Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rookie of the Month


The Toronto Maple Leafs youth movement is in full flight, and two of their rookies are having terrific months of March. Tyler Bozak has gone 5-9-14 in 16 games this month to lead all NHL rookies. Goalie, Jonas Gustavsson has gone 7-1 in the month with a 2.06 GAA and save PCT of .923.
As good as these numbers are, neither one is likely to win the rookie of the month award. Buffalo's Tyler Myers has continued his torrid pace with 13 points in 15 games, second among league rookies. He won the award in January with only 10 points. Even John Tavares has 4 goals, 7 assists and 11 points in 14 games.

However, Detroit's Jimmy Howard has quietly morphed into one of the top goalies in the entire league. Howard may very well win NHL First Star of the month to go with Rookie of the month with a record of 12-2-1, 2.24 GAA and .918 save PCT. Howard leads all goaltenders by three wins for the month and may even be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy when all is said and done.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Team Quebec 1976

In the 1977 Handbook of Pro Hockey (with, incidentally Paul Newman in Slap Shot on the cover) there is a quick write-up on most players in the NHL and WHA. I happened to come across to the Marc Tardif page while flipping through, and was interested in something I read. Apparently he had been quoted as liking the idea of a Team Quebec entry into the inaugural Canada Cup 1976. Now, I have never heard mention of this before, and of course I found it intriguing.

Tardif was coming off a 148 point year with the Nordiques of the WHA, a team packed with francophone stars. In the NHL of 1975/76 the scoring leader was of course Quebecer, Guy Lafleur and five of the top eight scorers were French. Three of the top four goal scorers that year were French as well, maybe Tardif had an argument. The mid 1970's was a time of change in the province of Quebec what with the sovereignist Parti Quebecois winning a majority government in 1976. Quebec nationalist pride was rampant, what if they indeed were given their own team in the Canada Cup?
Quite the squad they could have put together with nine of them actually members of Team Canada in '76. Tardif and his Nordique team mates, Cloutier, Tremblay and Brodeur would make nice additions from the WHA ranks along with Andre Lacroix. Also, Quebec would boast the top goalie of the Canada Cup in Rogie Vachon. Players I had to leave off this team include Yvan Cournoyer, Rejean Houle, Serge Bernier, Jean Potvin, Dale Tallon and Dave Keon. Basically, Team Quebec was stacked. This leads to the question, what would the rest of Team Canada have looked like?

They still have sixteen members of the original squad along with additions Bryan Trottier, Brad Park, Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito. Still, a very strong collection of talent. Which of these two squads would have been superior?
Among the forwards I'd have to say Quebec has the better Centremen and Right Wingers with Canada getting the nod at Left Wing. Defense is fairly even, but Quebec may have better overall depth. In goal, even with Vachon in net, it's difficult to argue against Dryden and Tony O.
In the end, it's obvious to see that if indeed Quebec had their own team in the 1976 Canada Cup they may very well have been playing Team Canada in the three game final. I'd have to say that would have been a series for the ages.



Friday, March 26, 2010

Some Friday Ramblings...


1.)
Similar starts to a goaltending career W L T GAA

Semyon Varlamov, 08/09 & 09/10 17-3-6 2.55
Bob Froese, 1982/83 17-4-2 2.52
Dominik Hasek, 90/91 & 91/91 13-4-2 2.58

Career numbers
Bob Froese 128-72-20 3.10
Dominik Hasek 389-223-95 2.20

Interesting how similar the starts of the careers from three players from very different eras. Will Varlamov end up being a Froese or a Hasek. Most likely somewhere in the middle.



2.)
Toronto Maple Leaf, Jonas Gustavsson is actually having a nice rookie season. His record of
15-13-8 is even more impressive seeing the team's other tenders sport a record of 12-22-4.
The Monster has his GAA down to 2.86 and Save PCT up to .902.
3.)
Scoring Leaders since The Olympics
Goals
Stamkos 10
Stempniak 10
C.Stewart 9
Samuelsson 9
Gagne 9
Kessel 8
Gionta 8
Lee Stempniak with 10 goals in 12 games to lead the league, crazy. As a Leaf fan, it's nice to see Kessel up there with the leaders.
Points
D.Sedin 20
Stastny 19
H.Sedin 19
C.Stewart 18
Zetterberg 17
Stamkos 16
St.Louis 16
Mueller 16
B.Richards 16
P.Kane 15
Kesler 14
Steen 14
Chris Stewart with 18 points in 12 games continues to produce at an impressive rate. Peter Mueller is proving to be a nice pick up for Colorado. Wojtek Wolski has a less stellar 9 points in 11 games with Phoenix.
Some notables since the Olympics
Ovechkin, 3 goals and 9 points in 10 games.
Crosby, 3 goals and 11 points in 12 games.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bobby Poo....

