How should your fantasy team use bench spots?

Ranking the top 200 players is only going to get you so far in fantasy hockey. If you want to rob your competition (read: co-workers) of trash talking opportunities you need to get the most out of your roster. You’re not Mike Babcock, so that might mean looking at value above replacement, or thinking through how valuable each category is. You can also get a leg up by making the most of your bench spots.

What matters when we look at bench spots?

A bench player is useful if enough players at the same position aren’t playing the same day. That means the schedule matters, injuries matter, and positions matter.

There are probably gains you could make by going deep into which teams have complementary schedules, but that granular information is easier to process when evaluating a trade, or week-to-week add/drops. You don’t have the mental space at the draft to worry about those combinations. You’ll weigh that information badly and your plans will crumble as the perfect piece for your strategy gets snatched up.

I’m also ignoring goalies, since they’re very different.

Value varies across positions

Depending on your league’s fantasy rules dynamics might be slightly different, but in most leagues centres put up the best numbers, but have fewer line-up spots than other positions. Your best centre on the bench probably puts up better raw numbers than one of the wingers in your line-up, and would be a big improvement over even a second-tier defenceman. How much better does a player who isn’t going to play as much need to be to provide more value to your team?

NHL Scheduling

How often do teams play the same day? We exclude weird weeks, because which actual day is busy is less important than the mix of busy and slow days. Mon: 25% of teams play; Tue: 66%; Wed: 25%; Thu: 62%; Fri: 34%; Sat: 72%; Sun: 45%

A typical week in the NHL has three busy days, three slow days, and an in-between. A bench player is rarely going to get into the line-up on a busy day, but they’re also not going to play many games on slow days.

Injuries

Elite players don't miss many games. If you look at top point producers and check how many games they played the next season, over half played at least 80 games. As a whole, these players played 94% of the year. Cumulative Density: 82 Games: 29%; 80: 50% (median); 77: 67% (mean); 65: 94% (95%ile)

Bench spots serve as insurance for injuries, but elite players really don’t spend that much time injured; You can expect about five games missed per player. Still, the effect is big enough that we’d be negligent to not include it.

The effect of injuries is small, but not insignificant. Injuries pump up the value of depth players, but how much you'll get out of them depends on the size of your line-up.

(The above chart is based on running the analysis below with and without injuries factored in)

The Math

For any given day of the week, line-up size, and depth spot, we can turn to some probability and combinatorics:

P(n+1)=1-x^n; P(n+2)=1-x^(n+1)-(n+1)(1-x)x^n; P(n+3)=1-x^(n+2)-(n+2)(1-x)x^(n+1)-(n+2)!(1-x)^2*x^n/n!2!

where n is the number of line-up spots and x is the probability of any player having a game that day. So, for the sixth winger on a team with four wing spots on a Thursday, take the P(n+2) equation, use n = 4 and x = 0.94 * 0.62 = 0.58 (the probability a player is not injured and has a game on any given Thursday).

(Note that this assumes schedules are independent, which isn’t true, but accounting for that gets into the unhelpful territory of checking every player’s compatibility instead of building a “satisficing” model that you can apply to every player in the league)

To expand over a whole season, you take the value for each day of the week, and multiply it by the proportion of games that are played each day. To continue the previous example, 19% of games are played on Thursdays (excluding weird weeks, because again, we don’t care about the day of the week, we care about busy and slow days). Add up those numbers from each day of the week and you have the proportion of games you expect that player to get into the line-up.

Results

Bench value is a function of line-up size. Balancing your roster is vital. All else being equal, a 3rd player in a 2 spot position provides about the same nmber of starts as a 6th fighting for one of 4 spots, or a 9th trying to break into the top 6.

Line-up spot,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
n+1,0.491008,0.714896,0.830904,0.896319,0.935141,0.958898,0.973714,0.983073,0.989039,0.992869,0.995342,0.996946
n+2,0.267120,0.482881,0.634660,0.741029,0.816361,0.869999,0.908201,0.935345,0.954570,0.968142,0.977695,0.984403
n+3,0.159239,0.331103,0.475106,0.590364,0.682265,0.755394,0.813197,0.858446,0.893497,0.920376,0.940800,0.956196

An example

Let’s posit an unlikely situation. We’re in a league where only points from last year count. The league’s line-up is 3C / 6W / 4D and a giant bench. We’ve drafted the following nine players for the bench. How much do we expect from them? (We’re going to ignore the fact that some of these players missed games)

C – Derek Stepan (55 points)
C – Anze Kopitar (52)
C – Tyler Johnson (45)
W – Marian Hossa (45)
W – Patrick Maroon (42)
W – Mikko Rantanen (38)
D – Andrei Markov (36)
D – Damon Severson (31)
D – Morgan Reilly (27)

Easy! Just multiply those values by our factors! We get:

C – Derek Stepan: 55 * 0.83 = ~46 points
W – Marian Hossa: 45 * 0.96 = ~43
W – Patrick Maroon: 42 * 0.87 = ~37
C – Anze Kopitar: 52 * 0.63 = ~33
D – Andrei Markov: 36 * 0.90 = ~32
W – Mikko Rantanen: 38 * 0.76 = ~29
D – Damon Severson: 31 * 0.74 = ~23
C – Tyler Johnson: 45 * 0.48 = ~21
D – Morgan Reilly: 27 * 0.59 = ~16

Tyler Johnson’s value takes a beating, and the difference between Kopitar and Markov is negligible. Note that even if Markov was going to be your 4th defenceman (i.e. not a bench player) Stepan, Hossa, and Maroon on the bench still all provide more value, but that might not be true if you’re looking at replacement value (note that replacement is irrelevant for bench players). Let’s look at another worked example:

C – Bo Horvat (52 points) ~43 expected points
W – Evander Kane (43) ~41
W – Rick Nash (38) ~33
D – Jacob Trouba (33) ~30
C – Artem Anisimov (45) ~29
W – Andrei Burkovsky (35) ~26
D – Marc-Edouard Vlasic (28) ~21
C – Mike Fisher (42) ~20
D – Mattias Ekholm (23) ~14

In this case Jacob Trouba is more valuable than Anisimov, despite putting up 12 fewer points. Mike Fisher tumbles even further. In these cases, if you compare “best available” drafting with these results you see the difference it makes. If you have Horvat and Kane and then pick Nash and Trouba (71 real points) instead of Anisimov and Fisher (87 real points) you can expect 14 more points (63 vs 49) to show up in your match-ups.

“I don’t wanna do timesing, just gimme the gist”

Okay that’s fine. I did examples across a variety of scenarios (league sizes, line-ups, &c) and here’s the quick and dirty (and intuitive) guideline that will probably do alright for you if you follow it until your bench is full

1. For your first two bench spot take a winger and a centre (1C 1W)
2. Next, take another winger. (1C 2W)
3. Take a defenceman or another centre. (1C 2W 1D or 2C 2W)
4. Make sure you have a defenceman, and don’t go over two centres (1C 1D 3W or 2C 1D 2W)
5. Bring yourself up to 2C 1D 3W

Your mileage may vary, but it won’t steer you horribly wrong. If your league differentiates between left and right wing, centres become a lot more valuable and I’d strongly recommend playing through a few scenarios using the factors.

What about dual eligibility?

You’re golden. Look at the table: If you’re in a 2C 4W league, even if your C/W is your ninth best forward, they’re going to play over 70% of their games. They end up playing even more than the math says, so you might not want to even bother discounting their value. These guys just don’t end up sitting out often. That’s why they’re useful.

“But I drafted this guy last year and he always got to play!”

That’s lucky! There’s a ton of variability in this. Sometimes your fifth winger will play less than your third centre. It’s rare but even with the assumptions I made above, it’ll happen with about 1% of skater / winger pairs (I did the math). I just don’t have faith in your ability to figure that out in advance and make a decision based on it. We need to make our best guess, and it’s a bad bet to make.

Break a leg

You can be aware that the bench devalues player contributions, but if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In the Moneyball era the A’s didn’t bother paying for defensive contributions. It wasn’t because defence doesn’t matter, but if you can’t measure it (they didn’t know how to at the time), how can you value it properly? Hopefully with this tool you can properly value the contributions from your bench.

