Monday, January 31, 2011

NHL Draft Metrics

Yesterday on my day off I decided to spend some of my leisure time compiling a database of 7 NHL drafts from 1997 - 2003. I wanted to do a pre-lockout study because the missed season skews proper time series analysis if your goal is to assign a numerical value to how a draft pick turned out. I downloaded the data at which included NHL draft numbers, including the career NHL games and points of each player for a total of 1934 draft picks.

If you want to measure the success of a pick from 97 against one from 03, you can't look at career numbers alone because the older pick has had more seasons to accumulate games and points. I solved this problem by dividing the career numbers by the number of seasons since the player was drafted. This gives you an average such that you can do statistical comparisons of players from different years.

The next step is to set an expected number of games and points that you would anticipate from a player selected on pick X. The pool of available talent drops of considerably from round 1 to round 2, stays steady for round 3, it drops again and there is very little change after the 4th round. Expected games falls 66% from 1st round to 2nd round. The probability of getting a player in round 4 is roughly equal to round 8. The best forecast model to fit the data is a logarithmic scale.

E[GP] = (-9.31*ln(pick number))+ 52.54

That expected games played is a seasonal average. Then you can measure +/- as to how many Expected games under or over any given draft pick was. If a 5th rounder plays 100 games over 5 years after being drafted, that is a better hit than a 1st rounder who plays 150. One exceeded expectation and one was worse than expected. The +/- statistic will measure performance against expected value.

The next statistic of note is plain and simple batting average. Yes or no, did a given player play at least 10 NHL hockey games? That was another reason to cut off the database at 2003, was to leave enough time for the players to get a shot. I am going to guess that 99% of the players drafted in 2003 who have still not played an NHL game never will. I use 10 games as the limit to reach rather than 1, because that means the player was good enough to last a few weeks and signals that the player was NHL calibre (however marginal that might be). Here are batting averages by round for all draft picks. If a guy survives to 10 games, that's a base hit.

1) 0.871
2) 0.536
3) 0.407
4) 0.216
5) 0.247
6) 0.257
7) 0.226
8) 0.224
9) 0.208

Continuing with the baseball analogies, the next statistic I'll call slugging percentage. How many games did a hit produce? It is pretty simple, take a sum of the games played averages and divide it by the number hits. That tells you how far you hit the ball when you made contact. Here is slugging percentage by round.

1) 39.30
2) 21.67
3) 21.15
4) 20.86
5) 18.53
6) 22.21
7) 20.11
8) 19.27
9) 12.56

Again there is very little deviation in slugging after the 1st round. That provides 3 statistics to measure how well a GM does when he's at the plate. Percentage of times he hit the ball, how he did against expectation, and how far he hit the ball when he made contact.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My 1st Half Top 50 NHL Player Rankings

I have compiled a ranked list of who had the best first half by virtue of points and plus minus. It is a purely statistical ranking based on modified Z-Scores and not necessarily a ranking of their overall value to their team. Sports math is one of my passions.