Olympic hangover, workload too big, too much between period Capicolli? Luongo just isn't right.
Sure, he's 6-3-1 since helping Team Canada to Gold, but his GAA in those 10 games is 3.20 and he's allowed three or more in six of them. Since the start of the longest road trip in history, he is 8-6-1 with a 3.17 GAA and only one shutout.

Therin lies the problem for me. I selected Luongo in my work draft with the 8th overall pick, first goalie taken. I was expecting far more than 4 shutouts after he put up 9 last season. In our pool, shutouts are three extra points on top of a goalie win, so they're huge. Therefore, today I have done the unthinkable......
I have dropped Luongo in my pool in favour of Jimmy Howard for a $10 transaction fee. See below the top six in our pool, I'm sitting third place, just inside the money.

At this point I HAVE to stay in at least third to collect the $100 prize money. This is about how much I have put into the pool so far what with all my transactions. I've pretty much conceded catching first place for $650, but would love to grab second place money of $250. The easiest way to secure my spot and make up ground is goalie shutouts.
I realize Howard only has one this year, but Detroit has three games left with Columbus, two with Nashville and one against Edmonton. Plus they're fighting for their playoff lives and Howard should start nine of the ten while Luongo will most likely get seven of the nine. Those two games could make the difference.
I contemplated picking up Pekka Rinne instead of Howard, but Nashville has only eight games left and I don't generally like grabbing guys in the middle of a hot streak, odds are he'll cool down.
In hindsight, I should have went with who I was debating over taking first pick way back in October, Marty Brodeur. His 18 more points than BobbyLu would put me firmly in second and striking distance of first. Oh well. At least for the Canucks, they have the new season of the playoffs to hope Luongo turns it around. Our pool ends with the regular season, I can't wait any longer.
Then of course there's our playoff draft...more fun to come!

Monday, March 22, 2010

600 goals, who's next?


Teemu Selanne just became the 18th player to score 600 career NHL goals. Of these 18 guys, Selanne has scored a goal at the rate of 0.51 per game which is the seventh best among six hundred goal men. The question is, how many if any 600 goal scorers will there be in the future. Is Selanne the last member of this exclusive club?


Mark Recchi is currently at 560 goals, Mike Modano is at 556 and Keith Tkachuk sits at 536. Can any one of them find the 600 goal level? Recchi is 42 years old, Modano is 39 and Tkachuk is a week away from 38. Logic would dictate that it will be tough for any of them to hang around long enough, especially at their current goal scoring rates. Luckily there is a way to make an educated guess.

When I was a kid I loved reading the baseball analysis books of Bill James who was an innovator in statistical analysis and is currently employed by the Boston Red Sox. He developed a fomula to project career stats that he called "The Favourite Toy". Using a player's age, current stat total in any category and established level over the last three seasons, he was able to project a career total and a percentage chance to achieve a stated level. The tool for this formula is found on ESPN.com at http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/billjames

I very slightly modified this so it works for career goals in hockey. Following is the current players that have any chance whatsoever to reach 600 goals.


Not many surprises. Ovechkin projected to finish with 712 career goals, and the three oldsters Recchi, Modano and Tkachuk look like they will fall just short of 600. Among active players, four look like a good bet to crack the 500 goal mark; Ovechkin, Iginla, Gaborik and Heatley. Crosby, Nash, Lecavalier, Hossa project to come within 10 goals of 500, but fall just short. It would seem that it's a pretty good bet that Selanne will not be the last 600 goal scorer, but there wont be many more to join him.




Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Calgary Molson Flames

The 1983/84 O-Pee-Chee hockey set may very well be one of the ugliest sets ever, what with all the air-brush butchery. I explored this last year....
http://nitzyshockeyden.blogspot.com/2009/07/more-airbrush-magic.html

However, one thing that always puzzled me about this set is why in the world were some of the Flame players pictured in practice jerseys featuring "Molson" across the top? Was this the first ever product placement on a hockey card, did Molson pay a fee to have their name on the cards?
Perhaps the exposure to this as a 13 year old kid led to my current love of beer....

And not all of the Flames were pictured in their "beer league" sweaters, Kent Nilsson among others has a nice action shot on his card.

Was it mere laziness on the part of the company? I mean, they managed to find a nice game shot of Lanny McDonald for his masterton Trophy card...what gives?


Even the world-reknowned hockey card producers at Vachon Cakes managed to find a game shot of Lanny for their 83/84 set.

I almost would have preferred that OPC went the airbrush route with the Flames Molson jerseys like they did with Mike Eaves....nice helmet Mike.
As well, this wasn't the first time that Calgary was treated shoddily by the card company. The 1980-81 set was put together just as the Flames were moving from Atlanta to Calgary, therefore all of the player photos had the flaming "A" painted over to make a blank red jersey.

In the end, I'm not sure of the reason for the beer advertisment on my childhood hockey cards. If anyone has any info, let me know.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tier Two Junior Scorers


With the CHL wrapping up and heading to their respective leagues playoffs, it's interesting to look at the next level down of junior hockey in Canada. Junior A Tier Two as it was once called is home to numerous leagues from British Columbia to the Maritimes that are great suppliers of talent to NCAA and even professional hockey. In fact, the just released ISS 2010 Draft Rankings list Penticton Vees, Beau Bennett (pictured) at 25th overall for the upcoming draft.
Bennett, a native of southern California tied for the lead in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League with 41 goals and 79 assists for 120 points in 56 games. He is committed to attending Denver University next season.
Tied with Bennett for the league lead was Mark Zengerle of the Salmon Arm Silver Backs (great name). His 120 points broke the team record for points that was held by Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils.
Bennett's linemate in Penticton, Denver Manderson notched 113 points in only 50 games. Manderson played a handful of games the last two years with Kitchener in the OHL. The main issue with guys like Zengerle and Manderson is size, each is under 6 feet tall and 180 pounds.
The top goal scorer in the BCJHL was Mitch MacMillan of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs who scored 61 goals in 59 games. He was the leagues first 50 in 50 player since Kyle Turris four seasons ago. 20 year old MacMillan has committed to Northeastern U next year.
The Burlington (Ont.) Cougars produced two of the top scorers in the nation in Josh Jooris and Greg Carey. Jooris' father Mark is coach of the Cougars and played for the Canadian National team in the late '80's before a successful stint in the German League. Son, Josh tallied 116 points including 90 assists in 50 games. Many of those helpers were on goals by Greg Carey who potted 72 goals and 114 points in 48 games. Carey bested the Ontario Junior Hockey League record for season goals previously held by Darren Haydar.
The top overall point man in Junior hockey actually plays in the Tier One (Junior B) Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League with the Brantford Golden Eagles. Josh McQuade piled up 64 goals and 86 assists for 150 points in 51 games. Thus, McQuade broke the record for points in a Junior B season set by Brian Wiseman in 1989/90. He also led the second place scorer in the league by a whopping 50 points. There were however some rumblings of assists being added by the volunteer Brantford scorekeepers. Enough rumbling that the teams' GM was suspended for two games and their volunteer staff was shuffled. Still, 150 point is 150 points. McQuade spent 24 games in 2008/09 with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL managing 7 goals and 11 points.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Special Teams Inefficiency


