Category Archives: Insights on Players

Hodgson-Kassian Trade Not as Lopsided as it May Seem

4483With last Thursday’s matchup between the Canucks and Sabres, hockey talk in Vancouver was predictably buzzing with prognostications on the Cody Hodgson-Zack Kassian trade. And basically all of it waxed eloquent on how well Hodgson has been producing with Buffalo and how Kassian has not been producing at all, with the verdict being a slam dunk for Buffalo. . .though allowing for the possibility that Kassian might make up some of the lost ground as he develops.

My read of the data, however, gives a considerably different picture. Yes, the Kassian side of the ledger is admittedly meagre, but the Hodgson side is nowhere near as glowing as it has been made out to be. His 34 points in 48 games last season is often referenced in comparison to Kassian’s 11 in 39, but those 34 points must been considered in their context. Hodgson had the luxury of not only playing first-line minutes, but also, playing those minutes with one of last year’s most dynamic players: Thomas Vanek. In an injury-hampered season, Vanek produced 1.08 pts/game, whereas Hodgson managed only 0.71 pts/game. (In Kassian’s short 8-game stint as a first-liner at the beginning of last year, he was at 0.75 pts/game.) Further, it is interesting to note that Hodgson was able to string together back-to-back games with points only 6 times. And he was blanked in well over half of his games: 27 of 48 games.

Bottom line is that Hodgson is not as far ahead of Kassian as is usually assumed. And if Zack can ever actually get his game together, he could find himself ahead of Cody. . .and pulling away.

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Alfredsson Chooses Detroit as Best Route to Stanley Cup?. . .REALLY???

1339Daniel Alfredsson has had an illustrious seventeen-year career with the Ottawa Senators, but in an instant, all of that was in his rear-view mirror as he jumped ship. He headed off to the Detroit Red Wings in hopes of getting a Stanley Cup ring before he retires. And all I can say is, “What was he thinking?

Don’t get me wrong. I can understand his desperation to win the Cup, and I don’t begrudge him using his status as an unrestricted free agent to pursue that goal. But the Detroit Red Wings?…….Really??? Sure, they have a storied past, but what have they done lately? Since bowing out to Pittsburgh in game seven of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, they have not even been able to make it to the Conference Finals, winning just three first-round series in four years.

And this happens to coincide with Jimmy Howard’s reign as their starting goaltender. Howard’s playoff play has been mediocre at best. He posted goals-against averages of 2.75 in 2010, 2.49 in 2011, 2.64 in 2012, and a career best 2.44 this past spring. . .but let a 3-1 series lead against Chicago slip away, twice yielding four goals in the losses that sent the Red Wings packing. And Alfie thinks he has a better chance to win a Stanley Cup playing in front of this calibre of goaltending rather than that provided by Craig Anderson back in Ottawa. . .who could be the best goalie in the NHL right now?

Granted, stellar goaltending has not always been the determining factor in playoff success. What seems to be emerging as an even more crucial factor is the stud defenseman. Think of the Stanley Cup Finals this year, and how much impact Duncan Keith and Zdeno Chara had for their respective teams. And think back to last year and Drew Doughty. And the two years before that, it was Chara and Keith, respectively. In 2008, it was Niklas Lidstrom, and the 2007 Anaheim Ducks boasted both Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. And, of course, it was Pronger who was largely responsible for getting an eighth-place Edmonton Oilers team to a seventh game of the 2006 Cup Finals.

Unfortunately, the current Red Wings are lacking such a stud defenseman; there are only a handful to go around, and Detroit had their turn with Lidstrom for so many years. But Ottawa is one of the few teams who has one of them at the current time: Erik Karlsson, whose 78 points during the 2011-2012 season was 25 points more than any other d-man, and his 14 points in 17 games in his injury-shortened 2012-13 season put him among the league leaders in points-per-game for d-men.

So, a team with arguably the best goaltender and the best defenseman in the league, a hungry Jason Spezza back from his long stint on the injury-reserve list, a core of promising young players, and a Bobby Ryan added to the mix? Yet, Alfie chooses Detroit over all this? As I said at the beginning, “What was he thinking?

Crosby NOT “Most Efficient Scorer” in NHL . . .but who is?

