Saturday, May 31, 2008
Hitting Analysis of 2007-2008 Part 1
If you were concerned that the Devils didn't have enough physical players last season; then you were likely pleased with what happened last offseason when the Devils signed Vitaly Vishnevski and Aaron Asham; you probably enjoyed seeing David Clarkson getting a regular spot on the roster; you may have applauded the decision to bring in Bryce Salvador in for the benched Cam Janssen; and you appreciated Brent Sutter's idea for a majority of offensive attacks to consist of dumping-chasing-and-then-battling-along-the-boards for the puck to some degree. Basically, from what we saw on a game to game basis, the Devils were a more physical team due to who they signed and how they played.
Hits are a bit tricky to measure. As it states in Hockey Analysis statistics section, hits are a real time super stat which are often left up to the scorekeeper as to whether something is or is not a hit. Given that every arena has a different scorekeeper, some are more generous and some less generous. Hockey Analysis rectifies this by adjusting the stats. And we should like their adjusted numbers as they show the New Jersey Devils to have a higher total of hits than any other team in the league. I am not making this up. The adjusted numbers at Hockey Analysis state that New Jersey likely truly had 1729 hits.
However, I can't really just leave it at that, as nice and easy it would be to do. While I admit that subjectivity does play a role in counting hits at games, I am going to use those numbers from the scorekeeper for hits anyway. They are what is officially recorded in the boxscores and at NHL.com and I really can't justify any adjustment or metric to be fully accurate - especially involving multiple seasons and players who only played part of the season with New Jersey. Even if I watched 186 games over the last three seasons again and counted it myself, there'd still be questions as to whether the counts are accurate (not to mention that this would take forever). So there we are. We are also going to assume that if you're in the act of hitting somebody, you're being physical. Granted, you can be physical by taking hits - but that could also be done by not being particularly aware of the opposing skaters.
In any case, the first thing I looked at is who had how many hits for the Devils in the past 3 seasons. I chose the last 3 seasons because I'm still able to look at game reports and super stats for individual games as far back as 3 seasons ago to find out how many hits a Devil had before (or after) they became a Devil. Now, I did my best with this, and I know my 2007-2008 and 2006-2007 totals are valid due to Hockey Analysis coming up with the same totals in 2007 and 2008. That said, if you find anything wrong with this, please let me know so I can correct it and adjust my own conclusions. That all said, here comes two carts. First is for the players, second are the totals:
(Note: Those red triangles? Those are for players who didn't play the full season with New Jersey.)
Anyway, the third thing is shown when you break it down to average number of hits per player. While some players on the team had fewer hits, like Colin White registering 62 fewer hits and Jamie Langenbrunner finding the body 22 fewer times (yes, I know they were out until mid-November, but it's still a big decrease in hits), the new players and the team overall has picked up the checking slack to a new high. While we hoped he produced more points, Brian Gionta did put on 22 more hits than the prior season. Travis Zajac had a season dominated by a sophmore slump except in hits, as he earned 20 more hits. Zach Parise doubled his hit totals from 37 to 76. John Oduya and Patrik Elias had some gains as well. However, those who were already regulars prior in 2007-2008 did see a drop in hits. Those who really put the Devils to new heights in hits who became regulars (free agents, prospects moving up) for the Devils in 2007-2008.
This confirms the physical play of Clarkson and Vishnevski being paramount. They both lead the Devils in hits in first and second, respectively. While Aaron Asham wasn't particularly great, he definitely brought the pain for 82 hits and it surprised me to learn that Dainius Zubrus got 77. Rod Pelley didn't stick for the whole season, but he played enough on the fourth line as a checking center, in both senses of the term. The rest of the new defensemen round out the list.
So these numbers show that the Devils have more hits both in total and in average. Why were these gains made? Well, this third chart shows that the new players have made a significant contribution. They represent just under half of all hits by the Devils, they include the two leaders in hits by the team, and they are largely physical players. With the percentage of hits from each player in this season being more spread out, that would be a result of the new style of play that Brent Sutter had the Devils utilize - with more physical battles along the boards on offense. The numbers in this manner, I think, help confirm what we may of originally thought.