1.Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
2.Steven Stamkos, C, TB
3.Henrik Sedin, C, VAN
4.Martin St. Louis, RW, TB
5.Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN
6.Henrik Zetterberg, C, DET
7.Brad Richards, C, DAL
8.Loui Eriksson, LW, DAL
9.Anze Kopitar, C, LA
10.Corey Perry, RW, ANA
11.Alex Ovechkin, LW, WSH
12.Dustin Byfuglien, D, ATL
13.Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET *injured since December, still top 15
14.Mike Richards, C, PHI
15.Kris Letang, D, PIT
16.Matt Duchene, C, COL
17.Nicklas Backstrom, C,WSH
18.Dustin Brown, RW, LA
19.Ryan Kesler, C, VAN
20.Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
21.Alexander Semin, LW, WSH
22.Ryane Clowe, RW, SJ
23.Paul Stastny, C, COL
24.Mikko Koivu, C, MIN
25.Nicklas Lidstrom, D, DET
26.Claude Giroux, RW, PHI
27.Tobias Enstrom, D, ATL
28.Jeff Carter, C, PHI
29.Justin Williams, RW, LA
30.Dany Heatley, RW, SJ
31.Danny Briere, C, PHI
32.Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
33.Patrick Sharp, C, CHI
34.Eric Staal, C, CAR
35.Teemu Selanne, RW, ANA
36.Derek Roy, C, BUF *out for the season
37.James Neal, LW, DAL
38.David Backes, C, STL
39.Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL
40.Jarome Iginla, RW, CGY
41.John-Michael Liles, D, COL
42.Martin Havlat, LW, MIN
43.Ville Leino, LW, PHI Detroit should not have let him go
44.Joe Thornton, C, SJ
45.Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT
46.Alex Tanguay, LW, CGY
47.Mike Ribeiro, C, DAL
48.Ryan Whitney, D, EDM
49.Lubomir Visnovsky, D, ANA
50.Bobby Ryan, RW, ANA

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NHL All-Star Draft

I am extremely excited for Friday's NHL "All-Star" draft. This was a brilliant idea and I believe will be copied by other sports leagues. You have captains choosing their teams. How awesome is that??!! You basically never see this happen in sports, where players draft their All-Star teams. I am very excited, though I would have preferred to see Crosby against Ovechkin, such that their rivalry could become a component. Stall and Lidstrom don't have the same animosity.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Latest NHL Power Rankings

I would like to continue with my experiment of doing my own weekly NHL Power Rankings. It takes a few hours to break down all the teams, but fun.

1. Philadelphia, 69 PTS (last week #2): Despite a loss to the upstart New Jersey Devils, this team is in 1st place. "If you ain't first, you're last!" - Ricky Bobby

2. Vancouver, 67 PTS (last week #1): Hit a losing streak, but tonight soundly defeated Dallas.

3. Boston, 61 PTS (last week #5): TSN has Boston #1 which I disagree with. I have to put them over Detroit and Pittsburgh because of the injuries and I can't put Dallas or Tampa in the top 3.

4. Detroit, 64 PTS (last week #4): When they get healthy, this will be a tough team to beat in a 7 game series.

5. Pittsburgh, 64 PTS (last week #3): Desperately need Malkin and Crosby back. Letang is outstanding. Fleury has been outstanding.

6. Dallas, 63 PTS (last week #7): It is tough to tell if this team is for real.

7. Tampa Bay, 65 PTS (last week #9): This is a playoff team with unique high end talent. 3rd in PTS, 17th in goal differential.

8. Chicago, 56 PTS (last week #10): Their record is deceiving with a +20 goal differential.

9. Washington, 63 PTS (last week #6): Ovechkin notched his first hat trick of the year, but this team is better with Semin.

10. Nashville, 60 PTS (last week #9): Has quietly been one of the hottest teams in the league.

11. NY Rangers, 55 PTS (last week #12): Losing Dubinsky hurts, but the Rangers play a solid team system.

12. Anaheim, 58 PTS (last week #11): This team might be better than I think they are.

13. Montreal, 59 PTS (last week #14): Despite significant injuries, this team is holding on.

14. San Jose, 55 PTS (last week #17): This team may have turned the corner this week with 4 wins in a row.

15. Carolina, 54 PTS (last week #16): I like this team.

16. Colorado, 56 PTS (last week #13): Forsberg eh? Could be interesting...

17. Phoenix, 57 PTS (last week #15): Move to Hamilton already...

18. Atlanta, 58 PTS (last week #18): Carolina should bump this team out of their playoff slot.

19. Los Angeles, 51 PTS (last week #19): I don't understand why this team is not doing better. They have so many great pieces.

