Fancy stats: Is Colorado playing with fire?

Ryan Kennedy
Avs hero Semyon Varlamov (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Just because something hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy has proven that throughout his career, from winning the Stanley Cup as a rookie goaltender to winning the Jack Adams Award as a rookie NHL bench boss last season (and let’s not forget all those overtime games he won en route to the 1993 Cup).

But with Roy and Avalanche GM Joe Sakic coming out against advanced stats in a recent article by Nick Cotsonika, could it be that the golden boys are about to get tarnished?

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The top 10 goalies most likely to have a down year

Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec (Photo by Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

No one has ever understood goaltenders. From Hall of Fame puker Glenn Hall to wall-kicking Josh Harding, they’re a breed apart and considering the dangerous occupation they chose, perhaps they can be forgiven for their eccentricities. Recently, it’s been very difficult to figure out who will dominate the Vezina Trophy race. But with some help from Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract, here’s a look at 10 goalies who might have down years. Quality Starts percentage refers to games in which a goalie had a .917 save percentage when facing more than 20 shots (.885 when facing 20 shots or less). Vollman averaged out the past three seasons to get his results.

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The top 10 fighters to watch this season

Brian McGrattan and Patrick Bordeleau (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you like a good scrap, you might find yourself a bit under siege lately in the hockey world. Regulations are tightening up, though the powers-that-be still maintain that organic fights, rather than staged bouts, are still part of the game. And even though enforcers such as Paul Bissonnette and Colton Orr appear to have uphill battles in returning to the NHL this season, there are still plenty of scrappers to watch. With a shout-out to hockeyfights.com as a research tool, here are the best:

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10 RFAs who missed training camp and how their disputes were resolved

Jamie Benn (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Ryan Johansen’s contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets are…contentious. Yesterday started with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen drawing a line in the sand by insinuating the start of training camp as a cut off point. Later on, team president John Davidson took aim at Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt by saying the numbers he was throwing out made no sense and were embarrassing.

This sounds like it could be one of the bigger RFA battles the NHL has had in recent years, but there’s still a little time before training camps open. And it’s not like it would be the first time a player has missed the start of training camp with a contract dispute.

It actually used to happen a lot more in the NHL. In the 1990s, it was a regular, yearly thing most teams would have to deal with at one point or another. The only great leverage an RFA without arbitration rights has is to stay home and make the team sweat. It maybe doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but the Johansen situation is hardly unique to the NHL today. Heck, Torey Krug, Jaden Schwartz, Reilly Smith, Darcy Kuemper and Cody Eakin are going through their own, less-publicized negotiations right now too.

We take a look at some of the more recent RFAs who missed all or a portion of training camp over a contract dispute and what the outcome was. We didn’t want to look too far back at every situation because market conditions have changed, especially when looking back past the 2004-05 lockout. Anything before then is basically no influence on Johansen’s situation. Just don’t call these guys holdouts.

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Prior to last season, Stepan missed 16 days of training camp before settling on a bridge deal with the Rangers. Stepan ended up signing a two-year deal that has a $3.075 million salary cap charge. Read more

Semyon Varlamov’s controversial t-shirt another instance of NHLers running from their own convictions

Adam Proteau
Semyon Varlamov (Instagram)

T-shirts are like opinions: everyone thinks theirs is the best until they bring them out into the sunlight to be judged by everyone else. Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov probably thought so when he wore a shirt in Denver this weekend featuring Russian president Vladimir Putin and the phrase “Crimea Is Ours” on it.

Almost immediately, Varlamov pulled the picture off his Instagram account, because people were laying into him for condoning a contentious political development that’s far from settled. But he really has nobody to blame for himself for whatever blowback has come (and will come) his way.

Consider this paragraph the standard disclaimer for all you staunch libertarians out there currently typing up an impassioned “hey pal, he’s got the right to wear whatever shirt he wants!” email, comment or tweet on your word processing machine. Nobody’s suggesting Varlamov doesn’t have the right to send whatever message he pleases – and that goes for whether he’s wearing that message on his chest or if he followed the lead of people renting airplanes to fly banners over football stadiums this past weekend. We live in a free and open society and people are welcome to express opinions they believe in.

But, just as Tim Thomas found out a couple of years ago, making public statements on controversial issues carries with it a responsibility to defend your stance and to be judged by people in return. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Colorado Avalanche

The Hockey News
Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

2013-14: 52-22-8

Acquisitions: Brad Stuart, Jesse Winchester, Zach Redmond, Jarome Iginla, Bruno Gervais, Daniel Briere

Departures: Andre Benoit, Matt Hunwick, Paul Stastny, P-A Parenteau

Top five fantasy players: Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, Jarome Iginla

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Potential is, pardon the pun, mile-high in Denver. The Avalanche went from basement dwellers to Central Division champs in one season and much of what went right remains intact. Reigning Jack Adams Award winner Patrick Roy has the utmost trust of his players and has transformed the career of goalie Semyon Varlamov. Read more

Nathan MacKinnon is “going to take another quantum leap forward”

Nathan MacKinnon. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie last season and it wasn’t even close. The Cole Harbour, N.S., native earned 130 first place votes, while Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat was second with five first place votes. MacKinnon was consistently good all season long – he had a scoring drought of three or more games only three times and his longest scoreless streak was a five-game spell in October.

But we know winning the Calder Trophy doesn’t ensure growth in Year 2. Jonathan Huberdeau, 2013′s Calder winner, scored fewer points in 69 games last season than he did in 48 games as a rookie. Gabriel Landeskog won the award in 2012 with 52 points in 82 games and followed it up with 17 points in 36 games as a sophomore. Jeff Skinner’s second season was derailed by a concussion and his point average dropped, too.

MacKinnon was always supposed to be a better player than these guys, though – that’s why he was far and away considered the top forward available in his draft year and the others weren’t. Maybe the better rookie comparables for MacKinnon are Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin or Alex Ovechkin, three Calder winners who maintained their rookie dominance, or built on it in Year 2. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and declare that MacKinnon is about to break out as an NHL superstar before his 20th birthday, but that’s the potential he had when he entered this league a year ago. And by all accounts, MacKinnon is coming into his sophomore season bulked up and more impressive than ever. Read more

Fantasy Pool Look: Bruins, Ducks & Avalanche off-season report

Corey Perry (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season review of each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I did something different and reviewed the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. And wouldn’t you know it? I’m all done now. Here were the Top 3 teams in the NHL last season, let’s see if their fantasy outlooks reflect that…

BOSTON BRUINS
Gone – Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Andrej Meszaros

Incoming – Jeremy Smith

Ready for full time – Ryan Spooner is a real solid prospect who has taken to the pro game very well. In his cup of coffee with the Bruins he held his own. The team has room for him on the roster and he should win a spot out of camp. If he does, he could surprise depending on the line he plays on.

Niklas Svedberg will be the backup goalie. The former AHL goalie of the year has good upside at the NHL level and with such a strong team ahead of him will put up nice numbers. If Tuukka Rask were to get injured for any length of time, Svedberg would actually be one of the better goalies to own in all of hockey.

David Warsofsky may have his work cut out for him because he is a smaller defenseman who moves the puck well and the team already has that in Torey Krug. That being said, if Krug doesn’t sign (he is an restricted free agent) that opens the door wide for Warsofsky. But that’s a long, long, long shot. So look for Warsofsky to be used in a depth capacity if he makes the team. At least for this year. Read more