Quick and Dirty Season Predictions

Posted: October 8, 2014 by ststevens in Leaguewide
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Predictions just seem obligatory, and they are kind of fun to make. I know we threw some up at the start of the season last year but they were never revisited.  I’m pretty sure I begrudgingly picked the Rangers to get to the ECF and lose to Boston, and I know I had the Devils in the playoffs not out – and also, although I didn’t give it a thought I certainly did not expect an 0-13 shootout record.  So after the jump my predictions as to who’s in the playoffs and an absurdly premature playoff and SCF predictions based on those regular season predictions.

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John MacLean’s tenure (33 games of the 2010-11 season) as head coach of the New Jersey Devils was short and anything but sweet. Jacques Lemaire was brought back and almost saved the day, getting the Devils to within 4 points of a playoff spot in mid-March, something considered nearly impossible when he took over on December 23, 2010. Alas, the Devils ultimately missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996.  When Lemaire announced his retirement following the season finale the feeling among the fans I know was one name: Ken Hitchcock.  Needless to say the hiring of Pete De Boer was a surprise.  As the Devils meandered through the first half of the 2011-12 season expectations, which had been sky high going into the 2010-11 season had been walked back considerably.  Then the Devils started to click.  They had an excellent second half and came within 2 win of the Stanley Cup.  Hiring De Boer looked like a great move.  Fast forward to the eve of the 2014-15 season.  The Devils have not made the playoffs since 2012 and have been frustratingly average.  Last season’s longest winning streak was 3 games.  In terms of the fans, the goodwill towards De Boer seems to be drying up and his tactics and personnel decisions appear to be increasingly questioned.  This post defends Pete De Boer.

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Today I’m going to take a look at the 2013-14 shot rate Hextally’s for Andy Greene (young manhood), Marek Zidlicky (whatever is next), and Jon Merrill (youth).  I chose these three defensemen because they saw a good deal of power play time last season and thus are presumably considered the more “offensive” defensemen on the team by the coaching staff.  I would have liked to include Eric Gelinas as well but he doesn’t appear to be in war-on-ice’s Hextally database at the moment (I’ve wanted to do this for a while and Gelinas hasn’t been there, he was added a few days because I did get a look at it but he is now missing again).  And yes the title is a Kings of Leon reference (you get the title of their first album when you put the first two together with an “and”).

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Jagr is Good.

Posted: September 21, 2014 by ststevens in Devils Analysis
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I know the title isn’t exactly news but I’m not really coming up with anything clever right now.  Anyway, this will be brief.  After the jump we’ll take a look at Jagr’s Shot Rate Hextally and compare it to the team as a whole.  This continues my initial exploration of Hextallys that can be generated at war-on-ice for teams as well as individual players.

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This piece extends the previous one on team Hextallys, looking specifically at the teams in the Metropolitan Division.  In addition to the shot rate for and against Hextally for each team I’m also including the Absolute Shooting % Hextally.  This Hextally gives the team’s SH% from each region, the darker the green the better.  After looking at these 8 teams – particularly the SH% Hextallys – it becomes “hit-you-right-between-the-eyes” clear that the strategy of taking away the slot on defense is a prudent strategy. Read the rest of this entry »

So war-on-ice is awesome.  Really, war-on-ice is awesome.  I’ll stop the lovefest and get to the point of today’s ramblings and pretty pictures.  Back in July I looked at the Devils on-ice SV% by shot distance under Sutter, Lemaire, MacLean/Lemaire, and De Boer.  In that piece I acknowledged that the NHL RTSS data on shot distance is far from perfect (see also here) but also repeatedly stress that bad data is better than no data.  More importantly, the main point of that piece was to consider how shot distance may impact shot quality – simply put the data (and you know, common “watch the game” sense) indicates its far easier to score a goal the closer you are to the net.  With their Hextally system war-on-ice has expanded on this idea and taken it to another level.  Very briefly, a Hextally uses hexagonal bin plots to capture the locations of shot attempts and success rates (goals) in the offensive (and neutral) zone for players and teams relative to the league average.  After the jump I take a brief exploratory look at a handful of NHL teams and their Hextallys.

