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Summer Hiatus

posted Jul 26, 2018, 11:36 PM by Robert Vollman
Even though I haven’t posted any new thoughts in this section since the regular season ended, and my weekly columns on ESPN Insider and are on hiatus for the summer, that doesn’t mean that I’ve been idle. I’ve updated all the data in the downloads section, I’ve been hard at work on the Hockey Abstract 2018 Update, my weekly radio spot on TSN 1290 is still on-going, and I’ll be participating in the NHL’s 31-in-31 feature series in August again this year.

I’ve also continued to comment on the scoring race, the playoffs, the NHL awards, the draft, and free agency on social media, and run the occasional opinion poll. In fact, I thought I’d share some of the more interesting things right here, right now.

Regular Season

Quite a few teams had a tough season, but it seems like the overwhelming feeling is that Edmonton’s season was the most disappointing.

The Scoring Race

Forget the Art Ross Trophy, because here are the results of the All-Connor scoring race. It’s another one for McDavid!
106 McDavid
56 Kyle
30 Sheary
28 Brown
13 Murphy
12 Carrick, Brickley
2 Hellebuyck

In other news, with a career-high 92 points, Anze Kopitar has led all Slovenians in scoring for the 12th consecutive season. Jan Mursak gave him a bit of a scare in 2011-12, I think.

On an only slightly more serious note, I did a first-name scoring race, as requested by Rob Denaburg (@rsd08). This does not include goalies, nor does it group variations of names together. If you do group names, I think Alex wins with 778, well ahead of John, 621.

589 Ryan
455 Alex
326 Tyler
298 Nick
288 David
251 John
243 Mark
237 Kyle
225 Jake
225 Matt

By first name, the lowest scoring rate is Ben (minimum 200 games), with 29 points in 214 games, which is 0.14 points per game.

Goalie Stats

Most starts in 2017-18 without getting replaced by the other goalie (for any reason): 
28 Grubauer, WSH
23 Saros, NSH
22 Dell, SJ
Bobrovsky (65 starts), and Hellebuyck (64) were each replaced once.

Goalies replaced by the other goalie (for any reason) most often, 2017-18:
9 Gibson, ANA
9 Lehner, BUF
8 Talbot, EDM
8 Lundqvist, NYR
7 Bishop, DAL
7 Holtby, WSH
7 Jones, SJ
6 Forsberg, CHI
6 Reimer, FLA
6 Smith, CGY

SAX leaders (Saves Above Expectations, which is just previous career save percentage), 2017-18
27.5 Hellebuyck
26.3 Fleury
18.3 Raanta
17.9 Rinne
16.6 Hutton
14.9 McElhinney
11.5 Luongo
10.9 Markstrom
10.3 Quick
9.9 Miller
9.0 Crawford

Lowest SAX (Saves Above Expectations), 2017-18
-40.4 Darling
-32.0 Anderson
-29.3 Talbot
-29.2 Price
-25.8 Murray
-23.9 Holtby
-23.1 Johnson
-21.2 Greiss
-18.0 Schneider
-16.3 Halak
-15.0 Allen
-14.5 Lehner

Most offensive goal support, 2017-18 (data source is @NatStatTrick):
3.62 Greiss
3.50 Vasilevskiy*
3.39 Hellebuyck*
3.39 Jarry
3.29 Holtby
3.26 Crawford
3.23 Dubnyk
3.21 Andersen
3.21 Bernier
3.20 Rask
3.16 Reimer
3.16 Rinne*
* denotes Vezina finalists
Minimum 20 games

Least offensive goal support, 2017-18:
2.07 Condon
2.10 Lehner
2.24 Wedgewood
2.32 Niemi
2.33 Stalock
2.38 Darling
2.39 Howard
2.43 Smith
2.50 Hutton
2.51 Markstrom
2.52 Price
2.54 Raanta
2.54 Neuvirth

Goals Saved Above Average, AHL goalies, since 2005-06
72.8 Leighton
71.9 MacIntyre
64.7 Bernier
62.1 Sparks
59.8 Brust
59.4 Halak
53.4 Lawson
51.5 Munroe
48.9 Murray
47.9 Schneider
47.7 Jones
46.4 Markstrom
46.3 Forsberg
43.8 LaBarbera
43.0 Hutchinson

