Sunday, July 31, 2011

Zach Parise To Be Acquired By The Toronto Maple Leafs?

Zach Parise will become an unrestricted free agent in 2012 after signing a one year deal for $6 million with the Devils. If they are unable to lock him up to a long term extension, you can bet that Leaf GM Brian Burke will do everything he can to acquire this player. If New Jersey has a poor first half and Parise goes onto the trading block, expect Burke to make a significant offer. However, if the Devils decide to sell Parise, the price will be expensive as he's 27 years old and hitting his prime years. Many teams will be competing for his services, hence why I don't think he'll sign long term in Jersey. Martin Brodeur's career can't continue forever, and this team's dynasty years are certainly in the rear view mirror. The question at this point for other teams is whether or not you offer a big package for Parise, or wait until July 2012 and not have to sell a load of prospects.

ESPN's Hockey Today speculated that Minnesota is going to offer Zach a monster contract and no mention was made about the Leafs, but my friend the Leaf fan insists otherwise. Why would Parise play in his home state of Minnesota when he could be a Toronto Maple Leaf? Every player wants to be a Toronto Maple Leaf, that's why all hockey players are born, to service the hopes and dreams of ambitious Leaf fans....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NFL Change In Fantasy Points By Position

What are the rates of decline for players at the different offensive positions in 2010 compared to 2009? Instead of measuring it by each individual category, the charts below are based solely on Fantasy PTS (ESPN standard scoring). It is very clear that running backs decline faster and sooner than quarterbacks and wide receivers. RBs show faster and more dramatic rates of improvement in their first 3 seasons, where QBs on average don't much decline until after 100 career games. WRs have the slowest rate of decline of all the positions, due largely to being involved in far fewer collisions.

Jannik Hansen Locked Up For 3 Years

The Vancouver Canucks made a fantastic signing today, locking up one of their most under-appreciated players to a 3 year $4 million dollar contract. $1.3M per season for the next 3 years is a bargain for the feisty forechecker who played a key role in Vancouver's run to the Stanley Cup final. He may only have 65 PTS in 189 career games played, but he is one of the best defensive players in the league, very effective on the penalty kill. He was on the ice for an even strength goal against for every 35.68 minutes of ES ice time, which at 45 seconds per shift means he is scored on roughly once every 47 shifts (even strength). That puts him near the best in the league for that metric. He had 9 PTS in 25 playoff games while logging 16 valuable minutes per game.

Well done Mike Gillis. The Sturm contract was a bad decision, and the Ballard trade was one of the worst of the year. But this Hansen contract is something that Canucks fans can get excited about. I had him valued at $1.8M for his arbitration hearing (which now won't happen) based on market comparables, and getting him for $500K less is great for the team.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brett Favre 2011 Comeback

Somebody needs to encourage Brett Favre to return to the NFL for at least one more season instead of retiring, so let me be the first. The NFL is a better place with Favre in it, and I want him to play at least 3 more years. Prove that the drama of the last few seasons was about more than just extending the consecutive games streak (which Peyton Manning has in his sights), but rather love of the game. Favre at his age is still more effective than half the QBs in the NFL, and his enthusiasm for the game is unmatched. He might not lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl, or any team to the Super Bowl for that matter, but how much better are the Arizona Cardinals with this sure fire hall of famer? Somehow I doubt that Brett would even be willing to come back and play on a shitty team, but it would be inspirational.

I don't even care that he texts pictures of his "junk" to team employees, I'm still a Favre fan. He just loves football that much...

*disclaimer* I may or may not have been emotionally traumatized when Barry Sanders retired just shy of the all-time rushing record.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Flaw In ESPN NFL Game By Game Projected Player Points

Last year I played in an ESPN Fantasy football league, and too frequently relied on their week by week projected points to set my line-up. As a mathematician it did not take me long to notice the statistical flaw in ESPN's weekly projections, and that it was all about touchdowns. They do not include fractional points for expected touchdowns, making it either a 1 or a 0 (in some rare cases 2). I have heard on the ESPN Fantasy Focus Football podcast that this is done because "you can't score half a touchdown", but in the wonderful world of statistical "expected value" you absolutely can score half a touchdown. If a player has a 50% of scoring 1 TD, then his expected TDs should be 0.5 not 0.

Winning in Fantasy football is all about scoring TDs, as the team with the most TDs will more often than not win their week. By doing it this way ESPN's statisticians are creating an artificially large gap between players expected to score 1 TD and 0 TDs. For example, if you used 50% probability as the dividing line between 1 and 0; and player 1 has a 49% chance of scoring a TD and player 2 has a 51% chance of scoring 1 TD, the gap in ESPN expected points would be 6 (holding other stats constant). In reality, player 1 should have an expected value of 2.9 and player 2 should have an expected value of 3.1, instead of 0 and 6. By rounding to the nearest touchdown they are skewing the actual expected value. That's fine when projecting results for a full 16 game schedule, but on a game by game basis  (where 95% of players true expected TDs is less than 1) you will get a far higher margin of error than if you used fractional TDs.

