June 7, 2014
We've now survived a full two days without hockey. I'm already getting a bit zany (to the point that I may have made a 27 Dresses reference in this post). How the heck did we make it through an entire lockout?
There has been a lot of talk that Los Angeles will run away with the series now that they've taken game one. I'm not entirely sure. Lundqvist is arguably the best goalie in the world (I routinely switch back and forth between him and Rask) and should be able to help New York take at least a game or two. I'll be cheering for them to win at least three, providing us all with the enjoyment that can only come from a game seven.
On to today's ramblings…
Nothing is for certain, but it's looking like Gaborik has a reasonable chance to sign back in Los Angeles on a medium term deal. The Kings have been searching for more consistent scoring and he is a guy that consistently scores (347 in 810 games) – it's a nice match. With the cap going up this summer, and rumors growing that Mike Richards may be bought out, there should be plenty of mula available for everyone.
All of this has me thinking about that first line, specifically right wing. Justin Williams has been a fixture there, skating with Kopitar the last number of years. However, in these playoffs Los Angeles has experimented with Dustin Brown in that slot. Via Frozen Pool we can see that Brown has skated 52.8% of his even strength shifts with Kopitar and Gaborik. Compare that to the last 10 games of the regular season in which he only had 1.71% of his shifts there.
It creates a bit of a conundrum heading into 2014-15. Whoever ends up with the Kings' two big guns will win the fantasy lottery, enjoying a production bump across most categories. Conversely, it will be difficult to get yourself excited about the prospect of Williams taking a regular shift with Jarret Stoll and Dwight King.
A fun/frightening stat for you – Rene Bourque only had three assists in 17 playoff games. This after managing only seven in 63 regular season games. Yes, he had eight goals, three of which came via a hat-trick. But I don't believe any of this bodes well for next season. His playoff shooting percentage (15.7%) was more than double his number in the regular season. With even a slight bit of regression he'll be back to the old Bourque we've all come to know – a fixture on the waiver wire.
Jim Rutherford, former Hurricanes general manager, has been brought in to take over in Pittsburgh. He wasted no time, I mean literally no time, in removing Dan Bylsma as head coach. I'm not sure whether these recent changes in Pittsburgh will have any meaningful impact. Rutherford brings a tonne of experience, but his track record is a bit mixed, not unlike the man he is replacing in Ray Shero. It feels like change for the sake of change, a new "voice", who knows if it will help upgrade their on ice product.
Secretly I'm hoping that Rutherford feels pressure to make a BOLD (all caps!) move and ends up shipping Malkin to Detroit or some other decent squad. Where he can grow old as the number one option, firing 350 shots and scoring 45 annually. Sigh, that's the life.
Why can't Mikhail Grabovski simply come home to Toronto? We'll put him on the first line with van Riemsdyk and Kessel, shift Bozak down to the third line, and wave goodbye to Bolland in free agency!
A guy can dream, can't he?
It looks like he might end up testing free agency again this summer on the heels of his one year, three million dollar contract with Washington. From a fantasy perspective it's really going to depend on where he signs. As a top six forward we've seen that the 30 year-old is capable of 20 plus goals, 50 points, and decent shot totals. The issue is that he's also a strong defender and has proven to push possession effectively. Meaning coaches will enjoy using him in a defensive role (his offensive zone start percentage was 51.3%, fourth among Capitals centers)
I'll be watching on July 1st before making any predictions on how to value him next year.
Plus/Minus is quickly becoming the Tom Cruise of hockey statistics. You jump on ONE little couch and everyone starts hating on you! Well, in the case of plus/minus it probably isn't a great tool when evaluating a player's defensive ability. Daniel Lipson recently broke down Why Plus/Minus is the Worst Statistic in Hockey over at SB Nation's Arctic Ice Hockey.
One portion I really enjoyed…
"…an excellent power play player like Ovechkin or Byfgulien gets no credit for offense created on the PP. The Washington Capitals scored 62 power play goals with Ovechkin on the ice this past season, and allowed nine against; despite going +53 on the scoreboard, that adds up to a -9 for Ovechkin in the plus/minus column. (Byfuglien, in case you’re curious, accumulated a -4 on the power play this season). And we haven’t even begun to talk about things like quality of competition, quality of teammates, zone starts, face-off wins, or about a hundred other factors outside of an individual player’s control."
It's hard to know what the "perfect" model is for your pool. But as we continue to learn more about a stat like plus/minus I'm forced to wonder if there aren't better categories to use.
The battle between those that have embraced analytics in hockey and those that haven't is still raging on. Most recently Pension Plan Puppets posted a very detailed piece providing counter points to an argument made by Steve Simmons around why stats don't tell us much.
As someone who has watched a lot of hockey over years I'm becoming increasingly skeptical of my own two eyes. I've simply been wrong too many times to believe that I can watch a couple hours of game footage and make any reasonable assertions about a player's fantasy future. There is still a place for traditional methods of scouting and viewing a player live provides a level of insight that you can't always glean from numbers. Ultimately, the right answer, at least for me, is that we need a bit of both to have a full understanding of what's going on out there.
Can't we all just get along?
Cory Schneider is looking for a guarantee from New Jersey that he'll be their full-time starter before signing a long term deal. At this point, after what he's gone through with Luongo and then most recently Brodeur, who can blame him? He's a lot like Katherine Heigl, how many times can you stand up there as a bridesmaid before finally wanting to have your own moment. THIS IS CORY'S DAY, DAMMIT!!
Darren Kennedy is a contributor for Dobber Hockey and McKeen's. You can find him on twitter at @fantasyhockeydk.
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