AHL SV%+ leaders, since 2005-06
1292 Sparks (i.e. his SV% is 29.2% higher than league-average)
1291 Bernier
1229 Sanford
1193 Forsberg
1166 Schneider
1155 Hutchinson
1150 LaBarbera
1141 Lawson
1138 Jones
1136 Lack
1135 Markstrom
(Minimum 100 games)

AHL Goalies: Goals Saved Above Average
10 Best results since 2005-06:
55.3 LaBarbera 06-07
51.4 Bernier 09-10
40.8 Leighton 07-08
34.4 SPARKS 17-18
34.0 Budaj 15-16
28.8 Murray 14-15
28.2 Bachman 10-11
26.9 Lack 10-11
26.7 Forsberg 16-17
26.5 Lehner 12-13

Stanley Cup Playoffs

As mentioned by Sportsnet Stats (@SNStats), this is the first time in NHL history that both Detroit and Montreal missed the playoffs in the same season. The Red Wings made their debut back in 1926-27, and Montreal is one of the founding teams.

As Jason Paul (@WaveIntel) observed, there was a big gap between the top, playoff-bound teams, and everybody else this year.

Winnipeg (and Vegas) ended their playoff series victory drought. The longest drought is Florida, who advanced to the second round only once, in 1995-96, before any of these three franchises even existed. Columbus has never won a playoff series, but they made their debut in 2000-01. They were actually up 2-0 on the Capitals in the first round this year.

Here’s another miscellaneous poll.

Pittsburgh was finally knocked off by the Capitals. Looks like fans still think Mario was number one.

Mark Scheifele did a great job scoring goals and helping Winnipeg to the Conference Finals. Adjusted to the post-2005 average, here are the most era-adjusted playoff goals in a single postseason. If the Jets had advanced, he might have climb
16.4 Sakic, COL, 95-96, 22gp
16.2 Leach, PHI, 75-76, 16gp
15.9 Iginla, CGY, 03-04, 26gp
15.2 Alfredsson, OTT, 06-07, 20gp
15.0 Bure, VAN, 93-94, 24gp
14.7 Crosby, PIT, 08-09, 24gp
12.3 Scheifele, WPG, 17-18, 17gp

So it was Vegas and Washington in the Stanley Cup Final. Based on Dom Luszczyszyn’s (@dom luszczyszyn) research, seeding doesn’t matter quite as much as it used to, in terms of who wins the Cup, or makes the Final.

Many felt the Fleury deserved the lion’s share of the credit for Vegas making the Stanley Cup Final. Few predicted his collapse.

And of course Washington won. Canada was shut out again. The odds were 472-to-1 that no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup in the last 25 years. Of course, the odds of winning seven straight in the 1980s: 1-in-2187. Since the original 1967 expansion from six teams, you would expect Canadian teams to have won the Stanley Cup 12.2 times. They have won it 16 times. 

With a combined 188 shots in the playoffs, Kuznetsov and Ovechkin fell just shy of the two-player record, held by Zetterberg and Samuelsson, who took 195 shots for Detroit in the 2007-08 playoffs.

The NHL Awards

Thanks to player usage charts, I noticed Anze Kopitar’s possible inclusion among the three finalists for the Hart pretty early. Of the 10 players that scored 90 points (or close to it, Kopitar is known for taking on top opponents (vertical axis) in both zones (horizontal axis), has good shot-based metrics (in blue), and is the only regular on the PK (not on chart).

The Vezina is always frustrating, because it seems to be based on wins rather than the goalie’s own performance.

Here’s where the 3 Vezina finalists rank in four different categories:
Wins: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
Save percentage: 3rd, 5th, 9th
Quality Start percentage: 2nd, 6th, 13th
Goals Saved Above Average: 1st, 4th, 9th
Conclusion: JUST WIN, BABY!

Well, at least the goalie who actually was top three in all four regards was the goalie who won, Pekka Rinne.

Doughty won the Norris. My friends at @Fantasy_Ref were kind enough to point out that my pre-season points projections for last year’s Norris finalists were all within 2 points. Burns and Karlsson were within 1. 

That led to a big contract for Doughty. 

If you’re unhappy with any of the PHWA’s voting results, Jack Flancer (@jakef1873) put together a visualization of everybody’s voting record.

