1. 4.

Monday, September 28, 2009

OGA SPR: The Washington Capitals – The Colonel

It's here - Season Preview Report #30 for the Washington Capitals. Not only does it bring the last of this season's previews, it signifies we are less than 48 hours from the first puck drop this year. And it signifies we are about to be back at what may be a battle for supremacy in the East...

Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Called as Chasing Stanley – in the Playoffs – at Game 20 /19 November 2008. 2008/9 was their best season since the Lockout by a noticeable amount. At no time last year did this team’s PQC slip below The Curve. Their best stretch was Game 31 – 40 where they won nine out of 10 contests. Washington’s performance raises the bar high and means teams playing against them will not be taking them for granted at any time.

Post-Lockout average PQC and what to expect this season: Washington has averaged 4.26 against the PQC since the Stoppage and has secured a position in the first and second rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the last two years respectively. Their dramatic improvement since the arrival of Coach Bruce Boudreau is great reason for excitement for Caps fans. In measuring them against the post-Lockout PQC at this time, you have to look for common trends. Washington is usually in good shape and right around the PQC through Game 20. At about Game 40/The New Year mark, there tends to be a bit of a slump, but failing an implosion, this slump will be more like last season where Washington played right along The Curve. To determine if the Caps are going to see the post-season again this season, simply monitor their progress to see that it is somewhere close to last season. A minor slide will likely not cost them a season, but anything more than that would be reason for concern.

How will the Capitals fair in the 2009/10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – Reloading… There is a not so quiet excitement building in Washington for the start of the new season. Optimism is evident at player, coach and management level, and in the fans who will attend the 41+ sold out games this season. Any frustrations at their Conference Semi-Finals departure last season are now replaced by thoughts of chalking it up to completing another step toward the ultimate goal of raising The Stanley Cup. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a hungry and capable squad.

The early Fox Sports depth chart for the Capitals indicates a No. 1 line of Ovechkin- Backstrom- Semin from left to right, and Laich- Morrison- Knuble on No. 2. We think it will actually be Ovechkin- Backstrom- Knuble No. 1 and Laich- Morrison- Semin as No. 2. The No. 1 pairing scored 7 G’s and 7 A’s in the pre-season, and No. 2 combined to chip in 3 G’s and 8 A’s. Fourteen and eleven points? In pre-season? We know – suspect matchups against a lot of guys trying to make it into the NHL. But any way you slice these two pairings, it serves as an indicator that they will put up some good numbers for this club. Of interest to Caps fans is the No. 3 and 4 lines. As of 28 September, Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux were amongst the cuts, leaving Chris Bourque and Quintin Laing up with the squad for opening night. And there’s also the Nylander Factor – as in not factored into any pre-season games + statements of deep desire to play + a $4.875M cap hit might just = a depth roster slot, especially due to injuries.

The top two pairings listed on defense are Green-Jurcina and Poti-Pothier. Based on last season’s play, the top blue line pair projects at approximately 103 points playing a full 82-game schedule. That’s with the big IF Mike Green produces 70+ points again this season. This is better than several forward trios on 3rd and 4th lines. You can forget the dearth of scoring in the pre-season for the first pair (a lone A for Green) as they saw limited game time. Line No. 2 was good for 1 G and 4 A’s in September and should be able to be counted upon for about a point every other game. For those waiting with baited breath, Karl Alzner was again a victim of late training camp cuts on 28 September, but look for an injury call up if required.

One of the best camp battles this season was billed as Varlamov versus Theodore for the No. 1 netminder slot. Some would say Theodore might need a little time to ensure he is mentally ready to go after his loss in the off-season. I know such a loss would affect me personally. In Coach Boudreau’s 28 September weekly “Behind The Bench” column, he provides the answer, stating he will alternate both goalies pretty evenly until about Game 50. At that time, their play will tell him who they ride down the home stretch and into the playoffs. The only secret today is which goalie is the starter come Thursday night, 1 October at the Bruins.

Fantasy Value: Who does not want the entire No. 1 line of forwards on their Pool team? You will see Ovechkin go mostly at No.1 in any draft, but maybe as low as No. 3 if the Poolies are Penguins-centric. You also are likely to see Backstrom and Knuble go later in the draft than their output will seem to demand by season’s end – they are a steal in the 3rd and 4th rounds. Also, Alexander Semin should be on your team. He will get lots of PP time, especially if Ovechkin slides back to the blueline with the man advantage as he did a lot last season. Who does not want Mike Green as one of their defenders? He is going in the 1st or 2nd round of many drafts right now. Heck, he’s as good as any second round forward if he puts up the numbers he did last season, so why not? In net, we would take a bit of a calculated risk based on his poise in last season’ playoffs and tout Varlamov as your goaltender of choice here. This is a 40-win team, and he is going to get a lot of them, so do not overlook him for your pool.

Schedule Analysis: Almost 5700 more frequent flyer miles this season than last. For a primary analysis of the team’s overall 2009/10 regular season schedule, go to this link.

