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Flying Under The 2013-14 Draft Radar

I have already drafted my fantasy teams for the season. Since I am done and some of you have drafts remaining, I thought I’d help by pointing out some sleepers when it comes to the Yahoo! NHL rankings. Players listed below tend to go late or not at all in drafts and might just bear some consideration. There are others of course, which we here at OGA would like you to comment on. But these we know to have been seen sliding under the radar.

Note in parentheses after the name is the Yahoo! NHL ranking followed by a dash and the average round chosen in a 10-team draft, if at all. We likely also give you the ‘why’ they are late picks and some things to consider for potentially not passing on them.

Brian Elliott / Jaroslav Halak (96 – 9th / 153 – 15th) – For not knowing which Goalie the starter is, who might get traded, when does Jake Allen come up to play, etc; Elliott averages 28 starts with a 18.5 – 9 – 2.5 record, 1.92 GAA and 6 Shutouts over the last two seasons with the Blues; Halak averages 30.5 starts with a 16 – 8.5 – 4 record, 2.06 GAA and 4.5 Shutouts over the same period; if you draft three or more goalies, snagging this tandem is not a bad idea

David Backes (110 – 11th) – For only 6 G’s last season at C/RW; brings 62 PIMs, 100 SOG, 477 Faceoffs Won and 158 Hits

Scott Hartnell (158 – 15th) – For only 8 G’s + 3 A’s and a –5 in 32 games last season from the LW; averages 126 PIMs, 164 SOG, and 141 Hits per season over the last four season, to include the 32 games played last year

Paul Martin (278 – Not) – For only 23 Pts last season on PIT’s top defensive pairing; note here that he missed 14 games with injury and still scored the most goals he has potted since he came to PIT in 2009-10; has been a + player all but one NHL season; is on the top defensive pairing with Brooks Orpik and will get PP time; only 50 Hits last year, but averaged over 120 the two seasons before

Valeri Nichushkin (342 – Not) – For no NHL regular season games played yet;  let’s try 6’4” + 200lbs for the RW’er; likely the first No. 1 pick for Dallas to be on the opening night roster in the same year selected in the draft; 3 G’s, 17 SOG’s and 10 hits in the five pre-season games he played; and is being touted as a potential Calder Trophy candidate

Steve Ott (372 – Not) – For only 24 Pts last season from the C/LW positions; brings 93 PIMs, 298 Faceoffs Won and 187 Hits in last year’s 48-game season

There you have some of your late, ‘BENCH’ players to consider when completing your fantasy draft. Who do you think has slipped by fantasy team managers?

The NHL Draft Lottery: A Cash Cow Waiting to be Milked

Right Wing Conspiracy – 26 Sep 2013

Right Wing Conspiracy is a weekly column about hockey, with the odd hockey-related conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure.

The NHL Draft Lottery:  A Cash Cow Waiting to be Milked

The National Hockey League is fully leveraging the popularity of the Winter Classic with six outdoor games during the upcoming 2013-14 season, a blatant cash-grab that would make J.P. Morgan himself proud.  Whether or not the multitude of outdoor ice-stravaganzas will diminish the Winter Classic itself is a question worthy of debate.  In the meantime, the NHL continues to miss out on a clear opportunity to maximize playoff revenue.  “Is this joker really going to argue for increasing the number of teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” you ask?  Not a chance, mon frere – the Quest for the Cup is just perfect with sixteen teams, thankyouverymuch.  My proposal is simple:  make ’em fight for first.

At the conclusion of each season, the NHL utilizes a weighted lottery system to award the first overall pick in the draft.  In recent years, the draft lottery has been televised.  Simply put, if the hockey-watching public had no interest in watching the high-stakes bingo that is the draft lottery, it would not be on the air.  And if the hockey-watching public likes the draft lottery, wouldn’t they love a Draft Tournament?

