Though the skills competition isn’t really a fair way to determine the winner of a hockey game, success in the shootout has granted some teams entry to the postseason and – as Rangers fans know all too well – denied others.
Thanks in large part to Henrik Lundqvist’s heroics, New York has traditionally been a solid shootout club. The Blueshirts went 4-4 in the event last season and are 53-40 overall since its inception in 2005.
Last season, coach John Tortorella relied heavily on Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash in the shootout and it’s likely that new coach Alain Vigneault will do the same. It also seems like a no-brainer that Vigneault will deploy one of New York’s most deadly shootout weapons – Mats Zuccarello – now that the Norwegian is back for a full season. So who could Vigneault turn to in Callahan’s absence to start the season and in the event of future slumps/injuries? Let’s take a look at how New York’s forwards did in the skills competition last year: Read more »
Like it or not, they need him.
It’s no secret. I was very vocal about using our last compliance buyout on Brad Richards this summer. Rather than run the risk of injury and getting stuck with his cap hit —for what will seem like perpetuity if he does get injured— the Rangers decided to give him one last shot at glory.
While I’m disappointed in the decision, I assure you I won’t put a target on his back this year just because the org disagreed with me. After all, my name isn’t Scotty. What’s done is done, and now the org needs to shift gears and figure out what exactly is the best way to get the most of Richards.
Whether or not you think he will rebound this year likely depends on several variables. A) Are you an optimistic person? B) Do you trust or are you very comfortable with advanced stats? C) Do you believe Alain Vigneault and his systems will be an antidote.
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Hockey Abstract is available now.
Like it or not, advanced statistics are here to stay and are only going to continue growing in popularity.
There’s overwhelming evidence that basic metrics for puck possession are far more indicative of long-term team and individual success than the number of goals scored on a yearly basis.
Dave has done a great job of introducing us all to some of these new #fancystats, but if you want to learn more, than I encourage you to check out Rob Vollman’s brilliant new book, Hockey Abstract.
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Over the past months, we’ve had a series of posts about the stats we use, and consolidated them all on to the stats page above. We went into offensive zone starts (OZone%), Corsi, Quality of Competition faced, and a few others. But looking at one of these stats on their own doesn’t give you the whole picture. It’s why, generally speaking, we look at OZone, Corsi Rel QoC, and RCorsi as a whole. On their own, they don’t tell much of the story. Together, they give us insight into how the player is used on the ice, how effective he is, and how much the coaching staff trusts him.
The first step in understanding how they work together is understanding player usage charts. These charts, put together by Rob Vollman, are a visual representation of OZone Starts and Corsi Rel QoC. When you put these together, you see how each player was used by the coaching staff. We discussed how the Rangers used their forwards and defensemen, and the results shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The reason why this is important is because Alain Vigneault is an even bigger proponent for line matching and usage. He started the Sedin twins in the offensive zone over 65% of the time. This is the same concept that will follow him to New York.
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In case you were wondering, last week I kinda had a post recapping our new division rivals’ offseason moves. I emphasize the word “kinda” because I only finished about half of it before it got published. Little scheduling SNAFU. Whoops.
Let’s try this again shall we?
The Rangers only major acquisition of the offseason was the hiring of new coach Alain Vigneault. Barring any late-summer trades, the Rangers will mostly rely on a new voice in the locker room to be the key difference maker this coming season. However, a few of our new ‘Metropolitan Division’ rivals made some very interesting moves this summer. Some of them voluntary, others not so much (sup Kovy?).
Here’s a look at which teams in our new division should improve, which teams appear to have taken a step back and which teams will likely to duplicate last year’s efforts.
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Things are a little slow here in Rangerland as we count down to the pre-season, so I thought I’d tackle a more global topic.
Not withstanding the (now completely predictable) labor squabbles of recent years, the NHL has consistently investigated and implemented ways to improve its overall on-ice product. They aren’t plagued with the constant felony arrests of the NFL and NBA, nor the drunk driving and steroid issues of MLB. Most of the athletes are humble professionals who respect the game and the fans. Now, the NHL is not without its problems. There have been several nagging issues that have persisted through rule changes, new committees, summer R&D camps and beta tests in lower leagues. The most demonstrative examples include not enough goal scoring, concussions and obstruction-type penalties.
