• Handicapping

    by Tyler Dellow • February 9, 2009 • Uncategorized • 32 Comments

    OK – I refuse to pretend that the Blues are even in this but with the trainwreck that is the hunt for the final four playoff spots in the Western Conference, I’m increasingly hopeful that the Oilers might somehow stumble across the finish line in eighth or, more importantly if an upset is possible, seventh, which would give them Detroit and a Conklin/Osgood duo on the other end of the ice. The thought of Ty Conklin taking the ice at Rexall in April with it meaning something makes my heart beat a little faster – one would hope that he would be righteously savaged for the Stanley Cup Final loss. I’d take a Battle of Alberta too – the key to having a hope of an upset in the playoffs is having the better goaltender and, with the way that Kiprusoff has played this year and Keenan giving him 75 games or so, anything seems possible.

    First things first though, and the Oilers need to get there. I don’t think that it’s impossible.

    	PTS	GR	HGR	GRPT	B2B	BIG4
    DAL	59	30	16	17	5	7
    ANA	59	26	13	14	4	6
    MIN	57	30	12	17	8	10
    VAN	56	30	13	13	3	4
    EDM	56	29	15	16	3	7
    CBJ	55	27	15	15	6	9
    LAK	53	31	11	19	5	8
    NSH	53	29	17	17	5	10
    PHX	53	28	14	15	4	5
    COL	51	29	12	20	3	5
    

    (Let me know if that doesn’t work for people; I used the pre tags, which could save me a ton of time.)

    Pretty straightforward, I think: points, games remaining, home games remaining, games remaining against playoff teams, back to backs remaining and games with CGY/CHI/DET/SJS.

    A couple of things catch my eye. First, Minnesota has an absolutely brutal schedule going forward. Sure, they’ve got a bit of a cushion, in that they’re in a playoff spot right now amd have thirty games left. It gets ugly after that column though: they have just 12 homes games left, seventeen games remaining against current playoff teams, eight back to backs and 10 games remaining against the Big Four. The Oilers’ position – a point back, with one fewer game played but three more home games, one fewer game against a team in a playoff position, five fewer back to backs and three fewer games against the Big Four sure looks preferable to me.

    Colorado is in an interesting position. I don’t know if Chicago would do it but a first round pick for Nikolai Khabibulin might be an interesting move for the Avs. They’ve got some favourable aspects to their schedule and could almost ride one goalie the rest of the way. It’s probably worth noting that Phoenix and Colorado, both a couple of points back, have fewer games left with the best teams (and by implication, have played more). They might have too many teams to overcome at this point but they’re both probably closer than things look.

    I don’t know that this is going to be the Jackets’ year. Too many games played, too many back to back games left and too many games with Chicago and Detroit to come. I’d like Nashville better if they weren’t in the same position in terms of games with the Big Four.

    If I was betting, I’d probably have it like this: Dallas, Anaheim and Vancouver – in. The last spot is a tossup between Edmonton and Minnesota and, given the schedule, I’m inclined to think that, if nothing else, the Oilers are positioned to make it extremely close.

    * * *

    An aside: one half of the Oilers radio crew was vehement following the Penner signing in his view that Penner would put up more points than Smyth over the next three seasons. As of today, Penner is at 35G and 36 A for 71P in 132 GP while Smyth sits at 108 GP 30 G and 49 A for 79P. Smyth is doing the same stuff he always did in Edmonton, while Penner is still struggling with effort.

    I should note that I don’t know that Penner’s durability is any great selling point – if Smyth gives you a bonfide top line winger when he’s in the lineup and he’s in the lineup 80% of the time, that still beats a guy who isn’t a bonafide top line winger who’s there every day.

    About Tyler Dellow

    32 Responses to Handicapping

    1. February 9, 2009 at

      Giving the Avs a bit of love, but writing off the Blues? Why you such a hater? The Blues have a better Pts% right now.

      The schedule stuff is interesting. You point out that few games remaining vs. the top4 means they’ve already played more. The B2B is different, though; for the entire season, CBJ had the most (20?) while the Avs had the fewest (~7). ie, the BJs are where they are despite having played 11 B2B already, while the Avs have only played 2 or 3.