Here’s how the Draft Tournament would work:  At the end of the regular season, the teams finishing 27-30 (the bottom four) meet in a single-elimination tournament, seeded 28 vs. 30 and 27 vs. 29.  Rather than a weighted lottery, the teams finishing 29th and 30th would play at home in the first round, with the last-place team guaranteed home-ice throughout the tourney.  The first round winners advance to play for the 1st overall pick, while the losers meet to play for the 3rd pick in the draft.  Thus, draft picks 1-4 would be earned, not awarded.

What are the pros and cons of a Draft Tournament?  Let’s take a look:

PROS:

  • Four more playoff games = more TV/ticket revenues.
  • Added drama of Draft Tournament = increased TV ratings = more TV money.
  • Allows bottom four teams to play for more than pride/redeem themselves at the end of a bad season.
  • Entire tournament could be played at a neutral site, a la the NCAA’s Frozen Four, to help grow the game.  Call it “The NHL Fight for First”.

CONS:

  • Unlike current system, teams finishing 17-26 have no shot at the 1st overall pick.
  • NHLPA may balk at requiring bottom four teams to play two additional games.
  • Potential problem of tournament team having previously traded their 1st round pick (Quick fix: Team w/no 1st round pick is awarded 4th overall pick, lowest remaining seed gets bye and plays winner of first game for 1st overall pick).
  • Potential for teams to “tank” late in the season in order to make it into tourney (Quick fix:  For tourney purposes, first tiebreaker for teams tied in points is non-shootout wins, second is most points earned in the last ten games of the regular season).

While a “Fight for First” wouldn’t showcase Stanley Cup Playoff-caliber hockey, it would feature four teams battling for pride, a bit of redemption, and for a chance to improve themselves by winning the top pick in the NHL Draft.  It’s made-for-TV drama.  It’s a cash cow waiting to be milked.

Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter:  @BigTex1926

Over The Boards II: 2013-14 Schedule Analysis For The Western Conference

On Goal Analysis (OGA) thought we would have a look at the 2013-14 schedules in terms of ‘Division Battles,’ or those periods where teams played a large percentage of games in a 10-game stretch against Division foes. Then we decided that is not holistic enough. So we gave you a redeaux of Eastern Conference Schedule Analysis in our first installment of “Over The Boards…” Now we follow up with a look at the Western Conference’s 2013-14 schedule difficulties.

Where will you favorite Western team have trouble this season? Did the scheduling bosses at NHL HQ screw them over? It may or may not seem like it, so we had to have an analytical look.

Below you will see the second of our two-part blog that assesses at The Western Conference’s schedules in 10-game furlongs, or what OGA measures the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) by. (If you have not been initiated to the PQC, it is a melting pot of statistical inputs that aids us in telling you an average of 90 days before the mathematical call who will and will not make it into the Playoffs with about 90% accuracy.) How difficult the schedule may be potentially tells us a lot of things.

To review, here are the three things we analyzed for an overall team negative schedule rating and how:

1. Average Days (to play each 10-game furlong). The Eastern Conference average is 24.375 days. Out West, the average is 24.25. For every game at 23 or less, the team got a -0.5 rating. For every day above 24, they got a +0.5. This assumes the average is normal, under it makes recovery more difficult, and more than average allows for better rested players.

2. Division Games (played each 10-game furlong). The Eastern Conference averages 3.75 games played within the division every 10-game stretch. For the Western Conference that number is 4.5. So the +/-0.5 per game standard is the same here as for Days for under/over four-in-10 games within the division respectively. This assumes these games are a bit more hard fought than others based on the division-centric Playoff format this season.

3. Back-2Back (played each 10-game furlong). It is reasonable to assume any team can land at least one B2B pair of games each furlong. Teams are awarded a -0.5 rating for each pair more than one in a 10-game stretch, and a +0.5 if they had none. This assumes these games tend to hamper teams’ recovery regimens.

