Everything Else

Jen Neale has been doing this for us whenever the Ducks are around for close to 10 years. She really deserves better. Follow her @MsJenNeale. 

The Ducks sit atop the Pacific at this early stage. Also, every metric says they’ve been getting wailed on every night and should basically be winless. Which is the truth?
They’re absolutely getting wailed on each night and I think it’s finally starting to catch up with them now that there’s tape to study. Nobody knew what to make of this team because of all the injuries and the unknown names in the roster.
Is this the year John Gibson is a Vezina finalist? Is it going to have to be if the Ducks are to have any hope?
Ughhh. John Gibson is the bane of my Ducks existence. He signed a massive eight-year contract in the off-season and is putting up a good start. The thing is his play style is unsustainable from a health standpoint. He’s going to have a stellar first half and then probably end up missing 20+ games over the second half of the season. By the time he’s “ready for the playoffs” the Ducks are on the brink of elimination and relying on old man Ryan Miller. It’s the same story every year. Sigh. I still miss Frederik Andersen. ANYHOO, the Ducks will make the playoffs regardless of Gibson and get bounced in the first round because of Gibson.
There’s a couple kids in the lineup these days in Sam Steel and Kiefer Sherwood (who needs a new name). Real reasons to get excited? Anyone we missed?
This season is the culmination of Randy Carlyle’s worst nightmare. He doesn’t have an enforcer in the lineup, he’s been mandated to play fast, not the grind style he’s always done, and he HAS to play a lineup full of rookies because of injuries. Kesler has the hips of a 90-year-old, Getzlaf is a perpetual lower-body injury, Perry will be out at least five months with a torn MCL, and Jakob Silfverberg is out with a non-displaced fracture in his hand. It’s like Adam Henrique and the Electric Mayhem out there. (That doesn’t even make sense. I just wanted to write it.)
Kiefer Sherwood is a great name. So is Sam Steel. I’m enjoying watching Maxime Comtois, also a great name, a physical kid with a great shot. There are about 394283907842 rookies in the lineup but those three are tops right now.
The Ducks have a ton of young d-men and some young forwards who at least look useful. They don’t need a total rebuild given what’s already here. But do they have the forwards to take the responsibilities off Kesler, Perry, and Getzlaf and eventually pivot from them? A rebuild on the fly, if you will. 
Rebuild on the fly is the Ducks style. I give Perry, Getzlaf and Kesler two years max before they just give up and only show up to collect checks. The saving grace is Martin Madden and the Ducks amateur scouting department. The Ducks have given away more talent (Shea Theodore, William Karlsson, et. al) than most teams in the league. Since they’ve spent the last two, maybe three, drafts picking up more forwards and we’re starting to finally see them emerge from junior. I like what Dallas Eakins is doing with the Ducklings down in San Diego and feel good about them eventually filling out the lineup with Rickard Rakell, Silfverberg, Henrique and the rest of the Electric Mayhem.

 

Game #9 Preview Suite

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I Make A Lot Of Graphs

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 28-29-8   Ducks 32-21-12

PUCK DROP: 3:00 PM

TV: NBCSN Chicago

UNDERGROUND DISNEYLAND OVERLORDS: Anaheim Calling

After showing an actual pulse yesterday in the third period, after a comeback we hadn’t seen in a very long while, and after an actually stirring win (though signifying nothing), the Hawks reward is to huff it down the I-5 to Orange County. Almost doesn’t seem fair. Anaheim isn’t a reward for anything.

What the Hawks will find when they get there is much like yesterday, a team clutching the last playoff spot with one or two cla…feet? Beaks? Whatever, carry your own metaphor here. The Ducks are in the last wild card spot, one point ahead of both the Avs and Blues and three ahead of the Flames. They’re four behind the Kings for the right to have another Battle of California in the first round.

It’s been up and down since you last saw Anaheim take a tight one over the Hawks here at the UC 20 days ago. They won the next three in Dallas, Vegas and Minnesota, but then found a way to only find a point in back-to-back games against the Coyotes and Oilers. They bounced back on Thursday with a win over the similarly flailing Blue Jackets.

