Thursday, December 27, 2012
However, what I'm not hearing about is how the money is going to get distributed in such a scenario. In a normal season before this lockout, players got 57% of hockey related revenue. After this lockout, presumably NHL players will be getting 50% + some percentage of Make Whole, which percentage they'll calculate by putting 1,000 monkeys in a room with 1,000 abacuses and seeing how the beads fall. While we don't know the exact dollar amount that will be added to Make Whole in 2013 yet, we can be pretty sure that the players are going to end up with somewhere between 51 and 53% of HRR this year if there is a season.
As I understand it, players are typically paid relative to days on the roster - the NHL season has 186 days (or thereabouts), and a player on a two-way contract gets paid his NHL rate relative to the number of days he spends on the NHL roster. Presumably, that's how the NHL will function this year. Let's say in the doomsday scenario, we have a 28 game season - that'll probably be something like 56 to 60 days. Players would then get around 1/3rd of their salary this season, with adjustments relative to the new revenue split + Make Whole. Ah, but a 28 game season also includes the playoffs - last season, the regular season was 1230 games and 86 playoff games. Playoff games are typically higher priced, but even if we assume that they are three times the price of a regular season game, that would still only account for 20% the amount pulled in by the regular season and 17% of overall gate revenues. (These are giant estimates with huge error ranges, but bear with me).
Right here you might be saying 'Well, who cares?' The NHL escrow system cares. In a 28 game season, the NHL would have 420 total games and presumably around 86 playoff games, give or take 5 either way. That's a much larger percentage of the games being playoff ones. Now with a system where everything isn't tied together, this wouldn't make a difference, but with the stupidity of the escrow system that I've pointed out in previous posts, what revenues the New York Rangers generate in the playoffs affect how much the New York Islanders ultimately pay out to players. If playoff revenue constitutes a large portion of hockey-related revenue, that means making the playoffs is more important than ever - if we assume that playoff tickets are twice the cost of regular season ones, playoff revenue would constitute around 29% of total gate revenues. If we operate under the assumption that the lower revenue teams tend to be less successful than high revenue teams, this would put an undue burden on low revenue clubs - low revenue clubs play 14 home dates, and if they miss the playoffs, that's it for them. But they'd have to pay out salaries equal to 50% + Make Whole of the total HRR, which might be significantly more than it would be in a normal season because of the disproportion of playoff games. These teams may well lose less money by not playing at all.
Now maybe with the players voting for the 5% cap inflator this past off-season, the cap (and consequently every player's 'written' salary) is so high relative to what revenues will end up at that it won't matter, but I have to imagine that NHL teams have made this calculation, and I think the longer this goes on, the more the small-market teams will be up for a cancellation of the season and an attempt to break Fehr and the union rather than playing an extremely short season.
Friday, November 30, 2012
* Aquilini bought 50% of the team during the lockout, bought the rest afterwards
If I called Anaheim, Dallas, Florida, Nashville, Phoenix, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta small-market teams would anyone get upset? St. Louis is the only one that's questionable, maybe Anaheim too. If I called Columbus, Carolina, Colorado, and Long Island small-market teams would anyone get upset? Again, Colorado's questionable. So we've got 8 out of 12 small-market teams changing hands between lockouts - why did those owners sell? Hard to say in each case, but it's hard to imagine these teams have Bettman's ear. Bettman was established as an NHL commissioner for 10 years before these people got on board as owners, and it's hard to know where they might stand on this prolonged work stoppage. I don't believe that either party - Bettman or the New Owners - has the other's back.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Cost certainty appears to have been a breakwater for the NHL - yes, NHL players had their salaries cut by 24% across the board. But what if NHL fans didn't come back at all? What if most NHL arenas resembled the Nassau Coliseum that season? The NHL was only the second sports league to cancel its championship game, and Major League Baseball faced serious attendance repercussions when that battle was settled. The NHL was not willing to bet on the fans coming back. It needed some way to grab back salaries in case the fans were riled up.
The thresholds were:
HRR of 2.2 Bn and below: 54%
2.2 Bn to 2.4 Bn: between 55-56%
2.4 Bn to 2.7 Bn: between 56-57%
2.7 Bn+: 57%
The NHL hit 2.1 Bn its first year, something which it's hard to imagine the NHL believed possible. They must've thrown these revenue thresholds in as a bone for players thinking they'd never have to pay, but here they are. Not only did they have to pay 57%, they had to do so for several years.
The trouble with tying these things together in such a grand way is that television contracts don't make up a large percentage of hockey-related revenue in the NHL, and they certainly make up a smaller percentage of revenue than in any of the three other North American team sports. So individual market growth determines how the collective does, but what if one market is failing? Its failure gets transmitted to the other 29 teams as a bonus (they suppress HRR, thereby suppressing the salary cap and player salaries), meanwhile its 29 partners' relative success gets transmitted to it via the salary floor, making it impossible to run a profitable team.