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What the Bruins Should Do This Summer

Every playoff loss is usually accompanied by fans and radio hosts demanding big money players to be traded, especially in a town like Boston. However, after some time to reflect on the loss to the Senators I’ve decided that the Bruins don’t need to blow it up or make any earth-shattering moves. I think it would have been a very different series with Krug, Carlo and a healthy Bergeron (who played the whole year with a sports hernia). On top of that, trades involving upwards of 6 million in salary are rare. With that in mind, I made this off-season game plan as realistic as possible. All the moves I made are plausible considering the front office’s past decisions. It’s more likely that the NHLPA will choose to use the escalator, but I worked off of the assumption that the cap will stay flat just to keep my decision making as conservative as possible.

 

Here is the projected roster:

bruinsgm2

 

Players that left via free agency/buyouts

John-Michael Liles:

Liles was a victim of the cap. I thought his play this year made it clear he is still a legitimate NHL defenseman.  Liles is an analytics darling. His GAR (goals over replacement) makes him an attractive defenseman for analytically minded teams, but the Bruins don’t have space for him. He isn’t taking Krug or Chara’s spot on the left, and Colin Miller still has plenty of room to grow as a defenseman because of his age. Liles will easily find a job this summer.

Drew Stafford:

Stafford was a good rental, but he’s a shot anchor and ideally Beleskey will take back his spot next to Krejci. Bruins also need the cap space.

Joe Morrow:

Morrow is probably tired of sitting in the press box, and I think his limited ice time this year shows that the Bruins don’t have too much confidence in him. He played quite a bit in the playoffs, but that was with a ridiculous number of injuries to the defensive core. Better for both parties if the Bruins and Morrow part ways.

Dominic Moore:

Moore is replaced by younger and cheaper players in this universe. He had a good year for a fourth liner, but the Bruins won’t have any problem filling in his role internally.

Jimmy Hayes:

If Hayes was hurt to end the year it may not be possible to buy him out. I’m going to assume he will pass his physical during the buyout window. He just isn’t that good. Bruins will need that extra cap space.

Players that left via trade/expansion draft
Kevan Miller:

I guessed that the Bruins will protect Chara (NMC), Krug, and Colin Miller. That leaves Miller as the odd man out, and I think a number 4 defenseman who is dependable in his own zone would be attractive to Vegas.

Ryan Spooner:

Spooner hasn’t shown that he can really hack it at 5v5, and his powerplay scoring was down this year as well. I think he has quite a bit of value as a trade asset. I traded his rights to Anaheim for Montour and a 2nd round pick in 2018. The hardest thing to do as an armchair GM is make a balanced trade, but I think this works for both teams.

Players signed re-signed/acquired from free agency

David Pastrnak:

Pastrnak’s agent is allegedly looking for a long-term deal similar to the Monahan contract. He had 70 points this year, so my best guess is 6 million AAV for 6 years. This takes Pastrnak to UFA and locks him up for his prime years. Works for both sides.

Tim Schaller:

Schaller is cheap, plays good defense, and can step into the top 6 for a game in case of an injury and not look too out of place. I signed him to a deal that was a tiny raise. 950k AAV for the New Hampshire boy.

Noel Acciari:

Acciari will be a fixture on the fourth line for the foreseeable future. He’s had a little bit of a scoring touch in Providence (and roughly 500 goals taken away by video review this year), so expect him to get a couple more next year. Acciari is also very cheap: 950k AAV.

Justin Williams:

The Bruins consider themselves cup contenders in this world. Williams gives them considerable depth on the right wing. I gave him a contract for 3 years totalling 12 million dollars. An AAV of 4 million is not difficult to get rid of. They could buy out the last year of his contract or retain salary in a trade if they were desperate to get rid of him.

Brandon Montour:

Montour came from the Ducks in the Spooner deal. Very promising AHLer. Shoots a ton for a defenseman. The league is trending towards guys like this. Probably would be the 7th guy before McQuaid gets hurt fifteen minutes into the season.

This is what the salary structure looks like going forward:

bruinsgm3

 

I should talk about Matt Beleskey. He had a terrible year. There were a few things that contributed to his down year: a knee injury, different expectations in a checking role, lack of puck luck, and just not playing good enough. His trade value has tanked. I doubt he’s worth as much on the market as he is to the Bruins if he rebounds. Worst case scenario, the Bruins can retain salary at the trade deadline. Best case, he’s back to being a 35-40 point guy. Moving him would expose the lack of depth at left wing as well. Beleskey is a great second liner if he plays like he did in 2015-16.

I think the biggest problem with this lineup is the lack of defensemen Cassidy will trust to kill penalties. One of Colin Miller or Krug will have to step up and take over that role. Miller would probably surprise. He’s better than people think at boxing out players in front of the net.

I have Nash centering the third line. I think he’s a good bottom 6 forward who can contribute by scoring the occasional goal. Khudobin has also been buried in Providence to allow Subban or McIntyre to take the backup role. Otherwise, the lines probably look familiar to anyone who watches the Bruins.

I believe the Bruins team I’ve built is a legitimate playoff team, and could possibly contend for the cup. It hinges on a few things: McAvoy continuing to play like he did during the playoffs, decent goaltending, and some puck luck from the bottom 6. It goes without saying that Bergeron, Marchand, Krug and Pastrnak need to be healthy for most of the year.

 

 

I used the armchair GM tool on cap friendly to put this together. My twitter (where i talk about the NHL, boston sports and Twin Peaks) is @jeffmac95

Projecting The NHL Scoring Race

Up until the All-Star break, the NHL scoring race hasn’t gone entirely as expected. As usual, perennial contenders Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Patrick Kane, (I think that we can already include current leader Connor McDavid in this sector) are near the top. However, Cam Atkinson has powered the Blue Jackets by transforming himself into a scoring machine, and Brad Marchand has risen from simply an agitator to a top scorer. What’s in store for the second half of the season?

I decided on a project to predict the scoring leaders for the end of the season. Why? Not only could this be helpful and relevant for fantasy hockey, but it’s also interesting to see who could be holding the Art Ross trophy come June. First, a player’s Projected Goals (ProG) and Projected Assists (ProA) were calculated, culminating in Projected Points (ProP), which is the addition of ProG and ProA. Before getting into the methodology and results, there are a few things that I want to establish: This is not a list of the best players in the NHL. A player with a high number of Projected Points could be benefiting from playing with good line mates, a lot of power play time, or simply puck luck.

             If you wish, you can skip the explanatory paragraphs (which are rather mathematical and complicated) and just go to the later tables with results.

Let’s get started with the Projected Goals method. The initial data needed was a players’ games played, games remaining (assuming they don’t get injured), average time-on-ice per game and current goals. All of this data was taken from hockey-reference. Next, a player’s individual Corsi (shot attempts) For/60 (iCF/60) and career individual Corsi shooting percentage were taken from Corsica.Hockey. I used their career Corsi shooting percentage as an assumption that the player would regress back to how they’ve done throughout their career. Additionally, a players’s individual Royal Road shots per 60 minutes (iRR/60) was taken, courtesy of the Passing Project, spearheaded by Ryan Stimson. These are shots preceded by a pass across the royal road – a line across the center of the ice – which causes lateral movement by the goaltender and has a higher percentage of going in than an average shot (approximately 2-3 times more likely to result in a goal).

Let’s use Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins as an example to understand how the Projected Goals are calculated. Currently, Kessel has 15 goals, 34 games remaining and plays an average of 17.53 minutes a night. He has 17.63 iCF/60 and 2.38 iRR/60, so roughly 13.5% of his shots follow a pass across the royal road. The shooting percentage for a royal road shot is about 15.5%, so the estimated royal road goals is 15.5% times the total number of royal road shots. His total royal road shots is 13.5% of his estimated total shot attempts, which is his iCF/60 multiplied by his estimated remaining ice time/60. The estimated remaining ice time is his average time on ice per game times the number of games remaining. This culminated in 3.66 royal road goals. The rest of the goals were calculated by multiplying his career Corsi shooting percentage (which was 6.09%) by his remaining iCF (excluding the ones that were royal road goals). This came to 10.54 goals, which added to his projected royal road and current goals, came to 29.20 Projected Goals for the season.

