• 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

  • Enough, Oilers – latest loss proves it’s time for major changes

    Adam Proteau
    Jordan Eberle (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Everything written this time of the NHL’s regular season of is legally and morally bound to include the phrase “it’s early, but…”. And it is indeed early, but after seeing the Edmonton Oilers get rolled for the fourth straight game, I think I speak for their fan base – actually, I know I do, because their vocal cords are paralyzed with rage – when I say the following words:

    Enough. No mas. Detener la locura.

    That’s right – I’m so done watching these Oilers get humbled virtually every time they take the ice, I’m speaking in short bursts of Spanish. This is all affecting us in different ways. But as a writer who isn’t a fan of any team, I have no horse in this race, so I can only imagine how simultaneously furious and defeated Oilers fans must be feeling this morning. Is there a single barf bag available for purchase anywhere within the city limits right now?

    This stopped being comically inept a long time ago. It is now tragically inept. And while you never want to make knee-jerk moves after a bad run, at some point you have to jerk the knee to prove you’re not a cadaver. The Oilers are at this stage. Read more

  • Carey Price has a celebrity bedroom stalker

    Matt Larkin
    Actor Jay Baruchel takes his love for the Habs to the extreme in a new ad.

    It’s easy to make fun of obligatory promotional videos and commercials involving hockey players. Often, the come off a little wooden, or just plain creepy. Right, Mario?

    But this one involving Carey Price and actor Jay Baruchel, who is a diehard Montreal Canadiens fan, is pretty good. Price sells it and Baruchel pulls off the stalker persona nicely. Check out the video, which promotes the Habs fan loyalty program Club 1909:

    Read more

  • If it’s over for him, Daniel Alfredsson the player and person should be celebrated

    Adam Proteau
    Daniel Alfredsson (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    We should know that, when the end of their playing career arrives for most NHLers, it does not arrive in the fairy tale format. For every Raymond Bourque, there are hundreds of guys who experience a less-than ideal exit from a league most never want to leave.

    If that’s how it has to be for Daniel Alfredsson – and this Detroit Free Press report suggests that could very well be the case – the 42-year-old has nothing to be ashamed of. If his ailing back can’t take any more punishment, it says nothing about his competitive desire or legacy. It only speaks to Father Time’s eventual dickishness to us all. And if Alfredsson has played his final NHL game, there’s little doubt he’ll be regarded as a terrific talent on the ice and one of the sport’s best ambassadors away from it.

    Yeah, he didn’t get to celebrate a Cup win the way fellow good guy Teemu Selanne did. But that’s no reason to be sad about his retirement. There are too many teams and too few Stanley Cups awarded every season to adequately reward all the talents that ache to win at the game’s highest levels.

    No, now’s the time for Alfredsson’s fans in Ottawa and Detroit to celebrate the contributions of one of hockey’s most fundamentally decent human beings.
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  • Jake Muzzin another piece of the Kings exercise in dynasty building

    Ken Campbell
    Jake Muzzin (Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

    If you like what you’ve seen from the Los Angeles Kings, get ready for a lot more of the same. For a long, long time. That’s because their core players keep coming up and GM keeps knocking them down, and all of them on long-term, cap-friendly deals.

    The Kings, in fact, are building themselves some kind of empire. And as anyone knows, all empires need foot soldiers, which is why Lombardi was eager to get defenseman Jake Muzzin’s name on a five-year contract extension worth $20 million. It’s a great contract for the Kings – who get a No. 3-4 defenseman for an average of $4 million – and further proof that the Kings are now a desired destination for players who are willing to take far less money in exchange for the chance to have a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup every year. If you take into account the fact that Muzzin’s cap hit for this season is just $1 million, the Kings have him for the next six seasons for $21 million, an average of $3.5 million.

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