Archive for July, 2012

I know I haven’t updated in over a week–I have been working on a piece about Ryan Getzlaf, but last weekend was spent in the hospital visiting a friend who was badly injured by a drunk driver. Here’s your PSA for the week, please be responsible out there if you’re having a few cold ones after the game. The drunk driver and the driver of my friend’s car walked away from the crash relatively unscathed, but she took the worst of it with a punctured lung, a brain bruise, a broken clavicle, and some liver damage. It’s not just your own life you are taking into your hands when you get behind the wheel, but everyone else’s on the road…
Alright, enough depressing stuff. This weekend I am traveling from LA back home to the STATE OF HOCKEY, the greatest state in these United States, or any place on God’s green earth! I plan to do some disc golfing while I’m there, and then pour lots of craft beer down my gullet. I’ll take some photos and post them here in case anyone’s interested.

While I have some time on the plane, I’ll get a chance to finish the Getzlaf piece (spoiler: I think last year was just sort of a perfect storm for the Ducks and I like them to bounce back this year,) plus hopefully get a good start on some other work (moar spoilers, have you checked out Devan Dubnyk’s numbers from last year?) And if I’m feeling ambitious, I will try my hand at some positional rankings.

In the meantime, here is a really good piece looking at Corey Perry’s down year, and speculates that he will bounce back. The author is new to advanced hockey stats but he does a good job mixing in Corsi Rel and on-ice Sh% with some more traditional analysis.

And here is some much anticipated information about NHL 13’s new GM Connected mode. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy this feature. Not sure if I will have a chance to do it but it’s definitely a step forward for the franchise.

Thanks for reading, make sure to check back soon!

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Scott Hartnell set career bests in a number of categories in 2011, including Goals, Points, +/-, Shots,
Power Play Goals, and Shooting Percentage. It was unquestionably his career year, which might make
fantasy owners optimistic that he could repeat that success except for one thing…he just turned 30
years old. I’m going to come right out and say it—I probably won’t have Hartnell on any of my fantasy
teams this year. That’s not to say I don’t think he’ll have another good year, but by the time I would
draft him (maybe in the seventh round or so) he will probably be long gone. I wrote recently about the
importance of getting value in every pick in your draft, and while I think Hartnell will have a fine season
next year, I don’t think he can replicate his 2011-12 numbers, but he will be drafted as though he could,
which makes him a candidate to return negative value. Last year he was drafted in the ninth round (ADP 88.1 ESPN, 89.9 Y!,) and this
year it’s a safe bet he will be selected quite a bit higher.

Fantasy Stats

If you owned Scott Hartnell on your team last year, you don’t need me to remind you what a great
season he had. While skating alongside future NHL 13 cover boy Claude Giroux and everyone’s favorite
mercenary Jaromir Jagr, Hartnell scored 37 goals, with 16 of them coming on the man advantage. Only
James Neal netted more power play goals than Hartnell. He also fired 232 shots on goal, good for sixty
more than each of the last two seasons.

Although not known for his skating prowess, Hartnell adds to his fantasy value by virtue of his physical play—he led the Flyers with 188 hits and was second on the team in PIM with 136 (43 minors was far and away the most for Philadelphia…second place was Zac Rinaldo with 30).

While he plays a ton of games every year (he has missed only five games in the last three years,) he does not get a ton of assists, never tallying more than 30 in a season, meaning his value is largely dependent on his goal scoring.

His ability to produce in all fantasy categories really does make him a unique player, but as I am expecting some regression in most of those categories, coupled with the fact that he will certainly be drafted very high in drafts, I think he will have a difficult time returning appropriate value.

Advanced Stats

When we look at the advanced stats, we can track Hartnell’s transition into more of a scoring threat. In his first year with the Flyers he had an OZ% of just under 46, the last two years it has been closer to 53. In addition, his move to the top line with Giroux is reflected in his giant jump in Corsi Rel, going from -0.5 in 2010-11 to 9.6 in 2011-12. What makes Hartnell’s career numbers more impressive is that he faced tougher competition last year than any other year since he has been with the Flyers (QoC data do not go back earlier than 2007-08.)