      Anyway, a very unfortunate year for the Jackets to have the schedule makers take a dump on them.

    2. February 9, 2009 at

      And Mason is out now, no? Killer.

      And Smyth plays PK and heavy ES minutes or can.

      That ‘trade’ looks worse and worse. I don’t care about Penner’s numbers, which can look impressive at times.

      Guy does not work hard enough and that hurts.

    3. February 9, 2009 at

      I looked at these numbers at the all-star break (I didn’t think to look at games vs the big 4 though) and came to pretty much the same conclusion. At the time I thought PHX had a good shot but 6 straight losses pretty much kills there chances.

      When I looked at the numbers I wasn’t sure about ANA because although they do have a cushion right now but it’s small and with the fewest games left they really don’t have any margin for error. But looking at it now I think they’re probably good to go if for no other reason than I don’t see anyone else to get past them. CBJ is gonna suffer without Mason, MIN is gonna get eaten up with all the B2B, and everyone below them is going to need to get red hot to close the gap. So ANA gets the spot.

    4. February 9, 2009 at

      At this stage it’s pretty hard to make the argument that moving Smyth was the right decision.

    5. February 9, 2009 at

      I like Van because even though they’ve got a 17/13 road/home split remaining, they’ve only got four left against the B4, 13 GRPT and just three back-to-back. So, it’s all lining up for them and Sundin’s coming around and, fuck, that’s a damn good team and I couldn’t figure out why they funked for as long as they did.

      Dal looks like a fine bet given they have an early jump in points plus they have a favourable road/home split. But, they’re playing 17 of 30 vs PT, seven vs the B4 and then a middling number of BTB.

      I don’t have a clue how things will go for the Oil. Their road record makes them look like a playoff team but they aren’t dependable enough at home for whatever reason.

    6. February 9, 2009 at

      I don’t know the PDO’s for these teams, but it sure would be a bad time for any of these guys to regress to the mean. I’m also not convinced that there really is a “Big Four,” in that Calgary doesn’t seem to be in the league of the other three teams, at least by goal differential and ability to win road games. Throwing out the Calgary games should make things easier on the NW teams I’d suspect.

    7. February 9, 2009 at

      JW: Lowe didn’t know the cap was going up so you either give up your argument or things will go badly for you!

    8. February 9, 2009 at

      Dennis: Will there be throttling?

    9. lowetide
      February 9, 2009 at

      Zamboni’s for everyone!!!

    10. February 9, 2009 at

      JW: No, people will say things to your face and then things will end badly:D

      I love the fact that we’re getting close to the homestretch and is there anything better than the opening round of playoffs? Lots to read about and follow and lots of games to watch; an awesome time indeed.

      I am getting sick of the Oilers being on the sideline though and I really can’t peg this time. Everything we read points towards 71 being done for the year and everything we see tells us that 24 can’t step into the top four and that MacT won’t give 5 a shot in that hole either; not that he could make any hay in said role, mind you.

      Roli’s been letting in at least one suspicious goal a game since at least Glenn Anderson Nite and Erik Cole left his hands at the border.

      I dunno, it’s not like the Oilers hinging on the fringe is a new development but I just can’t get a handle on this club. Horc’s +/- is there but he can’t score anymore and Penner looks like a 50 point guy at best. Moreau’s scoring a few goals but he’s giving up as much as he’s earning and fuck knows he should be giving up even more. Gagner blows scoring chance after scoring chance and it looks like it’s just not in the cards for him.

      I guess every bubble team has all their own problems as well but I know ours better than the rest and I just wouldn’t put a dime on any kind of prediction.

    11. mc79hockey
      February 9, 2009 at

      That bit about every bubble team having their own problems is probably just absolutely true. We just haven’t had to suffer through whatever ails those other teams.

      Also, I think that declaring something will end badly ought to be the new Oilers fan internet meme.

      I’m rethining my approach to B2B, by the way. The relevant thing probably isn’t playing B2B, it’s playing with less rest than the other team. If they’re playing B2B too, who cares.

