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Archive for August 2012

The $58M Cap – Who’s In Trouble

The NHL sent the NHLPA a new economic proposal yesterday in the course of CBA negotiations. In it, they suggested a $58M salary cap this year for a bit more than 51% of league revenues.

The issue is teams have been planning and signing players on the basis of a projected 2012-13 cap of $70M+.

So who are the 16 teams in trouble and by how much if the $58M salary cap goes into affect?

Teams In A Quandry

In order from most money issues to closest to, but above,
the $58M numbers (all figures do not include bonuses and their potential impact):

BOS $10,867,976

MIN $10,848,867

VAN $9,768,333

CGY $8,668,332

PHI $8,643,373

SJS $7,241,667

MTL $5,897,976

TBL $5,246,916

EDM $4,933,333

TOR $4,873,333

CHI $4,445,128

LAK $4,320,227

BUF $3,542,023

PIT $2,263,333

WSH $1,627,905

NYR $508,334

What will be key without some kind of ‘Grandfather Tax’ is who GM’s cut in order to right-size. This is where GM’s are going to earn their money this summer.

Later, we will discuss potential cuts to get down to a new cap ceiling.

Changing +/- (With A Little Help From Toronto)

Some goals really count for a team. While it can be easily argued that any goal scored by a player has goodness in terms of its positive psychological effect on the individual player, it does not always translate that way for a team. And yet we tend to tout them all, to the point we have the +/- statistic to give every skater on the ice for a team at even strength a marker when the puck goes into the net.

A simple example here is a 7 – 3 win by the Toronto Maple Leafs over Tampa Bay on 3 January 2011. What goals really counted there? In this blog’s opinion, Lupul’s (TOR) goal at 03:25/1st, Grabovski’  (TOR) goal at 12:28/2nd, Kubina’s (TBL) goal at 13:26 / 2nd and Boyce’s (TOR) goal at 13:43 / 2nd. That’s four out of 10 or 40%. The rest? By the way the game played out, irrelevant.

The why is the subject of this blog.

Just What Is Wrong Here?

I don’t like the +/- statistic. I am not alone. Now I readily admit it has been a part of my Hockey pools for years, and I revel in the high number boosting my stature in the pool. But I still don’t like it.

The reason is this simple: …Drew Doughty picks up the puck behind the net and fires it to Dustin Brown. Brown’s past the defense and across the blue line! It’s Brown and the goalie, BROWN DEEKS AND SCORES!!!!! At even strength, and after the Doughty and Brown show, five total, offensive players get a “+” on their stats pack that night off of the back of two players’ efforts. My contention, as with many of you, is three guys just may have gotten something for nothing.

I propose the NHL goes to, for lack of a better term, the Key Goal, or KG, instead. A KG, instead of a +/- would be awarded for one of three reasons: 1) a Game Winning Goal (GWG) whether in regulation, OT or a SO; 2) a goal scored within five minutes of an opponents’ score and to put a team within one goal of their opponent (because it has a high potential to change a game’s momentum); and 3) a score that ties a game in the 3rd Period and gives a team a chance to win in OT/SO. It is my contention the ‘KG’ demonstrates better than +/- statistics goals with direct potential significance to a game’s outcome.

With some help from the 2011-12 Toronto Maple Leafs, the value of KG’s becomes clearer.

The 2011-12 Maple Leafs

Before discussing KG’s and the Maple Leafs, it is illustrative to pass on some key statistics:

2011-12 Total Goals = 231

2011-12 Total Team +/-  =  –144

2011-12 Team Average +/- Per Game  =  –1.75

2011-12 Team Average +/- Per Goal Scored  =  –0.623

Sounds pretty durn negative. At first glance, it just looks bad. But what does it tell us, really? Does any team go to exit interviews and say, “…Clarke MacArthur… You were our best player this past season with a +3 at the end of the year…,” or “…Matthew Lombardi, you were our worst player this year with a -19 and we simply have to see better from you than that…”?

Maybe they do. But we believe a better measurement is the Key Goal, the KG, as defined above instead. For the Maple Leafs, a month-by-month analysis of the KG’s better explains the team’s performance and exemplifies our recommendation.

October 2011 KG’s

The Leafs played 11 games in October, ending the month with a 7 – 3 – 1 / .682 Winning Percentage. Had they been able to maintain this through the season, they would have been in the Playoffs with about 111 points in the standings.

