A Little Ditty

Dear Ron MacLean.
Dear Coach’s Corner.
I’m writing in order
for someone to explain
to my niece the distinction
between these mandatory pre-game group rites of submission
and the rallies at Nuremburg.
Specifically the function
the ritual serves in conjunction
with what everybody knows
is in the end a kid’s game.
I’m just appealing to your sense of fair play
when I say she’s puzzled by
the incessant pressure for her to not defy
the collective will,
and yellow ribboned lapels,
as the soldiers inexplicably rappel
down from the arena rafters
(which, if not so insane, would be grounds for screaming laughter).

Dear Ron MacLean,
I wouldn’t bother with these questions
if I didn’t sense some spiritual connection.
We may not be the same
but it’s not like we’re from different planets:
we both love this game so much we can hardly fucking stand it.
Alberta-born and prairie-raised.
Seems like there ain’t a sheet of ice north of Fargo I ain’t played.
From Penhold to the Gatineau,
every fond memory of childhood that I know
is somehow connected
to the culture of this game. I can’t just let it go.
But I guess it comes down to
what kind of world you want to live in,
and if diversity is disagreement,
and disagreement is treason,
well don’t be surprised if we find ourselves reaping
a strange and bitter fruit
that sad old man beside you
keeps feeding to young minds as virtue.
It takes a village to raise a child
but just a flag to raze the children
until they’re nothing more than ballast for fulfilling
a madman’s dream
of a paradise where complexity
is reduced to black and white.
How do I
protect her from
this cult of death?


A Swing and a Miss?

If you take last year's club, subtract Streit, Ryder and Smolinski and add Tanguay, here is the lineup we'd be looking at:

Pencil in a combined $3.5M for Halak, Gorges and O'Byrne and we're sitting at a cap number of $49.3M for 12 forwards, 7 defensemen (including Dandenault) and 2 goalies.

The bad news is this team is not obviously better than the one whose season ended in early May. Tanguay boosts one of the top lines, and that is significant. However a lot of that gain will be offset by the losses of the #3 centre in Smolinski and a solid PP contributor in Streit.

The good news is the hard part of acquiring a top-flight forward is already done and there is still ~$7M in cap space. Even if none of Gainey's big UFA plans pan out - and as of 1:30pm EDT, that's how it appears to be shaking out - bolstering the bottom of the lineup should be a snap.

The minimum needs are:
- top 9 forward, preferably a C
- A #4-7 RS defenseman. May already have this in Dandenault.

Optimally, we're looking at a top-notch C who can play at EV and doesn't carry a huge cap hit into 2009-10. If this fantastical creature exists, it's name is Sundin. The big guy has said that he would take it year by year. To me, that sounds like a one year contract. If he's willing to take less money to join a good club and commit to one year, the Canadiens are still in the running.

Since the end of the season Gainey has said the top priority is a centre. When he took on Tanguay, is it possible he misjudged the market for Sundin? Without Tanguay's $5.25M, a top dollar offer for Sundin would have been possible. Now a $7M will have to suffice. I think Sundin is still a possibility - he may pull a Hossa and go for the 1-year deal for less than he could get elsewhere. Then again he might take $500k to join the Wings, or stay in Toronto or retire.

Looking at other centres to occupy a the #3 slot, Vasicek (RHS like Smolinski) looked OK last season and would come cheap. An inexpensive option at C leaves room for short-term upgrades on a wing and/or defense. Think Naslund, Vyborny, Satan...


I was dead wrong about Ryder being a bargain. Chiarelli unbelievably gave him a 35% raise. He would have been a great addition at $2M. Instead, his cap hit will be the same as Derek Roy's over the next three years and double that of Trent Hunter's. Ryder would be the highest paid skater on the Canucks, Panthers or Kings.


Here is an early look at some notable expected UFAs for 09-10:

Both Sedins
P. Boucher

Plus the Habs' own Tanguay, Koivu, Kovalev, and Komisarek.


Loading Up

Interesting draft day for the Canadiens - At first glance, I like the Tanguay deal. There is only one year left on his current contract at $5.25M (making him the highest-paid forward on the team). Check out these posts from BoA . The price may be steep but the guy is a star EV player - just what the doctor ordered. Now Gainey has a year to get him signed to a value contract after 2009.

Sundin is looking like a real possibility, if he's interested. You'd think he would cost at least $7M. Counting in Tanguay's $5.25M, and $12.25M is a lot to add without removing any salary. I wonder what this means for Andrei Kostitsyn. It took $5M per over 3 years for the Flyers to sign Carter, so is $4M an unreasonable number for AKost's cap hit? Adding Sundin at $7M and AKost at a generous $3M, they're sitting at $52.6M with two or three depth defensemen and a backup goalie yet to sign. That's tight.