The top 15 skaters for Projected Goals are listed below:

(Note: Players with an asterisk use royal road data from the 2015-16 season, as the sample size for this season was too small)

Player Name ProG
Sidney Crosby* 45.29
Auston Matthews 41.76
Alex Ovechkin 41.34
Patrik Laine 38.22
Vladimir Tarasenko 37.64
Jeff Carter 37.47
Cam Atkinson 36.90
Max Pacioretty 36.65
Brad Marchand 36.46
Evgeni Malkin 35.98
Nikita Kucherov 35.53
David Pastrnak 34.51
John Tavares 34.25
Wayne Simmonds 34.23
Nazem Kadri 33.31

The Projected Assists were similarly calculated. Here, the current assists were added to projected royal road assists and projected other assists in order to get a total. However, instead of iCF, a player’s on-ice (not individual) Corsi for per 60 was used. The on-ice Corsi for per 60 was averaged with the league average to account for potential regression during the rest of the season. Also, royal road shot assists were used instead of individual royal road shots, and a player’s total shot assists per 60 was also included. The total shot assists per 60 were divided by the on-ice Corsi for per 60 to get a percentage of total shot attempts that the player got an assist on. This was then multiplied by the current on-ice Corsi shooting percentage, or in the case of royal road assists, 15.5%.

Here are the leaders for Projected Assists:

Player Name ProA
Connor McDavid 60.97
Evgeni Malkin 56.47
Sidney Crosby* 53.77
Nicklas Backstrom 51.49
Patrick Kane 49.80
Ryan Getzlaf 48.66
Alex Wennberg* 46.27
Mikael Granlund 46.06
Phil Kessel 44.58
Mats Zuccarello 43.90
Victor Hedman 43.09
Evgeny Kuznetsov 43.09
Erik Karlsson 42.13
Artemi Panarin 41.55
Claude Giroux 40.16

Here are the top-50 leaders in Projected Points:

Player Name ProG ProA ProP
Sidney Crosby* 45.29 53.77 99.06
Evgeni Malkin 35.98 56.47 92.45
Connor McDavid 30.84 60.97 91.81
Patrick Kane 30.75 49.80 80.55
Nicklas Backstrom 23.14 51.49 74.63
Artemi Panarin 32.97 41.55 74.52
Phil Kessel 29.20 44.58 73.79
Vladimir Tarasenko 37.64 35.98 73.62
Nikita Kucherov 35.53 37.79 73.32
Alex Ovechkin 41.34 31.64 72.98
Brad Marchand 36.46 35.21 71.67
John Tavares 34.25 36.75 71.00
Brent Burns 31.44 39.07 70.51
Tyler Seguin 31.89 38.33 70.22
Mark Scheifele 32.26 37.41 69.68
Cam Atkinson 36.90 31.53 68.42
Jeff Carter 37.47 29.26 66.72
Leon Draisaitl 29.96 36.56 66.52
Mikael Granlund 20.19 46.06 66.25
Nikolaj Ehlers 26.19 39.51 65.70
Jakub Voracek 26.29 39.33 65.62
Auston Matthews 41.76 23.85 65.61
Blake Wheeler 25.96 39.57 65.53
Patrik Laine 38.22 25.64 63.85
Ryan Getzlaf 15.19 48.66 63.84
Eric Staal 25.18 38.25 63.43
Jamie Benn 27.56 35.51 63.07
Joe Pavelski 27.64 35.31 62.95
Max Pacioretty 36.65 26.03 62.68
Mats Zuccarello 17.92 43.90 61.81
Nick Foligno* 27.61 34.00 61.61
Claude Giroux 21.33 40.16 61.50
Ryan Kesler 28.75 32.03 60.78
Alexander Radulov 22.27 38.34 60.61
Evgeny Kuznetsov 17.40 43.09 60.49
Corey Perry 22.02 38.33 60.35
David Pastrnak 34.51 24.84 59.35
Nazem Kadri 33.31 25.98 59.29
Alex Wennberg* 12.96 46.27 59.23
Mitchell Marner 19.86 39.18 59.04
Vincent Trocheck 31.25 27.44 58.70
Nathan Mackinnon 23.40 35.26 58.66
James van Riemsdyk 28.49 30.02 58.51
Derek Stepan 22.13 36.02 58.15
Wayne Simmonds 34.23 23.77 57.99
Charlie Coyle 22.87 34.82 57.69
Mark Stone 27.05 29.42 56.47
Mike Hoffman 29.77 26.41 56.18
Erik Karlsson 13.70 42.13 55.83
Ryan Johansen 18.30 37.35 55.65

While the exact methodology and number may be imperfect (they tend to feel a little low to me), I think that this gives a reasonable idea of how a player will finish the season. Feel free to do your own analysis of the totals. It’s interesting to see the sheer dominance of Sidney Crosby.

All Data comes from Corsica.Hockey, Hockey-Reference or the Passing Project

Exploring @DTMAboutHeart’s WAR Model as a Rate Statistic

@DTMAboutHeart’s hockey WAR (wins above replacement) model was released last October, and one of the things that excited me about this model (as well as WOI’s WAR model) was my hope for a legitimate “counting stat” – a statistic that doesn’t need to be “adjusted” for time on ice (TOI). @DTMAboutHeart’s 5-part explanation for WAR can be found here for anyone unfamiliar with this statistic. Rate stats in more traditional hockey statistics provide value as they help to account for TOI variance (for more information please read this great article). Ostensibly, It seems that @DTMAboutHeart’s WAR model was  developed in a similar manner to baseball WAR or basketball VORP where playing time is, more or less, “built in” (each of these sports has completely different issues when looking at playing time, so it is hard to compare the 3). One of the first ideas I had was to look at “raw” WAR vs. “TOI adjusted” WAR (WAR per 60). Should WAR be used as a rate stat? Or is it more useful as a counting stat? Maybe both are useful?

One of the issues with “WAR per 60” is that each component is tied to a different TOI amount  – EV offense/defense with even-strength TOI, PP offense with power play TOI, and drawing penalties, taking penalties and faceoffs with total TOI. Turning each of these into a “per 60” version starts to eat away at the beauty of this statistic – WAR is made of 6 individual components that are summed to arrive at an Overall WAR figure. When the WAR components are “per 60’d” (using the traditional method) weird things start to happen – most notably, the sum of the 6 components does not equal Overall WAR per 60. Below, you can see the “top 30” NHL forwards from the 2015-2016 season ranked by Overall War per 60:

war-top-30-f-per-60

Obviously, something weird is happening when we look at the “WAR/60” data provided by @DTM – Power Play Offense causes some serious problems. Again, all the components are not equal in a “per 60” measure. So how can we adjust for TOI to get a proper Overall WAR rate stat version while accounting for the weird things that happen because of the different TOI figures used? If our goal is to attempt to keep the “6 components = Overall” aspect (which I think it should be), then we need to adjust each component separately depending on the TOI figure that it is tied to. What might that look like? Well, the below chart attempts to show my initial approach with this adjustment:

war-top-30-f-avg-toi-normalised

Above, you can see that I turned the EV components into “per 800 minutes” numbers, the PP component into “per 100 minutes” numbers, and the taking penalties, drawing penalties and faceoff components into “per 1000 minutes” numbers. These are roughly the average TOI for each category among all skaters included in the WAR data (average EV TOI is 850 minutes, average PP TOI is 105 minutes, and average total TOI is 1050 minutes) – I rounded them off to nice big whole numbers. You could argue that it should be exact averages, but I’m not really sure it matters that much – “per 60” isn’t really an exact measure anyway, so I’m not too concerned. The TOI figure we use in rate stats (per 60 minutes) probably warrants further exploration already, but I’ll save that for another time.

