Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Identical: Part II, Linemates

This is an addendum to the post below. Last season Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault seems to have run a social experiment with the Sedins, one that would have made Dr. Mengele proud.

As you can see at David Johnson's terrific EV (even strength) ice time site, Henrik played away from Daniel for 160 minutes last season, and Daniel was away from Henrik for 140 minutes. This also accounts for the slight difference in their ice time on the season, of course.

The same site will also show that during the time that were apart, Henrik played 62 extra minutes with Pyatt, and Daniel played 65 extra minutes with Kesler. Most of this difference in linemate came during a six game stretch near the end of the season, the one that Jonathon pointed out, when Vigneault played the twins primarily on separate lines. 49 of Daniel's 65 extra 'Kesler minutes' came during these eleven days in March.

Over this time Henrik played mostly with Pyatt, and Daniel played mostly with Kesler. Daniel and Henrik were reunited at times, not much in the first three games (all wins), but they played a bunch together late in the last three games. The Canucks desperately needed a goal, presumably, so Vigneault loaded up one line.

The quality of competition looks to be fairly similar. It appears that no coach in this league is interested in having a Sedin play against their depth forwards or bottom defense pair. If anything Daniel and Kesler seem to have played tougher minutes, as evidenced by more time on ice with Willie Mitchell (41 minutes for Daniel to 32 minutes for Henrik). Granted, much of that came in Phoenix, where Kesler/Daniel played a lot more minutes at evens than any other VAN line, and most of it against Doan/Vrbata/Jovo. Henrik played against Michalek/Ballard a bunch. I still have no idea what Gretzky is doing down there, btw, but whoever he has running the defense from the bench would seem to be switched on.

In terms of faceoffs at EV, both Sedins were neutral. Daniel was on the ice for two more in his own end of the rink than the other end. Henrik had one more offensive zone draw than the defensive zone variety. Again, a slight edge to Daniel, in terms of difficulty of ice time.

So for the most part here, Vigneault isolated teammate quality as a variable during this stretch. And Pyatt just might be the most fortunate bugger around, the worst EV+/- +14 player ever, and a coach-loved guy who drives EV results off a cliff like Matt Greene, Wayne Primeau and at least a dozen other inexplicable NHLers. And Kesler really is as good as he looks on the ice, not a lot of finish though.

Pro-rate Daniel's numbers from this stretch, where Kesler doesn't appear to be much of a step down from Henrik, and his twin takes some of the pressure off in terms of opposition quality, at the very least the best defense pair, plus he affords Daniel more ice time against weaker opponents (with both Sedins on one line, you can control them more, with them separate ... inevitably one or the other ends up there out against your dregs on occasion).

Prorated Daniel ends up, and this is at EV only:
EV Goals: 59
EV+/-: +40
Shots+/-: +475
Fenwick +/-: +733
Corsi +/-: +772**

Now obviously it's a small sample (six games) and the bounces be the bounces, so 59 goals at evens, shattering Gretzky's mark, well that just isn't realistic. But with his historic ability to finish at a high rate at evens, 50 EV goals (which would be second only to Wayne, surely, and in a lower scoring era) is really attainable. And with Luongo behind him, an EV+/- of +60 is realistic. That's Bobby Orr/Wayne Gretzky country. And with any kind of PP year at all, he would be the runaway winner of the Hart trophy, with a closely contested battle for silver between Iginla, Ovechkin and Zetterberg.

And Vancouver fans would be arguing for recognition of Daniel's place amongst the best to have ever played the game, and clamouring for the trade of Henrik, he with Stoll/Reasoner-bad numbers, and would be willing to accept a bag of pucks in return in idiotic trade proposals on radio talk shows and message boards everywhere.

And this is nothing compared to the pro-rated horror of Henrik in the other 76 games, when for about one shift a game he gets the additional own zone shift against quality, and with terrible linemates. That's to follow, when I find time.

My point, and I do have one, is that context matters. A lot. In many cases, if not most, it matters more to the counting numbers than the player's ability does. If you choose to ignore it, you do so at your own peril.



** Corsi number, which include shots directed at net which were blocked, is probably not a good measure for the Sedins. Best to stick with Fenwick+/- for small samples of games, and as with anyone, shots+/- for large samples, and goals +/- if you have a few seasons lumped together. When either one of the Sedins are on the ice, the Canucks are more likely to get a shot blocked than block a shot, which makes sense, anyone who has seen them play a game sees how they own the puck. But it's not there in the right measure for them, they get very few shots blocked relative to the amount of meaningful puck possession that they bring, so Fenwick+/- (shots directed at net, on-goal + missed-shots) is fairer for them and the cycling game that they often play imo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Identical

I had a look at the Sedin's results the other day, I was checking to see why San Jose ends in the right end of the rink so often, but gets so few shots blocked in the process. The thinking being that Wilson's Sharks often get the puck into the scoring area the same way that the Sedins do, they work it in from off the low boards.

