• Lane Lambert Redux

    by  • October 8, 2009 • Uncategorized • 31 Comments

    This is Milan Lucic showing the soft hands that have led some observers to suggest that the Bruins might have another Cam Neely on their hands, something that I’m a little less sure of.

    I am unfortunately still knee deep in a trial, so I don’t have time to go on about this at length, but I don’t see Lucic shooting the puck enough to keep scoring goals at the rate he did in 2008-09 and, if he’s not scoring goals like he did in 2008-09, he’s not worth anything approaching that ticket.

    The list of weird statistical things about Lucic is lengthy – six first assists and 15 second assists at evens last year, in addition to the very low shooting rate. As I assume most people reading this site will be aware, he was one of last year’s poster boys for shooting percentage on the poster team for it. It has to date, been all about shooting percentage with him. In order for him to be worth his new three year $12.25MM deal, he’s going to need to start taking shots with much more frequency – his 5ish ESS/60 is not the stuff of power forwards.

    The interesting thing about all of this is that the Bruins clearly made a choice here: Lucic over Kessel. I’m pretty sure that I would have made a different choice. The unspoken question is this: how much can a player add to his shooting rates as he improves? Is 5ish ESS/60 when a player is 21 actually pretty respectable and a harbinger of future stardom? I don’t have an answer to this but I’m interested in answers.

    Frequent commenter Bruce made a point at Lowetide’s arguing that Cam Neely and Rick Tocchet both had relatively few shots at 21, although we don’t know their TOI breakdowns so we don’t have rates to work with. Eyeballing the rosters, neither guys looks to me to have been getting Lucicesque minutes, which makes me think that their shot rates were probably considerably higher. I’m interested in any names of guys who were clear top sixers with low shot rates at 21 who later blossomed into guys who were taking a ton of shots. I’m somewhat skeptical that such beasts exist or that they are common. The smart money, I think, is on Lucic never living up to this deal.

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    31 Responses to Lane Lambert Redux

    1. October 8, 2009 at

      But Lucic Has Big Body Presence!

    2. October 8, 2009 at

      Big Body Net Presence!

    3. October 8, 2009 at

      If you’ll forgive me for being self-referential, Lucic’s offence seems to be largely a function of playing with Marc Savard, too.

    4. October 8, 2009 at

      The smart money, I think, is on Lucic never living up to this deal.

      Even if he does live up to the deal, why in the hell would you give it to him right now? There’s nothing in his stats that says he has earned his $2M and he’s in RFA years still. He played with an elite center and a very good opposite winger and only put up 42 points. You couldn’t get him to sign a $2M or so three year extension? Or, if you were going to gamble on him being Cam Neely, give him ten years?

      Also, for fun:
      Nilsson: 71GP 10-31-41 (3-5-8 PP) 102 SOG
      Lucic: 72GP 17-25-42 (2-6-8 PP) 97 SOG

      If you control for the SH%, and assume that Nilsson’s contract was acceptable, they just paid Lucic $2M a year extra for putting a guy through the glass. Nothing says ‘I’m an elite of my profession’ like needlessly giving a guy a huge raise. Bravo, Bruins GM, whomever you are!

    5. October 8, 2009 at

      Lane Lambert? Puh-leeeze.

      The interesting thing about all of this is that the Bruins clearly made a choice here: Lucic over Kessel. I’m pretty sure that I would have made a different choice.

      I’m pretty sure that a team of “MC’s choices” would get the holy shit kicked out of it on the physical side of the puck, which you just don’t seem to credit. These two guys are as different as chalk and cheese; Lucic brings a decent amount of offence for such a young player, plus he is rapidly developing into one of the most feared players in the game. Kessel brings more on the offensive side of the puck, but not much of anything else.

      One measure: Lucic had 264 hits last year, enough to rank him 6th in the NHL despite missing 10 games. Kessel had 6 (!) hits, ranking him a cool 752nd in league rankings, just behind Marty Turco and Harvey the Hound.

      Yeah, Tyler, hits don’t win hockey games. Neither do shots on goal, in and of themselves. Both contribute to the process, and you and I will forever disagree on their relative importance.

