Archive for the ‘it's easy to hate James O'Brien’ Category

There are just some things you need to accept about the salary cap

October 19, 2009

I’ve been a little bit obsessive about the salary cap the last year or so and it means that certain flippant statements will bug me at times.

One thing that kind of irks me is the way people look at the offensive depth of last year’s Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings compared to the current models. People linger on the fact that the Red Wings were unable to retain the services of Hossa, Hudler and Co. while the Bruins won’t be able to throw as many waves of offensive talent at their opponents as last season.
There’s a reason for that: those teams were a mirage; the Red Wings in particular were an unsustainable collection of top-end talent. When commentators made jokes about them having four lines of talent, they weren’t far off-base. The Hudlers of the world are going to get paid and it’s Ken Holland’s job to be smart enough to let him go.
Going forward, any team that has an embarrassment of riches is going to get to that level by a perfect storm of entry draft steals/high pick home runs, well-timed contract extensions and short-term veteran pickups. (Also, cheap goaltending is probably wise unless you really love your goalie)
Teams like Vancouver worry me because there aren’t many major players gunning for contracts in the near future … the Sedins, Luongo and even role players like Alex Burrows don’t have a big green carrot dangling in front of them.

Thing I learned today: the Internet provides many great results for “dangling carrot

The crazy decade-plus contract trend is understandable for reasons of artificially diluting annual cap hits but I prefer the direction the Penguins (conscious or not) went with giving their young guns more reasonable (read: shorter) contracts. If Alex Ovechkin ruins his knees, the Caps aren’t just fucked this year but for the next 10. If something happens to Evgeni Malkin, it would still be a catastrophe but not of the same degree.

This rant is going in a few directions, but if I were a GM, these would be some of my principles:
  • No one over the age of 30 gets more than 4 years
  • Really, on some crazy level I wouldn’t want to give anyone more than 3 years
  • Extend players before you expect them to breakout, if at all possible
  • Fear the contract year anomaly
  • Sometimes, you have to let people go even if it hurts
Yeah, those are pretty simple rules but I think more GMs could use balls of steel and hearts of coal.

In Case you love percentages: factoring in shorthanded goals to PP and PK%

October 16, 2009

One more stats nerd post and I’ll be this guy’s wingman.
Note: like the last post, these are stats from the 2008-09 season although going forward I’ll be using 2009-10 stats …

Unless I come up with one more stat that I publicly deem dopey while ultimately find semi-clever, this should be the last stat introducing post for the foreseeable future.

The last flaw with simply listing PK and PP% is that shorthanded goals aren’t factored in (or not seamlessly) to the equation. Even if SHG are rare, they can be gigantic for momentum. See: Jordan Staal in Game 6 of the SCF.
More than that, though, I think it’s a subtle reflection of good coaching and/or heady players. For instance: the Philadelphia Flyers are known for having a scary-aggressive PK with Mike Richards but they’re also amazingly efficient on their own PP. Unless I read incorrectly, they only allowed 1 SHG last season!
So I decided to see how much SHG negatively affect a PP and positively affect a PK. (The stat is the same as PP% except it’s PPG scored – SHG allowed divided by PP opportunities.)
Let’s take a look at True Powerplay Percentage (or should it be called “Net” PP% … or the PP Efficiency Rating? I dunno, True PP% sounds pretty cool doesn’t it?)

Click to enlarge TRUE PP%

What I like about these stats is that they create a more pronounced “upper class” or elite group of PP units.

The Red Wings’ absurd PP is reflected better here: they are heads and shoulders above the rest of the league (as they should be). It also reflects just how bad the Blue Jackets’ PP was; 12% is pretty bad as it is but the team let up a lot of SHG too. When you think about it, when the CBJ went on the PP something good would happen only nine percent of the time. (LOL)

I still think sheer quantity (ultimately PPG – SHG allowed) is the best way to judge a team’s PP unit but this is pretty interesting, too.

True Penalty Kill %/PK Efficiency Rating/PK Success Level is the same as PK% except it’s PPG allowed – SHG scored divided by Times Shorthanded.

Click to enlarge True PK%

The order of best PK teams doesn’t change a ton here, but it again distinguishes the GREAT PK units. The Wild’s special teams, again, were just amazing last year.

At some point I might try to come up with a “magic number” for special teams percentages combined. Is a great overall special teams a combined 110% or … what?

Jeez, I’m a dork.