That concludes part 1. Just like with what I did for the Devils' shooting numbers, part 2 of this will look at how often the Devils when they outhit their opponents. From there, I will attempt to determine whether there is a connection between winning and hits. If you have any questions, complaints, or insights, please let me know so I can make these attempts better.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
RIP Luc Bourdon
Monday, May 26, 2008
Memorial Day 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The 2008 Stanley Cup Finals Begin Today
In the meantime, check out the best playoff hockey commercial I've ever seen. Great job, NHL Marketing! (hat tip: Puck Daddy)
Friday, May 23, 2008
Finals and More Possible Signings
Still, because the Finals are a marquee matchup doesn't mean it was done improperly. These two teams have done the best in the playoffs this year by far and they have clearly earned their trips to the finals. Just like Carolina and Edmonton in 2006; and Ottawa and Anaheim last year. The Detroit Red Wings will be without The Mule for Game 1, but it should an excellent series against the Pittsburgh Penguins all the same.
More Devils offseason information is coming about. From the NY Post's Sports Shorts, the Devils are looking to re-sign Bryce Salvador. He looked pretty good in the few games he did play for New Jersey. While he is not fast and won't provide much offense - save for the fluke from the neutral zone - he's a physical veteran defenseman who can play in that #4 spot if need be. I would like to see how Salvador does in a full season. Hopefully, he still has enough in him to provide a good full season. From Gulitti we learn that the Devils do not necessarily have to sign Alexander Vasyunov and Vladamir Zharkov to retain their rights. But they do have to sign Kirill Tulupov by June 1 to keep him in the Devils organization. Given what Jared Ramsden had to say about Tulupov; he's not a bad prospect. OK, so he may not be a big minute defenseman; but he's big and can bring the pain and positional coverage on a third pairing - and maybe at a #4 spot if he continues developing. Echoing Ramsden's analysis; I'd be surprised if the Devils would let Tulupov go back to the draft. Here's hoping he gets signed over the next few days.
Lastly, I've gotten a bunch of e-mails asking whether they can link to here. You don't need to ask; you can add ILWT as you wish. Even if it's not even a sports site. I'll be cool with it, for the most part.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Brookbank & Mottau Return
Considering the list of prominent unrestricted free agents at Spector's, there's some viable options on defense. The Devils have quite a bit of cap space, so the money is there even if they want to go after a big name, first-pairing calibur defenseman like Wade Redden. And let me tell you, from what I've seen of him, I think Redden would fit all of these needs and make the Devils a much better team. He'll be popular come July 1st, so the Devils should also consider taking a look at John-Michael Liles or Brian Campbell. Even though both are not as defensively strong as I'd like, if Devils defense from last season can still be fairly good with Brookbank, Andy Greene, Karel Rachunek, and Vitaly Vishnevski being rotated in and out of the line up, then I wouldn't anticipate the blueline from becoming bad with an addition of a more offensively talented defenseman for next season.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Pelley, Greene, and John Carlson
Speaking of prospects, I checked out the ISS Top 30 at Hockey's Future and their 21st rated prospect is defenseman John Carlson. Josh mentioned him in a comment - he's local (Colonia), he's big (6'2", 212 lbs.), and he's got a shot. I did a little digging on him. He's been a productive threat from the point in Indiana in the United States Hockey League; and Carlson is going to become a Minuteman next season. From NHL Entry Draft 2008, we can learn that he favors the Devils, and he skates real well for a big man according to Jack Barzee from Central Scouting. College bound, Devils fan, and a big d-man who can skate and shoot? Sign him up, Lou! I would be very happy if the Devils draft Carlson. The Devils draft philosophy has always been drafting the best player available; so here's hoping he's still around at the 21st overall pick.
