The quest to find NHL's 'Mr. Intangible'

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One of my underlying goals whenever I delve into the deeper stats and hockey roads less traveled is to try to return from such journeys with nuggets of truth that appeal across the fan spectrum. You might cringe or get a little intimidated when people bring up a player’s Corsi rating, but in some cases such stats are actually very simple (yet they sound like incomprehensible Godzilla monsters of spreadsheets).

This is not to say that I am – by any means – an expert number cruncher. I have a few mildly interesting made-up stats that I’ll torment you with from time to time, but let’s just say I’m not exactly a math genius. That being said, I think we can all agree that there’s a lot more that goes into a hockey game than what’s listed in a box score.

TSN’s Scott Cullen seems to have similar goals, although he seems interested in developing antiquated methods such as “researching points” and “not leaning heavily on corny jokes.” (Whatever, Scott.) In his latest column, he used some weird formula to measure a player’s intangible value to a given team. He notes a few limitations to the experiment; for instance, he judged players on cumulative totals, so injuries might make a player look bad. Cullen also noted that certain players – like the Sedin twins with their cycle heavy puck possession playing styles – aren’t as often in position to rack up hits or blocked shots.

Regardless of the drawbacks to the numbers, the results are pretty interesting. He listed the top three players for each team plus the player who rated the lowest.

Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting cases, starting with the top five league-wide.

  1. Ryan Callahan – 9.13
  2. Dennis Seidenberg – 8.14
  3. Dustin Brown – 7.89
  4. Cal Clutterbuck – 7.16
  5. Ryan Kesler – 7.12

Three of those players made Team USA. U-S-A! Yeah!

The NHL’s most intangible-deprived players and some other interesting findings after the jump.

Moving on, let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum. Here are the bottom five, at least according to Cullen’s numbers. (Fifth worst down to worst)

  1. Teemu Selanne -0.13
  2. Eric Godard -0.21
  3. Patrik Elias -0.26
  4. Daniel Sedin -0.31
  5. Patrick Sharp -0.35

Remember, single women in Chicago, Sharp might be a handsome man but he lacks intangibles. Unlike Kevin Costner, he clearly won’t block a bullet/shot for you.

Before I let you go, let me run down a few other interesting tidbits. Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals with a 4.24 rating followed closely by frequently criticized defenseman Mike Green (4.19). Dion Phaneuf is the second best intangibles guy on the Leafs and outcast Matt Cooke is number three on Pittsburgh. Kristian Huselius ranked last for Columbus, so feel free to crack out some “Uselius/Useless” jokes. Injuries might explain why Eric Staal and Marc Savard came out the worst on their respective teams.

But, perhaps most importantly, Todd Bertuzzi brings the least amount of intangibles to Detroit. Well, I can sleep well tonight.

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    Pre-game reading: Bettman insists NHL isn’t ‘anti-Olympics’

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    — Up top, members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans recall some of their fondest memories from Joe Louis Arena, which will host its last NHL game on Apr. 9.

    — Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Friday in Chicago: “The league isn’t anti-Olympics. The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.” (Chicago Tribune)

    — The players have said they won’t negotiate with the league for the right to participate in the Olympics. But they’ve made no secret about their desire to go, as evidenced by ESPN’s lengthy list of player quotes on the topic. Said Steven Stamkos: “In talking to a lot of players, I’ve yet to hear someone say they didn’t want to get a chance to represent their country at the Olympics.” (ESPN)

    — Whether the NHL continues its Olympic participation or not, it’s clear the league is eyeing China as part of its growth strategy. In September, the Canucks and Kings are expected to play a couple of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, there may even come a time when an NHL franchise is owned by Chinese business interests. (The Globe and Mail)

    — Are the Bruins on the verge of collapse? CSNNE columnist Joe Haggerty saw some concerning signs in last night’s loss to Tampa Bay — a loss that put the B’s in further danger of falling out of a playoff position. Haggerty concludes: “Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.” (CSN New England)

    — Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, is ready for — and even looking forward to — a hostile crowd tonight at PPG Paints Arena. “For me, Pittsburgh is the one city as a whole where I’m totally OK with them hating me. For wearing No. 66. Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.” (Newsday)

    Enjoy the games!

    PS — Lemieux said he was “fine” with Ho-Sang wearing his old number.

    In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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    George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

    This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

    “I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

    Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

    The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

    McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

    “I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

    “They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

    At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

    WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

    McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

    He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

    “We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

    B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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    Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

    Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

    Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

    Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

     

     

    Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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    Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

    The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

    Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

    “The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”