5304You can consult any number of websites to see that Sidney Crosby is the leading scorer in the NHL with 39 points here at the halfway point of this truncated season. But. . .has he been the most efficient scorer through the first half? Going beyond just raw “points” to “points per game” reveals he also tops the league in that category as well, as shown in this chart (columns: games / points / points per game):

1  Crosby         24     39      1.625            6  Ribeiro    22     28      1.273
2  Stamkos     24     35       1.458            7  Getzlaf     22     27      1.227
3  Vanek          22     29       1.318            8  E. Staal    23     28      1.217
4  Kunitz         24     31       1.292            9  Voracek   25     29      1.160
5  St. Louis     24     31       1.292          10  Malkin     20     23      1.150

Here, Thomas Vanek is 3rd in scoring efficiency while only 5th in the scoring race. Even more dramatic is Evgeni Malkin’s being 10th in scoring efficiency despite only being 19th in scoring. However, even this consideration of points per game does not provide the whole picture of scoring efficiency, because it does not take into consideration the key factor of “ice time”, for surely, a player who gets two points in 20 minutes of ice time is not being as efficient as a player to gets two points in only 10 minutes.

A more accurate gauge of scoring efficiency would be “points per 20 minutes of ice time” to even the playing field from player to player. The following chart sets out the league leaders in “points per 20min,” with a 10-game minimum, to eliminate anomalies like the Stars’ Colton Sceviour whose one assist in only 4:51 of ice time yields him a whopping 4.124 points per 20min (20min units / points / points per 20min unit):

1  Frattin        6.44    10      1.553         6  Vanek            21.47     29       1.351
2  Crosby     25.98    39      1.501         7  Stamkos       26.44    35       1.324
3  Kunitz      21.60    31      1.435         8  Kadri             19.13     25       1.307
4  Ribeiro    19.62    28      1.427         9  Pacioretty   15.80    20       1.266
5  Voracek   20.98   29      1.382       10 St. Louis       26.24   31        1.181

Seven of the players in the “points per game” chart also appear here, though Stamkos and St. Louis are each five spots lower. . .not surprising, given they rank second and third, respectively, in ice time among the top fifty forwards in the scoring race.

More noteworthy are the new names that draw in here. Max Pacioretty has just 20 points, but also, he only gets an average of 15:48 of ice time per game. Nazem Kadri has done even better, getting 25 points on only 15:18 per game. But the biggest surprise is Matt Frattin. Not making the Leafs’ roster out of training camp and then being  knocked out of the lineup with a knee injury once he was given a chance to play has kept his profile low. But he does have the distinction of being an even more efficient scorer than Crosby, amassing 10 points in 10 games on a mere 12:53 of ice time per game.

Top ‘point streaks’ in NHL . . . with a surprise at # 2!

by GARY YAMASAKI   As we hit the four-week mark of this truncated NHL season, and look into who owns the longest point streak to this point, we find it is Eric Staal at 11 games (and counting). To find Staal at the top of the list is no big surprise. After all, he has had a streak as long as 15 games (in his 100-point season coming out of the last lockout), and he’s had a 12-gamer as recently as last season.

As for who’s in second spot, it’s not one of the troika of Sharks who were tearing up the league out of the gate; the point productions of all three of them have literally fallen off a cliff since the first six games. Patrick Kane is off to a great start–averaging a point-and-a-half per game–and would have a 14-game streak but for a Jan 27 encounter with the Wings. Thomas Vanek is the leading scorer in the league, but the 23 points in his first eleven games was interrupted by a single goose egg.

4245The second longest streak  belongs to an Edmonton Oiler, and not one who has “first overall draft choice” on his resume. Rather, it is Sam Gagner of “Kid Line” fame back in his early days with the Oilers. The 49 points of his rookie season did suggest promise, but he has not been able to surpass, or even match, that total in the subsequent four seasons, resulting in his fading into relative obscurity. . .which makes his 10-game streak this season so surprising.

It may have been the least noticed double-digit point streak in NHL history, not only because he is not a big-name player, but also, because there have been no flashy hat tricks or 3-point games in the streak; in fact, during the streak, Gagner was able to accumulate more than 1 point only once. But the good news for the Oilers is that Gagner has found a home alongside Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov in what could be another “Kid Line” (though at 23, Gagner may be a bit long in the tooth to be considered a “kid” anymore).