Showing posts with label Statistics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Statistics. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NHL 2007-08 Regular Season: Quarter Pole Standings and Review

nhllogo.gifWith most teams in the NHL having played 25% of their schedule, it's time for a look at how things have played out so far.

Eastern Conference

The Ottawa Senators are in a class by themselves in the Eastern Conference and show no sign of letting up. On the few occasions the team have played poorly, they have quickly bounced back and returned to their winning ways.

The Washington Capitals are about the only team whose season is already looking close to an unsalvageable disaster. That they haven't made some kind of move yet is perhaps a testament to the lack of other clubs willing or able to shift players. You've got to think that head coach Glen Hanlon will be walking the plank any day now. A coaching change can jolt a team in the right direction as demonstrated by the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Thrashers have gone 10-4 since sacking Bob Hartley and are suddenly a tough team to beat. They are now nipping at the heels of the hapless Leafs and within a few points of the 5th to 8th place glut in the Eastern Conference.

More than just trying to turn around their season, the Capitals have got to be thinking about Alexander Ovechkin and his looming free agency that will become a reality at the end of the season. No doubt the Caps' potential in the next few seasons will affect his decision about where to play.

Ovechkin will be a Group 2 free agent, so if he does accept an offer from another team and the Caps don't or can't match, at least Washington will get four first round draft picks in return from the organization who lures him away (the prescribed compensation for the salary range Ovechkin will no doubt command.)

Regarding a change behind the bench, what exactly have the Caps got to lose besides more games?

Speaking of the Leafs, they offered up another classic third period collapse in the game against the Bruins last night. The fans at Air Canada Centre had to feel a bit queasy at the sight of goalie Tuuka Rask performing at least as well as his Finnish compatriot in the Leafs net. Most importantly, he got his first start and win in the NHL against the team who traded him away for Andrew Raycroft.

The Leafs now sit in ninth place in the conference. All the teams above them in the standings have at least one game in hand on Toronto and most of those clubs have played two or fewer matches. No sense of urgency seems to grip the organization at the moment.

The Philadelphia Flyers have flattened out a bit after their strong beginning. After going 6-1 with 28 goals to start the season, they have followed up with a rather mediocre 5-6-1 with only 29 goals during that stretch. To this point it has still been an impressive turnaround from last year. The Flyers have a tough run in front of them in their next 8 games as they play the Senators, Bruins, Wild, Avalanche and the Hurricanes (twice), amongst others.

The two most disappointing teams in the East are the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sabres plummet is not as much of a surprise since their team scoring was gutted in the off-season with the departure of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. But most fans didn't expect their drop-off to be as sharp as it has been. Head coach Lindy Ruff has built up loads of capital with the Sabres and despite the team's woes, I can't see his position being in jeopardy any time soon.

The Penguins on the other hand, have got to be the biggest under-achievers of the season. They could be in the market for a number one goaltender or a new coach in the next little while. Rammed with talent and coming off last year's impressive regular season, it will be a bit hard for fans to tolerate the losing much longer.

Two other teams that have swapped places in the standings as compared to last year are the New Jersey Devils and the Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils are getting hammered this season. They have yet to win more than two games in a row and the last time they did that was in mid-October.

The Canes on the other hand are off to a great start after their disappointing campaign in 2006-7 and have scored more goals than any other team in the league with 71.

Western Conference

The Western Conference is even more of a mash-up, with the Detroit Red Wings at the top, the Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes at the bottom and every other team clogging up the middle. A whopping four points separates 2nd place from 12th.

The grouping at the bottom looks similar to the end of last season with the exception of the Chicago Blackhawks who have exited the cellar. The Blackhawks are a rejuvenated club with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews off to good starts. The ongoing restructuring of their front office is a positive sign for Chicago fans as well.

The biggest non-story of the season is still the expectant Calgary sports writers waiting for Mike Keenan to blow a gasket as the Flames continue their underwhelming start. The standard lament from everyone who follows this team closely is that they seem to have a talented club with all the potential pieces to do well but they continue to offer up sub-par efforts. Keenan's got to be wondering if he should shelve his new milder approach and once again start throwing wild haymakers (metaphorically) in the dressing room.

It's been frustrating so far for the Edmonton Oilers, though their fans at least can take some solace from the fact that they're not too far behind the Flames in the standings. It's safe to say that Dustin Penner is the biggest bust of the off-season free agent signings.