In that month, they scored 36 total goals. But in terms of KG’s, they scored 17 (47.2% of the total), or 1.55 KG’s per Game (KGpG). So less than half of their total goals scored either were potential or actual game changers. By contrast, Leafs’ opponents went 4 – 7 scoring 35 total goals with 11 KG’s for a 1.0 KGpG average. So while the Maple Leafs were only a +1 in goal differential, they were a +6 in KG’s which, we would argue, contributed to the +3.5 wins differential.

Of note, Toronto scored 11 / 64.7% of their KG’s in the 3rd period of October games, four of which were Game Winning Goals (GWGs). They scored one each in OT and in a lone SO win. In contrast, four total goals / 23.5% and only one GWG were scored in the 2nd and 1st periods. What does this mean? In their first 11 games, Toronto was most dominant in the 3rd Period of play, particularly from the 9th minute onward when they scored nine of 17 / 52.9% of the month’s KG’s. You might have also noticed three of their four losses’ GWG’s came before the 8th minute of the 3rd Period. Bottom line here? This team was at its best with a high compete level when the game was on the line and was drawing to a close in October.

The individual KG leader for October? Phil Kessel notched 5 / 29.4% of all KG’s in the month, to include leading the team with three GWG’s. So in terms of the KG, Phil’s goals won 40% of the Maple Leafs’ victories while he also directly contributed to the outcome, or potential outcome, of another two / 11.8% of their games. (Over that same period of time, Kessel was listed as a +6 for his total of 10 goals and eight assists. In my calculator, that means he was nearer a +18 for the goals and assists, but being on the ice at even strength for a goal against or drawing those scores on the PP knocked about 2/3 of the credit off. This stat is counting and then taking away from itself for several reasons. Wouldn’t it be less, let’s just say, muddy, if it were simple math where a KG just counts?)

So the Leafs come out of October 7 – 3 – 1 / .682 with more than a KG per game. That is a good omen, one that starts Maple leaf fans talking about a return to the Playoffs.

November 2011 KG’s

If October was a picture of ‘what right looks like’ for Toronto, November was a slip off the mark. What? This month ended 7 – 6 – 1 / .536!

In three more games played than in October (14), they only scored 14 KG’s in 46 goals (30.4%) for a 1.0 KGpG and a 33% drop in KG production. Their dominant KG period was the 1st Period this time with a total of five, and the 2nd and 3rd Periods trailed off at four and three respectively. The 1st Period also held three of the Leafs’ five, regulation GWGs for the month. (Two games were won via the SO.)  It is as if the switch flipped and the Leafs came in tired and pissed, beating teams in the 1st Period and wanting to get on the bus and go home.

By comparison, opponents went 7 – 7, scoring 13 KG’s off of a similar 46 goals (28.3%). However, nine of 13 KG’s / 69.2% and six of seven GWGs (including one in a SO) came after the 11th minute of the 2nd Period. This was more like the October Maple Leafs.

Phil Kessel dropped from five KG’s to two with a SO GWG in November. Joffrey Lupul was the KG leader with four tallies, half of which stood as GWGs.

While Toronto ends November at an overall +1 goal differential, they are still a +7 in KG’s and now a +4 in wins. But had they been able to score KG’s like in October, they would potentially be a +7 in wins differential heading into December.

And yet, Toronto is an overall .600 team (14 – 9 – 2), a number that is still good for entry into the Playoffs.

December 2011 KG’s

Ouch. While the team played 13 games and scored 36 goals / 15 KG’s / 1.15 KGpG, their efforts went into momentum-changing, and not game-winning, goals. The Leafs were a 4 – 6 – 3 / .423 team, dropping to 18 – 15 – 5 / .540 overall. (Remember at season’s end in 2012, a .561 record is what an Eastern Conference team was looking for.) Their 2nd Period was dominant with two GWG’s on seven KG’s (46.7%).

Opponents were 9 – 4 with 44 goals scored / 18 KG’s / 1.39 KGpG. Teams playing the Leafs showed up for the 2nd Period in KG terms, scoring 7 KG’s / 4 GWGs in the 2nd and 8 KG’s / 5 GWs between the 3rd Period, OT and the SO. Interestingly, however, Toronto fans were treated to a higher competitive level by their team. Three times in the 3rd Period opponents (WSH, VAN and FLA) had to score a KG within five minutes of a Leafs’ goal because Toronto had pulled within one score of tying the game and did not yet know they were beaten.