But it goes deeper than this - let's take a team like the Islanders that had several players on their team who could have been due bonus money last season, names like John Tavares, Nino Niederreiter, and Jay Pandolfo. The only players eligible for bonuses in the NHL are old players, young players, or players who've been injured, and the bonus thresholds are set in the CBA - teams can't give out a bonus for scoring 1 goal, for instance. These bonuses function as dead cap space, mostly - it is often very difficult to reach these incentives, and it's almost a guarantee that Pandolfo and Niederreiter reached none of their objectives. Each could've been due as much as $2.2 million in bonuses. Assuming the Islanders were exactly at the cap floor (which they weren't, but let's assume that they were), that was $2.2 million that the Islanders did not have to pay in salary. Aha - but here's why escrow is stupid - owners have to pay out 57% of hockey-related revenue in a given year. So if e.g. every team is at the salary floor for some reason, escrow makes up for that shortfall by forcing owners to pay more to each player out of their own pocket until 57% of HRR is reached. So let's go back to that 2.2 million - the Islanders didn't pay it out. You know who did? Every other team in the NHL. Well, the Islanders too, but they and the 29 other teams effectively split that 2.2 million. Some years they may not have to pay out any extra money, depending on how the other chips fall, and some years they might've had to pay out the entire 2.2 million, but that's how the system is set up. And it's profoundly dumb that the other owners pay for the Islanders' loophole manipulation, just as it's stupid that as a result of escrow the players all pay for the top players to have huge front-loaded contracts. The system is broken - I just can't see the NHL bothering to fix it. For some reason this is what they think is best for the league, even though the Islanders' manipulation is a symptom that the salary floor is in desperate need of repair.
The league thinks the best fix is to not allow bonuses to count against the cap for teams presently below the salary floor. Happy lockout, everyone.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The owners have made an attempt to save the entire season with their latest offer. This is not something they've seemed remotely interested in doing in recent weeks, and while this offer is somewhat onerous, it is not the absurd 'You'll get nothing and like it' CBA offer they presented in July. This is why the players hired Fehr - to turn up the heat at a moment like this. It may seem ridiculous, but Fehr should say - Look, the union will vote on whatever we get to at the end of this negotiating session in order to save an enormous chunk of the season, but if that does not pass, we will not be giving or receiving offers until April 1, 2013. This is akin to when George Costanza preemptively broke up with a woman and then said '[Are you] shocked?' The owners have been the ones not afraid to cancel games in an attempt to steamroll the union, but here is a little shaft of light at the bottom of the well. If the owners are actually concerned about the season, they'll respond by negotiating in good faith. If they say take or leave it to this offer they've presented, they will demonstrate that they were never serious.
The players' counter offer should include mandatory rises in HRR % over certain revenue thresholds. It should include less of an initial giveback. It should include a final year, which, if no CBA can be agreed to before that, the players' share of HRR% jumps significantly. This offers lockout protection for players and owners. The rest of the offer can be whatever, those things can all be hashed out. Still, the union's goal remains getting the most they possibly can, and their only opportunity to do so is right now.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The question I've had throughout is how can the smaller market owners go with the same system we've got? I recognize that the NHL's first offer is a first offer, and so they asked basically to roll back salaries by a large percentage, as well as roll back time to around 1972. These rollbacks would no doubt help out small market teams even if their paltry revenues aren't augmented in any way. But shave back the revenue percentage and change nothing else significantly about the NHL's salary cap or revenue structure, and it seems like we're right back here in seven years, with big market teams still raking in profits while the mid-market teams break even (hopefully) and the smaller markets do everything in their power to avoid paying the full amount mandated by the salary floor. How do small markets typically avoid paying the full amount of the salary floor?
A: Contracts with lots of bonuses
I'm curious to see whether performance bonuses remain in the CBA for players 35+ - I imagine they will. The Islanders gave Jay Pandolfo $800,000 worth of performance bonuses - he promptly scored 1 goal in 62 games, so I can't imagine he managed to hit them.
This also applies to young players on entry-level contracts - the Islanders also left Nino Niederreiter and his $1.925M in unreachable performance bonuses on the roster while he scored 1 goal in 55 games. Still, it's tough to find players who are eligible for bonuses - only players on ELCs, 35+ players, or players who've missed an entire season to injury can get them.
B: Contracts whose cap hits are greater than their salaries
Here's the real payoff for a small market team. Let's assume that the owners to a large degree win this round of negotiations: the salary cap comes down, the salary floor stays in place, the players' cut of the revenue is heavily axed, and maximum contract limits are established. This means an end to deals where a player gets way less than his actual market value as a tradeoff for a long contract that's significantly front-loaded. We'll begin seeing contracts that are closer to the NHL maximum as teams are now unable to throw a bunch of cheap years on the back end to lower the cap. This means that the salary cap will become a going concern for half the league again, like it was back in 2010 - teams will actually have to consider not keeping all the players they want to keep. What players will be the first ones to go if teams do have a cap crunch several years down the road? Why, the very players who were signed to very long deals for 'cheap' cap hits. These players will be near the ends of their careers and likely won't be worth their cap hits any longer. Plus, if the salary floor doesn't move or go away, we'll still see teams trying their hardest to hit it as inexpensively as possible. So, if this is such a great solution to the cap floor problem, when will we start to see these players move?
