Monday, April 27, 2009

Projecting: Andrew Cogliano

It's roster projection time in Oiler land - a time when many fans get to dream big about the off-season. Every day that Marian Hossa goes without a contract extension, Jay Bouwmeester goes without signing elsewhere, or Jaromir Jagr goes without promising an NHL return to the Penguins is a day that these sorts of home-run pipe dreams are still, at their core, possible.

And so we dream.

Over at LT's the other day, the suggestion was made about a trade for Jaroslav Halak. His merits notwithstanding, a key feature of all of the proposals tossed out there was that the Edmonton Oilers can not go forward with all of Hemsky, Gagner, Cogliano, and O'Sullivan in their top six. Hemsky's the franchise today, Gagner is the franchise tomorrow, and O'Sullivan just got here so of course that makes #13 the go-to guy for any and all trade proposals. At LT's blog I argued that it is vital for Edmonton, optics wise, to show and to prove to other players in the NHL that they can hold onto their young stars... re-build Edmonton's reputation one player at a time, so to speak. I hold by that stance and suggest that unless it's a package for someone truly top flight, players-of-the-future like Andrew Cogliano need to stay Oilers.

But is Andrew Cogliano really capable of being an impact player in the NHL?

To attempt an answer at this question I set the "impact player" bar for 2008/2009 at 0.9 points per game, a convenient figure that keeps Ales Hemsky's season just in the conversation and Todd White's just out. There were 33 players who scored at this pace or better this season ranging from Ovechkin at the top to Eric Staal at the bottom, so I think it's a fair assessment of the true impact players of this league.

This is where a smart person would probably have stopped - I think it's fair to say at first blush that Andrew Cogliano's ceiling is lower than Eric Staal - but I decided to continue my little experiment anyway. Next up is a figure representing the 21 year old seasons of every 2008/2009 impact player, save two:*

The numbers along the left represent the total number of points each player scored, or would have scored via Desjardins, at the NHL level during their 21 year old season. The length of the bar represents how many players fit into each particular point range. For example, two players (Crosby and Malkin) scored between 100 and 120 points during their 21 year old season.

What is clear is that most players who went on to become impact players by my definition scored at least 40 points over a prorated 82 NHL games at age 21. Our boy Cogliano doesn't appear too far off the pace with 38, but just FYI the mean of these numbers was 57 points (and the median was 53, if you'd rather not let Crosby and Malkin pull up the average score).

The statistical logic I am about to use is a little bit backwards and I hope someone with more knowledge can correct me if it leads to a false conclusion. If we pretend that the average amount of points put up by every impact player ever was not in fact 57 points but Andrew Cogliano's 38 points instead... and assume that this 31 player group is just one 31 player group out of thousands of 31 player groups I could have looked at... (and then do some math)... the conclusion that would be drawn is that 57 points is too high an average for these players to be accounted for by the ordinary variation you'd get because every group of 31 would have a different average. IE if 38 points is the average age 21 total for EVERY impact player in history, the supremely high 57 point total of the 2008/2009 group can NOT be explained by chance alone.

Does this mean that Cogs is doomed? Not necessarily. The 7 players that fall in the 20-40 range are Alexander Semin, Patrick Elias, Zach Parise, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Mike Richards, and Mike Cammalleri. This isn't the worst company to be a part of, though these guys are obviously the cream of the crop when it comes to <40 point seasons at age 21.

Thoughts? Has this shed any light at all on guessing a projection? Can anyone see important flaws or suggest a better way at going at the problem? Thank you for anything that helps the process!

*Players excluded were Mike Green for being a (freakish) defenceman and Martin St. Louis who was playing in the ECAC(!!) at age 21.


Blogger rananda said...

Another, perhaps more intuitive, way to go about this would be to look at the career trajectories of every player in the last X years who scored 35-41 NHL or NHLE points during their 21-year old season. My guess is that you'd get a fairly huge spread with some Vitali Yachmenevs and Gilbert Dionnes to go along with the Semins and Eliases. I'd also guess that the mean/median of this player grouping would fall well below the 7-player 20-40 group you've identified (which is essentially what you're saying). A simpler way to do this would just be to look at all 08/09 players who had a 35-41 NHL or NHLE season as a 21-year old and see what kind of player they've become. I doubt there are all that many of them, but you could expand the range to 32-44 and get a sense of what types of players turn out.

4/27/2009 4:44 pm  
Blogger Hemsky is a gangsta said...

For a site with a lot of interesting statistical analysis this seems pretty plain and simplistic. I mean, what do Crosby and Malkin have to do with projecting Cogliano?

4/27/2009 5:25 pm  
Blogger Scott said...