      BTW, looking through some old numbers, it looks like some teams play many, many more B2B than others. Colorado played them at about 80% of the league average between 84-85 and 03-04. Buffalo is at the other end, at about 117%. Generally, teams that are isolated – and Colorado seems to be pretty isolated – seem to play them less frequently. Kind of makes Minny’s schedule the rest of the way all the stranger.

    12. speeds
      February 9, 2009 at

      I should note that I don’t know that Penner’s durability is any great selling point – if Smyth gives you a bonfide top line winger when he’s in the lineup and he’s in the lineup 80% of the time, that still beats a guy who isn’t a bonafide top line winger who’s there every day.

      I would assume it’s much harder to calculate such a thing in hockey, but my understanding from baseball is that it would depend on who you had to in Smyth’s place for the other 20% of his games.

      If you’re replacement is “pretty good”, well above replacement level, then you’d be better with Smyth. If you replacement is sub-replacement level, then you may be better off with Penner.

    13. February 9, 2009 at

      At this stage it’s pretty hard to make the argument that moving Smyth was the right decision.

      Moving Smyth, taken in a vacuum, makes sense, if you’re going full-rebuild. which I assumed to be the plan. Moving Smyth and giving up three assets for the right to give 75% of his money to Dustin Penner? Not so much.

      I’m rethining my approach to B2B, by the way. The relevant thing probably isn’t playing B2B, it’s playing with less rest than the other team. If they’re playing B2B too, who cares.

      I’d be inclined to agree with this, too. It’s only a problem if it’s a handicap for one team. If both teams are tired, they’re both more prone to mistakes, fatigue, and injury by the same amount. I believe Spock’s bizarre usage of “sauce for the goose” (as opposed to the actual one) is appropriate here.

    14. February 9, 2009 at

      I did a whole post on B2B games on the road and, to be frank, it has a pretty negative impact on your ability to win hockey games. The winning percentage is .388 in the back half of the B2B and .460 in all other road games.

      I’m terrible at linking so here is my shameless shill:

      http://gospelofhockey.blogspot.com/2009/01/effect-of-back-to-back-games.html

    15. tyler
      February 9, 2009 at

      @speeds: I’ve thought about that and hockey is different (that’s right, I can admit that baseball isn’t always applicable). Say the Yankees were to lose ARod after he got busted in Toronto trying to buy steroids. His AB almost all go to the backup 3B. The only thing that they can do to attenuate that is to bat the guy lower in the order, which will have some impact but not a huge one.

      If Smyth, or another first line player, goes down, the coach can redistribute his minutes over the rest of the lineup. Say, for ease of reference, that they were being doled out as follows pre-injury:

      Smyth: 20 minutes
      2: 17 minutes
      3: 13 minutes
      4: 1o minutes

      Post-injury, it goes like this:

      2: 20 minutes
      3: 17 minutes
      4; 13 minutes
      AHLer: 10 minutes

      The proper measure of his loss from the lineup is therefore as follows:

      (Smyth’s contrib)-(3 min of 2) (4 min of 3)-(3 min of 4)-(10 min of AHLer). With specialization and such, and some guys being PK types, the loss is less than it seems.

      This makes intuitive sense, I think, because logically, there just aren’t that many wins above replacement for NHL teams to get from players. I figure .250 is about what a team of replacement players would do. With OTL, call it 30 points. If the Oilers arew a 90 point club this year, that’s 60 points spread over a ton of guys. How much can 10-20 games really be worth?

    16. David Staples
      February 9, 2009 at

      Smyth’s deal is for five years. We’re now 1 1/2 years into it.

      The problem some of us had with his prospective deal was what kind of player he would be in year five, followed by year four, followed by year three, as he aged and injuries caught up with him . . . So let’s see how he’s doing at ages 34-36.

      A useful comparison is Glenn Anderson, who someone on the Oilogosphere recently used convincingly as a comparison for Smyth.

      Anderson was far past his peak years at those ages (as were Kurri, Tikkanen, Gretzky, Messier, not to mention Simpson, another guy who made his living in the goal mouth).

      I don’t see Smyth being more durable than Anderson.

