Alain Vigneault was unusually specific in his introduction as Rangers? head coach, offering strategy insights alongside the usual clich?s of first press conferences. Specifically, Vigneault confirmed that he will bring his famed zone-matching strategy to New York, leaving Rangers fans to speculate what changes that might mean for next year?s team.
Vigneault designates certain lines as his offensive and defensive zone lines, instead of using a checking line, which traditionally matches up against opponents? top players. This system exploits the favorable player vs. player matchups.
Advanced Metrics website Behind the Net tracks a statistic named Zone Start that tracks how often a player starts his shift in the offensive zone and how often a player finishes his shift in the offensive zone.
The pressure for the Rangers to add to?their forward depth?eased somewhat with news that Ryan Callahan?s shoulder injury was not as serious as originally feared. Instead of a full dislocation, Callahan suffered a partial subluxation and will miss between 10 ? 14 days as opposed to possibly six weeks or longer. But because the Rangers were in search for more help at forward prior to Cally?s injury and tried to sign Jason Arnott as a result, it?s likely they will continue to scour the market looking for the right fit.
With Arnott officially eliminated by Glen Sather and the Rangers, other players linked recently to the club are: Daymond Langkow, Petr Sykora and Brian Rolston. One player still available as a free agent but unlikely to play this season is Dominic Moore. Moore?s wife recently passed away from liver cancer and hockey is surely the last thing on Moore?s mind at this difficult time.
Before we get into the advanced stats, my preferred method of player comparison, let?s take a look at the players through a different prism; my fans eye.
The New York Ranger front office proved that despite the lockout they are still hard at work adding depth to the organization. The club recently signed Matt Gilroy to an AHL deal with the Whale leading New York Post scribe Larry Brooks to speculate that the Rangers will add the defenseman to the NHL roster once the lockout officially concludes. The move might be met with disinterest or even befuddlement by Ranger fans who remember the former Hobey Baker?s first tenure in New York as a disappointment but at least one person with the club wanted Gilroy back last season.
In an interview with Rick Carpiniello of Rangers Report conducted in June of 2011 and linked again on this site, Tortorella vocalized his ?interest? in seeing Gilroy return to the team. Torts cited Gilroy?s improved play during the last quarter of the 2011 regular season and the playoffs in support of his interest. Considering how demanding Torts is of his players any endorsement he gives means something.
Understandably fans might be skeptical of Gilroy given his relatively lackluster performance overall in his two seasons on Manhattan. When Gilroy first signed with the team he was a highly sought after undrafted free agent and entered the league with expectations attached that were probably too optimistic. Remember though that Gilroy had flip-flopped from forward to defense while at Boston University and had zero professional experience upon joining the Rangers. Perhaps the expectations heaped upon Gilroy upon his arrival in the league were just unrealistic.
Advanced Stats: Analyzing Del Zott's VUKOTA projection
By Glen Miller | Oct 1, 2012 | 4:31PM
In our previous post we introduced ESPN.com?s Summer Skate preview of the 2012-2013 New York Rangers. Using Hockey Prospectus? VUKOTA projection system, Timo Seppa discusses how VUKOTA projects the 2012-2013 season for one player whose performance is predicted to be on the rise and one expected to decline. Marc Staal is destined to rebound from an injury-plagued campaign and post an improved GVT according to VUKOTA. On the flip side, VUKOTA predicts Michael Del Zotto to fail to perform up to last year?s standard. Let?s review the case against a repeat performance from Del Zotto.
Last season Del Zotto began to put it all together after an up-and-down start to his brief career. The talented former first-round draft choice in 2008 broke into the league with a bang in 2009-2010 recording 37 points in 80 games as a 19 year-old rookie and posting a very solid GVT rating of 6.4. A vast majority of that GVT came courtesy of his offense where he was a 6.0 GVT.
Advanced Stats: Analyzing the Vukota projection for Marc Staal
By Glen Miller | Sep 23, 2012 | 4:43PM
Prior to the beginning of each of the last few seasons ESPN in conjunction with the folks over at Hockey Prospectus publish their ?Summer Skate? series. Using Hockey Prospectus? Vukota projection system, the articles look at one player from each team who is projected to improve upon his GVT rating from the year before and one who is expected to fail to produce up to last season?s performance. Meanwhile, Craig Custance of ESPN identifies one prospect he believes could make a splash for his team.
Timo Seppa drew the Atlantic Division this year (here's the post on ESPN.com) and his ?trending up? choice for the Rangers is defenseman Marc Staal. Michael Del Zotto meanwhile is pegged to turn in a down season relative to his performance of a year ago. Custance concludes the piece writing about the Rangers 2011 1st round pick, JT Miller as a ?player to watch.?
In a deal nearly everyone sees as a clear win for New York, the Rangers at last were able to acquire winger Rick Nash from Columbus. To be fair to Columbus GM Scott Howson, the package he received in exchange for Nash was probably the best he could do given the situation. Even though he likely could have made the same deal at the trade deadline he was under no pressure to do so. There was always a chance that by waiting until summer to move Nash the market would improve. It isn?t as if not trading him in February cost the Blue Jackets a playoff berth or anything.
Nash is the player whom Sather long ago targeted to add the scoring punch needed for the Blue Shirts to take the next step in the playoffs. His offensive ability can?t be questioned though critics point out he was never able to put the Jackets on his back, so to speak, and carry them into the playoffs single-handedly. In truth I don?t believe there are many non-goaltenders that have the ability to turn a mediocre club into a playoff squad on their own.