Next up tomorrow is the On Goal Analysis’ 2008/9 Report Card. Read just why you should subscribe to the Daily Tip In Report and visit this site often…

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com
1. 4.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

OGA SPR: The Vancouver Canucks - by Big Tex

Last season, the Vancouver Canucks battled through a significant injury to franchise cornerstone Roberto Luongo and what will go down in the history books as "The Mats Sundin Distraction", only to bow out in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Canucks enter the 09-10 campaign (mostly) healthy and distraction-free, and with upgrades along the blueline and on the wings. This can't be good for the rest of the Conference.

Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Called Chasing Stanley at Game 20/20 November 2008. After an up-and-down (5-5-0) start to the 2008-09 season, Vancouver surged to a 7-1-2 record in Games 11-20 to earn On Goal Analysis’ Chasing Stanley (IN the playoffs) call. From that point, the Canucks’ season rapidly morphed into a roller coaster ride: Through Games 21-30, Vancouver played at -1.5 against the Playoff Qualifying Curve as they struggled to adjust to life without (All-Star Goalie Roberto) Luongo, who suffered a groin injury just five minutes into Game 21. They continued to lose ground over the next furlong (Games 31-40), playing at -.5 below the PQC.

Luongo returned to action in Game 46 (15 January 09), but he struggled to find his rhythm on an already-struggling team and Vancouver bottomed out, going 1-5-4 in Games 41-50. At the same time Luongo was returning to form, the newest Canuck – free-agent signee Mats Sundin – was playing his way into game shape. They both hit their stride in Game 51 and the Canucks were back in the race, going 8-2-0 in Games 51-60. The team stayed hot, playing at +2.5 vs. the PQC over Games 61-70 and +.5 down the homestretch to finish the regular season 1st in the Northwest Division, 3rd in the Western Conference.

Post Lockout Average versus the PQC: Vancouver has averaged 4.81 vs. the Playoff Qualifying Curve since the Lockout. Over the past four seasons, most clubs have a discernable pattern of play…at least where OGA’s Chasing Stanley or Tee Time calls are concerned. Vancouver, however, is all over the map: In 2005-06, the Canucks began the first post-Lockout season as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, going 8-1-1 and Chasing Stanley as of 25 October 2005. Unfortunately, they ran hot and cold after Game 10 and were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs following their loss in Game 81 (13 April 2006). By virtue of that elimination, Vancouver became a (rare but frustrating) Shot Off the Post for On Goal Analysis – a blown call.

The 2006-07 season was Vancouver’s best (post-Lockout), as they finished at 5.25 vs. the PQC. Due to their struggles through the first 30 games, however, they weren’t called Chasing Stanley until 20 February 2007. In 2007-08, the Canucks dealt unsuccessfully with multiple injuries along their blueline (Vancouver used eleven different defensemen in 07-08), and reached Tee Time on New Years’ Eve. And, as mentioned previously, last season saw Vancouver Chasing Stanley on 20 November 2008.

Like I said, they’re all over the map. Will next April find the Canucks Chasing Stanley, or chasing golf balls?

How does Vancouver look heading into the 2009-10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – A lack of excuses. Over the summer, Vancouver parted company with Mats Sundin, Taylor Pyatt, Mattias Ohlund and Jason LaBarbera. Those roster spots were filled (and then some) by Mikael Samuelsson, Mathieu Schnieder, Brad Lukowich, Christian Erhoff and Andrew Raycroft (and in all likelihood, Sergei Shirokov, as well). Overall, there’s no denying the fact that the Canucks improved over the summer. They now face the enjoyable dilemma of having eight NHL-caliber defensemen, while only needing seven…though Schneider’s recovery from shoulder surgery will allow Head Coach Alain Vigneault to postpone that d-man decision.

Among the forward corps, Samuelsson’s 19 goals last season equal Sundin’s and Pyatt’s combined tallies. Meanwhile, rookie Sergei Shirokov has demonstrated a nose for the net in preseason, and should be good for 20+, provided he spends the entire 2009-10 campaign in Vancouver. Thus, putting biscuits in baskets shouldn’t be an issue for the Canucks this season.

Much has been made of the Canucks’ “epic odyssey” – a “fourteen-game road trip” made necessary by the presence of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Some have gone so far as to suggest the Canucks’ season hinges on this road trip. That was my initial thought, too…until I analyzed the trip and saw that it’s not as bad (or as "epic") as it’s made out to be. Conclusion: No excuse.

The Vancouver Canucks enter the 2009-10 campaign an improved team over last season. Despite the improvements, expect the Canucks to battle the Calgary Flames all season long for supremacy in the Northwest, as the Flames have upgraded, too. Look for the loser of that battle to finish no lower than sixth in the West…and don’t be surprised if these two clubs meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next April. Can you say, “fireworks”?

Fantasy Value: Earlier today, I participated in a fantasy draft in which goalie Roberto Luongo (33-13-7, 2.34 GAA, .920 Sv%, 9 SO) was taken fourth overall, right after Ovechkin, Malkin and Crosby…and that may very well turn out to be a brilliant pick. Now, I’m not suggesting that Luongo is worthy of the fourth overall slot in your fantasy draft, but he should definitely be the first goalie on your list, and he’s the Canucks’ top fantasy pick.

