Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Sabremetric Problem of Terry Sawchuk

One sabremetrics and hockey problem is ranking the best goalies of all time. The method that I have shown is Pnep's (Roman Nepomnyaschev) Hall of Fame monitor. He has taken it through various incarnations including a more simplified version reported by Daryl Shilling. One constant is that Terry Sawchuk is rated in the mid to lower half of the top 10.

Terry Sawchuk is one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. In the 1980's and early 1990's before the emergence of Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek, he was often rated as the best goalie of all time. He led the NHL in career shutouts and career wins (though Roy has beaten that record).

Terry Sawchuk was born and raised in the Winnipeg area. As a kid in the Winnipeg minor system he was signed into the Detroit system. The Red Wings moved Sawchuk to Ontario where he played for the Galt Red Wings and Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Junior League and then moved into minor pro leagues with Windsor in the IHL, Omaha in the USHL and Indianapolis in the AHL before getting a chance when Harry Lumley, the incumbent Red Wing goalie, got hurt.

Sawchuk played seven games, but he played well enough that Lumley was traded to Chicago. Sawchuk responded with a Calder trophy and a first team all star selection putting up a 1.99 GAA. In his second year, Sawchuk won the Vezina trophy (which was the top GAA at that time) and again made first team all star. This year, he lead the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup with eight straight wins posting a 0.63 GAA. Sawchuk followed that up in 1953 with a third straight first all star nomination and a second Vezina win. In his next two years, Sawchuk and the Wings won the Stanley Cup two more times. Sawchuk won another Vezina trophy and made second team all star both years. Sawchuk was a high strung nervous goalie and scared Red Wing management, in that he didn't seem capable a mentally remaining at the NHL level, so in a blockbuster deal they traded hm to Boston. He was traded with Marcel Bonin, Lorne Davis and Vic Stasiuk for Gilles Boisvert, Real Chevrefils, Norm Corcoran, Warren Godfrey and Ed Sanford. Boston got the best player getting Sawchuk and Detroit getting a package of mostly prospects who did not work out.

Sawchuk never really adapted to Boston. He played there for a year and a half before temporarily retiring from the NHL due to exhaustion. He was convinced to return to the NHL when he was traded back to Detroit. He was traded for Johnny Bucyk and cash. This was a trade where both teams got star players.

Back in Detroit, Sawchuk played several solid seasons where he twice more made the second team all star. Since Montreal was the dominant team, their goaltender Jacques Plante put up the best numbers and won the biggest awards. Sawchuk played very well on a not so powerful Wings team. In a 1964 Intra-League draft (which is an early waiver draft), Sawchuk was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In Toronto, Sawchuk shared time in goal with Johnny Bower. He won another Vezina trophy in 1965 and another Stanley Cup in 1967. In the 1967 expansion draft, the agin Sawchuk was left exposed (after just having won the Stanley Cup). He was selected by Los Angeles.

After a year in LA, Sawchuk was traded back to Detroit for Jimmy Peters. He played only thirteen games there before being traded the next year to the New York Rangers with Sandy Snow for Larry Jeffrey.

In New York, Sawchuk played only eight games. Late in the year, he had a fight with teammate Ron Stewart. In the fight, Sawchuk suffered internal injuries including a lacerated liver and blood clots. Sawchuk later died when one of the blood clots netered his heart. The exact circumstances of his death were never clearly made available to the public.

Terry Sawchuk retired with a record 103 shutouts. He retired with 447 wins which was a record at the time. His prime years (his first 5 full years in Detroit) where he never had a GAA above 2.00 and he won three Vezina trophies are arguably the best prime any goalie had ever had (at least until Dominik Hasek won back to back Hart Trophies). Sawchuk has a very good claim as a top goalie. Probably the top all time before Roy and Hasek.

His detractors might argue that he was highstrung and this took away from his value (though it shouldn't show up in a sabremetric analysis). The other top goalies of the time Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall were also very high strung and the more modern top goalies Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek are too. It is hard to argue that it hurt one goalie more than any other.

