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


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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    Even the Flames’ struggling power play capitalized against the Blackhawks’ struggling penalty kill

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    The Calgary Flames had the league’s worst power play at just four per cent coming into Monday’s game against Chicago.

    Yeah. Awful.

    The Blackhawks had the league’s worst penalty kill at just 42.9 per cent, which is also awful, although their issues go deeper than that aspect.

    So, of course special teams played an important role in this game. Despite their previous struggles with the advantage, the Flames scored twice on the power play, on goals from Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan, taking their turn capitalizing on Chicago’s early-season difficulties short handed.

    The Flames finished two-for-five on the power play, giving them three power play goals in 30 opportunities so far. They jumped all the way to 27th in the league in that category (!!) at 10 per cent. The Blackhawks have given up 14 power play goals against on 26 chances.

    “We’ve got to get that out of our game,” Jonathan Toews told CSN Chicago. “As I’ve been saying, the penalty kill usually translates from our effort 5-on-5 and if we’re not starting games well, then we’re getting behind. Obviously [we’re] giving up power plays to begin with and we’re not killing the penalty kills that we’re on. Unfortunate to get behind again tonight.”

    This is not the company you’d expect the Blackhawks to be keeping.

    The Blackhawks did come back to force overtime, but they ultimately lost 3-2 in the shootout.

    Former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg scored the only goal in the deciding breakaway contest, giving Calgary the win.

    While the Flames power play came alive for this game, the play of goalie Brian Elliott was significant.

    He, too, had struggled mightily with three losses in three starts, and a .839 save percentage, prompting his former teammate Jake Allen to say Flames fans shouldn’t be worried about Elliott despite his dreadful start.

    Against Chicago, Elliott made 31 saves on 33 shots and then made five saves in the seven-round shootout.

    The Habs took a chance signing Radulov and (so far) they’ve been rewarded

    MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 20:  Alexander Radulov #47 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at the Bell Centre on October 20, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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    The Montreal Canadiens took a chance on Alexander Radulov.

    The cost? One year at $5.75 million, which is a significant investment for a 30-year-old player with plenty of talent but past off-ice discipline issues. So far, Radulov has been a welcomed addition to a Habs lineup that needed a skilled forward capable of putting up good numbers and taking a top-six role.

    The success — or lack of — for the Habs will always focus around the play and health of goalie Carey Price.

    But Radulov is off to a nice start to the season, which should provide some optimism for Canadiens fans after a disappointing 2015-16 season and the tumultuous summer that followed.

    He entered Monday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with two points in five games, but had solid puck possession numbers. Against the Flyers, he was once again a central figure for the Habs on the attack.

    And the production followed.

    He had a three-point night, setting up Shea Weber‘s goal in the second period — Weber’s slap shot busted the stick of Brayden Schenn and still had enough to get by goalie Steve Mason — and Brendan Gallagher for the eventual winner late in the third period.

    Radulov then secured the win with an empty-net goal, giving him five points in six games. The Habs, following their 3-1 win over the Flyers, remain the only team in the league without a regulation loss.

    Radulov entered the season as a potential X-factor for the Habs.

    General manager Marc Bergevin received plenty of criticism for trading P.K. Subban. But so far, the returns from signing Radulov have been promising for the Habs.

    Video: Shea Weber scores with blistering slap shot that destroyed Schenn’s stick


    In case you didn’t know by now, here is more evidence that Shea Weber possesses a devastating slap shot.

    The Montreal Canadiens defenseman on Monday scored his second goal of the season, once again deploying his shot from the blue line. This time, he ripped a shot that busted the stick of Brayden Schenn, who was trying to get into the shooting lane, and still had enough behind it to beat Flyers’ goalie Steve Mason.

    That gave the Habs the lead.

    The Flyers responded later on in the second period on Jakub Voracek‘s third goal of the season.

    Christian Ehrhoff signs with Kolner Haie in Germany

    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27: Christian Ehrhoff #10 of Team Europe looks on against Team Canada during the second period during Game One of the World Cup of Hockey final series at Air Canada Centre on September 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Christian Ehrhoff is finally under contract for this season, but not in the NHL.

    Ehrhoff, 34, signed with Kolner Haie in Germany, the team announced via Twitter on Monday.

    Most recently, Ehrhoff was with the Boston Bruins on a professional tryout (PTO) prior to the beginning of the season, but he opted not to sign with that club, instead deciding to return home to Germany.

    Ehrhoff also suited up for Team Europe at this fall’s World Cup of Hockey.

    In 789 NHL games, the puck-moving defenseman scored 74 goals and 339 points. His most productive seasons came with the Vancouver Canucks, as he helped that team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.