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On Gionta & Josefson

Posted: September 14, 2014 by ststevens in Devils Analysis, Devils Roster
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Jacob Josefson was a 1st round pick in 2009.  Stephen Gionta was a feel-good story that was able to happen in part because of an injury to Josefson near the end of the 2011-12 regular season. Since Gionta got into that final regular season game (and scored a goal) his career has taken a different path. That game was his NHL debut and most people figured he had been signed simply because he was Brian Gionta’s brother.  Then the 2011-12 playoffs and the CBGB line happened.  By the time Josefson’s wrist healed the Devils were on a run and it would prove tough for him to get back in the lineup regularly, although I don’t think too many thought it would remain difficult for the 2 (or 1.5) following seasons. What follows after the jump is some analysis of what Josefson and Gionta have provided the Devils under De Boer that offers some explanation about Josefson’s struggles to crack the lineup.

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So this post was originally going to be about why I hate +/- as a stat for Fantasy Hockey because I always suggest removing it from our league and am met with strong resistance.  It ultimately turned into far more as I built what I feel is a pretty strong case for its removal for the coming season.  Ranting and raving after the jump.

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Last week I took a brief dive into the on-ice SV% for Devils defensemen by shot distance.  One thing that popped out was the emergence of, to the eyes, a clear linear relationship between on-ice SV% and shot distance. NHL shot distance data is, at best, questionable in quality, still coaches at almost all levels of play stress the idea of keeping the puck to the outside if you are playing in the defensive zone.  Compared to forwards, the contributions defensemen make to a team’s performance appear more difficult to measure.  Personally, I suspect defensemen can do at the very least a few things that impact a team’s ability to regain possession of the puck that can be observed in-game that, as far as I know, aren’t actively being measured.  I also think some of them (quick clarification: “some of them” may actually represent outlier territory), like Bryce Salvador, may be able to impact a team’s on-ice SV%. As stated last week, bad data is better than no data.  With that in mind I took a look at the performance from 2008-09 to present of a number of individual defensemen who have seen significant minutes for the Devils under Pete De Boer, namely Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov, Andy Greene, and Mark Fayne.  I chose these four players, or horsemen, because for the past two seasons their numbers demonstrate a sharp contrast, with Greene and Fayne posting solid possession stats and typically being considered two of the team’s better defensemen by fans while Salvador and Volchenkov post some of the worst possession numbers on the team and are subject to a good deal of fan criticism.   Read the rest of this entry »

On Shot Quality

Posted: July 24, 2014 by ststevens in Devils Analysis

The idea of shot quality has not received much support from an analytic perspective.  When ranking shot types by shooting %, deflections and tip-ins top the list. 29.2% of rebound shots are goals compared to about 8% for non-rebound shots.  Possession (proxied by Corsi and Fenwick) generally predicts team success over the course of a season.  Given all this an appealing strategy is to consistently possess the puck more than the other team and fire away from all angles hoping for a rebound, tip-in, or deflection. Honestly, this seemed to be the Devils the strategy in the 2012 playoffs.  Regardless if you ask the average goaltender they likely tell you that shots where they have to move laterally are more difficult to stop.  Odd-man rushes are certainly more difficult to stop. Shots from closer in, screened or not, are more difficult to stop.

There’s some interesting work being done over HockeyAnalysis on rush shooting % (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) and, although much derided for its accuracy, there is also access to shot distance data from ExtraSkater and Super Shot Search.  As a psychologist who’s interested in measuring personality I agree with my colleague David Funder who has opined that the only thing worse than bad data is no data.  So with that in mind (as well as all the caveats about the quality of the data) a few things that have peaked my interest into shot distance, shot quality, and the need for more accurate measurements  to help draw better conclusions on these issues.

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