Jacques Plante gets rated ahead of Sawchuk in this system because, despite a slightly shorter career, he won 6 Vezinas in 7 years. The Montreal defence was the best in the NHL and gave him a good chance at the best GAA (which won the trophy). The reliance upon award victories to gather points in the hall of fame monitor system gives Plante the edge for his extra awards. Glenn Hall also played a slightly shorter career and was roughly a contemporary of Sawchuk. He had seven first team all star selections which garner him more HOF monitor points. It is believed that after Sawchuk broke down in Boston, he was downgraded in the minds of several voters and they refused to vote for him for awards until he rehabilitated his image in Toronto many years later. Sawchuk was not a favorite of many of the voters. Their bias kept him from winning awards and gave Glenn Hall the chance to win them instead. This is the problem with a Hall of Fame monitor that rewards players for being voted an award winner. It is dependant upon the voters not making mistakes. In the case of Sawchuk, they shortchanged him.

Sawchuk is a goalie consistently rated in the top 10 all time, but I think he should be ranked higher than these systems show. He has a more dominant prime and better career numbers than contemporaries ranked above him.

An ideal player ranking system would not use award wins to give points. It would give points based on a player's contribution to his team. The player with the most points in the system should then be chosen as the award winner. The system could be used to predict award winners, instead of award wins being used as an input. Such a system would require a better understanding of exactly how much a goaltender contributes ot the wins and losses of his team. There is no easy statistical way to show this (wins, GAA, saves percentage, shutouts don't clearly show it). Better goaltender statistics are needed. Probably we need to better know the circumstances of shots. How far are they from the goal? How many people are in front of the net? How fast was the shot? Was it a rebound? Etc. Without that it might be hard to come up with a direct value of a goalie. We need to know the quantity (which is easy to show statistically) and quality (which is hard to determine) of shots a goalie faces. Relying upon voters means relying on other (sometimes biased) opinions. These biases keep Terry Sawchuk down. He probably should have made more all star teams if the voters liked him better.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Penguins Ready To Be Sold

It looks like Mario Lemieux is finally getting out of the hockey business. Sam Fingold, a Hartford real estate broker is ready to purchase for around $175 million US. It looks like this is the plan B to get the Pittsburgh ownership out of this situation where the old Mellon Arena is no longer able to hold NHL games and Lemieux's group of owners have wanted to local politicians to build them an arena. Since there doesn't look to be a local arena deal, the Penguins are going to be sold.

The preliminary deal commits Fingold to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh if the Isle of Capri downtown Pittsburgh slots deal goes through. This deal would commit $290 million toward the construction of a new arena, but looks very unlikely to be allowed bya local politicians and opens uneasy questions about the NHL and its involvement in gambling. Should this slots deal fall through, local officials are trying to work out a way to finance a new Penguins arena, but there are no workable plans right now.

Fingold has previously mentioned interest in possibly moving the Penguins to Kansas City or Hartford. The NHL would not like this to happen, because the lockout was "sold" as a method to fix the NHL (in part by preventing teams from moving from their established markets). Of course the lockout and new CBA does no such thing, but many people in the public believe it does. The NHL would not like to be exposed as liars. It would be particularly bad if Pittsburgh moved because Pittsburgh is a viable hockey market that has had success in the past (two Stanley Cups) and is not in as poor financial shape as some of the newer markets, it merely needs a new arena.

Here is the TSN story on the potential sale.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Best Goalies of All Time

One sabermetrics and hockey problem is ranking the best goaltenders of all time. Pnep (Roman Nepomnyaschev) has created a Hall of Fame monitor which includes goaltender win statistics and their success winning awards. He is regularly updating this system to include more fine refinements (ie. more awards). An earlier version is reported by Daryl Shilling.

These systems are limited in that creditting goalie for wins will lead to gloaltenders on good teams being preferentially selected - even if the team wins because of the other players on its roster. Using award victories to select top goalies makes you dependant upon the voters of the time, who may make mistakes (for example this year it was a mistake to make Martin Brodeur a Vezina nominee). Nevertheless, given the complexity of goaltender statistics, most depend on the quantity or quality (or both) of shots the goalie faces, it is hard to make a more reliable goaltender rating method to rate goaltender careers. A system such as this one fails entirely in identifying seasonal success (ie. which goalie should win the Vezina this year) as that information must be an input and cannot be deduced from its results.