Fantasy football is a game of inches that can't always be measured in yards. I'd like to be able to use ESPN projections instead of having to check Yahoo rankings before setting my ESPN line-up.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

NFL Running Back Production By Years Of Experience

What exactly is the optimal years of experience for an NFL running back from a statistical standpoint? Based on the 2010 season, 3rd year running backs appear to be running away with that distinction, scoring 137 touchdowns (receiving TDs included). 2nd year backs scored 62 TDs, while 4th year backs scored 41 TDs. 3rd year backs totaled 21,365 total yards (rushing and receiving) while 4th year backs had only 7,284. It is possible that there was just an anomalously enormously talented draft class in 2008, and a different analysis is required to measure actual year over year declines in production based on years of experience. Is it just an anomaly, or are 3rd year backs the peak of production? When you look at the data and graph below, that surely looks too significant to be anomalous. Note that I did include QBs in my rushing data set, which only has a minimal effect on the statistics.

There was no correlation between career games played and change in yards per rushing attempt, and there was a much stronger relationship between declining rushing attempts per game and career games played. Ergo: number of carries declines more reliably that yards per carry. The point where carries per game began to decline (ie where the slope of the regression line intersects the X-axis) was after 61 career games played. 61 divided by 16 games per season is 3.8. Typically carries begin to decline in year 4, unless the back spent all or part of his first 3 years sitting on the bench waiting for a chance to play significant downs.

Heads up: Players entering 3rd season, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Knowshon Moreno, Shonn Greene
Warning: Players entering 4th season, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Matt Forte

NFL Running Backs 2010

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Alexei Yashin Coming Back To America?

When Alexei Yashin's contract was bought out in 2007 and the player returned home to play in Russia, I honestly thought we'd seen the last of Yashin (international play notwithstanding). Now rumours are that he's negotiating a possible return to the NHL and the two teams rumoured to be interested are the Islanders and Senators!? What? The two teams who have the most reason not to want Alexei Yashin are reportedly the two teams trying to acquire him? This was the player who essentially ended Mike Milbury's career as a General Manager (though Al might have done the NYI a favour on that front). Just how much is the 37 year old Yashin worth? Looking at comparables in age and offense, his value would be in the $2M to $3M range. Anything north of $3M is too much. If I were a GM in the NHL, I'd make him an offer of 1 year $2M, but not a penny more. Though I'd rather have Brendan Morrison at $1.25M or Todd Bertuzzi at $1.9M than Yashin at $2M.

What has Alexei been up to the last 4 years?

                                                           GP  G A PTS
2007-08Yaroslavl LokomotivRussia56162743 
2008-09Yaroslavl LokomotivKHL56212647
2009-10St. Petersburg SKAKHL56184664
2010-11St. Petersburg SKAKHL52151833

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tiger Throws Away His Camera Throwing Caddy

It is official, Tiger Woods has now cut all ties to his era of unmatched superiority by firing his caddy Steve Williams, the same caddy who would unleash the fury on bystanders rude enough to take pictures of Tiger in his back swing. As Tiger holds tryouts and job interviews for a new "assistant", one of the big questions has to be "someone takes a picture in my back swing, what do you do?" Of course I realize there is far more to the art of caddying than just throwing cameras into ponds, but to find someone who can both recommend the right club and rip an electronic device from a person's hands is a truly difficult challenge. You need a single individual who is both a bouncer and a golf pro.

Show'em you're a Tiger...

Ted Purcell A Steal For Tampa

Steve Yzerman is on fire! For as great as he was as a player, he might be even better as a General Manager. The day after wrapping superstar Steven Stamkos to a very respectable contract, he manages to sign Teddy Purcell to a great two year deal at $2.3M per. 26 years old, 51 regular season PTS and a whopping 17 PTS in the playoffs. To be honest I'm mildly shocked by the dollar value, as Teddy would have scored $3.5M - $4.5M if he were a UFA. $2.3M is what I would have given him just for his regular season, but after an outstanding playoffs you have to boost that by at least $1M. He deserved at least as much as Clarke MacArthur's $3.25M.

Again, Steve Yzerman is proving to be a great General Manager in this league. I'd be doing back flips right now if my favourite team locked up Purcell at that price.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Edmonton Trades Hall, Paajarvi, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins For Thomas Vanek

For as ridiculous as the above headline is in 2011 terms, this almost happened back in 2007 when Edmonton signed Thomas Vanek to a monster offer sheet. Had Buffalo let Vanek walk, the Oilers would have none of the above players. That offer sheet turned out to be too much too soon, and now Buffalo is saddled with a good but very over-priced player instead of 4 first round picks. Relax Sabres fans, there is no guarantee that Buffalo would have drafted those players had they accepted the picks, maybe Edmonton gets a little better and the picks aren't as high, but still it illustrates what a terrible business decision that was. Hindsight being 50-50, Edmonton would have lost out on 4 of the best prospects in hockey had they acquired Thomas Vanek (who has averaged 63 PTS over the last 2 seasons).

If you ask me, Edmonton made a dumb move offering the offer sheet, only to be saved by the Buffalo Sabres making a similarly stupid decision by matching the offer. If Edmonton decided to trade all 4 of those players tomorrow, they could get a heroes ransom in return.