Below in the charts, you will also see some highlighting colors:

1. Dark Red blocks indicate the worst possible 10-game schedule stint in the Conference.

2. Pink indicates a team-worst 10-game schedule block.

3. Light Green indicates a team-best 10-game furlong.

4. And Dark Green blocks indicate the best possible 10-game spread in the Conference.

Without further ado…

The Central Division (Click on the chart to expand it for easier reading)

NHLcentralSked

Chart notes:

1. While not sporting the overall worst 10-game stretch in the West, Chicago has the most difficult overall schedule per the OGA criteria. Their -12 rating is barely better than New Jersey’s -13 for the worst in the East. And Blackhawk fan conspiracy theorists might say this is the NHL’s attempt to rob them of ‘Dynasty’ status. Ah, but wait one minute… You CAN take solace in the fact that when four of seven Central teams’ worst 10-game stretches occur in the Game 61 – 70 (G61 – G70) timeframe, Chicago is having their easiest stretch. The rest of the Central in order of hardest to easiest schedules are: Minnesota and Nashville at a -9.5; Dallas at -8; St. Louis and Winnipeg at -7.5; and Colorado at -3.5, the ‘easiest’ in the West.

2. St. Louis holds the worst possible, final 22-games to close out the season in the NHL with a total -6.5 rating. Health and character is what will see them through.

3. Colorado (G1–10), Minnesota (G11–20) and DAL (G51–60) all have a Western Conference best-possible 10-game stretch.

4. As a whole, the G51–60 run is best for Central Division teams. For the most part, this is due to the days of break for the 2014 Olympics for those who do not play, most games not being played within the Div and a relative lack of B2B games.

5. Team hardest runs are: Games 1 through 10 – Nashville; Games 11 through 20 – Winnipeg; and Games 21 through 30 – Chicago and Minnesota; Games 41 through 50 – Dallas; and Games 61 through 70 for Colorado, Dallas (again), Nashville (again) and St. Louis. Your favorite teams are likely to struggle a bit here.

6. The Central’s (and West’s) best team furlongs are indicated in Number 3 above. That said, the other, best runs are: Games 11 through 20 and Games 31 through 40 – Nashville (which just about makes the two, worst game runs an overall wash; Games 41 through 50 – Winnipeg; Games 51 through 60 – St. Louis; Games 61 through 70 – Chicago; and Games 71 through 82 – Winnipeg (again). These periods should be more conducive to victory. If not, then your team is facing any number of issues, with injuries being at the top of the list.

The Pacific Division

NHLpacificSked

Chart notes:

1. Overall, Vancouver lands the most difficult schedule in the Pacific Division under our criteria at a -11. This rating ties Carolina for the 4th most difficult 82 games in the season (behind New Jersey, Chicago and the Islanders). With the stigma of an out, really out, oh! wait! back in goaltender and a new, defensively oriented coach and system, this might just place the Canucks on the playoff bubble this season instead of the lock to show up that they have been the past several seasons.

2. The rest of the Pacific Division falls out after New Jersey in line of hardest to most favorable as follows: Los Angeles at -10; Anaheim at -9; Calgary and Edmonton both at -8.5; Phoenix at -6.5; and San Jose at -6.

3. Vancouver nets the most difficult 10-game stretch in the Game 41 – 50 timeframe with a -4 rating. This ties the same -4 rating for the Islanders and Detroit in the East. It is due to the Days, Div and B2B numbers all being out of whack against the Canucks. Christmas time and New Years may be a bit rough in B.C.

4. The best overall 10 games for Pacific teams is in the G31–40 period. During this timeframe, you could see more Pacific division teams than Central teams at the top of the Western standings. That does not mean it is how everything will end in early April, however.

5. Team hardest runs are: Games 1 through 10 – Calgary and Phoenix; Games 11 through 20 – San Jose; Games 31 through 40 – Edmonton; Games 41 through 50 – Anaheim, Edmonton (for the second furlong in a row and when the Oilers may find themselves eliminated if they do not push through), Phoenix and Vancouver (as previously mentioned); Games 51 through 60 – Los Angeles; Games 61 through 70 – Calgary again; and Games 71 through 82 – Edmonton (for a third time) and Los Angeles (again). Predictions here? Expect a shift in the standings in late January/early February tilted toward the Central division. Edmonton, as a bubble team anyway, needs a perfect storm of pox’s against their fellow Pacific teams and outstanding play on their part to make the playoffs this season. Los Angeles needs to be squirrels this year, storing up as many wins as they can before the Olympic break because their road to the playoffs afterwards will be fraught with hard times.