The one legitimate question that has been raised is how has Nash?s performance been affected by the lack of a quality team around him in Columbus. Proponents of the deal from the Rangers perspective are of the belief that with better talent to play with in New York Nash will produce bigger numbers. Others feel that three straight seasons posting fewer goals than the previous year is indicative that Nash?s offensive production has peaked and Ranger fans should temper their expectations.
For Ranger fans looking for excitement this offseason it's been a relative bore through the first three weeks of the summer. No big trade for Nash, Yandle or Ryan; no splashy free agent signings. In fact, another high-profile Ranger target, Shea Weber, passed on the Blue Shirts reportedly in favor of signing a huge offer sheet with the rival Flyers. While that hurts in and of itself, Weber?s rejection might also increase pressure on Slats to make a big move to add a scorer sooner rather than later.
Regardless of what may or may not happen in the weeks to come as it pertains to Nash, Ryan, etc., Slats has not sat on his hands this summer. He hasn?t made any headline moves but has made several additions to improve depth in the organization. Perhaps the most important of those depth additions was the recent signing of UFA center Jeff Halpern.
Advanced Stats: Should Rangers part with Stepan in Nash deal
By Glen Miller | Jul 16, 2012 | 2:37PM
At this point it?s anyone?s guess whether the long anticipated trade of Rick Nash will ever actually go down. This story has dragged on since February and it appears as if we are still no closer to a resolution. While countless rumored return packages have been proposed in the media, then dissected and criticized by the fans, until a trade is finally consummated or Scott Howson reveals publicly exactly what players he wants in return for his franchise player (which would be a violation of the league?s tampering rules) no one knows for sure how high a price Columbus is demanding.
However some close to the situation, including Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, would seem to have a better idea than most. Portzline made an appearance on WFAN on July 7th (as noted here on SNYRangersblog) and indicated a deal could get done for Nash if the Rangers offered Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan and a first-round pick. Since a trade has not been made it would seem the Rangers are unwilling to move Stepan. That belief is supported by Larry Brooks who wrote as much in the NY Post (again noted on this site) last month.
Rangers GM Glen Sather continued bargain hunting for affordable forward depth with the signing of UFA LW Taylor Pyatt to a two-year deal Tuesday. The AAV of Pyatt?s deal is $1.55 million. In essence Sather utilized the money saved by allowing Brandon Prust to leave by allocating it to two players, Asham and now Pyatt. The stated plan this summer was to improve the depth on the roster and getting two useful players for the price of one is a good way to do just that. Just how useful Pyatt will be remains to be seen but we can at least get an idea based on past performance.
Here?s how Pyatt has fared in the advanced metrics I like to use to analyze a player?s effectiveness in helping his club possess the puck and tilt the ice in their favor.
Glen Sather said the Rangers were going to be active in free agency and they lived up to that on day one. They?ve yet to make the type of blockbuster addition expected but that doesn?t mean the roster moves made on July 1st won?t impact next season?s roster. The most notable signing was that of gritty forward Arron Asham, who once he takes the ice for the Blue Shirts will have played for each team in the Atlantic Division.
Asham likely will fill a spot on the fourth line where he?ll bring a little more physicality to the lineup. While he won?t have a prominent role on the team Asham?s addition was meaningful in another way as it meant the club had decided to move on from fan-favorite Brandon Prust. Asham agreed to a two-year deal worth $2 million and Prust later signed a four-year deal worth $10 million to join the Montreal Canadiens.
With the Rangers on the prowl for more offense this offseason two free agents who might warrant a looksee from Sather are (potentially) soon-to-be former Coyote teammates Ray Whitney and Shane Doan. Both players have expressed their desire to remain in Phoenix however the ownership uncertainty surrounding the organization has prompted them to at least consider leaving the desert. If the Rangers were to have their choice of player with all else being equal, which would be the best fit for New York?
If we were to base the decision solely on last year?s stats and the Rangers need for more scoring it would appear on the surface that Whitney would be the better option. After all, his 77 points scored bested Doan by 27. Yet by now we realize that totals may not mean as much as rates do.
Everyone knows the Rangers are going to address their offense somehow, someway this summer. However, the free agent market?s best scoring forward, Zach Parise, has sworn he won?t sign with his current club?s arch-enemy (the Rangers) and the other players with a track record of offensive production will likely get big money offers from other teams as is customary in free agency. The Rangers, with important younger players set to hit restricted free agency in the next couple of years, may be and should be hesitant to overpay for an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The trade market, highlighted by Rich Nash and perhaps Bobby Ryan, offers more available high-end talent but to date the cost to acquire any one of those players is quite high. Sather has so far resisted the temptation to subtract what potentially could be multiple young assets from his core to add the big scoring winger the team seeks.
That means it wouldn?t be too shocking to see Sather take a chance this offseason on a buy low, bounce back candidate. One of those types just became available today when it was announced the Colorado Avalanche would not be submitting a qualifying offer to 24-year-old forward Peter Mueller.
Advanced Stats: A look back at the postseason, Part 1
By Glen Miller | Jun 11, 2012 | 3:35PM
With the Rangers (and their fans) dreams of Stanley Cup glory dashed and their goal of winning a championship unfulfilled it?s time for the organization to take a look in the mirror to figure out what needs to be done to take the next step in 2013. However in order to know what, if any, changes need to be made to this roster in order to improve the team management needs to know where the weaknesses on the club lie. That?s where advanced stats might be able to help.
Before we delve into some of the advanced stats from the perspective of potential summer roster changes, let?s take a look at the season past to see how individual players fared. Today we begin a three-part series analyzing the performance of the Rangers in the postseason. First up is a look at the Relative Corsi and Quality of Competition (QoC) ratings. QoC is one of my favorite advanced stats. It helps to put a perspective on many other metrics I use.
