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Inserting A Measure Of Sanity Into Team Analysis: Part I


“…(General managers) make more mistakes at the deadline and on July 1 than during the rest of the year. The math doesn’t work at the deadline….” Brian Burke

Here at On Goal Analysis (OGA), we agree. When we have spoken about the math before, we mentioned how many teams are in or out of contention come January. Not satisfied with just our standard answer, however, we have taken another look at that call and our math to drill down further into team status.

This is a two part blog. In Part I, we look at how to assess teams in terms of player statistics by position. We do so through the eye of the Stanley Cup Championship Team looking glass in order to determine a Baseline measurement that equals ultimate NHL success.

In Part II, we drill down a little further in order to determine who does and does not need to deal at the Trade Deadline or risk being labeled that GM Brian Burke’s quote speaks of above.

This blog is our Baseline study, definition of success and a comparison of NYR and DET against the Baseline to tell us how close to par the two possible champions are playing.

Using The Stats

We are not here to recreate ‘Moneyball.’ Our premise is somewhat simpler. We say there is a standard Baseline rating for players which a team needs on its roster to win the Stanley Cup. So we analyzed players for CAR, ANA, DET, PIT, CHI and BOS from their Stanley Cup years, both during the Regular Season and through the Playoffs (although the Regular Season is the focus of this blog).

Some could argue for more or less statistics to analyze, but what we have are uniformly measured across all players for Stanley Cup winning teams since the Lockout as a per-game Baseline ranking. Out of these measurements, we have a measurement that represents the average, Stanley Cup winning team. (We provide the statistics measured at the end of this article and, more importantly, HOW they were measured for transparency. Keep in mind here that overall, as the Baseline progresses through the season and a player plays more games, his stats are worth less. Think 12 goals divided by 10 games = 1.2 goals per game versus 12 divided by 20 = 0.6 here. IN other words, current measurements will drop unless a player does not participate in any more games during the regular season.)

The Baseline

The average, Post-Lockout Stanley Cup winning team produced the Baseline rankings below.

Forwards As A Whole

Numbers for all forwards who played five or more games for their Stanley Cup contender during the regular season are:

An average of 16.33 total forwards played

3 x “6’s”

4 x “5’s”

5 x “4’s”

4 x “3’s”

An average Hi Baseline of 7.627 (H. Zetterberg of DET in ‘07-‘08 was the highest with 8.187)

An Average Baseline of 5.014

An average Lo Baseline of 2.822 (T. Brent of ANA in ‘06-‘07 was the lowest with 2.393)

Left Wingers

For all Left Wings who played five or more games for their Stanley Cup contender during the regular season:

An average of 4.83 total Left Wingers played

1 x “6”

2 x “5’s”

2 x “4’s”

An average Hi Baseline of 7.331 (H. Zetterberg of DET in ‘07-‘08 was the highest with 8.187)

An Average Baseline of 5.424

An average Lo Baseline of 3.489 (D. Paille of BOS in ‘10-‘11 was the lowest with 3.472)

Centermen

For all Centers who played five or more games for their Stanley Cup contender during the regular season:

An average of 5.83 total Centers played

1 x “6”

1 x “5”

1 – to – 2 x “4’s”

2 x “3’s”

An average Hi Baseline of 6.690 (E. Malkin of PIT in ‘08-‘09 was the highest with 8.136)

An Average Baseline of 4.927

An average Lo Baseline of 3.453 (T. Brent of ANA in ‘06-‘07 was the lowest with 2.393)

Right Wingers

For all Right Wings who played five or more games for their Stanley Cup contender during the regular season:

An average of 5.67 total Right Wingers played

1 x “6”

1 x “5”

Either 2 x “4’s” and 1 x “3” or 1 x “4” and 2 x “3’s”

An average Hi Baseline of 6.363 (M. Hossa of CHI in ‘09-‘10 was the highest with 6.696)

An Average Baseline of 4.823

An average Lo Baseline of 3.188 (K. Aucoin of CAR in ‘05-‘06 was the lowest with 2.415)

Rick Nash, the subject of a lot of trade rumors at the moment, has a Baseline following his 19 February game against NYR of 6.928. While that is currently higher than Hossa of the ’09-’10 Blackhawks, the Baseline will likely go down some before season’s end. Still, he is an interesting subject of Part II of this blog.

