Thursday, June 30, 2005

AHL Re-Alignment

This season was a great year for the AHL. The NHL lockout meant that several players who should be in the NHL were starring in the AHL. After the season was over, several teams ceased operation and several more new teams were brought in in their place. Next season, the AHL divisions will be as follows:

East Conference

Atlantic Division

Albany River Rats
Hartford Wolf Pack
Lowell Lock Monsters
Manchester Monarchs
Portland Pirates
Providence Bruins
Springfield Falcons

East Division

Binghamton Senators
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Hershey Bears
Norfolk Admirals
Philadelphia Phantoms
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Western Conference

North Division

Cleveland Barons
Grand Rapids Griffins
Hamilton Bulldogs
Manitoba Moose
Rochester Americans
Syracuse Crunch
Toronto Marlies

West Division

Chicago Wolves
Houston Aeros
Iowa Stars
Milwaukee Admirals
Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights
Peoria Rivermen
San Antonio Rampage

Note: I will be away for the weekend, in part to see the Live 8 concert.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hall of Fame Monitor: Who Should Make The Hall?

After several posts about sabermetrics and hockey and about Pnep's Hall of Fame Monitor, I have not addressed the important question. Who should make the Hall of Fame?

According to this Hall of Fame Monitor, the five most qualified players who will be eligible in the next induction group (2006) are:

1. Patrick Roy 3235.65 points - This is a no brainer choice. He is arguably the best goalie of all time. He will be an easy choice for induction.

2. Tom Barrasso 1245.01 points - I don't think he is a Hall of Famer. I think he is overrated on this list because he played on a very good team (Pittsburgh). Goalies who played on good teams are overrated by this system. Barrasso was a good goalie, but not a Hall of Fame level goalie.

3. Doug Gilmour 1215.71 points - He is another Hall of Fame calibre player who will be in his first year of eligibility. I think he might be a tad underrated by this system since his defensive ability is lost by this formula.

4. Mark Howe 1208.32 points - I would have inducted him this year. I have no idea why he has been overlooked this long.

5. Pavel Bure 1179.55 points - Assuming he does not play next year, he will be eligible for induction. I think his career was too short. I don't think he should be inducted. Of course, after this year's Cam Neely mistake I could see his receiving an induction. Bure is afterall far more qualified then Neely. I think we should admit Neely was a mistake and not make further mistakes because he lowered the bar to allow all players who have 3 or 4 really good seasons and no further career in the Hall.

This is a pretty good list of candidates. So for the most part the monitor works. Though I does overrate Barrasso.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hall of Fame Monitor: Calibration Between Different Positions

Over the past few days I have posted Pnep's Hall of Fame Monitor for forwards, defenders and goaltenders. The major problems that comes next is calibrating these different positions so that there is no advantage or disadvantage in a hall of fame monitor statistics for playing a given position. You want the top players to be a healthy mix of all positions. You want dominant players in all positions to have equal chance to rise to the top. You want lesser players in all positions to also get to their appropriate ranking.

In Pnep's system this problem has already been solved. He has tailored the monitor fomulas so that they roughly work out to have an appropriate mix od players in all positions. Of course, he created some inconsistencies in this process. For example, goalies get 250 points for winning a Hart trophy, defenders get 175 points and forwards get 150 points. How is that fair? The same achievement has different value depending upon position. Another example. Defenders get points for games played. Neither forwards nor goalies do. These inconsistencies will have to be fixed to improve this system.

As a rough guess, the top 20 players should include 12 forwards, 6 defenders and 2 goalies since that is the number of each position usually dressed in a hockey game. This is only a rough first guess, but lets compare it with the results of the Hall of Fame monitor formula. The top 20 players by the formulas are:

1. Wayne Gretzky 8827.02 Forward
2. Gordie Howe 6171.61 Forward
3. Ray Bourque 4664.82 Defender
4. Mario Lemieux 4586.35 Forward
5. Jean Beliveau 4253.44 Forward
6. Phil Esposito 4096.48 Forward
7. Bobby Orr 4037.97 Defender
8. Maurice Richard 3829.98 Forward
9. Bobby Hull 3671.88 Forward
10. Stan Mikita 3583.61 Forward
11. Doug Harvey 3467.36 Defender
12. Jaromir Jagr 3237.64 Forward
13. Patrick Roy 3235.65 Goalie
14. Dominik Hasek 3221.51 Goalie
15. Glenn Hall 3155.64 Goalie
16. Guy Lafleur 3060.04 Forward
17. Jacques Plante 3036.02 Goalie
18. Mark Messier 3030.49 Forward
19. Paul Coffey 2958.37 Defender
20. Red Kelly 2925.27 Defender

This gives us 11 forwards, 5 defenders and 4 goalies. Thats pretty close to the initial guess, so it could be somewhat accurate. I think the excess of goalies is explanable. Goalies can dominate a game more than any other position.

The ultimate calibration for a formula like this is to compare the totals for all players on a team in the season to the standings that year. The totals for the best team should be the highest and as we drop in the standings, the totals should get progressively lower. To the best of my knowledge, no such comparison has ever been attempted but I doubt it would turn out well. For example if a Hart trophy winner (or other major award) came from any team that was not first in the standings, those points would likely cause that team to be overrated significantly in the standings. Also, high scoring teams would do better than low scoring defensive teams with equivalent positions in the standings.

Pnep's hall of fame monitor is a good first try. It highlights roughly the best players of all time. It can get their order wrong (Bobby Orr is definitely too low). It has some arbitrary values for the same stats between different positions in order to try to calibrate between different positions. It requires the input of voters (who may be wrong) as it includes the winners of trophies in the point schemes. Its a good start and interesting to look at, but I don't think it is in anyway definitive and players may be siginificantly misvalued due to some biases in the formulas (short careers, defensive players get underrated).

Monday, June 27, 2005

Tampa Bay Under the New CBA

John Fontana who runs the Boltsmag blog on the Tampa Bay Lightning has been more supportive of the owners throughout the lockout then most members of the hockey blogosphere. He wrote a post here which basically outlines his hopes for how the Tampa Bay Lightning could turn out to be a good team under the new CBA. A discussion followed (I am the Greg involved in the discussion) where I pointed out that it is unfair that Tampa should have to rebuild their fan base and struggle to remain a good team when they have already built a great team that had the potential to be a truly dominant one. I thought this was an interesting discussion and linked to in on Friday here. Tom Benjamin also thought it was interesting and commented on it here. John was very upset at these comments and posted this response.

These facts are clear. Tampa Bay expanded into the NHL in 1992. At first they struggled both on the ice and in terms of attendance. During their time at or near the bottom, they managed to accumulate a lot of good young talent. These players matured and the team exploded to the top of the NHL. They won the Stanley Cup in 2004. The team had attendance around the middle of the pack in the NHL during their Stanley Cup winning season. With the publicity from a successful Stanley Cup run, they looked poised to have a huge peak in attendance and revenues in the future as the team continued to dominate. They had a great core that had a legitimate shot at becoming a dynasty. This could have established Tampa Bay as one of the biggest players in the NHL.

Then the unthinkable happened. The NHL shut itself down the next season. That killed a lot of the momentum from the Stanley Cup. When the NHL finally gets going again, it will be under very different rules. These rules will force the good teams (like Tampa Bay) to be broken up to stay under salary caps. These rules look to make Martin St. Louis, Nikolai Khabibulen, Dave Andreychuk, Jassen Cullimore and others available to the highest bidder. It is possible that Tampa will keep some of these players, but they have no legitimate chance of keeping all of them. There are a handful of teams in similar situations (Ottawa for example is another), but none are in as questionable a market as Tampa (that is NOT to say that Tampa should not be in the NHL. That is to say that any other team that looks to be forced to give up significant players in their prime is in a more traditional hockey market that has consistently had a stronger fanbase than Tampa has). Tampa has gone from a great team (poised to dominate for years) to a team that will likely remain good (though that is not a given) and had the momentum of their Stanley Cup victory killed. Instead of establishing Tampa as a top hockey market where fans became hooked on the game during the years Tampa dominated the NHL, Tampa hopes to remain a decent team with no shot at true dominance (and likely a poor shot at repeating as champion).