To answer that question, I decided to look at all the players who have very long contracts (7+ years), the point at which their salary becomes less than their cap hit, and the clauses they have in their contract. I excluded players such as Miikka Kiprusoff and Patrik Elias who are still providing solid value for their teams even as their salaries have dipped below what I've termed the inflection point - the point at which these players' salaries dip below their cap hit. I've also noted if they have a No Trade or No Movement Clause in their contract. All numbers and clauses courtesy of capgeek.com.
|Player||Inflection Year||Yrs Left||Contract Clauses|
|Scott Gomez||2012-13||2||Limited NTC|
|Ryan Malone||2012-13||3||NMC/Limited NTC|
|Niklas Kronwall||2017-18||2||Limited NTC|
|Roberto Luongo||2018-19||4||Limited NTC|
* - Zdeno Chara was signed under the new rules, the final year of his contract is equal to its cap hit because it occurs after he is 40.
Not all of these players are going to play all of these years. In fact, I expect several of them to not play any years once their salary has dipped below the cap hit. Still, in the summer of 2016, we're looking at Hossa and Franzen each dipping below the inflection point, each without any sort of no-trade or no-movement clause, and Franzen will be 36, Hossa 37. If either guy has fallen well below their performance now, I expect their clubs will look at dealing them, and I have to imagine teams near the salary floor will be eager to buy. What low-budget team wouldn't want a formerly great player on a cheap contract with a high cap hit and no no-trade clause to deal with? And yeah, nearly half of these players have NMCs, but all NMCs really prevent are a player being placed on waivers. It's difficult for a player to keep his team from trading him if he knows that they really want him out.
Are these contracts a panacea for what ills the NHL have-nots? No, not by a long shot. It's unclear just how many of these players will actually finish out their contracts, or will even finish out the beginning of their salary declines. Furthermore, the cap savings in some of these deals varies greatly - for some it's only a few hundred thousand dollars in the first few years. Regardless of how this CBA turns out, I expect we'll see a fair number of great players ending their careers wearing a funny-looking uniform, a Band-Aid on a long-term problem.
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
A. Labor uncertainty. Scuttlebutt is that the NHL wants to cut back on the players' share of revenues which would in turn decrease the salary cap. The cap right now is based on a 57/43 player/owner revenue split; rumors have placed the owners' initial offer of a revenue split below 50% for the players, which if accepted would drop the salary cap by over 10%. Teams might not want to make trade offers based on the uncertainty of the cap and thus the uncertainty of certain players' value - if the cap decreases significantly, young (and thus cheap) players' values rise and older players' value falls. Right now under a 70M cap, many veterans who signed UFA deals under the 59M cap of 2 years ago are a significant bargain. That could change in the coming months.
B. Amnesty buyouts. If the cap does decrease significantly, it's hard to imagine that it would happen without the possibility of amnesty buyouts, where a team is released from its contract obligations with a player for an amount of money that won't appear on their salary cap ledger. Imagine a second Free Agent Frenzy after the dust settles from the upcoming labor dispute; guys like Scott Gomez, Daniel Briere, Mike Komisarek, Wade Redden, Ryan Malone, Keith Ballard and so forth could become free agents, with plenty of cash in their pocket from their buyout. Sure, none of these guys are likely to propel a team from a fringe playoff team to a championship contender, but they could help shore up holes on team's rosters, and they won't cost anything besides money.
It'll be a hard summer for fans who know their team should, by all means, make a trade to improve their circumstances, but depending on how the new CBA shakes out, the wait could be very well worth it.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
The goalie market this offseason already took a strange turn when Tomas Vokoun was traded to Pittsburgh and signed there. Most people anticipated he'd want to try his hand at being a starter again, with Toronto and Tampa Bay bandied as likely destinations. Instead he went to back up Pittsburgh #1 and noted Swiss cheese lookalike Marc-Andre Fleury. Josh Harding was also thought to have starter potential this off-season, but he re-signed with Minnesota. This left many teams groping about for options - Tampa dealt for Nashville backup Anders Lindback, and Columbus traded for Philadelphia's young #2 Sergei Bobrovsky. Both moves were roundly criticized by stat mavens - neither player has particularly distinguished themselves in their short time in the NHL. Why would you trade three draft picks for this sort of goalie - can't he be found anywhere? That's the usual claim among the Corsi-and-charts crowd.
Then came the Ondrej Pavelec signing - bloggers' chortles over the goalie trades shifted to gales of laughter at this goalie signing, as a below-average 'tender was locked up for 5 years and nearly $4M per year. There were rumors that Pavelec would go to the KHL, and Jets' GM Kevin Chevaldayoff seemed to have little choice - either sign Pavelec to a huge amount or perhaps go wanting. Still, 'going wanting' can be disastrous, especially in a weird market like the one for goalies. Here's why the goalie market is so weird now:
A: Goaltending is the most important 'easily' controllable portion of building a team
The St. Louis Blues allowed 2190 shots last season and the Carolina Hurricanes allowed 2653, representing the least and most shots allowed, respectively. If we assume that each team had a .910 save percentage, the Hurricanes would've allowed 42 more goals than the Blues. However, remember that shots against involves an entire team's worth of play. Carolina may need to change over several players to get to league average in shots allowed. Let's look at goaltending - the range of team save percentages last year was .932 (Blues) to .893 (Lightning). If we give two teams a .932 SV% and an .893 SV% and the NHL median in shots allowed, the difference is 96 goals. The league average goals allowed was 224 - Tampa Bay would've had to have the lowest shots allowed just to have an average goals allowed at an .893 save percentage. In other words, goaltending is an enormous factor in determining who the good and bad teams are - with well-below-average goaltending, your chances at the playoffs are based on shooting luck and OT/shootout luck. It's not possible to be 'good' enough in today's NHL to overcome horrendous goaltending.