As mentioned, Hartnell scored sixteen power play goals last year, after burying eighteen in the last three seasons combined. You like to see that he has scored 20 or more even-strength goals in three of his five years in Philly, but I will be very surprised if he can replicate all those power play goals. Eric T over at Broad Street Hockey recently wrote a great piece about Hartnell’s sustained power play performance … but let’s be realistic. After averaging 5.8 power play goals a season, a guy puts up 16 and I don’t know about you but I am certainly going to hedge and bet on regression to the mean. 5.8 may not be completely fair because it goes all the way back to when he was 18, but even looking at 2005-06 through 2007-08 when he scored 10 in each of those three years, it’s quite a jump to get to 16. The point is that you don’t want to wager a high draft pick to find out if he can catch lightning in a bottle again, it’s just bad policy.

Offseason Moves

The Flyers said goodbye to Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle this offseason, and traded James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for blueliner Luke Schenn. As a result, their roster figures to look a bit thinner next year than it did in 2012. As of this writing, there are a few free agents that have not signed yet, so it’s possible that Shane Doan or even Rick Nash could be sporting the orange and black next year. If anything major happens, I’ll update this post. However, with Philadelphia losing more than they gained this offseason, I would have to guess that opposing teams will be able to key in on the Flyers’ top line a bit more, making it tougher for Hartnell to put that biscuit in the basket.

Projection/Bottom Line

I said it earlier, but I want to reiterate: I like Scott Hartnell. I hope he has a good year. But I do expect some regression in his shooting percentage, and therefore his goal output. He has never had more than 30 assists in a season, so it’s fair to say his value is determined by whether he scores closer to 30 goals or 40. He’s 30 years old and he just had the best year of his career, so the smart move would be to let someone else draft him unless he starts to slide too far. Rob Vollman’s historical comparisons put Hartnell in around the 30-30 club, which is about what I would expect next year. Thirty and thirty with a bunch of PIMS and 200+ shots is definitely a fantasy asset, but not in the second round, where ESPN’s Sean Allen has him in an early ranking. Hartnell is the type of player who could provide good value if he is drafted appropriately, and I would gladly scoop him up in the seventh round…maybe even sixth. I just think that reaching for him in the second or third round is a risky move because of his regression candidacy, and if you take risks in fantasy hockey and they don’t work you, you’re gonna have a bad time.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey.

Edward “Teddy” Purcell was resigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday to a three-year extension. He played in 81 games in 2011, setting career highs in goals (24,) assists (41,) and points (65,) while leading the team with a +9 rating. A third of his goals came with the man advantage (8).

Teddy was the beneficiary of an unsustainable 15.8% shooting–he fired just 152 shots to get his 24 goals. In 2010, however, he netted 17 goals on nearly 200 shots (8.7% shooting) so we can probably guess that his 2012 results will fall somewhere between those two marks.

Purcell was somewhat sheltered, with an Offensive Zone Start% of 56.6, and faced moderate competition (Corsi Rel QoC .385). Thanks to those usage numbers, he managed a Corsi Rel of 8.3, showing he could be a part of a potent Tampa Bay Lightning offense. Thanks to skating with some very talented teammates and his own inflated Sh%, his on-ice Sh% was 11.87.

Per Behind the Net, his number one linemate was some guy named Steven Stamkos. Purcell may be poised to grab some more minutes this year, and as long as he keeps skating with such talent around him, he could continue to post some good numbers. Last year he was drafted in the teen rounds (ADP 124.9 ESPN, 178.3 Y!) and I would expect him to go about the same this year. I don’t think his ceiling is too much higher than last year so I wouldn’t exactly call him a sleeper, but compared with the other players that get drafted in those rounds, he could provide some nice value.