Okay, back to the chart. Obviously, we got it right because Connor McDavid is the best player in the world (I kid, but really… ). One of the problems with “ranking” players using rate stats is how TOI dependent everything is – that sounds pretty obvious, right? This is especially true with WAR. The biggest issue is the lack of a “qualified player” definition in the NHL. Where do we draw the line when comparing players using rate stats? Well, I don’t know. I have some theories, but again, I’ll save that for another article. Back to the main topic. When we look at defensemen, we start to see even stranger results. Here is what the top 30 defensemen look like “ranked” by Overall WAR per 60:

war-top-30-d-per-60

And here is what we get when we use the same TOI adjustment used above:

war-top-30-d-avg-toi-normalised

The forward group “looks” fine, but the defensemen charts look really strange (when compared with the raw WAR leaders for this season). This could be a result of not using position specific TOI average numbers, but honestly it seems there is something else at play. The problem could also be that we are working with very small numbers (and a lot of rounding in the Overall WAR per 60 data provided), so players in the 31-100 could end up being within .05 of the “leaders” in Overall WAR per 60. At the heart of the issue is TOI itself. We’re comparing OEL (1700+ total mins) to Mark Barberio, Zidlicky, and Klefbom (400 – 600 total mins). Is it fair to expect Barberio to play at that rate for 1700 minutes? Maybe… but probably not. Since hockey doesn’t have a true qualified player definition, it seems that one would have to rely heavily on conditional statements to use WAR this way for analysis (similar to how conditional statements should probably be used with other rate statistics).

With all that said, let’s try this out at a player level. One of the benefits of a counting stat is the ability to find “value in consistency” – a player who consistently provides above replacement level play without being out of the lineup. One of the questions I’ve always had with rate stats is: why are we ignoring missed time? How do we account for players who miss more time due to injuries? Rate stats adjust production for time played (which is good for 3rd liners who produce at a very high level, etc.), but this approach potentially inflates players who miss time and deflates players who never miss time. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that a player who isn’t in the lineup provides no value at all? Is there not value in a player who consistently plays 82 games a season above replacement level? The following is not an attempt to come to a definite conclusion, rather, it’s a starting point for looking at this question using WAR. I’ll look at two separate comparisons here for the sake of brevity, but there are many more comparisons that could be made. Hopefully I’ll explore this more in the future.

Let’s start with a very intriguing player: Keith Yandle. He is among the highest performing defensemen in WAR since the data was collected (start of the 2008 season), but he’s often missing from the best-defenseman-in-the-league conversation. Yandle’s WAR was one of the reasons I wanted to explore this idea. So, let’s compare Yandle to a player who is sometimes considered one of the best defensemen in the game, but who also has a reputation for having injury issues (aka he misses time): Kris Letang. Below you can see their respective seasons since 2008 represented in Overall WAR:

yandle-letang-chart

yandle-letang-numbers

One thing that might stick out is how much better Yandle looks from an Overall WAR perspective. If you look at the total TOI each has played per season (or even-strength TOI), however, you might see why that is. Yandle has averaged almost 200 total minutes and almost 250 even-strength minutes more than Letang.

Now let’s see what these players look like from a rate stat perspective. Below I used the same method from earlier to turn WAR into a rate stat:

yandle-letang-avg-toi-chart

yandle-letang-avg-toi-numbers

From this perspective, Yandle and Letang look pretty comparable. Letang takes more penalties and Yandle is worse per EV defense, but they’re very similar players from this perspective overall. The adjustment seems to have “corrected” for Letang’s injury history – he appears to have improved using this approach. It also seems to have “corrected” for the consistent amount of minutes Yandle has played each season. Is that correct?

Let’s look at another example to further explore this question. Here’s a high-end forward who has a reputation for being injury-prone vs. a high-end forward who does not have this reputation:

stamkos-kopitar-chart

stamkos-kopitar-numbers

Stamkos’ TOI figures are not actually as bad as you would think based on the reputation. However, Kopitar has rarely been injured throughout his career, and you can see that in the TOI figures. Stamkos and Kopitar are both top-line centers that contribute similar value in different ways. From a WAR perspective, this is mostly seen in Kopitar’s strong EV defense component and Stammer’s very solid PP numbers. But Stamkos has missed a decent amount of time due to injury where Kopitar has missed a total of 12 games since the 2008-2009 season. Let’s look at the TOI “correction” that we used in the Letang/Yandle example and see what that looks like:

stamkos-kopitar-avg-toi-chart

stamkos-kopitar-avg-toi-numbers

As you can see, Stamkos’ numbers even out – his PP numbers “decrease” significantly, but his EV numbers “increase” quite a bit. For Kopitar, he still looks like an elite player. Kopitar averaged almost 100 minutes total more and almost 180 minutes at even-strength more than Stamkos, while Stamkos averaged 30 minutes more on the PP.

Stamkos clearly gets a bump when we convert WAR into a rate stat, but doesn’t it stand to reason that Kopitar’s value should should still be “higher” than Stamkos’ assuming we’re looking at Overall value? If two players who never miss time contribute similar value when in the lineup, would we not expect one of those players’ value to decrease if that respective player misses time (for whatever reason)? This same question applies to Yandle and Letang. When we convert WAR into a rate stat, Yandle and Letang appear to be comparable. But wouldn’t it stand to reason that in actuality, Yandle is more valuable because he is never injured?

Is a rate stat version of WAR that much better than just using the “raw” totals? Is it maybe even misleading to look at WAR in hockey from a TOI adjusted perspective? I think a lot more research needs to be done in this area, but seeing as the data is very new, my initial impression is that “raw” WAR appears to do a very good job “correcting” for TOI variance. WAR per 60 (or the component-specific version I used above), in my opinion, is problematic at this point in time and needs to be handled with care. From a valuation standpoint, “raw” WAR seems to account for TOI in a way that has not been previously accessible or available in other hockey “counting” statistics, and converting raw WAR into a rate stats potentially detracts from the value a complex counting stat could provide for analysis.

NHL POWER Rankings: November

First of all, these POWER rankings have absolutely nothing to do with straight up wins, they are simply describing how well a team is playing, regardless if they end up with the win, or not. These rankings ONLY include games that have taken place in the month of November.

I’m switching up how I did these POWER rankings from last month, changing how I measure special team successes, and adding another factor which is the percentage of power play opportunities x team would get.

There are 6 major components that make up these POWER rankings (all components adjusted for score, and venue (home/away)).

1. Corsi for percentage, or shot attempt percentage (CF%).

2. Expected goals percentage (xGF%).

3. Scoring chances for percentage (SCF%).

4. Power play opportunities percentage, in pure penalties taken, not minutes on power play vs minutes on penalty kill (PPO%)

5. Special teams expected goals percentage: add power play expected goals for and penalty kill expected goals against, then divide power play expected goals by the total sum of expected goals (STxGF%)

6. Adjusted Fenwick save percentage, or the teams actual save percentage minus the expected save percentage based on shot quality (Adj.FenSV%)

Now, onto the POWER rankings. I will display their rank, team name and score. In brackets will be how many spots up or down a team has changed from the POWER rankings back in October. I will also put their ranks in the components in the team descriptions. I will also list their top 2 forward point scorers and their top defensive point scorer.

  1. Nashville Predators 57.79 (+25)

CF% 2nd, xGF% 4th, SCF% 3rd, PPO% 1st, STxGF% 2nd, Adj.FenSV% 12th.

The Nashville Predators had a rough October, but they really stepped up huge in November and saved themselves. Pekka Rinne has been fantastic with a 9-1-2 record in the month with a .949 save percentage. Their offensive leaders were James Neal (13P in 12GP), Ryan Johansen (12P in 14GP), and PK Subban (10P in 14GP).

2. Pittsburgh Penguins 55.50 (+14)

CF% 4th, xGF% 1st, SCF% 1st, PPO% 6th, STxGF% 11th, Adj.FenSV% 16th.

Another team that had an underwhelming October but have found their stride with Sidney Crosby back in the lineup. They are playing like a Stanley Cup contender just as they were last year. Matt Murray has been the main man in net for Pittsburgh with a 7-2-0 record in November and a .929 save percentage. Their offensive leaders were Sidney Crosby (17P in 14GP), Evgeny Malkin (12P in 14GP), and Kris Letang (10P in 14GP).

3. Los Angeles Kings 54.41 (+10)

CF% 6th, xGF% 7th, SCF% 6th, PPO% 24th, STxGF% 1st, Adj.FenSV% 11th.

Peter Budaj, the forgotten former Montreal Canadiens goaltender has been good enough to let the Kings sit in a wildcard spot for now, but it seems like they’re under performing quite a bit. Maybe if they can keep the penalties that they take down they can get higher in the standings. Budaj has a 8-5-1 record in November with a .914 save percentage. Their offensive leaders are Jeff Carter (14P in 14GP), Tyler Toffoli (8P in 14 GP), and Alec Martinez (7P in 14GP).