After Luongo…Pick a Sedin – any Sedin. As if being identical twins playing on the same team, on the same line, wearing numbers 22 and 33 isn’t creepy enough, Daniel (82GP, 31-51-82, +24) and Henrik Sedin (82GP, 22-60-82, +22) both put up 82 points last season. Unless you’ve got back-to-back draft picks, chances are good that the Chang and Eng of the NHL will end up on different teams in your fantasy league (and chances are good that only in hockey fantasyland will we ever see these two play on opposing teams).

Should you fail to get either Chang or Eng…I mean, Daniel or Henrik in your draft, rookie winger Sergei Shirokov (56GP, 17-23-40 with (KHL) CSKA Moscow) has been quite impressive in September and could be the surprise of the season if he ends up skating on the Sedin’s line. Vancouver’s fantasy forward prospects don’t end there: Ryan Kesler (82GP, 26-33-59, +8) and Alex Burrows (82GP, 28-23-51, +23, 150 PIM) are both solid picks in the later rounds.

Along the blueline, Kevin Bieksa (72GP, 11-32-43, -4, 97 PIM) immediately comes to mind. Alexander Edler (80GP, 10-27-37, +11) is another d-man to consider, but the additions of Schneider and Erhoff might cut into Edler’s Power Play time, which will undoubtedly impact his point totals.

Schedule Analysis: ISSUE – Home Sweet Home. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the NHL made up for the Canucks’ fourteen-game roadie by giving Vancouver 10 of their final 15 games at home. Playing at home will be even nicer for the ‘Nucks this year, as their recently-remodeled dressing room complex is unparalleled. Will the dressing room creature comforts translate to success on the ice? If so, the Canucks will be the NHL’s trendsetters.

Tomorrow, tune in as the On Goal Analysis Season Preview Reports train pulls into the station at the end of the line: Washington! On Wednesday, stop by and check out the OGA Report Card for the 2008-09 season, in which we puff out our chests and explain to you just how much we truly rock. Thursday, come back again before the puck drops in Toronto, Boston, Calgary and Denver, as we’ll have an article about measuring a previously un-measurable stat: The Game-Winning Save. Then, it’s GAME ON, BABY!!!

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
1. 4.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

OGA SPR: The Toronto Maple Leafs - by Frozen Pill

This is On Goal Analysis' 2009/10 Season Preview Report (SPR) for the Toronto Maple Leafs - the 28th installment of our daily previews leading to the start of the new season!

Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.

The Toronto Maple Leafs as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)

Last Season VS the PQC: The Toronto Maple Leafs never truly threatened to make the playoffs last season. But that doesn't mean they didn't see marked improvement in certain areas of critical performance as measured against OGA's proprietary PQC. They ended their 2008-09 season with a lowly PQC rating of 4.0.

They did, however, almost mirror their performance the previous season (07-08) which is as important for the experience and post-season preparation as it is for team chemistry and confidence for this upcoming campaign (more on this later). But it is all still short of the immediate goal in Toronto...to return to the NHL playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Last season, the Leafs quickly performed above the Curve mean-line and were in positive territory at Game 10. This was the first time the Leafs were found north of the PQC mean-line since the 06-07 season, but was also, unfortunately, the last time they were in positive territory for the remainder of the 08-09 season.

When measuring their performance along the Curve, OGA was able to correctly call the Toronto Maple Leafs at 'Tee Time' (OUT of the playoffs) at Game 40 on January 6, 2009. But some healthy trending was noticed along the way last season as compared to the other three seasons since the lockout. The Leafs, folks, are on the mend.

Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: Last season's PQC rating of 4.0 was actually their worst finish in any of the four seasons since the lockout and was below their average of 4.30. However, in this case, the numbers can be misleading when judging the team's overall performance.

In the 05-06 and 06-07 campaigns, Toronto was, to be polite, erratic as they placed performance markers all over the Curve throughout the entire two seasons. In the 05-06 season, they had a swing in the Curve of 6.5 points between games 40 and 50 where they dropped from +2 to a -4.5! Another erratic swing between games 70 and 82 had them climb from -0.5 to +3.5.

In the 06-07 season, the neurotic play continued and between games 20 and 30 they dropped from a +2.5 to a -3.5...another 6 point swing. The rest of that season, though, performance evened out and led to the repeating pattern of the 07-08 and 08-09 seasons.

In the last two campaigns, the Leafs have started out playing close to the Curve mean-line and then dip through games 20-50. But for this period, they dipped no lower than -2.0 against the PQC. And in each of the last two seasons, by game 50, the Leafs began to climb and finish out the season close to the mean-line with improved play heading towards the playoffs.

These trends bode well for the 09-10 Maple Leafs and a renewed sense of vigor and desperation has hold of the city and this team. So how has Toronto prepared for this campaign and what secret weapons may their young and prospect-grown talent bring to the battles of a new season?

