The NHL released the 2013-14 schedule on Friday.
The biggest bit of news is that there is a scheduled break for the Olympics despite there not being a firm deal to send NHL players to Sochi as of yet.
Also included was the long-awaited naming of the four new Divisions created through re-alignment.
The Metropolitan is made up of the Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Atlantic has the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Senators, Sabres, Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Central has the Jets, Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues.
The Pacific has the Canucks, Flames, Oilers, Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks.
Obviously none of these division names are new except for the Metropolitan Division, which was an odd choice for a name but what the hell, I’m excited to see Superman competing there next season.
With the new schedule released you can start planning out your draft with teams to focus on for their respective schedules. DobberHockey's Bob Fisher already has his Same Night Tool out for this exact purpose. It's an invaluable tool that can help you maximize your number of games played.
Also check out Bob's weekly Looking Ahead pieces throughout the season to help you maximize games played on a week by week basis. I use it all the time!
The St. Louis Blues re-signed forward Chris Stewart on Friday.
This signing was inevitable after the Blues dealt David Perron to the Oilers for Magnus Paajarvi. I think the Blues looked at the interest teams had in Stewart and RFAs in general and decided they wouldn’t get much in return so it was better to keep Stewart and move another guy who could bring a better return. If you look at the deal as Perron and whatever compensation picks Stewart might have yielded the Blues for Stewart, Paajarvi and the Oilers 2014 second rounder the trade becomes much more palatable.
I still think Blues fans would have preferred to have kept Perron over Stewart but that wasn’t really an option after they signed Derek Roy. Now you could certainly make the argument that they’d also rather not have signed Roy if it was going to cost them Perron but that’s another story.
This means that St. Louis continues to be a crowded joint. They have so many talented forwards I won’t dare to mention them but suffice it to say that they have at least 10 forwards who could all play top six minutes on another team. I do think that there’s room for someone to emerge as a scoring star there – Ken Hitchcock isn’t allergic to offense – but it’s going to require someone to take a leap into stardom.
I’m looking squarely at Vladimir Tarasenko when I say that because there isn’t another star forward on the Blues. The rest are complimentary guys. If Tarasenko wants it though, he could score like Nash in Columbus or maybe even like Modano in Dallas. He’s going to have to put it all together however, and develop some good chemistry too. And Tarasenko’s going to have to earn Hitchcock’s complete trust too because it requires minutes to be a big scorer. Tarasenko only skated 13:24 per game last season; he needs way more ice time but he also has to earn it.
Back to Stewart though.
Stewart scored 18 goals and 36 points in 48 games last season, which is pretty decent production. Don’t count on that continuing though. Stewart shot an astounding 18.6% last year. The regression monster will surely eat him up as he’s a career 13.4% shooter.
You could certainly argue that last year was merely making up for 2011-12 when he shot only 9.0% and finished with an abysmal 30 points in 79 games but that would be a flawed argument. Regression merely means that odds favour future outcomes being closer to average rather than balancing out random previous outcomes.
What this means is that Stewart falls somewhere between the last two seasons. He’s not the terrible shooting 30-point player he was in 2011-12 but he’s also not the sniper who scored at a 61-point pace last season. Book him in for 20 goals and 45-points and call it a day.
He still has value in rotisserie leagues because of his PIM and shooting but he’s unlikely to be a stud. That’s because he’s just not reliable enough to earn Hitchcock’s full trust and thus he only skates 15:49 per game, most of which are low leverage minutes. That does make things a bit easier for Stewart but in the end he’d be at his best as a fantasy asset on a team that used him more (as would most players).
Something to think about is that Stewart’s deal is a two-year contract, which eats up the last of his RFA years. He’ll be a UFA in the summer of 2015. So now the question is whether he goes the way of Dustin Penner or David Clarkson. A lot of money is at stake for him over these next two years.
Now the last domino to fall in St. Louis is the most important domino: Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues have to re-sign him and they have to at all costs. Without Pietrangelo they may as well sell all their assets and start over. He is why they went into the tank a few years ago. Now before you get outraged let me explain.
When St. Louis decided to tank it was so they could rebuild with cornerstone assets. They were after their next Chris Pronger. They hoped Erik Johnson would be that guy but he wasn’t. Pietrangelo is that guy. They must do whatever it takes to re-sign him – give him all the money if you have to, St. Louis.
The Blues have a little over $8.8 million in cap room for next season and I’d pay him that much to keep him. The Blues technically have to re-sign Paajarvi as well but that contract won’t be huge. This one is practically life or death, though. Not that the Blues wouldn’t be competitive without Pietrangelo but they’ll never stand a chance of winning the Cup without him. Why some team hasn’t swept in with a mind-bending offer-sheet is beyond me. There are about 29 other teams that could use this guy and quite a few who even have the cap room to get naughty about it too.
Jordan Caron re-signed with the Boston Bruins for one-year. As far as I can tell it’s a one-way deal, which is huge news. As of right now that makes 12 forwards signed with Boston for next season (discounting Marc Savard, of course) so Caron should make the Bruins barring a terrible training camp. I wouldn’t get too excited about Caron’s short-term prospects but he could eventually work his way up into a scoring role and this is a big first step towards that.