4. San Jose Sharks 54.11 (-1)

CF% 12th, xGF% 10th, SCF% 14th, PPO% 6th, STxGF% 6th, Adj.FenSV% 8th.

The Sharks currently sit first place in the Pacific Division, they have been arguably the most consistent team all season, but they may soon regret the Mikkel Boedker signing, who has just 4 points in 24 games. Martin Jones is their starter, and went 7-5-1 in November, with a .924 save percentage. Their top offensive players have been Brent Burns (11P in 15GP), Logan Couture (10P in 15GP), and Joe Pavelski (10P in 15GP).

5. Boston Bruins 53.90 (+16)

CF% 1st, xGF% 2nd, SCF% 5th, PPO% 26th, STxGF% 5th, Adj.FenSV% 23rd.

Perhaps the best team in the NHL at even strength? Literally their only weakness has been taking too many penalties. Loosing John-Micheal Liles for potentially the season is a big loss for them but they are still a great team. Tuukka Rask has been great with a 8-4-1 record and a .932 save percentage. Their top offensive players have been David Krejci (11P in 15GP), Brad Marchand (10P in 15GP), and Torey Krug (10P in 15GP).

6. Carolina Hurricanes 53.01 (+12)

CF% 5th, xGF% 9th, SCF% 10th, PPO% 3rd, STxGF% 26th, Adj.FenSV% 7th.

What do you get when you put the Carolina Hurricanes with a good version of Cam Ward? A REALLY good team. It’s amazing what can happen with at least average goal tending. Losing Jordan Staal will hurt lots especially on their penalty kill, and ya know since he is their best possession player. Ward has a 6-4-2 record in November with a .935 save percentage. Their top scorers this month are Jeff Skinner (8P in 14GP), Victor Rask (7P in 14GP), and Jaccob Slavin (4P in 14GP).

7. Columbus Blue Jackets 52.94 (+1)

CF% 15th, xGF% 14th, SCF% 9th, PPO% 4th, STxGF% 20th, Adj.FenSV% 6th.

The team (almost) everyone predicted to finish last finishes in the top 10 yet again. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is having a Veznia-calibre season, putting together a 9-2-1 record in November, with a .924 save percentage. Their top scorers have been Cam Atkinson (16P in 14GP), Alexander Wennberg (13P in 14GP), and Zach Werenski (10P in 14GP)

8. Anaheim Ducks 52.70 (-3)

CF% 26th, xGF% 11th, SCF% 16th, PPO% 9th, STxGF% 3rd, Adj.FenSV% 13th.

Sitting 2nd place in the Pacific Division at the moment. There are some great teams there, and there are also some very bad teams there (as we will see later). The Ducks have been running 2 goalies in November. John Gibson with a 4-4-1 record and a .916 save percentage, and Jonathan Bernier, who has a 4-0-1 record with a .934 save percentage. Their top scorers have been Ryan Kesler (14P in 14GP), Rickard Rakell (13P in 14GP), and Cam Fowler (7P in 14GP).

9. Dallas Stars 52.14 (+14)

CF% 21st, xGF% 13th, SCF% 15th, PPO% 8th, STxGF% 8th, Adj.FenSV% 18th.

A team that is just absolutely plagued with forward injuries has been able to keep it going for now. At one point their entire middle 6 was gone. The Stars have been running with their two elite goaltenders at 10.4 million dollars per year. Kari Lehtonen has a 3-4-2 record with a .877 save percentage, whereas Antti Niemi has a 3-1-3 record with a .912 save percentage. Their top scorers have been Tyler Seguin (17P in 16GP), Jamie Benn (16P in 16GP), and John Klingberg (8P in 14GP).

10. Winnipeg Jets 51.69 (+19)

CF% 22nd, xGF% 5th, SCF% 8th, PPO% 16th, STxGF% 7th, Adj.FenSV% 28th.

Just received Matthieu Perreault and Bryan Little from IR, and Jacob Trouba signed this month which definitely improved the team. One problem is Toby Enstrom has gone back to Sweden with no timetable on his return. Connor Hellebuyck has been the Jets goalie this season, and posted a 7-6-0 record with a .914 save percentage this month.  Their top scorers are Mark Scheifele (18P in 16GP), Nikolaj Ehlers (16P in 16GP), and Dustin Byfuglien (7P in 16GP).

11. Edmonton Oilers 50.94 (+1)

CF% 3rd, xGF% 17th, SCF% 19th, PPO% 7th, STxGF% 21st, Adj.FenSV% 19th.

Connor McDavid is living up to the hype, currently 1st in the NHL in points. The Oilers are in a tight race in the Pacific Division and could potentially make the playoffs this season for the first time in a while. Cam Talbot has posted a 4-7-2 record in November with a .902 save percentage. Their leading scorers are Connor McDavid (19P in 15GP), Leon Draisaitl (11P in 15GP), and Oscar Klefbom (6P in 15GP).

12. Minnesota Wild 50.81 (+2)

CF% 9th, xGF% 8th, SCF% 2nd, PPO% 20th, STxGF% 29th, Adj.FenSV% 9th.

Arguably the best defensive team in the NHL right now, led by blueliners Jared Spurgeon, and Ryan Suter, and defensive forwards Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederitter, and Eric Staal. Devan Dubnyk has been having a Veznia-calibre season, with a 4-5-1 record in November, but with a .942 save percentage. Their leading scorers are Nino Niederitter (9P in 13GP), Mikael Granlund (9P in 13GP), and Jonas Brodin (6P in 13GP).

13. Chicago Blackhawks 50.22 (-3)

CF% 20th, xGF% 20th, SCF% 21st, PPO% 11th, STxGF% 24th, Adj.FenSV% 1st.

Corey Crawford is my pick for the Veznia Trophy this season. He has done insanely well with a team that by the numbers, have just been average. Crawford posted a 8-3-1 record in November with a .933 save percentage. Their leading scorers are Patrick Kane (14P in 15GP), Artemi Panarin (13P in 15GP), and Duncan Keith (8P in 15GP).

14. St. Louis Blues 50.17 (-5)

CF% 7th, xGF% 6th, SCF% 7th, PPO% 23rd, STxGF% 16th, Adj.FenSV% 29th.

Quite a good team at even strength. Their biggest problems are all special teams and goaltending through November. But I think it’s a fair bet to say that they have the personnel to fix those areas of concern. Jake Allen had a 7-2-1 record with a shaky .903 save percentage. Their top scorers are Vladimir Tarasenko (14P in 14GP), Jaden Schwartz (12P in 14GP), and Kevin Shattenkirk (9P in 14GP)

15. Toronto Maple Leafs 50.04 (-4)

CF% 23rd, xGF% 3rd, SCF% 4th, PPO% 25th, STxGF% 27th, Adj.FenSV% 20th.

Home of the most legitimate Calder Trophy candidates in Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitchell Marner. Their starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen posted a 8-4-0 record with a .931 save percentage this month. Their leading scorers were James van Reimsdyk (13P in 14GP), Mitchell Marner (13P in 14GP), and Morgan Reilly (8P in 14GP). #TheLeafsAreActuallyGood

16. Montreal Canadiens 49.77 (-12)

CF% 16th, xGF% 19th, SCF% 17th, PPO% 12th, STxGF% 23rd, Adj.FenSV% 15th.

Have no fear, Habs fans. Even when the Canadiens play is sub-par, they will still have Carey Price on their team who can single-handedly win games. Carey Price had a 8-2-1 record in the month, with a fantastic .944 save percentage. Their leading scorers were Alex Galchenyuk (14P in 14GP), Andrei Markov (13P in 14GP), and Alexander Radulov (11P in 12GP).

17. Detroit Red Wings 49.66 (-2)

CF% 25th, xGF% 28th, SCF% 20th, PPO% 2nd, STxGF% 18th, Adj.FenSV% 22nd.

The Red Wings have mostly been a below average team. But their share of power play opportunity is quite impressive. They need to keep Anthony Mantha up longer. The Wings are one of those teams that run with two net minders. Jimmy Howard has posted a 3-4-0 record with a .922 save percentage, and Petr Mrazek with a 2-2-2 record and a .899 save percentage. Their top scorers were Henrik Zetterberg (11P in 13GP), Frans Nielsen (7P in 13GP), and Mike Green (6P in 13GP).