In 2005, Eric Staal potted 45 goals to go along with 55 assists, giving him a cool 100 points at the venerable age of 21. Since then, his production has fluctuated, dipping as low as 70 points in 2006, 2009, and 2011. In fact, he endured a terrible stretch to begin last year, posting just 5 goals and 7 assists through the first two months of the season. Although he did manage to break the 70 point barrier, it was widely considered a dreadful season for Staal. While many fantasy players may be ready to write him off, I believe he is poised for a rebound this year, providing some value to the owner who is willing to draft him. I wrote previously about getting value from every pick in your draft, and as I am expecting many fantasy players to stay away from him completely this year, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he is available in the fifth or sixth round of your draft.

Fantasy Stats

Staal recorded only 24 goals last year, the lowest total since his rookie season. After not scoring less than a dozen power play goals for six years, he netted only seven with the man advantage. He did manage to tally 46 assists, good for his highest total since his 100-pt campaign. His shot total has gone down steadily from a high of 372 in 2008-09 to 262 last year, and he finished the season with a dreadful -20 rating. In his eight year career, only once has he missed more than one game in a season, and that was in 2009 when he still played 70 games.

Here’s a bit of trivia that may win you a bar bet: which player hit the post more often than any other in 2011? If you said Eric Staal, you’d be right…but since you’re reading an article about Eric Staal it’s probably not hard for you to guess that it was him. Staal hit the iron 17 times last year, while the second player on the list, Janes Neal, had 13 pings. If a couple of those 17 posters found the twine instead, Staal’s season may have looked different when it was all said and done.

Anyone who owned him on a fantasy team last year could tell you how painful it was to roster Staal, but a look at the advanced metrics provides a more in-depth explanation of what may have been going on.

Advanced Stats

The advanced metrics show that as Staal has matured, he has taken on more difficult minutes against more skilled opponents. We can measure the strength of a player’s opposition using a measure called Corsi Relative Quality of Competition (CorsiRelQoC for short.) This statistic looks a player’s minutes played against all individual opponents on the ice at the same time, and averages their net Corsi rating (shots + missed shots + blocked shots) while on the ice to provide a quick number that reflects whether the player played against the other team’s top players or their depth players. A more detailed description can be found in my stat glossary or head over to behind the net.

The above data shows that Staal’s quality of competition has increased over the years, peaking at a pretty solid .826 (generally anything above 1.0 is considered very stiff competition). QoC data only go back to 2007-08, so we can’t look at his competition for his 100-pt season. In addition, Staal is starting more of his shifts in the defensive zone relative to the offensive zone. In 2007-08, his OZ% was 53.4, while last year it was almost perfectly even at 50.1%. These numbers show that he is being asked to transition to a more defensively responsible role, so we should manage our expectations—I wouldn’t expect another 370+ shot season unless the Hurricanes get better on defense to free up Staal to focus more on offense. Again, there is no question that his output has declined, but let’s look at his last few seasons by month and try to get a better idea of what happened in 2011.

There’s a couple things I see going on here. His first couple of months were just plain lousy, where he was less than a 0.5 pt/gm player. He jumped to almost a point-per-game pace in December and January before skyrocketing in February, recording (8+9=17) in 11 games, good for 1.55 pts/gm thanks to an incredible .216 shooting percentage. He finished the season on a more reasonable pace, dropping back down to .84 pts/gm in March and April. If not for that incredible February, he might have finished with no more than 60 or 65 points, and the rumors of his demise might be quite a bit louder than they are today.

Eric Staal’s Corsi Relative stats have fluctuated with his performance the last few years: 15.2 in 08-09, 6.7 in 09-10, 11.3 in 10-11, and then 6.6 in 11-12. The up-down-up-down pattern is curious to see, but overall he is still helping drive the play of the Canes despite playing more in the defensive zone against tougher opponents.