B: Goaltending is really difficult to evaluate year to year
However, that's the problem - while goaltending is vital to a team's success, it's also largely unpredictable. Take Dwayne Roloson, the goalie for the Lightning - he managed a .914 save percentage in the regular season in 2010-11, right around the average. In 2011-12, he had an .886 save percentage, worst in the league among goaltenders with more than 20 games. On the flip side, Brian Elliott had the 8th worst save percentage in 2010-11, then rebounded with the best in the league this season. These are anecdotal, but still - it's as if Brian Elliott went from being one of the worst players in the league to one of the best. That simply doesn't happen with forwards or defensemen. We've seen the ups and downs of goalies like M.A. Fleury, Cam Ward, and Ryan Miller as well. Who's betting on Jonathan Quick repeating his brilliant 11-12 this coming season? I'm not. It's still quite possible that he's an average to above-average goalie.
C: Every team needs a backup goalie
The Colts of the NFL could've gotten by with me as their backup quarterback for years - Peyton Manning played every game, and played every important snap. In the NHL, however, teams need a guy who can play at least 20% of the games, and one who can play them capably to boot. Not only that, they'd like to have a backup to the backup - someone in the minor leagues who they think is capable of playing in the NHL if one of their guys gets hurt. Let's say another team thinks this third guy is capable of playing in the NHL and wants to make a trade - what's the incentive? Again, look at item A - having bad goaltending can completely sink a team. Teams would want to avoid that at any cost. Then look at B - it's really hard to identify who the good goalies are. That makes coming up with a fair trading price for a backup goalie difficult. Hence the prices for Bobrovsky and Lindback - the price was, essentially, 'Hey, you can probably play in the NHL, or maybe not'. Still, even with people claiming Tampa and Columbus paid too high a price, it takes confidence on the part of Nashville and Philadelphia to find a replacement backup to make that kind of a deal. Furthermore, these kinds of deals are difficult to make in season - teams usually stick with what they've got in net once the puck drops. It doesn't make much sense to deal a guy for draft picks when he's not costing a team significant money and he could play a potentially vital role.
D: Lots of goalies peak late
Looking around the NHL free agent market illustrates this point nicely - Ty Conklin, Chris Mason, Johan Hedberg, Scott Clemmensen, and Dwayne Roloson are all available as unrestricted free agents. Conklin didn't establish himself as an NHL backup until he was 27, Mason was also 27, ditto Hedberg, Clemmensen was 31, and Roloson played his first NHL game at the age of 27. This means that there are lots of goalies kicking around in the AHL who will become NHL regulars - it's just that they and NHL teams really have no clue who they are. We've seen players like Niklas Backstrom and Tim Thomas come from overseas and establish themselves as starters as older players. This causes even more difficulty for teams trying to obtain goalies as the bulk of available goaltenders are over 30 and it's unclear for how long they can maintain their current level of play, which is itself difficult to evaluate anyway because of the uncertainty inherent in evaluating goaltenders.
E: The free agent market this year is barren
Most years there is a player kicking around who hasn't gotten a fair shot in the NHL who has been a capable NHL backup - Craig Anderson before he came to the Avalanche is a good example. Josh Harding would've been a good example, had he not re-signed with Minnesota. This year, there are literally no 'proven' starting goaltenders on the free agent market, unless we count Martin Brodeur, which I don't. It's all career backups or present backups.
All of these things combine to why the Jets decided to break the bank for a heretofore below-average goalie - they are deluded that he is an average goalie and that he's capable of being better than average. Thing is, with the sheer unpredictability of goaltending, they could turn out to be right.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Without further ado:
- On Jordan Staal and Brandon Sutter (Canes Country)
- Thoughts on the First Round (Hockey Prospectus)
- Ray Shero's Big Plans (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
- JVR and Burke (Globe and Mail
- Bobby Ryan, Rick Nash, and the Anti-Ray Shero (Puck Daddy)
What has been most interesting to me is the next chapter in the ongoing Rick Nash saga, and how Ray Shero's handling of Jordan Staal is an example of a general manager who understands asset management and how to maximize value in an awkward situation. Howson's intransigence has cost his team a substantial amount of value, and his decision to pass on moving him at the deadline has just been matched in stupidity by the decision to wait until July.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Normally this wouldn't be an issue - Thomas and the Bruins could go their separate ways, and the Bruins would probably let Thomas's contract expire. However, Tim Thomas signed his most recent contract past the age of 35, which invokes the onerous 35+ rule: For any multi-year contract that begins after a player's 35th birthday, each year past the first counts on the salary cap regardless of whether or not the player is playing. The only way a 35+ player won't count on the cap is if he is placed on Injured Reserve, and the league has previously sent doctors to confirm that a player is in fact injured. So, the Bruins now have $5M in dead weight on their salary cap next year. For a team that considers themselves a Cup contender, that's a challenging millstone for Boston to maneuver around.