      Btw, Kessel also rode the percentages pretty high last year at 15.5%. If those percentages drop away a little bit, what else does he bring to the table?

      I’ll happily admit my bias here — I got Lucic in my hockey pool, remember? — but if I were in Chiarelli’s shoes I would choose him over Kessel 10 times out of 10. Ideally you keep both, but it’s easier to replace a Kessel by elevating a Michael Ryder than to replace a Lucic with … who, exactly?

      Lucic is reportedly the most popular Bruin since Cam Neely, whereas Kessel my many accounts is something of a dick. That likely entered into the Bruins decision, as it should IMO.

      If you’ll forgive me for being self-referential, Lucic’s offence seems to be largely a function of playing with Marc Savard, too.

      As I mentioned with a (very late) comment to your post, “The question of linemates is a bit of a trojan horse; a guy with Lucic’s capability will always wind up with top notch linemates. He creates space, finishes plays and is a fearsome guardian.” (Can you imagine him with Horc and Hemmer? That’d solve a few problems … )

    6. October 8, 2009 at

      Bruce:

      Again, I’m going to self-reference; here’s the difference in goal differential for Lucic and Kessel with Savard.

      For Lucic, from the post above:
      Lucic w/o Savard: -1.30 goal diff/60
      Savard w/o Lucic: -0.21 goal diff/60

      For Kessel, from this post:
      Kessel w/o Savard: -1.28 goal diff/60
      Savard w/o Kessel: -0.94 goal diff/60

      I think that data may not be ironclad, but it is suggestive of two things:
      1) Marc Savard is the best of the three players.
      2) Marc Savard missed Phil Kessel lots more than he missed Milan Lucic

    7. MattM
      October 8, 2009 at

      Bruce, given that Savard’s rates as posted in Willis’s piece didn’t suffer without Lucic, how valuable was his ability to create space? If it’s worth 4 million bucks, it seems reasonable that the line as a whole would create a similar amount of offense when Lucic was replaced by a 4 million dollar player (Ryder), regardless of skill set (Assuming players are actually paid based on helping their team be effective). However, the common 3rd wheel with Savard when Lucic wasn’t there was Axelsson, Kobasew, and Wheeler, with Ryder 4th. Good players, but not 4 million dollar players.

      The bottom line here I think is that whether or not Lucic can outperform a 4 million dollar contract is only half of whether or not this is a good deal. The other half is Quain’s point above. Lucic shouldn’t have taken this kind of money to sign, based on his results. Or he should have given up a lot of years. It seems to me that what we’ve got here is a case where all the risk is on the Bruins. If MC is correct, this deal is an anchor for 3 years. If Bruce is correct, this deal is okay for 4 years and then he gets a raise again. I don’t see where Boston really gets a strong opportunity to come out ahead on this deal.

      Mind you, I don’t think Toronto’s odds of coming out ahead paying Kessel 5.4 are all that great either.

    8. October 8, 2009 at

      Btw, Kessel also rode the percentages pretty high last year at 15.5%. If those percentages drop away a little bit, what else does he bring to the table?

      Eight more goals than Lucic, even if Lucic never regresses SH%-wise?

      What’s the win/hit calculation? Is 260 hits worth more than eight goals?

    9. MattM
      October 8, 2009 at

      Obviously, that should say that if Bruce is right the deal is okay for 3 years.

    10. October 8, 2009 at

      Lucic was already out last year (not much, but still) for what looked like a mild concussion. You look at the style of player he is and, well, the league knows him now and they’ll shoot/hit and ask questions later. They got to Lindros pretty quickly, they’ll get to Lucic too. These guys never last long. But they do have an impact while they are at it.

    11. October 8, 2009 at

      Quain:

      As I said, the world’s most famous 40-point player.

      The only way this works out is if Lucic continues to develop offensively, and there are good reasons to think that may not happen.