Late last week Adam received an email from reader Matthew Hevia in which Matthew argues against making a trade for Rick Nash that would involve Brandon Dubinsky going the other way. Matthew cites the large disparity in the respective Relative Corsi ratings between Nash and Dubi this year in making his case Dubi carries more value than Nash aside from goal scoring numbers.
Relative Corsi has value as a metric but it doesn?t tell the whole story. Nash plays for the worst team in the league this year. Chances are his Corsi rating is being hindered by the quality of his teammates. It?s also conceivable, with Nash being his team?s best player, he is lining up opposite some of the opponent?s better players.
Reader Matthew Hevia emailed this look at the idea of swapping Rick Nash for Brandon Dubinsky using Advanced Stats:
Aside from all of the talk regarding how screwed The Rangers would be cap wise if they acquired Rick Nash, think of this.? The Rangers are built primarily on defense and team chemistry.? Rick Nash may add offense, but with a plus minus of -22 this year, it's clear that he wouldn't fit in on a defensive minded, hard working, shot blocking team.? The Rangers don't have anyone who is below a -4.? Also, Dubinsky has value in the locker room that Rick Nash couldn't match.? As a matter of fact, it'd be unfair to even ask Rick Nash to try and gel with a squad that has gone through a whirlwind of a season thus far.? Between the European tour, the presence of HBO for a month while preparing for The Winter Classic, and solidifying a team identity, It has been the kind of season that forms a special bond between teammates that experience it all TOGETHER.? With all of this being said, I think that the comparison of Dubinsky and Nash using corsi is very telling.? The Blue Jackets are an awful team, and according to the numbers below, on average, with Nash on the ice they let up close to 1.5 shots less than they do when he sits.? When you subtract his off ice corsi, from his on ice corsi, it creates his relative corsi, which is 1.2.? This means that overall, on average, he's good for helping the team throw 1.2 more shots on net than they give up.? With Brandon Dubinsky on the ice, The Rangers give up almost 8.5 less shots than they do when he is off the ice.? Dubinsky's relative corsi is 8.2, and this shows you that on average, Brandon Dubinsky is responsible for directing 7 more pucks at the net than Rick Nash is.? I realize that this could change if Rick Nash were placed on a team like The Rangers, but the numbers are the numbers.? You have to play defense, and help the team to put pucks on net in order to score, and ultimately win.? Brandon Dubinsky does all of those things, I say keep him!
Speculation has the Rangers trying to add a top-six winger who can help their pitiful power-play ahead of next month?s trade deadline. Some of the names rumored to be on the Rangers wish list are: Bobby Ryan, Shane Doan, Teemu Selanne, Vinny Prospal and Brendan Morrow. Of that group: Ryan is going to cost a princely sum; Doan and Selanne have so far indicated they?d rather stay with their respective clubs; Prospal, while we know he would fit in with the group of guys already here, will turn 37 before the deadline and has cooled off since a strong start; and Morrow may or may not even be available. Fact is it won?t be easy to add someone to boost the team?s PP efficiency nor is there even any guarantee any addition would help in that regard.
The Rangers might instead be forced to either stand pat or make a low risk, moderate reward type of move instead of the big splash many would rather see. If the Rangers truly feel they need to upgrade their man-advantage attack there are other, under-the-radar additions they could make without sacrificing roster players and/or top prospects. This likely won?t be a popular suggestion among Ranger fans but a move in the mold mentioned above would be to acquire Tampa D Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Advanced Stats: Identifying the League's Top Defensive Defensemen
By Glen Miller | Jan 30, 2012 | 4:46PM
Recently I saw a piece from Craig Custance of ESPN.com in which he fielded and answered readers? questions. One query specifically caught my eye. Mike from Kalamazoo asked Craig if he thought the NHL would ever split the Norris trophy into two separate awards; one recognizing the best offensive blueliner and the other the best defensive defenseman. In his response, Custance, while saying he didn?t think the league would ever do it, pointed out that Globe and Mail writer James Mirtle annually ranks the best defensive defensemen and awards that player in an article the fictional Rod Langway Award.
Mirtle uses a few basic metrics found on Behind The Net for this analysis. +/- QoC, or ?QCMP,? as it?s listed in the piece, is one of them. He also uses ES GA/60 and SH GA/60 to help make his determination. For the 2010 ? 2011 season, Vancouver?s Dan Hamhuis came away with Mirtle?s Rod Langway Award.
Surprisingly, Florida?s Jason Garrison and Mike Weaver placed 2nd and 3rd respectively in Mirtle?s work. Our own Marc Staal rated 11th and Dan Girardi 26th in the analysis.
Last week ESPN published two related articles analyzing the early returns from some of this summer?s UFA signings. Timo Seppa of Hockey Prospectus, who also contributes to ESPN.com, applied GVT and the associated GVS (Goals Versus Salary) metric in determining which offseason signings have been worth the money and which haven?t. In the second piece, ESPN?s Craig Custance takes Seppa?s analysis to some NHL GM?s for their reactions.
In an example of how wide the chasm between statistical analysis and traditional player evaluation techniques can be GVS did not shine favorably on the Rangers acquisition of Brad Richards while the GM quoted in Custance?s piece cited the intangibles the veteran center brings that no metric can adequately account for. The key to player evaluation is the ability to take all available information, including the advanced stats and scouting reports and use those to make smart decisions. The team that does that the best has a good chance of being successful on an annual basis.
Ordinarily I am the guy that relies on advanced stats to support my arguments. In this piece I am going to demonstrate the potential pitfalls in relying on a single metric or limited data rather than information from a multitude of sources. First let me explain what GVS is and how to calculate the value. Since the point of contention is Brad Richards we?ll use his numbers.