In a worst case scenario, Tampa Bay will struggle after the lockout. This could kill the Tampa Bay fanbase. It will look to them like the NHL conspired to wreck the Tampa Bay team (and that will be at least partially true). A similar situation happened in another sport with the Montreal Expos. They had the best record in baseball and mid-level attendance in 1994 when the baseball strike killed the World Series that they had a very good chance at winning. Montreal fans never really came back and the team moved to Washington, D.C. Even if the situation is not quite that extreme, it could be like the Toronto Blue Jays who won the World Series in 1992 and 1993 and were pulling down a league leading attendance. Now the team has approximately half the attendance and is struggling to keep up with the "big boys" in the AL East. The Tampa Bay fanbase is very likely to be seriously hurt by the lockout. Likely, they will be hurt more seriously than any other market in the NHL (disagree? who will be hurt worse?).

This situation is a bit different, there will be a salary cap in the new NHL. That will help Tampa won't it? Maybe. However if Tampa's attendance struggles, they may have a hard time meeting the NHL salary floor. They certainly won't be able to pay anywhere near the cap in salaries (there are several teams in this situation right now). If Tampa is a forgotten market it will be hard to draw any elite free agents. There won't be significant advertising money for superstar players in a market like that. Players won't be drawn to play because they think the team is going to give them a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

Will this happen? Its hard to say. It is extremely likely that Tampa will instantly go from a great team to a hopefully good (not bad) team through the lockout. The difference between great and not bad is huge. It will make a huge difference to the revenues and attendance of the Tampa Bay team. Tampa Bay will be adversely affected. Tampa Bay will likely be the team that suffers the most from this lockout. Their chance at dominace is gone. That fact will likely turn off a significant portion of the Tampa Bay fans that had been won with their Stanley Cup run.

Hopefully, Tampa Bay will remain a good team after the lockout. Being a good team is a far cry from the great team they had in 2004.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Pnep's Hall of Fame Monitor for Goaltenders

In my look at sabermetrics and hockey, so far I have presented a hall of fame monitor for forwards and defenders. These formulas were first presented by pnep on

Goaltenders are the hardest of the three positions to evaluate statistically. Most goalie stats are strongly biased by the team the goalie plays on. Good teams win lots of games, yet wins are considered a key goalie stats. Teams that allow few shots and few good scoring chances tend to have goalies with lots of shutouts and low goals against averages. These stats which are highly team dependant are used to evaluate goalies. Even saves percentage is biased by the team the goalie plays on. If a team allows lots of low quality shots, their goalie will tend to have a high saves percentage. Further, GAA's and saves percentages of goalies have changed dramatically in different eras of the NHL. Its not easy to analyze goalie stats in any meaningful way, but nevertheless here is pnep's attempt.

His hall of fame monitor formula for goalies is:

"HHOF Monitor" formula for Goalies =
Adjusted Wins/5 +
Adjusted (W-L)/2 +
2* Adjusted PO Wins +
Cup - 50 pts +
Final - 25 pts +
All Star Games - 20 pts +
Calder - 150 pts +
Calder Runner Up - 70 pts +
1 ALL STAR TEAM - 125 pts +
2 ALL STAR TEAM - 100 pts +
Vezina - 100 pts +
Vezina Runner Up - 75 pts +
Jennings - 50 pts +
Jennings Runner Up - 30 pts +
Conn Smythe - 200 pts +
LESTER PEARSON - 300 pts +
Hart - 250 pts +
Hart Runner Up - 200 pts

Shutouts, GAA and saves percentage are for the most part ignored in this formulation. The highly team dependant stats of wins and losses are used. This will lead to selection of goalies who played on good teams. Wins and losses are adjusted for length of season. The first two lines of this formula effectively give us adjusted wins * 0.7 - adjusted losses * 0.5. Good goalies who played on great teams for long periods of tgime will benefit the most. Goalies on weaker teams will be underrepresented. Again, there is strong weight given to award winners and all star appearances. This is including other people's opinions, when sometimes those opinions are incorrect. Trophies are worth more for goalies then they are for position players. All star game appearances are included for goalies when they are not for position players. Also, it is interesting how the Jennings and Vezina trophies are treated. Until 1981, the Vezina trophy was given to the goalie(s) on the team with the berst goals against average. In 1982, they started up the Jennings trophy for this and began voting for the Vezina winners. Winning a Jennings trophy in 1982 is worth half of a Vezina trophy in 1981 (despite the fact they were effectively the same thing). This is probably done to give points to earlier era goalies, but it is a clear discrepancy. This kind of problem comes from assigning points to trophy winners instead of assigning points for play on the ice only (sometimes the points on the ice should show that the person who won the award was not the most deserving candidate). Again, these formulations are going to benefit goalies who held on after their primes were over and played long careers. Retired players get no points, but equivalent players who did not retire and are hanging on beyond their useful years still will accumulate points.

Here are the top 10 goalies of all time by this formulation:

1. Patrick Roy 3235.65
2. Dominik Hasek 3221.51
3. Glenn Hall 3155.64
4. Jacques Plante 3036.20
5. Terry Sawchuk 2756.29
6. Ken Dryden 2564.97
7. Frank Brimsek 2083.45
8. Bill Durnan 2049.78
9. Martin Brodeur 1966.82
10. Tony Esposito 1802.66

In order to get on this list, it is OK to be a goalie who played a short career, as long as you played on an elite team. There are two biases on tghis list. Long careers and great teams. A better sabermetric analysis would do a better job of remove these two biases. Nevertheless, this is a list of ten very good goalies.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Many Players Accepting Defeat In CBA Negotiations

There are about 700 players in the NHL and about 700 different opinions of the lockout and the CBA negotiations. I have written before that there are players afraid the lockout is soon ending because it looks like they lost a year only to wind up accepting a Gary Bettman's dream CBA (salary cap, linked to payrolls, 24% rollback in salarties etc.). Of course thats not the only position that some players hold. Many players just love hockey and want to play. They were willing to play in other leagues last year for less money then they ever could have expected to receive in ther NHL. If necessary, they are willing to do it again, but they would much rather have the NHL return.

This opinion is summed up in a quote by Jay McKee of the Buffalo Sabres:

It's easy to be the general after the war, and you can always look back and say, 'What if?' or 'Maybe, we should've. I'll stand behind our executive committee 100 per cent, whether we get the best deal in the world or a deal we're shaking our heads at. I just want to get back out there.

There are owners who hear things like this and get very exicited. Now, it should be possible to set up a system that keeps even more money in their pockets and allows them to get these players cheap. This was what they always wanted and now it looks possible. As a result, the owners are likely to get a CBA very favorable to their causes (getting even richer).

In this game, its Bob Goodenow and the NHLPA executive committee's job to save the players from those among them who are willing to play next year in the NHL regardless of how unfavorable the CBA turns out to be. Their job is to make sure the players get their fair share. In some cases they may want to leave loopholes that allow them significantly more money then is expected by owners.

In the end, as a fan, I don't care who gets what money. I just wish they would shut the hell up about it. What I do care about is the system set up in the NHL. I don't care who makes money in it. I only care that we get to see the highest level of hockey possible. In fact here is what I want from my pro hockey league. I am very concerned that the new NHL will not have all the best players in the world. I think several of them (possibly starting with Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin) will stay in Europe where they can make more than they can under the entry level restrictions the NHL will put forth and where they can live closer to their families. I am also very concerned that there will be very little continuity in this league from year to year. Large numbers of players will change teams via free agency and othert mechanisms. It will no longer be able to get attached to that hard working second line winger on your club because he wont be there next year. Under a worst case scenario, player movement could get as high as in the AHL. I don't think the new NHL will be as good for fans as the previous one. I hope to be proven wrong (but i doubt I will). The owners will get what they want in this new CBA. Sometimes it can be a curse to get exactly what you want, if things don't work out properly, there is nobody to blame but yourselves (yet based on their recent history there will be no shortage of people for the owners to blame if that happens - and no shortage of fans to believe those owners).

