Archive for Analysis
At this point last year, the Rangers were just starting their run of what felt like two months without a loss. The wins kept piling up, but there were significant flaws in the process, as the club was getting completely dominated. They relied on unsustainable goaltending and unrealistic shooting success. In December, they crashed to Earth hard.
This year is significantly different. The Rangers are enjoying some success, but not at the same level as last year. There are easily identifiable holes, but the overall process is significantly better. The Rangers are piling up the scoring chances and keeping clubs pinned in their own zone, something we didn’t see last year.
Generating offense can be tricky to analyze. Most use raw point totals, but those don’t tell the entire story sometimes. What point totals can miss is overall creation of offense and quality chances. Only 8.5% of team chances wind up in the back of the net on average (assuming a .915 SV% as league average), and that’s in all situations. Are we only supposed to judge offense on 8.5% of all hockey plays?
That’s where some of the passing projects come into play. The main one is Ryan Stimson’s (@RK_Stimp) passing project, where he employs many different people to manually track pass types and how they lead to goals. This got taken one step further by @loserpoints, who looked at specific pass types (Steve Valiquette’s Royal Road passes, behind the net passes, etc) and how they led to dangerous shot attempts. The full details are here.
Henrik Lundqvist has been the backbone and the face of the New York Rangers for over a decade. It’s been a fascinating career to watch, as we have become somewhat jaded to his consistent excellence and the impact he has had on a franchise in transition, coming out of the lockout in 2005.
Now, at age 34, with a huge contract and still without that elusive Stanley Cup ring, detractors have begun to emerge and question The King’s right to his throne. Specifically, they have taken shots at his current performance level and anticipated decline.
Last summer, I was asked to provide some insight into which stats I use, how I use them, and why I use them. I held off on writing that post until now for a few reasons, most importantly being my personal use of the stats available. This is going to be a very long post about how I use stats, why I use them, and how my use of them evolved over time.
First things first, I am not a statistician. For the most part, I do not understand a lot of the stat posts I see that dive into r-squared calculations. I read the first paragraph, I skim through the meat –which is where these posts begin to lose me– and then I read the conclusion. I also read what the trusted minds say about these pieces, and I draw my conclusions from there. But generally speaking, the “mainstream” stats have been peer reviewed multiple times. In any field, from math to medical to business, peer review is essential, which is why these are the ones that hit mainstream.
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.