    12. October 8, 2009 at

      the difference between neely and lucic is in part neely’s junior career. in neely’s draft year he was 3rd on his team in points. lucic was like 12th (i’m not going to count).

      honestly the bruins must be expecting lucic to have a dustin penner-like rise. penner went from something like 2 shots game in the AHL to 4.40 during that second year. but yeah this is a godawful deal.

    13. October 8, 2009 at

      [Sorry, Tyler, original comment is awaiting moderation. Please delete it. How come some people can embed links in their comments and I can't?]

      JW: No doubt Savard is the best player right now. He’s one of the most underrated players in the game — no invite to Olympic camp? Really?? — plus he’s in his prime whereas the other two are 21-year-old kids with tonnes of potential. For myself, I like Lucic’s upside more than Kessel’s, cuz there are so many ways he can help his team. For example, Mike Komisarek is/was to the Bruins what Robyn Regehr is to the Oilers. Lucic laid a beating on him [1] last season, then one-punched him [2] in the playoffs as Boston rolled over Montreal. How many goals is that worth? Who the hell knows? But I’d rather have such a guy on my team than the other team, and I’d rather have a guy like that on the ice than a so-called “nuclear deterrent” like Steve MacIntyre on the bench or pressbox.

      [1] http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/49297
      [2] http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/64616

      ***

      the league knows him now and they’ll shoot/hit and ask questions later.

      The league knows him now and 90% of the guys in the league don’t want to go anywhere near him. Which is why I think his point totals will continue to rise.

      They got to Lindros pretty quickly, they’ll get to Lucic too. These guys never last long.

      Lindros had two problems: 1) He tended to play with his head down. 2) The 10% of guys who weren’t scared shitless of him included Darius Kasparaitis and Scott Stevens.

      Injuries are of course a factor. They derailed Lindros and Neely, to name a couple of prototypical power forwards. Others of the type like the guys I named earlier that offended Tyler so much — Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, Brendan Shanahan — pretty much go on forever. It’s a combination of self-preservation instincts, phsyiology, respect, and luck, and it’s pretty hard to predict. Lindros looked indestructible when he entered the league, but it didn’t work out that way.

    14. October 8, 2009 at

      [@#$%^ third try, my comment keeps getting the "awaiting moderation" notice. I will remove all links and try again]

      [Sorry, Tyler, original comment is awaiting moderation. Please delete it. How come some people can embed links in their comments and I can’t?]
      1) Marc Savard is the best of the three players.

      JW: No doubt Savard is the best player right now. He’s one of the most underrated players in the game — no invite to Olympic camp? Really?? — plus he’s in his prime whereas the other two are 21-year-old kids with tonnes of potential. For myself, I like Lucic’s upside more than Kessel’s, cuz there are so many ways he can help his team. For example, Mike Komisarek is/was to the Bruins what Robyn Regehr is to the Oilers. Lucic laid a beating on him last season, then one-punched him in the playoffs as Boston rolled over Montreal. How many goals is that worth? Who the hell knows? But I’d rather have such a guy on my team than the other team, and I’d rather have a guy like that on the ice than a so-called “nuclear deterrent” like Steve MacIntyre on the bench or pressbox.

      ***

      the league knows him now and they’ll shoot/hit and ask questions later.

      Olivier: The league knows him now and 90% of the guys in the league don’t want to go anywhere near him. Which is why I think his point totals will continue to rise.

      They got to Lindros pretty quickly, they’ll get to Lucic too. These guys never last long.

      Lindros had two problems: 1) He tended to play with his head down. 2) The 10% of guys who weren’t scared shitless of him included Darius Kasparaitis and Scott Stevens.

      Injuries are of course a factor. They derailed Lindros and Neely, to name a couple of prototypical power forwards. Others of the type like the guys I named earlier that offended Tyler so much — Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, Brendan Shanahan — pretty much go on forever. It’s a combination of self-preservation instincts, phsyiology, earned respect, and luck, and it’s pretty hard to predict. Lindros looked indestructible when he entered the league, but it didn’t work out that way.

    15. October 8, 2009 at

      Now that I’ve knocked Lucic for a while, I’ve decided that I’ll agree with Bruce’s Lucic > Kessel.