Five Leafs tied with two KG’s (including Kessel and Lupul), and five others tied with one each GWG. Swaying in character once more, the dominant period was the 2nd where seven / 46.7% of the KG’s were scored. Two of the team’s four GWG’s came before mid-2nd Period, again implying the competition was not as competitive as it could have been that night.

The Maple Leafs had to improve after December or ensure they made it to the post–season. As January began, they stood at –7 goals / +4 KG’s / –1 Wins differential and were on a downward slippery slope.

January 2012

It was indeed a new year in January. Players’ resolutions must have been to key on success as Toronto came back with a 7 – 4 – 1 / .625 record in 12 games. This gave them an overall 25 – 19 – 6 / .560 and a pathway more in the proper direction toward the Playoffs.

But hidden in this success are truths told by the KG’s. Toronto won the 1st Period with 6 – of – 10 KG’s scored, to include 4 – of – 7 GWG’s for the month, and all before the 9th minute passed. Over the following two periods, they only deposited four regulation and one OT goals. Their total numbers were 10 KG’s / 0.83 KGpG, what would be the second lowest KGpG monthly average of the season.

January Leafs’ opponents went 5 – 7 / 10 KG’s / .833 KGpG. Three of five KG’s stood as GWG’s in the 3rd Period and SO. But in comparing Toronto with opponents, differentials are +3 Goals / +4 KG’s / +1.5 Wins. That is a mixed bag but should tell you two key things: despite outscoring their opponents by 10 goals, they did not gain any KG differential so many of those goals were ‘insignificant’; and for a 7 – 4 – 1 record, they lost a relative +2.5 wins.

Individually, Matthew Lombardi and Lupul tied with two KG’s each and seven different players scored the seven GWGs. If the message was ‘…Beat them early and let’s get on the bus…,’ the message was heard. But it takes a combined and concerted overall effort to get the right goals up on the scoreboard. Flat out, Toronto needs at this point to do more to end up on the right side of the Playoff seeding.

February 2012

The problem here was February was not a ‘do more’ month.

These 14 games came across similar to December, only worse. The 4 – 9 – 1 /.321 record with an almost standard 36 goals / 14 KG’s / 1.0 KGpG did not exactly help them out. The dominant Maple Leaf period was the 2nd where they potted seven KG’s with one GWG. Each of the other periods and OT carried another GWG, but no more than three, quality KG’s.

Their opponents went 10 – 4 / 48 goals / 17 KG’s / 1.2 KGpG. That made the deficits for Toronto –9 Goals / +1 KG / –4 Wins. Interestingly, teams in February beat Toronto mostly in the 2nd Period with 10 KG’s / 6 GWG’s. Either way you slice it, this was Toronto’s worst month of the season and likely the one that did the most damage to their Playoff hopes. (They were only at 29 – 28 – 7 / .508 when they woke up on 1 March.)

Two players (Kessel and Lupul) tied with three each KG’s, but there were four separate players with the GWG’s. No clear cut team leader in KG’s was now present for the 39th game or almost half of the season.

March 2012

These 15 games for Toronto, based on previous play, were crucial to a proper season-ending celebration with Playoff ticket sales. Instead, they produced 5 – 8 – 2 / .400 play, dropping them to an overall 34 – 36 – 9 / .487 record. If the season was not over in February, it definitely was in March.

The team only scored 31 Goals and 10 KG’s in those 15 games for a season worst 0.67 KGpG. They did not show up well in the 1st Period with only one KG to show for that 20 minutes’ efforts. Improving somewhat in the 2nd Period, they notched three KG’s and one GWG. And most like their October, the 3rd Period finally came back as something of a long lost friend with five KG’s, three of which were GWG’s. But it was all for naught.

The opposition took them to task in March with 52 Goals / 16 KG’s / 1.07 KGpG in a balanced effort that stretched across all three periods of play relatively evenly (5/4/5 + 2 SO KG’s) and was strong on GWG’s in the 1st and 3rd Periods (three each).

Mikhail Grabovski led the group with three KG’s and Kessel had another two, but the other five were scattered across the roster.

Now out of the Playoff picture, Toronto’s deficit numbers were –30 Goals / –5 KG / –9 Wins. When they needed it most, an 11 – 2 – 2 record to stay closer to the hunt was too far a reach.

