The respective trade statuses of Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers remain hot topics in the NHL rumor mill. In today’s salary cap era, it’s unusual to see two such notable players mentioned this early in the season as possible trade candidates.
On Wednesday, TSN analyst Bob McKenzie appeared on NBC to report on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ off-season interest in Staal, as well as the Detroit Red Wings apparent pursuit of Myers. His colleague Darren Dreger turned up the same night on NHL Network and commented on the Staal rumors, noting there’s a lot of “ifs” to this situation, the most notable being if Staal could agree to waive his no-trade clause. Read more
The year has just begun, but already we’ve seen more than our fair share of surprises. Here’s your top-five before we enter the second Saturday of the season:
5. Gustav Nyquist continues to shoot out the lights
After the summer of Advanced Statistics, it would have been fitting if Red Wings’ sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist’s shooting percentage fell off.
In 2013-14, Nyquist shot an outrageous 18.3 percent and proprietors of so-called fancy stats said he was due for regression. You wouldn’t have gotten much disagreement from anyone about that, either. Extrapolated over an entire year, that would have been nearly 40 goals for the Swede.
So far – and yes, it has only been four games – Nyquist has already potted four goals on 11 shots, good for a 36.4 shooting percentage. Certainly, he’s due to regress to somewhere near the league average of somewhere between 8.5 to 9 per cent, but when? If he keeps this up, he might be throwing his name into the ring for the Rocket Richard. Read more
Johan Franzen is going to owe Henrik Zetterberg a couple gifts.
The two Swedes connected for a pair of goals before the Red Wings game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was even half through. The first of what would be four assists for Zetterberg on the night was an absolute laser of a pass that found Franzen sneaking in backdoor for a tap in. The second, somehow, put that one to shame.
With just over five minutes gone in the second period, Zetterberg corralled an arcing puck that landed right in front of his feet. The Wings’ captain broke around Leafs’ Jake Gardiner, drove to the net, and, with no angle to shoot, fed a behind the back, no look pass to Franzen for his second of the night.
Zetterberg followed it up with the primary assist on the Gustav Nyquist’s goal and a secondary helper on Justin Abdelkader’s marker early in the third. The Wings held on for a 4-1 victory. Read more
Say it ain’t so, Joe.
Like many, I was saddened to learn the city of Detroit will raze Joe Louis Arena and give the land to a creditor as part of a settlement in the city’s bankruptcy case.
Not that the old Joe wasn’t getting long in the tooth.
In one of those isn’t-it-amazing-how-time-flies scenarios, it seems like only yesterday I made my first trip to JLA to watch the Detroit Red Wings play a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. I was actually covering junior hockey for the Peterborough Examiner and the Petes had a game in Windsor on a Sunday afternoon. The team went down a day early and attended the Red Wings-Flyers game as special guests of Steve Yzerman.
Yzerman, of course, played two seasons in Peterborough before departing for the NHL at the tender age 18 and promptly became the Red Wings’ leading scorer in his rookie season. He was soon to become the youngest captain in NHL history and would wind up having a Hall of Fame career, during which he won the Stanley Cup three times. Joe Louis Arena is located at 19 Steve Yzerman Drive.
What I remember most that day is being positioned in the penalty box to take photos for the feature I was writing about Yzerman and how fast the action was at ice level. I also recall my old pal, radio announcer Bill Bennett, tripping up the stairs while carrying a beer in each hand yet not spilling a drop.
Over the years JLA has been a significant arena for me in that I attended 15 of the 16 Stanley Cup final games played in Detroit since it opened Dec. 12, 1979. More than that, it has special meaning because my sons, Chase and Darryl, were lucky enough to attend Cup final games there, too.
If Gustav Nyquist hadn’t known that he arrived as an NHLer last year, he certainly does now. After all, it takes Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and awful lot to admit he screwed up and Nyquist made him do that.
Babcock has been giving himself a public flogging since Wednesday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. The Red Wings got a 4-on-3 power play with 41 seconds remaining in overtime and Babcock went with Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Riley Sheahan up front and Nicklas Kronwall on defense. In doing so, he left Nyquist on the bench cooling his heels, despite the fact he tied the game with a power-play goal in the third period.