Incidentally, check out the Canadiens contracts at nhlnumbers. Only four players are signed for 2009-10. Sundin or no, Gainey is swinging for the fences in 2009.

In the draft, the player I was watching was Jordan Eberle - a top goal scorer in the tight checking WHL at 17. I'm glad he was snatched before the #25 spot, and I think the Oilers got a great pick.

With the Jokinen move the Panthers now have too many defensemen - expect another trade there.


Crosby. CrosbyCrosbyCrosby.

Call this a backlash against a backlash.

After the first two playoff rounds, a lot of very reasonable people were suggesting that Malkin might actually be a better player than Sid. Crazy talk, that was. Crosby was the best player in the final - quite a feat for a 20-year-old whose team went 2-4.

When both Crosby and Zetterberg were on the ice at EV, the Pens outscored the Wings 3-1 over the six games. When both Crosby and Lidstrom were on it was also 3-1 Pens. Crosby and Datsyuk: 2-0 Pens. Whenever Crosby was on the three next best players on the ice were usually Red Wings, making his performance all the more impressive. I mean, how many chances did Dupuis botch?

When it was all said and done, the top Wings did a pretty good job containing the best player in hockey. Detroit's next tier of players beat the lesser lights of the Penguins, and beat them badly. Especially on defense, where the Wings' top four were miles better than the Pens'.


Some Numbers

Back when the Zednik incident occurred, there was a lot of commentary about how dangerous the NHL game could be and some lobbying for steps that should be taken to make it safer. Out of curiosity, I did a little math and did a little googling.

There have been ~35,500 games played in the post-expansion NHL. Figuring 40 participants per game, that is 1.4 million man-hours of hockey. In that sample, we've seen one accidental death: Bill Masterton way back in 1968. The death rate is 0.7 per million hours of NHL hockey. He is the only player in NHL history to die as a direct result of an on-ice incident, and he'd probably still be alive today if he had been wearing a helmet.

Here are some other rates for the general public, taken from this article:

Bicycling: 0.26 deaths per million hours
Driving: 0.47
Motorcycling: 8.8

Motorcycling is at least 12.5 times deadlier than post-expansion NHL hockey.

Over its entire history, NHL hockey has been about as dangerous as driving a car in this crude measure of deaths per hour. When you consider how many more hours a player spends travelling than playing, it would make a lot of sense to invest in greater transportation safety than on-ice safety. I don't think I need to type out a list of deaths in motor vehicle accidents to make that clear.

And this probably doesn't need to be said: you and I spend far more time travelling in motor vehicles than we do playing NHL hockey. There are bigger issues out there than mandatory neck guards.

What is the number needed to treat for neck guards? For the cost of equipping every hockey player in the country with one, how many motorcycles could we throw into compactors?


Playoff Numbers

Discovered via Mirtle, the playoff stats are up at Behindthenet.

Only ten games are listed for the Habs. I'm not sure which two are missing.

Quality of Opposition

In such a small sample, the QUALCOMP measure can be misleading. The Bruins' 4th line blew away the Lapierre line. That means the QUALCOMP algorithm thinks Shawn Thornton, Vlad Sobotka and Jeremy Reich are Boston's best players and the Lapierre line had the tough assignments in round 1.

For that reason, this table is sorted by TOICOMP - the mean EV icetime of the players' opposition. You assume the best players get the most EV icetime (not necessarily true if the coach thinks the player's icetime is best spent on special teams - see Markov and Hamrlik).

At any rate, this order looks OK and contains no surprises. From top to bottom you can see the 1st through 4th lines and 1st through 3rd D pairs (Bouillon is a blip due to fewer GP).

Shots For/Against

Plekanec/AKost destroyed their opposition, outshooting them 2:1. Wow. The huge gap is partly due to them getting to play against 2nd calibre opposition when Koivu and Kovalev were together. This is the duo to watch next year.

At the other end of the scale, Streit/Lapierre were a horror show on the 4th line. Why did they continue to get icetime? It would have been soo easy to beef up the bottom three forwards at the trade deadline.

It's becoming evident that Koivu's role should be reduced. Bringing in a real top-notch centre who could bump everyone down a line would be the best move Gainey could make for next year.


Sergei continued to be a rabbit's foot in the postseason. This is beginning to look like a pattern. Maybe there is more to this kid than meets the eye.