Aside from Henrik Lundqvist there has been no player more valuable to the Rangers success this year than Dan Girardi. Girardi has assumed the mantle of leadership on a very young blue line corps missing one of the top shutdown defenders in the league in Marc Staal. Despite the season-long absence of Staal and injuries to other members of the defense, the Rangers still rank third in the NHL allowing just 2.1 goals per game. Not only is that a testament to the continued great play of Lundqvist and his backup, Martin Biron, it is also reflective of the tremendous play of Girardi as well.
Many have pushed Girardi?s case to be an All-Star this year despite the omission of his name from the ballot. While that would certainly be a well-deserved reward for the 27 year-old defenseman could he find himself in consideration for an even greater award after the season? Is Girardi making a case for a Norris Trophy nomination?
In this post we?ll compare Girardi?s season to date with those of the three players that have combined to win the previous four Norris Trophies: Nicklas Lidstrom (twice), Zdeno Chara and Duncan Keith. Naturally we?ll look at categories you?d expect Norris-caliber defensemen to excel at and will use some of the advanced stats we?ve utilized in past articles.
Advanced Stats: Price For Bobby Ryan Would Have Been Too High
By Glen Miller | Dec 19, 2011 | 4:40PM
Just a few weeks ago it appeared the Rangers might have been on the verge of acquiring Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan for a package highlighted by Brandon Dubinsky. Of course subsequent reports stated that no names were actually exchanged in any discussions between the clubs. Still, there is little doubt had a trade been consummated, Dubinsky would have likely been part of it.
In the midst of a horrendous start to the year and well out of the playoff race, the Ducks were looking to make a dramatic change to jumpstart their season. Instead of making a drastic alteration to the playing roster the Ducks decided to dispatch longtime head coach Randy Carlyle and replace him with the recently terminated former coach of the Capitals, Bruce Boudreau. This shelved, at least for the time being, any chances for a Ryan deal of any kind. ?Still, the question remains whether or not getting Ryan would have been good or bad for the Rangers anyway.
There?s no doubt Ryan is a very talented player. The second overall selection in the 2004 entry draft behind Sidney Crosby has already posted three, 30-goal campaigns in his young career. Over his last three full seasons he has potted 100 goals and 192 points, good for a seasonal average of 33.3 goals and 64 points. Considering Ryan is just 24 and that he may still have some untapped potential left, acquiring him would have been costly in terms of a return package.
It?s not easy to win in this league minus quality goaltending. That?s why the Flyers shelled out big bucks this past summer to get the top UFA G on the market in Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers have not won the Cup in more than 30 years and the lack of steady play in net has been a big reason why. The Columbus Blue Jackets reside at the bottom of the standings despite spending big on UFA D James Wisniewski, trading for goal-scoring F Jeff Carter and signing veteran playmaker Vinny Prospal. Thankfully the Rangers have one of, if not the best, goalies in the world in Henrik Lundqvist. But having a quality backup is also important for team success.
Last year?s Stanley Cup champions may have received other-worldly play from Tim Thomas but their backup, Tuuka Rask, posted some solid numbers as well finishing with a Save % of 91.8% in 27 starts. Boston?s opponent in the finals, Vancouver, got stellar play from Roberto Luongo?s understudy, Cory Schneider. The young goalie posted a Save % of 92.9% while making 22 starts.
Having a reliable backup in net means you can give the starter more rest and keep him fresh for the postseason without hurting your club?s chances to accrue regular season points. A fresh starter in goal is better prepared for the playoff grind. The Rangers have relied heavily on Hank down the stretch of the regular season in years past as they?ve struggled to earn one of the Conference?s last playoff spots. The heavy workload might be one reason Hank hasn?t thrived in the playoffs like he does in the regular season.
Having a successful power play is important to winning hockey games. Over the last three seasons, 23 0f the 30 clubs, or 76.7%, that finished in the league?s top 10 in power play efficiency also qualified for the playoffs. There is little doubt an efficient power play yields on-ice success but how can it be determined if a power play is efficient or not?
The current method does not distinguish between the various PP situations. It ignores man-advantage durations (two minutes, abbreviated PP?s or five minute man-advantages) and whether or not it is a one or two man advantage. The longer the power play opportunity the more likely there will be a goal scored with the man-advantage. Likewise, a two man-advantage presents a better opportunity to come away with a score than skating on a 5-on-4 or 4-on-3 will. Clearly there has to be a better way to gauge PP efficiency and we?ve got one here for you.
A better way to account for PP success is to calculate how many PP goals a team scores per minute of man-advantage time while separating out the different situations (5-on-4, 5-on-3 and 4-on-3). This nullifies in large part the abbreviated PP?s and puts into proper context the different on-ice strength situations.
As good as we feel overall about this edition of the New York Rangers, at least once we start playing with some consistency and Marc Staal gets healthy, the one criticism usually raised in hockey circles is the relative youth of the blue line. No one argues with the talent; after all, once Staal returns we will eventually be able to boast of six former first-round picks (Staal, Erixon, MDZ, Woywitka, McDonagh and Eminger) a second-rounder (Sauer) and one undrafted free agent (Dan Girardi) on the roster. The argument against the Blueshirts defense corps is that their inexperience will make it tough for the club to make it deep into the postseason.
On the surface that argument makes sense. Just off the top of my head, most of the league?s recent Stanley Cup champions boasted at least one veteran Norris Trophy caliber defender in their ranks. The Bruins have Chara. Duncan Keith won the Norris the same year Chicago won their Cup. Detroit (Lidstrom) and Anaheim (Pronger and Niedermayer) each iced top-level defensemen. Even Pittsburgh had Gonchar, who at one point was a Norris candidate or at least widely considered a legitimate number one defenseman.