Friday, June 24, 2005

How Will Tampa Bay Survive the Lockout?

When the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, they were a good young team poised to dominate the NHL for years to come. Unfortunately, that will never come to pass. They lost the chance to repeat as champions in 2005, when the season was lost. When hockey does come back, it looks like they will likely have to deal with top goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis becoming unrestricted free agents (and leaving? It will be very hard to keep them under a salary cap). They may lose other depth guys who were important to their cup run to the salary cap as well. In a southern market that is not a traditional hockey town, this could be devastating. Will the fans come back if Tampa Bay is a much weaker team after the lockout? I don't know. I am upset that this market will have to deal with this unneccessary stress.

Here is a discussion on the Tampa Bay Lightning weblog Boltsmag on this topic.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pnep's Hall of Fame Monitor for Defenders

On Tuesday, I presented pnep's hall of fame monitor for forwards. Its imperfect, but it is an interesting method to compare the careers of NHL forwards. Today, I will look at defencemen. Defenders are harder to rate because more of their value (when compared to forwards) is from defensive play, which is very hard to quantify. Nevertheless, here is the formula pnep presents.

"HHOF Monitor" formula for DEF =
Adj Games/10 +
Adj Pts/10 +
PO Games +
PO Pts +
Top 5 DEF in Goals after Season - 5 pts +
Top 10 in Assist after Season - 15 pts +
Top 5 DEF in Assist after Season - 5 pts +
Top 10 in PTS after Season - 30 pts +
Top 5 DEF in PTS after Season - 5 pts +
# 1 in "+/-" after Season - 50 pts +
# 2 in "+/-" after Season - 35 pts +
Cup - 50 pts +
Final - 25 pts +
All Star Game - 20 pts +
HART - 175 pts +
HART Runner Up - 150 pts +
1 ALL STAR TEAM - 75 pts +
2 ALL STAR TEAM - 50 pts +
CALDER - 35 pts +
CALDER Runner Up - 20 pts +
CONN SMYTHE - 200 pts +
NORRIS - 150 pts +
NORRIS Runner UP - 125 pts +

When compared to the forwards, the first thing I notice is that several of the awards are worth more for defenders then they are for forwards (for example a Hart trophy is worth 175 points for defenders and is only worth 150 for forwards). Regular season points (adjusted by the Total Hockey method) are worth a lot less for defenders then they are for forwards (a factor of 5 times less). Defenders also get points for being in the top scorers among defenders but it is far less then forwards get. I suppose this might be necessary to keep the Paul Coffey type offensive defenders from running away fro the Doug Harvey types who were better overall players but played in their own zone a lot more. This large discrepancy seems rather arbitrary. It is even worse when playoff points are scored much higher then regular season points. Is a goal in a regular season game really worth one tenth what it is (after adjustment) that it is in the playoffs? That seems wrong. Further, unlike for forwards, merely having a game played is worth points for defencemen. Regular season games played are adjusted (the percentage of games played in the season multiplied by 82 games each year). This helps to account for the fact that earlier players played in less games in a season. This seems inconsistent. The discrepancy between playoffs and regular season remains. A playoff game is worth ten times a regular season game. This serves to make playing on a team that goes deep in the playoffs (and playing in the modern era of four playoff rounds) very important. A good player on a weaker team that does not have playoff success will fail according to this formula. Defencemen also get points for +/- ratings (which have only existed for a little over 30 years). Being one of the top two defenders in +/- is worth points. In order to finish high, a defender must play on a top team. Teams that allow more goals then they score will not have the top +/- players in the league. Again, the problem that scores are cumulative meaning players who had long careers will put up points when they hang on with little value to their team, but an equivalent player who retires young stops gathering points. Also, I think the problem of rating defensive players in highlighted by this method since questionable stats like games played and +/- are used for defenders (but not for forwards) and the problem of calibration with forwards is also highlighted since points or trophy winning has different values for forwards and defenders. Another problem that needs highlighting is that other people's opinions are used in this ranking. Trophy winning is based on voting by people who sometimes make mistakes. A good sabermetric theory should be able to say who should have won the trophy instead of requiring the input of the potentially flawed vote. Nevertheless, it is an interesting effort. Lets look at the top 10 defenders by this formula.

1. Ray Bourque 4664.82
2. Bobby Orr 4037.97
3. Doug Harvey 3467.36
4. Paul Coffey 2958.37
5. Red Kelly 2925.27 (Kelly is rated as a defender although he played about half his career as a forward)
6. Denis Potvin 2618.40
7. Al MacInnis 2491.13
8. Nicklas Lidstrom 2473.00
9. Pierre Pilotte 2411.71
10. Chris Chelios 2331.12

I feel that this list is far worse then the top 10 forwards list. That goes beyond the problem of rating Red Kelly as a defender when he played as a forward part of his career. I think any list of defenders that does not conclude that Bobby Orr is the best ever reached an incorrect conclusion. In this case, Orr is underrated because his career was too short. Also, I think the fact that Eddie Shore did not make this list is also incorrect. He's one of the 3 or 4 best defenders of all time, But in this time when careers were shorter in length and less trophies existed and there were less playoff games in a season, players are underrated by these types of formulas.

This is an interesting attempt. It came up with ten very good defenders, but this list is not a realistic list of the ten best defenders of all time in order. This showcases how hard sabermetrics and hockey can be, especially when we try to rate defensive play.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Idiot Proof NHL

Al Strachan writes that the NHL is trying to produce an idiot-proof league with its new CBA. They want to create a league where no matter how poorly run a franchise is, it will still be successful both financially and on the ice. Probably the reality is that if you make something idiot proof, they come up with a better idiot. Teams will find new ways to lose on the ice and lose money under any CBA. Isn't the real problem that the people in charge of the NHL are idiots? Shouldn't that be what is being fixed? Instead they try to set up a system where even an idiot can succeed. Don't idiot proof - replace the idiots with qualified people.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

One Hall of Fame Monitor for Forwards

One interest of mine is sabermetrics and hockey. I am interested in how much can be learned by applying statistical methods and common sense to the hockey statistical record. I think that the most important thing that must be kept in mind during these calculations is the uncertainties and errors that go into these calculations. Certainly, some can be learned, but we must always keep in mind that this is not an exact theory and if a calculation says player X was better than player Y, it may be because player Y was underrated by the formula or player X was overrated.

With that disclaimer, lets look at what has been attempted to rate players. This is something that is often done to shed light on arguments about which player was better or which players belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame. One example attempting this was put on hfboards by a poster called pnep. He has different formulas to rank forwards, defencemen and goalies. As a result, it leaves open the question of how to compare between these different positions and how to rank players (such as Mark Howe, Phil Housley or King Clancy) who spent some time playing in more than one position.