The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed Zach Dalpe to a one-year, two-way deal. In other words; BUH-BYE to his fantasy value.
Marc-Andre Bergeron signed a three-year deal to play in Switzerland. His career was starting to feel a little like Jason Voorhees. I’m glad the torture is finally over.
Remember when Brandon Yip had a brief moment of fantasy relevance? Well he just signed a two-way deal with Phoenix so don’t count on a reoccurrence.
The Los Angeles Kings re-signed forward Jordan Nolan for two more years. No fantasy relevance here except for in deep cap leagues.
If you haven’t heard Taylor Fedun’s story it’s a pretty remarkable one. He just re-signed with the Oilers for another season. He doesn’t have much fantasy relevance but I think it’s astounding how quickly he was able to bounce back.
I don’t want to take too much away from Fedun’s story here but he makes the thousandth defenseman the Oilers have signed this summer. I know a lot of Oilers fans are thinking WTF but I totally get the logic here. The Oilers were surprisingly competitive last season when they were actually healthy but when injuries struck they were crippled. Now they have a stable of nearly a dozen defensemen who could play at the NHL level. That’s organizational depth. That’s how you stay competitive through injuries, particularly when none of those defensemen is a game-breaking All-Star.
Acquiring depth is a perfectly reasonable strategy. Obviously it has to be quality depth but in this case I think it is. The Oilers have plans A, B and C all lined up and they did so mostly for free. Commendable, I’d say. And if it doesn’t work out and the Oilers suck again, they acquired plenty of guys who will fetch draft picks at the trade deadline, which again leads to organizational depth.
This is no different than in a fantasy league where you can go to the waiver wire to pick up injury replacements. It just happens that the NHL doesn’t have anywhere near the depth on the waiver wire that a fantasy league does so these moves have to be done pre-emptively.
More great stuff from Grantland’s Sean McIndoe (you may know him from his Down Goes Brown blog) – The Faker’s Guide to Advanced Stats in the NHL. There’s a lot of stuff in there that you as a fantasy hockey player can either use or appreciate.
I’ll toss out a few thoughts on advanced stats while we are here. I love them. As a fantasy hockey nerd how could I not? I just love the notion that you can help to understand better what is happening in games, whether you are watching or not.
Obviously watching the games should be your go-to move, because otherwise what are you really doing? You are supposed to watch games because that’s where the entertainment is. So advanced stats are supplemental. You use them to help explain what you don’t understand or to help convey better what you already do.
Advanced stats are far from perfect though. I don’t think that hockey’s a sport you can boil down like you can with baseball but I do think we can take things farther than we have thus far. One thing I’d love to see is some real work done on shot quality. We all know there are certain areas where it’s better to get shots from (ie. closer to the net) but thus far attempts at shot-charting have been unsuccessful.
What I’d like to see is for the NHL to get some of the player tracking cameras like the NBA has with SportVU. This program should be able to give accurate shot-tracking data, as well as open up all sorts of other doors. For instance you could track player positioning on every play. Every rush and counter-attack and program in your own team’s philosophy as to where the player should be versus where he actually was. Endless possibilities.
What really interests me about shot-charting would be to figure out once and for all if there really are hot spots where shots are best from. And if there are spots that don’t just often result in lots of goals but also increase the chance of rebounds/rebound-goals. I’d also love to take that one step further and see if particular players are on the ice offensively/defensively more often for when shots from these “hot spots” occur. I don’t know that it would necessarily confirm anything we didn’t already know from more basic stats but shot charting – accurate shot charting – is what interests me the most.
A great point made in McIndoe’s piece is about not using the term Moneyball. I agree with that sentiment but only so far as I would say not to misuse the term. Moneyball was all about finding market inefficiencies and exploiting them. Advanced stats would only be “Moneyball” if they were truly unearthing inefficiencies for teams to exploit – I’m just not sure we are there yet. They can be helpful for fantasy hockey though I’d suggest you wouldn’t have to look quite so deep. Honestly, I think the biggest market inefficiency in fantasy hockey is time. How much time do you have to dedicate to your team(s)?
I guarantee you that the guys who spend the most time on their team will win most of their leagues. It’s simply about being more active and attentive than the rest of your league. Reading DobberHockey is obviously a great start – particularly if you are reading this, on a weekend in the middle of July, for goodness sake.
Circling back to the topic of the Oilers and organizational depth and how that’s like the fantasy waiver wire, I would say that the waiver wire is the perfect place to start looking/creating inefficiencies in your fantasy league. I try to treat the waiver wire like my personal farm system, calling up players on whims to see if I can’t extract some extra value out of a roster spot if for no other reason than I can increase the number of games played in a week.
The point is; find the inefficiency in your league. It may be something as simple as making a few more add/drops or spending a few extra minutes a day or it may go as far as reading message boards and researching advanced stats. Just find the inefficiency, exploit it and increase the odds of winning your league. That’s Moneyball.
Dobber is selling ad space in the upcoming 2013-14 Fantasy guide to trash talk the rest of your league. Frankly, I'm torn. On one hand, it's of most benefit to you if your league doesn't read the guide. On the other hand, I want Dobber to sell more guides. If you know your league-mates will be reading the guide anyway I think this could be a great way to start the season. More information here.
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