Toronto Maple Leafs 2012-13 annual: The burden of expectation

Cam Charron
August 18 2012 11:20AM

The Toronto Maple Leafs aren't the worst franchise in Toronto—Toronto FC, the Argonauts, the Raptors all deserve parts of the title. I would suggest though that neither sports franchise represents the worst overall product in the city. That would be the streetcars, a totally inefficient use of city space. Streetcars confine themselves to one lane and it's in the middle of the street. During rush hour periods, the streets in downtown Toronto are an awful mess due to the city's reluctance to introduce revolutionary technology such as buses.

And, hey, poll many Torontonians, and if you asked them whether they'd keep the streetcars or the Maple Leafs, most would say the Maple Leafs.

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Montreal Canadiens 2012-13 annual: Les Habitants (du sous-sol)

Cam Charron
August 17 2012 04:26PM

Some may suppose it's appropriate that the Montreal Canadiens were founded the same year they began building the Titanic. Built in the same year were the deck chairs that general manager Pierre Gauthier was shuffling around the deck as the ship began to sank. It's not that Gauthier was purposefully making moves that would ruin the Habs' chances at a playoff spot, but he made a number of questionable decisions in a bleak effort to save face and keep his job.

The butchered heads of failed managers rarely roll, and even when they do, they don't go too far. Gauthier lost his job with the Canadiens and ended up in Chicago as an assistant, while Marc Bergevin, an understudy of the successful Stan Bowman, was hired as Gauthier's replacement in Montreal to oversee hockey's Lower Canadian club.

Funnily enough, things weren't awful for le club hockey last season. Sure, they finished with an Eastern Conference-low 31 wins and 78 points, but that was partially thanks to a league-low 11 wins in 37 one-goal games they played. In games decided by three or more goals, the Habs were 14-12. So what made the difference?

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Time on ice competition plots for all 30 teams

Eric T.
August 17 2012 07:26AM

Duncan Keith
Duncan Keith had a negative Corsi Rel last year, but he's not weak competition
By Matt Boulton from Vancouver, Canada (Kane, Keith and Kopecky) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, we published an article about evaluating quality of competition by looking at the opponents' average time on ice. The best players typically see the most ice time, so a player whose opponents get a lot of minutes is probably facing tough competition. By this metric, top-line forwards appeared to face tougher competition than is suggested by other metrics.

The reason for this became clear when we separated out the quality of forwards and defensemen that a player faced. Even the offense-first forwards who are used against mediocre competition see their opponents' best defensemen. This opened up the interesting possibility of using quality of competition to evaluate not just the strength of the competition, but the type of situations -- facing good forwards and bad defensemen might be similar in difficulty to facing bad forwards and good defensemen, but it is a very different type of usage.

We showed a couple of examples, one from a team that matched their top forwards with the opposition's top forwards, and one from a team that had an offense-first scoring line and a defensive-minded shutdown line. A number of people inquired about their favorite team, so we decided to publish plots for each of the 30 teams for 2011-12.

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A competition metric based on ice time

Eric T.
August 16 2012 07:49AM

 
Daniel Sedin facing a top-flight defenseman, as always
By kcxd (Canucks!) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Our traditional quality of competition metrics aim to answer the question "how tough was this player's competition?"

To do that, they start by assigning each player some kind of score to assess how tough an opponent he is; then to calculate a player's quality of competition, you average his opponents' scores together. There are a variety of choice for what score you use -- one metric uses the team's shot differential with that player on the ice, another looks at how the team's shot differential changed when he stepped on the ice.

Each of those scores has certain weaknesses, and the stat community recognizes that none of them can be used as a single metric to rank players and declare someone to be the best in the league. Yet in essence, that's what the quality of competition metrics do.

A little over a year ago, a group of analysts was asked what stats they turn to first. Such leaders in the field as Gabe Desjardins, Jonathan Willis, and Tom Awad all said that if they only get one stat, they're going to look at ice time.

It makes sense -- a player's ice time is a direct reflection of the coach's opinion of the player, and at this relatively early stage in the evolution of analytics, the coach's opinion is more accurate than any one individual statistic.

So why not try to build a quality of competition metric using ice time as the measure of how good each opponent is? Let's try it.

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Detroit Red Wings 12-13 Preview: Life After Lidstrom

Jonathan Willis
August 15 2012 01:31PM

For years, the demise of the Detroit Red Wings has been popular to predict. With an older core, the idea that the team would fall into decline after it lost Yzerman, Fedorov, Shanahan, Hull and the rest was a popular one. It didn’t happen.

Now, Nicklas Lidstrom, the man who has arguably been the most important Red Wing for the last decade and a half, has finished his NHL career. Is the decline and fall of the Red Wings about to become reality?

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