Stamkos Re-signs With Tampa

You could almost hear the collective whimper from Leaf nation as Tampa sniper Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Lightning for a very fair contract; 5 years at $7.5M per a fantastic value for this 21 year old 50 goal scorer. Well done Steve Yzerman, who continues to prove that he belongs among the elite NHL GMs after being robbed of the executive of the year award. This really is the perfect contract, and it surprised me because I was under the impression that Stamkos wanted far more money than this and that somebody just might offer it to him. Clearly no team in the NHL offered Steven Stamkos a contract greater than Tampa's best offer, so the market for Stamkos was appears to have been exaggerated with nobody willing to pay the price. Hindsight being 20/20, Buffalo should have walked away from the Vanek contract and taken the 4 1st round picks from Edmonton (which ended up being Eberle, Hall, Paajarvi, and Hopkins).

Who is the next player "destined" to become a Leaf? My source (again being a Leaf fan) is convinced that player is Zach Parise. Burke is trying to build Team USA on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bank on it. That's what my friend tells me, so I feel obliged to report it as plausible if not inevitable...

Monday, July 18, 2011

NHL's Most Complete Special Teams Forwards 2011

Which players in the NHL were the best on both the power play and penalty kill in 2010/11? As it happens I ranked the best power play producers and ranked the best penalty killers; then narrowed in on the best at both. The list is very exclusive, with an average age of 27.8, 7.3 years of experience, and an average annual salary of $5.27M per season. Clearly these players who can play both sides of the special teams dynamic are very valuable, very coveted, experienced, and can productively log very critical minutes of hockey games.

Who are they?

1) Ryan Kesler, Van: You could have made a strong argument for Ryan Kesler winning the Hart Trophy last season, but the Selke Trophy is still a great honour. He might have benefited from a strong power play more than he contributed to it, but 30 PP PTS is a great number. Scored 4 short handed points.

2) Mike Richards, LA: I don't see how discarding Mike Richards makes Philly a better team. Of Philly and LA, we will see which team improves or regresses the most. If your fantasy hockey league includes a category or bonus for SH PTS, you must boost Richards' value in your rankings (scoring 6 SH PTS).

3) Corey Perry, Ana: 31 PP PTS, 5 SH PTS. Your Hart Trophy winner does it all.

4) Tomas Plekanec, Mtl: Ranked first in group for the most minutes spent penalty killing (2.8 mins per game) and was only scored on once for every 12 minutes on the PK. 18 PP PTS.

5) Joe Pavelski, SJ: 28 PP PTS, 3 SH PTS. Pavelski should probably have received more consideration for the Selke, and is one of the more valuable Sharks. I must point out that he greatly disappointed my friend in his playoff pool after spending a high pick to select him.

6) Matt Cullen, Min: The oldest, lowest paid, highest ranked penalty killer, and most under appreciated player on this list. Kicked in with 21 PP PTS and 4 SH goals. Seems to have improved with age.

7) Loui Eriksson, Dal: 25 PP PTS, best in group in terms of being scored on with the man disadvantage, scored on every 15 minutes of penalty killing. That's incredible, but at 1.4 minutes a game he was likely on the 2nd PK unit facing the opposing team's 2nd PP unit.

8) Eric Staal, Car: The highest paid player on this list had 29 PP PTS and 3 SHG. He is a very valuable player in this league, though his team was not able to make the playoffs.

9) Marian Hossa, Chi: I'll admit he's productive, but I don't like that contract. The cap hit is reasonable, but 10 more years for a 32 year old? Those final years should count on the cap if he retires before the end of his contract. 19 PP PTS, 3 SH PTS.

10) Jonathon Toews, Chi: Selke nominee, 25 PP PTS, 2 SH PTS (including one huge short handed goal in game 7 against Vancouver to force overtime).

Honourable mention: Ryan Callahan, the only player to survive my rigorous spreadsheet filter and not make the list.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Remaining Term On NHL Contracts 2011

As of July 17th 2011, just how many years are remaining on the contracts of those players who played in the NHL last season (goaltenders not included)? There are 277 contracts that expire after the 2011/12 season and 87% of contracts are set to expire in 3 seasons or less. Here is my chart to illustrate the current structure of existing NHL deals. The NHL is in pretty good shape as the CBA is set to expire after next season with only a small number of scattered albatross contracts. Less than 4% of all NHL contracts extend longer than 5 years.

Friday, July 15, 2011

2011 NHL Salary Arbitration Projections

The 2011 NHL salary arbitration season is fast approaching, and I would like to make a list of the salaries these players are worth based on comparable contracts.

1) Shea Weber, NSH: $6 million. He'll end up somewhere between Dan Boyle's $6.6M and Brent Seabrook's $5.8M. Lidstrom just won the Norris and resigned this offseason for $6.2M. He is a franchise player, and even if the arbitrator awarded him $10M I would not walk away. Arbitration date scheduled for Aug 2nd.