  • Brian Burke. since taking over the helm, is openly building a team that will, in the end, resemble his winning team in Anaheim. Big, mean, old-school hitting and hard-checking hockey is where Toronto is headed. And it does seem more appropriate here than in Anaheim. But the obvious question is whether or not it can succeed in Toronto (i.e. are the right personnel in place now?) as well as it did for the Ducks.
  • The stated goal this season is to make the playoffs. The Leafs believe they have a good chance of doing just that. Whether or not they get there with the team currently assembled or after some mid-season moves remains to be seen. Without a doubt, though, some high-impact moves were made this summer that certainly put the opportunity of achieving their stated goal that much closer.
  • IN For the Swim: Key new arrivals include, Phil Kessel (C), Francois Beauchemin (D), Mike Komisarek (D), Colton Orr (W), Garnet Exelby, Wayne Primeau (C/LW), Jonas Gustavsson (G), and Joey MacDonald (G).
  • The additions of big and gritty players like Beauchemin, Komisarek, Orr and Exelby certainly advance the notions of bigger and meaner. Some nice names to imagine skating the ice along the blue line with Luke Schenn. Prized goalie from yon other side of the pond, Gustavsson could very well be the franchise goalie for the future. Kessel immediately becomes an impact player but will be quickly measured against high expectations. His response to the responsibilities on the score sheet may dictate team performance as the season unfolds.
  • Move Along, Nothing Left to See Here: Gone along are Pavel Kubina (D), backup Justin Pogge (G), and centers, Kris Newbury, Jeremy Williams. Wingers Tim Stapleton, Jeff Hamilton, and Brett Aubin are also elsewhere along with defensemen Jay Harrison, Erik Reitz and Jaime Sifers.
  • In essence, the Leafs lost little when compared to what was gained. It did, however, cost two first-round draft picks and a second-rounder to bring Kessel on board. But Burke is banking on players performing to their utmost this season as Toronto will have 11 unrestricted free agents and 8 restricted free agents after the 09-10 season. The time to perform is now and the Frozen Pill believes the fans wouldn't mind, if in retrospect, they could choose between playoff hockey NOW versus slightly better picks in a potentially soft draft over the next two seasons with prospects ready to help in 3-5 years.
  • In addition to adding size and the intent to be nasty to play against, the Leafs are bringing along some hot prospects who just may be ready to make the jump to the NHL and make an impact on their playoff chances this season. There's your picks, picker. See more below in the Frozen Pill's extended 'Watchful Eye'...


The Sure Thing: Phil Kessel (C). Kessel is not prized for his two-way play ('backcheck? me?') but is envied around the league for his quick release on the shot. And for fantasy purposes, you don't need a Selke winner here...you need that wrist shot. Toronto was able to acquire one of the last remaining free agents of note but is far from solving the scoring riddles in LeafLand. But Phil should help...especially if other GMs in your pool are ignoring the Leafs altogether this season. Big mistake.

TrustyRusty: Jason Blake (LW). Folks question certain aspects about Blake's game (i.e. love him/hate him), but without the extra fluff, here's what you need to know. Blake's lowest point-total since the 2002-2003 season was 47 (22/25) in 03-04 with the Islanders. Last season, he scored 63 points (25/38) in 78 games and put a whopping 302 shots ON NET! He's not going to be at the top of your draft pecking-order, but he cannot be overlooked for his consistency in point accumulation and regular play. He has only missed 18 regular season games since that 02-03 season so he's trusted to be in action most nights..and shooting the puck.

Up and Coming: Niklas Hagman (LW). Fans in Toronto were worried when the Leafs signed Hagman, a free agent of Dallas coming off of a career *contract* year, wondering if he was going to put up some real points while playing at the ACC. Well, he didn't disappoint. In 65 games last season, he was good for 42 points (22/20), with a 13.1% shooting percentage and has looked good so far this pre-season, as well with 2 goals and 2 assists at posting time.

Up and Coming Honorable Mention: Francois Beauchemin (D). Though not part of the youth movement in Toronto (he's 29 and an NHL starter since 05-06), he is new to this team and has a knack for some offense from the blue line. If you need a d-man for your team to pick up some assists, look here before defaulting to the normal Kaberle Road. Beauchemin is healthy and poised to have a big year in Toronto...and don't forget those handsome PIMs he just may snag fer ya, too.

Under the Radar: Mikhail Grabovski (C). He's feisty, underrated, pesky and accurate. Last season, he scored 48 points (20/28) and racked up 92 PIMs. He shot the puck on net 120 times and scored 16.7% of the time. He's only 5'11" but plays much bigger and is poised to become the number one center in Toronto this season. If you need some emergency PIMs, definitely have him your lineup any time he plays against former team, Montreal. He's a playmaker and his nickname should be Dangle. Grab you some Grabovski first if you grab anyone from Toronto.

The Watchful Eye: Nazem Kadri (C). He's only 18 and was just drafted this summer (1st round, 7th overall in the NHL entry draft) but is already turning heads in pre-season and creating highlight-reel action. He may just make the team out of camp, but if not, could be a useful call-up during the course of the season. While still young, he has been holding his own during the pre-season. Last season, with the London Knights of the OHL, he scored 78 points in 56 games. Then, in the playoffs, was good for 21 points (9/12) in 14 games. Whether his inexperience at the pro game lends to some intimidation remains to be seen and if he does make the lineup opening night, it will be key to see how the bigger team protects him and how the youngster responds to the physicality that is NHL hockey. Then there's this:

Expanded Fantasy Sleepers

Because Toronto is building from within, there are several young, good players who may crack the lineup this season. They may be mysteries to your competitors but you must train your eye on these hopefuls and get a jump on your competition in the free agent market...especially, say around mid-season when the injuries to your starters just seem to keep piling up...

