Friday, March 11, 2005

Boltsmag on Southeast Division All Time Best Players

Yesterday, I completed a series of posts on the best all time players of each team that is currently in the NHL. My choices for the Southeast Division are here. Boltsmag responds to my choices here. He disagrees with a few of my choices.

I responded to him briefly as a comment on his blog. Here is my responce:

Interesting comments. I will address them in some detail in a further post on my blog - probably tomorrow (Friday). I think the disagreement comes down to how the all time best player is defined.

In principle, I would define it as the player who would produce the most cumulative value to his team over his tenure with the club to date (I refuse to project into the future because those projections are often wrong) above the level of the average replacement player.

I am vague on purpose with some of those terms. By cumulative value I mean some concept similar to “win shares” that Bill James has defined in baseball. However, I do not believe that hockey is a sport that can be statistically analyzed on the level baseball can to produce such a stat. Nevertheless, as fans we have a general idea who should have produced the most “cumulative value". And we can argue about our opinions on this. By the average replacement player, I mean quite literally the average guy floating around the NHL at the time. If the average forward scores 25 points a year with no significant contribution to defence or leadership etc, then a player only really contributes value to his team by being better than that level.

I posted my opinions so that we could discuss hockey. The good parts of hockey. I’m tired of the negativity of the lockout. If we can discuss the days past when this wasn’t always the case, I think this is a positive thing.

The choices he disagrees with are Atlanta Thrashers. I chose Ilya Kovalchuk. He chose Dany Heatley. Here are their cumulative stats to date with Atlanta:
Ilya Kovalchuk GP-227 G-108 A-97 Pts-205 PIM-148
Dany Heatley GP-190 G-80 A-101 Pts-181 PIM-132

So Kovalchuk has played more games (due in a large part to Heatley missing much of last year due to his car crash) and scored 35% more goals and slightly over 13% more points. So I stand by my choice that Kovalchuk has produced more value for Atlanta then Heatley has. That may or may not change in the future - but I'm not going to gaze into my murky crystal ball - I'm only reporting my opinion based on events that have actually occurred.

He also disagrees with my choice of Robert Svehla as the Florida Panthers best player. He selects John Vanbiesbrouck. The comparison is not as simple since they play very different positions. Vanbiesbrouck was a very valuable goalie who was their number one goalie for 5 seasons, including one run to the Stanley Cup finals. Svehla was probably the best defender on the team for his entire run with the squad. He was there for 7 complete seasons plus 5 games in 1994/95. He had a longer run as a frontline player with the team. Svehla is the all time asists leader for the Panthers franchise. He has been one of the offensive leaders in history club history from defence. Svehla may not have been as valuable in a single season as Vanbiesbrouck was, but I think he contributed more in his whole run with the team.

His final disagreement is my choice of Vincent LeCavalier as the best player in Tampa Bay history (being as he has a Tampa Bay based blog I have to take this opinion very seriously). He thinks both Brad Richards and Martin St Louis are more valuable. We will compare career stats with Tampa Bay
Vincent LeCavalier GP-467 G-146 A-181 Pts-327 PIM-284
Brad Richards GP-326 G-84 A-193 Pts-277 PIM-63
Martin St Louis GP-295 G-105 A-134 Pts-239 PIM-88

So Vinny has played more and scored more. Hence he has been more valuable so far in franchise history. Thats not to say that St Louis wasn't more valuable last year in the regular season or that Richards wasn't more valuable last year in the playoffs. And that is not a prediction for the future. Its merely an opinion on the past.

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