2) Zach Parise, NJ: $5.5 million. With Perry and Getzlaf making $5.3M per season and Kesler making $5M, this should be Parise's range. That being said he could argue that he's worth Anze Kopitar $6.8M, Mikko Koivu $6.7M, or even Tomas Vanek $7.1M (three contracts I would argue are all over priced). I am discounting him a little bit after missing most of last season with injury without knowing exactly how it will affect his long term health and production. What are the recovery rates for torn meniscus? Arbitration date scheduled for Aug 3rd.

3) Ryan Callahan, NYR: $3.5 million. Worth more than Steen's $3.3M, but the Krejci-Horton $3.75M - $4M range is too expensive. Arbitration date scheduled for Jul 28th.

4) Brandon Dubinsky, NYR: $3.5 million. (see Ryan Callahan) (UPDATE: signed a 4 year contract at $4.2M per season)

5) Ted Purcell, TB: $3.3 million. He's in the Clarke MacArthur zone, but he should get a bonus for having a terrific playoff. (UPDATE: signed a 2 year deal for $2.3M per, a great value for Tampa (this is what he'd be worth if the playoffs didn't count, but he was great. Leafs overpaid for MacArthur.))

6) Chris Campoli, Chi: $2.6 million. He's not worth Ian White's $2.8M, but he's arguably better than Methot ($3M) and Ericsson ($3.2M) which were both drastic over-payments. More offensive upside than Gorges. (UPDATE: very interesting, the arb date was moved up, Campoli was awarded $2.5M, and Chicago walked away from the deal, making him a UFA)

7) Blake Wheeler, Wpg: $2.5 million. I'd say he would command Kris Versteeg money ($3M per), but he lacks the Stanley Cup ring that earned Versteeg a performance bonus on his current contract. He should be in the Mason Raymond zone ($2.5M per), but the team will likely argue that he does not deserve to be paid more than Bryan Little at $2.4 million per season. (UPDATE: signed a 2 year deal at $2.55M per season)

8) Josh Gorges, Mtl: $2.5 million. Komisarek, Volchenkov, and Keith Ballard are all high end comparables who scored deals over $4M, but those were all over-payments. Gorges could go as high as Klesla and M.Greene at $2.9M, but $2.5M sounds about right. (UPDATE: signed a 1 year deal for exactly $2.5M per season)

9) Blake Comeau, NYI: $2 million. Talented young player that Islanders should like to lock up to a long term deal. Arbitration date scheduled for Aug 4th.

10) Andrew Cogliano, Ana: $2 million. Fairly priced at $1.5M, but I think he'll go as high as $2M in mediation care of his ironman streak. (UPDATE: signed a 3 year salary at an average price of $2.4M)

11) Andrej Sekera, Buf: $1.8 million. Certainly not in the Meszaros-M.Staal zone of $4M, but better than Kris Russell's $1.3M. Anton Stralman made $1.9M on his recently expired deal which would be a fair comparable, except that Stralman won't earn that on his next deal (2 weeks into free agency Anton is still looking for work). (UPDATE: signed to a 4 year deal at $2.7M per, and after the contribution that Sekera made to both my Fantasy Hockey teams, I should have had more respect for his value.)

12) Jannik Hansen, Van: $1.8 million. In a perfect world where points aren't a factor in Selke voting, Hansen would have should have been nominated. Arbitration date scheduled for Jul 29th.

13) Lauri Korpikoski, Phx: $1.5 million. He could argue for Setoguchi money ($3M), or maybe Sam Gagner money ($2.3M). If I were signing this young player to a long term contract I would offer him more than his value for next season. His price for just next season can't be more than a Rich Peverley or Andrew Cogliano even if he has high upside. (UPDATE: signed a 2 year deal at $1.8M per)

14) Brian Boyle, NYR: $1.2 million. I'd pay him the same money that Nick Foligno will be making next season. (UPDATE: signed a 3 year deal at $1.7M annually)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ranking American Colleges For Future NCAA Hockey Players

If you are a quality young hockey player in your high school years who would like to attend college and possibly play professional hockey afterwards, what school should you attend? Perhaps you have already been drafted or you hope to be drafted, what schools best help your chances? Let me drop the disclaimer that I am not ranking based on how nice the school is or the quality of the education, but rather each school's propensity to produce NHL hockey players. 40% of players drafted to the NHL who play in the NCAA will go on to play at least 5 NHL games. The NCAA has a very good batting average at producing NHL players, but the margin of error is far higher for players drafted out of high school, the USHL, or tier II junior who then advance to college. The quality of the competition in American high schools is not at a high enough level to accurately forecast the probability of that youngster becoming a pro.

Using a database of all players drafted from 1995-2003 (excluding goaltenders) who were both drafted out of the NCAA and drafted from the USHL, high school, or junior who went on to play NCAA; I produced a composite ranking based on 1) total number of players drafted to the NHL, 2) probability of playing at least 5 NHL games, 3) total NHL games played by all players who attended that school, and 4) average draft spot. A school had to have at least 5 players drafted into the NHL to make the list (sorry dad, Yale didn't make the cut), and players who played for more than one college were slotted with the school they were attending when drafted, otherwise the first school they attended after being drafted. This database does not measure players who were never drafted to the NHL, like Marty St. Louis.