All of those guys were well established veterans with long track records of success. The Rangers top defenseman is Staal, who has four years of experience and at 24 years of age has just one all-star berth on his resume. Journeyman Steve Eminger offers the most experience with eight NHL seasons under his belt but he?s also with his sixth different team in that span. I can see how it appears the Rangers lack the experience necessary to go deep into the postseason. But let?s put that perception to the test.
It?s certainly been an interesting weekend in Ranger-land. First the club blows what should have been an insurmountable three-goal lead at home to the red-hot Senators. Then they send F Kris Newbury and D Tim Erixon back to Hartford. Mike Rupp?s knee hasn?t gotten any better which is possibly what motivated the club to place controversial fan-favorite Sean Avery on re-entry waivers. If he should go unclaimed, a likely outcome, Sean would rejoin the club and be eligible to play Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Of course none of these moves does anything to help out with the thin defense corps. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh are playing tons of minutes and could both run out of gas by the all-star break. Thankfully Michael Sauer has made his return from injury and is picking up the slack. Erixon?s demotion was necessary. He played just more than seven minutes Saturday and needs to see more ice time to develop into the player he can be. With just six healthy defensemen and Jeff Woywitka dressing for Monday?s contest, the Rangers could stand to add someone to help bridge the gap. Enter Anton Stralman?
With the hubbub surrounding the Marc Staal and Michael Sauer injuries, more focus is directed on the play of the team?s healthy defenders. If the Blueshirts hope to make a mark this year and in the postseason they?ll need steady play from their blue line crew.
Rangers? fans can remain confident with Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh while Steve Eminger and Jeff Woywitka offer the benefit of experience. Of course the later pair is best suited as third-pair defensemen. Tim Erixon is what he is; a 20 year-old rookie with upside but one who is bound to make mistakes. If anyone in that group is going to step up and bridge the gap, I just don?t see it.
That leaves 21 year-old Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto burst onto the scene as a 19 year-old rookie two seasons ago. He finished his freshman campaign with nine goals and 38 points including 22 on the power play. For a kid so young to produce so much on offense, it looked like the sky was the limit for the guy Rangers fans like to refer to as MDZ.
Needing to address the defense position in the wake of Marc Staal?s lingering post-concussion symptoms, the Rangers added veteran blue liner Jeff Woywitka via waivers from Montreal last week. Woywitka signed a two-way deal with Montreal this summer before the Canadiens waived him. His deal counts $600,000 against the cap while on the NHL roster.
Of course Woywitka won?t be expected to replace Staal. He was signed to give Tortorella veteran depth. He will be expected to play a solid 13-15 minutes per night on the third pair and provide a better alternative than either Brendan Bell or Stu Bickel. The question is what exactly do we have in Woywitka? Was Woywitka the best option for the Rangers? Veterans like Paul Mara and Bryan McCabe remain unsigned. Is Woywitka better than those options? What can we expect from Woywitka while he is in the lineup? Let?s see if the advanced stats can give us a probable answer to those queries.
For those who watched the Rangers in Europe this past weekend, it?s abundantly clear this team needs to stay out of the penalty box. Because of that I included the Relative Penalties Taken/Drawn Per 60 along with the usual suspects of advanced stats for this comparison. We?ve already concluded defensemen are more likely to take more infractions than they will draw but the better the differential the more it will benefit the team.
A few days ago in a special feature for ESPN, Timo Seppa of Hockey Prospectus published his Player Ranks based on the VUKOTA projection system profiled recently here. Seppa only listed the top 10 skaters and five goaltenders as forecast by VUKOTA. Check the full article for all of the specifics but here?s a quick rundown:
Alex Ovechkin ? 20.6 GVT
Steven Stamkos ? 19.4 GVT
Sidney Crosby ? 18.5 GVT
Corey Perry ? 17.5 GVT
Daniel Sedin ? 16.8 GVT
Anze Kopitar ? 15.6 GVT
Dustin Byfuglien ? 15.5 GVT
Patrick Kane ? 15.5 GVT
Jeff Skinner ? 15.1 GVT
Jonathan Toews ? 14.6 GVT
Henrik Lundqvist ? 17.9 GVT
Carey Price ? 14.7 GVT
Ryan Miller ? 13.7 GVT
Pekka Rinne ? 13.5 GVT
Cam Ward ? 13.4 GVT
It?s nice to see VUKOTA showing our boy in goal some love. A lot of observers have already predicted a long overdue Vezina trophy for the Rangers netminder including: Elliote Friedman of CBC, Larry Brooks of the New York Post, plus Craig Custance and Scott Burnside of ESPN.
The Rangers may have finished a mediocre eighth in the East during the regular season and yes, they were dispatched in five games in the post-season?s first-round, but the club was witness to a number of pleasant surprises despite the unimpressive team results. The type of unexpected developments that can give fans, management and the team?s coaches greater hope for the future. The question that crops up when something unexpected happens is, will it happen again.
Few predicted rookies Mike Sauer and Derek Stepan to crack the opening day lineup for the Rangers. Not only did they both start the year with New York, both finished the campaign with the Rangers. Sauer played in 76 games and led the team with a +20 +/- rating.
Derek Stepan had his ups and downs but finished with 21 goals and 45 points and appeared in every game.
Advanced Stats: Was Waiving Sean Avery The Right Move?
By Glen Miller | Oct 5, 2011 | 3:36PM
To the surprise of some and the disappointment of many, the Sean Avery era in New York City is officially over after the club placed the veteran winger on waivers with the intent of sending him to the AHL should he go unclaimed. Torts had been clear in recent days that Avery was in a competition with fellow fan-favorite Erik Christensen (sarcasm folks) for the 13th and final forward spot on the roster. Shockingly Avery had been scratched from the lineup the last two contests while Christensen was in for both. Some read this as a sign Torts had made a decision already but was it going to be good or bad for Avery? Obviously we now know it was bad news.
