Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oilers kicking the tires on Briere?

Well, it's not often that I get any sort of "tip" regarding the Oilers, but I got one that will be of interest, I would imagine, to most Oilers fans. I have never received info from this person before regarding this sort of thing, but I do believe the source to be passing along what he heard accurately.

He did mention to me that he did not know how seriously EDM was looking into Briere, so I am certainly not claiming that anything is going to happen here, or even that it is a big possibility. Additionally, due to Briere being out for another 3 weeks or so, this isn't likely to be a move that would happen any time too soon.

I can't say I would be in favour of trading for Briere, even assuming he would be willing to remove the hurdle of his NMC. I don't like his contract. He'll having difficulty posting the same raw offensive numbers in the west. Given his current ab/groin issues, he is at least somewhat of an injury concern going forward with 6 years remaining on his 6.5 mil cap hit contract. In fairness, he has been a durable player otherwise, having played at least 78 games in 5 of his 6 NHL seasons prior to this year. He is also another small player, if that sort of thing concerns you*.

My initial impression of Briere was that he would help the PP, but in looking at some numbers from BehindTheNet I'm not so sure that he would help as much as needed to be a valuable addition.

I have no idea what kind of pieces would be going to PHI. I myself view Briere as a projected negative value "asset" given the aformentioned knocks regarding health and contract, but who knows how the Oilers would evaluate him so it's tough to say what a trade for Briere might look like.

* - It doesn't concern me in the sense that I don't think a team built disproportionally with small players couldn't win the Cup. I understand why, all else equal, you'd rather have the bigger player than the smaller one. That said, I'll take Martin St.Louis or Patrick Kane over Brad Winchester, and I do think a team with 12 small forwards could win the Cup if they were good enough.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Unnerving time to be an Oilers fan

Being a sports fan comes with the sobering side effect of helplessness, from time to time. It's fun to identify with your team of choice, but how does one relate to "his" team when rumours start leaking that he desperately hopes to be untrue?

I find these rumors particularly troubling, because I can concoct a horrific scenario where the deal is already done but waiting to be announced post all star game. If that is the case, start your worrying/hoping Oilers fans. If the speculated return is somewhere between Garrioch and Matheson's estimates, that is an awful lot to pay. Personally, I wouldn't be even comfortable trading the lesser end of that range for Lecavalier.

The biggest concern of mine, were I making the decision for the Oilers, in acquiring Lecavalier would be his contract: 11 years, $85 million, ~ $7.7 million cap hit, starting in 09/10. That contract is, in my mind, probably not crazily high in relation to Lecavalier's on-ice value on a per year basis, but still a little bit high. And even if it is in proportion on a yearly basis, the length makes it prohibitive in terms of the risk I would be willing to accept. I would have, at best, a hard time deciding whether to sign Lecavalier to that contract as a UFA, nevermind giving up any assets for the right to do so.

To give up, say, Cogliano, Nilsson, Gilbert, and 2 1sts for Lecavalier would seem like a crazy overpay to acquire a "franchise player".

Admittedly, I don't have to worry about marketing, selling tickets, getting an arena built, and maybe there are reasons beside on ice considerations that increase Edmonton's interest in Lecavalier. It will be interesting to see what the terms of the trade would be, if it happens (though I doubt it will for a variety of reasons, including EDM's unwillingness to part with the rumoured package, possible reluctance of Lecavalier to come to EDM (Do you want to trade and commit that much to a player who doesn't want to be here?), the difficulty of making trades in today's market).

So count me as a fan hoping this deal doesn't occur based on the rumours floating, and if it does, only a bargain basement price.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Few Miscellaneous Hockey Thoughts

(1) The Oilers goaltending situation, heading into next season, looks kind of murky. Two pending UFA's and a goalie under (cheap) contract who hasn't really proven himself to be a quality NHL backup (as yet).

Hard to know who exactly will end up being available next summer as free agents, but some of the better names are guys like Thomas, Backstrom, Biron, Legace, Labarbera (included for MC). I'd imagine Thomas, Backstrom, and Biron will end up re-signing with their current clubs, but who knows? Harding and Lehtonen are both RFA's, not impossible that either would end up being traded (or I suppose offer sheeted, especially Harding if MIN re-signs Backstrom to a big dollar deal).

I think CLB is a place for Oilers fans to watch as well. Leclaire could well be available if Mason continues to play at his current level, EDM needs a goalie, the obvious history with Howson...

