everyone talks about 'buying low' in hindsight, but very few ever did ... that's because the price was low for a reason, and it didn't seem like a good idea to anyone at the time.


Blogger Black Dog said...

Great stuff Vic.

I think Richards is a terrific player but of course that contract skews everything - you can say that about everyone really. Fernando or Ethan at 1M per are wonderful - at 2 + not so much.

Nature of it now, I guess.

2/24/2008 4:01 am  
Blogger Matt said...

Yeah, nicely done Vic. But BD is right, it's all about the contract. How many forwards are there in the league who consistently drive positive results (by whatever measure you like) vs. medium-to-tough opposition? 10? 30? You just can't afford to pay a superstar's salary to a guy who doesn't produce like one.

(The point about, uh, 'the point' is a good one though. If the Oil managed to pawn Souray off on TB, or someone else, you might be looking at a net positive despite the fact that both guys are liabilities when their contracts are considered.)

2/24/2008 12:37 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

If the Oilers could pawn off Souray, and knew they could, then I think a deal like this would be perfect.

But it scares the bejesus out of me to have $13,200,000 / season committed to Richards and Souray. With a $54,000,000 cap (that's the prediction, correct?), that's nearly 25%.

I'd love to see a Richards - Horcoff - Hemsky line.... but I just don't see it. We blew all our cap space and any chance on picking up a guy like Richards on Sheldon freaking Souray.

2/24/2008 12:48 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Well, Lecavalier and St. Louis consistently produce more offense at evens, for both teams on the ice.

Richards consistently had better underlying numbers since 02/03 (as far back as i checked), and outside of 03/04 and a stretch of about 50 games starting about this time last season and running until this past Christmas ... Richards has produced better EV outscoring numbers.

Lecavalier actually got into the black in 03/04, in terms of shots +/- at 5v5 (+23). Richards was +91 at this, and the Lightning has one of the better bottom sixes at +23.

And as Tortorella always reminded us, Richards played in more difficult situations and his shifts ended better a lot more often.

Like St.Louis has said, 03/04 was a bit of an "everything went right" year for the Lightning. Richards was 5v5 +/- of +16. Vinny's gaudy 5v5 +/- of +29 just wasn't sustainable, given his track record as a player type, and the fact that he had an edge in EVsave% behind him nearly 25 points better than Richards that season. There's just no sustain in that.

For the rest of their careers, likely every single season, Vinny will do more to help fans win hockey pools, and Brad will do more to help teams win hockey games.

Richards is one of the league's bonafide impact players IMO. More in a Horcoff style than a Comrie style, to use Oilers as player type examples. More in a Tanguay style than a Huselius style, for a CGY example.

If he is available, Lowe should be talking at the very least. The market will determine the asking price, and whatever it is it will be far higher than fandom thinks is fair. Fandom will be wrong.

The price in trade, and Richards' willingness to accept a trade, these are bigger stumbling blocks than his salary IMO.

2/24/2008 2:24 pm  
Blogger Slipper said...

I won't deny that the underlying numbers and outliers show Brad Richards just might be able to live up to that contract given the right circumstances. A new team, a coach who tools around with his icetime, and maybe a new curve on his stick. It remains a theoretical gamble, though.

Over on MC's site I was going to add that your arguments had a tinge of "saw'em good" to them, but I see you beat me to it, so I've got nothing else.

Except it's funny that put us all on record, and it'll be mre amusing down the road if the improbable trade happens.

2/24/2008 2:27 pm  
Blogger Matt said...

Vic, I'm following, but I guess you've done a better job of convincing me *not* to pay The Cavalier to be my big dog than you have convincing me to pay Richards to be it.

2/24/2008 4:42 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I think a lot of the fans that love Lecavalier have pinned all blame for Tampa's failings on Richards. I can't seem to talk about one without referring to the other. Too much so, as it happens.

Just generally though, anyone who owns an AM radio knows that there are fans who are ready to send a player out of town on a rail after poor results during one week.

Anyone who has ever read an internet message board knows that about six weeks of poor results (as distinguished from poor play) is generally enough to get a guy on the shit list of half of the fans there.

Even the left brained hard-asses aren't immune. The mind just won't except watching a run of luck without believing that other forces are at play. Even with something as simple and undeniable as craps or roulette.

How much patience is too much patience? I dunno, but I'm standing almost alone as an extreme example around here, and even at that I suspect that I'm probably not patient enough in this regard.

And I have no doubt that we could go back and find a significant stretch of games, say 50 or so, where Iginla put up counting numbers, and outscoring numbers, at a rate that would put him down in Glencross country. Same goes for any top player I think.

At the other end of the spectrum, even mediocre players go on fantastic runs, stretches of play with counting numbers and/or outscoring numbers in the range of the star players. In fact everyone would if they only played long enough.

The lesson that I doubt will ever be learned by NHL GMs is: Don't bet on Leeman or Donovan after a big year. Don't bet against Modano or Richards after a bad year.

