Red Wings Analysis from Winging it in Motown

It’s summertime during the longest off-season in sports. As such, we at hockeyfreeforall.com (@hockeyfree4all) wanted to share our recent writings involving the Detroit Red Wings with those of you for whom hockey never sleeps (like us). We have done so in the context of the excellent off season moves the Wings vis a vis our proprietary metric, the Advanced Bracton score (AB). The AB is the manner by which we rate individual teams and players in an attempt to gauge the probability of future success, especially in the playoffs. It is an amalgamation of several hockey statistics we believe strongly correlate with winning games, partially as a function of net penalty margins as well as other mistake avoidance metrics. What gave us that idea? (spoiler alert; Darren Helm). We found in our retrospective work that teams who scored a positive number on the AB made the playoffs in 2014-15 in 15 of 16 cases (VAN and WPG were negative, LA was positive). Amazingly, the team with the higher AB score won their first round matchup in 8 of 8 cases and 3 of 4 times in the second round. That got our attention.

The reason for posting our piece in this forum is that of all the teams in the NHL, we see the Wings as Exhibit A of the Advanced Bracton at work. On one hand Detroit is loaded with guys who score off the charts on our metric (hereinafter referred to as the “good Wings”) while simultaneously employing several players (especially on defense) who wildly detract from the team’s success (the “bad Wings”). In short, the Red Wings were, and remain, the inspiration behind our efforts due to the incredible dichotomy that exists within the team itself. We actually wrote an article about this entitled “Will the Real Detroit Red Wings Please Stand Up?” Two of the main points are summarized below, but were posted prior to the recent signings of Mike Green and Brad Richards. We project that both of these players will make positive contributions (barring injury) to Detroit next year, especially Green. His slightly positive AB is a quantum leap improvement over, say Jonathan Ericsson (whose 16 minutes per night we calculate cost the Wings 11 goals at the margin) while Green produced 4 with Washington. That is an immense swing effected with the stroke of a pen and why the real Red Wings (at least the “good” ones) could be exerting themselves now. To recap some of that article:

· In a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press, new red Wings coach Jeff Blashill (sorry guys, that just doesn’t read right) stated that he was looking forward to dealing with DET’s character players, citing Datsyuk (+6.93 AB), Zetterberg (-0.43 AB) and Kronwall (-5.81 AB). While it is undeniable that these players represent the old guard leadership of the Red Wings, other than Datsyuk, the production of the other two were dwarfed by players like Darren Helm, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Tomas Jurco. In fact, these players eclipse nearly everyone in the NHL; they are all in the top decile in the league according to our metric (a subset we deem the “great Wings”). Detroit’s ability to shepherd these wunderkinds indicate that the team may be actually transitioning while simultaneously not losing the ability to compete near term – no easy feat.

· Our calculations demonstrate that Detroit’s top seven players (including these 5) added around 60 (!) goals at the margin over the course of the season while the bottom seven cost the team 58 (!). Essentially Detroit broke even in AB and therefore the “bad Wings” wiped out any advantage Detroit may have enjoyed against the top teams in the league (i.e, those with ABS over their total score of -9.09 AB). This likely resulted in their first round playoff exit. Moreover, the Wings result was good for 15th overall in the NHL, but DET has improved through the signings mentioned above to the point where we project they are roughly a solid sixth in the east and about 11th league wide.

To further accentuate and expand on the positive; we believe that Darren Helm is to our AB efforts what Steve Swisher and Chad Bradford were to baseball sabermetrics (disclosure, we have no relationship to Mr. Helm or his agent). We are only opining that the consideration of “all things Helm” has sparked our journey into our little corner of “Moneypuck.” According to our calculations, Helm produced 14.50 goals at the margin, most of which were scored when he wasn’t even on the ice! Part of this has to do with his ability and agility in outhustling and outmuscling the competition in drawing one penalty (power play) per game.

We are perplexed as to why so many teams seemingly have not yet shared our view of the merits of players like Helm when assessing the signings of free agents, drafting of young talent, or the management of existing personnel. The ones that do seem to win games regularly. Detroit, amazingly, deploys this strategy sometimes (if only they could trade their defense for Minnesota’s defense, Detroit would probably win the Stanley Cup).

Kidding aside, the performance of teams that deploy the mistake minimization philosophy and the associated results of building a team with character players, may be subject to debate, but in 2014-2015 the results were clear. Not to get anyone here livid, but Mr. Babcock is trying to replicate this ethic in Toronto….

Note- It probably shows that we are obsessed with the schizophrenia surrounding Detroit. If you would indulge us in the comments section below, we would love to know if what you see and feel matches what we have tried to determine mathematically.

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