Not much has changed with the Ducks in that time, roster-wise. GM Bob Murray didn’t think this team was worth investing too heavily into at the deadline, and with good cause. The problems they have–i.e. Cory Perry died, Ryan Getzlaf stopped caring about three seasons ago, and Ryan Kesler is now made of gum and duct tape–aren’t going to be solved by any trade. The Ducks can’t score much thanks to Perry dragging down the top line and Kesler the second, and Adam Henrique on the third can only do so much. But they don’t give up much either, thanks to the sterling form of John Gibson and Randy “Concussions Happen Because The Brain Gets Hot While Wearing A Helmet” Carlyle’s system not really allowing for any adventure on either side. They do that while still playing Kevin Bieksa, which is a hell of an accomplishment.

That’ll make for a real decision for Murray this summer, as Gibson will be heading into the last year of his deal. Thankfully for Murray it’ll only be an RFA problem but we know what starting goaltenders go for. Another big year from Gibson and he could ask for a lot from a team committed to paying their three cadavers at forward $23.4 million from here until The Reckoning.

While the Ducks will be flapping furiously until the end of the season (see what I did there?) to make the playoffs, that’s basically only window dressing for them. This team is most likely first-round cannon fodder for anyone they see, unless Gibson simply goes nuts. They don’t have the front-line scoring as Perry and Getzlaf are just too easily taken out of games now (as they always were in any game that mattered when they could move). Hampus! Hampus! is having a Norris quality season but Carlyle is insisting on playing him with Bieksa now, so what’s that shutting down? Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour aren’t doing that either. Stranger things have happened of course, but don’t bet on it. And once they’re out, this Ducks window is almost certainly closed.

Shouldn’t see too many changes from the Hawks, other than in net where JF Berube will hopefully not have Erik Gustafsson trying to kill him emotionally and physically as he did in San Jose. Q could get cute we guess and start Forsberg again, trying to ride the wave of yesterday. Whatever at this point. More of The Nuclear Option and see just what Carlyle wants to combat that with.

We know most of you are rooting for losses and better drafting position. We don’t blame you. But given how much we hate Anaheim and that they still have something to play for, seeing the Hawks try and build something off of yesterday and making life harder for the Ducks has major appeal. This one won’t be pretty given how the Ducks normally play, their stakes in this one, and the Hawks having played yesterday. But as is always the case in Orange County, just get through it and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Game #66 Preview

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I like to do this every so often. I’m not sure it makes total sense, and it certainly would make more sense to do it in a couple weeks when the season is half over. But I’m here now and it’s rattling around in my head so let’s do it and circle back in a month or so.

Some of the NHL awards, or more to the point the criteria that are used to pick the winners, are borked. There’s no other way to put it. MVP… that’s usually easy to figure out as long as you don’t get too mired into what “valuable” means and really just pick player of the year. I suppose this year, at least so far, we could get a real dumb debate about how Kucherov and Stamkos are actually vaulting each other and hence aren’t as valuable as say, John Tavares who’s doing more with less. Fine, whatever. Pick any of the three and I don’t think you’re wrong.

Vezina is usually pretty easy, though can get muddied by win totals much like pitcher-wins used to be the defining characteristic for Cy Young winners in the past (like last year. Fucking Rick Porcello?). Still, with save-percentage and GAA are the best we have, and this year it’s Corey Crawford and if he keeps it up and doesn’t even make the finalist list I’m going to go kick several people in the shins and not explain why to leave them in the same fog of confusion I will be in. By any measure it’s Crow, as he’s got the best GAA among starters, the best save-percentage among starters, and the best difference between his save-percentage and his expected save-percentage, given what the team in front of him is surrendering. Good god, he’s been so good.

It’s the Norris and the Selke that always have the cloudiest parameters. The Selke has basically become “What center do we all know who scores a lot, wins faceoffs, and we’re pretty sure has good metrics but don’t check?” And that answer is always Patrice Bergeron. And you could hand this award to Bergeron from here until he retires, take Nick Lidstrom’s last Norris away because that was just stupid, melt it down, turn it into another Selke, and give that to Bergeron, and you wouldn’t really be wrong. But I think we can do better. Let’s see:

So if we’re looking for best defensive forwards, one place we can start is the best forwards at restricting attempts against so far this year. We won’t use goals, because that’s too dependent on the goalies behind these forwards which is out of their control. So you’re best forwards for corsi-against per 60:

  1. Adam Lowry – WPG
  2. Taylor Leier – PHI
  3. Brandon Tanev – WPG
  4. Mikko Salomaki
  5. Pierre-Luc Dubois – CBJ

I can assure you that none of these players will get a Selke vote. But when they’re out there, their teams surrender the least attempts, which has to account for something.

If we go a bit deeper, we can use xGA/60, to not only use pure attempts but the types of chances against that these forwards are on the ice for.