Nevertheless, let's look at his forward formula. Here it is:
"HHOF Monitor" formula for LW,C,RW =
Adjusted PTS/2 +
Top 10 in Goals after Season - 5 pts +
# 1 in Goals after Season - 75 pts +
# 2 in Goals after Season - 50 pts +
Top in 10 Assists after Season - 5 pts +
# 1 in Assists after Season - 75 pts +
# 2 in Assists after Season - 50 pts +
Top 10 in PTS after Season - 5 pts +
# 1 in PTS after Season - 75 pts +
# 2 in PTS after Season - 50 pts +
# 1 in "+/-" after Season - 35 pts +
# 2 in "+/-" after Season - 25 pts +
Cup - 50 pts +
Final - 25 pts +
All Star Game - 20 pts +
HART - 150 pts +
HART Runner Up - 100 pts +
BYNG - 75 pts +
BYNG Runner Up - 50 pts +
1 ALL STAR TEAM - 75 pts +
2 ALL STAR TEAM - 50 pts +
CALDER - 35 pts +
CALDER Runner Up - 20 pts +
SELKE - 30 pts +
SELKE Runner Up - 20 pts +
CONN SMYTHE - 150 pts +

Adjusted points are calculated by the Total Hockey method. Notice that playoffs are very strongly emphasized. Playoff points (which are not adjusted in this formula) are worth double regular season points and team success such as winning the Stanley Cup or going to the finals are worth points. This will bias this formula to players who played with good teammates and thus had playoff success (example: Glenn Anderson) and against players who played on poor teams (example: Dale Hawerchuk). Further, this formula is biased toward modern day players because they play more games in the playoffs (and thus have a better chance of scoring playoff points) and also because the awards listed have not existed throughout the entire NHL (Pearson and Selke are the newest ones). This formula is also highly dependant upon other people's opinions. Much of a top player's point total will come from winning awards and making all star teams. The best player in the league may not win these awards. Sometimes the selection processes fail and come up with less deserving winners. An ideal formula would not require this. An ideal formula would be able to determine who should have won awards in a given season and not need any input from who the voters for fdifferent awards chose. Another problem is that any contribution made on the ice (aside from scoring) is very hard to measure and for the most part ignored in this formula. As a result, players with high defensive value will be underrated and players who scored well but had little value beyond their offense will be overrated. My final complaint is that totals are cumulative. If a player hangs around with marginal value for his team, he will continue gathering points, when a similarly able player retires and gets left behind. With all those complaints, this is an erxample of the "state of the art" in hockey sabermetrics at this point.

Here ared the top 10 forwards of all time by this method:
1. Wayne Gretzky 8827.02
2. Gordie Howe 6171.61
3. Mario Lemieux 4586.35
4. Jean Beliveau 4253.44
5. Phil Esposito 4096.48
6. Maurice Richard 3829.98
7. Bobby Hull 3671.88
8. Stan Mikita 3583.61
9. Jaromir Jagr 3237.64
10. Guy Lafleur 3060.04

Only NHL stats are used in these calculations (even though Gretzky, Howe and Hull played WHA).

Are these the top ten forwards in NHL history? Probably not. But it is one guess. There are many other ways to attempt to answer this question. Some of them may be more meaningful than this one and others may be less meaningful. If the same names keep on appearing at the top they are likely the best forwards in NHL history. When discrepancies occur between various methods, we can look further to investigate these discrepancies. Of course, the possibility exists that all methods haved the same bias and will overrate the same players and underrate the same others.

In the future, I will look at defencemen and goalies and the problem of calibrating their different totals and other attempts to answer this question (that others have tried). Finally, I will lay out what I would use as a method (were it possible) and explain why it is not possible at this time. Hopefully, these topics will fill most of the dog days of summer when there is little else to report upon in the hockey scene.

Monday, June 20, 2005

New GMs Named

There are some more signs that the NHL expects to end the lockout before next season. Teams are naming new GMs. Anaheim announced former Vancouver Canuck GM Brian Burke will be there GM. Burke is one of the best GMs out there and should lead the Ducks to respectability. Chicago called a press conference where they will name Dale Tallon their current assistant GM to be their GM. Coincidentally, Tallon has a Canuck tie as well, as he was the first Vancouver amateur draft pick ever. Tallon has been a longtime Chicago executive. He's not likely to be much of a GM, but he has shown an ability to be a "yes-man" for Chicago owner Bill Wirtz and Bob Pulford.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

This Isn't How You Sell The Blues

TSN is reporting that Walmart heir Bill Laurie is attempting to sell the St. Louis Blues. He purchased the team and their arena the Savvis Center (formerly the Kiel Center) for a reported $100 million in 1999. Their ultimite goal was to bring NBA basketball to St. Louis and share the Savvis Center with the Blues. They tried unsuccessfully to bring the Vancouver Grizzlies to St. Louis, before the Grizzlies eventually settled in Memphis. The hockey team may have been looked at as a necessary acquisition to get the arena and never something that Laurie truly wanted to purchase.

After waiting a year through a lockout where no NHL hockey was played, Laurie is announcing that the Blues are for sale. Speaking on Laurie's behalf, Blues president Mark Sauer says:

Substantial future losses are projected even if you take into account what we believe will be a very successful resolution to NHL collective bargaining. Those projected losses result from the current high sales and amusement taxes and the absence of city, county and state financial support of the debt service and operations of Savvis Center.

It seems ridiculous that any team would have been willing to lockout players for an entire year and forced in a new Central Bargaining Agreement that is beginning to look like the restrictive system they always wanted to increase their profits, to still argue that they cannot make money under this system. Were that really true, the St. Louis Blues should be moved or folded. It seems ridiculous that anyone who seriously wanted to sell their franchise, would make any statements like that.

Probably the real agenda is within Sauer's statement. He rails against high taxes and the lack of financial support from the government. What Laurie really wants is money from the government. The St. Louis Rams football team have been offered significant government support to lure them from Los Angeles. The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team are receiving government support in building their new baseball stadium. Where are the similar handouts for the Blues? If they make enough noise, maybe they will get some. Or less likely, if they can seriously convince St. Louis that they may lose their NHL team, somebody will step in with significant money for Laurie to "save" the St. Louis Blues. I am willing to bet that if Laurie sells the team it will not be at a cut rate, it will be for a profit.

Here is an interesting conversation on this topic in Tom Benjamin's blog.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Daryl Shilling Adjusted Scoring Stats

On Monday, I wrote about Total Hockey's Adjusted Goals/Assists/Points calculation. Their method is in no way unique. Another similar method is used by Daryl Shilling in his hockey project.

He adjusts for the same three factors. They are rate of scoring in the season, length of schedule and approximate playing time. These are not necessarily the only factors one might attempt to correct for. One might attempt to correct for quality of opposition (for example applying this method to a pee wee league would probably produce that false result that some kid in that league is equivalent to Wayne Gretzky) or amount of power play/ shorthanded time (since scoring chances increase on the power play and decrease shorthanded) or any other number of effects that one might imagine are important.

In order to correct for the amount of offence in the league, Daryl does roughly the same thing Total Hockey does. He calculates the goals per game in the season in question after subtracting those goals scored by the player in question. Then he multiplies the players actual goals scored by the "average" goals per game in NHL history divided by the normalized goals per game (goals per game subtracting the player in question) for that season. The only difference is that daryl defines the average goals per game to be 6.13, which is close to the NHL's average.

In order to correct for the number of games in the schedule he does exactly the same thing as Total Hockey. He takes the corrected value so far and he multiplies by 82 games played divided by the number of games played in ther league in the season in question and then multiplies by the percentage of the schedule the player in question played.

The major difference between the two methods is the way he adjusts for playing time. Daryl assumes that the player in question is the star of his team and will have his playing time maximimized. Total Hockey merely multiplies by the ratio of roster sizes, which is closest to correct for the "average" player but likely there has been little change in playing time for superstar players despite the roster increases of the last 50 years or so from 15 to 18 skaters. Daryl uses an empirical formula of his own design. He assumes that the average ice time is about 30 minutes per game and divides this by (5/# of skaters dressed per game * 100). This is his approximate value for the amount of ice time a player. It gives almost 28 minutes per game in today's 18 skater NHL. Thus ice time assumption will fail if we attempt this calculation with any player who does not actually get superstar ice time. Ideally, we would want to use the actual ice time that the player actually played per game - but for most of the NHL history, this number has been lost.

If we establish as good a formula as possible to adjust scoring stats, we can attempt to do sabermetrics calculations with hockey. We must notice that this adjusted scoring calculation is NOT exact. It is at best an approximation and it leaves out many possibly significant effects. Any study done using these types of formuals is, at best, only as good as the formula used. As a result, all calculations attempted from this starting point will be approximate and may leave out some important effects.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Olympic Bone

Hockey Rodent writes about how the NHL have used the Olympics as a bargaining chip with the players. Both sides probably want NHL players in the Olympics, but the NHL pretended they didn't so that they could concede on that point in exchange for NHLPA concessions. I buy this as a plausible argument.