6. Team best runs are: Games 1 through 10 – Edmonton (giving the Oiler faithful some measure of false hope); Games 11 through 20 – Calgary; Games 21 through 30 – Phoenix; and Games 31 through 40 – Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Vancouver; Games 51 through 60 – Calgary (again) and San Jose; and Game 71 through 82 – Vancouver. San Jose, unless they implode, will make the playoffs again as the only team in the West to do so since the 2004-5 Lockout following Detroit’s departure to the East. In fact, we say at least four of the Western playoff teams come from the Pacific if not five.

Summary

So what did we learn, chronologically speaking, about the Western Conference this upcoming year?

1. Colorado and Edmonton fans’ teams may zoom right on out toward the top of the Western standings in the opening 10 games. The problem is, Colorado might remain as a bubble team at the end of the season, but Edmonton likely will not.

2. By late-November, Minnesota may be high in the rankings due to a schedule boost. It will remain to be seen how the finish out the season, however.

3. The standings are likely to sport more Pacific teams in the Top 8 than their Central brethren by the G40 (New Years-ish) mark, but the ship should right to a more even keel by the G60 (end-of-the-Olympics) timeframe.

4. Vancouver cannot afford to tube the G41–50 furlong despite how difficult that stretch will be.

5. Dallas may be looking (traditionally) good by the G60 mark (right after the Olympics) and then struggle in March. Many will say, ‘…Here we go again….’ But their final 12 games are more favorable. THAT is where their battleship is traditionally sunk. So making the playoffs this year will be a wait and see thing. (Just don’t get too wrapped up in March.)

6. February onward will be tough for Los Angeles. Their performance leading up to the Olympics (hopefully, around .650 Hockey) will dictate their ability to appear in the post-season.

7. And overall, will the conspiracy theorists say the NHL is out to get Chicago while trying to launch San Jose to the Stanley Cup finals? They are, after all, the bookends of hard and easy schedules this season. Again, we say, naaaah! – you have to play 82 games for that to be determined.

And that is the West and how the sked may influence your teams’ fortunes. Keep an eye out for the OGA analysis of the 2013-14 NHL season as the calendar progresses…

NHL vs. NFL: Is the “Cold War” Heating Up?

Right Wing Conspiracy – 19 SEP 2013

Right Wing Conspiracy is a weekly column about hockey, with the odd hockey-related conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure.

NHL vs. NFL:  Is the “Cold War” Heating Up?

To a casual observer, football and hockey are two drastically different sports.  On the surface, there would seem to be no conflict between the NFL and NHL.  Beneath the surface, however, at the point where football field meets hockey rink, the two leagues are locked in a war with millions of dollars at stake.  Within this unseen war, the National Hockey League has launched a new offensive.

Hockey and football each have their share of “die-hard” fans, who will always choose to watch their favorite sport over all others.  The two leagues are battling for the crossover fans, those who enjoy both sports.  Put in political terms, crossover fans are independent voters, the ones who really decide elections.  In the world of professional sports, successfully wooing these fans means better TV ratings, which means increased advertising revenue, which translates to a more lucrative TV contract for the league.  Over the last decade, the lure of TV lucre has driven pigskin and puck into conflict.

Just a few years ago, the NFL schedule played out on Sundays and Monday nights, with American Thanksgiving Day and the odd Friday or Saturday game being the only exceptions.  In turn, the NHL tread lightly on Sundays and Mondays, at least during football season.  In 2006, the NFL fired the first shots of the conflict by scheduling four Thursday (not including Thanksgiving Day games) and three Saturday games during the final five weeks of the regular season.  In 2008, the league upped the number of Thursday games to six in November and December.  With the NHL locked out in the fall of 2012, the NFL expanded to thirteen Thursday night games – one per week, with the exception of the final two weeks of the season.  Though hockey’s labor dispute has been resolved, the NFL is sticking with a full slate of Thursday Night Football in an attempt to seize control of one of the NHL’s biggest nights.