  1. Lowry
  2. Tanev
  3. Jason Zucker – MN
  4. Oskar Sundqvist – STL
  5. Mikko Koivu – MN

Again, we see Lowry and Tanev at the top of the list, and as they play on the same line together, that makes sense.

But it isn’t so simple, is it? Because you’d want to suss out who are doing really dynamo defensive work and who is just benefitting from playing on a great defensive team. So, you’re relative CA/60 leaders are:

  1. H. Sedin – Van
  2. Tanev
  3. Evgeny Dadonov – FLA
  4. Marcus Kruger – CAR
  5. Lowry

And Relative xGA/60 leaders:

  1. Ondrej Kase – ANA
  2. Lowry
  3. Mitch Marner – TOR (ain’t that some shit?)
  4. Zac Rinaldo – AZ (what?)
  5. Carl Hagelin – PIT

So if anyone actually used these numbers, you’d have a pretty convincing case for Adam Lowry this year, yes? The problem of course is that Lowry is skating third line shifts, with Scheifele and Little taking on the harder competition. Yes, Lowry is kicking aside everything he’s seeing, and that shouldn’t be discounted, and he’s also starting the most shifts of anyone in his own zone. So even though he has to start in his own zone the most, he’s making sure the least happens there. So yeah, right now, if the world made sense, Adam Lowry is your Selke front-runner. Don’t sit on a hot stove waiting for any voter to actually say this, though.

The Norris is a bit harder. Or it’s easier, because you could just hand the thing to Erik Karlsson, along with the three others he should have gotten but didn’t because voters were either MJ’d/LeBron’d out or they’re fucking xenophobes or both. But unlike the Selke, you do have to consider the whole package. Karlsson hasn’t won as many as he should because every so often voters decide merely scoring from the back end isn’t enough, and conveniently forget that Karlsson just pushed everything to the other end of the ice all the time and made life easier for everyone.

If this went how this normally went, John Klingberg or Tyson Barrie would get it because they’re the highest scoring d-men. But again, we know better now. We don’t get to vote, but we know better.

So if we wanted to find the overall best d-man, Corsi-percentage would be a good place to start. Who’s preventing attempts and generating more at the same time? Don’t worry, you’ll like this. Your top five d-men in CF%:

  1. Connor Murphy – CHI (funny, don’t hear Mark Potash complaining about the Hjalmarsson trade at the moment)
  2. Noah Hanifin – CAR
  3. Mark Giordano – CGY
  4. Zach Werenski – CBJ
  5. Dougie Hamilton – CGY

Man, that feels good. But like we did with the forwards, let’s go with xGF% too to see the types of chances that are being surrendered and generated as well:

  1. Brandon Davidson – MTL/EDM
  2. Tim Heed – SJ
  3. Roman Polak – TOR (No, I’m serious)
  4. Jared Spurgeon
  5. Yohann Auvitu – EDM

So this is no help. Aside from Spurgeon, these are four d-men who are skating third pairing minutes and are heavily sheltered. And they play on possession-dominant teams for the most part. So let’s do the relative thing again. First relative Corsi-percentage:

  1. Hampus! Hampus! – ANA
  2. Spurgeon
  3. Josh Manson – ANA (He’s mad… he’s glad…)
  4. Werenski
  5. Giordano

And relative xGF%

  1. Hampus! Hampus!
  2. Spurgeon
  3. Christian Djoos – WSH
  4. Murphy
  5. Drew Doughty – LA

Basically I want to hand the Norris to Murphy because… well, because. And if we’re going strictly but non-points and non-goals, there’s a case. There’s probably a stronger one for Spurgeon or Hampus, and you can throw Giordano and Werenski on the list, but you see what we’re doing here. Both Hampus! Hampus! and Murphy have the best relative corsi-against as well, if we’re going by straight defensive metrics as that’s in the job title. I’ve never thought that was fair, because d-men shouldn’t be punished for contributing offensively, but it’s fun to mention. Murphy also has the best relative xGA/60, and Hampus! Hampus! is 3rd.

Basically, Connor Murphy has been fucking excellent, and if hockey had a Fangraphs-like site that people paid attention to, I would spend all my time making his Norris case and dealing with the laughter. And Hampus! Hampus!’s, because I like saying, “Hampus! Hampus!”

Also, you should be pronouncing “Connor Murphy” just like Chappele’s Rick James said, “Charlie Murphy!” right before he punched him.