On pace for only 16 goals, that's far from what the Oilers were probably expecting from the lumbering forward. Most fans of the team will say that it's a signing whose worth can only be accurately judged after Penner's 3rd or 4th season with the team. Fair enough. But in the short term, it's certainly not looking too good.

The Detroit Red Wings keep blazing along with consistent play and plenty of offense. Second in goals scored in the league and second in goal differential (with 19 more tallies than they have given up), the Wings are still one of the toughest teams in the league to play against.

The Anaheim Ducks have put together six wins in their last eight starts after a dismal start to the season. The Vancouver Canucks have been improving lately but are still having trouble with consistency. The Columbus Blue Jackets have come back to earth with only two wins in their last nine games (and three shootout loss points) after their impressive beginning.

The St. Louis Blues are in the midst of their second four game winning streak of the season. Though they are a bit lean in the scoring department they have found ways to win. The goaltending from Manny Legace has been solid if unspectacular, though he has only faced 389 shots. Based on play in 15 of the Blues' games, the number of shots directed at him is lower than for most other goalies in the league with comparable minutes played.

A definite sign of good defense and also borne out by the fact that St. Louis have allowed only 40 goals. This has also been helped by having had the lightest schedule in the league so far. With only 18 games played to this point, they have at least two games in hand compared to all other teams above them in the conference standings.

As much as I dislike that qualifier "It's still too early/close to count anyone out," it has a lot of merit for most teams with three quarters of the season yet to play.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

NHL 2007-08 Week Three: Results, Changes and Stats

Habs logoOilers logoFlames logoYotes logoJets logoThrashers logoLeafs logo50 years since Maurice Richard became the first player in the NHL to score 500 goals. And with the commemoration comes that inevitable parlour game: would he have fared as well in the current NHL? Such discussions are interesting and yet another way for fans to rank their knowledge against one another.

Of course, it's totally hypothetical and rather meaningless. But because of the passion some invest in these "what if" scenarios, I'm always surprised that the most obvious qualifier of all is rarely mentioned.

If Richard were to have played in this era as opposed to in the past, he also would have come up at a different time and thus benefited from better conditioning, nutrition, coaching and competition. So, all other things being equal, he probably could have been a very good player in today's NHL.


The first battle of Alberta is in the books and it wasn't even close. Apparently the two teams are headed in the opposite direction with the Flames overcoming some early season collapses and the Oilers dropping most of their recent games except against other bottom feeders like the Phoenix Coyotes.

"It's still early yet," but Dustin Penner hasn't produced much offense during the first eight games. Which generally goes to show that most players are not of the impact variety and instead see their fortunes rise and fall depending on who they are playing alongside.

On the bright side, if Penner does become the largest and most expensive pylon ever, at least those dire predictions of overpriced offer sheets for restricted free agents might not come to pass.


Speaking of the Coyotes, has there ever been an NHL team that has experienced so many years of futility, first as the Winnipeg Jets and now in their current existence?

It's a bit ironic for Wayne Gretzky, considering the amount of regular season and playoff misery he inflicted on the team when they were located in Winnipeg.

Who would have believed it all those year ago? Imagine if someone had approached Gretzky in the visiting team's dressing room at the Winnipeg Arena after the Oilers had once again eliminated the Jets from the playoffs and said to the Great One,

"Hey, this is all well and good but one day you will be saddled with the very team that you've just beaten. While they are currently mired in this northern wasteland, at that distant point in the future they will be located in a desert."

Gretzky: "You don't say? That's interesting...Hey Mess! Ya got an extra bar of soap?!"

Strange how things play out in life. With Gretzky's partial ownership of the Coyotes and his iconic status in the hockey world, he has stayed on far longer as head coach than most others would have.

Kind of a conundrum for Gretzky since he essentially can decide for himself how long he remains as coach. Remove himself and some will label him a quitter. Stay on and the frustration mounts. Fair play to him for sticking with it.

Looks like another painful season of "rebuilding" ahead for him and the Yotes. I’m sure he’s not taking bets on his team making the playoffs…


The Atlanta Thrashers sacked their coach Bob Hartley and then quickly got their first win of the season against the Rangers the next evening with GM Don Waddell behind the bench. A coaching change often results in at least a temporary jolt of momentum, though as Atlanta demonstrated following their lone win of the year when they got back to their losing ways against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, it often takes far more to turn a season around.


The Thrashers will slump into Toronto on Tuesday for a game against the struggling Maple Leafs. If the Leafs can't put up a win against Atlanta or are listless and offer up another abysmal 3rd period, the winds of change are going to be blowing a lot stronger in the Big Smoke.