First place was very close between the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota, with Boston College rounding out the top 3.

rankSchool   Score
1) University of Michigan 11.25
2) University of Minnesota 11.17
3) Boston College 10.28
4) University of North Dakota 9.52
5) Michigan State University 9.17
6) University of Wisconsin 7.14
7) St Cloud State 7.07
8) Boston University 6.72
9) University of Denver 6.48
10)Harvard University 6.37
11) Ohio State University 6.18
12) Colorado College 5.29
13) University of Maine 5.09
14) Dartmouth College 3.73
15) Providence College 3.47
16) Clarkson University 3.38
17) Notre Dame 3.09
18) University of Minnesota-Duluth 2.54
19 ) Cornell University 2.51
20) Bowling Green State University 2.32
21) Northeastern University 2.07
22) University of New Hampshire 1.61
23) University of Nebraska-Omaha 1.40
24) Northern Michigan University 1.32
25) R.P.I. 0.53

The next list is the average duration of an NCAA playing career at each school (for players who have been drafted into the NHL).

1) St. Lawrence University 3.89
2) Colorado College 3.88
3) Harvard University 3.86
4) Cornell University 3.83
5) Providence College 3.79
6) Notre Dame 3.75
7) R.P.I. 3.75
8) Michigan State University 3.69
9) University of New Hampshire 3.69
10)Boston College 3.65
11) University of Denver 3.60
12) Dartmouth College 3.60
13) Boston University 3.57
14) Northeastern University 3.55
15) University of Minnesota 3.52
16) University of Michigan 3.40
17) University of Maine 3.38
18) Bowling Green State University 3.38
19 ) University of Wisconsin 3.35
20) Ohio State University 3.27
21) Northern Michigan University 3.22
22) University of North Dakota 3.13
23) St Cloud State 3.00
24) Clarkson University 3.00
25) University of Nebraska-Omaha 2.67

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Norm MacDonald Greatest ESPY'S Host Ever...Period

The annual ESPN awards took place tonight, but I did not bother to watch. I have been boycotting the ESPY's until the great Norm MacDonald returns to host once more. Not since 1998 were we treated to comedy genius who was not afraid to step on any toes. Norm "crossed the line" on many occasions, hence why he has not been invited back, though I believe that is precisely why he should be invited back. "The Dallas Cowboys need to go back to what made them champions, strippers and crack". I'm sorry, but Seth Meyers isn't making that joke.

I'll say it loud and I'll say it proud, BRING BACK NORM MACDONALD! Watch the video.

PS: After he makes the joke to Charles Woodson that winning the Hiesman Trophy is something they can never take away from you, unless you kill your wife and a waiter; look at the angry reaction of Ken Griffey Jr.  Really Ken? The OJ joke was below the belt? Too soon?

Best NHL Players Making Under $1 Million Dollars In 2011/12

I have crafted my all-star team of players who will be making under $1 million dollars in the NHL next season. Sorry to those free agents who have not yet signed your contracts as of July 13th, you will not be eligible for my Under $1M All-Stars. This team includes 20 players, 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies.Only 1 player is over the age of 27, and only 5 were drafted in the first round (all five of those after pick 23). It is very unlikely that this team would be competitive in the playoffs, but they might challenge for a playoff spot if this group of players were assembled on the same squad. Salaries are based on cap hit according to


1) Derek Stepan, NYR: 82 GP, 45 PTS
2) Frans Nielsen, NYI: 71 GP, 44 PTS, Top rate penalty killer.
3) Darren Helm, Det: The next Kris Draper.
4) Marcus Johansson, Wsh: 69 GP, 27 PTS, Could have big season if paired with Ovechkin.


1) Jamie Benn, Dal: 69 GP, 56 PTS, The reigning scoring champ on $1M team.
2) Tyler Ennis, Buf: 82 GP, 49 PTS
3) Anthony Stewart, Car: 80 GP, 39 PTS, Thought he'd have been useful in Winnipeg.
4) Bryan Bickell, Chi: 78 GP, 37 PTS, This $540K contract is a steal for 2 more years!
5) Niclas Berfors, Nsh: 72 GP, 37 PTS
6) Brandon Prust, NYR: 82 GP, 27 PTS, 160 PIMS, Strong penalty killer.
7) Linus Omark, Edm: 51 GP, 27 PTS, Shootout specialist
8) Matt Calvert, Clb: 42 GP, 20 PTS, Kid might have a future.


1) PK Subban, Mtl: 77 GP, 38 PTS, Among the best valued contracts next season.
2) John Carlson, Wsh: 82 GP, 37 PTS, Due for a big raise next year.
3) Cody Franson, Tor: 80 GP, 29 PTS, Theory that Nsh was shedding salary doesn't hold.
4) Andrew MacDonald, NYI: 60 GP, 27 PTS
5) Jamie McBain, Car: 76 GP, 30 PTS
6) Ben Lovejoy, Pit: Logged some valuable late season shifts on my champion fantasy hockey team.