The Watchful Eye Also Gazes Upon:
  1. Christian Hanson (C). Hanson is going to be a a big power forward (6'3", 202 lbs) for years to come in the Leafs organization. He's got good hands, impeachable character (won the USHL's Curt Hammer award for best exhibiting the goals of the league and team) and is a hard skater. He looked promising in 5 games with the Leafs last season scoring a goal and an assist.
  2. Viktor Stalberg (LW). Also big and fast (6'3", 210 lbs) with a goal-scorer's touch. Stalberg is tearing up the pre-season for Toronto with 5 goals and 2 assists...so far. Will he put these kinds of numbers when the games actually count and the opposing lineups are at full force? It's tough for any rookie to breakout, but it happens each season, year after year. And the Leafs may actually have a couple of them...
  3. Tyler Bozak (C). He was much sought after as a collegiate player by NHL teams and many forecasts had him being the kid in Toronto to crack the starting lineup at the end of camp. He has played well but has not put up the kind of pre-season points seen from Stalberg and Kadri.
  4. Jiri Tlusty (LW). He was yanked back and forth a bit between the Marlies and the Big Barn in the last two seasons but appeared in 14 NHL games in 07-08 (4 assists) and tellingly managed to finish even in plus/minus on the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is highly skilled (1st round/13th overall in 2006) and should be considered a breakout candidate waiting to happen.
The Crease: All focus is on The Monster, Jonas Gustavsson. He's to be the goalie of Toronto's future. Whether or not the future is now, is uncertain. Jonas recently had minor heart surgery but is already back in action. Vesa Toskala is the number one netminder and the job is Toskala's to lose. But he's in the final year of his contract and he knows the 6'3" monster is chomping at his skates. What to do for your fantasy team? Look elsewhere for goaltending. It's just too unsettled in Toronto to feel comfortable in the crease. Either Vesa is going to stand on his head and perform the magic the Leafs need or Jonas will take the job away and endure his trial by fire in the NHL. Either way, you are going to be lucky if you take either goalie and one gets enough time to make it worth their spot in your locker room..at least for the start of the season. (The Frozen Pill discloses he has gambled on signing the Monster in one fantasy league and remains hopeful, albeit admittedly too 'mad scientist'...)

Mad Scientist: Alexei Ponikarovsky (LW). He had a career year last season 61 points (23/38) and played all 82 games. His previous high was 45 points in the 06-07 campaign. But now, he can actually be considered a Toronto 'veteran' and should see plenty of time on the power play. Burke believes he is ready for a breakout season and should benefit from the increased ice time in Nik Antropov's (moved last season at trade deadline) absence. In 19 games after the trade deadline last season 'Poni' was good for more than a point a game (22 - 6/16). Whether or not he can match or beat last season's point totals is a bit of a gamble, and he has been less than impressive in pre-season. But you never know...and if you take the risk and it pays off, well, that's why they call you a Mad Scientist. For the record, the Pill believes Ponikarovsky, like many other Leafs, are going to have a surprisingly good season.


Will the Toronto Maple Leafs shake the doldrums and bud again in Spring to find they have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since the 2003-2004 season? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.

Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.

And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.

And with this, the Frozen Pill concludes his 10th team preview for the 2009-2010 NHL regular season. Tomorrow, Big Tex gets back into the action and brings you his thoughts on the Vancouver Canucks. It's almost hockey time.

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com

1. 4.

Friday, September 25, 2009

OGA SPR: The Tampa Bay Lightning – The Colonel

Post-game celebrations did not occur nearly enough for the likes of the Tampa Bay Lightning faithful last season. But fans will be looking for more post-game head butts with Mike Smith and Antero Nittymaki...

Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Called at Tee Time – out of the Playoffs – after Game 30 /8 December 2008. For those who think the “Three Point Game” artificially inflates standings and does not give you a true picture of team play, take one look at 18 OTL’s for Tampa Bay and you will see no help there. Even with the additional 18 points for Wins versus OTL’s, they would not have made the Playoffs. Through Game 20, they were just under the PQC and had played well defensively. But the wheels fell off the cart starting with Game 21 where they averaged winning 1.85 games in every five as they played .387 Hockey. There is no way you will make it into the Playoffs with that kind of output. The team’s season ending 3.3 against the PQC was their lowest since the Lockout and good for the second worst record in the NHL.

Post-Lockout average PQC and what to expect this season: Tampa Bay has averaged 4.03 against the PQC since the Stoppage and has secured a berth in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice in the last four years. Tampa Bay fans are excited to hear Captain Lecavalier is healthy and that he and Martin St.Louis talked Alex Tanguay into coming south. They equally expect improvement from Steven Stamkos, know they have four solid defenders now and have heard goalie Mike Smith is 100% after last year’s concussion. Traditionally, the Lightning hold right about along the PQC through Game 20, and were also in good shape on average through Game 30 before last season. Game 31 – this season on 11 December – is their traditional start of a slide. To determine whether they may see the post-season this year, check OGA’s PQC measurements to see if they are at or above the PQC at Game 20 and that there is no drop off after Game 30.

How will the Lightning strike in the 2009/10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – Upgrading… There has been a great bit of transformation with the freedom Brian Lawton has received to retool this team over the summer. That change is most likely to produce improved results on the ice this season.

