Ask Adam: Sabres, Zebras and Stats

Adam Proteau
185153857 Vanek

Hello there. It’s time to answer your questions again. Thanks to all who took a moment to write in.

Adam,

When will the Sabres realize that, in their rush to rebuild, they traded away everyone that played well together? And what can they do about it now?
Anthony Naples, Buffalo

Anthony,

I don’t think it’s fair to rip the Sabres for dealing players simply because they had established chemistry with one another. If they waited until that chemistry faded or disappeared, they wouldn’t receive nearly as much on the trade market. There’s no way around the fact that, if you want something of value, you have to offer something of value.

In my estimation, the Sabres did well on the returns they got in the trades they did make – in particular, the deal for Jason Pominville that landed them Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett – but they can’t move completely in a new, full-rebuild direction so long as veterans and pending unrestricted free agents Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek are around.

Now, if you want to rip the Sabres, rip them for not trading key veterans soon enough.

More importantly, rip them for not developing enough prospects. That’s what led to their downfall. Sure, there were some free agent choices made by management that were curious to say the least. But if the team had produced more NHLers in-house, their cupboard wouldn’t be as bare as it was prior to last season. Chemistry between linemates on the ice matters, but organizational chemistry is much more crucial to a franchise’s performance.

Hi Adam. Can NHL players become referees?
Justin Sulpico, Abbotsford, B.C.

Hi Justin. Yes, former NHLers can become on-ice officials if that suits their fancy. Former Sabres and Maple Leafs forward Kevin Maguire enjoyed a six-year career as a referee after his playing days were over; and Paul Stewart played in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques and the World Hockey Association before going on to work more than 1,000 games as an official.

That said, former NHLers as NHL officials are the exception to the rule. Most players at hockey’s top level have made enough money to not subject themselves to the verbal abuse referees deal with, so it’s an uphill battle recruiting them to put on zebra stripes. This is why hockey organizations have more success turning collegiate and/or minor pro athletes into officials.

Adam, I read one of your more recent articles regarding how offensive numbers have obscured the view of the pallet of skills of NHL defensemen. I for one agree on your stance 100 percent. I was thinking of a new statistical column for skaters that is similar to plus/minus, except it would only measure goals against weighed against time on ice. Your thoughts?
Joseph Moersch, Madison, Wisc.

Joseph,

I’m not the world’s biggest stats aficionado, but it feels as if plus/minus has been discredited as a reliable indicator of a player’s combined offensive and defensive performance. And with due respect, I think your suggestion doesn’t do all that much better in being that indicator.

The preferred method of judgment in that regard is the Corsi Rating, which measures the differences in overall team shot attempts – not just shots on net, but blocked shots and shots that miss the net – when any particular player is on the ice.

That’s a subtle change in thinking, but an important one. Using goals-against as a way to judge a player’s worth doesn’t factor into account things such as bad goals by the goalie or poor plays by their teammates. On the other hand, shot totals are a better indication of which team at least had control of the puck.

See the difference? Many do. And that’s why the Corsi Rating is gaining widespread acceptance among hockey executives, media and fans.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.