Monday, May 30, 2016

What's Wrong With Corsi?

In recent years the NHL has been undergoing a "statistical revolution" with the introduction of advanced analytics. Among the most heralded of these statistics is Corsi, which attempts to estimate puck possession with a form of "shots at goal plus/minus". While I agree that these analytics can be useful when put in the proper context, they can lead to poor decisions when trusted too much. Sometimes Shots at Goal Plus Minus can give you a better understanding of a player's contribution to team success, but not always.

If you look at the leaderboard of best and worst Corsi, something doesn't pass the eyeball test. I am a Detroit Red Wings fan who has been starved for a true #1 defenseman ever since the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom. A player you can play against the other team's best player and win the game. They have still not replaced that void, making them mediocre at best despite a talented group of forwards. Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser are often forced to face tougher assignments than they should, and they have a bad Corsi. Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl are their 6th and 7th defensemen, and they have great Corsi. At least until they dumped Kindl for next to nothing.

Anyone who watches the games knows that if you put Smith and Kindl on the top line to play against the other team's best players, the results would be catastrophic at best. But I'm sure some analytics analyst out there has written a post somewhere that Detroit could be a Cup contender if they played Kindl and Smith 20+ minutes a night.  It's ridiculous, but without the proper context, how do you know?

I think team Corsi might be a better indicator than individual Corsi (even though not all shots are created equal). Individual Corsi is too much swayed by the other 9 skaters on the ice to say this is what this player is responsible for. A writer for TSN recently wrote that Florida won the Gudbranson trade by a wide margin because he had a bad relative Corsi against, meaning his team gives up more shots than usual when he's on the ice. If we used relative Corsi against to measure the quality of a defenseman, then 3 of the worst D in the NHL are Brent Seabrook, Dan Girardi, and Roman Josi (who most experts will tell you are pretty good). It also has the two best defensemen as Josh Manson and Fedor Tyutin. Don't panic just yet Canucks fans.

All these stats are significantly affected by who else is on the ice. If you play a great D with a terrible D, one guy gets his numbers dragged down, the other dragged up. You need to be able to identify the false positives and false negatives, because there are many. Too many. To those NHL teams out there who are going down this rabbit hole, be warned if you can't properly distinguish between the right and the wrong, it will lead to some very costly mistakes and comical blunders. Proceed at your own peril.

How Will Ramsay Bolton Die?

If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, you will probably agree that the death Ramsay Snow Bolton is long overdue. While fans everywhere rejoiced when King Joffrey kicked the bucket, a far worse villain was lurking in the North. Given the rate that main characters die in this Universe, we can only assume that Ram will not be alive at this story's end. The biggest question is how, and I have 5 spoiler free theories, counting down from least favourite to most favourite. Given where the story is at the moment I'm writing this, it looks very unlikely that Theon will be the one to kill him.

5) Captured, tortured, executed. This has a good chance of happening, but is my least favourite. His army loses on the field of battle, he is captured, then brutally tortured, and finally executed. In this scenario, Sansa Stark will almost certainly be on the winning side and help decide how he'll meet his end.

4) Killed during sex.  Likely with a prostitute or a peasant girl who works for the Bolton's in Winterfell. During some act of depravity, he gets killed when he least expects it. He could be tied up on the bed with a ball-gag in his mouth, attached to some weird trapeze, or plain and simple rape; then suddenly a knife in the chest.

3) Killed in combat with Brienne of Tarth. There are a few different paths that could logically lead to this outcome, whether it is in a battle, assassination, or even trial by combat. Certainly if any set of circumstances puts Brienne anywhere near Ramsay, his life is in danger.

2) Killed by his own dogs. It would be pretty awesome if Bran mind controlled Ramsay's dogs and ripped him to pieces.  Fans would love to see this happen, but it is still not the most entertaining possibility. It would be a fitting end, all things considered.

*NOTE* A few weeks after writing this post, Ramsay was mauled to death by his own dogs. I had hoped that Bran would be mind controlling the dogs at the time, but that part was wrong. It was a fantastic episode of the show, but could have been even better if...

1) Absorbed by the army of the dead.  This would be the most fun to watch. He marches his army North attempting to consolidate his control, and ends up meeting the White Walkers and the army of the dead in another Hardhome type massacre. The look of terror on his face would be truly priceless.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Worst NHL Contracts 2015

Here is my list of the 15 worst NHL contracts of 2015. The amount listed at total money is calculated by Average Annual Cap Hit multiplied by years remaining. I tried to stick mainly to contracts with at least 2 seasons remaining, but could not exclude Bryan Bickel, the AHL's highest paid player. By that standard, Tanner Glass should probably be here too. There are no expiring contracts on the list because those can all be easily unloaded for assets at the trade deadline.

1) David Clarkson, Clb, $21M owed over 4 more years @ $5.2M AAV - It's a wonder that the Leafs managed to unload this contract. Granted, they took back another terrible contract in return. The worst thing Nonis ever did as Leafs GM was sign Clarkson. Ironically the best thing he ever did was dump his contract on the Blue Jackets.