The notes from training camp indicate a No. 1 line of Tanguay–Lecavalier–Downie/Veilleux from left to right, and Malone–Stamkos–St.Louis in the No. 2 position. That’s right, there’s a RW problem in No. 1 line. The Steve Downie experiment initially didn’t work but has now come back around full circle to try out again. The inability to find the RW and stick with somebody has disrupted their performance and has produced from all parties a total of 2 G’s and 7 A’s (with no points for Veilleux) and a return of Carter Ashton to Lethbridge of the WHL. Could Martin St. Louis slip back over there again? The issue would then be one of busting up the Malone-Stamkos-St.Louis line that has clicked very well as their 7 G’s and 4 A’s in pre-season attest. Once the Lightning gets these combos down, the Southeast Division will see a team coming at them with a top two pairing that is cause for alarm.

The top two pairings listed on defense according to Fox Sports’ depth charts are Ohlund-Hedman and Ranger-Krajicek. In those four blue liners, you are looking at an average of 25-30 points per man if last season projected to 82 games is any kind of indicator of their 2009/10 output. Of note is that from that top four, Coach Tocchet cannot say enough good things of No. 1 draft choice Victor Hedman. After those four, Mezaros and Walker are projected on line No. 3, but Kurtis Foster is leading defensive scoring in the pre-season with 1 G and 3 A’s making it a difficult decision not to keep him in the mix. (Coach Tocchet has indicated there is a ‘logjam’ at the defensive position and he is not kidding – besides the top seven mentioned above are Lashoff, Smaby and Wishart. Suffice it to say there will be no lack of defense back on the farm.) Lightning GM Lawton made his most strides in this area of the ice over the summer. Good blue line health this season is a must for solidifying this corps and stabilizing the team.

As training camp opened, word out on the street was that No. 1 goalie Mike Smith was 100% after recovery from last season’s concussion. Indeed, he stopped 79 of 74 SOG in games on 18, 22 and 24 September and the team won all three contests. His primary backup is Antero Nittymaki, a byproduct of Philadelphia blowing up their net, but a great pickup for Tampa Bay considering Karri Ramo bolted to Russia. And Riku Helenius looks to be entrenched in the No. 3 spot for now. This is a good set of goaltenders playing behind an improved defensive corps which bodes well for lowering team goals against this season.

Improved output from the forward corps, stronger defense than last year and healthy goalies all point to sunnier times for Tampa Bay. Is it the right elixir for a run into the Playoffs? We temper our excitement by saying we will have to let the W column do the talking…

Fantasy Value: You will never be lucky enough to snap up Tanguay, Lecavalier, St.Louis and Stamkos. But you’d better fight to get a piece of this foursome. These guys are going to produce. At OGA, we are also high on Ryan Malone as late-round forward pick. Many will pick Mattias Ohlund as the team’s PP quarterback and go-to defenseman. He may only produce 25-30 points, but he is a good asset in your stable of defenders. But don’t underestimate Kurtis Foster either – he posted six points in 10 games and a +7 for Minnesota as he came back from the broken leg suffered against the San Jose Sharks in the 2007/8 season. (He is also projected for potential PP duty.) Victor Hedman will get less minutes unless he continues to blow away the Lightning staff. But bank on somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25 points for his initial NHL season as he gets use to the North American sheet of ice. Finally, and not spoken lightly, Mike Smith is a good acquisition for your No. 2 or 3 goalie as well.

Schedule Analysis: A relatively favorable schedule awaits the Lightning. For a primary analysis of the team’s overall 2009/10 regular season schedule, go to this link.

Tomorrow comes the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2009/10 SPR…

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com
1. 4.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

OGA SPR: The St. Louis Blues – The Colonel

If it's Friday then we mus be on OGA's 26th Season Preview Report for the St. Louis Blues. That's right - last year's surprise #6 seed in the Western Conference. Don't let your surprise wane as this team will providesome exciement agai this season...

Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Called at Tee Time – out of the Playoffs – after Game 30 /16 December 2008. Based on their play to close out the season, they stand as one of only three teams to register as a Shot Off The Post – an incorrect call by OGA – as they secured the No. 6 seed in the west. They began the season right along the PQC through Game 25. The Blues then tanked from Game 26 through 45, winning only 7.5 games in 20. But from Game 46 to the end of the season, they played .650 Hockey and netted their first Playoff appearance since the Lockout. An overall PQC of 4.6 last season is the Blues’ highest since the Stoppage and 13.6% better than their previous, post-Lockout best of 4.05.

Post-Lockout average PQC and what to expect this season: St. Louis has averaged a 3.86 against the PQC since the Stoppage and has progressed as far as Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2009. Last season was their best against the PQC in the last four years and a reason for Blues fans to maintain a level of excitement going into this season. It is difficult to measure the Blues’ average play against the PQC – you practically have to discount as anomalies the dismal 2005/6 season just like you do with Pittsburgh in that same year and Philadelphia in 2006/7. Minus 2005/6, St. Louis typically begins the season at right along the curve through the first 20 games. It is thereafter – going into December – that history says they hit a snag. Your key indicators that things are different this season would be standing above the PQC after Game 20 and no significant drop off in production of the “W” from Thanksgiving week onward.