I was asked which outlet has the most influence over voting, so here’s the number of NHL Award votes for the various major outlets:
26 The Athletic/Athletique
15 Postmedia and its various outlets (this count courtesy of Steve Simmons @simmonssteve)
14 Sportsnet + Hockey Night in Canada
7 NBC Sports
5 The Hockey News

The NHL Entry Draft

Bouchards at the draft
5th overall: Pierre
8th: Pierre-Marc
10th: Evan
27th: Dan
35th: Francois
129th: Joel
183rd: Keven

Free Agency

Colin Cudmore (@CudmoreColin) put together a list of how much cap space each team has in terms of retained salary, buyouts, and what not.

As usual, I put together player usage charts of the prominent free agents.

Goalies weren’t a major story this year, but it looked like Bernier and Hutton battled for top spot.

Among fans, the free agents most likely to get the riskiest contract in terms of term and/or cap hit included John Carlson, Jack Johnson, James van Riemsdyk, James Neal, Paul Stastny, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Tyler Bozak. They may have been right in Carlson’s case (but only time will tell).

As for Kovalchuk, from 2010-11 to 2012-13 Kovalchuk played 195 games and had 79 goals, 95 assists, 174 points. Vanek, who is roughly the same age, played 196 games, and had 78 goals, 97 assists, 175 points. Vanek scored 56 pts last year, on a 1-yr, $2.0M contract, this year he signed for one year, $3.0M with Detroit.

Kovalchuk’s cap hit is reportedly $6.25M/yr for 3 years. I think it’s safe to classify that as a massive vote of confidence.

And then there’s James Neal in Calgary. Neal turns 31 in September, has 48 goals, 37 assists, 85 points in 141 games over the past 2 years. In 2010-11, the Flames had Niklas Hagman, who turned 31 in December, and had a 47 goals, 39 assists, 86 points in 147 games over the previous 2 years. I know these are two very different players, but it is interesting to note that Hagman scored 27 points, then 23 points, then retired.

Before getting too tough on Carlson, Kovalchuk, or Neal, it’s also important to remember the contracts that we thought would be regrettable but turned out to be a fair value. Those on Twitter pointed to Tyler Bozak as a leading example, but there’s also Chara, Dillon, Klingberg, Ekholm, Gonchar, Subban on the blue line, Ovi, Giroux, Kessel, Kadri, Smith, Hossa, Ward, Staal, Sedins up front, and Luongo and Rinne in goal.

I updated all the contracts in my cap management model from the first chapter of Stat Shot and made this chart.

And, for those who remain despondent about their favourite team’s location on this chart, remember that nobody is in worse shape than Toronto was three years ago. With a lot of effort and a little luck, cap situations can be repaired quicker than you think.

Other Notes

William Karlsson had 43 goals on 184 shots this year. Based on previous career average of 7.7%, he would have scored 14.2. That difference of +28.8 is the greatest of the post-1967 expansion era, edging out Lanny McDonald’s +28.3 in 1982-83. The closest recent comparable is Brad Boyes, +19.9 in 2007-08, and Joe Pavelski, +18.4 in 2013-14.

We almost went the entire season without a coach getting fired. Actually, since the Rangers already played their last game when Vigneault was released, perhaps we did, on a technicality.

To replace Peters, the Hurricanes are boldly going with Brind’Amour as coach, the 8th since 2005 without head coach experience at any level. It will be an uphill battle.
2005-06 Gretzky, PHX
2006-07 Carbonneau, MTL
2006-07 Savard, CHI
2008-09 Tocchet, TB
2012-13 Oates, WSH
2016-17 Weight, NYI
2017-18 Housley, BUF

Should the salary cap be based on post-tax dollars? Here’s a glimpse into what that would look like.

Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) examined the 2018-19 schedule looking for which team it favours.

Home games played minus away games played, 2017-18:
+12 J.T. Miller
+11 Carter
+10 Ouellet, Shattenkirk
+9 McDonagh, Antipin
-10 Carr, Gorges, Dowd
-11 Hannikainen, Auvitu
-12 L. Schenn
-13 Namestnikov

Promoting the Field

There’s a new cap management site out there called PuckPedia, and it includes information about agents

For those of you who have been enjoying the DEV model, the numbers have been updated with 2017-18 data.

Emmanuel Perry of Corsica Hockey has a version of NHLe that’s done differently, and has a far greater number of leagues.

The fourth annual hockey analytics conference at Carleton University is being held September 14-15. Register here.

Luke and Josh of Evolving Wild put together their version of WAR. I think we’re up to a dozen stats of this nature, five of which are called WAR.

Thanks to Matt Barlowe (@matt_barlowe), you can scrape the NHL’s central scouting reports. Go to his Github page to get the code.