Defensemen

For all Defensemen who played five or more games for their Stanley Cup contender during the regular season:

An average of 8.5 total Defensemen played

2 x “7’s”

2 x “6’s”

1 x “5”

2 x “4’s”

1 – to – 2 x “3’s”

An average Hi Baseline of 8.062 (There are several top Defensemen with a Baseline of “8” but Z. Chara of BOS in ‘10-‘11 was the highest with 9.078)

An Average Baseline of 5.595

An average Lo Baseline of 3.369 (A. Hutchinson of CAR in ‘05-‘06 was the lowest with 2.524)

Goalies

For all Goalies who played 10 or more games for their Stanley Cup contender during the regular season:

An average of 2.167 total Goalies

2 x “4’s”

An average Hi Baseline of 4.921 (T. Thomas of BOS in ‘10-‘11 was the highest with 5.53)

An Average Baseline of 4.522

An average Lo Baseline of 4.171 (D. Sabourin of PIT in ‘08-‘09 was the lowest with 3.672)

As you might have expected, the gap between top and ‘lesser’ goalies is small, indeed.

And Armed With A Baseline…

There are at least two ways to use the Baseline in analyzing your favorite team. In terms of the Trade Deadline and making a move, we will explore that in Part II. But here we analyze the top team in both the Eastern and Western Conferences and compare their current team stats to the Baseline as a potential predictor of Stanley Cup success with an eye turned toward what might still be needed to get there.

The New York Rangers

Currently leading the Eastern Conference standings and the number two finisher on the 19 February On Goal Analysis’ Playoff Point Predictor, how do they stack up against the Baseline?

As The AverageTeam: The Rangers have a solid 6.22 overall team Baseline which is more than one full Baseline point above BOS in ‘10-’11. Remember here that the Baseline model numbers will drop as per game statistics shrink when more games are played.

Forwards As A Whole: NYR is playing with a total of 13 forwards who have been on the ice for more than five games this season. That is 3.33 forwards less than the Baseline Cup winner.

They sport 1 x “10” forward (Callahan), 3 x “7’s”, 2 x “6’s”, 2 x “5’s” and 5 x “4’s”. This gives them four forwards at or above a “7” (versus the Baseline 1.2 x “7’s”) and nobody below a “4”. If there is an overall criticism, it is the cobbled together Right Wing section with only two true righties and others filling in. (Can you hear Slats murmuring in his sleep, “…Trade… must trade… need Nash….”?)

Left Wingers: The Rangers are playing four Left Wings regularly this season, about one less than the average. Their four players are 1 x “6”, 1 x “5” and 2 x “4’s.” Prust is their leader here, and while he is two full Baseline points behind Zetterberg, he still falls within the average. Fedotenko is the tail gunner here, but still out paces Paille’s low.

Centermen: NYR has seven Centermen at Baselines of 2 x “7’s”, 1 x “6”, 1 x “5” and 3 x “4’s.” This is a cumulative “37” Baseline, which makes for both more Centermen than the average (to play Right Wing!) and no low-end Baseliners. Dubinsky and Boyle are very close and above average when compared to the Baseline numbers which makes for two very strong pivots on the Blueshirts’ squad.

Right Wingers: As alluded to earlier, NYR sports only two, true Right Wingers once you sort them on nhl.com’s stats page. This is below the average Baseline by 3.67, and you know players are playing at that position on game nights vice their listed position. That said, Callahan (at 10.241) and Gaborik (7.159) are likely the envy of many teams at this position. It’s the “5”, “4” and “3” grinders that are missing from this breakdown, not necessarily a Rick Nash.

Defensemen: The Rangers have an above-Baseline average of 10 Defensemen on the roster who have hit the ice for the team. These players fall in as 1 x “8”, 2 x “7’s”, 1 x “6”, 2 x “5’s”, 3 x “4’s” and Woywitka as the lone “3.” That puts them one ahead on the top end of the Baseline, even in the middle of the pack and above average at the bottom.

Goalies: With the Baseline set at 2 x “4’s” in net, Lundqvist and Biron more than meet the mail as a “6” and a “5” respectively.

