Thoughts on Staal, Pavelski, and the growth of hockey analytics





If you haven’t had a chance yet, make sure to check this year’s Fantasy Hockey Guide.




It’s the summer, which means I’m spending most of my time reviewing hockey statistics and watching countless hours of Netflix (the Killing is coming back!!)


One mental exercise I’ve found to be particularly helpful is taking a player’s numbers from this past season, making sure to avoid looking at his name, and trying to guess who it was. What became immediately apparent is how much my individual biases are impacting my fantasy evaluations. When breaking a player down to his pure statistical output, you sometimes see things you missed before.



Of course I wondered if it was just me, so I threw this out on twitter:


This will suprise you. Name the player: broken 70Pts 3 times and was over a point per game in 2012-13...


A number of guesses came through, including: Eric Staal, Anze Kopitar, and Alex Semin. Who do you think it was? I’ll give you some time to ponder and pick it back up with the answer further down.  




The future of analytics in hockey seems to be happening right in front of us. With all the movement in NHL offices over the summer I’m guessing that the next three to five years are going to bring with them some immense change in how teams identify talent and build their rosters.


Steve Burtch over at Pension Plan Puppets eloquently discussed what could be coming next, and why the eye-test can be misleading.




EA sports has been drumming up a bit of publicity (it clearly worked on me) by releasing the player ratings of some star guys in their upcoming game. I try not to get too bent out of shape over these things – even though I do EVERY year. How does Parise end up being rated 90 overall? He’s at least starting his decline and hasn’t been quite the same player since major knee surgery cost him the majority of 2010-11. For comparison, Ovechkin is only rated 93. By that scale OV should be closer to 97 or 98.


But I digress… you can check them out for yourself here.




You’ve got to exercise extreme caution when looking over Extra Skater, you can get lost for a few hours. Which is fine if you’re at home resting comfortably in your TMNT Donatello pajamas, not so much when at the office.


I recently came across a new stat: setup passes. It’s defined as the estimated number of passes that directly led to a shot attempt. I’m not entirely sure how it is calculated, although common sense would lead me to believe it’s a bit subjective. Still, it’s an intriguing number to explore. Maybe it sheds light on players that aren’t typically viewed as ‘playmakers’, but who help generate chances.


Looking at the leaderboard from 2013-14 a few things jumped out: Joe Pavelski led the league with 726. Which wasn’t entirely surprising, until I noticed he was 53 ahead of second place (Joe Thornton).  Mats Zuccarello finished seventh (570), not a name that would immediately spring to mind. And Jordan Stall – a man I have refused to draft the past few years – came in at number 11 (545). His teammates only shot  6.5% with him on the ice last year. Perhaps he was the victim of some poor luck. Or maybe he’s decided to break my heart for all eternity – who really knows.




In other Staal news. Older brother Eric underwent core muscle surgery as a result of an injury sustained while training. I’m not a doctor, but “core” muscles feel like they’d be pretty integral to playing hockey, or any sport for that matter.


The report does indicate that he’s expected to be healthy for training camp. But this is also a guy who turns 30 in October, has had declining shots for four seasons, and plays on a Carolina team that finished 22nd in goals for.


The lesson here: You’re the most consistent and predictable asset in fantasy hockey, at least until you’re not.




The folks over at Hockey Graphs put up an interesting article on shooting percentages and the players we can expect to enjoy a return to (relatively) normal numbers in 2014-15. A resource you can tap into when starting to put together your sleepers and late round targets.  


It’s also becoming more and more evident that Daniel Sedin was dealing with a number of issues outside of his control in Vancouver last year. Yes, he and Henrik are turning 34 in September, but if there was ever a season to double down on the twins it might be this one.  




Back to the opening question – a player that has posted 70 or more points on three occasions and was over a point per game in 2012-13. It was a tough one, and certainly not something I would have gotten without at least a few attempts.


The right answer is, surprisingly, Predators center Mike Ribeiro. I have to give credit to a number of folks on twitter who got this right on their first guess, but there were also a tonne of star names thrown out. One caveat, of course, is that I didn’t include any other data (like shots, penalty minutes…etc) that would have painted a fuller picture.


Even so, it’s a worthwhile exercise to undertake when trying to mitigate your own pre-conceived notions that may not always be rooted in on-ice production. I’ll try to put together a couple dozen more of them on twitter over the next few weeks to see if any trends emerge. 




It’s no great secret that I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for aging superstars. It’s some sort of misguided nostalgia that causes me to always root for the once-upon-a-time great. And it’s why I always take those guys WAY too early in hockey pools (it worked with Lidstrom, not so much with Kovalev near the end).


In keeping with that, it feels like about that time of year when I start over-hyping Jagr to the masses. He could post 80 points. IT COULD TOTALLY HAPPEN!!






Darren Kennedy (@fantasyhockeydk) is a contributor for Dobber Hockey and McKeen’s. He’ll talk about anything and everything… except Kovalchuk. Never, ever, Kovalchuk. 


#6 mxpxillini35 2014-08-09 23:33
Quoting metaldude26:
Yeah, that's why I did a little blurb on him after my ramble on Doan the other day. Just seems to me Ribeiro is riding under the radar this year. Couldn't you see him putting up big numbers with Neal on his wing and especially on the power play with those two plus Weber's bomb from the point?

I feel like Ribeiro has ALWAYS been undervalued in leagues I've been a part of. I think there was a point in time when he was on my team for a few years straight...yet I never kept him. I always redrafted him. I used that underappreciati on to my advantage, and a huge part of that gamble paying off was due to comparing his yahoo value to his dobber draft list value.

I usually find a decent amount of sleepers that way.
#5 metaldude26 2014-08-09 10:48
Yeah, that's why I did a little blurb on him after my ramble on Doan the other day. Just seems to me Ribeiro is riding under the radar this year. Couldn't you see him putting up big numbers with Neal on his wing and especially on the power play with those two plus Weber's bomb from the point?
#4 Darren Kennedy 2014-08-09 10:21
@hockeymanG23 and @donpaulo - thanks for the kind words, much appreciated!

@metaldude26 - you're correct. I actually didn't realize Ribeiro had been so consistent throughout his career, numbers warrant more consideration than he's getting of late.
#3 hockeymanG23 2014-08-09 04:42
Really enjoy the ramblings Darren. You bring energy and info even when it seems like there should be little to talk about.
#2 metaldude26 2014-08-09 01:29
If the player is only allowed to have broken 70 three times and not more then the correct answer is Mike Ribeiro.
#1 donpaulo 2014-08-08 22:07
good stuff Darren

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