With the 2013-14 schedule, the NHL is returning fire:  During the October-December period of overlap between the two leagues, the puck will drop on Sundays 49 times, a whopping 53% increase over the 32 Sunday NHL games played during the same period in 2011.  Before you chalk it up to the need to compress the schedule to fit in a three-week Olympic break in February, consider this:  When the 2009-10 schedule was compressed to accommodate the last Olympics, the NHL only played 34 Sunday games during the NFL’s regular season.

Not only has the NHL increased the quantity of Sunday games, but they’ve also entered into direct competition with the NFL in some markets.  Consider the following matchups:

  • Sunday, 6 Oct:  (NFL) Carolina @ Arizona, 4:05pm VS (NHL) Philadelphia @ Carolina 5:00pm.
  • Sunday, 13 Oct:  (NFL) Carolina @ Minnesota, 1:00pm VS (NHL) Phoenix @ Carolina 1:00pm.
  • Thursday, 24 Oct: (NFL) Carolina @ Tampa Bay, 8:25pm VS (NHL) Carolina @ Minnesota, 8:00pm.
  • Sunday, 3 Nov:  (NFL) Minnesota @ Dallas, 1:00pm VS (NHL) Dallas @ Ottawa, 1:00pm.
  • Thursday, 7 Nov:  (NFL) Washington @ Minnesota, 8:25pm VS (NHL) Minnesota @ Washington, 7:00pm.
  • Sunday, 17 Nov:  (NFL) Green Bay @ NY Giants, 8:30pm VS (NHL) Los Angeles @ NY Rangers, 7:00pm.
  • Monday, 18 Nov:  (NFL) New England @ Carolina, 8:40pm VS (NHL) Boston @ Carolina, 7:00pm.
  • Sunday, 1 Dec:  (NFL) Tampa Bay @ Carolina, 1:00pm VS (NHL) Vancouver @ Carolina, 1:00pm.
  • Thursday, 12 Dec:  (NFL) San Diego @ Denver, 8:25pm VS (NHL) Colorado @ Winnipeg, 8:00pm.

As the matchups above indicate, the NHL seems particularly comfortable taking on the NFL in North Carolina, scheduling five Hurricanes games while the Panthers are on the field.  In particular, the 18 November head-to-head of Bruins @ ‘Canes (7:00pm) and Patriots @ Panthers (8:40pm) and 7 November’s Wild @ Capitals (7:00pm) and Redskins at Vikings (8:25pm) are intriguing.  The NHL will undoubtedly take a very close look at their regional TV ratings on those nights.

In addition, NBCSN is dropping the gloves with rival ESPN by broadcasting nine hockey games during Monday Night Football.  It’s no coincidence that 14 of 18 teams in those NBCSN games are located in NFL markets.  In a direct challenge to the NFL, NBC/NBCSN will televise two games – Boston at Chicago(3:00pm) and Washington at NY Rangers (7:30pm) – on Sunday, 19 January, the same day as football’s NFC and AFC Championship games.  In Naval parlance, that’s a “shot across the bow”.

While the National Hockey League isn’t jumping onto the football field with both skates just yet, the 2013-14 schedule indicates the league’s willingness to defend their (Thursday) turf while chipping away at the NFL’s Sunday/Monday hegemony.  If the season ahead is any indication, the NHL’s “cold war” with the NFL is indeed heating up.

Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter:  @BigTex1926

The Brad Richards Conundrum

Right Wing Conspiracy – 12 SEP 2013

Right Wing Conspiracy is a weekly column about hockey, with the odd hockey-related conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure.

The Brad Richards Conundrum

The New York Rangers take to the ice today for the start of training camp.  Though camp is always a time of excitement and optimism, the Blueshirts also have a number of questions hanging like a fog over the rink.  Will Marc Staal be able to overcome his limited vision and perform at a high level again?  Will Marty Biron resolve his unspecified “personal issues” soon and rejoin the team, or will GM Glen Sather have to move quickly to sign a new back-up goalie?  When will Derek Stepan sign a new contract and rejoin the team?  And last, but not least, what will the Rangers do with Brad Richards?