There is one way out: the trade. Tim Thomas can still be traded, and after July 1, he no longer has a no-trade clause, so he can be dealt anywhere. This gets into some interesting territory, as there is some precedent, back in the autumn of 2006 when a player posting about his sabbatical on Facebook was only a far-off dream. Vladimir Malakhov did not report to Devils' training camp despite being under contract, and was therefore suspended by the team. He was also a 35+ contract, so the Devils were pretty sure they would be on the hook for it. They ended up making a deal with the Sharks: they traded Malakhov and a 1st round pick for the rights to Shark winger Alex Korolyuk and defenseman Jim Fahey. Devils' GM Lou Lamoriello insisted at the time that this was a 'hockey trade', and said of Korolyuk: We're getting an exceptional hockey player who could play for us next year." That never happened, and Fahey got into 13 games as a Devil before being demoted to the AHL. However, he did at least try to make this look like a hockey trade - the Devils received two players, and gave up one of their own and a draft pick.
The salary cap landscape is much different now than it was in 2006 - back then, when the cap was at $47 million, there weren't very many teams at the cap floor. The Devils had to trade a 1st round pick for table scraps just for someone to take on the Malakhov deal. However, things may be different this time around - we see teams like the Islanders signing veteran players to small deals with large bonuses to hit the salary floor. Floor teams would love to have a contract like Thomas's on their books - it counts $5M on the cap, and costs $0 in actual money. It would be an enormous boost to their bottom lines, especially as the salary floor threatens to be around $55M this season. There should be multiple teams waiting in line to get a chance at that Thomas contract. There's only one potential roadblock: the NHL front office.
While it's hard to imagine the NHL front office jumping for joy at the way Lamoriello squirmed out of Malakhov's 35+ cap hit, one thing that's notable about the Malakhov trade is that while Malakhov neglected to show up for Devils' training camp, neither he nor his agent said anything at all about his playing status. He never signed retirement papers, nor did he find a college student with Internet access to post a statement on The Facebook. The Devils had suspended him about halfway through the previous season and he disappeared. Therefore, the league couldn't really nix the Malakhov trade on those grounds - the Sharks could claim that they felt Malakhov would show up to their training camp and would play for them. Furthermore, the Sharks put enough other detritus into the trade to make it appear like it wasn't just Malakhov and a 1st round pick for nothing. Lastly, since we saw what a cap circumvention penalty might look like after the Kovalchuk debacle last summer, the Devils didn't get out of it for free - they still surrendered a first-round pick. League officials might've recognized that since the Devils extracted their own pound of flesh, there wasn't much call for them to step in to get another piece.
Given the league's tightening the screws about the whole lifetime contract thing, and a CBA fight about to happen this summer and likely on into the autumn, it's difficult to imagine they won't have anything to say if Thomas ends up pawned off to a team with two signed goalies for a draft pick in July or August. He's already said he isn't playing, so why would a team trade for him? Can Facebook posts by a player be reason enough to nix a trade, or to accuse a team of cap circumvention? It doesn't sound all that exciting, but since we may not have NHL hockey to watch for a while, these sorts of fights are the next best thing.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Ostensibly, Vancouver will begin the process by comparing the value of Luongo’s contract to a range of contracts that they theoretically see themselves giving to Schneider. But there is more – and at this point is where I believe many stop the analysis. The very factors that make Schneider more valuable than Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks also make him more valuable to every other team.
As outsiders, there is no way we can accurately speculate on just how much more valuable they see Schneider. It’s easier (but still more difficult, and still beyond the scope of this article) to identify each player’s relative trade value. What we can do, though, is talk about how the trade value of one impacts the necessary value of the other, and from there, how that relationship impacts Vancouver’s ultimate decision.
We begin with obvious – there is a whole lot of uncertainty in the market for Roberto Luongo. On production alone he is a hot commodity, but his contract precludes many teams (and possibly teams that have been speculated as trade partners) from acquiring him. There are other teams that both need goaltending and can handle the financial burden (Chicago and Edmonton), but it is not clear that Vancouver is willing to trade an elite player to one of their biggest rivals. I believe the decisions of these smaller market teams (Columbus, Florida, Tampa Bay) on whether or not they are willing to take on the burden to be one of the biggest factors in Vancouver’s ultimate decision, because if the market for Luongo becomes liquid, then we can almost guarantee that he’s gone. But if Vancouver finds the offers to be lacking, then the possibility of an offer for Schneider that closes the gap between the value I mentioned earlier becomes more and more likely.