2) Nathan Horton, Tor, $21.2M owed over 4 more years @ $5.3M AAV - Normally I try to avoid putting players on the worst contracts list due to injury, except in situations where the player had injury issues prior to signing the contract. When they signed Horton, he was already injured which put his insurance premiums very high. To save some money, Columbus management decided to wait until he was healthy insure the contract. He returned to the line-up, played 36 games in 2014, and hasn't played since. With no insurance the team has to pay for him not to play, which was why he fit so comfortably in the pockets of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's unlimited budget. When this is all said and done, Horton will have been paid $37M to play 36 games. Not too bad.

3) David Bolland, Fla, $16M owed over 5 more years @ $5.5M AAVDale Tallon has been receiving a lot of praise for the Florida Panthers team he has built here in 2015, but he certainly doesn't hit home runs on every contract. One mulligan I'm sure he'd love to take is Dave Bolland, who has been paid a lot of money to sit in the press box so far in the 2015/16 season.

4) Dustin Brown, LA, $35M owed over 6 more years @ $5.8M AAV - Dustin Brown has done a lot for the LA Kings organization and was rewarded with a luxurious contract that should take him to the end of his playing career. Problem is, he's got a lot of hard miles on the odometer, and he has started to slow down with age.
5) Marian Hossa, Chi, $26M owed over 5 more years @ $5.3M AAV -  We are still waiting for one of the players with the inflated "cap recapture penalties" to retire. Not sure Hossa will be retiring soon, but he is on pace for his worst statistical season in over a decade. He has been very effective in his mid 30s, but alas father time is finally starting to win that battle. He's scheduled to make $7.9M this season, $4M next season, then $1M after that. All signs point to him retiring in the summer of 2017. If he does, that contract won't be "off the books" for Chicago. No, they are going to be feeling it for years to come. But hey, they won 2 Stanley Cups with him. Despite the pain that's coming, this contract was absolutely worth the price.
6) Jordan Staal, Car, $42M owed over 7 more years @ $6M AAV - Every year that Jordan Staal makes this list, I say the same thing "the best 3rd line center in the NHL". Any club that has him pencilled into their 3rd center spot is in great shape, but no team paying their 3rd line center that much money is going to make it very far. He's more of a $4.5M player, but locked in at too high a price for too long a time period.

7) Ryan Suter, Min, $67M owed over 9 more years @ $7.5M AAV - Suter is still a very good defenseman in this league that many teams would love to have, but he's now 30 years old with 9 years left on the contract. Generally I don't put these long term contracts on the worst contracts list until the player's production value falls below the Average Annual Value of the contract (call it the Henrik Zetterberg rule). The problem with Suter is that Minnesota played him way too much in the early years of the deal and the negative effects of the work load are starting to show. 

8) Andrej Sekera, Edm,  $27M owed over 5 more years @ $5.5M AAV - Yes it is true that Edmonton needed help on their blueline, but when I saw this contract last summer, I cringed. He was not what Edmonton needed, even if he's put up a few points. The Edmonton defense has been terrible and this guy is on the ice lots.

9) Phil Kessel, Pit, $48M owed over 6 more years @ $8M AAV - When the Pens acquired Kessel, I may have predicted he'd score 90 goals this season. He's on pace for 23. Granted, this isn't all bad for Pittsburgh with Toronto paying 15% of the remaining salary. There are no forwards making as much or more money as Kessel with fewer points. He's currently at the low end of expected production for a forward with that AAV.

10) Vincent LeCavalier, LA,  $9M owed over 2 more years @ $4.5M AAV - If it were not for retirement rumours, this contract would probably be higher on the list. His professional career should be over, but if God forbid he decided to play out the contract, it makes no sense that the Kinds acquired him. Even with Philly paying part of the freight, it's still a terrible contract.

11) Jimmy Howard, Det, $15.9M owed over 3 more years @5.3M AAV - The emergence of Petr Mrazek makes this contract even more ominous for the Red Wings, who will soon have to sign him long-term. I'm sure Holland would love to dump this contract, but good luck finding a buyer. They might have to package a prospect into the deal to get anyone to bite on their expendable former #1 goalie who has struggled this season in a back-up role.

12) Matt Carle, TB,  $11M owed over 2 more years @ $5.5M AAV - He was a highly coveted free agent when they signed him, but now he's barely their 6th defenseman. He has more healthy scratches than points.

13) Kevin Bieksa, Ana,  $8M owed over 2 more years @ $4M AAV - He's one of those guys who is getting old fast, after having a very physical pro career.

14) Bryan Bickel, Chi,  $4M owed over 1 more year @ $4M AAV The Blackhawks can't even give him away.