It seems clear that the NHL public relations machine is using the Olympics to throw a bone to the Canadian hockey mad public. The Canadian press is full of articles like this about Wayne Gretzky being general manager of the team. He's a great figurehead, who did try to take the pressure of the players in the last Olympics, but you or I or any other knowledgable fan could pick a team. Even if we didn't havbe exactly the same choices, the discrepancies wouldn't be too significant. There is even an article here trying to pick the players who will be on Team Canada. That is a bit of a crapshoot at this point. Many players proposed have not played hockey at a high level in over a year. The younger rising stars who have been ignored (because we don't know who they are) are going to be a couple years more developed. The older established players will be a couple years older still. I predict that several "no brainer" selections at this point fail to make the team when they do not play at their previous levels and are replaced by people who are not yet on the radar who fly out of the gate when the NHL returns.

Nothing much is happening in hockey. The Olympics are months away. But the hockey writers in hockey deprived Canada get something to write about. The NHL threw them a bone. The remaining hockey mad fans get something to talk about.

For another look in the less hockey mad regions of the world. I cannot find any articles whatsoever about the US Olympic hockey team. Do any exist? Is that not the NHL's problem and the reason for this lockout in a nutshell?

How real is this bone anyway? Bob McKenzie writes this about the Olympics:

In the meantime, we'll get dribs and drabs of information that may or may not prove to be accurate.

Take NHL participation in the Olympics, for instance.

Yes, the league and the players' association will agree to that, but if IOC president Jean Jacques Rogge isn't as accommodating as his predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch was in regards to insurance coverage and tickets and accommodations for players and their families, well, it sort of takes us back to where we started.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How are the CBA negotiations going?

I'm largely skeptical about the positive reports about the CBA bargaining. There are two stories today that a quite consistent with the fact that both sides think they will be playing again soon without too much more nasitiness. First, the NHL is ordering smaller goalie equiment. This is putting their money where their mouth is. Its probably a safe move in that whenever hockey returns goalie equipment will be smaller. This move (unlike many the NHL wants to make) is good for hockey. Also, the talks to make the NHLPA a union in BC have been postponed. This is clearly a sign that both sides are engaged in the process of bargaining and don't want to waste too much energy doing things that will only serve to anger one another.

All that said, I would be suprised if there are not a couple significant monkey wrenches thrown into the central bargaining process before it is all over. I'm not convinced that the final CBA will look exactly like many media sources are reporting. This is merely a provisional agreement. Until a document is signed, nothing is actually agreed upon. At any point, any "agreed upon" CBA portion can become re-opened if either side wants. At any point, either side can decide that this agreement they are working on is not right and scrap it. I bet the final CBA is different from exactly what is being reported right now. That said, I bet we have NHL hockey next year.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Does Hockey Need Some PhD's

Today, my blog was noticed by a non-hockey blogger (for the first time in my knowledge). Here is the post that came up on He writes:

The state of statistical analysis in hockey is utterly maddening. Think about the key statistic in baseball: the batting average. Did you ever hear a ballplayer being judged by the absolute number of hits he gets (unless it's a lot)? Yet in hockey, a player who plays seven minutes a game is routinely described by his "15 goal season" or "he only has six goals in the first half." Some supposed superstars are on the ice 30 minutes a game. Shouldn't we be looking at "points per minute played"?

There is a very good reason that statistics in hockey are not as well advanced as baseball. The problem is that much of what goes on in a hockey game is undocumentable in any meaningful statistical manner. As an example, lets make up the circumstances that take place in a short period of a hockey game. For argument's sake we will make this a Calgary vs Tampa Bay game where lineups exist as they were in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals. I doubt that this actually happened in any game it is merely an example. Ruslan Fedotenko has the puck in the center ice zone and dumps it into the calgary zone high and on the boards. Miikka Kiprusoff comes out behind his net to play the dump in, but it gets by him. Mike Commodore picks the puck up for Calgary in the corner. He tries to dump it out of the zone quickly before being flattened by a bodycheck by Brad Richards. Commodore's pass out of the zone is knocked down at the blue line by Daryl Sydor. Now no statistics were recorded during this play at all. Yet, a lot happened. If that much occurred in a baseball game, plenty of players would gather some kind of statistic. This kind of play is makes up most of a hockey game. Most of what goes on in a hockey game is undocumented statistically. For the most part, statistics are only recorded when a goal is scored and this only occurs five or six times a game on average.

There have been a few attempts to gather "real time" statistics on other events in games. The NHL used to record hits, giveaways, takeaways etc. but has discontinued this process (at least publically). These numbers were not particularly useful because there was little uniformity between what constituted a "giveaway" or a "hit" in different stadiums throughout the league. Even with these stats, there is little idea what to do with that number (or even if that number correlated with being a good player - as an example to lead the league in giveaways a player must have the puck a lot and try to do creative things with it - in general only offensive stars get a lot of giveaways.)

Now the point made is that possibly we should record goals per minute of ice time as opposed to total goals. Would this be useful to do? In general, the only players who get a relatively high goal total in limited ice time are players who offer little but goal scoring ability. Such a player would be a defensive liability to use except in situations such as power plays where the team will press for goals. Does that actually prove what is intended? Probably not. Nevertheless, it is a useful exercize. It is a useful thing to look at NHL statistics such as they exist in a different light.

Hockey cannot expect to have as deep a statistical record as baseball does. Therefore it cannot have as succesful a sabermetric theory. There are questions which can be answered with some certainty (although there are error bars that must be taken into account with any result). These questions include what was the best goal scoring season of all time (which one could attempt to use the adjusted goals I discuss yesterday). This would not show us who is the best goal scorer - it may tell us who had the best linemates setting him up (for example).

But it's what a modern game needs to make the office pools worth playing, to provide the kind of white-collar, armchair-expert discourse that keeps people talking. "Real guys" can also argue about cheap shot artists and acceptable hockey hair length if they want.

People need to understand hockey and be engaged by it. Because it is a fast game and is not constantly stopping (like football or baseball) it is a harder game to catch onto. This is easiest when people grow up with hockey. I think if there is a payoff for the southern NHL expansion it will occur when the current young fans who (for example) remember the Tampa Bay Stanley Cup grow up and are old enough to buy tickets to games. This might be a 20 year (or so) time investment. It isn't a fast process.

Being engaged by hockey includes going to games. It includes watching games. It includes playing hockey. It includes playing fantasy hockey. All these need to be available. They are available (for the most part). There are many internet fantasy hockey leagues such as this one that I play in. However, I doubt that the statistics recorded in hockey are capable of answering analytical questions on the level of "What is the value of a stolen base?" in baseball. However, if smart people look at the statistical record and try to expand it, we might be suprised by what can be learned. I am very interested in the results of these studies, however, I think the possibilites are much more limited then in baseball.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Adjusted Goals/Assists/Points

In late May, I posted about sabermetrics and hockey. In it, I said I would further discuss the various hall of fame metrics (scores people have developed to determine if a given player is worthy of hall of fame induction). That is a big story. I figure I will break it into a few sabermetrics posts. The first one (today) will discuss the method that the book Total Hockey editted by James Duplacey and Dan Diamond developed to adjust goals, assists and points.

The motivation is that goals/assists/points are not the same from one season to the next. How does one go about comparing point totals from different eras? For example, is a 50 goal season in the sixties the same as a 70 goal season in the eighties? Dan Diamond has developed one method to attempt to compare this. In my 2nd edition of Total Hockey, he has calculated adjusted goal/assist and point totals for all the players who ever played in the NHL. I think that many people attempting to do sabermetrics with hockey use these numbers without trying to reproduce them. As much as i have tried, I cannot exactly reproduce them. I get close values but not exactly thec same value.

