Archive for Analysis
Throughout this painful season, one of the comments that has stuck with me is when Alain Vigneault referenced that the Rangers look good when you see the advanced metrics. That was a false statement based on what’s publicly available –teams track their own stats, but it’s proprietary and we have no idea what they track or how effective it is– and all of the analytics community was pretty confused by this statement. The Rangers felt the pain of being a bad possession team once the playoffs rolled around as they were absolutely trumped by a possession goliath in Pittsburgh.
Even though the season has felt like a fluke in the standings, there must be someway to explain their stellar season heading into the January, PDO is certainly one of the prevalent reasons. The current measurements of shot quality can’t currently explain the season or where AV’s stats were coming from (Jim Sullivann, head of the analytics department, maybe?). It is almost impossible for a team to win time of possession and be so inefficient to not out shoot the other team on a regular basis.
Whether you believe in them or not, advanced stats are becoming a staple in the hockey community. These stats are being used in conjunction with scouting to evaluate players, teams, and every facet in hockey. However unlike sports like baseball, hockey is still very “raw” in regards to the information provided in the stats. That gap though is being closed by amazing hockey minds such as Ryan Stimson and his passing project, Micah Blake McCurdy, Jen Lute Costella and many others. Before I begin, I do want to say thank you to them because there work has not only inspired me but also many others, their information is truly invaluable.
As a fan, I have noticed the resistance against advanced stats for a handful of reasons. One reason I’ve seen is because advanced stats may go against notions that some have already created through the eye test. Theoretically the resistance does make sense, people naturally cling on to what they see and remember.
Another reason that I have seen and it is recently being seen in a larger quantity is the concept of grittiness and intangibles. Kevin Hayes is seemingly a perfect conduit for the little argument between fans of opposing views. Some call Kevin Hayes out as lazy because of what they see (which in my opinion is practically blasphemous, large skaters like him who don’t need to peddle are beautifully effortless skaters. That doesn’t mean he is lazy).
For many years now on this site we’ve talked about the Rangers mediocre power play, what’s wrong with it, and what we’d do to fix it. Fortunately for the Rangers, recently history suggests that you can win a Stanley Cup without an elite power play. The LA Kings proved this twice (sad face), as have the Bruins and the Penguins.
The penalty kill is a different story. None of the clubs mentioned above had a PK rate under 83% in their Cup winning seasons; same goes for the Chicago Blackhawks and their runs.
This season the Rangers are only killing off 77% of their penalties, which is good for 26th in the NHL. That does not bode well for any team trying to compete for a Cup, let alone one currently in the top half of the League in minor penalties. And no, Eric Staal doesn’t help you there.
In order for the Rangers to have a fighting chance this postseason, the PK needs to get fix. Here’s three issues the Rangers need to address to fix the kill.
Over the past week or so, members of the mainstream media just cannot get enough of the “Eric Staal to the Rangers” rumors. To be honest, it’s gotten a bit out of control. These rumors seem to neglect a number of factors that make this type of trade improbably, but hey, anything can happen, right? Let’s take a look at some of the basics and see how hard we have to squint to see a legitimate fit here.
First, on Staal’s contract. He is in the final year of his seven year/$57.75 million contract he signed back in 2009. Staal’s cap hit is $8.5 million ($9.5m actual salary) and he will play this year finishing out his age 31 season. If Staal was to be traded for on deadline day, his remaining cap hit would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.92m. The Rangers are believed to have about $4.83 million of cap space on deadline day.
With the All-Star break in full swing, GMs from around the NHL will go on overdrive trying to find that missing piece. The goal is always the same this time of year. Improve now, improve for the future or for some teams, do a combination of both.
The Rangers needs are well documented at this point. To quickly recap, they could use another defensemen, a top 9 winger and perhaps some of their draft picks back. After all, they haven’t had a 1st rounder since 2012 and won’t have one till 2017, which is insane.
Anyway, with those goals in mind, below are some targets I would consider as the trade deadline approaches. As always, I’m happy to debate these ideas (civilly) in the comments.
In case you missed it, the Rangers are in a bit of a funk right now. Well to be fair, “a bit” is just slightly understating the funk. The Rangers have just 17 points since December 2nd, and only the Montreal Canadiens (nine points, and don’t tell me Carey Price isn’t their entire team) have fewer points in that span. It’s a good thing the Rangers banked all those points in October and November, or else this would have been an ugly season.
We’ve taken a few looks at this team from an analytical standpoint. After ten games we –along with 99% of the folks who look at these numbers regularly– predicted that the Rangers would have major regression. It wasn’t that hard to predict. Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t going to continue stopping 96% of his shots and the Rangers weren’t going to continue to shoot 12%. It was just logic. But through all that, we never once believed the Rangers were this year’s pretenders or pure smoke and mirrors.
Then the crash came, and boy was it ugly. But in mid-December there was cause for optimism. The defense was tightening up. The offense was starting to generate more sustained pressure. They were still getting ugly goaltending and poor shooting, but the overall process on the ice was getting better.
We’ve discussed the Rangers’ problems on defense ad nauseam, but the decline in production amongst the forwards is a factor in the team’s struggles as well.
Despite ranking fourth in the league in offense just past the halfway mark, the team is mainly riding one of the NHL’s top scoring defenses, a suddenly powerful power play and some lucky shooting by a few key individuals. The Blueshirts have a lofty goal total, but in fact the team’s forwards are nearly all having down years in production.
Here’s a look at the returning forwards’ scoring stats from last year compared to their current pace: Read More→
Over the weekend, news broke that Keith Yandle has put off extension talks with the Rangers. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Yandle’s minutes since coming to New York have been minimal. He’s been relegated to third pairing and second powerplay time, after playing 20 minutes a night in Arizona. You can make the case that the Rangers have a deeper defense than Arizona, which is true, but you cannot defend playing inferior players over Yandle on a nightly basis, especially when you consider the cost to acquire him.
Yandle cost the Rangers Anthony Duclair, a first round pick, a second round pick, and John Moore. Moore was included to make room for Yandle, and the first/second round picks are the cost of doing business in the NHL. The biggest piece was Duclair, who is having a great year in Arizona with a line of 12-11-23 thus far. He was a first round talent that fell to the third round, and the Rangers got 18 games and one-and-a-half seasons of a misused Yandle for him. Horrible asset management. And that’s not even the crux of the issue.
The Rangers victory over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday was a real feel good victory all around, but was notable in particular for the way in which they won, playing some of the most complete hockey we’ve seen from them this season. The Rangers once again out-possessed their opponent and kept dangerous scoring chances against to a minimum, areas that were particular challenges for them earlier on in the season.
The big win was also notable because of whom they were playing and whom they play next; the Dallas Stars are at the top of a competitive Central Division and the Rangers play the league-leading Washington Capitals on Saturday. There are a few aspects of the Rangers’ game against Dallas on Tuesday that might be cause for some optimism ahead of Saturday’s matchup, despite the previous result against Washington.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter for a while, then you know I’ve been spending a good amount of time lately trying to tie the possession stats to systems. I think it’s the next step in the evolution of the hockey stats, since systems play a huge role in the game. It starts with personnel decisions, can a player play within the coach’s system? If not, see if you can leverage that to get a player who can.
After personnel decisions, it gets to executing the system. Defensive coverages, forechecking, gap control, assignments, etc. A lot of this is factored into the overall hockey IQ of a player, but certain unteachable skills should be factored in. Using Dylan McIlrath as an example, he’s not the best skater, so you would think he’s not a great fit for Alain Vigneault’s man-coverage in the defensive zone. But he uses smart gap control to compensate for his skating.