1) Cory Schneider, Van: 25 GP, 2.23 GAA, .929 SPCT
2) Anders Lindback, Nsh: He could be the starter on a few NHL teams, but is stuck sitting on the bench watching Pekka Rhinne play.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Edmonton Trades Cogliano

When I first saw that restricted free agent Andrew Cogliano had been traded from Edmonton to Anaheim for a 2nd round draft pick, my initial reaction was shock. The probability that 2nd pick produces a player as good or better than Cogliano is less than 10%, probably even less than 5% if his career continues for at least a few more years. For the record that is not a blind guess, I am looking at my database of draft picks from 1995 to 2003, the career GP numbers for 2nd round picks, and Cogliano is already ahead of 82% of 2nd round picks if he never plays another NHL game.

All that being said, after 4 NHL seasons it would appear that initial scouting reports that this kid could be a star player in this league were greatly exaggerated. He's a high end 3rd line player, and a mediocre 2nd liner. That's it. He's pretty good at killing penalties, but I do not expect him to ever exceed 50 PTS (he has not topped 40 PTS since his rookie season). He is well known for his speed and work ethic, and I would have definitely expected Cogliano to be a critical building block in the Oilers future. It does hurt his value to be a centerman who is terrible at face-offs, so Anaheim might be advised to move him to the wing.

He is a restricted free agent, but with his age and production should be paid in the $1.5M per season range. I don't think this trade was done to save money, but rather that there just wasn't room for him on Edmonton's roster. As he said after being traded, the team just had too many of the same type of player, and he's exactly right. A 2nd round pick doesn't feel like enough coming back, but a 1st round pick would have been a little too expensive. So if they did not have room for the player, this deal makes more sense because I'm not sure they could have squeezed much more out of another NHL team. A medium range prospect would have been a nice addition to balance out the probabilities, making the trade more fair; if that option was even available.

This is a great addition for Anaheim. Ducks fans should be excited.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Coming To N.America: NHL Drafting European Hockey Players

If an NHL team drafts a player from Europe, what is the likelihood that the player will go on to play professional hockey in North America (ECHL, AHL, or NHL)? I have compiled a database of draft picks from 1995 - 2003 and painstakingly looked up and inputted the information required for each player (goaltenders not included). A high percentage of German and Swiss draft picks came to N.America, but that was a very small sample size and thus those two countries were left off the rankings below. You could make a strong case that more players should be drafted from Germany, but I'll save that for another post. There is very likely a strong inverse correlation between average salary in said European league and the probability a player leaves that league for N.America.

Willingness To Come To N.America: Percentage of European draft picks who advance to N.American professional hockey.

1) Slovakia, 77%
2) Czech Republic, 61%
3) Finland, 60%
4) Sweden, 55%
5) Russia, 45%

Expected NHL GP Upon Arrival In North America: For those players who come to N.America, who averages the most NHL games played once they are here.

1) Czech Republic
2) Finland
3) Sweden
4) Slovakia
5) Russia

*Sorry that I did not include my metric in the above ranking, but it is based on my calculation of what I call "slugging percentage" and requires a lengthy explanation about how it was calculated. You can't just use total career GP because a player drafted in 1995 and compare to a player from 2003 because one has had 8 more seasons to accumulate GPs.

*European players who were drafted from the Canadian junior leagues do not count as players drafted from Europe. That is a separate class of player who made the decision to come to N.America to play hockey before they were even chosen to play professionally.

Being Denied Chestnut-Kobayashi Rivalry

Sports fans are being denied what should be one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports, Joey Chestnut (current world record holder) versus Takeru Kobayashi (former world record holder) sitting at a table head to head crushing hot dogs until one man is crowned the King of competitive eating. Major League Eating (yes, there is an actual governing body over the "sport" of competitive eating) won't allow its members to compete at non MLE sanctioned events, and thus Kobayashi refuses to sign a contract with the evil empire. Who can blame him? If he wants to show up at a Pizza Hut and slam back a dozen P'Zones for a little extra money, who is MLE to deny him a living? A man's gotta be able to put food on the table!

Something has gotta give here. We have two elite athletes in the prime of their careers who should be competing against each other, not having to air simultaneous webcasts that are not officially recognized. MLE should listen to the public outcry and sign Kobayashi to a contract that allows him to compete in whichever events he so chooses. You don't need to sign every athlete to one of these contracts, but Kobayashi is an elite exception. Let's get this done, and let's squeeze the most we can out of this epic rivalry while we still can. This should be the greatest rivalry in all of sports, comparable to Ali-Frazier...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Maple Leafs To Acquire Steven Stamkos

Start planning the parade, because the Toronto Maple Leafs are all but set to acquire Steven Stamkos from the Tampa Bay Lightning. My Leaf fan friend assures me that this is going to happen, and I consider him a credible source despite the fact that he has no association or contacts with the franchise (or in the industry of sport). By the sheer force of his desire to acquire Stamkos, it will happen. Rumour has it that Stamkos has already turned down big money from Tampa and could be moved. He is a restricted free agent, so the Leafs could either tender an overpriced contract offer or make a trade. Problem being that Burkie doesn't sign RFA offer sheets so scratch the former; and even if he trades for Stamkos, he still has to sign him. What if Stamkos wants a front loaded contract like many elite players? Uh oh, Burke doesn't sign front loaded contracts. That could be a problem.