April 2012

Of the three KG’s scored for Toronto’s last three games, one was in the 3rd Period and one was in OT with Dion Phaneuf’s as the only GWG. At 1 – 1 – 1 / .500, the team ended the season out of the Playoffs with an overall 35 – 37 – 10 / .488 record.

Their three opponents to close out the season went 2 – 1 / .667. They were also 12 Goals / 3 KG’s / 1.0 KGpG. This made Toronto’s total 2011-12 deficit numbers –33 Goals / –5 KG / –9.5 Wins.

Out of the three games, three different individuals netted KG’s while Dion Phaneuf got the lone GWG.

Toronto’s faithful were left waiting for next year again.

The Wrap Up

The use of Toronto to exemplify the utility of KG’s over ye olde +/- system was not to specifically pick on the Maple Leafs as an organization. They were, after all, one of the 96.7% majority of NHL teams not hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2012. Instead, they serve to illustrate how analysis of KG’s as a statistic better indicates overall team performance than +/-. Here are some of the ways in which it does so:

  1. KG’s are a positive statistic as compared to +/- calculus which counts both for and against each player.
  2. While the season’s comparative performance indicates Toronto lost the Playoffs in the February/March timeframe, KG’s indicate they had issues brewing as early as November.
  3. If KG’s are indeed ‘Key’ what was learned by the numbers? How about that Toronto scored 83 KG’s out of 231 total goals for 35.9% and 1.01 KG’s per game. At the same time, their opponents netted 264 total goals with 88 KG’s for 33.3% and a 1.07 KGpG. Toronto, in effect, was more economical in its scoring with a higher percentage of goals that either changed momentum or ensured victory from the total they scored than they gave up.
  4. What was not specifically covered in the text above is the interesting fact that Toronto scored 1.35 KG’s per Win and only 0.69 KG’s per loss. This suggests two things:

a. Firstly, if Toronto’s numbers are representative, they suggest most games require a team to first score a KG that establishes momentum in their favor before scoring a GWG for victory.

b. And second, 83 KG’s did not equal 83 victories. It equaled 40. So more than half of Toronto’s KG’s, while they seemed at game time to actually be ‘key’ toward achieving victory, actually represented a failed attempt to change game momentum in their favor. The math therefore indicates if 35.9% of goals scored were KG’s and only 48.2% of those goals actually led to victory, then somewhere between 17 and 18% of scores defined victory. (Interestingly, CBJ’s goals that directly equated to victory were 16.1% of their total. STL was high at 26%.)

Said in another way, KG’s represent the effort that equals a game’s outcome. This fact by itself makes them a more representative statistic than +/-.

And we cannot end this without asking how KG’s might affect fantasy hockey pools. If you are going to do away with +/-, can you add a Key Assist to the equation? I would say that is a distinct possibility. The question there becomes do you want to give the KA the same pool and salary negotiation weight as the KG? I would say no. But in the meantime, what we have in stats packs that are close to the KG are GWGs and OT Goals. Ever been in a pool that does not count Goals and Assists, but instead counts GWG’s and OTG’s? Your top five GWG scorers last year would have been:

Vrbata (PHX)  – 12

Stamkos (TBL) – 12

Franzen (DET) – 10

Malkin (PIT) – 9

Callahan (NYR) – 9

Your top five OTG scorers last year would have been:

Stamkos (TBL) – 5

Gaborik (NYR)  – 3

Ebbett (VAN) – 2

Hall (EDM) – 2

Connolly (TOR) – 2

Not as exciting as adding up goals and assists, no? But might we suggest not carrying +/- in your pool stats pack and putting in GWG’s and OTG’s instead?

At least until we begin counting the KG…

The 10-Pound Bag Theory For Hockey

You’ve heard it before. Life is what you get out of it.

What they meant to say is life is what you put into it. Want to have a great marriage? If you do not do more than sit on the couch and complain, your marriage shows it. Want the best, fastest car on the road but only have $10,000? If that’s all you can put into your want, you get something less than your desires.

In this light, I offer the 10-Pound Bag Theory, but I do so in terms of my favorite pastime, Hockey.

Understanding this theory requires three things: receiving the message; understanding it; and putting it to work for the betterment of your favorite Hockey team.

Receiving The Message

To receive this theory, you have to do what I was taught early in my military career – suspend your disbelief.

Let’s look at it this way. One GM and team raises the Stanley Cup each year. That team, after more than 100 games played and fighting through illness and all kinds of injury, had what it takes to finish as the best. Twenty-nine others, didn’t.