Friday, May 16, 2008
with regard to the cap, for players who are 35 or older, if/when those players have a base salary with incentives such as i believe that shanahan had with the rangers, if the base salary were, say 2.5M and had another 2.5 in incentives, how much counts against the cap when the contract is signed?...and if the incentives were met in their entirely would the cap hit go up?...and in which year,the season just played or the following season?...and if were in the year that was just played, what would happen if the incentives brought the team over the cap?...i know it is a tricky issue, so much so that lou, who was responsible for its acceptance and implementation forgot about the 35 year old an up multi-year"wherever and whether he plays" situation
To be honest, I don't think Lou has forgotten about this clause. Should Lou go after a free agent like Mats Sundin - someone who would be a #1 center on the team, who is over 35, and is a viable target for the Devils - you can be sure this would into play when it comes to making him an offer. Don't scoff at me. He may be getting up there, but he still was a point per game player (78 in 74) and led a bad Toronto team in scoring by quite a bit (22 points more than Nik Antropov). With 32 goals and 46 assists, Sundin's still got "it." His salary for Toronto last season was $5.5 million. The Devils could get him for a similar price; but with performance bonuses, he could be had for a lower base salary. If he hits his bonuses, he's clearly benefiting the team. If not, the Devils save a little money. It's a good tactic, from a management standpoint, and you can expect Lou to utilize it should he make an offer to Sundin or someone like Sundin.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Devils out of WCs
So, here is your summary of the WCs by the numbers for Devils:
Zach Parise - 7 games, 5 goals, 3 assists, 2 PIM, +1, 28 shots on net, 19:31 avg. ice time/game.
Paul Martin - 7 games, 1 goal, 7 assists, 0 PIM, +2, 8 shots on net, 21:50 avg. ice time/game.
Patrik Elias - 7 games, 6 goals, 3 assists, 6 PIM, -3, 29 shots on net, 18:14 avg. ice time/game.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Crucial WC Update
Finland got on the board when Ville Koistinen scored on the first power play off a feed from Saku Koivu. The goal was a game changer as the momentum carried over to the Finnish side.
- The puck went through the side of the net.
- The play was reviewed.
- Video revealed that the puck really did go through the side of the net, which negates the goal.
- The play was ruled a goal.
NOTE: The IIHF formally acknowledged after the game that Koistinen's shot had, indeed, entered the side of the net and should not have counted, and the video-goal judge will not be working for the rest of the tournament.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
If Only They Could Get Younger...
Pandolfo (33) - Madden (35) - Gionta (29)
Zubrus (29) - Rupp (28) - Clarkson (24)
Brylin (34) - Zajac (22) - Asham (30)
Extras: Pelley (23)
Oduya (26) - Martin (27)
White (30) - Mottau (30)
Salvador (32) - Brookbank (27)
Extras: Vishnevski (28), Rachunek (28), Greene (25)
In any case, I feel I need to point this out not to cause alarm, to freak anyone out, or to call for Lou to dump the team and stock it with fresh prospects and draft picks. This isn't HF Boards. You always need experienced players to be successful. Moreover, if someone can still be effective, then by all means, they should be on the ice regardless of age (e.g. Chris Chelios). That said, I am pointing this out because over the next few seasons the Devils core will need to be changed again. Elias, Madden, Pandolfo, and Langenbrunner are not getting younger and their eventual replacements will need to be considered. Zach Parise is already part of that core, I think, and so could Travis Zajac if he rebounds from his recent season-long slump. The defense isn't so bad; it needs stability moreso than younger talent. It also needs signed players, as I believe 5 of the 9 are free agents. Regardless, the "future" of White, Martin, and (yes) Oduya aren't exactly young guys - they are in their primes right now. As for Brodeur? Well, we have seen Patrick Roy (excellent through age 37) and Dominik Hasek is still going strong at age 43 - and both are legendary goaltenders. There's no reason to believe that Brodeur - a legendary goaltender himself - will suddenly fall from grace now that he's 36. But since he's the foundation of the team; he too cannot play forever.
The next few seasons are going to be interesting to see how the Devils organization acts to keep the Devils a contending team in the NHL. What they do in this offseason could become crucial, with respect to who they draft, who they sign (prospects and current NHL players), and what they do in preseason. This summer could play a large role of whether they remain among the best or slip down to requiring an actual rebuilding period in 5 years from now.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
World Championships & Draft Update
Karel Rachunek - Actually, I screwed this up. He was invited according to Gulitti; but he's not on the roster. So he's not in the WCs. To correct this egregious error I will...apologize. I'm sorry.