18. Florida Panthers 49.58 (-12)

CF% 8th, xGF% 25th, SCF% 25th, PPO% 10th, STxGF% 9th, Adj.FenSV% 24th.

GM Tom Rowe decided to fire coach Gerard Gallant after a comeback loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and appointed himself to be Head Coach. The Panthers have seen both James Reimer, and Roberto Luongo play this month. Luongo with a 5-3-1 record, with a .939 save percentage, and James Reimer with a 2-3-0 record with a .890 save percentage. Their leading scorers were Aleksander Barkov (9P in 14GP), Jaromir Jagr (8P in 14GP), and Keith Yandle (8P in 14GP).

19. Tampa Bay Lightning 49.55 (+3)

CF% 18th, xGF% 18th, SCF% 18th, PPO% 17th, STxGF% 25th, Adj.FenSV% 4th.

With the Steven Stamkos injury that will keep him out for 1-3 months, the Lightning will have to rely more heavily on guys like Nikita Kucherov, and Jonathan Drouin to make up for his loss (which is not a bad thing). Both Ben Bishop, and Andrei Vasilevsky have had their fair share of starts. Ben Bishop posted a 4-5-0 record with a .916 save percentage, and Andrei Vasilevsky with a 4-1-1 record, and a .944 save percentage. Their top scorers were Nikita Kucherov (18P in 15GP), Victor Hedman (12P in 15GP), and Valtteri Filppula (11P in 14GP).

20. Philadelphia Flyers 49.35 (+4)

CF% 14th, xGF% 26th, SCF% 24th, PPO% 15th, STxGF% 4th, Adj.FenSV% 26th.

There was a legitimate argument last year that Steve Mason and Michael Neuvirth was the best goaltending tandem in the NHL, this year however, not so much. Both have struggled quite a bit. Good news is that the power play has been fantastic. Steve Mason has started a majority of the games in November, and posted a 4-4-2 record with a .911 save percentage. Their top scorers were Wayne Simmonds (11P in 14GP), Jakub Voracek (10P in 14GP), and Michael Del Zotto (6P in 9GP).

21. Calgary Flames 49.30 (+6)

CF% 10th, xGF% 16th, SCF% 13th, PPO% 27th, STxGF% 10th, Adj.FenSV% 25th.

I think that Calgary could actually be a pretty decent team if they weren’t always on the wrong side of the power plays. Their goaltending should naturally improve with two very good goalies, even though one has had a fairly rough start. Brian Elliott has posted a 0-5-1 record with a .869 save percentage – ouch. Chad Johnson however has been much better, with a 7-3-0 record and a .939 save percentage. Their top scorers have been Michael Frolik (9P in 16GP), Matthew Tkachuk (6P in 14GP), and Dougie Hamilton (6P in 16GP).

22. New York Rangers 49.27 (-21)

CF% 29th, xGF% 15th, SCF% 11th, PPO% 22nd, STxGF% 13th, Adj.FenSV% 18th.

With such a fantastic October, it should be slightly worrisome that the Rangers shot metrics have fell off of a cliff. Luckily they have great goaltending, and people have continued scoring no matter what the shot metrics were saying. Henrik Lundqvist posted a 7-3-1 record and a .925 save percentage; whereas backup Antti Raanta put up a 3-1-0 record with a .935 save percentage. Their leading scorers were

23. Ottawa Senators 48.92 (-16)

CF% 27th, xGF% 23rd, SCF% 22nd, PPO% 14th, STxGF% 22nd, Adj.FenSV% 3rd.

The Craig Anderson story is quite remarkable, his wife was diagnosed with cancer, and the first game back, he had a shut out. Craig Anderson posted a 7-4-1 record with a .934 save percentage in Novemer. Their leading scorers were Mike Hoffman (11P in 13GP), Erik Karlsson (11P in 15GP), and Mark Stone (10P in 14GP).

24. Washington Capitals 48.88 (-22)

CF% 11th, xGF% 24th, SCF% 26th, PPO% 30th, STxGF% 17th, Adj.FenSV% 2nd.

Another team that is winning even with average to poor results. Having an elite level goalie can carry through a rough patch and that’s what happened in November with Washington. I doubt you’ll see them this low again. Braden Holtby posted a 7-3-0 record and a .923 save percentage. Their leading scorers were Nicklas Backstrom (15P in 13GP), Alex Ovechkin (12P in 13GP), and John Carlson (7P in 13GP).

25. Buffalo Sabres 48.54 (-8)

CF% 19th, xGF% 12th, SCF% 12th, PPO% 18th, STxGF% 30th, Adj.FenSV% 10th.

The only legitimate concern for the Sabres based on this month is their special teams play, which will more than likely improve now that they received Jack Eichel back from IR. Robin Lehner has been the starter in net this month, and he posted a 3-5-2 record with a .924 save percentage. Their top scorers were Sam Reinhart (8P in 14GP), Kyle Okposo (8P in 14GP), and Cody Franson (4P in 14GP).

26. New Jersey Devils 47.62 (-6)

CF% 17th, xGF% 27th, SCF% 28th, PPO% 19th, STxGF% 15th, Adj.FenSV% 21st.

Cory Schneider had a rarely bad month, but they’ve won just enough games to be hanging onto a chance at the playoffs, not too far off right now. Getting Taylor Hall back will be nice for them to bolster their scoring. Cory Schneider posted a 4-4-2 record with a .893 save percentage. Their leading scorers were Michael Cammalleri (11P in 8GP), Travis Zajac (10P in 14GP), and John Moore (8P in 14GP).

27. Vancouver Canucks 47.26 (-2)

CF% 13th, xGF% 21st, SCF% 23rd, PPO% 13th, STxGF% 19th, Adj.FenSV% 30th.

Their goaltending has really struggled in Vancouver. At this point, they’re not too far back of the playoffs, but it’s highly unlikely that they have any chance. This is a team on the route to Nolan Patrick. Another team with two goalies who have both started about equal time. Ryan Miller has a 3-5-0 record with a .896 save percentage, whereas Jacob Markstrom has a 3-2-1 record with a .893 save percentage. Their leading scorers are Bo Horvat (12P in 14GP), Daniel Sedin (10P in 14GP), and Ben Hutton (6P in 14GP).

28. Colorado Avalanche 45.70 (+0)

CF% 24th, xGF% 22nd, SCF% 27th, PPO% 29th, STxGF% 14th, Adj.FenSV% 27th.

This is one of the three teams that I am very scared for, these teams have been so bad this year that I feel bad for them. Luckily it’s not ALL bad in Colorado, at least they have a very good player and possible contender for the Calder Trophy in Mikko Rantanen. Semyon Varlamov posted a 3-6-0 record in November with a .901 save percentage. Their leading scorers were Mikko Rantanen (10P in 14GP), Nathan MacKinnon (9P in 14GP), and Erik Johnson (6P in 14GP).

29. New York Islanders 45.58 (-10)

CF% 28th, xGF% 29th, SCF% 29th, PPO% 28th, STxGF% 12th, Adj.FenSV% 14th.

Remember last year when Steven Stamkos almost went to free agency last year? Yeah, well he was on a promising team. I seriously doubt that John Tavares will be returning to the Islanders next season, he will be the first franchise player in free agency in a while. Another two goalie team. Thomas Greiss put up a 3-2-0 record with a .914 save percentage. On the other hand, Jaroslav Halak had a 1-3-4 record with a .905 save percentage. Their leading scorers were John Tavares (10P in 13GP), Josh Bailey (7P in 13GP), and Nick Leddy (6P in 13GP).

30. Arizona Coyotes 44.90 (+0)

CF% 30th, xGF% 30th, SCF% 30th, PPO% 21st, STxGF% 28th, Adj.FenSV% 5th.

I am legitimately sorry for Arizona Coyotes fans (if there are any (sorry)), this team is 13/14 Buffalo Sabres level of bad. The only bright spot they have right now is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Don’t worry, though. The Yotes prospects are pretty amazing. Mike Smith and Louis Domingue split time this month. Smith with a 3-1-2 record and a .936 save percentage, Domingue with a 3-3-1 record and a .927 save percentage. Their leading scorers were Max Domi (9P in 13GP), Radim Vrbata (9P in 13GP), and Anthony DeAngelo (6P in 10GP).