If your team was one of the 29 (let’s call them the G29’ers) at season’s end, they have to do something apart from the previous season because what they tried just did not work. And taking the exact same team forward from the previous year to the next is most likely to produce the same or worse effect unless 29 others fail to get it right worse than they do. Casting aside your disbelief that tells you the right way is the way it ‘has always been done’ is the first step in going in the right direction as a winner.

The 10-Pound Bag Theory principle is simple:

                A 10-Pound bag holds exactly 10 pounds…

You can put nine pounds in it and not get from it the full utility it was intended for. You can put in 10 pounds which may slosh around a bit from time to time as it’s carried, but in so doing you maximize its functionality for your efforts. And try to put in more than 10 pounds and you get an overflowing, or bag-breaking mess to clean up.

How does this relate to Hockey? Hockey outcomes are all about the effort a team puts into their game to produce at least one more goal than their opponent for a win. Lose a game? It is highly likely either the team did not, or could not, mount enough effort to win for one of two reasons: they did not have the requisite players to produce the proper effort (a 9-Pound Bag); or, less likely but sometimes present, they could not meld the egos of their top players into a cohesive team (more than a 10-Pound Bag).

When you hear a GM say ‘…All we need to be competitive is a Number 1 Centerman…’ the 10-Pound Bag Theory says they are wrong because one man is not the sum total of a team’s effort.

Then what is the proper effort for a team? It has to do with looking at a team in a different way.

Understanding The Theory

Pretend for a moment all of the Centermen on your team are tied together with an imaginary rope. At the end of the rope they pull the weight of a box filled with the effort it takes them to assist in your team’s production of a win. And as they skate back to the bench each time, their individual output is measured against that effort box and a new level of effort requirement is dynamically determined. If your top scoring Center cannot or does not give his best effort that night, the coach engages in some adjustment on that rope by reining in No. 1 and giving more opportunity to another Center or Centers to take up some of the slack and produce the overall Centers’ required effort to assist in achieving victory.

The same also goes for every other position where they must similarly produce their requisite effort to assist in securing a team ‘W.’ And while each position has its assisting rope and effort to pull, there is also a team collective rope that binds all of the Centers, Wingers, Defensemen and Goaltenders’ efforts together to produce that win. This is so when the Centermen, for instance, cannot pull their weight of the effort, Wingers, Defensemen or the Goalie take up some of that team slack and produce a Win.

When a coach is fortunate, he begins games with only 10 pounds in his 10-pound bag instead of a somewhat lacking nine pounds of capability or 11 pounds of strife between an overabundance of talent all clamoring for ice time. The nine – and more–than–10–pound bags  of effort just do not produce a Championship effort.

Those who ascribe credit to the 10-Pound Bag Theory (your ‘10-Pounders’) understand it is equilibrium that is being sought. Looking at it this way requires a different viewpoint than the norm. For example, after understanding the team needs to give 10-pounds worth of effort, a 10-Pounder knows on a big hand-wave level that the amount of required effort in a season is firstly what it takes to outlast at least four other opponents through 82 regular season games, followed by the effort required to beat another four teams at least 16 times in the playoffs.

Wait a minute. Four other teams in the regular season? You don’t know what you are talking about.…

Remember a 10-Pounder seeks balance, believing it takes exactly just so much input to get the required output. That is why there are only four teams to beat in the regular season – a team’s Division rivals. The 2012 Vancouver Canucks are an exceptionally good, schizophrenic illustration here.

As the only team from the Northwest Division to advance to the Playoffs, the Canucks could have lost five more games anywhere in the schedule and still landed in the post-season as long as those losses did not all become wins for either Calgary, Colorado or Minnesota. Five losses would have also given them the lowest point total of the Western Conference playoff teams, but still set them end at the number three seed.

So did Vancouver put out too much effort in the regular season, thereby not retaining enough reserves for the grind of the playoffs? The 10-Pound Bag Theory says that is entirely likely in light of a 111-point regular season coupled with their disappointing 1st Round performance in the playoffs. The Canucks had the largest goal differential in the Western Conference. That Conference also scored the fewest goals during the season, meaning the cost of effort per goal was the highest ‘out West.’ Vancouver got those goals off of the third highest Shots On Goal (SOG) per game and Goals Per SOG in the West, too. A 10-Pounder could say the Canucks’ goal scoring effort was a .096, or not quite one goal for every 10 SOG’s. And in comparing that total to how they played against the Los Angeles Kings in the regular season, they were a .059, or about one goal in every 15 SOG’s. Come playoff time, the Canucks then went out in five games against the Kings with only a .047 over more SOG per game than their regular season average. There was not enough in the tank, not enough slack that could be handed to others to take up, to push the Canucks up over the top despite their regular season showing.

