Mar 212012
 

The Globe and Mail report that Patrick Roy is waiting in the wings to take over the Montreal Canadiens after this season is not unexpected.

Rumours for months have made it seem like a Quebec-centric bidding war has developed between the Habs and prospective Nordiques franchise over the services of Mr. Roy.

Interestingly though, yesterday’s news turned my inbox into a debate over the merits of Patrick Roy. Not necessarily his merits behind the bench or in the executive suite, but on the ice.

The question was – who was a better goalie, Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy?

It’s the type of question that has fueled hockey talk in living rooms, sports bars and in online forums. It’s also the type of question that really can’t be answered, since:

a) It’s a question of comparing different eras;

b) Dryden’s career was short and excellent on a dynasty team, while Roy played roughly two decades for average-to-excellent teams;

c) Roy revolutionized the position while Dryden revolutionized how to look bored during game-action;

d) Statistics available for Roy’s career are far more available than those for Dryden.

This last point is most challenging, since a quick scan online reveals only fewa season’s worth of save percentages are available for Dryden.

But there ARE a few season’s worth of save percentages available, and with that there’s enough to try and take a “scientific” stab at this question.

First up, let’s take a look at the modern season stats we do have for Ken Dryden:

AgeYearRecordMinutesGoals AgainstSavesGAASVPCT
231970-716-0-032792001.650.957
271974-7530-9-16332014914402.690.906
281975-7642-10-8358012115312.030.927
291976-7741-6-8327511713422.140.920
301977-7837-7-7307110512312.050.921
311978-7930-10-7281410810842.300.909

Now let’s grab Patrick Roy’s seasons at the same age:

AgeYearRecordMinutesGoals AgainstSavesGAASVPCT
231988-8933-5-6274411311152.470.908
271992-9331-25-5359519216223.20.894
281993-9435-17-11386716117952.500.918
291994-9517-20-6256612712302.970.906
301995-9634-24-2356516516322.780.908
311996-9738-15-7369814317182.320.923

Clearly, the numbers above suggest Dryden is the superior netminder.

However, the numbers don’t take into account the different eras, nor do they take into account the strength of Dryden’s Habs vs. Roy’s Montreal/Colorado teams. Let’s do both.

First, let’s equalize their eras. We know that historically the NHL averages roughly 6.17 goals per game. We also know the number of goals-per-game the NHL averaged in each of Dryden and Roy’s seasons.

Given this knowledge, we can do the following math to equalize their different eras: (actual goals against) / [(season’s goals-per-game/historical goals-per-game average)] = “new era-equal” goals against.

How does this impact the numbers? Again, Dryden seems to have a clear advantage over Roy:

Ken DrydenGAASVPCTPatrick RoyGAASVPCT
1970-711.630.9581988-892.030.923
1974-752.420.9151992-932.710.909
1975-761.830.9341993-942.370.922
1976-771.990.9261994-953.060.904
1977-781.910.9261995-962.720.910
1978-792.020.921996-972.450.919

Those are microscopic numbers for Ken Dryden, but they don’t take into consideration the strength of Dryden’s team.

We’ll try to compensate for the different strengths of teams by equalizing the shots-on-goal each goalie faced. Amazingly, the average number of shots on goal per team per NHL game has remained static over the years. The average number of shots faced in 2010-11 per game, per goalie was 30.411. Let’s use the 30.411 figure and apply it the era-equalized goals against to see what both goalies would look like playing in the “same era,” facing the “same number of shots.”

The expectation here is that, for Dryden, his goals against should be higher. The Canadiens of his era were a solid defensive team that gave up anywhere from 25-28 shots on goal per game. For Roy, we expect his numbers to remain relatively the same, as he regularly faced over the course of his career 30 shots against per game.

Ken DrydenPatrick Roy
AgeOld GAAOld SVPCTNEW GAANEW SVPCTOld GAAOld SVPCTNEW GAANEW SVPCT
231.650.9571.300.9582.470.9082.340.923
272.690.9062.590.9153.200.8942.770.909
282.030.9272.020.9342.500.9182.390.922
292.140.9202.270.9262.970.9062.920.904
302.050.9212.240.9262.780.9082.740.910
312.300.9092.450.9202.320.9232.460.919

The expected kind of happened, although not to the degree imagined. Dryden’s goals against went up, but they were still far superior to Roy’s numbers.

This hasn’t been the most perfect study for a variety of reasons, including the fact that quality of scoring chances couldn’t be taken into consideration (those numbers don’t exist to my knowledge), and we only looked at a select few seasons of each goalie.