Offseason Moves

One of the biggest stories of this offseason was Jordan Staal signing with the Hurricanes, putting two of the three Staal brothers on the same roster. Canes coach Kirk Muller has said that he will try playing the two on the same line in the preseason this year, which has some fantasy players salivating. Jordan had a great year with the Penguins last year, and if there is good chemistry between the brothers (and I would have to say there is a pretty good chance there is) they could elevate each other’s’ game considerably. Plus, with Jeff Skinner gaining another year’s experience, the Canes’ power play could be among the league’s best. The team brought back Joe Corvo to the team, which does not make a huge splash in the fantasy projections, although in his last season wearing a Hurricanes sweater he posted 11 goals and 40 points, so perhaps he will help out the youngsters somewhat.

Bottom Line

There is no denying Staal’s decline in production recently, and I’m not going to promise that he will return to form and be an elite fantasy player again. I believe that as long as the Hurricanes are a somewhat thin team (even with the addition of Jordan,) and the Staal brothers are required to play tough minutes, the fantasy value will not be top-tier. The reason I wanted to focus on him in this article is that I believe he could really fall through the rounds at the draft this year. Personally, I wouldn’t take him sooner than the fourth round…and even then I’d have to see who else was available around him. But I could imagine him falling even farther, perhaps into the fifth, sixth, or even seventh round, in which case I would snatch him up and take the risk. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 25th for skaters by ESPN’s Sean Allen, so there is some optimism there but in the third round he’s probably too big a risk. I don’t know if he will ever get back to his 40-goal scoring days, but I could envision him becoming a 30+50=80 point player, and if you can grab one of those in the 5th or 6th, you’re happy to do so.

Staal is still just 27 years old, and there is definitely something to be said for a guy that plays in 80+ games a year. In baseball, there is sort of a trope where a young pitcher will have success early on, and then the league will adjust to his style, and then it is up to him to adjust to the league’s adjustments to him in order to sustain that success. I think there might be something similar going on with Staal—he is getting tougher minutes and his play has suffered, so if he can figure out how to re-adjust and become a great player again, he could definitely return a lot of value this year. Plus, I really like the addition of Jordan Staal to the team, and with Jordan having a great year last year and Eric having a really down year, fantasy owners could be more focused on the younger Staal. As I wrote in my Warren Buffett piece,the smart owner will “be greedy when others are fearful” which is why I think there is an opportunity to get a great bargain on Eric Staal this year.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” –Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet, one of the most successful investors of our time, once said that to be profitable, one should “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” This is great advice for investing and fantasy hockey alike. I am happy to pick a player coming off a bad year if I think he can bounce back, and I am quick to avoid players who come out of nowhere to post career years. In this article, I will share some of my thoughts on finding value at your draft and avoiding pitfalls.

Fantasy hockey (all fantasy sports really) is like investing in the stock market. You have a fixed amount of assets—your draft picks or your auction money—which you spend on players, and throughout the course of the season you are hoping to maximize your return on your investment. Some players overproduce compared to their cost (value) and some underproduce compared to their cost (negative value).

The best way to be successful is to look for value in each pick, not just the late rounds. What does this mean? Simply put, the more production you get from a player compared to what it cost to acquire him is his value. Let’s look at a simplified example. Corey Perry and Milan Michalek had similar seasons in 2011 in terms of point production (Perry: 37+23=60, Michalek: 35+25=60,) but Perry was drafted as a high first round pick (4.8 ADP in ESPN leagues) while Michalek was undrafted in some leagues (ADP 230+). This is an extreme example, a player coming off the waiver wire to perform like a first-rounder. Mike Smith is another example: in 2011 he posted fantastic numbers—a .930 Sv% and a 2.21 GAA to go with 38 wins and 10 shutouts, and those that drafted him only had to spend a 20th round pick. Could Smith provide the same amount of value this year? I’m willing to bet that he won’t for two reasons: it’s unlikely that he will be able to reproduce his career year, and he will certainly be drafted much higher this year than last year.