15) Luca Sbisa, Van, $7M owed over 2 more years @ $3.6M AAV - He is too mistake prone to ever be relied upon on a winning team. He's just a depth guy who should never be paid more than $1.5M

Honourable mentions to)

Mike Smith, Ari,  $17M owed over 3 more years @ $5.7M AAV –
Craig Smith, Nsh, $17M owed over 4 more years @ $4.2M AAV -
Ryan Getzlaf, Ana, $41M owed over 5 more years @ $8.2M AAV, -
Nick Leddy, NYI,  $33M owed over 6 more years @ $5.5M AAV -
Marian Gaborik, LA, $24M owed over 5 more years @ $4.9M AAV -
Matt Moulson, Buf, $15M owed over 3 more years @ $5M AAV -
Carl Hagelin, Ana, $12M owed over 3 more years @ $4M AAV -
Mike Green, Det,  $12M owed over 2 more years @ $6M AAV -
Matt Stajan, Cgy, $6M owed over 2 more years @ $3.1M AAV -
Eddie Lack, Car,  $5M owed over 2 more years @ $2.7M AAV -

Friday, May 27, 2016

Best NHL Contracts 2015

Here is my list of the top 15 NHL contracts of 2015. It is largely based on players current production over several statistical categories multiplied by the years remaining on the contract. Entry level contracts are not included, since they are a simple product of CBA. The list was compiled at the end of December 2015, but I'm posting it on this site in May 2016.

1) Tyler Seguin, Dal, 3 more years @ $5.7M AAV - This one still stings Boston fans. These 4-6 year deals for between $4M - $6M for elite young players signing their second contract can often produce the greatest bargains. Seguin is no exception. If he went UFA tomorrow, he'd get $8M plus. He will be a perpetual contender for the Art Ross trophy.

2) John Tavares, NYI, 2 more years @ $5.5M AAV - He is the two time defending champion of my best contracts list, but Tavares production slowed down in 2015 so he fell to the 2nd best contract in the NHL. He will be a perpetual contender for NHL MVP. He's one of the best players in the world, a truly exceptional specimen.

3) Roman Josi, Nsh, 4 more years @ $4M AAV - This is where Montreal could be with PK Subban, had they rolled the dice with on a longer term bridge contract. Those can turn out to be bad contracts, but they can also turn out to be great contracts. Josi has blossomed into a great defenseman at both ends of the ice, and having him locked in with that term and price is a steal.

4) John Klingberg, Dal, 6 more years @ $4.2M AAV - He played 4 seasons in Europe before coming to America and scoring 40 PTS in 65 GP, earning himself a 6 year contract. After signing that extension, he continued to improve, scoring 58 PTS in 76 GP this year. He was even in the conversation for the Norris trophy. That's a great price for that calibre of player.

5) Oliver Ekmanlarsson, Ari, 3 more years @ $5.5M AAV - Ever since Larsson signed this deal, pundits have speculated that the Coyotes want to trade him. That never made sense to me. When you get a player this good at that price, that's something you generally want to hold on to. He'll demand a hefty price when this contract expires.

6) Gabriel Landeskog, Col, 5 more years @ $5.6M AAV - This is going to look really good when he's making $5.6M at age 26, 27, 28. He's already a very effective player at age 23 serving as team captain. 

7) Justin Faulk, Car, 4 more years @ $4.8M AAV - He scored nearly 50 PTS last season, and that kind of defenseman tends to be much more expensive than this. He is just 23 years old, so there is still much more room to grow. He acclimated to the NHL far faster than most young D.

8) Max Pacioretty, Mtl, 3 more years @ $4.5M AAV - He scored 76 Goals in the first 2 years of this contract. The average salary of 30+ goal scorers in 2015 was $6.4M (entry level deals not included). They are getting Mad Max at about a $2M discount. At age 28 he's still in his peak years. By the time he turns 30 the contract will be expiring.

9) Mats Zuccarello, NYR, 3 more years @ $4.5M AAV - Zuccarello has developed into a very effective player, at a great price for a few more years. In the first half of the 2015/16 season he is producing at the rate of a $6M player.

10) Jamie Benn, Dal, 1 more year @ $5.2M AAV - 1 more year of Jamie Benn at that price is a great bargain, but with only 1 year left, it does not provide as much long term value as the deals above. He's going to be expensive on his next contract.

11) Victor Hedman, TB, 1 more year @ $4M AAV - If Hedman were UFA this summer, he'd get $7M AAV easy. The last year on this contract will provide incredible value for a reasonable price, but it's going to be expensive to lock him up long term.

12) Blake Wheeler, Wpg, 4 more years @ $5.6M AAV - Over the first 3 seasons of this contract, Wheeler has scored over 200 PTS. He is closing in on 30, so there is not a bigger contract waiting at the end of the rainbow for Wheeler. But 5.6M for a nearly point per game player is a bargain, even if his production diminishes by the last year.

13) Ryan McDonagh, NYR, 3 more years @ $4.7M AAV - That is a great price for a legit top pairing defenseman, who will easily top $6M AAV on his next contract.

14) Brendan Gallagher, Mtl, 5 more years @ $3.7M AAV - Expect Gallagher to be on the best contracts list for at least the next 4 years. He has been a valuable contributor almost since the day he arrived in Montreal. He's a sparkplug.

15) Bryan Little, Wpg, 2 more years @ $4.7M AAV - He's been producing above his price since signing this contract.