Ben Smith, and the Value of Penalty Kill Faceoffs

Ryan Hobart
November 12 2016 09:13AM

The Maple Leafs are currently faced with a problem we knew they would have from the start of the season: they just have too many forwards. If you had told me they'd claim two more on waivers to add to that mix, I would have said you were crazy, but here we are with Ben Smith and Seth Griffith added into the mix.

The Leafs chose to re-waive Seth Griffith, and I'm not going to get into why that itself was dumb. Instead, I want to focus on the addition of Ben Smith, and investigate what kind of effect he is having.

I have a two-part disclaimer for this post. First, if you don't like math at all, you probably won't enjoy this piece. Second, I am doing that thing where I already have a conclusion in my mind before I analyze the math, which is bad form, so I apologize for that.

Are you ready to dig into it?

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#RITHAC: Gold Drafting and the Maple Leafs

Ryan Hobart
September 18 2016 08:38AM

Recently, an hockey analytics conference was held at Rochester Institute of Technology (known as RITHAC). There were multiple very interesting presentations by smart and interesting people among the analytics community, nice enough to share their smart-ness with the rest of us SMRT people.

I want to focus today on the presentation made by Micah Black McCurdy on Gold Drafting, an oft-debated model for how to determine draft order. Specifically, I want to look at how it would have affected the Leafs' past drafts.

You can view the presentation slides here, but to summarize: the idea is that draft order is determined by the number of points a team earns after they've been eliminated from the playoffs. This, in theory, removes the incentive to build an intentionally bad team, as that team will get eclipsed in "gold points" by teams that are bad by circumstance and are still trying. Some may remember it was a theory proposed by Shane Doan earlier in the 2015-16 season, but the idea had been floated around hockey communities certainly before that.

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The breakdown of Nylander > Marner

Ryan Hobart
September 04 2016 07:55AM

Recently, we finalized the rankings for our site's Top 20 Leafs Prospects. Review them from the top down here, starting with Auston Matthews. As you'll note, we had Mitch Marner at #2 and William Nylander at #3. I, however, did not.

My personal rankings had Nylander at 2 and Marner at 3 and I'd like to get into details as to why that is. I teased this analysis in my Nylander post so I apologize for taking this long to get it out here. I want to make absolutely sure that I'm aware the difference is very small. They're basically on the same pyramid tier. But I had to put one at 2 and this is why I made that Nylander.

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The Bozak/Grabovski debate, all over again

Ryan Hobart
September 01 2016 10:55AM

Today, a debate formed on Hockey Twitter regarding moves made by Dave Nonis. Specifically, which was the worst. TLN's own Drag Like Pull had this as his entry:

And, former TLN blogger and current member of The Blogger's Tribune, Tom Hunter, had this as a response:

This is clearly a tired debate. It happened 3 years ago, and I think it formed out of yearning for hockey to finally start. Nonetheless, I'd like to dig into it a bit and present why I think Grabovski is still a better hockey player than Bozak. And as follows, that the better move would have been to let Bozak walk and keep Grabovski, instead using a compliance buyout on him.

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You never played the game

Ryan Hobart
July 15 2016 07:00AM

The last few years have seen NHL teams make many analytics hires. Tyler Dellow, Eric Tulsky, and Darryl Metcalf to name a few. A couple days ago, the Montreal Canadiens went backwards and made an analytics firing, letting go of their recently hired analyst Matt Pfeffer

Pfeffer released a statement regarding what happened, so I won't make any speculation further than that.

Regarding the incident, NHL television analyst and former professional goaltender Corey Hirsch had this to say:

Here we get to see a sharp distinction between the thought process of players-turned-analysts and analysts who were more... organically grown. In the latter, I'm referring to those who are more statistics-inspired hockey people. Surely, you've heard the argument "you've never played the game, you don't know what you're talking about" or something of the like. Maybe you've even made that argument. Well, Matt Pfeffer never played the game, and yet the Canadiens, at one time, believed he did know what he was talking about.

Nevertheless, I want to point out that Hirsch clearly has a different point of view than the analytical people would. I'm not here to make fun of him for that, or call him ignorant. I think what he's saying makes sense.

It's wrong, but it makes sense.

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