In other words, there is an inflection point in this scenario – some point where Schneider’s advantage over Luongo is mitigated by the value Vancouver could acquire by trading Schneider. What that exact point is can only be known by Vancouver, but assuming that Luongo has played his last game as a Canuck neglects a very important part of this calculus.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
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Friday, April 27, 2012
Chase, Triumph and I were joined by podcast regular Corey (@ShutdownLine) from Shut Down Line for a breakdown of the Western Conference first-round series and previews of Nashville - Phoenix and Los Angeles - St. Louis.
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Monday, April 23, 2012
How Often Were Suspendable Plays In The Regular Given Penalties On The Ice? (And Some Ideas On How To Change This)
I think the no penalty number is mildly acceptable. Part of the reason for suspensions is the fact that referees are going to miss incidents behind the play and/or away from the puck, and that linesmen are not often authorized to call penalties. I think what's more egregious are the number of minor penalties - penalties where the referees, in real time, couldn't determine that the play was dangerous enough to merit a major penalty (and I assume that all suspendable hits are eo ipso major penalties). Still, between the no calls and the minor penalty calls, of the 34 incidents the NHL deemed suspendable plays, only 41% resulted in a major penalty power play for the opposing team. I find that's far too low, especially since that's often the only real benefit a team might get for a dangerous/suspendable play. Here are a few ideas that are aimed at either trying to change this practice:
A. If the suspension is minor, suspend players only for games against the team they committed the foul against: I've heard this proposed elsewhere and I kind of like the idea. It's not really fair if, say, you're locked in a playoff race with team B, and yet one of team C's best players commits a foul against your team, that player gets suspended, then team C plays team B next game. I recognize this is a rare scenario, but the point is that suspending a player for only games against the team against which he committed the foul makes it fairer. Perhaps the aggrieved team could pick which games the suspended player is set to miss, for instance.
B. Allow linesmen more latitude to call penalties. I'm not sure how I feel about this, because the linesmen have their own job to do, but I feel that those two sets of eyes aren't used often enough by the other referees.
C. Change the penalty structure. Doogie2k suggested this on mc79hockey - the OHL makes head hits a mandatory 2 minute minor, plus a 10 minute misconduct. I'd apply this rule to illegal head hits, boarding, elbowing, and checking from behind. It seems ridiculous to me that often a little tug on a player's jersey with a stick and a violent, illegal hit into the boards usually draw the same penalty. Furthermore, I wonder if a 5 minute major is really the best way to penalize a team whose player commits an egregious foul. Perhaps the penalty should instead be an automatic 2 minute 5 on 3 power play where a goal scored does not change the manpower situation. Of course, one is faced with the problem that referees hate impacting games even when they should, and therefore we might see even fewer major penalties called.
These are all just ideas - I think we can recognize that the NHL is trying, at least a little bit, to alter the culture. I'm just not sure that outside-the-box ideas will be broached or considered, when perhaps that's precisely what's needed to alter the culture.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
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I sorted the 96 post-lockout playoff teams into first-round series winners and losers. I don't think it's particularly significant, but the first-round series winners had a .583 regular season winning percentage (OT/Shootout results removed and called 'ties') against first-round losers. They had a .569 winning percentage against everyone else. The team with the better head to head record in the regular season was 23-10 in first round playoff series.
Goal differential appears to be huge - the team with the better OT/shootout removed goal differential is 35-13 in first-round playoff series post-lockout.
Meanwhile, better Fenwick Tied doesn't appear to be an enormous advantage, as the better Fenwick Tied team is only 18-13.
Let's put all of this into a helpful table:
|Criteria||1st R W||1st R L|
|Better H2H Record||23||10|
|Better Goal Differential||35||13|
|Better Fenwick Tied||18||14|
Thursday, April 12, 2012
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
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Just as a programming note, Brent (Triumph) is your host and Chase is chiming in with comments about both the Flyers and the Penguins. His official prediction stands at Flyers in four.
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First up is the Detroit - Nashville series. We were joined by JJfromKansas (@jjfromkansas) from Winging It In Motown for his Red Wings expertise and Dirk Hoag (@forechecker) from On the Forecheck bringing the high level of insight on the Predators that we have come to expect and appreciate.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012
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Monday, April 9, 2012
It turns out, they do go up - every year post-lockout, there are more power plays per game per team in the first round than in the regular season:
|Year||PP/G Reg||PP/G Plyff||Difference|
The difference hasn't been enormous, but it's there. I suspect it's a combination of the factors I mentioned above - players going at full speed every play, every board battle becoming incredibly important, and referees feeling the pressure of more eyes on them. One hopes that the referees do not decide to call the interference penalties they've been not calling for months now - not that I enjoy the slower game, but I don't like it when players don't seem to have any idea what is or is not a penalty.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
- Jack Johnson, Bubble Toes
February 23rd, the L.A. Kings traded Jack Johnson and what turned out to be their 2012 first-round pick for Jeff Carter. While most of us in the analytical community thought it was a steal, some thought Johnson would be a lot to lose. Let's take a look at how things have changed since he left.
Johnson split his time pretty evenly between Matt Greene, Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell. Here are the on-ice Corsi rates and percentages for each of these defensemen with and without Johnson:
|Corsi Rate||With JJ||Without JJ|
|Corsi %||With JJ||Without JJ|
I was expecting an increase, but wow(ee)! Johnson's time being split evenly between those three guys makes this even more damning. The strong pattern with all three defensemen effectively eliminates other explanations like zone starts, playing with better forwards or his partner switching to Doughty. Jack Johnson was dragging his teammates down, pure and simple.
