Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Most Overrated Team

I have written a few times that I am skeptical the Buffalo is not as good as they have looked in their start. I accept that they are a good team, but not the best team in the NHL. They are far from the Stanley Cup favorites. However, I dont think they are the most overrated team in the NHL.

The most overrated team is a bad team that so far this season people are rating as average. That team is the Washington Capitals. In his most recent power rankings, David Johnson rates Washington in 14th. They will not finish nearly that high this season and they have not played well enough to merit that ranking. This conclusion is obvious when you look a bit past the numbers Johnson uses.

The simplest thing to notice (which is factored into Johnson's rankings) is that Washington leads the NHL in overtime and shootout losses. Washington has 6 of them in only 20 games. They have a record of 8-12 but with six overtime losses they appear to be above .500. These points for losing serve to distort the standings. They make weaker teams look better than they are, thus giving fans in that city false hope (and hope tends to lead to ticket sales).

Another more serious realization about the Capitals is that they have only outshot their oppontents twice all season. They have not outshot a team since October 14th (an overtime loss against Atlanta). They have gone over a month since outshooting anybody. This is largely because nobody allows more shots than Washington in the NHL. They have the most shots allowed per game in the league. This hasn't been a disaster because of good goaltending. Both Olaf Kolzig and Brent Johnson have played very well in their nets.

Their offence has not been very good either. They have the 23rd worst shots per game (27.4) - and that is with the NHL's shot leader Alexander Ovechkin in their lineup. They have managed some goals from high shooting percentages from some members of the supporting cast in Dainius Zubrus, Matt Pettinger and Alexander Semin. Its optimistic to imagine that can continue all season.

Teams that consitently get outshot do not do well. No team gets consistently outshot as often as Washington. That will catch up with them.

We all predicted a poor season for Washington. This is a bottom feeding team who added a third line defenceman in Ottawa in Brian Pothier (who has performed admirably given his first line minutes) and enforcer Donald Brashear this summer. Even if Ovechkin continues to emerge as a superstar and Semin shows he is a pretty good player too, this team is unlikely to go anywhere. Nevertheless, some people have bought into the false hope from their start. Eric McErlain is speculating about which players the Caps should add to compete for the Stanley Cup. Thats just crazy. This team probably wont be in the race for a playoff berth come January or February. Thats not the right kind of thinking for this team. They are not good enough to give up young players for a run now. The Washington Capitals are a poor team that has so far been considered average and that makes them the most overrated team in the league right now.

"Another more serious realization about the Capitals is that they have only ousthot their oppoentents twice all season."

Shots aren't the determination of a good team or a bad team since shots don't determine wins or losses. Goals do. And if you have the goaltending to overcome a lot of shots, you still may be a decent team.

Another thing to remember is that shootouts are not indicitave of how good or bad a team is. San Jose had a horrible shootout record last year but that didn't make them a bad team. Columbus had a great shootout record last year, but that didn't make them a good team. Washington has 4 shootout losses which I consider as ties. In the old NHL they would have a W-L-T record of 8-8-4, or .500 hockey so sitting about the middle (14th) of the NHL standings is pretty appropriate if you ask me. Do I expect them to stay there? Probably not, but for now they deserve to be considered a middle of the road team.
Shots correlate quite strongly with goals. Teams that consistently get outshot are not good teams. Washington consistently gets outshot. In fact, they haven't outshot anyone in over a month.

If I take a look at the Washington roster, I see a pretty bad team. They do not have many good players. They are a bad team - or should be. I think their record is more of a fluke than anything else. I think the way they keep getting outshot shows huge problems exist. They are lucky that those problems have not led to many losses ... yet.
You like to pick on David Johnson a bit. I find it funny. I do love your blog though. Keep posting!
I think you need to distinguish between overrated and performing beyond expectations. Yeah, it is unlikely the Capitals will finish up the season where they are now in the standings but they deserve full credit for what they have accomplished thus far.

I don't think they have accomplished as much so far as you think they have. Thats one of my points.

They do deserve some credit for looking like an average team (at least with a superficial look at the statistics), but I think luck might be the biggest reason that has happened so far.
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