Archive for Musings
I find the NHL Draft to be such an interesting concept. Not only do front offices have to be ready to deal with reacting to their punch list of player rankings and how to best utilize those picks, they also must engage in rapid-fire trade discussions and last minute pick movement. Fascinating. The Rangers are in an unusual position (for them, at least) at the Draft this season, having no high picks and several valuable assets. There are numerous ways the next two days can play out, so naturally, I have some thoughts.
- Might as well start with Cam Talbot. Over the last few weeks, we have gotten a little better idea about where his market stands in the context of a potential bidding war between Buffalo, San Jose, Edmonton and potentially teams like Dallas or Florida. The claim is that Sather turned down two second round picks. I trust the big guy’s trading prowess, and that’s a solid return to turn your nose up at in a very deep draft.
When the Rangers’ season ended almost two weeks ago, my plan was to sit down and write a “thoughts” post to give some closure to the season. It ended up taking a little more time than I expected to put the year in perspective, but I’m going to give it a go this morning. Here are my final thoughts on the 2014-2015 New York Rangers.
- I suppose I’ll kind of give this a go in semi-chronological order, so let’s start with the off-season. I agree with Kevin, that this past summer was not Glen Sather’s finest hour. To an extent he used the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” model. He had to cover the losses of key contributors in Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle and Benoit Pouliot, so bringing in depth was important when little cap space existed.
Got four questions for the mailbag, so let’s have at it.
Q (More of an FYI, from Ray): I questioned the SAT data showing the Lightning dominated the first two periods of Game 6 in a BSB comment. Anyway, I actually didn’t watch the game live – I taped it -and so I could revisit it. I tried to keep track of zone time in the first period (too mindless to do the entire game).
My numbers aren’t perfect, I’m sure, but they are unbiased with presumably small errors which likely mostly balance out.
I believe OZ time itself is a better indicator of possession, but the NHL stopped tracking it in 2001 for some reason. We use SAT because, logically, if you have the puck in the offensive zone, you are getting shot attempts. Yes, this does undervalue the cycle, and wearing down and pinning the opposition, but the goal of the cycle is to get shot attempts. You can cycle all you want, but if you don’t get shot attempts, the puck won’t go in.
Your email was very detailed. I’m posting the full email in the comments so that people can discuss.
Tonight, the Rangers will play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Obviously, playing in the winner-take-all game in a playoff series is a familiar spot for New York. Their elimination game record the past few years is staggering, and have been battle-hardened to these moments. I’m sure if you went searching for pre-game content around the interwebs, you could find plenty of articles waxing poetic about the purity and excitement of Game 7. I have a confession to make: I’m not a fan.
Sure, those talented authors are correct in their whimsical accounts of pure sport, guys stepping up on the big stage and motivation of “it all comes down to this”. The problem is, Game 7’s are a crapshoot. They come down to bounces, mental mistakes, officiating and other such incidentals that take some of the quantification out. I’m not just talking about from a statistics standpoint, either. Of course, if one team controlled 65% of possession and had a heavy advantage of scoring chances, yet lost 2-1, you’re going to hear that narrative. What I’m talking about is the emotional component. Read More→
Who’s ready for another Game 7? I’m writing this as I watch the Blackhawks and Ducks duel, and it’s another reminder how much more enjoyable elimination games are when it’s not your team that’s playing. Tomorrow night is sure to be pure agony, at least until the final buzzer sounds. Then, hopefully, it will have been a ton of fun.
Since I can’t formulate coherent thoughts before this one, on to the musings:
– Though we can’t help but hope, there’s pretty much no chance Mats Zuccarello will play tomorrow. That said – if he were to practice today and was miraculously deemed game ready, where would he fit in the lineup? Zuccarello is not going to replace J.T. Miller in his old spot alongside Rick Nash and Derick Brassard after that trio produced 13 points in Game Six. Putting Zuccarello on the fourth line would obviously be a waste – but the same goes for Martin St. Louis, so slotting Zuc in on the third line and bumping MSL down doesn’t make sense either. The most likely hypothetical scenario would be to have Zuc replace Jesper Fast on the second line – but it’d be a real shame to banish Fast to fourth line Siberia with the way he’s played. Too bad it doesn’t matter.
– Speaking of Nash/Brassard/Miller, I did some quick addition after Tuesday’s game and noticed that the trio has accounted for 20 points in the series, just two fewer than the terrifying Triplets. Of course, 13 in one game skews that quite a bit, but hey, they did pretty much win that game singlehandedly (with help from Hank). You can show me all the statistics you want that say “clutch” isn’t real, but I refuse to believe it, and Brassard is a perfect counterexample.
Sports have been a part of society for as long as we’ve been keeping track. Ancient texts have the Olympic games starting as early as the year 175, with Greek mythology dating them far before then. Look at the Coliseum in Rome: a huge venue for fans to watch games being played — however questionable the morals of those games are.
Another fun thought: the word ‘fan’ is actually short for ‘fanatic,’ defined as a person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, especially an activity. Obsessive enthusiasm makes for some pretty fun clients. So since sports are a (high revenue) business, and some very intelligent people exist to make money off of obsessive enthusiastic people, fantasy sports (among other things) came to life.
With fantasy sports comes armchair GMs. It seems anywhere you go, someone knows how to manage a team better than Glen Sather, or coach the Rangers better than Alain Vigneault. My personal favorite activity at the Garden is to appreciate all the coaches around me and feel extra blessed that I paid to hear all of their opinions.