If you?ve been on the Blueshirts United website today or probably many other websites that have covered this story, you?ve seen how many fans believe keeping Christensen over Avery is just a plain old bad move. The fans have spoken; what do the advanced stats have to say?
The following are tables showing how each player fared in several advanced statistical categories. Please note only the previous two seasons of Erik Christensen?s career are covered in his table. This comprises the length of Christensen?s tenure on Manhattan and seemed to be the fairest way to compare him with Avery, who spent most of the last four plus seasons plus with the Rangers. Also, these numbers reflect only five-on-five performance. This seemed fair since Christensen saw far more PP ice time than Avery so including those numbers would likely skew the analysis in Christensen?s favor.
As the post-concussion symptoms linger for Marc Staal rumors have been floated that the Rangers could look to add a veteran defender as the club heads into the regular season. Indeed reports have surfaced claiming the Blueshirts reached out earlier this summer to the agents for UFA defensemen Paul Mara, a former Ranger, and Chris Campoli, who the Blackhawks severed ties with following an arbitration award of $2.5 million. Another player linked to Manhattan is Brad Lukowich, who was waived by Dallas recently and also played for Torts in Tampa.
Note: Campoli signed a free agent contract with Montreal worth $1.75 million over one season on Monday, September 26th. More on that later in the piece.
The counterargument to such an addition is the depth of young players on defense in the system. As it stands the Rangers will be taking 10 defensemen, not including Staal, to Europe for a handful of exhibition tilts before beginning regular season play in Sweden. Those players are; Brendan Bell, Stu Bickell, Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Tim Erixon, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Dylan McIlrath, Blake Parlett and Michael Sauer.
Advanced Stats: Using VUKOTA To Predict Stats and Finish This Season
By Glen Miller | Sep 24, 2011 | 2:04PM
In the last post we introduced Hockey Prospectus? VUKOTA projection system and scrutinized its forecasting skills against the actual results of last season?s Blueshirts squad. While VUKOTA proved somewhat underwhelming in a limited sample I thought it would be interesting to see how VUKOTA pegged this year?s club. Here are the results.
While I might have struck out trying to predict the performance of Mats Zuccarello next year using advanced stats, the boys at Hockey Prospectus have done their own work and have projected the young winger to post a 32-point season. What do the have that I don?t? They have a projection system called VUKOTA (I know, a tough name for Rangers fans) they use to forecast the production of players. The system was introduced during the summer of 2009 and has been available on their website and in their annuals since. First, here?s a little about VUKOTA from the man himself, Tom Awad.
?PuckProspectus likes to keep our readers one step ahead of the competition. To this end, we have developed a tool called VUKOTA. Following in the tradition of?PECOTA?and KUBIAK, VUKOTA is PuckProspectus? player projection system. Using a combination of fundamental and advanced statistics, VUKOTA compares current NHL players to comparable players throughout history to best project their next season?s performance in goals, assists and points as well as GVT. VUKOTA will be an additional tool in the PuckProspectus arsenal to help us and our readers better understand the inner workings of the hockey world.?
VUKOTA derives its name from that of former New York Islanders tough guy Mick Vukota. The Prospectus clan uses the names of journeymen players from each sport and gives them to their projection systems. For example; PECOTA comes from utility IF Bill Pecota who played for the Kansas City Royals in the 1980?s. As many Rangers fans know, Mick Vukota played in parts of 10 seasons on Long Island and became a fan favorite.
The key to their system is their use of comparables. I attempted to isolate several comparables for the same purpose in my post on Zuccarello but I lack the readily available and extreme volume of data Hockey Prospectus has. In theory Hockey Prospectus can do a better job of finding close comparables and thus should be able to make better projections.
Advanced Stats: Can Advanced Stats Help Project Mats Zuccarello?s Performance?
By Glen Miller | Sep 16, 2011 | 4:22PM
I recently came across a comment on a blog discussing advanced metrics on another site. This commenter feels that some writers from ?mainstream? websites twist stats or represent them in such a way as to support a conclusion the author arrived at prior to doing any research. From my own experience I can agree with the commenter; this probably does happen frequently and most writers, even I, have been guilty of this at one point or another.
The best way to combat this tendency is to not have a pre-conceived notion of the outcome of a research exercise. For example; for the recent posts discussing how Richards might impact the club and Marian Gaborik along with some other potential factors for Gabby?s decreased goal production, I had no idea what my research might reveal. As with most Rangers fans, I assumed Richards would fit well and help boost Gaborik?s goal-scoring totals but I kept an open mind as far as what the advanced stats might show. That?s the only way to avoid forcing the numbers to match a conclusion and ignoring contradictory facts.
In this post I want to explore the case of Mats Zuccarello and whether or not he has a future in this league. Those of us who watched the young Scandinavian forward recognized the skill the kid has but the fact he is just 5?7? is a disadvantage he will have to overcome in order to carve out a successful NHL career. Fact is many smaller players have a tough time earning regular playing time in this league despite solid skill sets.
Advanced Stats: Other Possible Factors for Gaborik?s 2010-2011 Struggles
By Glen Miller | Sep 12, 2011 | 4:49PM
For the Rangers to have any chance of legitimately challenging for a Stanley Cup championship either this year or in the near future, they?re going to need more from Marian Gaborik than the 22 goals he netted last season. He needs to be a consistent offensive force rather than the streaky goal-scorer he was a season ago. If you recall, Gaborik tallied 12 markers in the four multi-goal games he recorded a year ago. That means he potted just 10 goals in the other 58 games in which he participated. That?s got to change this year.