The Toronto Maple Leafs scored three powerplay goals against the Oilers last night to break an 0 for 31 drought in that department. Even with this outburst their Powerplay Rate is a terrible 16.0%, 26th overall. Combine this number with an atrocious 72.0% Penalty Kill efficiency, and this years Leafs have some of the worst special teams of all-time.
Scotty Bowman used to say that the goal of his teams was to have PP and PK rates totalled at least 100%. Even with variance in season to season goal scoring rates, the special team rates will be on a constant of 100%. If for instance powerplays and goal scoring is at a high level (early 1980's) the corresponding penalty killing rates will always equal out to 100%. This makes comparing different eras easy as special team numbers are readily available back to 1963.
This season's Leafs have a total Special Teams number of 88.0%; below is how that number rates as one of the worst ever.
They may very well end up having the worst secial teams in almost 30 years. Lots of really brutal and mainly expansion squads on the list, headed up by the first year Washington Capitals (figures). Led by Tommy Williams and Denis Dupere, this team managed a total number of 84.2%. This was matched by the Caps three seasons later with a squad led by Guy Charron and Bob Sirois. Charron had the misfortune of being the "star" of the next worse special teams squad as well. He somehow tallied 71 points for a terrible Kansas City Scouts team in '75/'76.
The bottom three teams on the list don't even make the worst of all-time even though they each had some of the worst rates ever. Tampa Bay managed to compensate for a brutal 9.4 powerplay rate with a respectable 82.4 PK. The early '80's Kings were atrocious on the PK, but managed to balance that with top rated powerplay units.
In contrast to this chart, the greatest special teams ever are about the same distance from the 100% mark on the high side. The 1975/76 Islanders had a Special Teams number 117.1% (31.7 on the PP and 81.4 on the PK). and the 76/77 Canadiens were 112.8% (24.9 PP and 87.9 PK). Perhaps that's the next chart I'll do. I find that combining the special teams percentages is a great way to determine which teams were the worst and best overall.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Road Sweet Road

The Vancouver Canucks have just finished their monumental NHL record 14 game road excursion. Amazingly, they managed to garner over 60% of possible points on the trip.
Over the entire trip they scored a mere two goals more than they allowed yet still went 8-5-1. This all despite the fact that Lunogo was far from his best, he was actually outplayed by back-up Andrew Raycroft.


The 'Nucks were somewhat surprisingly led in goals by Mikael Samuelsson with ten. Ryan Kesler was second with six goals and over a point per game with 15. Daniel led the squad with 17 points and a +9 rating, brother Henrik managed 14 points.

The success of the trip is even more impressive with the fact that the Sedins scored a total of six goals combined. The emergence of secondary scoring is what made up the difference. Four goals from Kyle Wellwood, three from Jannik Hansen and eight points in eleven games for Demitra certainly bodes well for Vancouver as the season winds down.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Team Canada 2014



Too early?....perhaps. But, I say it's never too early. Of course, NHLers may not even go to Sochi. For our purposes we'll say they make the right call and shut down the league in order for the top talent in the world to play.


Team Canada 2010 had five members of the World Junior Champion team from 2005, firstly let's see if there are five players from the 2009 Junior squad that could be Olympians in 2014.

Goaltender Dustin Tokarski is having a nice pro debut with Norfolk in the AHL and Chet Pickard is also having a nice debut with teh other Admirals in Milwaukee. Both have work still to do to become NHL starters let alone elite players. Defenseman Tyler Myers should by 2014 be a top flight player, he's almost there now in 2010. Ryan Ellis and Alex Pietrangelo could very well be NHL stars by 2014, but for now they're OHL stars.


Among the 2009 Junior forwards, I'd imagine that John Tavares will be an elite player by 2014 worthy of Olympic consideration. As well, Jordan Eberle should be with Edmonton next year and could develop into a top player. Jamie Benn has 15 goals as a rookie for Dallas and Evander Kane 14 for Atlanta and may very well be considered for the next Olympic team. Cody Hodgson could be a star one of these years if he ever stays healthy.


Let's have a first look at what could be Team Canada 2014.


Goalie

Roberto Luongo

Marc-Andre Fleury

Steve Mason


Luongo will be 34 by the next Games and should be the number one again.


Defense

Duncan Keith

Drew Doughty

Shea Weber

Brent Seabrook

Jay Bouwmeester

Tyler Myers

Mike Green

Marc Staal


Four returnees from this year. Bouwmeester and Green can take the spots of Pronger and Niedermayer, Myers and Staal will develop into Norris candidates by 2014.


Forward

Sidney Crosby

Ryan Getzlaf

Dany Heatley

Rick Nash

Mike Richards

Corey Perry

Jonathan Toews

Eric Staal

Steven Stamkos

Vincent Lecavalier

Jeff Carter

Milan Lucic

John Tavares


Eight returnees on the forward side, Heatley will be 33 and Lecavalier will be 34. Jarome Iginla will be 36 by then and may very well make the squad, but going with Tavares. Guys on the bubble could be Jordan Staal, James Neal and perhaps soon-to-be rookie Jordan Eberle. Taylor Hall could very well be a dark horse by then and may even be a shoe-in by then.