Everyone has heard of fancy stats, which we’ve gone over ad nauseam here. Heck, there’s even a metrics tab to explain the basics. Most of the time, they’re a good indicator of play that the naked eye can’t see because, as humans, it’s difficult to stay objective all the time. Naturally our emotions will get involved in some of what we see, and aside from this, it’s easy to forget ten great plays if a player makes one bad play, or even a flukey play that leads to a goal.
Last summer, I wrote an article about the Oilers hiring a fancy stats-loving coach in Dallas Eakins, and I compared front offices looking at these stats in the same light that MLB GMs viewed moneyball. The similarities have a lot to do with formulas and equations and math, statistics that can be measured in a spreadsheet and should follow a trend. This has worked for the Oakland A’s for a long time, and possession-driven statistics have worked for certain teams (though not the Oilers, and Eakins was let go) in the NHL as well.
As we look at the Rangers, now facing potential elimination tomorrow night in Tampa, there have been tons of articles posted about their possession numbers, along with posts about how fearsome their defense is, even people stating that Henrik Lundqvist has unrealistic stats that lend the Rangers’ advanced stats to be altered favorably and inaccurately. There is a simple explanation to all of this: the media need to post continually in order to drive readership, and they seek topics about anything. Great writers can argue a position from beginning to end no matter how bananas it may be.
On the day before another Rangers elimination game, in a postseason where they have come back from a 3-1 deficit, the only stat we have to remember is this: the team that scores more goals in 60 minutes wins. It isn’t a measure of whose possession is better after offensive zone starts, or whose defensemen have a higher scored-adjusted corsi for. It’s also not about your personal vendetta against Marc Staal and as such, noticing only that he took a penalty and not that he blocked a shot that Henrik wasn’t set up to save. It’s about the team that scores more.
The Rangers better be that team tomorrow night, or there will be tons of questions for management and players alike to answer, and a long offseason looming.
It’s easy to get lost in the playoffs when games come thick and fast but there’s been a few other things going on in Ranger-land aside from the absorbing Tampa – Rangers series. Shocking I know. Let’s have a quick catch up.
Glen Sather was nominated for the GM of the year award this week. Deservedly so. The Rangers have played the most playoff games (73) in a four year stretch and this is the third year in that period they’ve gone to at least the Conference finals. Sather has his faults (a lot of them) but he’s done a great job in recent years, perhaps none more recently than this year that included the Presidents Trophy.
Good morning, BSB community. It’s game day. That means the Rangers have a chance to stop the bleeding, get back to basics and level the series before returning to New York. As a general rule, I am not a superstitious person. However, every time I turned Game 3 on, something horrible happened to the Rangers. So, I sucked it up and accepted my fate as a cursed fan and stayed away. Then OT happened and they still lost. Now I feel stupid and I didn’t even watch most of the game. With that in mind, this will be a very conceptual thoughts post. Read More→
The Rangers and Caps have an unusual two-day break between games six and seven, so today is an off day for both teams, their second in a row. The Rangers have come roaring back in this series, tying it at three games a piece after being down 3-1. While the Rangers never truly looked out of the series or dominated in any game, the Caps were on their way to being that dominated team on Sunday night. That was until a dominant third period, where they didn’t allow a shot attempt by the Rangers in the final 15 minutes.
With an extra day off, the news will be slow. So why not do a brain dump?
- Ryan McDonagh was banged up by Alex Ovechkin, and Tim Gleason appeared to be hurt as well. This gives them both an extra day to heal. This helps the Rangers more than it does the Caps. Nate Schmidt was called up by the Caps just in case Gleason can’t go, but many want Schmidt to play over Gleason anyway.
- The extra day favors the Rangers on the injury front, but not on the goaltender rest front. Braden Holtby looked a little tired in Game Six. Suit noted in the comments of the goal breakdown that he was dropping early, a sign of fatigue. The extra day helps him.
– I thought Monday was among Rick Nash’s best games of the year, and by far his best of the playoffs. Nash has been far better this postseason compared to last, but he’s still not finishing. That doesn’t make Nash a bad player, but it also means New York is going to have a tough time winning.
– Braden Holtby has been dominant. And yeah, the Rangers didn’t get nearly enough traffic in front of him early in Game 3, but Holtby has been in hero mode for the whole postseason. While goaltending issues have arisen for several other supposed contenders, Holtby has climbed close to the top of the list when you think about the league’s best netminders.
– I still think The Ghost of Marty St. Louis has one signature moment left, but he’s really fighting it. He’s a far cry from Mats Zuccarello on the top line, but luckily young bucks like Jesper Fast have been picking up some of the slack.
– Zuccarello’s absence has been evident from the opening puck drop of the series. The Blueshirts are an extremely deep team and could withstand most injuries, but Zuccarello is about as irreplaceable as it gets.
– Alex Ovechkin is terrifying. He didn’t even register a point on Monday night and his fingerprints were all over the game. The saying “you have to know where he is on every shift” is cliche and overused, but it absolutely applies to The Great 8 right now. This might be the best he’s ever played.
– One of the big knocks on the Capitals has been their lack of solid depth players behind Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but it’s hard to understand when you see the contributions guys like Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle make. Adding Evgeny Kuznetsov to the mix has been absolutely huge for Washington, too.
– Let’s not forget about Eric Fehr, who is still expected to return in this series. Fehr isn’t nearly as important to Washington as Zuccarello is to the Rangers, but he’s a solid secondary scorer that will only extend the Capitals’ lineup.
– I wrote about it last week, but the way the Caps play now is so reminiscent of John Tortorella’s Rangers. They keep you to the outside, block shots, play physical, outhustle you and have the star goaltender to hold it all together. The 2-1 deficit here isn’t because the Blueshirts are doing much wrong, it’s because Washington is a very, very good team.
– I thought this would go seven, and I still do.