We?ve touched on one of the reasons why Gaborik likely struggled to score consistently last season; the absence of an elite playmaking center. The Rangers tried to solve that with the addition of Brad Richards.
Gaborik did mesh well with veteran forward Vinny Prospal in 2009-2010 and Prospal missed much of this past season due to a knee injury. It seemed Gabby just couldn?t get it going and the absence of Prospal probably played a part in that.
Now let?s get to what we all want to know; will Richards and Gabby mesh on a line together? Most Rangers fans envision Richards feeding Gaborik in prime scoring areas for a bunch of goals this year. And that?s where I am going to start my analysis; with primary assists. Primary assists obviously tend to play a more direct role in goals being scored than secondary assists. Since Richards is a prime setup guy then it stands to reason he would excel in that category.
Here?s how Richards performed in terms of primary assists per 60 minutes of ice time, both at even strength (ES A1/60) and with the man-advantage (PP A1/60).
Speaking of the top line, Richards won?t be at it alone. Of course as I said at the beginning of the post, Richards was brought in with the hopes he will spark the play of Gaborik. Gabby will obviously see a lot of time on Richards? right side. The question is who will and who should get the chance to shine on the port side of the two all-stars?
Here?s a table showing the same advanced stats used above in the Richards breakdown applied to Gaborik and the four guys I think have the best shot of lining up on the left wing of the Rangers top line.
The Rangers have never been shy about committing large sums of cash to veteran free agents and this summer was no different. Whereas many of GM Glen Sather?s expensive additions have bombed out on Broadway, the signing of free agent canter Brad Richards to a nine-year, $60 million deal is widely viewed as the right add to a roster of mostly young, home-grown talent. His ability to QB a PP and more importantly his skills as a top playmaking pivot addressed the Blueshirts biggest needs.
Was it expensive? Absolutely, but Sather is also counting on Richards getting the most out of another expensive investment, one that didn?t produce what was expected of him this past season; star sniper Marian Gaborik.
Gaborik burst on the NY scene in 2009-2010 and quickly showed why Sather bestowed a five-year contract paying out $7.5 million per season to the oft-injured winger. In his first two months on Manhattan, Gabby popped 21 goals in just 25 games. He would finish the season with 42 markers and gave the Rangers their most dynamic goal-scoring forward since Jaromir Jagr in his 2005-2006 campaign.
If you were to ask any hockey fan which is most important, goals or assists, all would say goals. After all, the scoreboard tallies goals, not assists and whichever club has more goals at the end of the game wins. There is a reason Hockey Prospectus calls their player metric Goals Versus Threshold. Goals rule the day.
Still, that doesn?t mean assists should be ignored. Many times a great pass leads to a goal scored and subsequently an assist on the stat sheet for the passer. Some goals would never happen was it not for a play being made by a teammate of the eventual goal-scorer.
The NHL currently tabulates goals and assists equally as one point when determining the league?s scoring leaders. While both should be counted doesn?t it stand to reason since a goal is more important that it should count more than an assist? Heck, on many goals two assists are awarded on the stat sheet so isn?t it logical that assists should be valued less than a goal? That?s what many statistical analysts feel should be the case.
So you want to know why Marc Staal, widely regarded as one of the league?s top shutdown defensemen, finished with a lower +/- rating than Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer, two wet-behind-the-ears rookies. It may have to do with whom Staal and his defense partner, Dan Girardi, were pressed into regular duty against.
I watched every single Rangers game this past year and night-in and night-out, Staal and Girardi played big minutes against the best the other teams had to offer. That?s what my eyes told me at least. The question is, do the advanced stats confirm my perception that the duo of Staal and Girardi played against the opposition?s best players? Fortunately we have Behind the Net?s Quality of Competition (QualComp) metric to help us figure that out.
Before I get into the numbers, a brief explanation of how Behind the Net determines the QualComp stat is in order. Behind the Net reverts back to On-Off Ice +/-, one of its other metrics, to calculate QualComp. Thanks to the NHL introducing a real-time tracking system for on-ice events, Behind the Net is able to figure out whom and for how long each NHL player played against during the season. They then take that data and average out the On-Off Ice +/- of the opposition based on ice time to come up with a QualComp number.
Captain Obvious once said, ?in order to win a hockey game you must score more goals than your opponent.? All joking aside, this perfectly obvious statement is 100% true. But it isn?t easy to score goals in the NHL. The league average per club last season was about 2.73 goals-per-game. Clearly teams must take advantage of as many of their chances to score as possible.
One way to make life easier on the players trying to put the puck in the opposing net is to generate PP opportunities. Better than 23.3% of the goals scored last year were potted on the PP. The more man-advantage opportunities a team has the more likely they are to score more goals. Thus players who are good at drawing penalties have added value to their clubs.
Conversely, players who take penalties and give their opponents added PP opportunities are doing a disservice to their team. Sometimes a player has no choice other than committing an infraction. Maybe they are preventing a glorious scoring chance by hooking an opposing player to the ice. Those penalties are understandable and acceptable. Still, many penalties are not of that sort and those infractions end up hurting their club.
Perusing a list of GVT rankings is one thing. It can tell you that Martin St. Louis (20.4 GVT) had a season twice as good as Gaborik (10.2). How much does that difference really mean to the teams they play for?
Hockey, like all competitive sports, is about winning games. For the GVT metric to be helpful to a team in any tangible way we have to know how a player?s GVT relates to a team?s won-loss record. Fortunately, this can be done.