The Leafs 3rd period collapses only eight games into 2007-08 have been shocking. It's a carry-over from last season where they had one of the worst 3rd period team plus/minus records. Many people point to potential conditioning problems when such late game fades become a trend. But if you look at this season's 3rd period stats for the Leafs, it's probably more because of discipline than anything else.

So far this year the Leafs have a 3rd period team plus-minus rating of minus 2. But more importantly, they have taken 21 third period penalties that have resulted in six power play goals for their opponents. Add in another four overtime penalties with one game winner scored with a man advantage for the opposing team and it's not surprising Toronto are 1-2 in the extra frame.

Losing to the worst team in the league on Tuesday would not bode well for the fortunes of either GM John Ferguson Jr. or head coach Paul Maurice.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

NHL 2007-08: Firsts of the Season

NHL  logo1. The first first tragedy or event outside (or inside) the game that puts things in perspective.

A sad irony that after NHL teams took part in the campaign to raise awareness about cancer on the weekend, Jason Blake announces that he is stricken with a rare form of leukemia on Monday.

People often trot out the usual cliches when they don't know what to say or how to articulate their most vulnerable feelings. I say "vulnerable" because, let's face it, as much sorrow and empathy as we feel for someone who has suffered in some way, it really hits at our innermost fears about what will one day befall us and our loved ones.

"It makes you realize what is important in life," is the one line that comes to mind in such a situation. No doubt family and friends eclipse all else but I'll put the passion that drives an athlete to the heights and makes him successful enough to turn pro as something that is also right up there.

To reach the end of one's life and know that passions were neglected and dreams never realized can cast a cloud of bitter regret over everything, including the relationships with friends and family that should matter so much. Passions are very important and can enrich our interactions with those we are closest to. For some people, such as pro hockey players, those intense commitments to achieve can help them to ensure the comfort and safety of the people who matter most in their lives.  Let's not forget that those distractions and challenges we create and absorb ourselves in help to establish the character and personalities of the human beings who we care for to such a heightened degree when tragedy strikes.

I admire Blake for the toughness he is showing but I'm afraid that when you start to look at the details of his condition, you realize just how serious it is. Here's hoping he beats it and somehow has a great, full season with the Leafs.

2. The first brewing controversy of the season.

No, it's not head shots, though that will rear its bashed melon as an issue again at some point.

It's the new RBK Edge jerseys that were touted as the greatest innovation in pro sports equipment since the ventilated nut cup.

They spent so much time and so many millions on research to develop fabric that would dispel moisture that they never considered where the rivers of sweat would flow. Take a look at this question and answer document (note: it's a pdf file) released by Reebok and the NHL regarding the new uniforms. There's a lot in there about wind tunnels and technologically advanced material:

"Q: How valid and thorough was the research behind this new project?

A: Unprecedented testing was executed by the Reebok research & development teams as well as experts at both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (wind tunnel analysis) and Central Michigan University (thermal regulation analysis). More than two years of extensive research, development and testing were performed on the new Rbk EDGE Uniform System with player performance and safety at the forefront of the project. Testing started in labs and progressed through various wear-test groups and most importantly Reebok worked directly with the NHL and NHLPA to ensure players’ feedback was incorporated. "

But not much regarding in-the-field-rink testing. OK, there is some information about player feedback but look at the details and time-line:

"Q: Did the NHL and Reebok seek input from NHL players, the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) and General Managers? If so, what kind of feedback was received?

A: Players’ input was a key component of the development of this new uniform system from the very early stages. In 2003, Reebok and the NHL had initial discussions to bring Reebok’s expertise in uniform design to the NHL with an overall goal of creating a new uniform that would increase player performance and protection. Over the course of the next year, new uniform concepts were presented to NHL General Managers and the NHLPA. Prototypes were developed and refined by Reebok and by the summer of 2006 the project was approved by the NHLPA and Board of Governors. On-ice testing sessions with NHL and minor-league players continued during team practices through the 2006-07 season and constant modifications were made based on player feedback. Many NHL players have been supportive of Reebok’s modifications to the NHL uniform system and have responded positively to the safety and performance improvements that the new Rbk EDGE Uniform System provides. "

The research and development started in 2003 but the input from players who had actually tried the jerseys in a realistic situation (and even then only in practices) wasn't until 2006-07. It seems like it was almost an afterthought at that point and appears only limited in scope. Why weren't they tested in game situations? How many players took part?