      Of course, the same rule applies to Lowe’s signing of Souray. How will Souray be in years to come? Too early to really celebrate that signing, either, even if the guy is playing well this year.

    17. February 9, 2009 at

      Ty: where meeting face-to-face will end badly?;)

    18. mc79hockey
      February 10, 2009 at

      David: If you look at the post where I raised the Smyth/Anderson comparison, you’ll see that Smyth matches Anderson’s later years quite well. I think you have to be cautious comparing some of the older guys to the modern day guys…my sense is that they didn’t take care of themselves quite as well. A fellow like Smyth, who’s still playing tough minutes and scoring goals, he’s got a ways to go, because he can fall down through the lineup at ES and play PP time for a while I’d think.

    19. David Staples
      February 10, 2009 at

      I think it’s accurate to say that players are lasting a bit longer these days . . . maybe one-to-two more near peak years than in the 1980s, early 1990s, and that is a massive difference. So the odds of Smyth lasting longer than comparable players, like Anderson, from that era aren’t so bad.

      But they’re not so great either.

      Hell, I do wish Smyth luck. Such a fantastic player. His contract demands in 2006, though, well, they alarmed me, though perhaps I was overly pessimistic about the prospects of players in that age category (32-36).

      I’m starting to think that maybe I was. But we’ll see.

    20. mc79hockey
      February 10, 2009 at

      Hell, I do wish Smyth luck. Such a fantastic player. His contract demands in 2006, though, well, they alarmed me, though perhaps I was overly pessimistic about the prospects of players in that age category (32-36).

      I think, without much beyond careful observation to prove the point, that there’s something to the idea that guys who play tough minutes can last longer. There’s a similar idea in baseball. Great bats who play positions like 2B, SS, CF or C can last longer than great bats that play the less challenging defensive positions, because they’ve got somewhere to go when they age – they can shift to a less demanding position defensively.

      Smyth can move to a less demanding defensive position by playing softer minutes as he ages. That should extend his career because he’ll be able to make a contribution against softer opp. For other guys – and I’m thinking of the Anson Carter types here – that option just isn’t available. Fewer places to hide them.

    21. February 10, 2009 at

      Great bats who play positions like 2B, SS, CF or C can last longer than great bats that play the less challenging defensive positions, because they’ve got somewhere to go when they age – they can shift to a less demanding position defensively.

      But it happens at least as often that second basemen and catchers have their ability to play at all derailed by injuries. Your argument here is silly: guys who played their first, say, 500 games behind the plate aren’t overrepresented among the most durable ballplayers, they’re dramatically underrepresented. If they don’t move, their careers are shortened by wear and tear; if they do move, they’re inherently less valuable to the team because they’re filling a slot with lower replacement value; and very often, moving them doesn’t work out anyway (you could discuss this with Johnny Bench).

    22. lowetide
      February 10, 2009 at

      I’m sure we all know the defensive spectrum for baseball, but just in case someone isn’t aware it goes something like this: SS, CF, 2B, 3B, RF, LF, 1B. I left catcher out because I don’t remember where James put him (I think it’s either after RF or 3B).

      Catchers bleed out. Every game caught is like a sortie and the really durable guys (Boone) outlast the big men (Bench, Fisk) just for the reasons we’d expect (ever see a 6’5, 240 carpet layer?). Cosh’s Bench example is splendid because Bench was probably the best defensive catcher ever (they stopped running on Johnny Bench by 1972) but when they moved him to 3B it was awful.

      The statement you CAN make is this one: players who start with a young players skills (speed demons, begin at SS, CF, 3B) AND can hit for average often have long careers and very often develop impressive power compared to early careers.

      An examples of this would be Robin Yount, and of course when talking about longevity in baseball we need a special asterisk for the beauty career of a man named Dave Concepcion.

    23. coozdog
      February 10, 2009 at

      CBJ have 29 games remaining

    24. February 10, 2009 at

      Catchers were left out of the original defensive spectrum entirely. Purely in terms of run importance you would probably put them near SS.