Nevertheless, here are the top ten goalies according to the hall of fame monitor that Daryl Shilling reports. Daryl's numbers are not updated for the 2005/06 season. I chose to update this (instead of pnep's current full system) because it arrives at nearly the same result and is simpler. Any bias errors in the system are not corrected by adding more awards to it.

The top 10 goalies of all time according to this system are:
1. Patrick Roy 3104 points
2. Dominik Hasek 2996 points
3. Glenn Hall 2539 points
4. Jacques Plante 2484 points
5. Ken Dryden 2320 point
6. Martin Brodeur 2174 points
7. Terry Sawchuk 2031 points
8. Ed Belfour 1661 points
9. Tony Esposito 1634 points
10. Bill Durnan 1613 points

This is definitely a list of good goalie, but I don't think it is a fully accurate ranking of the best goalies of all time. I think this is best shown by the ranking of Terry Sawchuk as the seventh best goalie of all time. Most hockey observers rated him as the best goalie of all time, prior to Patrick Roy breaking the all time wins record and Hasek winning back-to-back Vezinas. This system ranks Sawchuk behind several of his contemporaries. I will write something in the future too look at this problem and see why it occurred.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Long Island Mess

The best way for an owner to build a winning hockey franchise is to hire a good hockey man as general manager then get out of his way and let the GM manage the team. Unfortunately, under owner Charles Wang, the New York Islanders are not following this process.

In early June, Wang hired Neil Smith to be his GM, Ted Nolan to be his coach, Bryan Trottier to be director of player personnel and Pat LaFontaine to be an advisor to the owner. In a perfect world, he would have hired the GM and let the GM fill out the rest of the coaching/management team, but the moves seemed okay (for the most part). Tom Benjamin noted that the overly involved owner may be taking too much control. To make matters worse, old GM Mike Milbury remains on the payroll in an advisory roll. Who is in charge? Is it Smith? Milbury? Wang? Nolan? Someone else? An undefined group of the above choices?

Only forty days later, Wang has fired GM Neil Smith. In Smith's run as GM, the Islanders played zero games. They signed free agents Tom Poti, Mike Sillinger, Chris Simon, Brendan Witt and Andy Hilbert, though it is unclear exactly who in the management team instigated these signings. There was friction between Neil Smith and all the other GM wannabes and he was fired.

Wang says:

As I made clear at the press conference last month, we are running this as a business, incorporating the opinions of our hockey operations staff - including Ted Nolan, Bryan Trottier and Pat LaFontaine. Despite Neil's commitment to me that he could work in this environment, he later expressed to me on a number of occasions his philosophical opposition to our business model

Then Pat LaFontaine resigned his position as an advisor to the owner.

Wang very quickly hired Garth Snow as general manager. What are Garth Snow's qualifications? He was an NHL goalie for several years and he appears to have convinced Wang that either he is competent or that he will not get in the way of the rest of the management team running the show (probably a bit of both).

The CBA is complicated. Hockey finances are complicated. Contract law is complicated. You need a well qualified GM to build a winning team in today's NHL. Garth Snow shows no signs of being this man. Neil Smith had significantly more qualifications, but was not given a chance due to the stupid way Wang wants the team managed.

It will probably be a long year on Long Island and I doubt things will get better until they find a competent GM and get out of his way while he does his job.

Here is the TSN story on the Neil Smith firing and here is the story on LaFontaine's resignation.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What's Up With Evgeni Malkin?

The pre-season rookie of the year favorite for the 2006/07 season is probably Evgeni Malkin if he gets to the NHL. He is a Pittsburgh first round draft pick from 2004 who has had some international success. The problem is that there is no player transfer deal between Russia and the NHL. A tentative deal was agreed to in June that needed radification by the individual teams in the Russian league. This radification has not happened yet.

Currently, the NHL has player transfer deals with Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Should a player under contract in any of these countries leagues sign an NHL contract, the NHL team signing him must pay a sum of a few hundred thousand dollars to the league in question (the exact sum depends on the draft position of the player). In principle this is to pay the league for developing the player. Russia has no agreement. This has led to lengthy court disagreements such as with Alexander Semin.