(2) I heard the OHL being called "progressive" by someone on TV the other day (sorry, I wish I could remember where I saw that) due to their new rule regarding the removal of helmets before or during fights. I think the first thing that popped into my mind was "If they were truly progressive, maybe they wouldn't allow 16-20 year olds to fight at all?". Just my opinion.

(3) When a player lies on the puck to cause a whistle stoppage, that should be a delay of game penalty.

(4) A question: Let's pretend there is a delayed penalty against the Oilers, and while MIN is pressing six on five they accidentally score on their own net. I'm assuming the faceoff would be at center ice after a goal, but does anyone know for sure with the new rule in place this year regarding PP faceoffs?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

We'll never lose again!

You know... if Dwayne Roloson, Mathieu Garon, and JDD weren't real human beings but were deck chairs instead, I might just recommend seeing what assets (however small) could be picked up for Garon + JDD and put in a claim on the one goalie to rule them all.

(Click on title for link)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Loaded Dice and NHL Penalty Killers

The two posts below are interesting, I don't mean to steal Showerhead's thunder here, but rather to enforce the merit of the direction that he is heading with this PK stuff. I know that a great many readers of the Oilogosphere do not view the comments sections, and while that is generally wise, you should make an exception for those posts.

The issue of shot quality always rears it's head around these parts, more specifically the influence of individual players on the shot quality on their own goalie. I'm sure it is obvious to most that this is usually because people who live in the moment a lot ... well they need something to cling to, bless them. And while I think that everyone agrees that there is an impact, there is a wide disparity between the magnitude of this in the views of people like Tyler Dellow and people like Robin Brownlee.

Below is a crude model of dice rollers and the Edmonton Oiler PKers. We all know that, given 180 rolls of a die, we expect to see a '6' rolled thirty times. We also know that it's damn unlikely that 10 dice rollers will all throw a '6' exactly thirty times. Shit happens. Some guys will run hot and others cold. If you played board games as a kid, you know this already.

So the question is; how much of the save% behind individual PKers is just coincidence? How much (the remainder) can be chalked up to their ability to affect shot quality?

The methodology:

Take every Oiler defensemen or forward who has been on the ice for 60 or more shots against (a cool dozen Oiler skaters as it happens) and pit them in a game of 'rolling for sixes' with weighted dice, or 'Vic Sixes' as the kids are calling it now. The dice are weighted the same for everyone, the chances of rolling a six are 16.08%, the same as the chances of an opponent scoring on a shot during an Oilers 5v4 PK this season so far (and that sucks by the way, but history is telling us this has no sustain, in fact it's screaming it in our ear).

So, by way of example, Souray has been 5v4 PKing while the opponents have shot 123 pucks on the Oiler net. So he gets 123 rolls of the dice, weighted as above. Same goes for every other bugger. And all of the Oilers play 1000 games of 'Vic Sixes (TM)'.

And if we look at the results of Vic Sixes - Game One - then Sheldon may have done great or done poorly, depending on the love he got from the dice on the day. In this case he got 21 'sixes', the same number as goals against that he has been on the ice for at 5v4 PK. Is he crap at Vic-Sixes? Is he unlucky at Vic-Sixes? I mean the chances of this happening by coincidence alone are only one in three, surely he just sucks at Vic-Sixes (I know I won't be picking him for my team tomorrow!). I mean nobody is just that unlucky, are they?

Turns out that they are, in the right measure. Simple math tells us that one in three are just that unlucky. No more and no less.

If you have twelve players then one guy should be in the "there is only a one in twelve chance he is just unlucky" range. One hot roller should be in the "there is only a one in twelve chance he is just lucky" range. Two hot rollers should be in the "there is only a one in six chance they are just lucky" range. And so on, because the world is round.

Now let's load the dice, if we know that Cole has stunning PK numbers at 5v4 (he does, best on the Oilers), why isn't MacTavish playing him more? Is Craig really that MacStupid (Gregor callers nod in unison), or does he somehow, magically, know that it is just luck. That can't be, can it? I mean gosh darnit, surely his staff is not counting scoring chances.

How many times has Robin Brownlee told us that there is no such thing as luck, this as he posts from Joanne Ireland's basement while smoking left handed cigarettes with Terry Jones. Surely you are as proud as me that he called bullshit on Horcoff and Moreau, no? Wake up and smell the Brownlee, motherfuckers, there's no such thing as luck, at least not when you're giving 110%, that's for damn sure. And when you're giving 115% (near the theoretical limit, btw) well there just isn't any luck at all. Don't listen to NHL coaches, they're just blowing smoke up your ass, thank Christ we have folks like Mark Spector to parse that information into meaningful bits for us.