Statistics from Corsica.Hockey and NHL.com

How To Fix The Edmonton Oilers

Continuing with my theme of fixing broken teams, my next challenge I’ve decided to tackle is the Edmonton Oilers. The team that’s been broken for ages. The last time the Oilers made the playoffs was before Connor McDavid’s 10th birthday and now he’s the best player on the team.

Some rules of this series I’m operating under: All the trades and signings are purely speculation, but I try my best to make them as realistic as possible. When signing free agents who in real life have signed with other teams by this point, by default I take on whatever contract they ended up signing with their actual team. I don’t know these players personally so I can’t say which ones would or wouldn’t want to sign in Edmonton for real. For the purposes of this exercise I’m assuming all players would be willing to sign with the Oilers for market value.

 

Just like last time, I’m hopping in my time machine and going to the start of the off-season, where I take over for Peter Chiarelli who was fired for asking if he could trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. When I take over my roster looks like this:

 

Taylor Hall

Connor McDavid Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Nail Yakupov

Patrick Maroon

Leon Draisaitl

Zack Kassian

Matt Hendricks Mark Letestu

Liro Pakarinen

Anton Lander

 

Oscar Klefbom

Mark Fayne

Andrej Sekera

Andrew Ference
Brandon Davidson

Darnell Nurse

 

Cam Talbot

Laurent Brossoit

 

Without further ado let’s jump into step one.

 

Step One: Get Rid of Dead Weight

 

It seems as though Andrew Ference’s career might be over due to injury. Losing Ference as a player isn’t bad for Oilers, in fact it’s quite good. It does however present some cap complications. If he is in fact too injured to play this season, the Oilers could place him on long term injury reserve, and they will be allowed to go over the cap by the amount of his cap hit, which in this case is $3,250,000. However, if the Oilers go this route, that means any performance bonuses will count as overages. In other words, if Connor McDavid, Jesse Puljujarvi, or Darnell Nurse light the lamp next year, all their bonuses will count against the cap next season which could cost them as much as $6,175,000. This is a very undesirable situation, and would be nice to avoid. Because of this it doesn’t make sense to place Ference on LTIR simply to clear $3.25M. This leaves the Oilers will the option of keeping him for the final year of his contract and having him count against the cap, or trading him, likely with some sort of pick or prospect for some team to take his contract, or burying him in the minors assuming he agrees to waive his no movement clause. I’m going to do all I can to stay $3.25M below the cap so I don’t have to give up any assets to get him off the books. This means I’ll essentially be working with a cap of $69,750,000.

 

There’s really isn’t any dead weight which can be easily cleared without sacrificing assets, or buying players out. I don’t want to do either, but I will likely end up burying Mark Letestu and or Matt Hendricks which gives me an extra $950,000- $1,900,000 to work with if necessary. Since teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap by 10% during the offseason, this is money I can use.

 

Heading into free agency I have $12,855,084 in cap space to spend, and the extra $950,000- $1,900,000 on top of that if I need to use it. That’s certainly enough to add some key players and plug some holes.

 

Step Two: Identify Areas of Need

 

My main priority this offseason is shoring up this defense. I’d like to add enough defensemen so that both Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart can start the year in the AHL. Also, as it currently stands the only right handed defenseman on the roster is Mark Fayne. This isn’t necessarily a huge deal, but it would be preferable to get some more righties on the team.

 

Going into next season, I’d like to be able to roll three threatening lines. One centred around Connor McDavid, one featuring Hall and Leon Draisaitl, and a third with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. Spreading out these talented players allows us to get more from all the players individually. Also it would allow me to limit the ice time of this fourth line which likely won’t be great. I’m fine keeping McDavid with Pouliot and Yakupov, where they found success last season, but adding a right winger to the second line would mean I don’t have to play Zack Kassian in the top six which is obviously preferable.

 

I’d like to redo the fourth line, but I want to keep the cost as low as possible. If I can find good players coming at or under the amount that I’ll save by burying current fourth liners ($950,000 each) then I could improve the depth of the forwards without racking up huge cap hits.

 

Last but not least I’d like to add a competent backup goalie who can ideally take some games from Cam Talbot who isn’t the strongest of netminders. As always, the cheaper the better.

 

In summary I want: 1 top six right winger, 3 cheap fourth liners, 2-3 defensemen and 1 backup goalie. I probably won’t be able to accomplish all this with my cap restraints. Some financial footwork might become necessary. Also I need to remember that McDavid, Draisaitl, Puljujarvi and others will need contracts in the next few years so I can’t rack up huge dollars for long-term. I need to spend responsibly.

 

Step Three: July 1st

 

My first addition is signing Jason Demers ($4.5M x 5 years). Demers is capable of playing on our first pair, and he is right handed. Klefbom and Demers up front gives us a legitimate top pairing which can play in any situation. Demers is better than Adam Larsson by the way.

 

Next up is David Schlemko ($2.1M x 4 years). Schlemko brings a tremendous ability to drive possession, a skill the Oilers desperately need from the blueline, and does it for cheap. He is a lefty but can play on any one of our three pairings without looking out of place. He’s probably best suited to a second or third pair role though.

 

The final addition I’ll make to this blue line is adding righty David Rundblad for $750,000 on a one year deal. He is an analytics darling who has never been given a fair shot. This one year deal allows him to prove if he’s the real deal and very low cost to the team. It’s a win-win. If he doesn’t work out he can be buried or fill in as seventh defenseman.

 

Next for my forwards I’m bringing back Teddy Purcell for $1,600,000 to play on my second line with Hall and Draisaitl. He drives play nicely while chipping in a decent amount of offense. Playing with two dynamic offensive players will likely boost his point totals and increase his trade value. He’ll probably also be getting first line minutes on this line, similar to Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh. I’m going to run two first lines.

 

Kris Versteeg, who was brought in on a PTO in real life, will make a great addition to our forward group. He’ll take Hendricks roster spot but will probably end up playing on the Nuge/Eberle line. He comes cheap off of a PTO, so I’ll give him $1,000,000 for one year. Almost all of that money will come from burying Hendricks and both contracts come off the books after this season.

 

Brad Boyes is a nice depth forward who will make our fourth line look instantly better. I’d rather have him than Zack Kassian, so Kassian will make his way to Bakersfield to make room for Boyes.

 

The last piece to my new and improved fourth line comes in the form of Jonathan Marchessault. This undersized forward is really underrated and is a cheap depth forward. Two years at $750,000 is a steal for a player this good. He pushes Anton Lander out of the lineup, but I’ll keep Lander with the big club because he’s cheap and versatile (can play all three forward positions) so he’ll be useful to replace injured players.

 

My last move is signing goalie Jhonas Enroth to a one year deal worth $750,000. He’s undersized but skilled and has played 40 games in a season before. I can see him playing 30-35 games in a relief role behind Cam Talbot.

 

As it turns out I filled all my needs with $7,806,750 left in cap space after burying unwanted players. That’s even with Ference remaining on the roster and Mark Fayne in the press box as our seventh defenseman.

 

Summer isn’t over yet though. I’m going to extend Leon Draisaitl for eight years at $4.75M. Because he only has one successful season he has very little bargaining power, but his underlying numbers were good, as were his point totals. I’m not concerned about Draisaitl long-term as he’s probably already better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

 

End Result:

 

After all my moves, my roster will look something like this heading into next season.

 

Benoit Pouliot

Connor McDavid Nail Yakupov

Taylor Hall

Leon Draisaitl Teddy Purcell

Kris Versteeg

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Patrick Maroon Jonathan Marchessault

Brad Boyes

 

Oscar Klefbom

Jason Demers

Andrej Sekera

David Schlemko
Brandon Davidson

David Rundblad

Andrew Ference (Injured)

Mark Fayne (spare)

 

Cam Talbot

Jhonas Enroth

 

I like this lineup because it spreads out the talent of our high end players while still giving them useful linemates who won’t hold them down. Throughout the lineup we have players who drive possession, so even out fourth line won’t get flattened when thrown out. We have four lines we can trust to help us shoot more than the other team which gives us a solid chance in any game. We accomplished this with $7,806,750 in cap space which will cover any potential performance bonuses and still leaves us with some roster flexibilty for trade deadline moves or bringing up AHL players. We didn’t sign any players long-term to contracts we’ll regret, so there will be money to sign Connor McDavid and other when the time comes. Leon Draisaitl is locked up long term at a reasonable rate and can play with Taylor Hall for the better part of the next decade.