Its unclear exactly what would happen if Malkin joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in the absence of a deal. The possibilities range from a multi-million dollar payment to his Russian team Metallurg Magnitogorsk, to slipping Malkin out of Russia without their approval and Pittsburgh paying the Russians nothing. So in the meantime, Pittsburgh is waiting and hoping the situation clears itself up.

As the deal stands, Metallurg would get $900,000 US for Malkin. They believe he is worth significantly more and they (and some other Russian league teams) won't sign a transfer deal without much higher transfer fees.

The NHL is making threats to Russia. They claim that since the IIHF deal governs how the leagues co-exist, they Russian league players might be barred from playing in IIHF sponsored tournaments like the World Championships (which will be in Russia in 2007). They tried and abandoned this argument regarding the 2006 Olympics . I do not see how it holds any water. Players playing in countries thought too insigificant to be asked to sign an IIHF transfer deal (Switzerland, Italy, France, Kazakhstan, Latvia...) frequently play in IIHF sponsored tournaments without having any deal in place. How could Russia be treated differently?

In the meantime, Malkin waits in Russia and Pittsburgh waits for things to clear up.

Here is a Toronto Star article on the subject.

Monday, July 17, 2006

One Method To Determine Best Goalies of All Time

I am returning to the topic of sabremetrics and hockey where I left off last summer. I had looked at two ways to rank the careers of various players. One was produced by pnep and one by Daryl Shilling. I had posted their comparisons of the top 10 forwards of all time and the top 10 defencemen of all time. I posted pnep's goalie ranking system but I never posted one from Daryl Shilling. In part, this was because Shilling produced a brand new hockey project ranking system that addressed forwards and defencemen. I hoped that a new goalie system might be coming along soon.

While there was no new goalie system, on his website, Shilling does have a a very good system (this system is an earlier version of Pnep's system. The credit goes to Pnep - Roman Nepomnyaschev).

Here is the way this system works:

Like the monitor for position players, the system generates an integer based on the goaler’s “standings” in certain key areas. The formula is easy to apply:

a) Award 50 points for being the starting goaltender on a Stanley Cup winning team
b) Award 25 points for being the starting goaltender on a Stanley Cup runner-up
c) Award 20 points for each selection to the All-Star game
d) Award 150 points for winning the Calder Trophy
e) Award 70 points if the goaltender was runner-up for the Calder
f) Award 80 points for being named to the 1st All-Star Team
g) Award 50 points for being named to the 2nd All-Star Team
h) Award 70 points for winning the Vezina Trophy
i) Award 55 points for being the Vezina Trophy runner-up
j) Award 30 points for winning the Jennings Trophy
k) Award 20 points for being the Jennings Trophy runner-up
l) Award 150 points for winning the Conn Smythe Trophy
m) Award 300 points for winning the Lester B. Pearson Trophy
n) Award 250 points for winning the Hart Trophy
o) Award 150 points being the Hart Trophy runner-up
p) Calculate: (Wins/2 + (Wins – Losses) + (4 * Playoff Wins))

This system overemphasizes what others thought of the goalie (ie. did he win awards, make all star teams?) as opposed to what he did on the ice. This may be inevitable, because goaltending statistics are hard to analyze. As I wrote discussing pnep's system:

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 stat. 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.

This system does incorporate the goaltending statistics to some level. In includes wins and losses and playoff wins. These are largely team statistics. While a goalie can go a long way toward a team winning, without a good team behind him, a good goalie (ie Roberto Luongo in Florida) will not get a lot of wins. The William Jennings points (and early year Vezina points) were statistical also. They were given to the goalie on the team with the best goals against average. A strong team defence will help a goalie win these awards. A Roberto Luongo type will never have a chance at them.

The rest of the numbers are what others thought of the goalie in question. Did they put him on all star teams, give him awards etc? This assumes that the people who select these awards are correct. Sometimes they make good choices, but other times they make mistakes. Those mistakes will carry into this system.

