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Showing posts from February, 2007

Endorsements

Got any good books to recommend?

Greatest Hits from Working the Net:

Harlow Salon - one of the very best hair salons in Nashville TN.

It's Good To Be Home

Thanks to emailer Chris for another article inspiration:

I was telling my friend that hockey is one of the few [the only?] sports where the rules state that the home team gets an advantage -- line changes and face-offs. Since the home team gets to put their stick down last for a faceoff, does the home ice advantage help, hurt, or make no difference to the "good face off" men?Besides hockey, certainly baseball rules give the home team an advantage by batting last, but outside of that, you're right, most sports do try and stay neutral in terms of home & visitor play. To answer Chris's question, I used the Game Summary files from the 2005-06 season, as well as the first 730 games of this season (give or take a couple games) to determine overall faceoff win percentages for the home and visiting team, broken down by location on the ice:

FO Win% 2005-06
VisHomeOffensive49.29%52.41%Defensive47.59%50.71%Neutral49.95%50.05%Total49.00%51.00%

FO Win%, Current Season
VisHomeOffen…

Assessing the Prey in the West

So much for the thinking that the salary cap would prohibit teams from making trades during the season, eh? Yet again, NHL general managers have thrilled fans across the continent today with their Bacchanalian festival of talent-swapping that, for roughly half the league, provides a fresh optimism for the stretch drive not unlike when teams break training camp at the start of the season. Obviously, the volume of analysis and coverage is immense, and there are many spots along the blogroll at right where you can get in-depth, comprehensive breakdowns for all the trades (for starters, consult Spector, Mirtle, Kukla, and just click your way around). For the moment, I thought I'd take a look at things from the perspective of the Nashville Predators, and how the deadline deals affect their standing vis-a-vis their rivals in the Western Conference...

DETROIT: While the acquisition of Todd Bertuzzi raised the most eyebrows, the Jason Williams-for-Kyle Calder trade is what should reall…

Is the NHL blazing a trail for other sports leagues?

Google announced today a partnership with the National Basketball Association to provide a new "NBA Channel" on YouTube, featuring game highlights and videos featuring NBA players. The new arrangement isn't as extensive as that between Google and the National Hockey League, which provides full games for online viewing, but marks a significant new addition to YouTube's partnership-driven content.

For once, perhaps we'll hear about the NBA taking marketing tips from the NHL, instead of the other way around? Hey, it's a start!
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Did I Miss Anything?

Well, I'm back at the helm after a week of vacation, spent mostly without any internet access or hockey viewing (the Little Forecheckers got their first taste of Disney World). I wanted to get a few quick thoughts out here before getting back to a regular posting schedule:

1. I love what Atlanta's doing on the trade front. Many bloggers (Paul Kukla and Tom Benjamin, for example) decry the "rent-a-player" aspect of the NHL, but I think it only hightens the excitement of the final portion of the season, and gives bottom-dwelling teams a chance to get a jump on building towards next season.

2. Here's to hoping we see an Ottawa-Buffalo matchup in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

3. Does anybody really want to win the Northwest division? The way I see it, a 3rd seed in the West means a likely matchup with either Dallas or San Jose. The 7th position, on the other hand, presents a matchup with Anaheim, which has cooled off after its torrid start. Take away the overtime loss …

Off The Grid

Pardon the lack of posts the last few days, Mrs. Forechecker and I took the kids to Florida for a week, and unexpectedly had no internet access! Look for updates starting Monday...

The Hardest Hit of All

It seems like the most dangerous hits in hockey are those when neither player sees it coming. Just a few minutes ago, Mike Knuble and Brendan Shanahan collided nastily during the 3rd period of today's Rangers/Flyers tilt. Knuble was down for a while and had to be helped off the ice, while Shanny lay motionless for several minutes, and was taken off on a stretcher. He seemed alert and responsive, and was moving his limbs, so hopefully his trip to the hospital is more precautionary than anything else, but that was a scary situation.

Update: During the intermission of the Senators/Thrashers game, word came that Shanahan is alert and seems to be OK at the hospital.

How Much Is That Scorer In The Window?