Let's now look at how the centers and defensemen he didn't play as much with have fared before and after the trade.
|Corsi Rate||Before Trade||After Trade|
|None of Above||7.539||8.077|
Some of these numbers, especially Richards's, have a lot to do with Jeff Carter's play and how he has impacted the team indirectly - by taking tougher minutes and just shifting around the forward slots. No matter what, it's pretty clear that the Kings are doing quite well without Jack Johnson, thank you very much.
Since the deadline, the Kings have been one of the best teams in the NHL. Some of the improvement is what Carter has brought to the table and part of it is everything clicking and everyone playing well. A big reason, perhaps the most important, for their success since the deadline is no longer icing Jack Johnson 23 minutes a game. The Kings miss Jack Johnson as a teenager misses his virginity.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Lundqvist is obvious vote for Vezina. Quick and Smith deserve attention. My vote for Fleury based on keeping Pens in hunt thru injuries.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) April 5, 2012
When questioned on the matter, Dreger responded with the following:
@breannad. Both, but without Fleury's consistancy Malkin and others can't play same game.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) April 5, 2012
Speaking to his first remark about consistency, Dreger does have a bit of a point here; Fleury has consistently been a below average goaltender this season. For the 2011-2012 campaign, Fleury's even-strength save percentage is .914, markedly below the league-average number George E. Ays shows us here:
@DrivingPlay From BTN, 1-(shooting%) from the individual shooters gives me an ESSV% of .91846638.Believe that's 5v5 only.— George E. Ays (@RangerSmurf) April 5, 2012
Though Broad Street Hockey's Eric T. points out that overall save percentage may be a better predictor of a goalie's future success in the short run, i.e. over one season, he also shows that ESSV% is the better predictor over large samples. Lucky for us, we have even-strength data going back to 2003-2004 pour la fleur. The results are as follows:
|Year||ES Saves||ES Shots Against||ESSV%|
Even if we throw the best indicator for Fleury's future success out the window, his overall save percentage this season is 0.913 which still falls below league average. Without digging up the precise numbers, this tweet from draglikepull sums up the point perfectly:
Unfortunately, Mr. Dreger seems to have fallen for the same illusion that so many in the mainstream media have before him. Marc-Andre Fleury has no business in a discussion for the Vezina trophy this season, last season, or likely in any season going forward. Good coaching, strong possession metrics and the ability to keep the play as far away from The Flower as possible are what have kept the Penguins afloat amidst their run of injuries.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
How Much Are The Teams With The Largest Salary Commitments Actually Spending? (Or State Of Contracts In The NHL, Part 2B)
"So it matters whether you look at % of spend or % of cap, then, I guess? You'll find same % of spend, but lower % of cap?"
Decoding this question out of Twitter pidgin, he essentially asked - are teams spending as much money (proportionally) as they did in my comparison year (08-09)? And the answer is: Yes. They're actually spending more, at least the top teams are. Sussing out this sort of information is time-consuming, so rather than looking at the entire NHL, I took the top 12 teams in terms of cap hits (according to nhlnumbers.com) from this year and from 2008-09. I then looked at the total salary they paid out, counting all one-way contracts¹, and counting all call-ups proportionally to the time they were called up. Most of these were estimates based on me wanting to get through this data collection as fast as possible, so these numbers could be off by a tiny amount.
I'll spare you the individual details, but it suffices to say that the top teams are spending more, proportionally to the cap, than they did in 2008-09, while their cap spending has gone down (relative to the cap). Here's an average of the top 12 teams' actual spending as well as their total cap hits.
|Year||Total Paid Salary||% Of Cap||Total Cap Hits||% Of Cap|
It's clear, then, that among top teams, salaries have continued to rise even faster than the cap. We can see that cap hits and cap payments used to be pretty much equal, but now one has far outstripped the other. Part of that is a function of the fact that these severely front-loaded contracts are new to the NHL; I imagine there will be some settling. On the flip side, one also imagines that salaries among bottom teams would show a similar fall - as teams like the Islanders struggle to make a profit even with their team parked right at the salary floor, they are using players with significant bonuses and backloading contracts to get around paying the full $49M that is this year's salary floor.
It's also clear that something in this system has to change if the NHL wants to maintain that the salary cap increases parity, because as it is now, the top teams are all spending well over the cap in total salaries each year, and I don't see why this would change in the future.
¹ Data on one-way contracts was incomplete from 2008-09
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Saturday, March 24, 2012
However, one place that contracts could be exploding is for RFA forwards. Perhaps teams, wary of other teams offer sheeting their own players, or fearful of being taken to arbitration, are being more generous with their RFA players. A closer study shows that this isn't the case - once again, RFA salaries have stagnated despite the expanding cap.