20. Minnesota, 53 PTS (last week #22): This team is heating up.

21. St. Louis, 51 PTS (last week #21): The future is bright, but I don't think this is a playoff team.

22. Calgary, 52 PTS (last week #24): They will make a run at a playoff spot, but I believe they will fall short.

23. Buffalo, 49 PTS (last week #20): Quality young team with a bright future, but Derek Roy makes the offense click.

24. Columbus, 51 PTS (last week #25): This is not a playoff team.

25. Florida, 47 PTS (last week #23): Lost 4 straight.

26. Toronto, 47 PTS (last week #26): Still suck.

27. Ottawa, 41 PTS (last week #27): I should probably have New Jersey ranked higher, and NJ is still dead last.

28. New Jersey, 35 PTS (last week #30): All of a sudden, this team is winning games beating some top teams.

29. NY Islanders, 37 PTS (last week #28): Nabokov wasn't going to turn this team around, and they should want to maximize their ping pong ball count at the draft lottery.

30. Edmonton, 36 PTS (last week #29): Playing for a draft status.

J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!

The New York Jets won their Super Bowl last week against New England, and when I saw their post-game celebration, I knew right away that they would not beat the Steelers. I like the team that wins the round 2 playoff game and doesn't make too big a deal because there are more games left to play. Don't get too excited in the games leading up to a Championship. Get pumped up, but don't go nuts afterwards until you win the big game. The Jets beat the Pats because they designed a defensive coverage system to shut down Brady's short yardage game. The corners played close to the line of scrimmage and weren't open in Brady's natural rhythm. Great job Jets for winning that game. But I watched the post-game and knew they would not win again in the playoffs.

Packers vs Steelers. Great game! I'm picking Green Bay.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The NHL's Ridiculous Free Agent Rule

It is absolutely ridiculous that free agents signed from Europe have to clear waivers before joining an NHL team. I thought it was ridiculous when it happened to St.Louis twice (Wellwood, Svatos), and I still think it is insane after it happened to my favourite team the Detroit Red Wings. Evgeni Nabokov is a seasoned veteran. Why as an NHL free agent does he have to clear waivers before he can go to a team of his choice? It is nuts. A team goes out, does the scouting, does a medical evaluation, spending money and resources to sign a free agent, and anyone in the NHL can claim the new contract???

Evgeni Nabokov would rather stay in Russia than play for the Islanders. As Chris Osgood said, the Islanders are terrible, I don't know why they'd do that. Was this intended to discourage NHL players from signing in Europe? It had better be, because in principle it is ridiculous.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Giguere Willing To Waive No Trade

It made headlines today that Toronto Maple Leaf goalie JS Giguere is willing to waive his no trade clause. Meanwhile, he has a completely unmovable contract. Leaf fans should not start chatting about Giggy like he is a a tradeable asset. He is not worth his salary, and in today's NHL the best they can get is another overpriced player (not unlike the Blake deal that made him a Leaf). I completely understand why Toronto would want to dump his salary, I just don't think it is going to happen unless a Wade Redden or Sheldon Souray were coming back in return.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

NFL Work Stoppage

Will there be a National Football League next season, or will there be a lost season? Personally I don't know what's going to happen, except that the NFLPA will not be able to sustain a prolonged work stoppage (as with the NBA). I'm assuming these guys did not save ahead like the hockey guys. The NHLPA was ready for years for a lost season. They lost half their season in 1994, and the NFL players have never sustained any significant stoppage. If owners lock the players out, I'd bet they fold by week 4. We'll have a season, even if just a shortened one.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NHL Power Rankings

I would like to attempt my first ever NHL power rankings. This season I have watched a lot of hockey because I work at a rink with 10 TVs set to sports channels.

1. Vancouver, 65 PTS: I am calling Vancouver my favourite to win the Stanley Cup.

2. Philadelphia, 65 PTS: Pronger coming back, this team looks very strong.

3. Pittsburgh, 62 PTS: I ranked them ahead of Detroit because Pitt beat them tonight, but this team really needs Sidney Crosby.