Nonetheless, when the numbers are modified to put each goalie into the “same era” against the “same number of shots,” it’s clear the Dryden vs. Roy debate is really no debate at all.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • Last week, we took a look at the terrific battle for the 7th and 8th playoff spots in the Western Conference. There’s still a race going on in the Eastern Conference between Washington, Florida, Winnipeg and Buffalo for the 3rd and 8th spots respectively. However, surprises seem far less likely to happen.
  • Of the four teams, Florida plays the weakest opponents (a .508 winning percentage heading into last night’s Philadelphia game). The Panthers reaching the playoffs seems like a sure thing.
  • The Jets have the toughest schedule, playing teams with a .572 winning percentage (including last night’s Pittsburgh game). They also play 6 of their last 9 games on the road, where they’ve struggled (11-20-4). It sure seems like the lights of the MTS Centre will be dark come playoff time.
  • Having said that, of the four teams in the discussion the Jets have been the highest scoring team over their last 20 games, potting 3.25 goals per game. Unfortunately for them, they’ve given up the most goals as well, averaging 3.15 goals against per game.
  • Blake Wheeler has become the big straw stirring the Jets drink, with 26 points in 23 games since the All-Star Game. Bryan Little has also come alive, with 10 goals and 19 points over the same period. Not to be out-done, Dustin Byfuglien has been a point-per-game player from the defense as well with 22 points in 22 games.
  • On paper, it’s hard to see how the Washington Capitals are still in the playoff race. They’re 9-9-2 over their last 20 games, giving up an average of 2.90 goals against per game while only scoring 2.40 goals per game. 5 of their last 9 games are at home though, where they have had good success this season (23-10-3). That should be enough to squeak them into the playoffs.
  • The wildcard here are the Buffalo Sabres. They’re 6-2-2 in their past 10 games and 11-5-4 in their past 20, putting the pressure on a Caps team that’s spinning its wheels. A March 27th game on the road against Washington looms large. If Buffalo wants to make the playoffs, they not only need to win that game, but improve on their current 12-9-5 record against their remaining opponents.
  • Reasons for Buffalo’s surge since the All-Star Game: Tyler Myers is +11 since the break; With 19 points each over the same period, Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford have given the Sabres scoring depth; Ryan Miller has a 2.02 goals against and .932 save percentage in 23 post All-Star game appearances. (Editor’s note: What? No mention of Cody Hodgson? /sarcasm – J.J.)
  • Evgeni Malkin is the first NHL player to score 5 or more points in a game 4 times in one season since 1995–96. During the 1995-96 season, Mario Lemieux did it 6 times for the Pittsburgh Penguins, while Peter Forsberg did it 4 times for the Colorado Avalanche.
  • How is it possible that Ryan Getzlaf has just 9 goals this year?
  • Other prominent players who may not hit 10-goals this year: Brandon Dubinsky (8); Kyle Turris (8); Mason Raymond (8); Michal Handzus (7); Dustin Penner (7); Paul Gaustad (7); Ville Leino (6); Brian Rolston (6); Mike Knuble (6).
Jan 232011
 

[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]

NHL All-Star Game

Photo credit: Puck Daddy

It really is a crapshoot which has undergone more cosmetic change – Heidi Montag’s body or the NHL All-Star Game.

Next Friday, the NHL will again try to create interest for this event by broadcasting a live player draft to determine each team’s roster.

Interestingly, looking back through the years on Hockey-Reference.com, the average NHL All-Star Game has featured roughly 17 Hall of Famers*. By decade:

40s: 18 Hall of Famers per All-Star game
50s: 17 Hall of Famers per game
60s: 19 Hall of Famers per game
70s: 15 Hall of Famers per game
80s: 16 Hall of Famers per game
90s: 20 Hall of Famers per game
2000s**: 13 Hall of Famers per game

Keeping these numbers in mind, who are the Hall of Famers that are playing in the upcoming 58th NHL All-Star Game?

An educated guess suggests:

Jarome Iginla – he’ll end up with well more than 500 goals, and has been a First Team NHL All-Star three times.

Nik Lidstrom – a top-three defenceman in the league’s history, and the best Swedish player of all-time.

Sidney Crosby – youngest NHL captain to win the Stanley Cup will probably be the highest scoring player of his era.

Evgeni Malkin – might not score the points he would as a first-line centre on another team, but he’s well positioned to have a Messier-in-Edmonton type run behind Crosby. That’s pretty good.

Steven Stamkos – yea it’s early, but he’s got that shot, and looks like a permanent Maurice Richard scoring threat.

Alex Ovechkin – history will show whether this is the season he sacrificed personal success for team glory, or whether it was the beginning of slight decline after a dominant early start to his career.

Eric Staal – seems like a stretch for now, except he’s already won a Cup and, barring injury, might play 1400 NHL games before he’s done. If he does the points will be there to help his consideration.

Zdeno Chara – borderline, but he’s a four-time post-season All-Star and a Norris Trophy winner.

Henrik Lundqvist – Goalies are tough to predict, but quietly 400+ career wins seems within reach, and his goals-against average and career save percentage are as good, if not better, than Roberto Luongo’s.

That’s nine Hall-of-Famers. No NHL All-Star Game has had less than 10 (2007, 2009).

Which means there are probably a few more Hall-of-Famers playing January 30th than anyone currently realizes.