Of course San Jose has a raft of giant forwards who can really skate (if you ever see the Sharks and the Oilers walk past each other, you'll worry for the safety of our lads) and the Sedins would seem to be some sort of uncanny Weebles. Still, the process is the same.

And it turns out that the Canucks on the whole are as you'd suspect, the ratio of shots for/against is .95, missed shots .96, blocked shots .93.

But when the Sedins are on the ice they are uber-SanJose, hugely outshoot and outscore without the blocked shots, or missed shots for that matter, to show for it. And when the Sedins are off the ice, the Canucks are uber-Calgary. Blocked shots and missed shots all over the place, without the shots on goal to show for it. Go figure. And since I'm not mad enough to watch a bunch of Canuck games to figure out why this happens, I was just going to let it die.

Funny thing that happened along the way though, at a quick glance it looked like Daniel was a much better player than Henrik. This can't be, they are identical twins after all. I mean Vigneault is a button down coach, so the winger is not going to be the first forward back very much, and the centre is going to be the 3F going forward a lot. And he'll stay high unless meaningful possession is gained. In short, the winger is going to get more goals and the centre more assists for Vigneault at 5v5, I think we all expect that, and it's not very interesting.

And of course although the Sedins are famous for the cycle, and as a consequence not giving much back the other way, they can score in transition too, and it's always going to be the 1F back sending one of the wingers away at that time.

What is interesting; the Sedins played apart a bunch last season, relatively speaking. I remember near the end of the season that they had been split apart for some games, two of them vs the Oilers if my memory is right. I didn't realize just how much though. About two and a half hours of 5v5 icetime away from each other last season.

And by the shots for/against metric, which the Sedins usually own like few others; Daniel rolled along at a decent but lower clip (+65 and -63) and Henrik got shelled. And I mean shelled Stoll-style (+54 and -101). Damn, that's an asskicking!

Why? Bearing in mind that they are identical freaking twins.

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Linemates when apart:

Henrik -- Taylor Pyatt (62 more teammate minutes than Daniel), Raymond (29), Cooke(20), Naslund(19) .

Daniel -- Ryan Kesler (65), Burrows(36), Morrison(15).

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Faceoffs by zone:

Together -- -89 (A turnabout from Vigneault here, he was getting the twins out for offensive zone draws this year, and presumably otherwise with the puck headed north. That last bit is a dangerous assumption to make with a Hitchcock team, that cat is off the hook btw, but for everyone else it seems to hold water)

Daniel Apart -- +4

Henrik Apart -- +35 (!)

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So when the Sedins were playing apart, it would appear that the twins were being used on separate lines as retro rockets. And Naslund and Morrison were Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. And Henrik was the one being thrown to the wolves.

If a knowledgable Canuck fan can chime in and give the window, or better yet list of games, when the Sedins were run separately, I'm sure that we'd see Morrison and Naslund with great underlying numbers and, depending on the puck luck, great 5v5 results as well.

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Just to add, that Kesler is awfully good. Check out who he played against by MC's shots metric here (my own list of "star players" is in the URL, change it to suit your own eyes if you wish. And I just used the Western teams, I'm less confident with the east beyond Alfredsson, Sundin, Crosby, Hossa and Ovechkin). Plus look at how often he started in his own end. (player number "99" is the Sedins on the ice at the same time btw). And the terrible quality of his wingers, based on how they fared without him against lesser opponents, I'll leave you to your own devices on that one.

I dunno man, a work in progress I think. And maybe injury issues and other such commonsensical things come into play, I don't know. A shame that none of the smart cats around here watch the Canucks play, because there is a lot of truth about hockey lying there with the Sedins.


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Update: I should also mention that Desjardins shows the twins playing an identical level of competition. Tyler's "total shots" metric shows the same, as shown in the link above, this using my own intuitive choice of 'star WC players'. The difference lies in the end of the rink that this stuff was mostly happening in for the twins.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Luck, Bitches

Hockey is a luck soaked game. That's a fact. And it's not my fault that it's true.

Any team can win on the night, and often it isn't the team who played the best in the game, surely we all see that. Shit happens. We bitch when the Oilers lose games we think they deserved to win, and avoid the direct gaze of the hockey gods when they get 'W's that we know they didn't really earn (SEE Playoffs 05/06, that was a hell of a run of sevens) And just so Flames fans don't start feeling good about themselves, according to Dennis they were outplayed and outchanced most of the way through their run in 03/04, I was abroad and missed most of the Cowtown joy. And of course the same for Washington and Buffalo a few years before. Granted in the case of the Sabres, they had Hasek, they didn't need to be particularly good at any time.

We outchanced them 16-7. The process is right, but at both ends we're not getting a lot of breaks or bounces.