4. Detroit, 62 PTS: Team getting it done without a lot of players.

5. Boston, 59 PTS: This team has a bright future. That Kessel trade will start to pay big dividends in 2 seasons.

6. Washington, 58 PTS: Something has been wrong with Ovechkin, but they have such a strong scoring punch and Varlamov has been playing great.

7. Dallas, 61 PTS: Can't get excited about Kari Lehtonen but team is getting it done. Langenbrunner makes the team better.

8. Nashville, 56 PTS: Shea Weber is starting to heat up, and that is great news for the Preds power play.

9. Tampa Bay, 59 PTS: Goaltending is a problem, but I am starting to warm to Yzerman's team. Stevie Wonder, my favourite player of all-time.

10. Chicago, 54 PTS: This is a better team than the standings indicate, but they most certainly miss Dustin Byfuglien.

11. Anaheim, 56 PTS: Corey Perry has been having a MVP calibre season on both my fantasy hockey teams. Jonas Hiller has been playing fantastic (excluding last week) and Selanne is playing very well. This is a playoff team.

12. NY Rangers, 55 PTS: This team will not win the Stanley Cup, but they are a good team. I got Brandon Dubinsky in the 15th round of my fantasy draft.

13. Colorado, 54 PTS: Matt Duchene is going to be a great player in this league.

14. Montreal, 56 PTS: Injuries are becoming a problem.

15. Pheonix, 55 PTS: I just can't get excited about Phoenix. Also I want them to fail so they can move to Hamilton.

16. Carolina, 50 PTS: Tuomo Ruutu is the man.

17. San Jose, 51 PTS: This team should be better. Do they miss Malhotra that much?

18. Atlanta, 53 PTS: They have started their return to earth. Can they hold on to a playoff spot?

19. Los Angeles, 49 PTS: I thought this team would be much better than it has been. 2-8 in last 10.

20. Buffalo, 45 PTS: Quality young team that should push Atlanta for a playoff spot. Losing Derek Roy and Tyler Myers sophomore slump account for team decline from last season.

21. St. Louis, 50 PTS: Injuries are becoming a problem. If healthy, this is a good team that should push for a playoff spot. Alex Steen is the man.

22. Minnesota, 49 PTS: I do not like this team.

23. Florida, 45 PTS: They have been better than you think, but I do not like this team.

24. Calgary, 46 PTS: The most under performing team in the league. They should be much better than they are.

25. Columbus, 47 PTS: I do not like this team.

26. Toronto, 41 PTS: I just want this team to sink low enough to get a ping pong ball for 1st overall (which will be going to Boston again).

27. Ottawa, 41 PTS: The Daniel Alfredsson era is over, but the greatest mistake in franchise history was letting Zdeno Chara go.

28. NY Islanders, 35 PTS: This team has some exciting young forwards, but not enough D. Also as predicted, that Dipietro contract is not looking so good.

29. Edmonton, 35 PTS: This team has a bright future.

30. New Jersey, 29 PTS: Losing Parise was devastating, and they should have just let the NHL void the Kovalchuck contract.

Jets Defeat Patriots

I have to say that I was shocked at the Jets stunning defeat of the Patriots, whom I had picked to win the Super Bowl. One has to wonder if the Pats still had Randy Moss to stretch the field, how that game might have been different. Maybe they go 12-4 instead of 14-2, but doesn't that deep threat change the Pats offense in that Jets game? There was a blueprint out there for how to stop the Patriots short yardage offense and Rex Ryan executed it perfectly. Tom Brady did not look right all game. Mark Sanchize is an enigma. I watched him all season, drafted him to back up Rodgers on my Fantasy team, and the guy sucked for most of the season with just a few good games. It is hard to make sense of how this upset happened, except that Rex Ryan out schemed Billy the Hoodie. I was put off by the Jets post game celebration, they got a little too excited about a 2nd round playoff win. You need to win 2 more games, don't blow your whole wad on one game.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I watched the Canucks play the Caps tonight, maybe the 6th Washington game I have watched this season, and my conclusion is something is not right with Ovechkin. He is not what he used to be. I don't know what's wrong with him, but his aggressive physical style may be catching up with him at a very young age. That or his summers partying in Moscow like it is 1999 are affecting his production. Did Ovie stop working out, is he hurt, I don't know? I just know that the guy I watched tonight was nowhere near the guy I watched last year.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fabio Brunstrom

