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Conflicting reports on NHL expansion adds fuel to fire

Yesterday, Howard Bloom noted that the NHL was looking to expand to four cities: Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City, and Toronto (second team). This was not the NHL looking to move a franchise or two, but full-blown expansion to 34 teams by 2017. Las Vegas was actually confirmed by multiple sources, and it makes sense if you read between the lines of recent NHL moves (award ceremony).  However, Renaud Lavoie quickly refuted that, citing Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. But what else is Daly supposed to say?

Adding four teams is a bit much, but I’ve been of the belief that expansion is coming sooner rather than later. If the NHL is really looking at these four cities, then it would make sense to move a struggling franchise or two (Florida comes to mind) and expanding to 32 teams instead of 34. No professional league has 34 teams, and while expansion would create a lot of jobs, it would severely water down the talent pool.

These are just rumors and conflicting reports for now, but we are going to see a change in the landscape relatively soon. Nothing is done yet, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Checking in on the New York Islanders

Jaroslav Halak is a major upgrade in goal for the Isles

Last year: 34-37-11, eighth in the Metro Division. Missed the postseason by 14 points.

Key additions: Jaroslav Halak, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Cory Conacher, Chad Johnson, T.J. Brennan

Key subtractions: Evgeni Nabokov, Radek Martinek (likely)

Franchise direction: The Islanders’ rebuild has been very slow, but it really does look like things are starting to change. The additions of Halak, Grabovski and Kulemin were major pieces and the Islanders clearly are hoping to make a splash when they begin play at the Barclays Center in 2015-2016. New York needs several of its prospects to fulfill their promise in order to become a perennial playoff team, but they certainly have the talent to make that a reality over the next couple seasons.

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Quickly addressing these Ryan Malone rumors

In case you missed it, the Rangers blog-o-sphere picked up a story from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune saying the Rangers had been speaking to Ryan Malone. Usually this is something we would post here, but the problem is that the article is from August 21, one day after the Rangers landed Kevin Hayes. The article also explicitly talks in the past tense:

Malone looked good and with his legal issues soon behind him from Tampa, one would think somebody signs him (Rangers have talked to him) or he attends a training camp on a tryout.

All it says is that they’ve spoken to him at some point, likely as a backup if they couldn’t land Hayes. The Rangers now have no use for Malone, especially with Hayes and Lee Stempniak under contract. Plus, Hayes puts them at 50 contracts, so even on a PTO, the club would need to make a trade in order to sign him. I’ll chalk this to outdated

Using Corsi to measure goals for the Rangers

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

If you’ve been reading us for a while, then you know we are proponents of the new stats that have popped up over the past few years. One that has really taken hold in the community, and led to the hiring of several “stats guys” around the league, is Corsi. Corsi is a measure of shot attempts (on net, missed, or blocked) taken for or against while a player is on the ice. It’s basically the plus-minus of these shot attempts. If Player X is on the ice for three shot attempts for and one shot attempt against, then that shift he was +2 for his Corsi (also a 75% Corsi). Fairly simple concept.

Ignoring some of the noise associated with these stats, the biggest complaint that comes up with the possession metrics is that it doesn’t measure goals, and goals win games. It’s tough to argue with the logic, because it’s partially true. Great work has been done proving that possession directly correlates to wins with large enough sample sizes, but it still doesn’t measure goals. Pucks in the net are what matter.

Luckily, the guys at Hockey Graphs have begun breaking ground on this front. They did a lot of the legwork in measuring goals via possession numbers, and that post is definitely worth a read in its entirety. But to summarize: Players can be separated into four buckets (forwards) or three buckets (defense) based on ice time. Each player falls into a bucket based on ice time, and you can use their Corsi% to project a goal differential across the season.

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Around the Farm: Andersson begins Champions League play

I’m going to make a much better effort to continue with the ATF posts this season. It was difficult last year due to personal reasons, but this year I’m trying to start fresh. Calle Andersson is the only prospect in action in meaningful games at the moment, and he has played in two games with EV Zug in the Champions League thus far, losing 2-1 in the opener and winning 5-2 over the weekend. Here’s how the young defenseman performed:

  • Calle Andersson (EV Zug, Champions League; L 2-1, W 5-2): 0 G, 0 A, 0 PIM, Even

Rangers banking on Dan Boyle

Talking about needing to fill a big hole.

Talking about needing to fill a big hole.

When the Rangers signed Dan Boyle to a two-year deal worth $9 million, they were signing someone to fill a pair of holes. The first hole to fill was that of the now departed Anton Stralman on the second pair, and the second was to fill Brad Richards’ role on the powerplay. It’s a gamble to take on a 38-year-old defenseman, but it’s a calculated gamble that, in reality, is relatively low-risk considering the term.

In Boyle, the Rangers get one of the premier powerplay quarterbacks in the game, albeit several years past his prime. Almost half of Boyle’s offensive contributions throughout his career have been with the man advantage, something the Rangers have sorely missed since the Martin Straka, Michael Nylander, and Jaromir Jagr trio left town. His booming shot from the point still commands respect, and his ability to move the puck is still solid.

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Missing Captains around the League

The Rangers aren't the only team who need a C

The Rangers aren’t the only team who need a C

As discussed last week, there is much speculation to who will follow in Ryan Callahan’s nearly three season footsteps and lead the Blueshirts as their fearless captain this year. The Rangers aren’t the only team to be facing this kind of indecision. Though Tampa was able to name a captain immediately after trading Martin St. Louis, several teams who have lost their captains to free agency or trades during the offseason are currently suffering a hole in their leadership groups.

Of the 30 teams contending in the NHL, seven have no current captain, and 11 have at least one missing alternate captain. Of these teams, some have lost their captains to trades or free agency, however at least one has stripped their leaders of their letters. Let’s take a look at the six clubs besides the Rangers who are missing captains leading up to training camp.

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Hayes added to Traverse City roster

Newly signed prospect Kevin Hayes has been added to the Traverse City roster for this year’s tournament. He will join the 14 other forwards when the tournament begins in September. Hayes, a former first round pick of the Blackhawks, was signed by the Rangers this week after the Hawks failed to sign him before the August 15 deadline.

Guest appearance on TSN 1260 Edmonton

Just a quick note, I will be appearing on TSN 1260 Edmonton tomorrow at 1:40pm local time (3:40pm EST) on Lowdown with Lowetide, hosted by Lowetide, to discuss lots of things Rangers. Kevin Hayes, Glen Sather, and the Rangers prospects are on the docket, so be sure to tune in.

Justin’s 3rd Annual Pre-season Top 30 Goaltenders List (10-1)

 

Well, here we are.  The Top 10.  I hope you enjoyed the ride, I know I sure did.  In case you missed it, here are the previous two entries in this years list (30-21) and (20-11). Without further adieu, your 2014-2015 Top 10…

10. Mike Smith- Arizona Coyotes. Last year’s ranking: 10

  • Smith has become more famous for his goal at this point than his puck stopping abilities, but those should absolutely not be overlooked.  For a big guy, he moves exceedingly well and has cemented his status as a top-notch positional goaltender over the past few seasons.  I mentioned in my first Top 30, that I expected perennial Vezina-caliber campaigns out of Smith, and while he has been slightly off that lofty standard, he has been a rock in the Arizona (Phoenix?) net.  His large frame and third defenseman puck-handling skills make him an integral part of the ‘Yotes franchise and remains one of the league’s top tenders.

Smith

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