“I don’t need good analytics to know that Nyquist has three goals,” Babcock said. “We had a 4-on-3 power play at the end of the game and I didn’t have him on the ice. This is my own analytics. After the game, we went through it and we went with the 4-on-3 we always have, but the hottest guy was sitting on the bench. You don’t need analytics to figure out that wasn’t very smart.”
For the most part, though, Nyquist has made the Red Wings look like geniuses. Brought through the organization in typically methodical fashion after being taken in the fourth round, Nyquist didn’t play an NHL game until more than three years after he was drafted in 2008 and didn’t become an NHL regular until five years later. In between were productive careers with the University of Maine and the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American League, where he won a Calder Cup championship two seasons ago.
So by the time the Red Wings turned to Nyquist and a host of other minor leaguers to save their season, he was ready to face the challenge. He was, without a doubt, the most valuable player the Red Wings had last season, scoring 23 of his 28 goals last season in a 28-game stretch from mid-January to early April. This season, he’s picked up where he left off, with three goals in the Red Wings first three games.
So is Nyquist a better NHL player because he was brought along so slowly? Read more
Well played, Mr. Babcock. Well played.
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, the undisputed prize catch among potential unrestricted free agents after this season, came into the Center of the Hockey Universe™ and managed to get out of the morning skate without addressing his future. That he did so in a hockey market that many speculate would be a prime destination for him if he decides to leave the Wings made it all that more impressive.
Babcock and the Red Wings have vowed to not make his contract situation a distraction and he did a good job of it, helped along by a broadcast media scrum that, for reasons only known to them, did not even broach the subject. Babcock only spoke of his personal situation when pulled aside after the cameras were turned off.
“My situation is great,” Babcock said. “I’m in love with my wife and I have three great kids at home and I coach the Red Wings. I’m from Saskatoon and I love my life. See you guys.”
With that he departed down the hallway to the Red Wings bus, but as long as he remains unsigned, the question will continue to be asked. It would be absurd to suggest there have not been talks between the team and Babcock about a new deal. After all, he and Red Wings GM Ken Holland speak every day. (On a related note, Holland and new Toronto Maple Leafs president and former Red Wing Brendan Shanahan spent much of the Red Wings morning skate chatting in the stands of the Air Canada Centre.)
In their quest to land a true first-line center, the Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly cast their eyes south to Carolina and Hurricanes captain Eric Staal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Maple Leafs held discussions with the Hurricanes during the summer, but the asking price could be “enormous.”
McKenzie speculates such a move could cost the Leafs either Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak (as the Hurricanes would need a center to replace Staal), a first-round pick and perhaps defenseman Jake Gardiner, but he believes it’s a price the Leafs are willing to pay. Read more
By Benjamin Wendorf – special to THN
As the fervor dies down from the fever pitch of opening games, NHL teams and their fanbases shift into the time-honored ritual of agonizing over early-season results. A few coaches begin to feel the walls close in, and regardless of testaments of faith by upper management, at least one will be fired in the first few months. Do teams carry out these decisions wisely? What kind of measures can help us determine if it’s a good move?
Reaching back to the THN Analytics stats primer, the best team measures we can use relate to regression and possession. For regression we can use “PDO,” or a team’s shooting percentage plus save percentage (for historical comparisons, I only use the first two periods to avoid the effects of “protecting” leads). It’s often expressed as a whole number like 980 or 1000, rather than their actual values of .980 or 1.000. Teams that are far above or below a range of about 990 – 1100 pull heavily (or regress) towards that range the remainder of the season. PDO is a great metric for this kind of study because its measure speaks directly to a team’s success in scoring or preventing goals.
Possession is currently best measured by Fenwick Close, but we can go further back in NHL history by using a team’s shots-for in the first two periods divided by both teams’ shots-for in those periods, called two-period shot percentage or 2pS%. It runs side-by-side with Fenwick Close, has a strong relationship with outscoring, and provides about 50 more years of data.
Using these two measures, we can look at a large body of coaching changes in NHL history. Through 140 coaching changes (minimum 20+ games for each coach), the before-and-after of PDO and possession is telling:
Historically, the changes have barely registered an uptick in possession (that 0.4% is worth a little less than one more goal-for), but that PDO shift would be good for about 14 more goals-for. In other words, NHL teams tend to cut bait when bad luck, not necessarily bad leadership, seemed to be the bigger problem. For comparison’s sake, I also put together a complete list of 97 coaching performances where the coaches had significantly low PDOs through the first 20 games but didn’t get canned: Read more