Alain Vigneault after loss to Calgary


We outchanced the opposition two to one in here and didn't get results. If you look at the historic ability of this group to score goals, that, even through a funk, they still have the most goal scored in the division . . . it's encouraging.

Mike Keenan after loss to Anaheim


We think with this group, if we continue to work hard and continue with the structure we've created even though we've lost a bunch of games, we've outchanced and outshot teams and we've been snake bit. We feel that will turn around if we continue to push the envelope as far as our work ethic.

Randy Carlyle during poor streak

If you google coachspeak terms, you'll get thousands upon thousands of quotes, and there are a few things that are interesting about that from an Oiler fan point of view:

Firstly, MacTavish rarely talks about this, not even in generalities. More correctly he doesn't talk about this in post game pressers. And he very rarely criticizes a win. If a coach from an opposing team quotes shots and chances or possession, and feels that they deserved a better result, then generally you can look for the opposing coach's comments and they are glad that they got the 'W' of course, but aren't pleased, and caution that the team will need to play better. MacTavish very rarely does this. Perhaps this explains some of the fog that surrounds our local media (with some exceptions of course, Tychkowski and van Diest for sure, possibly a couple of others). Not that this is an excuse for the rest, obvious is obvious, after all.

Below is a rare exception, following yet another exasperating loss that they didn't deserve in the 05/06 season.
We're back feeling like we got run over by a semi right now. We outshot them almost 2-to-1 and we must have outchanced them 3-to-1.

Craig MacTavish after loss to Boston
I remember that game really well, mad stuff. Does this game ring bells for anyone else? And afterwards I remember a thousand hockey nuts at OilFans marching in angry lock step, myself included. Tyler was the exception, and he told us that we were all out of synch. That takes some balls, and one day I'll go back and look at some of the things he was basing his opinion on, because I'm sure that he was right. Having said that, I think even he had fallen off his one man bandwagon by January. But I digress.

Secondly, it turns out that a lot of folks last season thought they outplayed and outchanced the Oilers. Now on the surface that would seem a bit discouraging, I mean the shootout thing isn't really likely to repeat, and they needed extra 'won games we didn't deserve' luck just to finish out of the playoffs? Damn.

Not to worry though, there were elevens balancing out those sevens. In games where the Oilers would appear to have the better of the play (I'm not Dennis, I can't remember the details of every bloody game) the goalies couldn't stop a beach ball. You don't win a lot with .856 EV save percentage in this league. The shooting% held up pretty well in those ones (7.4%) , just a bit off the league average of 8%. Especially considering that there was at least one game (early home game vs Minny) where they went a little shot happy. Shit happens.

It seemed like every mistake we made went in our net. We deserved a better fate. We had a ton of things go right. We outshot them. We outchanced them. We outplayed them.

Ken Hitchcock after loss to Vancouver


After two periods, they had 10 shots on goal, and it was 3-2. I don't know what else we have to do. We outhit them, outchanced them, and outshot them. It's just one of those things at the end.

Ted Nolan after loss to Pittsburgh


We outchanced them all three games. I think territorially, we did everything we wanted and didn't come up with the win.

Joel Quenneville after loss to Dallas
Also, I've yet to find a quote of this sort that doesn't reference a game where the losing team had a decided advantage by the shot metrics, and also by the measure of where the shifts ended. I suppose this is fairly obvious anyways, because of course outplaying drives outchancing, and it is extremely rare for a team to outplay another team by a wide margin without having the puck a lot more, and inevitably having a lot of stuff happen in the right end of the rink, some of which the NHL makes a hard record of. Not always, and it's not like it's a razor accurate measurement, but a sensible person who knows hockey can't deny the simple reality of it.

I saw a game once, a while ago now, Flames at home to the Canucks with Garth Snow in net. It was late in the year, Sutter was coaching, and the Flames were out of the playoff race and struggling to score goals. Sutter must have over medicated, or had some huge argument with somebody and was trying to make a point with a symbolic gesture, or maybe this was a living farm metaphor of some sort. I don't know. I do know that the Flames shot from everywhere and anywhere. I'm not talking about minor stuff like "Hemmer should have taken an extra step before firing" or "Moreau should have tried to get the puck into the slot instead of shooting from that angle" or "Oh crap, the Blues are playing a rookie in goal, MacTavish is going to have them shooting too much early on", I'm not talking about that at all. I'm literally talking about shooting from everywhere. These cats would have shot from the blue line on a breakaway. It was bonkers.

It was a meaningless game, but I couldn't stop watching it, hilarious stuff. I'll try to dig up the scoresheet, post game pressers and recaps one day. By my rusty memory Snow got a shutout and actually seemed genuinely insulted by the whole thing, "It's like they were trying to warm me up" or some such, and wasn't accepting many kudos for the goose-egg. But I digress again.