Also, this point system is cumulative. The longer a goalie plays, the more points he will get. This will serve to select goalies with long careers instead of those with shorter careers. While it is true that elite goalies tend to be able to play in the NHL well beyond their prime, sometimes they do not (as in the cases of Ken Dryden or Bill Durnan for example). Should this goalie be ranked below somebody who was not as good in his prime, but hung on longer?

I will look at the results of this system in the near future. Which goalies does it rate the highest?

NOTE: This is an early version of Pnep's Hall of Fame monitor for goalies. So it produces nearly the same results as his more modern ones.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Saskin Consolidating Power

The NHLPA is as weak an organization as it has ever been in its history. It is reasonable to question whether or not the players would be better off without an NHLPA, since the NHLPA has given into owner's demands so frequently and without a central bargaining authority for the players this would not be possible.

The NHLPA seems to be mostly in the business of keeping itself alive. Ted Saskin is working hard to keep his job as NHLPA head. That seems to be his major job. His job is not to help the players, it is to keep his job. For example, he worked on keeping the salary cap this year LOWER than the CBA would have called for. This was done because the expected increase in player's escrow payments would have lead to uhappiness among the NHLPA ranks and might have lead to calls for Ted Saskin's ouster as NHLPA head.

Former player Trent Klatt has lead a dissident group of players unhappy with the way Sakin took over from Bob Goodenow and caved to the owners demands to end the lockout. This group has attempted to legally challenge this process with little success. Since most of the politically active players in Klatt's group are older players, it appears that Saskin has tried to wait them out until they retire (with some success). This group is losing any momentum it ever had and appears willing to give up after a meeting held in Whistler this week.

Trevor Linden will not run again to be the player in charge of the NHLPA. After last season when he managed only 7 goals in 82 games for the Vancouver Canucks, it is possible that his career may be over. Ted Saskin has used this to take more power in the NHLPA. There is no longer one player in charge. There will be a group of seven players. That allows Saskin more autonomy from the players since there is no one guy who is in charge like Linden was. The seven players who will be "in charge" of the NHLPA are Kevyn Adams of Carolina, Alyn McCauley of Los Angeles, Wade Redden of Ottawa, Mathieu Schneider of Detroit, Marty Turco of Dallas and two more players to be named in the European executive committee meeting to be held in August. Basically, Saskin can run the NHLPA with little input from these players (they haven't all been named yet!) in the short term. If that ever changes, it will require a strong challenge from somewhere and no one player is clearly the man in charge of that challenge. There is a group of seven where nobody is in charge. Effectively, this means Ted Saskin is in charge with more power than before.

Does the NHLPA do anything to help the players? Its not entirely clear to me that it does, but it isn't going away. It is taking steps to perpetuate itself.

NOTE: The article about the Whistler meeting is from the Globe and Mail and requires registration. If this is a problem, try

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Advertisment for Fantasy Hockey

I play in a fantasy hockey league that can be found here. We have been running since 1999 and still have a few original GMs around. We play with real NHL statistics (similar scoring to TSN or smallworld games) with large 25-27 man rosters in a 30 team keeper league. There is a salary cap that scales with the NHL cap. There are a few openings for teams this summer. Now is the time to get involved. It gives you a few months to tinker with your roster. We will hold our entry/waiver draft in September during NHL training camp. Are there any interested GMs out there? If so please email me through my profile.

Hockey Sabremetrics

Last summer, I wrote a series of posts on sabermetrics and hockey. My basic conclusion is that although it is an interesting subject, hockey is not a sport that easily lends itself to sabermetic analysis. The statistics kept do not tell enough of the story in a game.

Nevertheless, I looked at a couple ranking systems for players. One produced by pnep and one produced by Daryl Shilling. I compared and contrasted their lists of the top 10 forwards of all time and the top 10 defencemen of all time. I introduced Pnep's goaltender ranking system (Shilling does not have one on the level of this system) and discussed several discrepancies between the two methods (ie Doug Harvey and Bobby Hull).

I figure this is a topic for the off season, since too much is going on in the regular season to get much chance at addressing it. It is off season now and likely the biggest free agent signings, trades etc. have already occurred, so now is the time to return to the topic. I thought I'd give new readers since last summer a bit of a chance to see what I have written and where I am coming from before diving into a otpic I have mostly abandoned for a year (so if it interests you check out the links).