Summary: So as a whole, the NYR team has a combined Baseline that is better than the previous record set by Stanley Cup teams. The Rangers are also individually above the Baseline in 10 rankings and below it in six for a cumulative +4 against the average. If they were going shopping, they would need one “5” at Left Wing and two-to-three more middle-to-lower ranking Right Wings to ensure they can fill out the roster for the stretch run. The Left Wing in this case could be a dump of a Center and their cap hit for a more reasonable, middle-ranking Leftie similar to Hagelin already on the roster. That could just as easily come as a call up from The Whale. The same could be said for the Right Wing position where a Rick Nash is just not needed unless injuries hit the top (only) two. Slats in this case, could stand pat and do selected call ups from Connecticut to fill in with missing role players and likely be just fine going into the Playoffs.

The Detroit Red Wings

Here they are, the harbinger of At-The-Joe losses. One of only two teams who has been in the playoffs every year since the Lockout and too many more times before that in a row for non-Red Wing fans to want to count. As the leading Western Conference team and potential Playoff Point Predictor winner, how do they stack up against the Baseline after games played on 19 February?

The Average Team: As a whole, their 5.427 team Baseline stands above the ‘10-’11 Bruins just like NYR, due in large part because they still have 22 games to play. (Remember here the comparison is a ‘snapshot in time’ where it is more important to measure NYR versus and DET and their comparison to the ‘10-’11 Bruins is just for reference to where they are going by season’s end.)

Forwards As A Whole: DET is playing 12 total forwards who stack up as 4 x “6’s”, 2 x “5’s”, 3 x “4’s”, 2 x “3’s” and 1 x “2.” This is still below the average Baseline by 4.33 bodies, an indicator as with the Rangers that team losses for injury have been relatively manageable. They have one more “6” than the norm, but they are short 2 x “5’s”, 3 x “4’s” and 1 x “3.” It is worth noting this year’s Zetterberg is off the record Baseline from ’07-’08 by two full points, and they are missing some of the lower-end, fourth-liners that gave them character on that Stanley Cup run.

Left Wingers: The Red Wings are right about on track at the Left Wing position with one each “6”, “5”, “4” and “3.” Their only shortage is 1 x “5” player from the average. In Winged Wheel terms, that is an Abdelkader, so a call up from the Griffins is a potential fix here.

Centermen: Here we have an issue. They have five against the average 5.83 Centermen of the Baseline. Their stable holds 1 x “6”, 2 x “4’s”, 1 x “3” and 1 x “2”. The extra “4” compensates for the “3” missing from the Baseline, but they need the absentee “5” to compliment or fill in for a Datsyuk as required. Using the Baseline as a GM’s cheater card, here is where something might need to happen as the Grand Rapids Griffins’ lead scoring Centerman is 32-year-old Jamie Johnson.

Right Wingers: Three Right Wingers have played more than 10 games for DET all season. They come in as 2 x “6’s” and 1 x “5.” The average number of Right Wings on the Baseline is 5.67, so the team could theoretically use three more, middle-ranking troops at this position. The thing to remember before jumping on the Nashwagon here, however, is the Red Wings’ Franzen is not called ‘The Mule’ for nothin’, as he has the highest playoff Baseline number of any player since the Lockout. They also tend to roll Franzen, Cleary and Bertuzzi ad infinitum, so may not be looking for anything to help out in this area.

Defensemen: DET’s D-men are led by Kronwall (yes, NOT Lidstrom based on the entire stats pack) as their lone “7” and continue with 3 x “6’s”, 2 x “5’s” and 1 x “4.” In anybody’s book, 1 x “7” and 3 x “6’s” are just about as good as two of each. The “5’s” and “4’s” are a wash as well, with the only measurable shortage being at the low end as defined by as many as 2 x “3’s.” Are the low end guys needed? Not really as call ups from the Griffins could fill in there if needed.

Goalies:

Howard, Conklin and MacDonald give the ‘Wings 2 x “6’s” and a “5” in goal. With Conklin going down (if he is not picked up on waivers) to Grand Rapids to get playing time, this stands as a hair better than NYR’s duo. This means a meeting of these two teams would come down to defense before the puck gets to the net.