Pat Burns - The assistant coach for Canada had this to say at TSN (hat tip: Devils HFBoards) about rumors to go elsewhere to be a head coach again:
"The press knows more than I do, because I certainly don't know anything," he explained. "That's all going to depend on who's talking to me and what it's all about. You don't jump at the first job because somebody calls you up. It has to be the right situation. I've heard Ottawa, Tampa and Miami - I've heard them all. What's important is that I'm happy working with the Devils. If that situation comes, they have to talk to Lou first and I would sit down and talk to him about it because I really trust his judgement."
Other WC Things to Note: Dany Heatley currently leads the tournament in scoring with 6 goals and 4 assists. Sweden lost to Switzerland in an international tournament - and Tommy Salo was nowhere on the rink. Your group winners are Switzerland (A), Canada (B), Finland (C), and Russia (D). The rest should move on save for some movement in groups A and C. Your regulation fighters will be fully determined tonight; but Slovenia and Italy are already guaranteed to be there.
NHL DRAFT: Thanks to Montreal failing against Philadelphia and San Jose failing against Dallas; the Devils will now have the 21st spot overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Tom Gulitti, proving that he is The Guy among Devils reporters, even explains how the draft positioning is set up for this season. I don't know much about the prospects for the draft other than A) there are a lot of good prospective defensemen and B) Tampa Bay has pretty much revealed who they will take at #1. This is interesting because as recent as 2005, I was pretty much in tune with who could go in the first round and hoping that the Devils would draft Mike Green based on what I read about him. Alas, it was not to be (sigh). So if you have some thoughts or opinions on what the draft class looks like or who you think the Devils should go after, let me know. I really am interested at who may be available at 21st.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Martin Brodeur is 36 as of yesterday. This should be a good 36th year for him; he's got a good chance at breaking the wins record.
CONFERENCE FINALS PREVIEWS: NHL Fanhouse has your previews. Pat Lackey has the goods on the Battle of Pennsylvania in the East. Bruce Ciskie has what you need to know about Dallas vs. Detroit in the West. Both series should be exciting. Dallas is playing some strong hockey and could provide more of a challenge for Detroit than, say, Colorado. Then again, Detroit is committed for this year and leading the charge is The Mule (ASIDE: In sports, nicknames have given way to shortened names or initials. Johan Franzen has a proper nickname
Monday, May 05, 2008
Devils Accuracy Analysis of 2007-2008
Therefore, I've been recording the shots on net, missed shots, and blocked shots counts from the Event Summaries of every Devils game from NHL.com. One set by the Devils, and one set by their opponent. There are numerous shortcomings in doing this. First, stats like missed and blocked shots can be quite subjective. A scorekeeper may regard a tipped shot that goes wide as missed, blocked, or neither. I do not know how to adjust for those values outside of guessing, so for the purposes of this analysis, we must assume them to be correct. Second, the blocked shot statistic refers to shots blocked by the opposition. This makes sense. But what of shots that are blocked by their own team? Countless times have we seen a Devils defenseman wind-up for a slapshot only to have the puck hit a Devils' leg or skate and go awry. I have not counted how many times this has happened to New Jersey and nothing by the scorekeeper in the published stats that I have found accounts for this. Therefore, we must, unfortunately and unrealistic as it is, ignore this. Third, I am only comparing the Devils to their opponents. While it would be interesting and enlightening to do this for all 30 teams over the past 3 seasons (including this one) and see where New Jersey ranks among with them; the process of collecting all that data would be an extensive project that I'm not willing to undertake at this juncture. Sorry. Fourth, I am only looking into the regular season - the playoffs are far too short, I think, for any full analysis. Fifth, I am operating on this crucial assumption:
A shot on net, a blocked shot, and a missed shots are all attempts to get the puck on net. The accuracy of these shots is the number of shots on net out of the number of total attempts made to get it on net.