More entries on sabermetrics and hockey are coming in the next couple of months.

Monday, July 10, 2006

What the NHL Can Learn From the World Cup

The World Cup of soccer (football) completed with Italy winning the tournament. It was a huge sporting event seen throughout the world. Although it has some attention in the United States, it is hardly as big an event in America as it is in the rest of the world.

I think the NHL should view that as its model for growth. Instead of trying to change itself to fit in the US market, it should notice that hockey is already a big sport in many parts of Europe and pursue those markets. If the NHL does have a need to expand I recommend European expansion. It would not be easy to form an inter-continental hockey league, but the markets would be there. This is unlike expansion into the southern US where some of the markets are very soft and cannot support a team unless it is a winner.

One of the most odd things to pop up was a thread on hfboards about what soccer can learn from the NHL. Soccer is huge worldwide. The NHL is at best a cottage industry in many parts of the US. This is entirely backwards. Of course the hockey fans (largely unaware that the NHL should learn from soccer) suggest that they do all kinds of weird stunts to increase goal scoring and get rid of the number of ties. Take soccer down the same path of the NHL.

I think that the NHL should learn from soccer that in most of the world, low scoring sports can have a following. Ties in sports are perfectly acceptable. If the american non-hockey fan disagrees, that is too bad for him. The NHL shouldn't change to accomodate the non-fans. They should seek out people who love hockey. If that means partially abandoning the US in favor of Europe, that could be a move that is worthwhile in terms of both economics and in terms of growing the sport.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Future Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman Retires

Today, Steve Yzerman has announced his retirement from professional hockey. He is the second Hall of Fame worthy player to retire this off season joining Luc Robitaille.

Steve Yzerman was born May 9th, 1965 in Cranbrook, British Columbia, but spent most of his childhood in the Ottawa, Ontario suburb of Nepean. At age 16, he left Nepean to play for the Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League. In his rookie year in the OHL, he scored at slightly better than point per game rate and made the OHL Scholastic All Star team. In his second year, he scored 91 points in 56 games and was a part of the bronze medal winning Canadian World Junior Team. He was selected fourth overall in the draft by the Detroit Red Wings.

At age 18, Yzerman immediately made the Red Wings. In his rookie year, he appeared in the NHL all star game (his first of 9), made the all rookie team and was runner up he the Calder Trophy. By 1986, he was made captain of the rebuilding Red Wings. In 1987/88, he scored 102 points. This was his first 100 point season of his career. It was his first of six 100 point years in a row. He followed that up with a tremendous 155 point year, where he won the Lester Pearson Award as NHL MVP as voted by the players. That wasn't enough hockey for him, so he played with Canada in the World Championships and made the all star team. Afer another all star 62 goal, 127 point season, Yzerman once again played for Canada in the World Championships. he once again made all star in the tournament. He scored a pheonomenal 10 goals and 10 assists in only 10 games. He was named the best forward in the tournament.

Yzerman had great year after great year for Detroit, but since Detroit had not won the Stanley Cup (yet), unreasonable people questioned his leadership blaming it on the captain. Perhaps this unreasonable criticism got loudest in 1995 when Detroit lost in the Stanley Cup finals to New Jersey. Nevertheless, Yzerman continued his great career. He represented Canada in their second place effort in the 1996 World Cup. In 1997, he finally won his first Stanley Cup when Detroit defeated Philadelphia in the finals. In 1998, they won a second cup. This time they defeated Washington. Yerman was the top assist and point scorer in the playoffs and won the Conn Smythe trophy. Yzerman was chosen to select Canada in the 1998 Olympics. Yzerman broke into the NHL as a scorer. Over the years he learned to concentrate more and more on his defensive work. In 1999/2000 he was rewarded for this effort. He won the Frank J Selke trophy as best defensive forward in the NHL and was for the first and only time in his career named to the first team all star (he was hidden behind Gretzky and Lemieux in the voting at center for much of his career). This was a season where he scored 97 points in 78 games (almost half the scoring rate in his best offensive year). In 2002, he was a part of Canada's gold medal winning effort in the Olympics and won his third Stanley Cup in the NHL. After returning from knee surgery at the end of the 2002/03 season, he was awarded the Bill Masterton trophy. His final chance to play internationally for Canada came in the 2004 World Cup. After playing the 2005/06 season after the lockout, he has retired.