Summary: Like NYR, DET has a combined Baseline currently superior to the previous, BOS record. Theirs is just not as high a Baseline as the Blueshirts. How do they compete with the Rangers? Raise their level of play when they meet up on Wednesday, 21 March (must see TV!). Just like you are used to seeing them do. The Red Wings are currently above the Baseline with five rankings and below it with 11 for a cumulative –6. Assuming call ups from the AHL would be made as necessary, DET could still use one or two middling forwards, similar to a Bertuzzi or a Filppula to reach the Baseline. Defense could use a Kindl-type player which anybody would reasonably assume is ‘down on the farm.’ And their goaltending is absolutely fine. So no Nash is needed in the Motor City either when the Baseline whispers to us who can win the Stanley Cup.

The Part I Wrap Up

Having produced a statistical Baseline ranking for players and their teams who have raised the Stanley Cup, we believe we know the potential components for a winner.  We demonstrated this in analysis of the top two teams in the Conferences and, with all other things being equal, it looks like NYR has the stronger horses than DET and could topple the Red Wings in a series.

We also alluded to Rick Nash. What is interesting is both analyzed teams have had the flair for dealing at The Deadline, with New York displaying a greater likelihood to do so. The Wings could fit him in under the Cap this year and on into the future, but the Rangers would have him as a rental this year and have to offload talent in the off season to keep him. Handicappers would say DET is better suited to take him, but still not as likely. As a bottom line, however, neither of these two, top teams could really profit by his addition to their squad and may pay more to get him than he would bring in.

Who else is in the Nashstakes and could actually use his services to fill a true need versus a gambling want? That is the subject of Part II coming up soon…

Afternotes: The Stats, And Nothing But The Stats, Mam

Here are what and how we measured them. Statistics were drawn from nhl.com’s statistical page using both the ‘Summary’ and ‘Real Time Stats’ pages for each team’s Forwards, and the standard Goalie summary page.

Forwards and Defensemen

Games Played % (The percentage of the total games a player played in.)

Goals

Assists

+ / –  (While many people do not like this statistical category, it is in the stats pack. It’s impact is not as large in our Baseline as you might imagine, however. For example, using Erik Cole’s +19 in ’05-’06, a + / –  of 0 drops his Baseline from 8.17 to 7.853. This is because we are measuring a per game contribution.)

Penalty Minutes (PIMs)

Power Play (PP) Points

Shorthanded (SH) Points

Game Winning (GW) Points

Overtime (OT) Points

Shots on Goal

Enhanced Shots (EShots) (The Shooting Percentage multiplied by .01 to ensure our skaters’ numbers were not grossly skewed.)

Time On The Ice (TOI) Percentage (Measured against both the total clock minutes in a game and the player with the average, largest percentage of minutes played per game – we needed a compatible number we could add to the total column here and ‘25:07’ does not compute well.)

Shifts Per Game

FOs (The Faceoff Percentage multiplied by .01 just as with “Shots” above.)

Hits

Blocked Shots

Total (All categories listed above divided by the total number of Games Played to give us an average, per-game Baseline score for forwards and defensemen.)

Goalies

Winning Percentage (The number of wins divided by total number of games played – goalies have several large numbers in stats categories that need to be lowered to produce a more manageable Baseline number.)

Shots Against Percentage (A bit complicated, but total shots against, divided by both the number of games played and then the number ‘10’ for a more manageable Baseline number.)

Goals Against Average (GAA) Percentage (Because goalies should get more credit for a lower GAA than simple addition provides, this is the GAA divided by the number of games played and multiplied by “-1” so the overall number is subtracted from total goalie stats. A lower GAA subtracts less from the total and therefor rewards a goalie for letting in less rubber.)

Save Percentage

Shutouts (This is the number of Shutouts divided by the number of games played for a per game Shutout average.)

TOI (As a percentage of the total TOI for all team goalies.)

Games Played (Note here if a goalie played less than 10 games in the regular season or 12.2% of the year, their stats do not figure into team averages. Likewise, if they played less than 12.2% of the team’s total playoff games, those stats were not averaged in. This is to keep wildly skewed goalie stats from entering the total equation.)

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  1. Pingback: Inserting A Measure Of Sanity… Part Deaux « The OGA Blogs - February 22, 2012

  2. Pingback: Inserting A Measure Of Sanity… The Third « The OGA Blogs - February 25, 2012

  3. Pingback: Inserting A Measure Of Sanity… To The Central Division « The OGA Blogs - February 25, 2012

  4. Pingback: Trade Deadline Day 1.0 « The OGA Blogs - February 27, 2012

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