As we consider possible player moves leading up to the trade deadline, I thought I'd take a look at how some of these prospective pickups have performed against likely playoff opponents. In other words, given a slate of veteran forwards who have been cited in various trade rumors, how many points per game are they racking up against top teams, as opposed to the rest of the league? Such results might provide some insight that makes them more or less attractive to the "buyers" who hope to contend for a Cup this spring.

For this exercise, I'm focusing on the Western Conference. I took a sample of six forwards from teams currently out of the playoffs, who are going to be unrestricted free agents after the season. I then went through their current statistics, and game-by-game logs, to determine their points-per-game production against each of the current Western Conference playoff teams, leaving the remainder in an "Other" category, representing what they'…

Catching up with the Leafs

Leading up to Saturday's celebration at Air Canada Centre, Joe Pelletier has put together a comprehensive look at the Leafs 1967 Stanley Cup Championship squad, including bios of every player on the team.

Be warned - if you surf around the Legends of Hockey network of sites at work, don't blame me if you get fired for losing hours of "productive" time. It's all too easy to click your way through hockey history, one player at a time...

Just call him "Bubba" Forsberg...

The news is buzzing around that Nashville has won the Peter Forsberg sweepstakes, offering up a healthy package including Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, a first round pick and a third round pick in exchange for only a few guaranteed months of Forsberg's services.

While the price is steep in terms of future value (Parent is a solid prospect on the blueline), the Predators aren't giving up a part of their current active roster, and get to hold on prized rookie Alexander Radulov, who lit up the scoreboard during his first weeks in the league, but has cooled off over the last two months. As Spector notes, the Predators were able to offer up elements that they won't miss, while providing Philadelphia pieces that they desperately need. That's the hallmark of savvy dealmaking, and the Nashville front office should be commended on their work.

On the ice, the Preds presumably hope Forsberg can boost a lackluster power play, and it will be interesting to see how the even-strength l…

A Fresh Look at Top Wrist Shots

Last fall, when I first took a look at breaking down shooting performance by shot type, I made a grave error by not taking Shot Quality into account. When, for example, I listed the top Wrist Shooters in the league last season, Alex Tanguay rose to the top of the heap, largely because he took the majority of his shots from in close to the net. Today, I thought I'd revise those standings to reflect who actually scores more than expected, as well as provide a look at this year's leaders. After all, with all this shopping going on prior to the trade deadline, do GM's really want to pick up a guy who's not capitalizing on his opportunities?

The tables below show the number of wrist shots taken, the Expected Goals (given average opposing goaltending, based on the distance of those shots), the Actual Goals, and the Difference between Actual and Expected. Our leader from last season, Marian Gaborik, scored 8.5 goals more than you'd expect, for example, given the number of …

Taking One For The Team

Found on Kukla's Korner, there's an article by Michael Farber over at SI.com discussing the prevalence of blocked shots. Great shot-blocking is definitely an underappreciated art form, and while there are some nice anecdotes in Farber's piece, I was left wondering - other than his impressions, do we really have any evidence that shot-blocking is on the rise?

I took a look through the play-by-play files for this year (up through Sunday night) and last, and found that at indeed, we've seen about a 5% increase in blocked shots per game since last season:

YearEVPPSHTotal2005-0618.470.676.8025.942006-0720.480.586.1127.17
Blocked Shots per game (both teams), broken down by situation.

Interestingly, we've seen a decline in the number of Shorthanded blocks, and a significant jump in the number at Even Strength. I'll have to dig through the pre-lockout files to see if a longer-term trend is in the works...

Give it a rest, Al

Al Strachan's latest piece over at FoxSports.com is getting the folks on the Nashville Predators message boards all riled up, and I thought about writing a point-by-point rebuttal of Strachan's criticisms of the Predators, mostly focusing on the overstatements, inaccuracies, and Strachan's tabloid-like coverage of the NHL going back through the decades. Then I remembered a saying that my wife's grandmother (a fountain of countless "Southernisms") once laid on us;

"Just remember, you can't out-puke a buzzard."

'nuff said.

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Power Play Specialists: Who's Hot, Who's Not?