Two cool quotes on the subject.
If you go through the chances, for us we were outchanced in the first period. They had four power plays, and they outchanced us. They outshot us and outchanced us. If we don't have some puck luck in front of our net and things don't go the way...maybe they're up, and then the game's different.

Mike Babcock
He's talking about period one of game two of the Stanley Cup Finals. I would guess that his team was only outchanced in 9 or 10 periods all playoffs for crying out loud. Plus it's a game they won, and outplayed Pittsburgh in the other two periods, and he's waving red flags? Damn, Mike, you worry too much.

And the polar opposite:
We outchanced them by a large amount and we outchanced them in the right ways. It was through hard work and determination. It was through real good pressure and winning puck battles. When you do those sorts of things, good things are going to happen for your club.

Marc Crawford after shootout loss to Edmonton
Christ, Marc is just happy that they outplayed someone, even though it was a nonplayoff team and they lost in the shootout. How bad is your team when the bar is set that low? You'd almost think they won, the way he's talking.

Also, it should surprise nobody that the Oilers didn't win the possession battle very often last season. I mean obviously most games are pretty close in this regard anyways, there is a lot of parity in the NHL now, even though games like the territorial shitkicking in San Jose in February(?) stick in the memory more. I set the bar pretty low though (just outshoot and outzone in the same game) to define a game where they very likely had the territorial advantage, and the chances that generally follow with that (though as Keenan and Hitchcock both like to remind, outplaying doesn't turn into outchancing if the bounces go the wrong way).

Even at that low threshold, only 15 times did they they manage this at even strength. That's not encouraging.

A month or two ago MacTavish assured us that the Oilers team, with the talent on the roster now, would be a good possession team in the future. They need to be, it's a problem. And hopefully the 'future' includes 08/09.

And finally, I know some folks root through the gamesheets and such to get information. I know Bruce does for sure, other guys too. I've posted some even strength information online, it's one big table with the basic stuff on it, hopefully it helps save some people time. So if you want to look at this type of stuff, or home/road splits or whatever, it should just take moments to do. And if you're looking for other data, I may very well have scraped it off of NHL.com, parsed and uploaded to the web already. So if you're looking for data, before you start collecting it off of separate gamesheets, or whatever, it's worth sending me an email to check if I already have it consolidated.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Half-awake and possibly (probably) not funny ;)

Listened to Lowe's interview with Tencer last night. Points of interest included a suggestion that a role-specific player may be invited to camp, a declaration of love for Rob Schremp, and a statement that any team who runs Ales Hemsky will see its own stars targeted vigilante style. Chalk "consequence free smacktalk from an outgoing GM" up there with my three other favourite things about the month of September - 1) U of M classes are mindnumbingly easy, 2) Term 2 tuition seems far enough away to allow a little overzealous spending at the bar, and 3) U of M women are mindnumbingly easy.

I kid, I kid. I'm almost as respectful to women as I am to San Fernando - most of the worship but none of the watching with beer from my living room when they can't see me.

Hmmm, off track a bit it seems.

This marks an interesting year for me as an Oiler fan. I'm living off campus for the first time in my pampered University life and I'm doing it with two other diehard Oiler fans, neither of whom sees the game the way I do. For example, I got my first ever "you were right about Shawn Horcoff" yesterday and it took three beer for my good buddy, an admitted prospophile (thanks for the term Vic) to say it.

All of this said, I am looking forward to the following storylines of the 2008/09 year.

1) Will this team be a whole lot better than the one we saw last year? If they are, will they finish any better in the standings? If Edmonton does much, much better in terms of shot differential and scoring chances but misses the playoffs, will the fanbase freak out? And how much fun will that be to watch from my perspective?

2) Will MacT run power vs. power? Will Cole-Horcoff-Hemsky give us a legitimate first line that can do so and help shelter the rest of the forward roster or will we have a checking line? Can Edmonton put together a checking line that is any good? And finally, can Edmonton beat a three line team? A two line team?

3) Can Sheldon Souray play defense? He really, really, didn't look as bad at it as I had thought he would... but of course he didn't play enough games to prove forever that he is not in fact, the suck. And will his scoring from the point resemble his first two post-lockout years? Please?

4) Does Last Year's Team - Shooting percentage regression - freakish SO record + good health + development of youth + Garon might actually be good at shootouts = playoffs?

5) Goalies - will Roloson be consistently good again between now and retirement? What will we get for him at the trade deadline? Is Garon for real? Why is JDD an NHL keeper?

6) Misguided youth - which of Schremp, Brule, Pouliot, and Jacques will have the most successful year? The least?

7) People getting old - how long can Staios keep his shit together for? Is the age cluster of Horc/Moreau/Pisani/ young enough to be leaders when Gagner and Cogliano drive results?

There's more but I am wearing out my question mark key. Do you have answers?