The 2014-2015 campaign has been something of an odd season thus far. The beginning was marred by injury and ineffectiveness, although that’s not all that weird. Rangers fans have gotten somewhat used to slow starts recently. We had all the Anthony Duclair drama. Some soft goals and Hank debate. Rick Nash’s resurgence. The kids trying to make their mark. Zuccarello’s one-year deal and subsequent slow production. Marc Staal’s exntension. Salary cap issues. And, of course, Tanner Glass.
That’s a lot going on for just under fifty games. All of that of that only even gets into what was happening internally with the team. Forget the drama over Anton Stralman’s success in Tampa, Islanders all of a sudden relevance, the four horse race in the Metropolitan division, or the NHL jumping on board the #fancystat bandwagon with jersey microchips. This season has had no shortage of narratives.
Happy Friday, BSB faithful! I know it’s been a while (blame accounting), but the live chat makes its triumphant return this afternoon. We can talk All-Star stuff, the recent run, contracts, whatever. We will get started at noon, but make sure to stop by at 11:45am to fill the queue with questions. See everyone in a bit!
After a tremendous stretch of hockey going all the way back to December 8 and winning 16 out of 19 games, the Rangers get a much deserved break for All-Star weekend. Once they get through the festivities, they face a tough trip to Long Island to get a second crack to show the upstart Islanders who New York’s real team is. Since there isn’t much specific analysis that the crew hasn’t covered since the OT win again Ottawa, I have some thoughts…
- While I agree that the All-Star Game is kind of silly and since the implementation of the shootout, the Skills Competition has lost much of its luster, the All-Star Weekend is still a great concept for the host city. I was in Ottawa a couple years back when the All-Star Game was held there, and the whole city really came together in a celebration of hockey. We fans might not care at this point, but I’m sure the city of Columbus cares a great deal.
- That said…those jerseys. Yikes. Remember the days when the All-Star jerseys were modeled after old school sweaters? Those were sharp. I’m sure even The Suit approved. These looks like the hockey equivalent of a site worker’s safety vest.
- I’m glad Henrik Lundqvist decided to skip the weekend once Jimmy Howard went down. Over the past few seasons, he hasn’t gotten much in the way of rest this time of year. Between the Olympics and other All-Star festivities, he has been a busy guy in February. It’s only a couple days, but it could go a long way in recharging him for the stretch run.
- You have to be impressed with Matt Hunwick’s play of late, no?
As we continue to digest last night’s win over the Kings (is winning getting boring, yet?), I thought we could go off-topic on this snowy Friday afternoon. For our regular readers, you know that I have been clamoring for a more comprehensive goaltending statistic than our standard rate stats; GAA and save percentage. As the world of Corsi and Fenwick and the like continue to evolve, goaltending statistics remain woefully underdeveloped. Enter former Rangers goaltender Steve Valiquette, who in addition to Sportsnet’s Chris Boyle (Shot Quality Project), have begun comprehensive research into how shot quality effects goaltender performance. (s/t to Kevin Power)
Every time a new goalie metric is conceptually introduced, I am forced to feel like an ungrateful cynic. Smart, hardworking, dedicated people are attempting to give me what I’ve asked for. Maybe it’s the delivery; “Steve Valiquette is going to change the way we think about goaltending!”, “This new statistic is going to revolutionize goaltending!”. No, it’s not. But it’s a great start.
I don’t want to get into the mechanics too much, but here is pretty much how Valiquette’s theory works:
- The zone is divided in half, vertically from the center bar of the net to the top of the circles, and is bisected by a horizontal line going laterally across the top of the circles.
- The centerline is Valiquette’s “Royal Road”. This line represents the lateral marker a puck travels across within that zone, which leads to higher percentage shots.
- The types of shots are broken down into “Green” and “Red” shots.
- Green shots include
- Possession across “Royal Road”
- Passes across “Royal Road”
- One-timers on same side of “Royal Road”
- Broken plays
- Green Rebounds
- Red shots include
- Shots from outside the designated area
- Red rebounds
- Green shots have accounted for roughly 76% of NHL goals this season, and are obviously converted at a much higher rate than Red shots (24%).
Ok, with that out of the way, here is my take. I think it’s fantastic the work Valiquette is putting in. I hope that is leads to a wealth of new information about how goaltending is evaluated. Once you get past all the terminology, his theory is pretty simple: shots that come what we consider “dangerous” areas of the ice are converted at a higher rate, more so if the goaltender is forced to move laterally. There is also a much higher chance of rebounds, deflections and scrambles resulting in goals than shots from the perimeter.