Smith and Michalek were extreme value picks last year, and in my experience a lot of fantasy hockey players are too focused on these home run types of players, but value can come in smaller increments as well…a fifth-rounder performing like a second- or third- rounder, a ninth-rounder performing like a fifth-rounder, etc. A lot of people only concern themselves with the extreme examples, but a great strategy is to try to get value from every pick in your draft. I’ve been in drafts where guys pay attention for the first few rounds to get the superstars they want, and then basically fall asleep after about the fifth or sixth round and then try to scoop a couple sleepers in the last few rounds. Meanwhile, I’m making value picks throughout, trying to get solid return on my investment and hoping to get lucky with the home run value just like everyone else. The key to this strategy is proper evaluation of a player’s possible production in the upcoming season and managed expectations. I will return to this idea in a minute but I first, I want to differentiate between sleepers and value picks.

“Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.”

There is a difference between a sleeper and a value pick. A sleeper is generally regarded as someone who isn’t even on some people’s radar that could perform very well, whereas a value pick is just as I described above—someone who simply outperforms their draft-day cost. You could argue that in the age of the internet and Twitter, there are no more sleepers, but that’s another argument for another day. Sleepers are players that may be poised to “come out of nowhere” and post great numbers, but I find that some of the best value picks are veterans whose stock has fallen and have a chance to rebound—don’t forget that regression to the mean works both ways. Many owners are infatuated with the “next big thing,” the “can’t miss prospect” that they are convinced could come in and light up the light right away. But the reality is that those players are unproven and while yes, they could explode for a huge value, there is just as good a chance that they will fall flat and return negative value. The improvement of advanced stats in hockey allows us to better identify players who could return positive or negative value, and with the proliferation of advanced stats lately, I would prefer to make objective decisions based on a player’s established history in the NHL rather than speculate on an unproven player. With quality metrics that indicate quality of competition, shot generation, zone starts and zone entries, we can look at a veteran’s track record and make an educated guess about his future production much better than we can speculate about young players just coming into the league. Obviously the format of your league comes into play a bit here, if you’re playing in a keeper league it might be more profitable over time to grab a young player who could return huge value, but in one-year leagues I have found that to get value from each of my picks, it is better to target more established players who may be coming off down years rather than take a bigger risk on a player who could be a bigger miss and therefore provide more negative value. If we can identify players that may be candidates to bounce back after a down year, we can more accurately guess what kind of value they could return.

The flip side to this argument is that when I get very late into the draft, I tend to avoid the low risk, low upside type of player unless I am trying to round out my roster. The reason for that is because the potential for huge value goes up the later into the draft you go. A guy who is pretty reliably going to put up 35 or 40 points but doesn’t have much of a ceiling beyond that can pretty easily be found on waivers throughout the season, so at a certain point I’d rather take a shot at a high risk, high reward kind of player. Each owner must decide at what point they want to start making those kinds of gambles. I tend to be risk-aversive in my drafts until the very end, but other owners prefer the thrill of the boom-or-bust picks.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a series of statistical analyses of players that I think are candidates to provide good value or risks to return negative value. I wouldn’t classify them necessarily as Sleepers and Busts, because if you draft Mike Smith in the 5th round (I could see him going in the second or third actually) and he shows a slight decrease in output compared to last year, he may not really have been a bust but he certainly didn’t provide much value. Similarly, no one would say that Eric Staal is a sleeper, he’s been a known quantity for years, but I feel that because of his recent history, fantasy players will let him slide a few rounds, and there is a possibility for some great value. However, stats are just part of the analysis, and in the end you must decide for yourself if you think a player will continue his elevated play or will keep slumping

There is one more Buffett quote I wanted to share: “Beware of geeks bearing formulas.”