Plekanec and Andrei continue to prove that they score in spite of Kovalev, not because of Kovalev. It's a travesty that Kovalev gets the most EV minutes among forwards.

Streit/Lapierre's production doesn't make up for their goals against.

What's up with Komi outscoring Markov 3-0 at EV?

Goal Differential

Though this is less telling than the shots for/against, it's still worth noting who outscored/got outscored.

Although Pleks/AKost outshot opponents 2:1, they were even in GF/GA. Goaltending was a factor.


Projecting Gorges

Josh Gorges is an interesting case. Passed over in his draft year of 2002, he attended the Sharks camp that fall and they signed him. Since then he's been on an above average track in his NHL career.

Gorges appears to be ahead of Rivet, Rivers, Dykhuis and Lukowich at 23.

A couple of Bruins - one past and one present - seem very similar to Gorges. Both Sweeney and Ference are undersized defensive guys, OK puck movers, and late round draft picks. They both logged reasonably big minutes, though Sweeney spent a lot of them next to that Bourque fella. Last year Ference signed a UFA deal for 3 years at $1.4M per.

Gorges looks a lot like Ference, but with less PIMs. Should be a solid #4-5 defenceman.


Projecting Komisarek

We're verging on blindfolded darts here - this one is even less exact than Chipchura.

Komisarek is quite clearly a defensive defenceman. I thought it would be hard to come up with similar players but I'm pleased with these lists of past and present defensive defencemen. Rather than points, I used games played and ATOI.

Regehr and Hannan are way ahead of Komi in terms of development. They're among the cream of the crop of shutdown defencemen. Hannan's cap hit is $4.5M. Next season Regehr starts a 5 year extension worth $4M per.

Mitchell and Schultz are a tier down, and still appear to have progressed more rapidly than Komisarek. How much of that can be credited to playing on top defensive teams? Mitchell signed for 4 years at $3.5M two years ago. Schultz just signed for 5 years, also at $3.5M.

Colin White cracked a deep New Jersey blueline at a younger age than Komisarek. Two seasons ago he signed for $3M over 6 years.

I think Volchenkov is the best comparison among Komi's contemporaries - a top pair, right-side hitter/shot blocker. Their development curves are pretty close too. He signed his final RFA contract last season, for $2.5M over 3 years.

Sarich is a RHS whose development might be a little behind Komi's. He got lots of minutes on the AHL-calibre defense in Tampa. Last summer he signed for $3.6M over 5 years as an UFA.

Commodore and Vishnevski are a rung or two below Komisarek. Vishnevski got $1.8M per as an UFA and we'll see how Commodore fares this summer.

These are some players whose early seasons were similar to Komisarek's, just to get a feel for how his career might play out. Jason Smith and Brendan Witt progressed at a rate similar to Komi.

Being paired with the team's best defenceman gives his numbers a boost, so the potential is there for an overpayment on the UFA market next summer.


Projecting Perezhogin

He's still technically Montreal property.

His NHL numbers say '3rd liner,' which is about as much as you can expect from a #25 draft pick. His RSL numbers say 'sniper.' Last season at 24 he was the top scorer for Ufa. And get this: during the lockout year he put up 0.77ppg in Omsk as a 21 year old - compare that to 26yo Pavel Datsyuk's 0.74 with Moscow Dynamo in the same season.

A good chunk of the stats discrepancy is the quality minutes he gets in Russia - top line and PP time. That still doesn't explain how he can outscore Datsyuk. It's disturbing for sure. I suppose you have to take his NHL/AHL numbers at face value and assume he'd be a bottom six forward here. It's hard to argue with his decision - he gets triple the money and star status in his homeland.

Interesting that the Russian National team included Perezhogin's Ufa teammate Alexei Tereshenko but not Perogie.

Projecting Grabovski

Grabovski scored in his limited icetime to the tune of a respectable 1.94 EVPTS/60. He also gave up lots of scoring chances against.

In his defense, Grabovski is a Jan 31 birthday, making him as young as possible and still qualify as 23/24 in his NHL seasons on hockey-referece. Why are so many Habs clustered right around Feb 1? It's a nuisance. Nevertheless, he's still older than the players he's competing with for icetime.

At 23/24, tiny Oleg Petrov was dominant in the AHL but not quite good enough to permanently crack a pretty good lineup in Montreal. In his second stint he was in his prime (28 to 31) and made a bad team slightly better.

The story appears to be the same for Grabovski. He's not going to crack the lineup of a contender. Most pundits say he's bound for a European league next season. It sucks to lose a good depth player but that's the way the league works these days.