How will the Blues play during the 2009/10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – A Full Roster… There is excitement in the Blues camp this coming season. It is not only present in the fact that the team will open 2009/10 with a healthy roster. It is also manifest in players’ excitement to simply get back on the ice. An example was the report from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and stltoday.com’s “Morning Skate” indicating two full teams on the ice for an off-season scrimmage in St. Louis back on Tuesday, 8 September where participation was entirely voluntary.

Rutherford has also indicated matchups are firming up for the forward lines. The No. 1 line looks to be McDonald-Backes-Perron from left to right, and Kariya-Tkackuk-Boyes on No. 2. These players on those lines have combined for five and nine points respectively in the pre-season after only five games. But fans are also likely to see Berglund and T.J. Oshie together (for six pre-season points) one pairing deeper which means there is good scoring potential on three of the four offensive lines. Derek Armstrong, tied with Kariya and Alexander Steen as the leading point-getters in the pre-season, is also making it hard to ship him off the regular season starting squad. Armstrong and Jay McClement look to be potential depth players that will make this team’s forward corps daunting.

The initial top two defensive pairings listed on the Yahoo! sports/nhl site are Brewer (Sydor)-Johnson (three points) and Jackman-Colaiacovo (one point). These top four project at from 20 – 40 points each based on last season’s output with Brewer getting less depending upon his return-from-injury date. Those figures include a rough first half of last season, however – consistent winning will show higher numbers from the blue line. So don’t read too much into Johnson and Jackman being the only ones of the top four bunch with pre-season points so far. Instead, look for good things from this defensive corps in front of their netminders and in the opponent’s twine.

In goal, Chris Mason is going to be backed up by Ty Conklin. We are high on Mason after such a stellar second half of the season (24-8-6 from 19 January 2009 until the end of the regular season). And we also know of Conklin’s ability from spelling Marc Andre-Fleury during his high ankle sprain period two seasons ago. This is a sold duo that should put up some W’s this season backstopping a healthy defense and three lines with scoring potential. And Ben Bishop has shown his mettle this pre-season, making him the No. 1 call-up and the 3rd road goalie for the trip overseas – look for good things from him in the near future.

Fantasy Value: This team is going to be so entertaining to watch that members of the OGA staff are planning a road trip to the Chicago-St. Louis game on 2 January just to see them skate. In our opinion you are going to see a lot of Poolies underestimate the quality of Blues forwards in your draft. That makes the top two lines steals in your mid- to later draft rounds. We are also very high on Erik Johnson and Carlo Colaiacovo for your middling defensive choices unless your fellow Poolies are Blues savvy. Chris Mason is a solid number two netminder for your team, and you have to know Ty Conklin is great for depth where three or more goalies are chosen. Don’t be guilty of underestimating the fantasy potential for this team or you will be seeing a mad scramble for their hot players within a couple of weeks of the first puck drop.

Schedule Analysis: A total of 18 back-to-back pairs of games, the second highest total in the NHL this season. For a primary analysis of the team’s overall 2009/10 regular season schedule, go to this link.

That flash of light on tomorrow's horizon means the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2009/10 SPR is coing this way…

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com
1. 4.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

OGA SPR: The San Jose Sharks - by Frozen Pill

This is On Goal Analysis' 2009/10 Season Preview Report (SPR) for the San Jose Sharks - the 25th installment of our daily previews leading to the start of the new season!

Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.

The San Jose Sharks as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)

Last Season VS the PQC: The San Jose Sharks consistently start their seasons with more winning than losing. Having lost in the second round to the Dallas Stars in the 07-08 Stanley Cup playoffs the previous year, and with a new coach at the helm, last year's eventual President Trophy winners started the 2008-09 season at a pace that baffled the league and put up points that would carry them through the ups and downs of their campaign.

They won 25 of their first 30 games. But by Game 10, OGA saw the Sharks meet several key demarcations along the PQC, enabling us to correctly call the San Jose Sharks 'Chasing Stanley' (IN the playoffs) on October 28th, 2008!

The Sharks would finish the season with a remarkable 5.85 PQC rating, continuing the pattern of upping their own PQC average score as they have done each season since the lockout.

Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: In the 2008-09 NHL season the San Jose Sharks bucked several previously consistent trends as had been established by their play when measured against the PQC. Sadly, they did not buck the trend of a premature exit from the playoffs.

In the four previous seasons (going back to the lockout), the Sharks had consistently improved their play and winning percentage from games 10-20, regardless of what they had done in the first ten. Their performance on the Curve then dips down in the three seasons before last year's campaign between games 20 and 30. But the 08-09 Sharks actually improved their winning percentage during this furlong.

Between games 30 and 40, again, the Sharks show remarkable consistency with a nosedive in wins and on their PQC rating. You may remember last season some folks had projected the Sharks to finish the regular season with some ridiculous point total in the 130s (or thereabouts) based on their incredible start to the season in the first few months.

Then came the losing.

The Sharks dropped a full 3 points on the Curve between games 30 and 40 and another 2.5 points between games 60 and 70. This last dip was another break from their trending as in the seasons previous, they had risen dramatically in their PQC rating during that time in preparation for the playoffs.