 

What do you think? Better than Chiarelli? In my opinion, the fact that I still have Taylor Hall on my team proves I’m a better GM than he.

How To Fix The Canucks

 

It is a secret to nobody that the Vancouver Canucks are in a little bit of a pickle. They have a General Manager who thinks they are a playoff team and consistently trades away young players and picks for older players who, well aren’t very good. They’ve got years worth of contracts tied up in sub-NHL level players and a prospect group, which not that long ago looked as if it were one of the better groups in the league, now looks much less promising.

 

Not all of this is Jim Benning’s fault. The second he was hired he was put in an awkward position. The Sedin’s are still really good. They also still make a lot of money. This is not bad for the Canucks, but it certainly puts them in an uncomfortable position. They can’t trade Daniel and Henrik because no team in a position to make such a trade would be able to take on the combined $14,000,000 cap hits. Also the twins both have full no movement clauses, so even if a trade were possible, they would have final say in whether or not they’d want to go.

 

At the end of the day, the Sedin’s are Canucks and it will stay that way most likely until their current contracts expire (summer of 2018) at least. This left Canucks management with two options. Waste the last few productive years of the best players in the history of the team, and start a rebuild, or try and cobble together whatever pieces they could and make a run for the playoffs every year.

 

For that reason I don’t fault Benning for his efforts to make the playoffs (though I do fault him greatly for his methods of attempting to do so). Because of the Sedins and subsequent binding contracts Benning signed in order to achieve his goal, the only option the Canucks have is to at least be as good as possible. For the purposes of this exercise I am hopping in my time machine and going back to the start of the summer and filling in for the Jim Benning who was rightfully fired in this hypothetical timeline.

 

At this point in time the roster I am stuck with looks like this:

 

Daniel Sedin

Henrik Sedin Alexandre Burrows

Chris Higgins

Brandon Sutter Derek Dorsett

Sven Baertschi

Bo Horvat

Jannik Hansen

Emerson Etem Markus Granlund

Jake Virtanen

Jared McCann

 

Alexander Edler

Chris Tanev

Luca Sbisa

Nikita Tryamkin
Ben Hutton

Alex Biega

 

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

 

With this roster I have $11,906,249 in cap space to work with. That is a good amount of space, of which much will have to be wasted in clearing out some of the bad players and contracts.

 

Step One: Get Rid of Dead Weight

 

My first day on the job, I buy out Luca Sbisa straight away. Luca isn’t an NHL caliber player and makes the Canucks a far worse team. This buyout will cost the Canucks $1,517,667 the first two seasons, but opens up some cap space. We have Philip Larsen to replace his roster spot, and I think he deserves a shot in training camp to earn a spot on the starting squad.

 

I assume there would be a team who would take on Brandon Sutter. This is purely speculation, as with all the trades and signings to come in this piece, but I will try my best to make things as realistic is possible. The Bruins were a team this offseason who were aggressive in their pursuit of centre’s, including signing David Backes for $6,000,000. Sutter seems like the type of player the Bruins would appreciate, and they trade for him in exchange for Colin Miller and a second round pick.

 

In this reality I don’t buy out Chris Higgins, opting to keep him for the remaining year of his contract. He is still capable of playing a depth role and we can afford to absorb his $2,500,000 cap hit in order to get it off the books a year earlier.

 

Unfortunately this is all the trimming which I can somewhat realistically do. This exercise is being performed under the assumption the team is being pressure by ownership to make the playoffs, so I need to add some players through free agency or trade who can help us achieve that goal.

 

Step Two: Identify Areas Of Need

Presently this team is in need of a number two centre, as Brandon Sutter was traded and Bo Horvat probably isn’t ready yet. I don’t want a player I’ll need to commit to long-term because Horvat and McCann are both in the system and won’t be far away from taking on larger roles.

 

Left-wing is another weak point, as outside of Daniel Sedin, our left-wingers are Baertschi, Higgins and Etem, and that simply won’t cut it. I’m okay going longer term on this player because there’s no significant young players to step in and take this role anytime soon.

 

Last but not least I need to beef up this D-Core. Outside of our top pair of Edler and Tanev, there isn’t a lot to inspire confidence. Colin Miller looked good in Boston last year so I’ll start him on the second pair. This means ideally I’d like to add another top four defenseman and maybe someone to play on the third pair as well.

 

These are the most important areas to improve and I can do so using my $16,414,582 in cap space. Things are already looking up.

 

Step Three: Add Some Free Agents

 

It’s now July 1st and I have a pocket full of cash to spend. First thing’s first, I want to add my second line centre. My chosen player is Eric Staal. He’s not the same player offensively as he used be, but he’s very versatile, he’s a great two-way player and he signed a fairly cheap, short term contract with the Wild. I’ve signed him to an identical contract ($3.5M x 3 years), which has a low enough cap hit that I needn’t worry about having him on my third line should Horvat pass him in the next three years.

 

Next up I sign Jason Demers to the same five year contract he signed with the Panthers. He can play on our second or first pair depending on injuries and is a massive upgrade to any in-house replacements. At $4,500,000 he comes at a pretty reasonable price and I didn’t even need to give up Taylor Hall to get him!

 

A top six left winger will be hard to come by in this year’s free agency crop, so I decide to sign someone to a short term contract instead of tying my hands to a long-term deal that’ll end up looking bad down the road. David Perron suits our needs just fine for these purposes. He’ll fit in nicely on the second line with Eric Staal, and comes at a reasonable cap hit, $3,750,000 for two years. We can re-evaluate our need at left-wing two years down the road when Perron is off the books, and in the meantime we don’t need to worry about looking like idiots for signing a player way over market value well into their 30’s.

I now have $6,339,582 left in cap space and have filled all of my key weak points and sent some unneeded players to the AHL to get a more accurate reflection of what my cap will be. With my extra spending money, I’d like to shore up the D a bit and maybe add a depth forward if there’s any money left.

 

I sign David Rundblad to a two year contract at one million per year. Rundblad could just be a diamond in the rough and is well worth the risk. Worst case scenario we have a solid 3rd pair guy who contributes some offense.

 

In other moves, I brought in Kris Versteeg on a one year contract worth $1,500,000 to bring some much needed depth on the wing and signed Teddy Purcell to the same contract he signed with the Kings (one year, $1.6M). If we make the playoffs these guys will help tremendously and add some much needed offense. If not, they have very tradable contracts and can be swapped for picks/prospects at the deadline. Very low-risk contracts.

 

Step Four: Roster Moves

 

I don’t have too many trades to make in this world. I don’t have any need for Emerson Etem anymore, so I’ll trade him away for a 3rd round pick to the Devils who always could use forwards. I’ll also trade Markus Granlund for a third round pick to the Ducks who could use some cheap depth at centre until Nate Thompson returns.

 

Both Higgins and Dorsett will end up starting the year in the AHL which will not only free up roster spots for better players, but will give us some additional cap savings as well. Other notables who will be starting the year in Utica include Nikita Tryamkin who was clearly not ready for the NHL game, Alex Biega who is morbidly meh, and Jordan Subban who was not made the leap yet.

 

End Result:

 

After all these moves I can’t help but feel as though this version of the Canucks is much better. Here’s what my final roster looks like:

 

Daniel Sedin

Henrik Sedin Jannik Hansen

Kris Versteeg

Eric Staal David Perron
Teddy Purcell Bo Horvat

Jake Virtanen

Sven Baertschi Jared McCann

Alexandre Burrows

 

Alexander Edler

Chris Tanev

Colin Miller

Jason Demers

Ben Hutton

David Rundblad

Philip Larsen

 

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

 

Philip Larsen and Ben Hutton will likely rotate in and out of the lineup. So, is this a playoff team? I doubt it, but they are certainly a way better team than Jim Benning scrapped together. We also have $5,814,582 in cap space which we can use as a trade asset in order to do deals like the Bolland/Crouse trade between the Panthers and the Coyotes. Most importantly all of the additions I made were signed at or below $4.5M, there’s no contracts that stick out as potentially being burdens in the future. Whether or not you agree with the team I assembled, there’s one thing we can all agree on: pretty much anybody could have done better than Jim Benning.