It seems like everywhere you look in the NHL standings, there are close races as we head into the final quarter of the regular season. Four of the six divisions boast especially close dogfights for the lead, including the tightly packed Northwest which features a three-way logjam between Vancouver, Calgary, and Minnesota. When it comes to the President's Trophy for first overall, we have four teams (Buffalo, Nashville, Detroit and Anaheim) within a handful of points, and in the Eastern Conference, only eight points separate the 4th through 11th teams in the standings. With this breadth and ferocity of competition, consistency becomes essential to picking up those precious points on a night-in, night-out basis. And when it comes to offensive consistency, the requirement in today's whistle-happy NHL is having a productive power play.

So which of the NHL's "designated hitters" are banging home the goals with the man advantage, and which ones are coming up short? Let&…

Followup on modified NHL standings

Rather than duplicate work that's already been done, I wanted to point over to The Ice Block, where they reviewed the 2005-6 final standings, based on the change under discussion, whereby 3 points rather than 2 would be awarded for a victory in regulation.

Again, the point may not be that past or present standings would change significantly, but rather how coaches might or might not change their philosophy going forward in the 3rd period of close games. Perhaps the better option (and I can't recall where I've seen in, hence the lack of a link) is the idea of not awarding a point to teams that lose in overtime, taking away the safety blanket that teams are holding onto so tightly.

The End of an Era

You can say this about Eric Belanger - for his entire Nashville Predators career, the team held 1st place overall in the NHL. No wonder the Atlanta Thrashers offered up physical defenseman Vitali Vishnevsky in trade!

In what could be called a Tennessee two-step, Predators GM David Poile has taken a disgruntled misfit (Josef Vasicek) who wasn't playing much anyway into an asset (Vishnevsky) that should help address a lack of physical play on the blue line. His offensive shortcomings are acceptable, given the other talent available on the Nashville bench, as Vishnevsky can be given spot duty to help guys like Kimmo Timonen focus on their game.

If this marks the end of Nashville's dealings leading up the trade deadline, it shows a remarkable confidence by Predators management in their roster. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about these trades is that they're very low-risk, and shouldn't disrupt team chemistry significantly. Whether that confidence is justified w…

A Cry For Help

Are there any suggestions out there as to how best to present data tables in Blogger? Up until now, I've generally been hand-coding the HTML data in Notepad, which is tedious and prone to error (two typos noted in my shootout goaltending article, ugh). The other option I've tried is copying the data in Excel, pasting into an email, and submitting via Blogger Mobile. The problem there is that if I want to resize anything afterwards, the HTML is so cluttered that the task is nearly impossible. Instead of the width being defined at the top of the table, that attribute appears in every data cell! All I want to do is take my data from Excel, and plop it into a clean HTML table that I can format as needed, and pull into Blogger.

Help me, o internet brainiacs - is there a better way???

Your New NHL Standings

Thanks to Chris for emailing me an article suggestion this time - in light of this morning's story (courtesy of Off Wing Opinion) that the NHL is considering a revision to the points system (awarding 3 points for a regulation time victory, and only 2 for a SO or OT win). While constant tinkering with the rules is something I find annoying, and the addition of another column to the NHL standings would make them even messier than they already are, this may not be such a bad idea. Far too often in the third period, teams which are tied have little incentive to try and win the game, at the risk of giving up a late goal and walking away with zero points. Too many coaches consider it better to play conservatively and wait for overtime, where chances can be taken more freely. I'm not blaming the coaches here - their job is to earn points in the standings, and given the current setup, boring 3rd periods can be the result of proper risk/reward analysis.

So what would the standings look …

The Nature of Identity

One thing that struck me in all the furor lately regarding NHL access for bloggers is the issue of identity - many seem to think less of bloggers like Eklund who try to remain anonymous. So I wanted to throw that question out to my readers; does my semi-anonymity* help or hurt the credibility of this blog?

Now, I don't treat my identity as a state secret, and readily share my contact information where needed; for example, with the Fox Sports folks. If the opportunity for NHL access came up, I'd certainly deal openly with them. I maintain a semi-anonymity here for a couple reasons:

1) I don't feel any particular need to see my name in pixels from coast-to-coast, and
2) Frankly, I think "The Forechecker" is a little more memorable than my meatspace ID.

So whattaya think? Should I go ahead and be more open, to establish credibility, or does it not really matter, since I don't claim to have any particular access or information not available to the general public? I&#…

A few of my favorite things...