In baseball they?ve determined just how many runs (RAR) equal a team win. This allows us to calculate how many wins above replacement a player is worth to his team. The metric in baseball is called Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
Hockey Prospectus, www.puckprospectus.com, is the hockey sibling in the famous Prospectus sports advanced stats analytics family. Some of their writers not only appear on the home site, they also do guest features on ESPN and other sports sites. They do a great job of analyzing the sport through the prism of advanced stats.
Tom Awad, one of the talented scribes and stat analysts on the site, developed a metric whose baseball comparable would likely be Runs Above Replacement-level (RAR). Awad called his player evaluation stat, ?Goals Versus Threshold? (GVT) and with it determines a player?s on-ice contributions relative to a ?threshold? or ?replacement? player. (Before I go further I want to thank Tom for the help he has given me as I try to understand the GVT metric. Sometimes I just can?t grasp the nuts and bolts of these advanced stats. Tom has gone above and beyond in helping me to better understand.)
If you are a fan of baseball you may have heard of the RAR stat. This stat is a close comparable to GVT in that it represents a player?s value above a ?replacement? or ?threshold? player in a term (runs for baseball or goals for hockey) fans are familiar with. A ?threshold? or ?replacement level? player would be defined as the top AHL/minor league player in the organization or the highest ranking free agent on the market in-season (not a prospect) and carries a GVT or RAR value of zero. Basically the guy a club would go get in the event one of their regular players went down to injury or something to that effect. For Rangers fans think Chad Kolarik, Andre Deveaux or Kris Newbury.
Advanced Stats: The Pythagorean Win Expectation Formula
By Glen Miller | Aug 31, 2011 | 10:55AM
Bill James, the godfather of statistical analysis and the man behind the advance stats movement in baseball, developed a formula that can accurately project the number of games a team will win based on run differential. The formula is an adaptation of the Pythagorean Theorem which is used to calculate the length of sides on a right triangle in geometry. The baseball version of the formula was later adapted for hockey as well.
For those of you that don?t recall your high school math classes well, the Pythagorean Theorem goes like this: A^2 + B^2 = C^2.
The calculation for the Pythagorean Win Expectation formula is: ((GF^2 / (GF^2 + GA^2)). Where: GF = Goals For and GA = Goals Allowed. The number the formula yields is the projected winning percentage of that team. To determine the projected number of wins you simply multiply the winning percentage by the number of contests played up to that time.
Not to be confused with politically correct, Player Contribution (PC), was developed by one of hockey?s first and brightest statistical analysts, Alan Ryder and is available on his site, www.hockeyanalytics.com.
I won?t and can?t get into the math of this metric but suffice it to say PC is Ryder?s version of Bill James? Win Shares stat for baseball. It is designed to allocate the credit an individual deserves for a team?s overall performance.
Ryder generally divides his list by position since typically and understandably goaltenders rank much higher than skaters. On his site he points out that no other position in any sport carries the same level of importance to a team?s chances of winning or losing than a hockey goalie. The closest comparable would be a baseball pitcher.
This is another stat you can find on Behind the Net. It tracks how often a player starts his shift in his squad?s offensive and defensive zones. Among players that played 60 or more contests, Derek Stepan led the Rangers by starting 64.1% of his shifts which didn?t begin in the neutral zone, in the Rangers offensive zone.
Conversely, Brian Boyle led the team by beginning 59.7% of his shifts in the defensive zone. That makes sense considering he and his line generally played against the opposition?s top line and coach Tortorella would trust them to play in risky situations, including with a faceoff in their own zone. Considering Boyle started nearly six out of every 10 shifts in his own zone, it makes his twenty-goal season even more remarkable.
The other end of the equation is Zone Finish. Zone Finish reflects where the puck is when a player?s shift ends. Obviously it?s better if a player?s shift ends with the puck in the offensive zone because hopefully, that player?s teammates will maintain possession of the puck and will create scoring chances.
Obviously in order to win hockey games you have to score more goals than your opponents. In order to score goals you have to possess the puck and direct shots on goal. The NHL has officially tracked Shots On Goal (SOG) for many years. Quality scoring chances are also sometimes tracked but unofficially. SOG tells part of the story; Corsi Rating tells a little bit more.
This metric is named for the man who developed it, Buffalo goaltending coach Jim Corsi. His belief was that shots directed towards the net also reflected puck possession and if you possess the puck more than your opponent (at least in the offensive zone) you are more likely to score more goals. Therefore, his stat includes missed shots and blocked shots in addition to shots on goal.
Simply put, Relative Corsi is the delta between a player?s on-ice Corsi Rating and his off ice mark. Mats Zuccarello actually led the Blushirts last season with a five-on-five Relative Corsi of 17.8 (16.05 on-ice, -1.74 off-ice). This means that while Zucc was on the ice the Rangers directed 16.05 more shots towards the net (again, not necessarily on goal) per 60 minutes than their opposition. When he was on the bench the Rangers allowed 1.74 more shot attempts than they took.
Most fans realize hockey?s +/- stat is not necessarily indicative of a player?s true defensive ability. Generally non-playoff teams and/or teams with weak goaltending employ many players with poor +/- ratings. It doesn?t mean however, that every player on those clubs is poor defensively.
Skaters can be hung with a minus simply for completing a line-change at the wrong time. Conversely a skater can earn a plus and have had absolutely no role in his team scoring a goal. Plus/Minus might be an indicator of defensive skill but it can be misleading and is far from perfect.
With that in mind the guys at www.behindthenet.ca, along with many other advanced stats that will be introduced here, give you On-Off Ice Plus-Minus. On-Off Ice Plus-Minus differs from the traditional +/- stat in several ways. For one, On-Off Ice Plus-Minus is a rate stat measured in +/- per 60 minutes of ice time while the traditional +/- is a counting stat.