Today the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Fabian Brunstrom in a low level deal, significant enough that my Leaf fan buddy decided it worthy enough to text me about. Great, you got a decent AHLer. The guy was over-hyped based on some YouTube videos and Dallas made a poor decision in overspending to acquire him by free agency. Fabio as I like to call him, was pumped up more than he was worth and he was signed to more than he was worth. He is not an NHL calibre player. The Leafs are unlikely to get any meaningful contribution from this guy. Nonis got his rocks off as someone involved in the initial over-hype sweepstakes, but this player will never have his name on the Stanley Cup.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fantasy Hockey

I compete in two very deep fantasy hockey leagues (16 team, 20 team) where I currently sit in second place and third place. I try to limit myself to 2 teams per season so that I don't get too wrapped up. I do have a job and other pass times. I have hockey math down to a science, such that I could even consider publishing a book on the subject. I have an honours degree in Mathematical Economics and wrote my honours thesis on the "Market Value Of Human Capital In Professional Baseball". I even compiled a massive database of NHL draft picks and charted out their 5 year chart. I could write a book about the value of a hockey draft pick, such as to say that the 50th pick overall would be a 30% chance at a full-time player in 3 years. I'm sure many NHL teams have done similar research studies, but they aren't published. I have recently started a sports blog and am thinking about the best direction to take it. Sports math might be my thing. But working fulltime inhibits how much of my time I can dedicate to that venture.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No Leaf Of Faith

One of my golf buddies is a die hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan, and even after a few good games he is still unwilling to take a leap of faith and declare Toronto a playoff team. He is starting to believe again, but not enough to predict Toronto's first playoff birth since before the lockout. I understand the pathology of leaf fans, who have been bombarded with so much futility in recent memory that they are reluctant to believe. When the team starts playing well he will start texting me updates, but when I turn around and ask him if this is a playoff team, he starts back peddling. Such is the nature of Leaf Nation.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Vancouver Canucks

I have probably watched more hockey this year than any year since the lockout. Hockey is always on the TV where I work, which is a benefit to working where I work. I am comfortable saying that the best team in the NHL right now is the Vancouver Canucks. As a Red Wings fan I have to admit, Van City is the team to beat. As it so happens, Detroit and Vancouver are top 2 in the Conference and play tonight. Datsyuk is out and the Canucks are the hottest team in hockey, so I don't like my Wings chances. If I were a gambling man, I would be betting heavy on the Canucks to win this game. Ryan Kessler has to be the hands down favourite to win the Selke. As much as I love Datsyuk who has won multiple Selke trophies, Kessler deserves an award this year.

When Chicago traded Dustin Byfuglien to the Eastern Conference, that made Vancouver this year's team to beat in the West. I will be cheering for Detroit to beat Vancouver if these two teams meet in the playoffs, but I don't expect my team to win that series.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oh Canada!

While I have not been following the latest World Junior Tournament with any significant interest, it is always nice to see Canada defeat the USA. It would have been more dramatic in the Championship round, but even a silver medal feels a little nicer when we eliminated America in the process. This year the Yanks were favoured to win, but team Canada came out on top. Now we face off against the Soviets to see who will win the gold!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

World Juniors

While I am still cheering for Canadian supremacy at the 2010/11 World Junior championship, I am not as interested as years passed. I will always cheer for Team Canada, but this year I can't get excited about the team. Perhaps it is the absence of a super elite talent that everyone is talking about and that we have been spoiled with the likes of Crosby and Tavares in recent years. Without that superstar, the tournament is just not nearly as compelling. Sorry boys, I just don't care this year.