After listing this blog at #9 in the Legends of Hockey Blog Power Rankings, Joe asked me to post a similar article, citing my personal must-reads from around the web. I think it's a great idea for all to share those thoughts on occasion, so here goes. One thing to mention straight off is that I enjoy all the sites listed on the blogroll here, and try to visit them weekly at least. Blogs that don't provide much value, or have obtrusive pop-up ads or other internet annoyances don't make it onto the blogroll in the first place. So let's take a look at my daily reads:

Kukla's Korner: The hub of my internet hockey solar system, Paul provides the quick & dirty news from around the web. I'm a longtime user over at Slashdot, the primeval techie website, and Kukla's Korner provides a similar service to the world of hockey - a survey of what's going on, whether in the blogosphere, or the mainstream media outlets.

Mirtle: James Mirtle's blog provides well-wr…

Putting Goalies on the Spot

Last week I dug into the offensive end of NHL shootouts, so now we need to give the goaltenders their due. As we consider goaltender success during the shootout, a significant aspect to contend with is the quantity of Missed Shots (roughly one out of eight shootout attempts misses the net entirely). Within the table below, I'm including them in a "Stop Pct.", since by definition, Missed Shots aren't included in a goaltender's regular save percentage. When it comes to the shootout, however, I'm inclined to give the netminder some credit for forcing the shooter into an untenable option. So let's get to the results, including the 2005-06 season, and this year up through the games of February 4:



Top 10 SO Goalies by Stop Pct.GoaltenderSO AttemptsSO GoalsSavesMissedStop Pct.Marc Denis, TBL325243.844Kari Lehtonen, ATL397284.821Henrik Lundqvist, NYR63124011.810Rick DiPietro, NYI6716483.761Tim Thomas, BOS5413392.759Pascal LeClaire, CBJ338205.758Manny Fernandez, MI…

A nice way to start the week

Since my daughter gave me a case of the Strep Throat that she suffered from last week, I'm settling in for a day of rest around the house (the bright side being I can get some stuff done here). What a pleasant surprise, then, to fire up the laptop and find a nice email from Joe Pelletier over at the amazing Legends of Hockey network of sites (if you haven't visited there before, prepare to lose an hour or two on a trip through hockey history). Anyways, Joe has assembled his Blog Power Rankings, and this humble web-tome came in at #9. Many thanks to Joe for his kind words, and watch out, NHLDigest.com, I'm gunning for you...


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When in doubt, fight it out...

This comes to us from Kukla this morning: a vote over at Canada.com on the All-Time greatest fighters in NHL history. For the record, here's how I voted in the first round, where 32 knuckle-dusters square off :

Bob Probert over Ted Lindsay,
Jack Carlson over Clark Gillies,
Dave Schultz over John Kordic,
Tony Twist over Wendel Clarke,
Chris Nilan over Georges Laraque,
Tiger Williams over Tie Domi,
Donald Brashear over Chris Simon,
Dave Semenko over Cam Neely,
Dave Brown over Dave Manson,
Terry O'Reilly over Stu Grimson,
Rob Ray over John Ferguson,
Gordie Howe over Curt Fraser,
Joe Kocur over Orland Kurtenbach,
Troy Crowder over Stan Jonathan,
Gino Odjick over Zdeno Chara,
Marty McSorley over John Wensink.

And of course, I have detailed statistical analysis behind each of these picks that makes them beyond all reasonable doubt.



NOT! Just head over there and have some fun...

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Will the Predators Strike Again?

One thing I'm going to try and do more of as we head towards the playoffs is to publish a few more conventional posts related to the Nashville Predators. While I'm a Red Wings fan by birthright, I've always been impressed with the methodical patience and progress of the Predators organization over the years, and having lived in the Nashville area for about 18 months now, I've come to the conclusion that the Predators might just be hockey's best kept secret. OK, maybe not a total secret, as they get an occasional piece that notes their success this year. But what's happened over the last ten years in the Music City is flat-out remarkable.Consider, for example, the management - since the summer of 1997, the Predators have had only one GM (David Poile) and one coach (Barry Trotz). How many franchises across all the major professional sports can boast such stability? And no, we're not talking about Matt Millen-style stability, where an owner hangs on to a …