Anyhoo, turns out that if you think in these terms, pretend for the fuck of it that NHL coaches aren't complete fucktards and that NHL beat writers just might be ... and plot the results out assuming it was just luck. Well you'd expect the dice rollers results to be linear with expectation, and they average a correlation of .971 to linear (by the by, Oilers PKers are at .976). And you'd expect the standard deviation to be .29, it is in fact .287 (by the by, Oilers PKers are at .297).

Now let's load the dice. So we know that Cole is the bomb and Moreau is the suck at rolling them bones this year. Let's believe it's not in the dice, but rather in the wrist action (OilFans.commers nod in unison). We'll give the extreme guys the benefit of the doubt, a 0.1% better chance of rolling a six, that's not much folks.

Visually, which is the way the human brain really sees numbers, and with dice loaded to the extremes (-.005 represents the worst dice roller being responsible for 0.5% (1 part in 200) of his bad luck being the consequence of poor wrist action and a lack of positive thinking.

By average correlation to linear and average spread (standard deviation):

By rank correlation to linear and rank spread (standard deviation):

Friday, January 02, 2009

Corsi on the PK

HBomb and I proposed alternate theories in the comments to my previous post with regards to a team's corsi on the PK. While both of us had an opinion, we were both aware that we didn't have numbers to support ourselves.

So I went hunting.

The following picture shows the Corsi #'s for Edmonton's top penalty killers, sorted by minutes per game. 2008/2009 is on the left, 2007/2008 is on the right.

The difference from year to year is astounding. This season's best penalty killer, in terms of Corsi, would be last season's worst. Steve Staios is more than twice as bad. Matt Greene would be this year's best. ;)

All I can say is that this is a clusterfuck, and yes Corsi rates can change dramatically from year to year. I don't have a sense of context in that I haven't compared other teams to previous editions of their pk units or anything like that, but does this boggle the mind of anyone else out there? I'm sure I'm not alone. And I'm as sure as ever that there's more to it than faceoffs or quick fixes. Positioning and pressure levels, shot blocking and winning battles - every one of these needs to get better. On a MacT team, how has this even happened?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

"That's killed us all year long. It killed us again tonight."

Waking up today hangover free could only have been some sort of sign - a message from the champagne gods, perhaps, that I must seize this miraculous day and do something positively spectacular with it.

But then it hit me, all at once sort of, as I did my daily sit-up in bed and aimed myself mostly successfully towards the bathroom to do what had to be done.

I imagine that the players and personnel responsible for the Oilers penalty kill felt much the same way this morning, with the added bonus of having felt that way last night as well while I was thirstily warning 2009 what will happen to its supply of booze if it's not careful.

Craig MacTavish's quotes in the dailies today basically echo what any warm blooded Oiler fan with a working set of eyes or ears or access to anything Dennis has written since roughly October has known for some time now: the Oilers can't kill a fucking penalty to save their life. Edmonton's needs list no matter who you ask right now, and summed up pretty accurately by Lowetide today consists very obviously of players who can kill penalties and who can win a faceoff. Should be obvious, no?

Today I set out to try to get a read on which of those two qualities is the most pressing. That is, would getting a player or two who can win a fucking faceoff generally push towards a better pk? After all, this is the year that every penalty kill starts in the pk team's defensive zone - surely this must have some measurable effect on how many pucks end up in the back of the net? And finally, if Edmonton sucks at A and also sucks at B, could there be a correlation there?

Well, if you look at the image (click to enlarge), the answer seems to be a resounding no. I don't claim to be one of the Oilogospheres heavy hitters but I think that this particular case is relatively straightforward. When you look at the overall lack of positive correlation, especially in 2008/2009 now that the rules have changed, you can't conclude that a good faceoff percentage = a good penalty kill. This might be common sense but based on what I'm reading around the internet today I think people are overestimating the impact of faceoffs on Edmonton's pk train wreck this season. What I'm trying to say is that if one conclusion can be drawn it's that there are too many elements to a penalty kill to suggest Edmonton should be looking at adding a faceoff specialist alone - faceoff % should take a back seat to players who can actually kill the damn thing off. After all, even a successful faceoff win and dump only shaves 10-15 seconds off the penalty anyway - you still have to kill the whole damn thing off regardless of how it begins.