So let me be the first to break the story that Steve Stamkos will be acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, because a hardcore Leafs fan told me it would be so. All that's left is to hammer out the details. Easy as apple pie...

On a serious note, I'm not sure I'd want to pay Stamkos more than Crosby, especially if the deal extends over 10 years. That's a lot of money.

UPDATE: Stamkos re-signed in Tampa for 5 years at $7.5 per season, and my source on this story (the Leaf fan) was very disappointed. First that is much less term than I expected, but the annual hit is remarkably fair based on his production. What took so long? My friend the Leaf fan reported that Stamkos turned down a contract offer larger than that a few weeks ago. Surely my Leaf fan friend could not be wrong.

Moneyball The Movie

Hallelujah the Moneyball movie has finally been made and ready for release! This was one of the defining sports economics books of the last decade and ushered in a new method of evaluating talent based on statistical analysis over traditional scouting methods. Billy Beane became not only a hero among baseball stat geeks, but in Wall Street and the business world alike by trying to find value where the market can't see it. After reading the book I chose to do my honours thesis in Mathematical Economics on the Market Value of Human Capital in Professional Sports, so Moneyball has had an effect on my own life.

The whole Moneyball strategy however has not been all sunshine and lollipops, as many of Beane's disciples have gone on to manage their own teams and failed miserably. Part of the problem also is that when the book became a national hit, several secrets of the Oakland A's became public knowledge. Beane was exploiting flaws in the market of talent evaluation, but after publishing the book these flaws and techniques became shared knowledge with every other GM in the league. Therefor, the market corrected itself and Beane lost an advantage.

Some other thoughts on Moneyball:

*The team has not been the same since losing Mulder, Zito, and Hudson; also called The Three Aces. One of the theories is that Beane only had the success he did because he got lucky on a crop of young pitchers and has not since been able to replicate that.

*Jeremy Brown, heavily featured in the book went on to a glorious major league career of 10 at bats. That's it.

*Billy Beane consistently bashed Prince "the fat kid" Fielder and was excited when he was drafted ahead of Oakland's pick instead of Nick Swisher. Well the fat kid has gone to hit 214 Home Runs before his 28th birthday, and while Swisher has been a good major leaguer, he ain't on Prince's level.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Brian Burke Against Front Loaded Contracts

Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs must be comforted by recent comments from Brian Burke that he has missed out on top quality free agents because he is morally opposed to signing front loaded contracts. Congrats Brian on being a moral man and sticking to your principles; but if most NHL teams are willing to sign these deals and many top free agents are seeking these deals, how are you making your team better by refusing to consider them? Perhaps you think they circumvent the spirit of the salary cap because you don't trust players to play to full term of the deals, but don't you think your team would be better with Brad Richards than Tim Connolly?

We also know that Brian Burke does not tend offer sheets to restricted free agents. While he has suggested in recent months that he'd be willing to consider them (my source being my Leaf fan friend who wants Burke to offer Stamkos a max deal), he has again ruled out this potential strategy in the same press conference where he condemned front loaded contracts. Personally I don't think that signing offer sheets should be taboo, but it isn't a terrible strategy to avoid offering them because generally you have to overpay so that the other team won't want to match. Burkie went nuts when Lowe signed that Penner contract, but with the signings we've seen in the years since, that Penner contract ended up being a very fair price (even if he sucked in his 1st year in Edmonton).

So Brian Burke has his morals, and won't use strategies or options which could improve his hockey team because he wants to make a stand on principle. Burkie gets to keep his integrity intact, but if I'm a Leafs fan, I'd be more than a little bit annoyed...

Review: Transformers 3 The Dark Side Of The Moon

Today my nephews and I went to see the latest Transformers movie in 3D, and the experience was about exactly what you would expect. If you are a fan of the franchise you should derive at least a moderate amount of pleasure from this viewing experience, but don't expect it to knock your socks off. The plot started off interesting though became progressively more ridiculous as the movie neared its ending. We were all very disappointed by the performance of Megatron, who played the role of pathetic weakling rather than menacing super villain. The plot in the third movie does create several conflicts and contradictions with the whole plot of the second movie. Without giving away the plot, you just wonder why if the Decepticons were planning what they were planning for #3, why would they be trying to destroy the planet in #2?

The girl who replaced Meghan Fox was as good (and good looking) as Fox, but it was not entirely smooth how she was written into the story line. The transition between madly in love, dumped, and madly in love felt just a little too expedient. The chemistry was weak between the two love birds and it would have been better if they had just dyed the girl's hair black pretending she was the Fox character from the previous movie.

The most enjoyable aspect of the movie was the extra dimension. With plenty of buildings being smashed, it would often appear as though the rubble was coming right at you. The advent of 3D has taken the slow motion action shot to a whole new level, and while there are times you'd like to take a break from the glasses, it adds a novelty to the film making up for a lacklustre storyline.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Top 15 Restricted NHL Free Agents 2011

With the cream of the 2011 unrestricted NHL free agent crop already signed to contracts, what restricted free agents are out there to sign to offer sheets? The answer is several very tempting targets, whether signed to offer sheets or acquired in a trade. These are players that if offered contracts their teams can match, so generally you need to overpay in order to get one of these players via offer sheet. Sometimes the best course is to trade with the team that can't sign the player to the contract being demanded.