This all seems pretty obvious, no? I don’t mean to sound overly negative, but it seems to dress up a lot of concepts we simply take for granted, even if they aren’t currently quantified. Don’t get me wrong, I think this tracking concept has a ton of value as a foundation to a more comprehensive, value-based statistic (any statisticians out there, hit me up. I’ve got ideas).
I think that the greatest value this methodology has is situational analysis of current form. Craig Custance over at ESPN spoke to Valiquette about it (Insider post), and applied the method to Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen to evaluate whether his poor (relatively) rate stats this year are a true dip in form or whether he is getting hung out to dry. This is a really effective use of this statistic, but there is no basis for comparison that you can really hang your hat on to assess value.
Either way, this is a big step in the right direction for the continued evolution of advanced statistics. I believe a foundational concept now exists to build on, from a quantitative standpoint, and that is incredibly impressive in itself. But, as I said with GSAA, it’s a great start, and an evolution, but certainly not a revolution.
Welcome to 2015, BSB faithful. 2014 is now behind us, which is a little weird, to be honest. It was a pretty interesting year, all told. We got a Stanley Cup Final run, a traded Captain, Stadium Series Games, troublesome contract negotiations and much more. But, it’s now ancient history, so let’s talk about some of the topics burning in the New Year…
- Obviously non-Rangers related, but is it just me, or has the Winter Classic jumped the shark? Sure, it’s still interesting, and playing hockey outdoors will always be awesome, but the whole thing was just “blah” this year. Maybe it’s the rotating hosting of Bettman’s favorite teams. Or Pierre Maguire’s obnoxious voice. Or the fact we didn’t get a 24/7 because no one knows what EPIX is.
- Back to Rangerland. Oh, look Tanner Glass sits and the Rangers get back to winning. I’m kidding, the whole thing has gotten a little out of hand. We all know Tanner Glass is god awful at the occupation he makes over a million dollars a year at. Yet he continues to play, and it doesn’t make that much of a difference. Until it does, against good teams, in the playoffs. Figure it out, AV.
- I will be very interested to see how Sather (or his successor?) handles the long term construction of the blue line. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi are the only two players locked in long-term, and it seems with every game that Marc Staal is inching toward the door. Kevin Klein is around for the mid-term, but not a cornerstone piece. Dan Boyle likely won’t be here beyond next season. Matt Hunwick isn’t a long-term solution. Would have been nice if John Moore turned that smooth skating and size into more useful hockey skills.
- The forwards are in a slightly different boat with a glut of talent on the wings and very little depth up the middle. At some point, the front office needs to turn that strength into assets that are needed, but there really is not much available on the market. High-end centers are the league’s most valuable commodity, and while Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan have been very serviceable in the Top-6, this team could really use a true 1C. Something tells me Jim Nill is too smart to give away Tyler Seguin.
- Henrik Lundqvist has played much better lately. He is still prone to the odd soft goal or two, but I feel like if we traded that goal every couple games for one of the absurd saves he makes going in, no one would be complaining. No one likes soft goals, but he hasn’t allowed them in situations which cost the team games.
- Wouldn’t it be nice if this actually got Chris Kreider going?
- Rick Nash is still a monster. It had to be said.
- Don’t you love how these west coast games conspire to throw a wrench into the schedule? Not only does it suck having to stay up for them, you get a string of non-conference games against tough opponents. We should be getting the opportunity to improve our playoff positioning with matchups against the Isles, Caps and Penguins right now. But nope, here come the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.
- I’m not going to completely rip off Chris’s setup here and throw a bunch of questions out, but there are a few things I’m curious about how the community feels:
- Do you think this team as constructed can make another run?
- With that in mind, trade deadline wish list?
- Do you think Chris Kreider is more valuable long-term on the roster or as a trade asset?
- What would be your minimum required asset to rid the team of Girardi’s contract?
- What would you look for in a potential Marc Staal trade?
- And finally, the question bomb: if you could flip Henrik Lundqvist (and his contract) for John Gibson, would you do it?
*The holidays sort of interfered with our post schedule this week, so unfortunately no goal breakdown today. The Rangers beat a terrible Devils team on the strength of a Derek Stepan hat trick and a strong performance by Henrik Lundqvist. You’re welcome.
The Rangers have won 8 games in a row. That’s awesome. It hasn’t always been dominant, pretty hockey, but they have gotten the job done. After digesting the circus that is New Jersey’s hockey operations, marveling at Derek Stepan’s em, diverse, hat trick, and generally enjoying the win, one pregame narrative still continued to fester after the final buzzer sounded: Tanner Glass.
