If you have been following hockeyfreeforall over the course of the season, you are aware that the Advanced Bracton Score has been remarkably accurate in providing both a retrospective analysis of team success as well as predicting winners of playoff series for the past three years. In the 2016 campaign, the team with the higher AB has prevailed in 11/14 playoff series so far (and if PIT wins the Stanley Cup, it will be 12/15). As we have chronicled in an earlier piece, our track record is unmatched in the blogosphere; many other well-paid and respected journalist who posted playoff predictions even after knowing first round victors did not even approximate our success.
We believe the reason behind the accuracy of the score is simple; teams that minimize mistakes win hockey games. This is especially true in playoff series where one key blunder may decide who wins and who loses an ever-common one goal game. We are shocked that an appreciable number of teams (largely the unsuccessful ones) still are packed with either rosters of mistake maximizers and/or coaching systems that favor approaches to professional hockey other than our mantra – not beating oneself with unforced errors.
What will follow in the offseason are narratives on each NHL team in postmortem style for the season just ended. From our analysis, some points are quite clear to us, even if they are not to an alarmingly high number of general managements and scouts:
- There is an extreme dearth of defensemen in the NHL who are able to produce what we have termed goals at the margin adjusted for time on ice. What do we mean? At its essence, this is the propensity, as measured by the AB, for players to produce goals for the opponent at a higher rate than they produce goals for their own team while on the ice. Said another way, a positive AB score measures the affinity of a player to generate goals for, a negative score illustrates (to be crude), the tendency of a player to basically shoot the puck in his own net. League-wide, there are far too many players that fit the latter category, especially on defense. Teams that at least 2-3 positive defensemen are universally key to winning games.
- It is obvious that even if teams have high or mid-range AB positive players on the front lines, even one or two players that detract from their ability to do good things can nearly single handedly kill a team on a net basis and arguably cause them to miss the playoffs. An excellent illustration of this is in Calgary, where in spite of the decent season posted by Johnny Gaudreau (+8.27 AB), Brandon Bollig (even though he only played roughly half as many minutes), cost CGY over 18 goals this season. When a teams has a third or fourth line player that costs the team over double the goals in half the time played, CGY (or any team) cannot possibly compensate for this even over 82 games. We actually don’t mean to pick on Bollig individually; he had a lot of help from Dougie Hamilton (-9.56 AB) and Josh Jooris (-7.44 AB), who were both among the worst in the NHL according to our metric.
- The free agent class this year, either restricted or unrestricted, generally lacks players with high AB scores with which to replace players with low AB scores. Therefore, the onus will be on general management this offseason to not take a step back relative to their division rivals thereby maintaining a “less bad” posture, but by no means improving.
- With respect to the draft, we have chronicled that there are normally fewer than 10 entry level players that can both positively impact the AB performance of a team in year one, but almost none that are drafted in rounds 3-7. There may be a number of factors associated with this phenomenon (with undrafted walk-ons faring better). First, we believe data of the type we use to measure mistake minimization in the NHL is not extant in the minor leagues at all levels. Second, even if such data were available, there are many teams that value other intangibles more than they do innate abilities to make good decisions (for some reason unknown to us). Third, and possibly most importantly, the associated philosophy behind building a team from the blue line outward is a foreign concept to organizations who believe that 4-3 games with uncertain outcomes draw more fan entertainment interest than do teams that consistently win 2-1.
- Although we have not written an article condemning the prospect of expansion of the NHL, it is patently apparent that there are upward of 200 players that are not NHL caliber talent in the league already. It is our strong assertion that teams who have any of these players on their roster at all, saying nothing of clubs that have as many as seven which score near the bottom of our scale league-wide, must shed themselves of these contracts post-haste and add players whose replacement value is at least approximating a neutral AB. As illustrated above, we estimate that CGY had three players who collectively cost the Flames 35 goals this season through there mere presence. We struggle to believe that their farm system is without replacement players that could have improved the performance of the Flames dramatically.
Having said all this, what follows is an extension of the series we began last month entitled “Part of the Solution – Part of the Problem.” In this running series, we outline who made contributions both positive and negative and what actions may be taken in the offseason from teams to either improve or at least become “less bad” by adding greater value to players who do not overtly detract from the overall success of the club in question. Stay tuned.