What do you think, though? Is this interesting or as fun as eating a lifetime supply of microwave re-heated pizza crusts?

Special Teams Plus Minus, Net Goals in 2008-09

October 16, 2009

Photoshop by MacYapper (?)

Yesterday I posted some simple yet interesting stats for the early part of this season. It’s uncertain if I’ll be able to make that a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly special but I’ll be tracking these things all season long.

But just to make sure I’m not crazy, I thought it would be smart to study the stats from last year to see how indicative they are of team success. It also is an interesting way to look at which teams were really deficient (or really strong) in special teams yet still managed to make (or miss) the playoffs.
First, here’s the Standings for 2008-09 without sorting for the stats that tickle my fancy:

Now that you have a frame of reference, here’s that list sorted by the simplest stat that we’ll be tracking this season: Net Goals.

There aren’t a ton of surprises there.

That being said, it’s really interesting that the league’s best team in Net Goals (Boston) scored 78 more goals than they allowed while the league’s worst team in Net Goals (Islanders) allowed 78 more goals than they scored. Funny how things work out sometimes.

It’s also interesting that only two playoff teams allowed more goals than they scored: Columbus (-4) and the Rangers (-8). This also shows that the Blue Jackets must have been one hell of an even strength team.

Perhaps the most intriguing set of stats comes in the form of the Special Teams plus-minus.

The number that sticks out the most to me here is the Columbus Blue Jackets being -29 special teams goals. 78 Special Teams Goals Allowed isn’t astronomically bad … what makes the Blue Jackets totals so bad is their anemic power play. Any CBJ pundits who are still sore that the BJ’s lack a great PP point player could point to this stat and say, “How do you expect this team to make the playoffs (again) with numbers like that?”

Looking at special teams play, it must be especially heartbreaking for Minnesota Wild fans that their team narrowly missed the playoffs last season. They were second in Special Teams +/- with a +33 (12 more than the tied for 3rd place Bruins and Red Wings).

It also makes me think that maybe injuries and Sean Avery weren’t the top reasons why the Dallas Stars missed the playoffs last season.

Just for your fun and to strengthen a point I made yesterday, here’s some extended special teams stats:

This leads to a bit of discussion on a point I (sloppily) made yesterday: quantity of PP goals (and PP goals allowed) means a lot more to me than percentages, even though it’s not a huge difference and it’s easier for networks to use a %-based graphic.

There are, however, a few examples that illustrate my point. The Buffalo Sabres managed to be in the top 5 in PPG scored despite having a PP that scored about 2% less than the other top powerplays. Over 82 games, a couple percentage points can make a big difference (kind of like how a 2% save percentage difference can make a pretty huge difference in how a goalie will be perceived). Anaheim and Boston scored at 2.5% higher rate but the Sabres drew at least 40 more power plays (or about one more every other game) and therefore were able to generate more PPGs. (OK, it was only one more PPG … but still.)

Conversely, the New Jersey Devils scored at at least a 2% higher rate on the PP than other bottom PPG scoring teams but they were only able to go on the PP 307 times (compared to Buffalo’s 358) and therefore scored 17 less last season.

Does it make an enormous difference? Absolutely not. But even if it’s only a slightly more accurate way of tracking the good PPs, that’s good enough for me.

Simple stats that I don’t see often: Special Teams Plus/Minus and Net Goals

October 15, 2009

When it’s midnight and you need a photo of a cranky journalist ...
There was a point when I was like those many curmudgeon old sports columnists who looked down on complex statistics. Thankfully, though, there have been enough great stat blogs to finally teach me my lesson: some stats just don’t tell you as much as you might originally think.

Still, there is a part of me that always searches for the right cross-section between simple and deep. I’d imagine that these kind of stats have been around plenty of times before, but I’ve never seen them expressed before in official sites’ standings sections (at least on ESPN or
So, with all the Power Rankings out there, I thought it would be fun to occasionally take a look at NHL teams through completely objective – and obnoxiously simple – statistics. Obviously, this first few weeks’ worth of stats will be greatly altered by outliers but you know that already, right?
(A few more notes: these stats were taken from before tonight’s games and I’m dumb and don’t know a better way to put up an Excel spreadsheet on blogspot, so please tolerate my sloppy use of screenshots)
ANYWAY, first the NHL’s leaders in Net Goals.
This takes a SUPER sophisticated formula of Goals For minus Goals Against (although the spreadsheet also provides even strength goals … which I might incorporate into something more elegant and interesting in the future).
If you’re a Maple Leafs fan, well, at least you aren’t running your car in your garage right now. Small victories. feel free to avert your eyes.