A 10-Pounder also believes the correct amount of scoring effort to win is not a 6 – 1 performance. If you scored goal #5 in a 3 – 2 win, or an OT or SO winner, you can put that one behind you while it goes up in the W column. If you do that night in and night out for a majority of your games, you have met the mail. It likewise does not matter if you finished 1st or 8th in your Conference. The 2012 Los Angeles Kings proved what many have said for quite a while now – just get in the Playoffs and anything can happen.

You can put out too much team effort? Come on! Doesn’t a team have to play as hard as they can and win as much as they can because they never know if it is enough to make it into the post-season in the first place? Yes and no.

It is important to readily acknowledge that the coach and team do not know exactly how much effort is required game in and game out to produce each individual win just as they do not know how much effort is required for the season as a whole to attain a Playoff seed.

If you can win 4, 5 or 6 – 1 on many nights and 67.8% or better of your games, indications are you have a lot of depth and capability. That should provide you some level of comfort that when things go wrong (illness, injuries, suspensions, and the like), you probably have more than enough to put into the effort to assist production of a team win. But do wins by a 2+ goal margin of victory guarantee a final season outcome only one of 30 teams enjoys?

A 10-Pounder says no. Sticking with the Western Conference which has required a higher average number of wins/points to secure the 8th seed since the Lockout, you would do yourself a favor striving to win every game you can. But the thing is, no, you don’t need to win them all. You have to win somewhere between 57.5% and 58.3% – call it 60% – of your games to reach the 8th seed. Then when you get to the Playoffs, you must win at least 62.5% of your games, and always the last one in a series. (The math says win on average at least every other game through the first six in each series, and always win Game 7, so (50% x 3 + 100%)/4 = 62.5%.)

Keeping in mind you need a solid foundation of effort capability before the first puck drops. (This is the reason why a season is made or lost in most cases by deals completed by the GM leading up to training camp.) You then also require the mental wherewithal to loosen and tighten the reins by position and for the team as a whole to reach than 60% / 62.5% mark. Grasp this and you can then properly analyze and put the 10-Pound Bag Theory into practice for your team.

Putting The Theory To Work

You might ask, ‘…Just what equals 60% wins?…’  What we fans often hear a GM publicly say is something along the lines of a definition of ‘the prototypical Goalie, Defensemen and Forwards that look something like the previous year’s Stanley Cup winner – that’s what won it last year, so that’s what we have to get.’

What they should be after for their team is to set a solid, off-season foundation of at least the sum, minimum output of historically successful team efforts. (This is the Goalie, Defensemen and Forwards from an average of the 2012 Kings, 2011 Bruins, 2010 Blackhawks, 2009 Penguins and 2008 Red Wings.) Then as the season progresses and it becomes clear at one particular position they are failing to pull the combined weight of the required effort, be prepared to call up prospects (best) or make a trade (OK) to ensure by the time the team enters the post-season, they have at least that sum, minimum output capability.

a whole, the 10-Pounder understands a winning combination looks something like those winning teams listed above because, well, they won. They are important, however, and not also the 2007 Ducks and 2006 Hurricanes because Lockout rule changes were adjusted for after three regular seasons so the nature of how the game currently plays is most representative of 2008 Cup Winners and beyond.

So your GM should build your team at least as good as the last five to seven Stanley Cup Champions and not just in the image of the 2012 Los Angeles Kings.

Let’s put this theory to work. A potential G29’er logical train of thought might look something like this:

I am not strong enough at Center.

Los Angeles played nine Centermen over the course of last year who averaged 9.44 goals and they had all they needed at that position to hoist The Cup

If I can replicate that with the addition of ________ at Center, I will be very competitive this year

The problem here, for example, is you might be, say, Scott Howson looking at his group of 2011-12 Columbus Blue Jacket Centermen. They collectively averaged 5.5 goals per game as a sum of their effort. So the G29’er above just needs to double that output to replicate the Kings, right? Can you even do that using what’s available on the free agent market?