      There’s enough that I’ll probably do a post on it, but the Neely example is interesting in that he always had hish shooting percentages and that he more than doubled his shot totals at about the same time age as Lucic is this year.

      Also of note: last year Lucic scored 17 goals. 15 of them were even-strength markers.

      I’m still not a fan of the contract, but this is an interesting player for sure.

    16. October 8, 2009 at

      Also of interest:

      Brendan Shanahan went from 72 shots at age 19 to 397 at age 25. I’m cherry-picking there, but his totals did rise substantially as his career progressed.

    17. October 8, 2009 at

      instead of shanahan and neely and tocchet, shouldn’t we be looking for people that actually have milan lucic’s career arc? i don’t see why instead of those guys that we shouldn’t be looking more towards tomas holmstrom types. brendan shanahan has a terrific shot and had pretty high scoring totals in junior, milan lucic really has neither.

    18. MathMan
      October 8, 2009 at

      It’s a terrible deal, and I don’t think Lucic signs it with any team except Boston, and I don’t think that he’d be a star if he played for most other teams. But he looks so much like a prototypical Big Bad Bruins player — big, snarly, tough, and more than a little out of control — that they love him over there and he’s become the face of their franchise, despite the relative lack of results (ironically, Boston was a team built on small skilled scorers). Time will tell if he’s the next Cam Neely or if the face of the Bruins franchise will be big, mean, and not very skilled. I’m avowedly biased, but my money is on the latter.

      I can’t fathom how a team can let Kessel go because he wants 5 million than turn around and give 4 to Lucic, that seems like godawful cap management to me from a purely hockey standpoint. Factor in Lucic’s marketing appeal and Kessel’s reported problems with the coaching staff, though, and it starts to make a little more sense, even if I don’t think Lucic will live up to his deal in hockey terms. Kessel is just the much better hockey player, Lucic’s antics and all.

      I’m impressed with Lucic’s 15 even-strength goals. But, if you’ll allow me a facetious comparison which has relevance in my neck of the woods — and will probably show where the aforementioned bias comes from ;)… Guillaume Latendresse had 14 even-strength markers on 16 goals in his second season, he wasn’t playing with Marc Savard, and oddly I’ve yet to hear someone claim he’s the next Cam Neely.

      Playing style counts for a lot in why Lucic gets hyped so much.

    19. October 8, 2009 at

      Triumph:

      I’ve decided I’m going to have to do a post on it, because there’s a lot, but if you assume that Lucic’s draft year was a fluke (it’s a big assumption, I know) then Lucic actually comes out ahead of Neely in percentage of team offence two out of three years.

    20. Dennnis
      October 8, 2009 at

      You know how sometimes you’ll read or hear these things and it just feels wrong right off the fucking bat? Well, I love watching this kid play and he had a outstanding ’09 playoffs but as soon as I read these terms, I was basically like, WTF.

      I guess some of this comes from Chirellia having Kessel basically plucked from him by Burke this contract feels like an overpay of anywhere from 1 to 1.5 mill and you give out a couple of those contracts and you’re bound to lose another valuable player along the way and it won’t have anything to do with Brian Burke, either.

    21. October 8, 2009 at

      .instead of shanahan and neely and tocchet, shouldn’t we be looking for people that actually have milan lucic’s career arc?

      An excellent question, and a variation of one Tyler asked me when we had this discussion initially. He preferred the brute force approach (all guys with 10+ G and 100+ PiM at age 20 as I recall). My approach was completely different, it was if this guy is a possible elite power forward, let’s compare him to other elite PFs, and here’s my short list — Howe, Messier, Neely, Tocchet, Shanahan — and I was surprised by how well Lucic compared and how the gap is actually closing as he gets older. But many of those guys made a huge breakthrough at 21, which is what Lucic is starting now. So it’s way premature.

      Btw, goals by age:

      Age . Shanny Lucic

      18 …. 39 … 30 (Jr)
      19 …. 7 … 8 (NHL)
      20 …. 22 … 17 (NHL)

      Also btw, at a young age Lindros was way ahead of all of the above.