It's not hard to imagine that those few players had a bias and were more likely to highlight the positives and provide favourable ratings. And the people involved in the project were no doubt blinded by the validation all around them and the millions that were flowing like the unfettered gallons of sweat that are currently soaking every scrap of equipment and apparel worn by players. Except of course for those pristine, pathetic jerseys, which by all accounts are remaining as dry as sawdust.

Funny how the little unexpected things end up doing in so many people and big ideas. It was tax evasion with Al Capone and with the new jerseys it's sweat.

3. First unbeaten streak.

There are a few unbeaten teams though Ottawa's streak is the longest at four.

Surprising Washington are unbeaten after three.

Others with two wins and no losses are the Tampa Bay Lighting and the Minnesota Wild.

I'll take Ottawa as the team that keeps their streak alive the longest.

4. The first points leader.

There has been some movement within the first week of the season but Daniel Alfredsson is currently on top with five goals and eight points.

That will likely earn Alfredsson the first NHL player of the week designation as well.

5. First slew of injuries.

There are plenty of banged up players though one of the most recent injuries was suffered by Sean Avery in this nasty but clean hit from Chris Neil during the game between the Senators and the New York Rangers on October 6th.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Bloody Chiclets: Some Early Stats and Online Games

NHL logoDucks logoSens logoLeafs logoNiedermayer decision coming soon? Five games into a less than fantastic start for the defending Stanley Cup champions and Nidermayer is soon going to fill us in on whether or not he's going to grace the Ducks with his presence? And therein lies the answer to this increasingly self-serving display of procrastination.

Niedermayer simply wants to convince his teammates and the rest of the league that he, in fact, is not expendable. The longer the Ducks struggle, the greater his loss is felt and the more his stock rises. At the merest hint that Anaheim is returning to form, he will slide back into the line-up and ride the wave with them, undoubtedly bolstering their fortunes even more as they improve beyond what these first few games suggest.

More likely, he's doing a stint of scouting his current/former team to see if it really is worthwhile to return for another year. Without the assurance of another competitive season with a reasonable shot at repeating as champs, it may seem like a redundant uphill slog to someone like Niedermayer who already has four Cup rings and a barnful of other hardware.

Or, he could just be enjoying the experience of not getting hammered into the boards (and doing a good deal of hammering himself) in October for the first time in almost 20 years.


Hard to start crunching numbers or establishing trends with only a handful of games played by most teams, but here's an interesting stat. The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs are currently the most penalized teams in the NHL (discounting the Ducks, who have played two more games than the Buds and the Sens, though their per game average is still lower.) Ottawa and Toronto have 31 and 30 minutes in penalties respectively while both have been short-handed 20 times over the span of three games.

The difference between Ottawa and Toronto is that the Senators haven't allowed a single goal while killing penalties while the Leafs have given up two. Ottawa has actually fared even better than that, scoring two short-handed goals. Toronto has allowed a short-handed goal but scored none of their own.

With the man advantage, Ottawa has scored two goals and Toronto just one (the game winner in overtime against the Canadiens yesterday.)

At least some part in why Ottawa has the maximum six points after three games and Toronto just three. Special teams are a huge part of any team's success and this year will be no different as it appears the obstruction and stick penalties will be called as tight as ever.

The numbers aren't that far apart of course, and most importantly, the three games make it all the more lacking in significance. Still, I'm dying to start seeing the trends develop so I thought I'd get some early practice. After ten games things will warrant a far closer and more relevant look.

As for the stats themselves, I've relied on Yahoo! sports for the above numbers. I have seen at least one discrepancy elsewhere regarding the number of times Ottawa has been in a penalty killing situation, with the Globe and Mail quoting 19.

Speaking of stats, there is a satcheful of online sites that cater to those who love the numbers games. The NHL site is a good starting point and also includes links for all the individual team sites. Hockeydb provides some great individual player numbers and details that span over their entire careers. I like ShrpSports for the snapshots they provide of previous seasons including the standings as they were at any particular date in the past.


The attempts to watch games online have proven fairly useless so far. What happened to those glorious, uninterrupted stretches of streaming during last season's playoffs? No doubt it's down somewhat to my internet connection though there are limits to what I can do to improve that. Radio is a weak alternative but still provides some respite.

I like the feature from that gives you the real-time scoreboard of individual games on your monitor together with a pretty good ticker of all the action. The detail in the ticker is impressive with surprisingly intricate play by play that includes shot type, blocks, hits, penalties and of course goals.


To access the scoreboard for a particular match-up, go to Scores and then click on the "Real Time" link that appears next to a game that is currently in progress.