• If Semyon Varlamov’s injury is serious, should Avs look at Martin Brodeur or Tim Thomas?

    Adam Proteau
    Semyon Varlamov (Getty Images)

    Prior to the start of the season, pundits were projecting a return to earth for the Colorado Avalanche, who won 52 games in 2013-14 despite having some of the worst advanced statistics in the NHL. They leaned on goalie Semyon Varlamov and a superb shooting percentage on their way to finishing second in the Western Conference, and more than a few observers were expecting that couldn’t last again.

    About five percent of the way through the season, at least, both those projections have come to pass. The Avs were shut out in back-to-back losses at the hands of the Minnesota Wild to start the year and only managed four goals in their next two games. And now, worse news: Varlamov has been placed on Injury Reserve thanks to a wonky groin, and there’s no timetable for his return. And in Colorado’s first game without him Thursday – a 4-3 loss to Ottawa that saw the Avs blow a 3-1 lead after the first period – they sure looked like they missed him, especially when backup Reto Berra left the game after being hit by Kyle Turris in his crease and third-stringer rookie Calvin Pickard had to step in.

    And now they’re potentially facing a serious quandary: if Varlamov’s injury is serious, do they go out and acquire veteran help? Read more

  • Milan Lucic feeling the heat after appearing to make lewd gesture at Canadiens fans

    Milan Lucic (Getty Images)

    Milan Lucic is no stranger to controversy. In fact, the two are fairly familiar with one another at this point. And the Boston Bruins left winger was back in hot water Thursday after appearing to make a lewd gesture and taunt Canadiens fans with a mimed raising of the Stanley Cup.

    Lucic’s frustrations boiled over late in Montreal’s 6-4 win over Boston: with 1:20 left, he took a boarding penalty – and once he was in the penalty box, the 26-year-old interacted with fans by…welll, you go ahead and see what you think it was he was doing: Read more

  • John Scott demolishes Mikhail Grabovski; Was the hit clean? You decide

    Adam Proteau
    John Scott (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

    John Scott’s brief career as a member of the San Jose Sharks has already led to headlines both good and not-so-good. In his first game with the organization Tuesday, the enforcer scored (after scoring just twice in 236 career NHL games before that) – but Thursday on Long Island, the Sharks winger was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, levelling Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski with a check that knocked him out of the game.

    Grabovski was picking up the puck and in the process of turning when Scott skated into him, flattening the Belarusian pivot. Scott almost sheepishly made the hit, being careful not to leave his feet, but he still caught Grabovski completely unaware. Judge for yourself whether the hit was clean: Read more

  • OHL owner’s son retires after scoring zero goals in 95 games

    Ken Campbell
    Connor Burgess  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

    Your trusty correspondent has long maintained that the Sudbury Wolves are the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Ontario League. Both teams play in hockey-mad markets where the love of the team is unconditional regardless of how good or bad they are. Both have had long periods of dysfunctionality, punctuated by short bursts of promise and hope. But for the most part, both teams have given their long-suffering fans too little to cheer about for too long.

    In fact, it might even be worse in Sudbury than it is in Toronto. The Leafs are closing in on 50 years since their last Stanley Cup. The most recent and only time the Sudbury Wolves have won the Memorial Cup was 1932. So you’d have to be close to 90 years old to even have a faint recollection of what it was like to experience this team winning something. (And pre-season junior club tournaments in Russia don’t count.) Read more

  • Rumor Roundup: Eric Staal in Toronto’s sights?

    Jordan & Eric Staal (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    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

  • THN Analytics: Slow start? Firing the coach might not be the fix

    Randy Carlyle (Getty Images)

    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:

    Screen shot 2014-10-16 at 7.42.33 PM

    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