Firstly, I agree with your overall point that it would be good for this organization to create some stability and that trading Cogliano should only be considered in a situation where a true impact player is returning.

I think that it might be good to adjust for ice time. With many of the players you've identified we could also look at the amount of ice time and compare points/60 instead of just gross points (although I'm not sure if historical EV ice time is put up anywhere and the amount of PP time would change things quite a bit, but that's happening in either model).

If the goal is to offer a projection it might also be good to look for players that compare sufficiently to Cogliano in at least two out of three seasons (last college year, 1st NHL year, 2nd NHL year) and see how those players turned out. Depending on how many matches are found you can start eliminating some comparables based on things like size, position (centers only or all forwards), or style.

4/27/2009 6:08 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

Rananda and Scott: Thank you for the positive suggestions. Both of your methods are solid and I will attempt separate versions of both over the next little while. I'll admit both are more intuitive but since they will both involve a little brute force on my part I could take a few days on this.

I never claim to be as big of a heavy hitter as the other folks on this site but I do ask good questions and with your help I think we'll find some answers so I appreciate all of the constructive feedback :)

4/28/2009 10:40 am  
Blogger Statman said...

One thing to be aware of is the changing seasonal goal per game average in the NHL, which can really screw up your comparables.

4/28/2009 3:40 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Good stuff Showerhead, though I'm not following the reasoning in the paragraph with the bolding in it.

Pretty clearly most impact players, as you've defined them, scored at a higher clip when they were Cogliano's age. In terms of opportunity and luck ... Cogliano has had plenty of both at evens so far IMO, but not much PP time.

So, pretty clearly he's not going to be a very useful guy if he's giving a lot back the other way, taking chances at the blue lines and cheating for offense in his own end of the rink. (if you're getting a lot of breakaways you'd better be finishing like Bure, because you are undoubtedly cheating for them methinks).

If he commits to becoming a player a bit more like David Legwand and a bit less like J.P Dumont, the Oilers could have a really useful guy. Otherwise not.

I don't get that vibe off the guy though, same goes for Nilson, Pouliot, etc ... There are a lot of cats on this roster emitting a Comrie-like glow, and I'm not convinced that any of them really have the talent to make that worthwhile. Plus you can really only have one line playing that game on a team, and the gameplan has to centre on them ... they'd better damn well score a lot and be huge plus players.

Even the guy who probably could work that gig, Gagner, they'd be a hell of a lot better off if he ended up more Zetterbergish and less Nylanderish. In terms of winning games, certainly not hockey pools.

And Cogliano and the rest ... short leash IMO, they either keep improving at winning battles, taking the tough road to gain territorial advantage and start finishing their shifts better ... or Tambellini has to start moving some of this crop of youth out.

4/29/2009 10:10 pm  
Blogger hunter1909 said...

Being mathematically challenged, with the exception of once surviving a sentential calculus course at university(which I only applied for because it was cleverly disguised in the form of a first year philosophy course - guess my horror when I realised THAT), am simply in awe of you guy's ability to calculate hockey players with stats.

Just like the feeling I used to get when I used to read my grandfather's old engineering textbooks as a preschooler.

Being more of a Don Cherry type, my projection for Cogliano is a hybrid between Yvan Cournoyer and Todd Marchant. In other words, a defensively speedy and responsible player - with the ability to occasionally score that timely and spectacular goal.

4/30/2009 3:27 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Everyone keeps talking about Cogliano as a defensibly responsible player; fans, media and Oilers management alike. But I just don't see it.

He isn't hard on the puck in any zone, granted he's improved a lot. And he screws up in his own end a bunch when he's the low forward. Again, he's not the disaster in this regard that he was last season ... still.

I suppose it has something to do with the way that he played on College, or maybe the way the Oilers see him developing, but it's not there now IMO.

5/01/2009 12:06 am  
Blogger HBomb said...

I'll go on record as saying I'm in the same ballpark as what Vic thinks on Cogliano. I don't see a defensive stalwart in the guy, at least not at this point.

The Oilers are clearly banking on turning him into one though - he probably should be playing RW on the second (i.e. soft minutes scoring) line, but he got played at center on the checking (i.e. secondary tough minutes) line. Didn't make any sense to me at all. Makes less sense when you think it would mean going forward with two of the top three centers being Cogliano and Gagner, two undersized guys.

When you throw Eberle, Brule and Omark into the equation, the more I look at it, the more I think two of O'Sullivan, Nilsson, Gagner and Cogliano are trade bait over the next year or so. Obviously Gagner is a keeper. Who's the second guy most worth hanging onto? I'd say O'Sullivan.

5/02/2009 1:02 pm  

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