To study this properly, I first sorted for RFA-age forwards who played more than 40 games with at least .4 Points Per Game (numbers courtesy of hockey-reference.com). I then looked at all the eligible forwards who signed new contracts in the summer of 2008 versus the summer of 2011. However, one cannot just sort contracts willy-nilly - I examined whether or not an RFA player was eligible for arbitration, how many years of UFA eligibility the contract he signed gave up, and how long his contract was signed for. This didn't leave me with too many contracts to directly compare, but I think it makes my point just as well. If one looks at the entire list of contracts signed, they would see that there is simply not much difference between then and now despite the nearly 15% increase in the salary cap between the two summers.
Without further ado, here's our first table; we're comparing forwards who signed 2 year contracts, who were not arbitration eligible, and who gave up none of their UFA years:
|Years||Total Contracts||PPG Average||Avg. Contract||Avg. % Of Cap|
(Salary numbers courtesy of nhlnumbers.com and capgeek.com)
If we remember that 2008 was a higher scoring year than 2011, we can basically call the points per game even, and yet the players are making less money, and far less money against the cap. Perhaps that's a fluke - we are after all only looking at 8 contracts, and points per game isn't a scientific way to examine a contract's value.
Here's players who sign 5 year contracts with 1 year of UFA included who aren't eligible for arbitration:
|Years||Total Contracts||PPG Average||Avg. Contract||Avg. % Of Cap|
Again, we find a similar pattern. If we look at the percentage of the cap these contracts take up, it's higher in 2008.
Here we're looking at contracts that go for 2 years, don't have any UFA years, and are for players who are arbitration-eligible:
|Years||Total Contracts||PPG Average||Avg. Contract||Avg. % Of Cap|
Once again, players who signed in 2011 got less money than players who signed in 2008. It's hard to imagine that agents aren't aware of these sorts of numbers - teams must be able to sell the fact that they don't have the same kind of money to sign these players.
In Part 3, I'll be examining possible reasons why contract amounts are stagnating and contracts are going down relative to the salary cap.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
I seem to have gotten off track here, but it's going to be fascinating watching teams maneuver with these contracts on board over the next 5-8 years. Some of them are time bombs, waiting to explode in a team's face. We can't say which. Others will provide the foundation for a Stanley Cup championship. And while I expect this trend to be reversed under the next CBA - even as many teams have one of these contracts on their books, they no doubt realize the enormous advantage conveyed upon teams that have multiple ultra-long-term contracts, and are going to work to remove the possibility of such a contract under the next CBA - the cat is out of the bag. Let's look at when these big contracts end.
That's a total of 28 contracts that end more than 6 years from now, and that number will no doubt increase when Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, and Shea Weber are re-signed this offseason, among others. 17 NHL teams have a contract that ends in 2018 or later.
Most of these contracts are at 'discount prices.' For instance, Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk are signed to deals that have a 5.2M and 6.6M cap hit, respectively, and that end roughly when your life's course will be fully determined and there's no extricating yourself from your fate. Their cap hits on contracts both signed after the end of the lockout, when the salary cap was 39M? 6M and 6.3M, respectively. Their cap hits have barely moved even as the salary cap itself has nearly doubled, and this was for players who were RFA when they signed their post-lockout deals, and UFA when they signed their lifetime contracts.
I decided to look at the top 20 largest cap hits in the league in 2008-09 and the biggest cap hits in the league in 2011-12. The summer of 2008 was when teams seemingly decided that the cap would never go anything but outrageously upwards - the economy was robust, NHL fans had forgotten about the lockout, and Glen Sather knew that the surge of Wade Redden jersey purchases would pay for that contract by themselves.
|Year||Total Top 20 Salary||Salary Cap||% Of Total Cap Space|
The 'Total Top 20 Salary' column refers to the summed amount of the top 20 biggest cap hits in the league. As we can see, it's barely moved despite the fact that the cap has grown by more than $7M. The '% Of Total Cap Space' refers to the top 20 salaries' total being divided by the salary cap amount times 30, for the 30 teams in the NHL. We can see that the percentage has gone down by nearly a full percent. That doesn't sound like very much, but we're talking about nearly 1% of 1.7 billion dollars. That means that cap-hit wise, the top 20 contracts are down by nearly an average of $766K relative to the cap. In total dollars, as we can see, things have remained relatively stagnant.
The deals that are super-long term don't really fit into this mold either, as only 5 contracts in the current top 20 biggest cap hits end in 2018 or after. That means these players whose big contracts end earlier will almost certainly face pressure to sign for a lower cap hit - odds are they will be out of their prime when their current deal ends.
In Part 2, I will examine RFA forwards to see if this trend also holds true among lower paid players, and in Part 3, I will give some reasons why the NHL is evolving in this way.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
|Year||Goals5v5||Shots5v5||S%||Goals 5v4||Shots 5v4||S%|
|Year||SV ON||SV OFF||Diff|
Here's a look at Goals For per 60 minutes at even strength and Goals Against per 60 minutes (source: behindthenet.ca):
Again, what seems to have been a high goal player on both ends has become a player much closer to the NHL average in terms of goals for and against. So let's go to the real stats, the Corsi and so forth (source: behindthenet.ca and timeonice.com):
|Year||Corsi Rel||Corsi ON||Zone Start||ES +/-|