    22. mc79hockey
      October 8, 2009 at

      My approach was completely different, it was if this guy is a possible elite power forward, let’s compare him to other elite PFs, and here’s my short list — Howe, Messier, Neely, Tocchet, Shanahan — and I was surprised by how well Lucic compared and how the gap is actually closing as he gets older.

      Leaving aside the fact that I think there’s a big difference in terms of ice time and real shooting percentage (ie. once you take the league save percentage into account), the real question is whether players who have those statistical profiles at 20 – and many, many players will – commonly end up as Messier/Howe/Neely/Tocchet types. I suspect that the answer is no.

    23. October 8, 2009 at

      right, as mc notes, it just seems like begging the question to compare him to players who went on to elite careers. and even so, i don’t think brendan shanahan was playing with a player like savard or krejci in new jersey at the beginning of his career, for example.

      it’s just a real huge stretch all around. lucic did have one shot on goal tonight, so he is up to 2 in 3 games now.

      jonathan: i’ll be interested to read your post.

    24. October 8, 2009 at

      It was a very focussed comp to a very select group. Hardly scientific, just interesting (at least to me). Don’t read more into it than is there.

      That said, I do like the player. He’s a game changer.

    25. October 9, 2009 at

      Tyler: That’s an interesting point. A 17.5 SH% is way less probably today than a 14.0 SH% was back in the eraly 80′s.

      That’s a fun thought.

    26. October 9, 2009 at

      Given how tolerant Tyler’s been so far I feel I can get away with pushing things a little further.

      Here is a comparison of Lucic and Neely. They’re closer than I’ve given them credit for in the past, but on the whole I have to agree with Tyler that Lucic likely won’t turn into Neely, and probably shouldn’t have been re-signed just yet.

    27. October 9, 2009 at

      Late to the party, as always: I know everyone is afraid of him. That’s not my point. My point is, he gets hit too. Andrei Kostitsyn (of all people…) absolutely nailed him at one point in last year playoffs. Sure, it’s just one hit, and we can all guess 9 out of 10 times Lucic will ring AK’s bell on that play.

      But this is Lucic game, whether it’s with AK or Komisarek or Phaneuf or whomever. He runs into the boards full steam, and the league is full of guys who aren’t necessarily hitters, but who do know how to check, who are pretty damn strong and who will, from time to time come up to Looch thinking “gotta get him out before he gets me!”. It’s fear alright, but it means everyone who’s up against the Bruins has a vested interest in seeing the big man go down. If Lucic was as big as Chara, I don’t say, but he isn’t, so.

      Mathman: Love the Latendresse reference; he’s not playing with the same teammates, but he ain’t up against the oppositions best either. I mean, how could Phaneuf loose track of him in the slot like that?

    28. October 9, 2009 at

      probably shouldn’t have been re-signed just yet.

      I don’t even mind him being resigned now, it just makes no sense the dollars. It’s like the (rumoured) Horcoff deal or the Khabibulin deal where negotiations basically went:

      GM: We’ll give you $6MM over two years.
      Agent: Uhhhh… sounds go–
      GM: Fine, make it $7MM over two!
      Agent: That’s ve–
      GM: God, you drive a hard-bargain, $12M over three years. That’s my final offer!
      Agent: The force of your personality is too much to deny, we accept.
      GM: Sucker, I would’ve thrown in a NTC too.

      I just can’t imagine Lucic’s agent says no at $3M per for three years, and I really think you could argue him down a bit further given the numbers and RFA status.

    29. Woodguy
      October 9, 2009 at

      Oops, I mentioned BTN when it was actually numbers from Hockey Analysis.com

    30. October 9, 2009 at

      I think I’d be okay with taking Lucic over Kessel, given cap/room implications…if Lucic were half the price. Kid looks good, but he hasn’t earned his scratch yet. Not even close.

    31. Hawerchuk
      October 10, 2009 at

      The best comp for Lucic is probably Laurie Boschman. The guy *never* shot, and he was ornery.

      If Lucic played in the Q, we could find out how many shots he took in Junior.

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