Diamond identifies three factors to adjust for. They are the rate of scoring in a given era, the number of games in a season and the amount of ice time players recieve. He attempts to adjust for the scoring rate by multiplying by the ratio of the average of the various season averages (which in 2000 when the book came out was 6.11213 goals per game) to the number of goals scored per game in that season. As an example, in 1952/53 Gordie Howe scored 49 goals. There were 4.7905 goals per game that year. So that gives 49*6.11213/4.7905=62.518 goals so far. (In fact, Total Hockey subtracts out the goals scored by the player in question when doing this calculation it is a minor adjustment that will make no difference to the example I am giving. It only matters in the very early years of the NHL - where for example Joe Malone scored 13% of all the goals in thew league that year). The next adjustment is for the number of games played in a season. This is done by expressing the number of games played by the player as a percentage of the season and multiplying by 82 (the current length of an NHL season). Gordie Howe playe all 70 games that season. So the next adjustment is 62.518*82/70=73.236 adjusted goals so far. The next adjustment is to factor in roster size. Today, 18 skaters play per team per game (plus goalies). In Gordie's day 16 skaters played per team. So that would give Gordie extrat ice time (in theory), Likely, the stars of that time played roughly as much as the stars of today. This adjustment is much nore important for the earliest days of hockey when roster sizes were much smaller. This adjustment is 73.236*16/18=65.099 adjusted goals by my calculation. Total Hockey quotes him as having 67 adjusted goals (they round off all calculations to the nearest integer). My calculations are always close to their value, but rarely are exactly the value in the book. I am not exactly sure of the problem.

I suspect that the problem MIGHT be due to the average number of goals per game, I suspect that when the first edition camer out they used the average goals per game that existed at that time. Scoring has since dropped in the NHL. I think when they did the calculations they used that value (which by reverse engineering would be roughly 6.24 or so goals per game). I think that when they re-wrote the adjusted scoring page in Total Hockey, they changed the average goals per game number to reflect thew years since the first edition, but they did not change any of the calculations to reflect this. I am not sure if I am correct.

The problem with the way this is presented in the Total Hockey book is that they do not give any numerical examples. They have a one page write-up explaning in words what they did and roughly their motivations. I had to try to do this numerical example. I cannot get it (or others I have tried) to work out exactly. They all come close to the correct value. If anybody has any insight into the discrepancies please leave me a message,

Of course this is not the only way to adjust scoring. In my next post on this tgopic, I will explain the method Daryl Shilling uses. It has the advantage that I can make the math work and he uses a numerical example. These methods can then be compared and contrasted and the general use of these types of methodws can be discussed.

NOTE: On Friday, I realized this calculation is slightly incorrect. In the 1952/53 season teams could dress 16 skaters for home games and 15 for road games. So I should use 15.5 as the number of skaters dressed per game. This would reduce Gordie's adjusted goals to 63 and increase the discrepancy with Total Hockey's calculation.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Players Under Contract for next year

Assuming that the 2004/05 season is negotiated away, so that year is removed from contracts, TSN has a list of players under contract for next year. Its not a large list. Most of the NHL will be free agents. It remains to be negotiated how many are unrestricted. Its not good for fans to have a lack of continuity like this. Its not good to have most of a team's roster available to jump to other NHL clubs.

Here is the list. I'm sure I will dissect in more in the future.

NOTE: It appears as of 1 PM CT Tuesday, TSN has taken down this link? Why? Does anyone have a copy of these players from when the link was up? Please drop me a message.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Philadelphia Phantoms win Calder Cup

Philadelphia has swept the Calder Cup finals defeating the Chicago Wolves in four straight. Unlike the previous three games this was not a defensive battle. Philadephia won it 5-2. The seven goals in this game equalled the total in the previous three games combined. This game was probably less exciting then the previous ones because it was not as close. In the second period, the Phantoms took a big 4-0 lead. Jon Sim scored two of those goals. Patrick Sharp scored a goal and had an assist. Ben Stafford scored the other. Chicago pressed hard in the third period. Steve Maltais scored early in the third. During a Chicago power play, the Wolves pulled their goalie. This backfired as Patrick Sharp scored for Philadelphia into the empty net. Chicago added one final goal from Lonny Bohonos, set up by Steve Maltais' hard work.

Philadelphia goalie Antero Niittymaki was named MVP of the playoffs. Congratulations to the Phantoms and their fans.

Why Valeri Kharlamov probably belongs in the hall of fame

...and why I did not support him in 2005.

Valeri Kharlamov was one of the 2005 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees. He is one of the best players in Russian history. In the 1972 Summit Series he was widely considered the most dangerous forward on the Soviet team. He is a two time top scorer in the Russian league who was very successful in international play. Unfortunatelt, he died young in a car crash at age 33, possibly reducing his career achievements.

There haved been many Russian players who have been top players in their league and in international play. This group includes Anatoli Firsov, Vladimir Vikulov, Boris Mikhailov, Alexander Maltsev, Sergei Makarov, Vladimir Krutov, Valery Vasiliev, Vsevolod Bobrov, Valeri Kharlamov and others. The question is how many of these guys should be in the hall of fame? Just how good were the stars in the Russian league? How well would they have done if they played in the NHL? How certain are we in these answers?

To start answering these questions, we can look at games played between Russian league players and NHL players. There were a few short series played, the 1972 Summint Series, the 1974 WHA-Russia series and a few Canada Cups are examples. These series were usually played at the beginning of the season. The Russian players were better conditioned and more familiar with one another then the NHL teams who were all star teams thrown together after the players had the summer off. In short series it is possible for a fluke to occur when a player gets hot or cold and plays significantly above or below their usual level. Some famous examples of flukes in Canada include Paul Henderson in 1972 and John Tonelli in 1984. These were both player below hall of fame ability who dominated international play. The Russian players were also less well socuted then any NHL player would be. There may (or may not) exist holes in their game that would have been exposed with more exposure. These series are useful, but they are far from perfect.

In some cases, we can look at crossover players who had significant careers in both Russia and the NHL. Slava Fetisov is one example of this and has made the Hall of Fame. Igor Larionov is another example who probably will make the Hall of Fame, but he is not yet eligible. At the same time, we should note other Russian stars such as Vladimir Krutov who came to the NHL and were abject failures.

I think the best method to determine approximately how many Russian league players should be in the hall of fame is by waiting and watching a generation or two of Russians in the NHL. If (for example) about 3 Russians per generation make the Hall of Fame based upon their NHL play, it is quite reasonable to assume that there were about 3 Russian players in the 1970's who were Hall of Fame quality.

We can also look at the Russian elite league stats to determine who the best Russian players were and see how they rank relative to those players we saw in the NHL. We need to bare in mind the differences between the Russian elite league and the NHL. Note that assist records are hard to come by (I haven't seen any complete assist records - if you know of any please leave me a message). Assists are not the same, unlike in the NHL where there are tow assists on most goals, and in some case the player getting the assist had little to do with the goal being scored, the Russian league is much more conservative giving out assists. Also note that the Central Red Army team was essentially an all star team. In Russia, army service is manditory. Any player serving in the army can play on the Central Red Army team. Those players who were hockey stars trhat the Red Army wanted to keep were kept in the army and given army duties that could be fulfilled by playing hockey. Essentially, the Central Red Army team had the first look at every Russian player. Those tghey chose not to take populated the other teams. As a result, those players who played upon the Central Red Army team rarely, if ever, played against anybody who was as a good a player as they were in Russian league play. The very best Central Red Army players should have inflated stats because of their lack of competition.

Of course we can listen to the opinions of other people who are "hockey experts". If they say some of these players are the best they have ever seen, that is worth something. At the same time, these hockey experts may not have seen any more games involving the Russian player then you or I did (if you watched all the Olympics and othe international tournaments available) and these experts may be the same people who induicted people like Clark Gillies to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

With that background as a lens to interpret things, we can look at Kharlamov and see if he is a hall of famer. Sergei Makarov is the Russian with the most career goals, including Russian elite league, international play and NHL. I think this makes Makarov a better choice. He has more goals and crossover success in the NHL. Kharlamov is the sixth highest goal scorer among Russians. This number is probably kept low due to his early death. Boris Mikhailov has the most Russian elite league goals in his career.