      James has research in one of the Abstracts, I think ’86, showing that playing second base cuts into careers almost as harshly as catching does, presumably because of all the collisions on DP balls. There are a surprising number of good-to-great hitters who were deliberately rescued from C while still in the minors (Jimmie Foxx, Dale Murphy, Carlos Delgado) and few who were pulled from 2B (like Tim Raines).

    25. February 10, 2009 at

      As I recall Bill James left catchers out of the defensive spectrum cuz they didn’t readily move into supposedly easier positions like short or second. As a general rule they move to first or third, or maybe LF if there’s any juice left in their legs. Yogi Berra played a bit there towards the end cuz he still had pop in his bat, and John Blanchard was the Bob Boone of his era, a truly superior backstop. Another successful convert from around that time was Joe Torre, who had some big years on the corners of the infield after having been an All-Star catcher with the Milwaukee Braves. Nowadays a catcher who can really hit might have a chance at DH, which is surely where Berra and Torre might have wound up had the option been available.

      Wikipedia (yeah, I know) lists the “full” defensive spectrum as follows: P-C-SS-2B-CF-3B-RF-LF-1B-DH. Obviously pitchers don’t move along the spectrum unless they’re Rick Ankiel, but from SS on all movement is generally to the right as players age, with rare exceptions like Mickey Stanley and Cal Ripken Jr.

      One interesting thing in the wiki piece, that the spectrum has actually changed over the fullness of time; that originally 3B was thought to be tougher than 2B which is why some great hitters like Nap Lajoie and Rogers Hornsby wound up in the middle infield. The article specifically cites the rise of the double play as the reason for the shift.

    26. February 10, 2009 at

      John Blanchard was the Bob Boone of his era, a truly superior backstop

      Oops, brain cramp, that was Elston Howard who was the great defensive catcher. John Blanchard was the third catcher on that loaded Yankees squad, and a primo pinch hitter. All three of Howard, Berra and Blanchard hit over 20 homers on the 1961 Yankees, their home run heroics lost in the shadows of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Blanchard hit his 21 dingers in just 243 AB.

    27. drdr
      February 11, 2009 at

      One interesting thing in the wiki piece, that the spectrum has actually changed over the fullness of time; that originally 3B was thought to be tougher than 2B which is why some great hitters like Nap Lajoie and Rogers Hornsby wound up in the middle infield. The article specifically cites the rise of the double play as the reason for the shift.
      The other reason is bunts. Hitters used to bunt more and 3B had to be able to field them cleanly. Nowadays bunts are much rarer. Also, defensive spectrum follows the average number of chances and better defenders should go to the positions where they have more balls hit in their area (1B is, of course, most involved player after P and C, but there is relatively small number of plays where 1B starts a play, he usually just receives the ball).
      Moving players down the defensive spectrum is often a problem – players who need to move are generally in decline, so their bat might not play at easier position; they might not be able to play that position (small infielders aren’t good choice for outfield or 1B, where size is preferred); infield positions require quick reactions, while outfield positions require speed; players with knee problems shouldn’t be playing infield; players might not be able to learn how to play the new position.
      RF-LF is also interesting – LF sees more chances and it might be better to put the better fielder there, but LF is the only outfield spot where teams can hide the guy who can’t throw from one base to the next. Also, players are accustomed to LF being the the position for weakest fielders, so quality fielders would probably feel slighted when put to LF with weaker fielder at RF.

    28. lowetide
      February 11, 2009 at

      I believe bunts were also just foul balls back in the day. By that I mean you couldn’t strike out by bunting it foul. It was still strike two (which is why 3b was such a defensive position).

      This is from the far corner of a old brain so I stand to be corrected.

    29. February 12, 2009 at

      You’ve got a long memory, LT! The rule was changed in 1909.

      Even after that there was way more bunting than in the modern game. More bunting + fewer DP meant 3B >>> 2B.

    30. February 12, 2009 at

      Ty: Can you update this list every once in awhile?

      It was on my mind last night while keeping an eye on the Minny game. They’ve got a brutal sked so playing the non-playoff Avs at home was pretty much a must-win for them last night.

    31. February 13, 2009 at

      Ty: allow me to reiterate;), maybe you can do a quick and dirty update on this every mon?

      just a little blurb?!

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