* = Numbers have been rounded, and guesses have been applied to recent NHL All-Star Games that feature players that are either still active or yet-to-be-inducted in the Hall of Fame.

** = Recent players considered Hall of Famers for the purposes of research: The aforementioned nine, along with Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Thornton, Mike Modano, Teemu Selanne, Mark Recchi, Martin Brodeur, Chris Pronger, Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Mats Sundin, Scott Niedermayre, Igor Larionov, Mike Richter, Ed Belfour, Joe Niewendyk, Joe Sakic, Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Dominik Hasek.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • According to research, the greatest collection of hockey players for an NHL All-Star Game was 1996 (24 Hall of Famers): Ray Bourque, Martin Brodeur, Ron Francis, Dominik Hasek, Jaromir Jagr, Brian Leetch, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Cam Neely, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Stevens, Mats Sundin, Teemu Selanne, Denis Savard, Joe Sakic, Al MacInnis, Nik Lidstrom, Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Gartner, Sergei Fedorov, Paul Coffey, Chris Chelios, Ed Belfour.
  • The NHL can try and ban hits-to-the-head however they’d like, but change will only happen when a generation of players have been raised playing with new rules and the bullying culture of hockey is marginalized even more than it is now.
  • Really wish someone would suggest that, while players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before, they’re also wearing suits of armour under their jerseys. Elbow pads and shoulder pads have never been harder.
  • There’s lots of cynicism and laughter about Peter Forsberg’s last ditch effort to play in the NHL. The fact remains that Forsberg’s hockey IQ and experience could be a huge benefit to the Avalanche. His injury issues over the last decade have almost been entirely related to a unique foot injury that made it impossible for him to skate comfortably.
  • Is Terry Murray in danger? With only two wins in their past 10 games, the Los Angeles Kings’ season is slowly slipping away.
  • If Evgeni Nabokov does end up in Detroit, what happens to Chris Osgood when he returns from his groin injury? It seems like his playing days may be over. (Editor’s note: Nabokov was, of course, claimed off waivers by the Islanders yesterday, but apparently won’t report to them.)
  • The talk was that Jacques Lemaire stepped aside from coaching the New Jersey Devils after last season because he was burnt out and tired of the NHL grind. But with each successive game, it’s becoming clear he is still one of the best coaching minds in the game. It makes you wonder where New Jersey would have been if he’d coached the team all year.
Nov 132010
 

[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]

Hockey Canada and Team Quebec?

Photo credit: Montreal Gazette

Rarely under Bob Nicholson’s leadership has Hockey Canada ever courted controversy.

This makes their decision to support an international tournament that features a Quebec team all the more puzzling.

As Hockey Canada rightly points out, provincial and regional teams regularly play against national teams from other countries.

But it’s hard to believe Hockey Canada were naive enough to think this would be just another hockey tournament.

The notion of a Team Quebec filled with NHL players has been the dream of separatist Quebec for decades.

And it’s taken no time at all for Quebec nationalists to jump on board the bandwagon and politicize the decision.

So what could have motivated Hockey Canada?

The bottom line, for one.

Hockey Canada has never turned down a chance to make a buck. A Quebec Cup tournament, featuring the provincial team against France, Italy and Switzerland would do mega business in La Belle Province.

In fact, you could argue that a tournament featuring a Team Quebec would be more significant than any tourney that featured a Team Ontario, Team British Columbia or Team Alberta.

Expect Hockey Canada to earn a nice return on licensing fees and other revenues associated with the tournament, all the while playing the innocent “this is not a big deal” card.

******

How good could a Team Quebec be?

On the surface, the lineup doesn’t look too bad – fast, skilled, deep in goal but lacking grit and defensive-depth:

Martin St. Louis (RW)
Jason Pominville (RW)
JP Dumont (RW)
Patrice Bergeron (C-RW)
Simon Gagne (LW)
Danny Briere (C-LW)
Guillaume Latendresse (LW)
David Perron (LW)
Vincent Lecavalier (C)
Mike Ribeiro (C)
Antoine Vermette (C)
Eric Belanger (C)
Jason Demers (D)
Bruno Gervais (D)
Kris Letang (D)
Stephane Robidas (D)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (D)
Francois Beauchemin (D)
Martin Brodeur (G)
Roberto Luongo (G)
Jonathan Bernier (G)

Extra Forwards:

Alex Tanguay (LW)
Derick Brassard (C)
Max Talbot (C-RW)
Alex Burrows (RW)

Extra Defensemen:

Mathieu Roy
Alex Picard

Extra Goaltender:

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

That being said, there’s been little comment so far from the NHLPA, and it’s doubtful NHL players would line up to shorten their already brief off-season.

Francophone NHL’ers who’ve played for the Habs would also be among the first to tell you that the language politics surrounding hockey in Quebec can be a negative distraction.

One suspects then that Team Quebec will be filled with also-rans and players from overseas, who see this as one last chance to catch the interest of an NHL team.

If this is the case, what happens to Quebec nationalists if the inaugural winner of the Quebec Cup is not the home team?

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY:

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