I think Kharlamov was a very good player. I think Kharlamov was the most dangerous scorer in 1972, which is a historic year and thus increases the way he is remembered. I think Kharlamov gets a bit of a "halo effect" pushing his hall of fame chances due to his premature death. I think Kharlamov probably should get inducted in the hall of fame someday. I think that Sergei Makarov is a better choice right now among Russians. I am not too unhappy with Kharlamov's induction as long as Makarov and probably Mikhailov get inducted someday. I'm not sure how many Russians from the pre-NHL days should be inducted. I think that it is very hard to accurately gage just how good the Russian league was in the days before Russian players regualrly made their way to the NHL. I think that Kharlamov is likely good enough, but I do not think he is the best choice of the Russian players available.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Why Cam Neely should not be a Hall of Famer

Cam Neely was among the hall of fame inductees announced yesterday. I think he was a poor choice.

It should be clear that Neely was not inducted due to his career numbers. His 395 career goals, 299 career assists and 694 career points keep him well outside the top 100 players all time, with the exception of his goals number. His goals number is similar to that of other non-hall of fame players such as Richard Martin, John Ogrodnick and Dean Prentice. The only logical argument for a forward with Neely's career totals (attained during one of the most high scoring periods in NHL history) would be that he was such an elite player (for a short period of time) that he should be in the hall of fame or that his acheievements were extraordinary, but somehow not reflected in his career totals.

Was Neely such an elite player that he belongs in the hall of fame? He was never a serious candidate for the Hart or Conn Smythe trophies. He was never even named to the first team all star. He was, however, a four time second team all star right winger. Is being the second best player in your position four times in a short career good enough for the hall of fame? Under some circumstances, it might be. For example if the player who was the best in that position was one of the all time greatest players ever ... but this was not the case for Neely.

Neely was a very good winger. He dominated his position for about as long as (for example) Kevin Stevens dominated his (I hope you don't think Stevens is a hall of famer). Neely would have needed a longer career for that level of dominance to make the hall. He would need more significant career numbers.

It is often said that Neely defined the position of power forward. Although this is widely believed, I do not think it is true. The "power forward" position developed slowly over time. I think Dino Ciccarelli and Tim Kerr were essentially power forwards. And Phil Esposito before that. And the first half of Stan Mikita's career, had Mikita playing as a dominant forward. And people like Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Maurice Richard all were early versions of a power forward. And all of those guys had longer dominant careers then Neely. And not all of those guys are in the Hall of Fame. Ciccarelli (for example) scored nearly twice as many points and has not (yet?) been inducted into the hall.

Just how important is being a power forward anyway? Is a power forward more valuable that an equivalent offensive player who does not play a power style? I cannot imagine there is much difference in the prevention of goals. Do they produce more goals? I can imagine the physical play of a power forward possibly causing extra turnovers on the forecheck that lead to goals. Should this be the case, Cam Neely would likely have scored a lot of assists. He didn't. His top offensive numbers are primarily goals. I don't see how being a power forward adds anything that being an equivalent ability non-power forward. If being a top power forward is grounds for hall of fame inducrtion, then a lot of questionable candidates like Keith Tkachuk, John LeClair or Todd Bertuzzi should all wind up there.

Cam Neely supporters often point out his 1993/94 season where he scored 50 goals in 49 games played. That one achievement is remarkable. Its on the level of Bernie Nicholls 150 point season or Dennis Maruk getting 136 points on the last place Washington Capitals. One top season does not make a hall of famer. If Neely had strung another season or tow like that together, he would be one.

Cam Neely probably could have been a hall of famer if he stayed healthy. Injuries took a lot away from him. He only managed to play 60 or more games in a season 7 times. He just didn't manage to play long enough. You make the hall of fame for being a great player for a sufficiently long time. Neely didn't manage to play long enough at a top level. If Neely makes the hall because he could have been one if not for injury, why not other players who suffered injury that could have been great? Why not John Cullen who retired prematurely due to cancer? Why not Pelle Lindbergh who died young in a car accident? Its a slippery slope. The hall of fame should not have gone there. Other players with a roughly equivalent number of good seasons as Neely had like John LeClair or Kevin Stevens or Owen Nolan should get there? Or people with similar career numbers as Neely such as Richard Martin. It was a mistake made by the hall of fame.

Here is a more quantitative argument that Cam Neely does not belong in the hall of fame (although I am not 100% sold on this argument).

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Calder Cup finals Game 3

In the first period, Stephen Weiss of Chicago took a double minor for spearing. Philadelphia jumped on that power play chance with two power play goals. One by Mike Richards and one by Patrick Sharp. That was all they needed. J. P. Vigier scored in the second period for Chicago, also on the power play, to make it a 2-1 game. It was yet another defensive battle, with Philadelphia goalie Antero Niittymaki saving 29 of 30 shots he faced. The Philadelphia Phantoms now lead the series 3-0 and can end it in game 4 on Friday night.

Game one and game two were also very low scoring affairs. Only 7 goals have been scored in the 3 games in tghe series so far. The series has been great exciting hockey. This is the kind of hockey the NHL wants to stop. I think that is a mistake.

Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

Today, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced the induction of three new members. They are Cam Neely, Valeri Kharlamov and builder Murray Costello. Here is TSN's story. As usual, they ignored my recommendations of Dino Ciccarelli, Mark Howe and Sergei Makarov, discussed here.

I will write a post soon on why Cam Neely should not be a hall of famer. The basic argument is that his career was too short. I will write another on why Valeri Kharlamov is probably a hall of famer, but I did not support his induction this year. Murray Costello was head of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association for almost 20 years and is a deserving inductee as a builder, although it is hard to get as excited about inductions like his as I would be for a player.

Next year, Patrick Roy, Doug Gilmour and Phil Housley become eligible for induction. All three belong in the hall. I think the main question is how many will be in on the first ballot and how many will have to wait.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

One Year Since Last NHL Game

One year ago today the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup. It was the last game the NHL has played to date. In the meantime, the NHL has actively been screwing themselves up. We have a lockout killing the entire season and the Stanley Cup playoffs. It looks like the new Central Bargaining Agreement, though it may bring back hockey, will not bring back as good a league as we used to have. Tom Benjamin writes about the Gary Bettman hockey league (the league Bettman wants to set up). I agree with him, I think this league will lead to a bunch of mediocre franchises where it is impossible for any really good team to stay together that has so much player movement that all but the most dedicated fan forgets who plays on his team. I'm not too happy with the idea. I hope that we do see hockey next season - but I hope its not the Gary Bettman hockey league that we are expecting.

Further, the NHL wants to change its rules. Here is a story on this topic. Smaller goalie equipment makes sense. Its an obvious thing to do. But I am against making any stupid change rthat might increase scoring even if it spoils the game. The AHL playoffs have been a low scoring goalie battle and they have been great hockey. Worse, I am against the shootout, which seems like it will happen. Why do we need a skills competition to settle tied games? Is it to make the NHL more ammenable to Las Vegas gamblers? Mike Milbury says "If they don't have the shootout, I'll be shocked. That's an easy one. The fans want it." I must not be a fan. I do not want it. Most of the people I talk to who are serious fans don't want it. It may be that the focus groups of casual fans in markets that largely don't care about the NHL do want a shootout. I am very worried that the new league we will have will not look at all like the old hockey we had as recently as last year. That may alienate a lot of dedicated fans. And it may not attract any new southern US fans they want to gain. Changing the league for people and markets who do not care about the league just does not make sense.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Why Kevin Lowe is not a Hall of Famer

On June 8th the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its new honorees. Here are my picks. Here are two previous articles about why Mike Vernon and Glenn Anderson are not hall of famers in my opinion.