2/25/2008 9:35 pm  
Blogger Bank Shot said...

I am under the impression that Richards gets shit on so hard in terms of even strength linemates that it makes Horcoff's linemates from the last 20 games of 06-07 look like manna from heaven.

Is there alot of truth to that?

Seems like the guys from the Southleast take alot of grief for playing easier minutes against their own divison, but if Richards is dragging two carcasses around with one hand while battling off Ovechkin with the other, then I like his chances of doing something special in good ole Ourtown.

2/25/2008 10:16 pm  
Blogger Slipper said...

My biggest issue isn't the player's ability, it's the cost. I'm not really sure why, it's not my money after all. Maybe it's because it appears Richards got paid 35% more because of a single playoff stretch and that shit kills a team. I hate playoff payoffs.

My biggest general reason to not acquire a player like this right now is that it seems pointless. What's the ceiling on the signifigance to overall team performance a Richards or Hossa would make at this point in time? The Oilers end up picking tenth in '09 and miss out on Tavares. Oh, and Horcoff gets a grind season and takes a deal somwhere where the centermen are soft and he can rack up a few G's & A's for a payday on 2010.

The team should really just be renovating the basement, throwing out all the old National Geographics piled up in the furnace room, and reshuffling the furniture upstairs. That and poisoning Sourays pain medication.

2/25/2008 10:47 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

bank shot:

Yeah, there's certainly an element of truth to that over the years. IMO what's actually 'happened to Brad' is that at tail end of last season, and up until Christmas this season, he was getting the results everywhere but the stats page. And sooner or later the bounces are bound to start going his way.

2/26/2008 12:13 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


You're probably right, staying the course with the rebuild is probably sensible. I have no taste for that though.

Ultimately that direction will come from ownership. And as you say, adding one player won't make enough of a difference. If they do add a Hossa or a Richards and do nothing else ... that really is a worst case scenario.

I'm assuming that if they do go this route, they will also get a lot older and more experienced, both on D and at forward. A few of the kids would have to go to make room for some older players that can actually help them win a bit.

I mean where would Minny be right now if they had Gagner and Cogliano in the lineup in lieu of Belanger and Radevojevic? I think they would have been in the same spot as Edmonton, maybe even worse, by the time that Gaborik and Demitra started playing the way they can. And that would probably have been to late for this season.

If the Oilers are in for a penny, they better be in for a pound.

Another thing, something that Black Dog alluded to the other day ... players usually like to stay put. If they get Richards now they are likely the favoured destination for his next contract.

I mean I've read tonnes of stuff on the internet analyzing the value of draft picks, and this gets missed almost always. But Crosby will most likely be a Penguin well into his UFA years. Ovechkin with the Caps the same. Same with Gagner here. Kopitar, Sedins, Spezza, Stastny, etc.

It's not a factor for role players, but it's just huge when your talking about an impact player with a lot of good years left in him.

btw: Agrred that the playoff season earned Richards an overpay. And I have those big-playoff-season overpays also.

2/26/2008 12:29 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

That last sentence should read "And I hate those ... "

I'm comfortable with the other typos and spelling errors.

2/26/2008 12:30 am  
Blogger Bruce said...

Bruce has written dissertations on the subject in various comments sections, I'm expecting him to start the site any day now.

Ha! Why start my own blog when I can start fires on the other ones?

Actually I don't think Brad Richards is crap, but his numbers certainly have been for two years running, which just happens to date back to him signing the outrageous contract.

I've said enough elsewhere about BR's ginormous cap hit and his middling PP numbers and his brutal 5v5 GF/GA numbers and his minuscule career shooting percentage and his paltry RTSS contributions. Here I will revisit just his numbers on the PK compared to his compadres in the soon-to-be-erstwhile Big Three, courtesy Behind the Net:

Season | SH TOI | SHGF/GA | SH -/60

2006-07 | 133.8 | +10/-14 | -1.79
2007-08 | 104.7 | +4/-7 | -1.72
2006-08 | 238.5 | +14 /-21 | -1.76

2006-07 | 149.0 | +11/-13 | -0.81
2007-08 | 117.4 | +3/-9 | -3.07
2006-08 | 266.4 | +14/-22 | -1.80

2006-07 | 176.8 | +2/-23 | -7.13
2007-08 | 140.0 | +2/-21 | -8.14
2006-08 | 316.8 | +4/-44 | -7.58

[MSL + VL | 504.9 | +28/-43 | -1.78]

That's -7 for VL, -8 for MSL, and -40 for BR. Richards plays about 20% more SH time than St.Louis and 30% more than Lecavalier (why???!!!), yet has been on the ice for 10 fewer SHG than each of them. He has been on for more PPGA than both put together, in barely 60% of their combined SH TOI. His SH minus/60 is over FOUR TIMES WORSE than both. That is just mind-boggling; how do you Brad-loving stats nuts explain this? The bounces not going his way??

My explanation is pretty simple, but you're probably not going to like it.

2/26/2008 2:04 am  

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