• Never Change, Canada

    by  • December 3, 2013 • Hockey • 7 Comments

    One of the funny things about being interested in hockey stats is that you frequently get accused of trying to make the game more complicated than it is with mathematical formulae and witchcraft when really, it’s all about focusing on the one thing that matters: scoring more goals than the other team. Players who help your team score more goals than the other team are good. Players who don’t are bad. It is that simple.

    I raise this because of the ongoing “Will PK Subban make the Olympic team?” thing. I guess, more than anything, that I want to put a marker down in the event that Canada leaves him at home and gets beat with something less than Canada’s best players. Like, say, in Torino. Twitter’s @Hope_Smoke, who listens to Toronto sports radio so you don’t have to, has Bob McKenzie saying this about fancy stats darling P.K.:

    Good lord. Who’s making things complicated now?

    Look, the goal of a hockey game is simple: score more goals than the other team. Since he came into the NHL, the Canadiens have scored 162 5v5 goals when P.K. is on the ice. They’ve allowed 122. When he’s not on the ice, they’ve scored 248 goals and allowed 271. With P.K. on the ice: Stanley Cup calibre team at 5v5. Without P.K. on the ice: marginal playoff team. This isn’t very difficult. You don’t even need to go into his underlying numbers, which are fantastic. Safe or not, he transforms a pedestrian team into a world beater.

    Rules about making the safe play don’t really apply when you’re one of the best players in the world. You can take risks because your risks end up in their net more often than your mistakes end up in yours. It’s not a contest to make the most safe plays – it’s a contest to create more than you give up. At the NHL level, competition for players is so fierce that bottom pairing and depth forward play turns into that. It becomes a rote expectation for players at the bottom of the roster.

    It isn’t, or shouldn’t be that way in international play, where other countries don’t have the talent to compete with Canada. This is a pretty routine thing for Canada to screw up at the world junior level, where the talent gap is even greater. If they screw it up with the Olympic team and lose, there should be an unending amount of heat on the people picking the team.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com

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    7 Responses to Never Change, Canada

    1. Cam Charron
      December 3, 2013 at

      What is this, some sort of psychological exam? Just watch the games, nerd.

    2. Passive Voice
      December 3, 2013 at

      I figure a lot of this is misinterpreting “to win in the NHL, you need good checkers/defensive dmen because you can’t afford 18 offensive dynamos” as “to win in hockey, you need good checkers/defensive dmen”.

    3. 40oz
      December 3, 2013 at

      This is what happens when a team is picked by an organization whose purpose is to cover their own asses.

    4. Woodguy
      December 3, 2013 at

      Just heard Jankowski mention on Gregor’s show that “experience on championship teams was important”

      Using this logic he’d pick Osgood over Hasek.

      Based on the goalies that they are taking to the WJHC that seems about right.

      “Save percentage? Phhhhttttp. Show me your rings!”

      Amazing.

    5. Roke
      December 3, 2013 at

      I don’t think this is just a Hockey Canada thing. It’s’s interesting how many people have been wrong in their evaluation of Subban since he’s been in the league. Jacques Martin probably comes closest to getting things right straight away and he was probably too conservative for a while. Looking at just members of the Habs:

      Jacques Martin: In the 2009-10 Playoffs Ends up using Subban as a call-up due to injuries elsewhere, plays him 20 minutes/night. The next season Subban’s used Subban in soft-minutes with Alexandre Picard for a few months until injuries and Subban’s play force Martin’s hand, uses him as a #1D.

      Randy Cunneyworth: Healthy scratches Subban against Winnipeg in one of his first games in an attempt to forfeit the game.

      Marc Bergevin: Apparently doesn’t explore a long-term deal with his Shea Weber-calibre defense-man even though you have more leverage than you’ll ever have, since he was coming off his ELC. Insists on a bridge deal where Michael Del Zotto ends up as the contract comparable.

      Michel Therrien: Uses Subban in soft minutes with Francis Bouilon from the get-go, takes a month or so to realise he’s a good defenseman, but as of today still doesn’t use him in hihg-leverage defensive situations like a player of Subban’s calibre should be used

    6. December 4, 2013 at

      It isn’t, or shouldn’t be that way in international play, where other countries don’t have the talent to compete with Canada.

      Completely false on the big ice. There are only three elite hockey nations whose domestic leagues play on the big ice: RUS, SWE, CZE (they play on an in-between rink in Finland). In Olympic tournaments on big ice and against those nations, CAN’s record is very poor: 2-3-1.

      It doesn’t get any prettier if you throw in FIN. Canada’s beaten up on shitty teams and the US, lost to the Swiss, and kicked it into gear when the IIHF buckled to Vancouver’s wishes and let 2010 happen on small ice. Olympic results don’t indicate that CAN dominates in terms of talent on the big ice. World Championship results certainly buttress that point.

      Where CAN does dominate, though, is in coaching and scouting. You want to talk about a poorly constructed team, 2010 RUS. And re coaching, there was no coaching on that team. The coach didn’t know anything about how most of the players played (no forwards on PP point), who was good at shootouts (choosing Ovechkin over Datsyuk and Kozlov against SLO where if they would’ve won it would have avoided CAN in the quarters CAN, of course, shit the bed in the prelim round), who could do what, couldn’t do what. Russian coaches have yet to understand the concept of matching lines let alone zone starts.

      Other countries don’t have the luxury of their best players playing in the same league/country where the coach/scouts operate in, same language, access, etc. But in terms of pure talent on the big ice, I’d take SWE and RUS over them easily.

    7. JDM
      December 9, 2013 at

      Here’s my thing: it’s a one loss and you’re out tournament. It’s therefore a one goal and you’re out tournament, in many very forseeable circumstances.

      Now, leaving aside that PK has a penchant for ill-timed bonehead plays and giveaways (which I fully admit he more than makes up for in the long run), who, of the RHD on Canada’s radar, would you leave off the ice in favour of PK Subban? Are you taking him over Weber, Doughty or Alex Pietrangelo?

      Having him play his wrong side is even worse. That’s an issue at the best of times, but on international ice, it’s even more unfamiliar territory. I just have this image in my head of a 3-3 game with 6 minutes left in the third against Russia, and PK is playing left D and gets walked around by Kovalchuk for the game winner. That’s the tournament.

      The Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s often said, are a collection of 4-7 game comparments and thus provide too small a sample size to expect unexpected anomalous events to come out in the wash over the full course of play. Well, in a single elimination tournament, the same is not only true but considerably more obvious.

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