Yzerman is the longest serving captain in the NHL. He played the tenth most games all time (1514). He was the eighth highest goal scorer of all time with 692. He is seventh in assists with 1063 and sixth in points with 1755. In the playoffs, he is the eighth highest point scorer with 185 points. Yzerman has had a long dominant career for the Red Wings. Steve Yzerman will remain with the Detroit Red Wings organization, but it is not clear in which role.

Here is the TSN story on his retirement.

Yzerman's retirement leaves the NHL with one less player who is currently active who is worthy of Hall of Fame induction regardless of what happens for the rest of his career.

Here is the list of players who are still active who I think are hall of famers no matter what happens for the rest of their careers:

Dave Andreychuk
Ed Belfour
Rob Blake
Martin Brodeur
Chris Chelios
Peter Forsberg
Dominik Hasek
Jaromir Jagr
Brian Leetch
Nicklas Lidstrom
Scott Niedermayer
Joe Nieuwendyk
Chris Pronger
Joe Sakic
Brendan Shanahan

This list may shrink a little more over the summer with another retirement or two.

Free Agent Frenzy

Free agency opened up in the NHL less than two days ago and the majority of the big name unrestricted free agents have already been signed. The speed at which this thing happens is amazing.

Many of the bigger names jumping to new teams jumped to bigger markets (although New York stayed out of the game for the most part). Boston signed Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard. Toronto signed Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill. Los Angeles signed Rob Blake. St Louis signed Jay McKee and Doug Weight. These are all markets that have the ability to maintain larger payrolls than the average NHL team.

The remaining major buyers were those mandated by the CBA as the as the salary floor is climbing faster than the cap so teans with low payrolls must add salary. Minnesota added Mark Parrish, Keith Carney and Kim Johnsson. Phoenix added Ed Jovanovski. Nashville added Jason Arnott. All of these teams needed to add somebody to make the new salary floor.

Nobody clearly bought the Stanley Cup this year.

Now haven't you been arguing repeatedly that this CBA would allow the big markets to buy Stanley Cups?

It will. The salary cap will continue to climb and free agency will continue to liberalize. The UFA age this year is 29. Next year it is 27. It may take a couple years at 27 for us to fully see the effects but they will be there.

By way of analogy, I will tell you a story. There was this kid I went to high school with. He was a little wild. He drank, he did drugs, he drove his car way too fast, he often mixed these various pursuits into one dangerous one. He took a lot of unnecessary chances with his life. When he was still in high school, many of us thought this guy wasn't going to live until he was 25. Boy did we have egg on our faces when he lived until 32, before he wrapped his car around a tree killing himself. The point of course is the basic prediction was right even if the timescale was a little bit off. Now in the case of the NHL, this kid is still about 19 years old. Our prediction could still be entirely true. The circumstances around the prediction have not fully been set up yet. So obviously the results have not come to pass yet.

In the meantime, we seem to have parity. Nobody is elite.

I think there are still bargain free agents out there. There are some players who were not signed in the first round of signings who will make large contributions who will not command the big bucks of the first signees. The smart team should be waiting to sign them instead of (for example) throwing $14 million at Willie Mitchell.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

List of Contract Buyouts 2006

All the contract buyouts that I am aware of (I think its an exhaustive list):
Matthew Barnaby Chicago Blackhawks
Ed Belfour Toronto Maple Leafs - not truly a buyout. They declined his option with a balloon farewell payment
Curtis Brown Chicago Blackhawks
Sebastien Caron Pittsburgh Penguins
Tie Domi Toronto Maple Leafs
Shane Endicott Pittsburgh Penguins
Travis Green Boston Bruins
Bill Guerin Dallas Stars
Sean Hill Florida Panthers
Shawn McEachern Boston Bruins
Turner Stevenson Philadelphia
Tyler Wright Anaheim Ducks
Nolan Yonkman Washington Capitals

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