Today, I will discuss why Kevin Lowe is not a hall of famer. It is a hard case to make statistically that he is not a hall of famer. Its also hard to make the case statistically that he is a hall of famer. This is because Lowe is a defencive defenceman with little offensive value. The question is just how good was Lowe? He was clearly one of the better players on the dynasty Edmonton Oilers. Lowe was never considered good enough to be a Norris trophy nominee or a post season all star team. Was this a mistake by the writers who voted or was he legitimately never one of the more dominant defenders in any given season? Rod Langway was roughly a contemporary of his and they voted him two Norris trophies, so there does not appear to be any large inherent bias against defencive defenceman. Lowe did appear in 7 all star games - only 6 should count because the final one was as a commisioner selection (at that trime they voted in a couple veterans who were not deserving based on their play that season as a type of lifetimne acheivement award), I think a good comparison for Lowe was Mark Ramsey. Ramsey was a longtime Buffalo Sabre defenceman who was a 4 time all star game player. Does this show that Ramsey was not as good a player as Lowe? I'd argue that it may show the bias of the way all star games are selected. In 5 of the 6 all star games where Lowe was a standard selection, Glen Sather (his coach in Edmonton) picked the team. Mike Ramsey never had that kind of advantage. I think the Ramsey/Lowe comparison is a very good one. Both were consistent defensive defencemen with limited offensive value. Like an offensive player with limited offensive value, a defensive player with limited offensive value must be able to show dominant defence to be a hall of famer. This is shown (somewhat subjectively) by the fact Lowe was never voted one of the best defencemen at the end of any NHL season.

A further attempt to justify his defencive value might be made by his +/- rating. Any player who played lots of ice time in Edmonton, when Edmonton was a dominant team, would have a top +/- rating. Lowe is no exception. However, it is interesting that other defencemen ioften put up better +/- ratings on his own team. In different seasosn, Lowe was beaten in the +/- department by Paul Coffey, Charlie Huddy and Craig Muni. If Lowe was dominant enough for the hall of fame3, this should not have happened.

Kewin Lowe was a top defencive defenceman with one of the most dominant hockey teams ever. Like Anderson, he was very good but not as great as some of his other famous teammates. Also like Anderson, most of his value came in one direction, Lowe was a defensive player (Anderson was offensive). This makes his attaining hall of fame credentials harder because of his lack of achievement in some parts of his game. I don't think he measures up. I think the comparison of Mike Ramsey and Kevin Lowe is a good one. Neither are hall of famers. We tend to think a bit more highly of Lowe because he happened to play on a dynasty team. Had Lowe been a Buffalo Sabre, this argument would probably be unnecessary.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Is Scandinavia the new Quebec?

In 1986, Patrick Roy took the province of Quebec by storm. The rookie lead the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup and won the Conn Smythe trophy. He became a huge star in la belle province. Many young hockey players decided they wanted to be the next Roy. For a while, it seemed that almost every young goalie to hit the NHL was from Quebec. This group included Martin Brodeur, Felix Potvin, Dan Cloutier, Patrick Lalime, Martin Biron and Roberto Luongo.

This situation appears to be changing. In 2003/04, Finland's Miikka Kiprusoff took the NHL by storm in the last half of the year. He put up a .933 saves percentage in Calgary with a Vezina nomination and lead the Flames to the Stanley Cup finals. The AHL Calder Cup is a goaltending battle between two Finnish goalies, Antero Niittymaki of Philadelphia and Kari Lehtonen of Chicago. The top AHL goalie who is not in the AHL finals is likely Sweden's Hannu Toivonen of Providence. Another Swedinsh goalie with a very good shot at rookie of the year next year (should there be a next year) is NY Rangers prospect Henrik Lundqvist, the Swedish goalie of the year.

I'm not sure why it is, but goaltending prospects of today are dominated by Scandavians. The days of Quebec dominance are over.

Calder Cup finals Game 2

Game two of the Calder Cup finals was much like game one in tghat it was an exciting battle between two very good Finnish goalies. Again Antero Niittymaki of Philadelphia was the better one. He stopped 48 out of 49 shots. Kari Lehtonen stopped 26 of 28 shots and was inexplicably named the gamers top star.

The scoring opened in the second period when Steve Maltais scored a power play goal for Chicago. John Slaney responded with a Philadelphia power play goal. That was it for regulation scoring. In the second overtime period, Patrick Sharp scoreg the first even strength goal of the series to give Philadelphia a 2-1 victory. The teams head to Philadephia with the Phantoms leading 2-0.

The series has so far been great. Two exciting low scoring games. The kind of low scoring games the NHL wants to crack down on. When Niittymaki and Lehtonen get to the NHL, there will be two more top goalies able to dominate games. Maybe the NHL should consider deporting these talented goalies in an effort to have higher scoring (and less exciting) games.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Game One Calder Cup Finals

The Finnish goalies stole the show. Philadelphia's Antero Niittymaki managed a 27 save shutout. Chicago's Kari Lehtonen saved 31 of 32 shots. Only potential free agent Mike Richards managed to score during a second period power play. Philadelphia leads the series 1-0 after winning game one by the same score.

Many Players Afraid Lockout Ending

There have been many reports that the lockout is almost over. Many media sources have guessed at what the new CBA will look like. The guesses have looked a lot like a Gary Bettman wishlist. Salary cap, salaires tied to 54% of revenues PLUS the 24% rollback of salaries. This CBA would be more than Gary Bettman and the NHL ever publically asked for in this lockout. Many players find themselves wondering what they sat out a season for if the NHL is dictating the settlement. These tend to be the younger players who will be most affected by this CBA. They are the ones that will lose the most money with a bad CBA deal. They are starting to openly question the NHLPA leadership. People like Trevor Linden and Bill Guerin who have very little left in their careers. Each game they miss is costing them and they do not have a future to make up that money. They may have had enough and just want a deal even if it sells out the futures of the younger players.

There is some speculation that the NHLPA might vote down a particularly bad settlement agreement.

I think that Bob Goodenow is engaging the NHL in understanding their revenues and trying to find a mutually agreeable revenue definition. Then the rest of the CBA will be discussed in more detail. I don't think he agrees in principle to many of the NHL dictated items in a settlement framework. I think that other older players in the NHLPA such as Trevor Linden do. I think there is (or will be) a power struggle as a result of this. I think this lockout is far frrom over. I remain skeptical that the bargaining is almost over.

Here is a Bruce Garrioch story that outlines many of these points.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

What I Would Do About American TV

ESPN has declined their option for NHL games next season. Today it is reported that ESPN has ended negotiations with the NHL for televised hockey next year . It looks as though the NHL will have to accept a profit sharing deal with zero upfront money much like they have with NBC. The deal will likely be available in a month or even two, so there is no immediate rush for the NHL to accept this offer. However, the have little to offer ESPN in negotiations and will likely have to take whatever ESPN offers.

If I had the chance to negotiate American TV deals for the NHL, I would accept ESPN's deal but I would like the ability to offer all the games ESPN won't use to any and all other networks that might be able to offer national or semi-national coverage. Let tfhem have the same profit sharing deal that ESPN gets. Offer the games to Fox Sports, Comcast Sports, WGN, Spike TV, TNT, TBS and any other channel. What is there to lose? Worst case they get hockey coverage for a niche market at reduced cost. In a best case scenario, should the Americans win Olympic gold or something, it would be a huge deal for them. If the TV rights must be sold at a low price let everyone buy them. Maybe in the next TV deal there can be a bidding war for exclusive rights.

Will it help sell the NHL in the US? Frankly, I don't care. I am very happy with the niche market NHL we saw in 2003/04, but I would get the chance to see a lot of games on cable. That is something that would keep the fans that stuck with the NHL through the lockout happy. It would really suck for the NHL to return to a non-presence on TV in many of their US markets. That could be prevented. Sell TV rights cheap. Let ESPN have first pick of games (before the season begins) and let the other networks broadcast those they want from the leftovers.

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