Should a shot be blocked or miss the net, the goal was not reached. For missed shots this makes sense. Yes, opposing players could make a play on their own - or get lucky enough to be in the way - but should a shot be blocked, it likely wasn't a good attempt to begin with. With that all of these assumptions and shortcomings admitted to early, let's get into it. The main answers we are seeking are just how accurate the Devils have been this season in shooting, how this compares with their opponents, and whether or not this means anything.
Let's cut through the suspense. The "too long; didn't read" table is right here and it proves that, yes, accuracy does mean something with respect to this past season.
For those who like to see this further broken down, I've split up the numbers between home and road games, and Devils wins and losses.
So what did this entire gigantic 5-chart post yield? Well, it confirms that shooting accuracy by the Devils needs to be improved. Their opponents have been better than them more often than not in that category. The result? 52 games where the Devils were at least even with or worse in shooting accuracy and a winning percentage of roughly 46% in those games. In the other 30, the Devils have a winning percentage of 73.3%. While I wouldn't expect these percentages to carry over and while we can't say that one directly leads to the other, it does matter. Goals only come from shots on net; reducing blocked and missed shots will lead to more opportunities for goals - more shots on net. By improving their accuracy, the Devils could increase scoring. I don't think the Devils organization is happy with only putting in 206 goals in 2007-2008.
Now that we know how poor the Devils shoot in comparison to their opponents, what is the next step? Well, I think there are multiple ways to improve accuracy. In-game decision making and shooting practice could certainly help in putting the puck on net. Getting more talented players who are already good at shooting could help as well. Establishing lines of players who have good chemistry with each other - as opposed to constant lineup changes - could lead to better communication, passing, and shooting from those players. A new assistant coach that can focus on the offense and provide some new ideas could also help. There's a lot of things the Devils can do here. They have all offseason to consider their options and take the right shot. If you have any questions, complaints, corrections, or a comment just to say you read through all this; please, by all means, leave them.
And, no, I'm not sorry for that stupid pun at the end.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
World Championships Tomorrow
Tom Gulitti reported the other day that Martin Brodeur will be a part of the Goalie Equipment Working Group. The group will make decisions on the size and regulations of goaltender equipment. With Brodeur on the panel, you can be sure he will make a big point of making changes while not putting his fellow goalies at risk. I'm happy to see that the other goalies named to the list are Rick DiPietro and Ryan Miller. All three goalies don't have particularly large pieces of equipment. Unlike, say, Jean-Sebastian Giguere.
James Mirtle runs some numbers and notes that the playoffs this season has had the same rate of goal scoring as the regular season. That's pretty impressive since playoff hockey is all about the struggle, the raised play of goaltenders, and ruthless defending. I wonder how that will impact calls to reduce goaltender equipment to increase scoring? Well, no, I actually don't. The NHL Competition Committee will take a look at it anyway. Which is the league's right. The NFL changes all kinds of rules every year that affects the game - recent changes have benefitted the quarterback (e.g. roughing the passer is heavily cracked down upon) and the passing game (e.g. cornerbacks can't obstruct receivers beyond 5 yards). That said, I hope the NHL doesn't take it to a ridiculous extreme.
Speaking of Mirtle, I agree with him about the latest announced award finalists. Ovechkin is pretty much a lock to win the Hart (and Nicklas Lidstrom should have been a finalist). And the Pearson (the NHLPA's MVP). All three finalists have an argument to win the Jack Adams Trophy; but I think it's clear that Bruce Boudreau is the favorite. He took a team that is young, not particularly deep, and in dire straits when he went behind the bench and turned them into Southeast Division winners. The team's turnaround this past season can be directly attributed to Boudreau and if that isn't deserving of coach of the year honors, then I really don't know what is deserving. Fair play to Guy Carbonneau and Mike Babcock; but their teams weren't sitting at the bottom of the league in November where it was thought that the playoffs would be a mere dream by February.
Lastly: This weekend, I give out the final shooting stats of the Devils. As you would expect, there's room for improvement. I'm not including the playoffs in the overall numbers; but I will address them to a degree.