The debate begins now...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Equalized Goal Scoring, First Five Seasons


Sidney Crosby is your NHL goal scoring leader with 44. His Goals/game rate is 0.68 this season. As impressive as this is, Alex Ovechkin has a career Goals/game rate of 0.69 over almost five full seasons. Last year, I looked at equalizing individual goal scoring seasons, http://nitzyshockeyden.blogspot.com/2009/02/equalizing-goal-scoring.html


How does Ovechkin's scoring rate compare to all-time numbers. On it's own, his rate in his first five years is the sixth best in modern history to start a career.

Goals/Game First Five Seasons (modern era)

Gretzky 0.91
Lemieux 0.82
Br. Hull 0.80
Bossy 0.79
Richard 0.72
Ovechkin 0.69

The only problem with comparing numbers like this is the fact that league scoring has varied wildly over the years. For instance, over Gretzky's first five seasons (1979-84) there was an average of 7.67 goals scored in each NHL game. Over the last five seasons, teams have scored on average 5.83 goals combined per game. This is a huge difference, and makes current numbers even more impressive.


If we go back even farther, (pre 1940's) we see some even higher goal scoring rates.

Goals/ Game First Five Seasons (pre 1940)

Joe Malone 1.48
Newsy Lalonde 1.28
Cy Denneny 1.21
Babe Dye 1.06
Reg Noble 0.92
Frank Nighbor 0.87
Howie Morenz 0.71
Nels Stewart 0.66
Charlie Conacher 0.65

There is even more of a variance in league-wide scoring during the pre-war period which makes these numbers that much more deceptive. Over the first five seasons of the NHL (1917-22) there was an average of 8.74 goals scored in each game. Scoring dropped off rapidly in the late 1920's, from 1925-30 there was an average of 4.25 goals scored per game, less than half than in the previous era.


The simplest way to compare all these eras is to equate each era to one universal scoring average. If Gretzky's 0.91 G/GP in an era when 7.67 G/GP was scored is put into a moderate era with 6.50 Goals scored per game it comes out an Equalized Rate of 0.77 Goals/Game. Conversely, when Ovechkin's 0.69 G/GP in an era with 5.83 goals scored is translated into a 6.50 G/GP standard it also comes out as a 0.77 rating, exactly the same as The Great One. Therefore we can say that Ovechkin is tied with Gretzky in Equalized Goals/Game over the first five years of a career. The top eight are as follows:


Equalized Goals/Game - First Five Years of Career (modern era)

Gretzky 0.77
Ovechkin 0.77
Br. Hull 0.72
Lemieux 0.71
Bossy 0.71
Lindros 0.66
Richard 0.65
Bure 0.63

(pre 1940)

Joe Malone 1.10
Nels Stewart 1.01
Howie Morenz 1.01
Newsy Lalonde 0.95
Babe Dye 0.91
Cy Denneny 0.90
Charlie Conacher 0.84

We can see that when the era's are equalized to one goal scoring standard there is far less of a gap in the numbers. One thing that's for certain is that Ovechkin is in fact one of the greatest goal scorers in modern history, the numbers don't lie.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Wow....

A better script could not have been written by Hollywood. Crosby, Overtime, Gold....come on. I'm just happy the game wasn't forced into the shootout. That is NOT a way to decide a gold medal. Even in my wildest dreams I wouldn't have been so bold to predict a finish like the one we saw. A few other things that would have been impossible to predict.

- Pavol Demitra leading the entire tournament in scoring with 10 points

-Norway's Tore Vikingstad scoring TWICE as many goals as Alex Ovechkin and finishing second overall with 4 goals.

-Brian Rafalski leading the U.S. in points and goals (tied with Parise) with 4 and 8.

-Each of Sweden's and the Czechs defense core notching a grand total of ONE goal, with Niklas Lidstrom coming up completely empty on goals and assists.

-Norway defenseman Jonas Holos playing an average of a ridiculous 28 minutes, 56 seconds per game over four matches.

Well, it's back to the N.H.L. now. Trade deadline, playoff races and my Leafs continuing to suck.
I guess I'll roll my Canada flag back around the hockey stick until I need it again.






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