Earlier this month, Sportsnet ran a piece on why teams would be less likely to trade for the negotiating rights to upcoming unrestricted free agents (UFAs). It stated that the UFA negotiating window that begins five days before the free agent period, introduced in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), would take its place. With teams being given a small window to negotiate with players before they are allowed to sign a contract, they wouldn’t need to pay a price to get an exclusive right to negotiate a contract with a potential free agent.
The Boston Bruins missed the playoffs for a second straight year after going 8-8-2 following the Trade Deadline and 3-8-1 in the team’s final 12 games. During that final stretch, the team was ranked 5th in score-adjusted shot percent (54.5%), but last in total points accumulated (7). The Bruins HockeyViz diagram shows an accurate picture of the team’s struggles to end the season. While the Bruins largely dominated shot attempt percentages towards the end of the season and were very effective in limiting their opponent’s shot attempts (shown via the smoothed 5v5 shots*/60 chart), they struggled heavily to prevent goals during that same stretch (shown via the smoothed goals/shot-on-goal (%) chart). An obvious roster flaw was exposed by opponents and cost them a playoff appearance.
There is a big difference between a team making the playoffs and a team competing for the Stanley Cup. Had the Bruins rallied in the final week to make the playoffs, they would have struggled mightily against either Tampa Bay or Washington, who were the Bruin’s most likely first round opponents in the final weeks of the regular season. More importantly, the team would still have to address serious roster flaws. The defensive core was patched together this season and depth in the right wing and goaltender positions was a concern. The Bruins management cannot fixate on patching up the roster, but overhauling the system and bringing in pieces that can make contributions. Staying on the same path will prevent them from being a Stanley Cup contender both in the foreseeable future and further down the line.
Last week, the rosters for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which begins in September, were finalized with the final seven players being named to their respective teams. Preliminary rosters were announced back in March with each team naming the team’s first 16 players.
The United States’ final roster came under a lot of scrutiny, not because of who they selected but for who didn’t get selected for the tournament. The biggest name left off the roster was Phil Kessel, who led the United States in scoring at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi with eight points in six games and was named the tournament’s top forward. He also has caught fire this postseason scoring nine goals and totaling 18 points in 19 games to lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final.
Back in December, Scott Cullen wrote about relative possession numbers in his Statistically Speaking column. He took defensemen who averaged 15+ TOI/gm and forwards who averaged 12+ TOI/gm and sorted them based on their relative possession numbers (CF%Rel). He then analyzed defensemen with < 15 TOI/gm and forwards with < 12 TOI/gm. He wrote:
Then, some forwards that aren’t playing a whole lot but, based on relative possession stats, could be worth considering for more ice time.
This made me wonder, should a strong relative possession statistic be taken in consideration when determining if a depth player can handle a larger role? And if so, how much weight should it hold?
Steven Stamkos’ numbers are down this year. He is currently tied for 7th in the league with 26 goals, fourteen behind Alex Ovechkin for the league’s lead, and 29th in the league with 47 points though 60 regular season games this year. Let’s break down his statistics to find out why his production has dropped off:
I’ve identified a group of top goaltenders in the league, comparable to the playing level of our identified puck-moving goaltenders. This includes Jonathan Quick, Marc-Andre Fleury, Henrik Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask, Braden Holtby, Devan Dubnyk, Corey Crawford, and Pekka Rinne. While none are specifically known for their puck-handling abilities, it is very possible that one or more of these goalies could positively impact possession statistics as much as if not more than our previously labeled puck-moving goaltender subgroup but don’t get the credit they deserve. I will similarly analyze their possession WOWYs, beginning at even strength, to see their impact to their team’s possession statistics.
Earlier we looked at how puck-moving goaltenders impact possession at even strength. Now, we’ll look at another important aspect of the game to see if puck-moving goaltenders can have an impact on possession statistics on special teams, either on the power play or while shorthanded. I’ll analyze these metrics in a similar fashion as was presented at even strength.
A majority of analytic research done on possession has focused on a forward or defenseman’s ability to control the play. Possession numbers (both actual and relative to an individual’s team) are often an effective way of evaluating players. That being said, very little research has been done focusing on a goaltender’s impact on the team’s possession as they don’t have a direct impact in the offensive zone (in fact, all goalies start 0% of faceoffs in the offensive or neural zones (that was a joke)).
While the goaltender’s main job is to stop the opponent from scoring, there are multiple ways a puck-moving goaltender can influence possession. This includes stopping an opponent’s dump-in attempt and leaving the puck for a defenseman to pick up, poke checking an opposing player near the net, deflecting a shot to an area away from opposing players, passing the puck to a defenseman to start a breakout, or even catching the opponent in the middle of a line change by firing the puck up to a forward waiting near the far blue line.
Much like forwards and defensemen, some goalies must be better at driving play than others. In an age where possession is crucial, having a puck-moving goaltender that positively affects possession statistics can provide a large advantage over an equally talented goaltender that doesn’t touch the puck.
Following up to an excellent piece written by TSN’s Travis Yost last spring comparing Florida’s Aaron Ekblad to the top 18 year old defensemen of the past decade, Carolina’s Noah Hanifin now joins this conversation. Hanifin, this summer’s fifth overall draft pick, is on pace to be just the ninth defensemen since 2007 to complete a full season in the NHL at just 18 years old joining an elite group that includes Drew Doughty, Victor Hedman, and Seth Jones. Let’s see how Hanifin stacks up against their 18 year old rookie seasons.
The Bruins started off the season 0-3 but have been on fire since going 7-3-1 in their last 11 games since. They currently sit two points out of the playoff picture but have games in hand on the New York (Islanders), New Jersey, and Tampa Bay for the final two wildcard spots along with Detroit and Ottawa for the second and third spots in the Atlantic Division. David Krejci has been leading the way for the Bruins with 17 points in 14 games, good for fifth in the league. Behind Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson have been providing solid offense as well, registering 14 and 12 points respectively. Newcomers Jimmy Hayes & Brett Connolly have stepped up into larger roles and have scored four goals each. While they have been winning, many signs point to their success being unsustainable.