There seemed to be a tremendous amount of debate, both between fans and beat writers (don’t you love twitter, hockey journalists?) about AV’s decision to scratch JT Miller in favor of Lee Stempniak. At least that is how the beat writers framed it. Fans, on the other hand, saw Miller out and Glass in, which, of course, did not go over well.
In fact, the beat writers did not even broach the topic with AV at the pre or post-game presser. This is seemingly what really irked the fans. We demand answers, and they are our conduits, as journalists, to illicit the information from sources we don’t have access to. But no one bothered to ask.
Glass has been the faux-hawked elephant in the room pretty much since all of the injuries seemed to subside. At this point it’s pretty clear; he is a terrible hockey player. Pretty much every #fancystat ever created, plus all the eye tests tell us that. He shouldn’t be taking minutes or a lineup spot from JT Miller, or anyone else for that matter.
We have had made tongue-in-cheek comments about what leverage Glass has on AV that he was not only given that contract, but is seemingly immune to lineup changes and poor play. How could it possibly be, that an analytics driven coach, who generally makes defensible personnel decisions, can get it so wrong, so often with one fourth line player?
Larry Brooks tried to rationalize it by saying that Glass is a fourth line player, Stempniak and Miller are not, and therefore have nothing to do with one another. I don’t buy this for one second. Stempniak would make for a fine fourth line player on this roster. Steve Zipay tried to defray fan aggression by saying that we should stop complaining about this type of stuff when a team wins eight in a row. That’s like me saying to a client “don’t worry that I forgot to file that motion for you, the judge ruled in our favor anyway”. It’s nonsense.
I suppose we will never know what magic aura Glass holds over AV or why beat reporters are terrified to even bring up the notion that Glass is playing over far superior players. We probably should be satisfied by winning eight in a row. The problem is most of us (on this site at least) have half a brain and realize that they Rangers just (rightfully) tore through a pillowy-soft section of the schedule. We realize that Dominic Moore can’t be skating with a 210lb anchor around his leg when he is trying to cover Sidney Crosby.
I guess this turned into a little more of a rant than I set out to write. I guess the moral of the story would be: 1) Beat writers, we aren’t stupid. When something stinks, have the stones to ask the questions about it. 2) Tanner Glass is terrible at hockey, and I don’t know if our collective fan constitution can deal with two and a half more years of him. And 3) JT Miller deserves to be in the lineup right now. I suppose 4) we are actually excited the Rangers have won eight in a row.
This past week kind of embodies what it’s been like to be a Rangers fan the past few years. They had a stellar showing against some weak competition after calls for the team to go on a run through a soft portion of the schedule. So far, so good, right? We always have that little seed of doubt, due mostly to runs of maddening inconsistency and lingering concerns about the results matching the #fancystats or the eye test.
As I was kicking around ideas for a post for today, I realized there are some interesting concepts floating around the team, but no prevailing narrative since we are all kind of holding out breathe to see if this team has really turned the corner after injuries and inconsistency. So, you get a thoughts post… Read More→
The Rangers have had a light schedule the past week and change or so. Now, they begin a stretch of six games in ten days leading up to Christmas. It starts with a west coast swing though Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary before heading back east for a home and home with lowly Carolina and finally finishing up against the Caps at the Garden. This stretch is going to be incredibly important, both in the standings and beginning to start to figure out how good this team actually is.
It’s been talked to death, but the beginning of this season was marred by significant injuries to multiple key players. A combination of injury fill-ins and guys playing out of their ideal roles have masked the talent level in relation to performance. Now, with guys starting to get healthy, we need to get a look at the defending Eastern Conference Champions for the first time, 25 games into the season. Read More→
There was a time last season that Henrik Lundqvist was playing so poorly, and Cam Talbot was playing so well, that a very small but very vocal segment of the fan base was calling for a change at the number one spot. Imagine that. Crazy, right? But, it happened. Small sample sizes can do wacky things to people’s perceptions. Talbot had a phenomenal 2013-2014 season, but has struggled so far (relatively speaking) in the new campaign.
Last year, Talbot ended the season with a 1.64 GAA and a .941 save percentage in 21 games played. If he had put up those numbers over a starter’s workload, he would have run away with the Vezina. We all knew (hopefully) that these flawed metrics, although nice to see from our backup, were not reflective of his true talent level. In fairness, they aren’t reflective of anyone’s true talent level.
In 4 games so far this season, Talbot’s GAA has ballooned to 3.48 and his save percentage has slid to .880. Neither of those numbers are particularly pretty. I’ve seen comments on the Twitters and other social media about how hard regression is hitting Talbot, which naturally begs the question: what is the mean he is regressing to?