This list is as of July 4th. I've estimated their value, but if you sign an offer sheet at fair market value, the owning team will simply match. You have to overpay to get these guys.

1) Steven Stamkos, TB: The leading RFA scorer by 29 PTS is clearly at the top of the class. I have a Leaf fan friend who wants Burke to offer Stamkos $11M per season. Vanek got over $7M per season on a brutal offer sheet from Edmonton, and there is no question Stamkos is worth more than Vanek. Tampa does have some cap issues, especially being burdened by the Vinny LeCavalier albatross. Given market comparables, he's due $8M-$9M. (UPDATE: signed a 5 year deal at $7.5M per, great deal for Tampa)

2) Drew Doughty, LA: If I were the GM of a Western conference team with cap space, I'd offer Drew Doughty a 10 year $75M contract just to force the Kings to match it. If you get him, great; if you don't, you make them pay for the tremendous production they get from this player.

3) Shea Weber, NSH: He is going to arbitration so won't be eligible for offer sheets, but I would offer Weber as much as $7M per season, if not more to get a deal done.

4) Keith Yandle, Phx: The Coyotes aren't exactly awash in cash, so this 59 point defenseman should be within grasp of the team who wants to reach. When you have a 24 year old with that level of offensive output he should command $5M-$6M per season. (UPDATE: signed for a 5 year deal at $5.3M per)

5) Zach Parise, NJ: He is going to arbitration so your team won't be signing him to an offer sheet, but he is unrestricted next season and New Jersey could move him if they don't think they can sign him. The price to acquire him will be very expensive if he's even available at all.

6) Brad Marchand, Bos: This could be a difficult signing for Boston, as a number of teams would put a premium price on what Marchand does. He provides grit, scoring, outstanding special teams play, he's 23 years old, and played a vital role in Boston's Stanley Cup victory. If he were unrestricted he would get $4M to $5M per season. How much will he get to stay in Boston? Guaranteed the Bruins will match any offer.

7) Andrew Ladd, Wpg: He'll get at least $4M per season, but he's probably trying to get $5M (varying depending on term). I'd much rather have Ladd than Tim Connolly, so it is not difficult to imagine the team's captain getting $5M or more. (UPDATE: signed a 5 year deal at $4.4M per)

8) Brandon Dubinsky, NYR: I have been drafting Dubinsky consistently in fantasy hockey for the last 3 years, and I can tell you from experience that he is very streaky. He runs hot and cold, but is very versatile in the role he can play on your team (11 power play PTS, 4 short handed PTS). He's a $2.5-$3.5M per year player. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)

9) Ryan Callahan, NYR: This is another player I'd love to see land on my favourite team. He missed some time due to injury but his PTS per game puts him near 65 PTS over 82 GP. Effective contributor on both the power play and the penalty kill. Fair value is $3M, but again I'd rather have Callahan than Connolly. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)

10) Clarke MacArthur, Tor: Had a breakout season with the Maple Leafs, but I'd like to see him replicate these results before I'd offer him more than $3M per season. I would not overpay to acquire him and I do not expect any teams to tender an overpriced offer. Depending on how much Clarke wants, he might not start the season on an NHL roster. (UPDATE: re-signed for 2 years at $3.25M per)

11) Teddy Purcell, TB: Certainly due a significant raise from the $775K he made last season, providing strong production in the regular season and playoffs. $2M-$3M per season feels like a fair price, and it is likely that Steve Yzerman will bring him back to Tampa on a 3-5 year deal. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)

12) Jannik Hansen, Van: One of the most underrated players in the league, at least before the NHL playoffs. His production ceiling is likely around 40 PTS, but his value defensively and physically cannot be denied. If point production were not a factor in Selke voting, Hansen should have been a nominee. His value is in the $1.5M - $2.5M range. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)

13) Kyle Turris, Phx: It is taking Turris some time to develop, and it is difficult to say if he's going to take his game to the next level. I would offer him $2M per year on a contract set to expire one year before the end of his restricted free agency "ownership" and re-evaluate at that time.

14) Luke Schenn, Tor: For all the praises that Brian Burke has showered on Luke Schenn since becoming GM, it will be interesting to see how much he signs him for. Anything over $3M per year is too rich. I'd offer him 3 years $7M.

15) Zach Bagosian, Wpg: Fell off the map last season with just 17 PTS, but before that was on pace for a nice fat contract. It is difficult to say exactly why this decline occurred, as he still played 22 minutes per game last season. He played a significant amount on the power play, but had a pathetic 4 PP PTS. He was on pace for $4M per season, but has fallen to the $2M range.

*honourable mention* Blake Comeau, NYI: It was between him and Blake Wheeler for the last spot, Comeau earning the nod for a higher PTS per game. He is effective on both the power play and penalty kill, giving him value with a diverse skill set. Fairly priced at $2M-$2.5M per season for 3 or more years. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)