Follow that line of reasoning is the tired, old way of thinking Hockey management.

A 10-Pounder Wannabe who is convinced he only needs help at Center, goes back to the original idea of the imaginary positional and team ropes and applies a bit more detail:

For the 2012 Kings, Kopitar needed 21:20 of playing time per game in order to deposit 25 goals into the back of the net.

On days when he could not, Carter would put in some of his 21 goals over an average of 19:11, or Richards part of his total of 18 in 18:53, etc.

This ‘taking up the slack’ is the push and pull that equals part of the total effort of success. For the Kings pulling their Centerman rope and effort, it took nine players’ efforts from a total of two (2) to 25 goals (9.44 average goals) to equal the ‘amount of Centerman’ L.A. needed to be a winner.

Aaaaannnddd…

The 2011 Bruins needed 0 – 22 goals (10.33 average goals).

The 2010 Blackhawks required 1 – 30 goals (13.167 average goals).

The 2009 Penguins put out 0 – 35 goals (17 average goals).

The 2008 Red Wings? Zero (0) – 31 goals (10.71 average goals).

So on average, and throwing out the highest and lowest as potential anomalies, I need a group of Centers who average 11.4 goals each, or something closer to the 2008 Red Wings.

Saying all you need is to fix yourself at Center as the slightly more in-depth analysis above does is just not the entire issue, however. It is, well, a 5-Pounder answer because it does not take the team as a whole into account.

Needing the 2008 Red Wing’s Centermen is a problem if you are Columbus, by the way. You don’t just need about four more goals per man like the 2012 Kings. You need six. There is no, one player you can get to make up that deficit. And based on your limitations, maybe you are just forced to get one really good Center via trade/free agency and continue to inch as close to the ’08 Red Wings as you can, hoping for better from those already on the roster.

But the true 10-Pounder knows a solid, potential Championship foundation going into his season looks something like this at a minimum in terms of scoring (see Goaltending in the Afternotes):

  1. Individually:
    1. Center – The 2008 Red Wings [10.7 goals]
    2. Right Wing – The 2009 Penguins [10.1 goals]
    3. Left Wing – The 2010 Blackhawks [10.4 goals]
    4. Defense – The 2011 Bruins [4.3 goals]
    5. Goaltendering – The 2011 Bruins [2.394 GAA / 53.5 Wins]
    6. And As A Team: Forwards – 10.4 goals; Defense – 4.3 goals; Total Team Scoring – 14.7 goals per man; Goaltending – 2.39 GAA / 53.5 Wins

To stick with Columbus, at the end of the 2011-12 season, you have this in comparison to the difference from a 10-Pounder’s sum, minimum output:

Centers: 5.5 goals [ – 5.2 goals]

Right Wing: 5.5 goals [ – 4.6 goals]

Left Wing: 7.8 goals [ – 2.6 goals]

Defense: 3.3 goals [ – 1 goal]

So Team Totals are…

Forwards: 6.27 goals [ – 3.3 goals]

Defense: 3.3 goals [ – 1 goal]

Total: 9.57 goals [ – 3.5 to 5.5 goals]

Goaltending: 2.763 GAA / 32.5 Wins [ – .373 GAA / – 21 Wins]

If you take into account off-season trades through mid-August and the assumption they are not going to re-sign Boyce, Huselius, Lebda or Martinek, they now look like this before the season begins:

Centers: 7.7 goals [ – 3 goals]

Right Wing: 5.5 goals [ – 4.6 goals]

Left Wing: 6.875 goals [ – 3.525 goals]

Defense: 3.55 goals [ – 0.75 goal]

And Team Totals…

Forwards: 6.69 goals [ – 3.71 goals]

Defense: 3.55 goals [ – .75 goal]

Total: 10.24 goals [ – 2.76 to – 4.76 goals]

Goaltending: – 2.763 GAA / 32.5 Wins [ – .373 GAA / – 21 Wins]

Potentially, all of their off-season trades have only increased their sum, minimum output 0.67 goals per player. And barring a Steve Mason / Curtis McIlhenny / Sergei Bobrovsky combined 2.693 GAA / 33.5 Wins showing huge improvements, they are still likely a ways away from a Playoff position.

So you can see why in his attempt to trade Rick Nash, who personally boosted Left Wing totals by 2.8 goals per man, Scott Howson was looking for a high price in terms of ready for prime time players. There is no re-building to do here. It is building that is required.

