It’s still early in the season, but fans are starting to get a feel for which free agent pick-ups and off-season trades have worked in their favor. For some, it was a blockbuster deal that could change the future of the franchise. For others, it was a smart, below-the-radar deal that has given them the piece they need to build one block at a time.
Below you can find the top five off-season moves that are making waves in the early season. What is your top five?
5. Daniel Winnik (Toronto Maple Leafs)
While he certainly wasn’t the sexiest of signings in the off-season, Daniel Winnik has been just what the Toronto Maple Leafs needed. There has been no shortage of talk about the Leafs defensive woes. After a summer dedicated to shifting the focus of the front office, headlined by bringing in assistant GM Kyle Dubas, the Leafs went out and got the 29-year-old Winnik.
Though he’s unlikely to make any highlight reels, Winnik is the kind of player that helps teams win. Already this season he has shown just how defensively sound he is. Coming off a career-high 30 points in 2013-14 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Plus, he’s from Toronto. That’s sure to make one notable Leafs’ fan happy. Read more
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
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
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
According to the NHL’s director of hockey operations, linesmen Greg Devorski and Scott Driscoll acted of their own accord when they decided to intervene before Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf could start fighting Tuesday night, and were not following a league edict.
And that’s because there isn’t an edict for them to follow.
There was no shortage of consternation from fans and television analysts when the two linesmen intervened in what everyone assumed would have been a doozy of a fight between Phaneuf and Iginla, former teammates and friends who have attended each other’s weddings. This was not a staged fight, they argued. It was more of an “organic” fight that is much more palatable because it arose from the high emotions of the game. And to be fair, there was a lot of contact and some questionable hits prior to the incident. Read more
There was a time when I watched a hockey game and if there wasn’t a fight I felt ripped off.
I loved a good scrap; so much so that when Steve Dryden offered me a position at The Hockey News in 1992, I took the job on the condition I would never have to write an anti-fighting story. I was well-aware of Dryden’s stance that there is no place for fighting in hockey and I did not share the sentiment.
How the times have changed. I have not yet completely sided with the anti-fighting movement, but I am close. Very close. I no longer have a thirst to see two huge men pound on each other even though the dinosaur in me understands why the game needs such an outlet.
So, yeah, the Toronto Maple Leafs are 1-2-0 to start the season. Ho hum. There will be a lot of that in Hogtown this season: losing.
To the surprise of a certain segment of the NHL fan base, however, we at The Hockey News collectively don’t really care whether the Maple Leafs win or lose. We have no horse in that turtle race. Sure, there are Leafs fans among us, but there are also Canadiens fans, a Flames fan and, until recently, even a Panthers fan (no joke). Heck, there’s also some egghead editor whose allegiance shifts annually with his Stanley Cup prediction. (This season, it’s the Ducks.) Read more