(Click to enlarge)

So those of you who hate simple arithmetic, you’re welcome. The real reason I thought to do this, though, was to take a look at special teams numbers.

It’s always bothered me that such an emphasis has been made on Power Play and Penalty Kill percentages but who gives a rat’s ass about that? To me, PP effectiveness has always been about a) sheer quantity of goals and b) timeliness. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’d take a powerplay that scored 2 out of 10 than one that scored 1 out of 4.

I’m aware that is an overly-simplistic criticism, but work with me here.

To take a more “big picture” look at special teams, I think it is also important to compare teams’ PP and PK together. If your team can eek out a substantial amount of PP goals while keeping PK goals under control, you’ll have a major advantage while attempting to make the playoffs.

So, I’ve come up with (OK, I bet someone else has done this too since it’s super-simple) “Special Teams Plus-Minus.”

The formula’s almost as simple as “Net Goals”

PP Goals Scored + SH Goals Scored – PP Goals Allowed + SH Goals Allowed* = Special Teams Plus-Minus.**

* Just realized I didn’t include SHG allowed but I’ll do it next time. Promise!

** – However, if I’ve come up with something stupidly original feel free to call it a Jimbo Score. 🙂

Looking back at the BoC trip (part 1): Sleek is a beast; I’m just a monster

May 8, 2009
Cartoon by: Spade from Victorhell of BoC commenting fame. Oh, also, it’s O’Brien 🙂

California. What could I say about this place after spending one week there when the Red Hot Chili Peppers have covered every base already? Perhaps my naked inexperience is exactly why it’s taken me so long to write more than a superficial mini-post of my trip.

Each one of these posts will be heavily tangential and full of wild assumptions. Hopefully you will find these at least slightly interesting.

Meeting Earl Sleek

One thing I’ll never forget (even if the forgiveness came instantly) is my sister absolutely losing her mind when she found out that I’d be staying with people I MET ON THE INTERNET.

Because OBVIOUSLY I would end up hacked to pieces in some SoCal dumpster by this HOMICIDAL MANIAC who … blogs about hockey and draws adorable cartoons. (Naturally)

She had seen an episode of “Oprah” that featured online sexual predators. Keep in mind, growing up, my sister is the LAST person I’d expect to freak out about anything … especially based on the workings of big momma ‘O.’ This prompted a freak out from my wildly unsupportive brother and my nun-like mother. Typically, I can coast quite comfortably under the radar with these people, but never underestimate the power of technophobia.

If nothing else, my family should have worried for Earl Sleek.

Not sure how much personal, identifiable information is appropriate here, so I’ll keep it to a healthy minimum. Sleek showed up to (very nicely) pick me up from an Amtrak station and had the “Katamari Damacy” soundtrack playing in his car.

It was a little bit awkward at first, but my God, the guy owns a soundtrack to an obscure video game I LOVED in high school. Talk about an amazing ice breaker. Otherwise, we would have probably been a little less relaxed. Here’s a simulated thought process, thwarted thankfully by the dual wonders of nostalgia and Japanese pop music:

Me: Weird, I’ve never seen this guy before. He’s tall and seems way too normal to be a blogger.

Sleek: Jesus, this guy’s fucking fat.

Luckily, we were able to avoid such thoughts and chat about a game where you roll up human beings and enjoy visuals clearly targeting the college stoner/Autistic crowd. We eventually watched hockey and segued into “Mr. Show” (a program I had never seen before that night, which blew my mind).

My original plan for the trip was to spend time with both Sleek and Fear the Fin‘s Mr. Plank, but things fell through with Plank. (Or Plank thought, “Wow … this guy is a serious douche bag. Time for Plan B.”) Unfortunately for Sleek, I ended up crashing at his place for pretty much a full week. This meant heavy exposure to my flippant style of pontificating and unquenchable need to make a joke out of everything.

Certainly, if I were to plan the trip again, I would have done things quite differently. Regardless of whether or not I annoyed the piss out of Sleek*, he was incredibly gracious to allow me to stay at his spectacular bachelor pad. Thanks for everything, Sleek.

And keep rocking that Katamari.

* – I totally annoyed the piss out of him.