After last season, how far out were the other Western teams who did not make the Playoffs last season?

Remembering the sum, minimum output is the goal to raise the Stanley Cup, which teams were the closest to competing in terms of scoring and Goaltending? (Note blocks in dark green/white meet or exceed the sum, minimum output numbers as listed above.)

In the Eastern Conference, Toronto’s team total in scoring was on the mark while the NY Islanders forwards and Carolina’s defense also met the standard. (Montreal’s forwards exceeding the sum, minimums is an anomaly due to two of their Left Wingers having more goals than either of the entire grouping of Centers or Right Wings.) Buffalo is the only team with a Goaltending duo which approached championship numbers, but that was only in GAA. Montreal was close, but off the mark on both accounts.

And out West, Colorado is the closest to striking distance of the sum, minimum output numbers. Their overall forward corps exceeds the mark, and, although their defense is off track by more than one goal per Defenseman, the team total is just under the mark by less than a goal per man. Their goaltending, along with Minnesota’s, is just over the mark, and both could beat it if more team scoring equaled a few more wins. Dallas is also close in overall scoring and with Goaltending that needs to allow 0.5 GAA per game less.

Summary

So, a solid foundation of the sum, minimum output numbers on your team to start the season, coupled with seasonal give-and-take by individual positions assisting overall team production equals a winning average of about 60% and nets your club a berth in the Playoffs. This is 10-Pounder 101. If you are sitting in this sweet spot, know that if you drop 3 – of – 5 games and can come back with 4 – wins – in – (then next) 5 – games, you are likely to be OK.

Remember, too, that solid foundation is established in the off-season and brought by the team to training camp. If you are not close to it on opening night, your team is not likely to raise the Stanley Cup that year. And if your team is only producing at a, say, 2 – wins – in – 5 – games / 40% clip, you probably cannot recover if you do not analyze them for their 10-Pound needs, make some (call-up or trade) adjustments and begin winning above .600 by Game 40 (January).

Those who profess to be 10-Pounders know it takes just so much to get it done, that individuals won’t have what it takes night in and night out to do so, and yet the sum of the team parts should be able to compensate. It is why a 10-Pounder is going to continue to make pointed assessments and hard calculations in order to better define his (Hockey) environment.

So how does your team look going into the season? Is your GM a 10-Pounder or a G29’er? (If the season starts on time) We should know come next June…

Afternotes On Goaltending

As stated above, Goaltenders can be their own highly involved calculation, as a simple bottom line for those five, Stanley Cup winning teams, the average is 2.394 goals against / 53.5 wins per season, or an equivalent of the 2010 Boston Bruins’ duo. But don’t forget in analyzing to look at it from a 10-Pounder perspective and remember the total, team rope of effort is important. If your Goalies give up less GAA than the 2010 Bruins’ average (like the 2012 Kings and 2008 Red Wings), your team can score a less and still produce wins. The math thus looks like this:

2012 Los Angeles Kings’ Goalies = 2.155 goals against

                Difference from the sum, minimum output = + 0.239 goals against

                0.239 goals against X 82 games = 19.6 goals per year

                19.6 goals per year spread across the number of players in 1.a. through 1.d. above = a team that needs to score on average 0.68 goals per skater / per season less

And as a playing season progresses, Los Angeles’ six less wins, or about one less victory produced per NHL month, should be viewed by a 10-Pounder the following way:

IF we are scoring at about a 9.72 goals per forward pace, and

                IF we are scoring at about a 3.62 goals per Defenseman pace, and

                IF we are averaging about a 60% winning rate,

                And IF our Goalies are averaging a 2.155 GAA and winning 3-of-every-5 games,

                THEN we are doing OK and do not need to make trades at the Deadline to see the playoffs.

The 2012 Kings averaged 7.76 goals per forward and 5.14 goals per defenseman, a sum of 12.9 team goals per man versus the 13.34 above. Maybe that is why Dean Lombardi went after Jeff Carter (although not necessarily with 10-Pounder math as the reason). Finishing under the 10-Pounder average is most likely why the Kings were the Number 8 seed going into the Playoffs.

(For Columbus, last year’s numbers indicate they were a –0.369 GAA from the sum, minimum output for Stanley Cup Champions. That equates to a – 30.26 goals for the team / – 1.59 goals per player over the season they would need to make up. With their forwards short of the mark and their goalies needing to improve, more trades are likely in the offing over the 2012-13 season.)

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