As the entire hockey universe knows, Richards had a terrible playoff run last spring, dropping all the way to the fourth line before moving up to the press box as a healthy scratch.  In ten games, he recorded one goal and no assists.  As a result, many critics have opined that last season signaled the beginning of the end of Brad Richards’ NHL career.

Mr. Richards begs to differ.  He spent the summer training with former teammate Marty St. Louis, and has arrived at camp determined to prove he’s still an elite NHL center.  If he’s successful in his quest, and if the Derek Stepan contract impasse is resolved quickly, Rangers management then has some tough questions to answer:

  • Can they keep Richards?  Once Stepan is back in the fold, the middle of New York’s depth chart will look like this:  Stepan-Brassard-Richards-Boyle-D.Moore-Lindberg.  Brian Boyle could move to wing or be moved to another team, as his $1.7mil cap hit would be easy for most clubs to swallow.  21-year-old rookie Oscar Lindberg could be a fly in the ointment, as he had an excellent showing at the prospects tourney in Traverse City last week.  If Lindberg earns a roster spot, he’ll likely begin his NHL career playing wing, as the middle of the MSG ice is jammed up right now.  However, given the uncertainty over the Stepan situation, the Rangers can (and should) keep Richards, at least for now.
  • Can they trade Richards?  Richards’ cap hit ($6.67mil through 2020) means as of today, only six teams have room to take on his contract (St. Louis, Colorado, Ottawa, Florida, Calgary and the Islanders), and his no-move clause gives him veto power over any trade.  For any other club to acquire the center, New York would have to take on salary in return, thus defeating one of the main purposes of trading him.  As the trade deadline nears, however, more opportunities to move Richards will open up…which leads to yet another question:
  • If Richards has a bounce-back season and looks to be a key factor in a Rangers Cup run, should they still try to trade him at the deadline?  Again, assuming Stepan has returned and all Blueshirt centers are healthy, would the Rangers benefit from moving a rejuvenated Brad Richards at the trade deadline?  Though Slats wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t at least listen to offers for the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, any deal under the aforementioned circumstances would have to be made A) with a Western Conference team, and B) under VERY favorable terms for the Rangers to seriously mess with team chemistry…at the trade deadline…when it looks like they might have a real shot at the Cup.  And again, that’s assuming Richards would agree to waive his NMC to move away from a team on the verge of hoisting the Stanley Cup and back to the Western Conference.  In other words, if the Rangers are in serious Cup contention, a deadline deal for Brad Richards simply ain’t happenin’.

Brad Richards’ contract makes it highly unlikely he’ll play anywhere other than on Broadway this season.  By the same token, his contract makes it highly unlikely he’ll play on Broadway beyond this season, as next summer the Rangers will have to re-sign UFAs Lundqvist, Callahan, Dominic Moore, Girardi and Stralman, and RFAs Brassard, Kreider, Zuccarello, Del Zotto, Falk and John Moore.  If Richards proves his critics wrong with an outstanding 2013-14 season, Glen Sather might be able to trade him next summer; otherwise, he’ll be an (expensive) amnesty buyout.  For both Richards and Sather, the heat is on.

Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter:  @BigTex1926

Twitter Updates

  • ...This suggests that the LAK will defeat CHI in Game 6 to play the NYR for the Stanley Cup 2 years ago
  • Since 2005/6, when a Round 3 team wins Game 5, they lose Game 6 66.7% of the time; also, Western series are determined by Game 5.889... 2 years ago
  • ...So those stats point to the NYR claiming victory tonight and playing the winner from the Western Conference in the Finals 2 years ago
  • Since 2005/6, when a Round 3 team wins Game 5, they lose Game 6 60% of the time; also, Eastern series are determined by Game 5.778... 2 years ago
  • 4. Top 4 in each DIV play 2 rounds seeded within the DIV, 1 round versus other DIV champ and then the Finals between the Conference champs. 2 years ago

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