July 09 2012 12:39PM
For some time I have yet to figure out why Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski don't see too much time together. I've posited the question before, and the common belief seems to be that you can't have two people carry the puck through the neutral zone. It represents the talents of both players, and that's that.
But I've grown a little skeptical of that theory. Grabovski is a play-driving centreman with scoring upside that Kessel, a speedy, talented winger with limited defensive qualities, needs to succeed. In 306 total minutes with Grabovski in three seasons, the Leafs have convincingly outshot their opponents, batting at a 55.9% possession rate. [Hockey Analysis]
Furthermore, if you check the "goals" link in the same link above, you'd find that Kessel and Grabovski are a +6 together, while Kessel is -18 without. I hesitate to use +/-, but the question I'd ask is "if Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel are incompatible player types, why do they score so many goals when they're together on the ice?"
July 09 2012 06:03AM
One of our NHL Numbers writers, Rob Pettapiece, made an excellent point last week. In the early days of baseball, before player production was boiled down to digestible statistics, it wasn't like managers were overlooking basic attributes a successful player has. The ability to get on base and to hit for power had always been sought after in baseball, even before Bill James. It was only after the release of Moneyball that fans started to see how wrong some teams were doing it.
It's the same thing in hockey. If you ask the average hockey fan or executive, they'll tell you (if they're giving you a straight answer) that the most important trait in a player is his ability to gain the zone and to create scoring chances. Perhaps they wouldn't phrase it in that way, but that is unequivocally the most important thing teams look for in their most important players. A lot of that is clouded. Some teams overvalue certain roles and, unfortunately, some players' ability to do simple things like gain the zone and create scoring chances.
The numbers - the "advanced" numbers we used - are just another way of expressing observation. In a way, it's proving something we already know.
July 06 2012 08:41AM
At this point, the best argument made for the Toronto Maple Leafs starting off James van Riemsdyk between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul is that it absolutely keeps the second line consisting of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin together. The second line has shown in the last two seasons the ability to tilt the ice the in the Leafs' favour.
But little else supports the argument. Van Riemsdyk was drafted as a winger, has spent his entire career as a winger, and, according to a statistic I saw on Twitter last night (and if it was your research, please mention in the comments so I can credit you), he's just 2-for-10 in his career on faceoffs.
Basically, JvR is not a centreman, but he is, according to Randy Carlyle, pencilled into that top-line centre position if nothing changes.
July 05 2012 01:27PM
That's an expensive check.
John-Michael Liles signed an extension this past season for four years and $15.5M, with an annual average value (AAV) of $3.875M. In a vacuum, paying a borderline second-pairing defenceman that kind of money to barely tread water possession-wise against below-average competition looks patently absurd.
Mike Komisarek signed three off-seasons ago to a contract that was to run five years and for $22.5M, with an AAV of $4.5M. In a vacuum, paying a borderline third-pairing defenceman that kind of money to not even tread water possession-wise against average competition looks patently absurd.
But with the recent defensive signings and the huge increase in the salary cap, these have somehow become workable deals.
July 05 2012 08:12AM
Reminder, Jonas Gustavsson will make $3M over the next two seasons in Detroit.
Some interesting possibilities. Sometimes teams get handicapped with a lot of clutter toward the back of their roster, and some good players get forced out. Yesterday, the Calgary Flames signed Akim Aliu and Paul Byron, who are, by my count, the 45th and 46th out of a possible 50 contracts for the Flames. Aliu's deal also makes him the 13th forward with an NHL contract for the Flames.
Remaining unsigned is former first-round pick Mikael Backlund, a centreman with 15 goals in his 138-game NHL career. He had 11 points in 41 games last year. I think he would be an exceptional candidate for the Toronto Maple Leafs' first line.