Now, all three of these major problems could be solved by one simple solution, and it’s not one anyone around the league wants to consider, myself included: moving the NHL to olympic sized rinks. I know what you’re thinking, I don’t like it either. It seems borderline sacrilegious. The NHL has always played on North American sized rinks. It’s what has differentiated the NHL from the Olympics and the inferior European leagues. We like the physicality, the fighting, the hard-nosed style of play that comes along with the smaller rink, but consider each league problem…
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This is what stat geeks wear to formal occasions.
As the quest for better stats has come, so has more analysis into the stats that are currently available via NHL.com. Hits and blocked shots have become more of the industry standard when looking at defensive prowess. Hits is a relatively “new” stat in the sense that people are using it more than PIMs lately. PIMs have gone the way of the dodo in terms of positive value, and people have replaced it with hits. The theory is that PIMs used to tell how physical a player was, but as more clutch-and-grab was introduced (and then eliminated with some inconsistent officiating post-lockout), PIM numbers grew with stick penalties and not fights/roughing. Hits have been used to evaluate the physicality of a player’s game.
The same theory applies for blocked shots, as the more blocked shots a player has, the more defensively responsible he is (such is the theory). While this is more system dependent, a team playing a low-zone collapse will block more shots than a team playing a strong side overload, the generalization still exists that if you are blocking shots, you are good defensively. It was the Rangers MO during the 2011-2012 season, although they backed away from it during the 2013 season.
However, these are defensive stats, meaning that these stats only increase if you don’t have the puck. You can’t deliver a hit if you are controlling the play in the offensive zone. You can only block a shot if the opponent has the puck in your zone. Both of these stats go up when you don’t control the puck. The theory is that teams with lower FF%/CF% will generally have more blocked shots and more hits. But the theory in itself hasn’t really been tested (at least I haven’t seen it tested) because we have CF% and FF%. Since those are still new-ish stats, I think it’s worth diving into this generalization.
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Defense usage chart.
Last week, we looked at how John Tortorella used his forwards from a matchup perspective. Since AV is very similar to Torts in the way he utilizes matchups and zone starts, we figure it’s good to know how players were deployed, as it will likely remain the same under AV. This style plays to the strength of certain players, and particularly keeps the weak defenders away from big draws in the defensive zone. Explaining how players are deployed is tough, but luckily Rob Vollman has HockeyAbstract.com, where we can create player usage charts.
The Y axis is Corsi Rel QoC, the X axis is OZone start percent. The size of each bubble represents the average TOI per game (larger bubbles for more ice time), and the color represents the RCorsi (red is bad, blue is good). The chart is broken down into four quadrants, which tells us how each player was deployed: Shut Down, Two-Way, Less-Sheltered, and Sheltered. Put it all together, and you get how each defenseman was deployed on the ice, for how long, and how effective they were at driving puck possession.
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Does AV mean a changing of roles for the players?
For several off-seasons running, I’ve been creating these “master plans” that talk about the future rosters of the Rangers. The purpose of these posts is to really come full circle on all of the topics and rumors we’ve been covering over the course of the season. During prior offseasons, creating these plans was pretty easy for me as John Tortorella frequently talked about the Rangers “team concept”. Based on his vision, I just filled in the blanks.
With his team template in mind, these posts were generally unified by three main ingredients for success — roster balance, strong skating ability, and making an effort in all three zones. As trade deadlines and free agency periods came and went, my plans always revolved around the idea that the Rangers should stick to those three ingredients when evaluating their own team and what’s available on the marketplace.
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Forward usage chart
John Tortorella loved his matchups. One of the major points of his coaching style is giving tough minutes to those he could rely on defensively. If there is one area where he and new coach Alain Vigneault are similar, it is here. Both coaches are known for matchups and zone-starting, deploying the offensive players in the offensive zone draws and defensive players on defensive zone draws. This style plays to the strength of certain players, and particularly keeps the weak defenders away from big draws in the defensive zone. Explaining how players are deployed is tough, but luckily Rob Vollman has HockeyAbstract.com, where we can create player usage charts.
A quick note about the chart above, the Y axis is Corsi Rel QoC, the X axis is OZone start percent. The size of each bubble represents the average TOI per game (larger bubbles for more ice time), and the color represents the RCorsi (red is bad, blue is good). The chart is broken down into four quadrants, which tells us how each player was deployed: Shut Down, Two-Way, Less-Sheltered, and Sheltered. Put it all together, and you get how each forward was deployed on the ice, for how long, and how effective they were at driving puck possession. Also, I set the GP minimum to 20, so that’s why Mats Zuccarello doesn’t appear on this chart.
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