The Sharks' departure from the team trends last season may have meant their playoff push came a little too late. They won the winnable games, taking 7 of their last 12 but still appeared to slump into the playoffs, rather than attack. The uncharacteristic play as noted when compared to the PQC (and as noted when the Sharks won over COL in a 1-0 shootout then lost to Phoenix and Los Angeles to close out the 08-09 regular season) may have been incremental in their shocking first-round loss to the Anaheim(surprisinglymighty)Ducks.

Despite the ups and downs, the Sharks did manage, for the fourth season in a row, to raise their average PQC rating - now residing at a lofty 5.388. And although playoff expectations were not met again last season, the Sharks come into the 2009-10 campaign ready and hungry. And that, my friend is a bad thing if'ns you prefer one of the other 29 teams.

Hungry Sharks will eat and are to be avoided.

  • In the summer of discontent, where the fans and the media claimed big changes were needed to propel this regular-season wunderkind to the Finals, the San Jose Sharks changed very little. Some minor tweaks here, some chum there. But if there is anything the pre-season signing of Dany Heatley proves, it is the notion this club views the upcoming season as a chance for a good veteran squad, with opportunities of promotion for their prospects, to perform. And if they don't, they will make a move or three during the course of the season to complete the team and solve their conundrum.
  • And perhaps the biggest splashes of change in the Shark Tank will come during the season. Elite players will be viewed with a keen eye and we at OGA wouldn't be surprised if more big trades were offered up during the course of the season depending on, well, the course of the season. Pre-pre-season moves have cleared up some salary cap space for future considerations. Sharks fans simply cannot endure another superior regular season followed by a sub-par playoff run. As Fear the Fin put it, in their post with the best title ever (see the title to the entry dated April 27, 2009 10:38PM PDT by Mr. Plank),
"Stunned. Shocked. Numb. Disappointed that a season, a season that had so much promise, has been ripped away in a mere six games....This series will be recapped tomorrow. If you're expecting something more right now, go ahead and start your own blog."
  • To set the stage for the internal changes of operation, the team has stripped Patrick Marleu of his Captaincy and taken the 'A' away from Joe Thornton. The idea is to see who earns these leadership roles through the course of camp and the pre-season. For Wednesday night's game (09.23.09), the Sharks skated captain-less but with three 'A's - Marleau, Thornton, and Dan Boyle. Boyle is considered to be the fan-favorite as a fresh start for the Sharks' Captaincy - and a deserving player/person.
  • IN For the Swim: Dany Heatley! And then Joe Callahan, Dwight Helminen, Manny Malhotra (an excellent signing for what he will bring to the ice, the locker room, and the team-friendly, Jere Lehtinen-like discount hit to the cap), Scot Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer, Daniel Rahimi, Patrick White.
  • Move Along, Nothing Left to See Here: Gone from San Jose are (some fairly big names from the roster): Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek, traded to Ottawa in the Dany Heatley trade. Wingers Riley Armstrong, Travis Moen, Lukas Kaspar and Mike Grier, have moved to other towns along with defensemen Brad Lukowich, Christian Ehrhoff, Brett Westgarth and backup goalie Brian Boucher. Forward Marcel Goc is in Nashville and Jeremy Roenick and Claude Lemieux retired this summer.


The Sure Thing: Joe Thornton (C). Many of the complaints from the anxious and the frustrated are in regards to big Joe's failure to propel the team deeper into the playoffs. It's debatable if one player can be singled out in such a fashion in a sport where team play is so vital to success, but nonetheless (andalwaysthemore), nobody every complains about Thornton's regular season prowess. And that's why he will be high on everybody's draft roster and should be on yours, as well. Last season, he posted 86 points (25/61) and will now likely be playing with Dany Heatley. Put them on the ice at the same time (hello, power play. you like nice this evening...) and Joe's assist-count is going up. He is also projected to crack 30 goals this season.

TrustyRusty: Dan Boyle (D). Not at all Rusty, but quickly becoming the Trusty in San Jose, the favored consideration for the new Captaincy of the Sharks' squad was fifth in team scoring last season posting 57 points (16/41) in 77 games. His minutes will go up, he's got a knack for offense and should be considered a top-10 choice for your d-doods. Plus, he's just a cool guy.

Up and Coming: Devin Setoguchi (RW). Last season, the Frozen Pill pointed out to a co-writer how good Setoguchi was playing early in the season...and how he just might be the hot hand coming out of the Shark Tank. In other words, Cheech-Who? Well, said co-writer listened well and went out snagged Devin from the free agent list before the Pill was done pontificating and debating and correlating and mad-scientisting away about the pick-up opportunity. Don't be last season's Pill. Get you some Setoguchi and you'll be better by morning.

Under the Radar: Joe Pavelski (C). Pavelski is coming into his own and will be one of the Sharks whose expectations will rise each season and his performance will increase in kind. Last season, he posted 59 points (25/34) in 80 games and will likely center the second line this season. He is only 25 and the 205th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft is pegged as a future leader for this team. His steady rise in points the last couple of seasons is no fluke and neither are his 16 power play goals and 7 game-winning goals in the same time span.

The Watchful Eye: Patrick Marleau (C). Normally reserved for prospects or rookies, this time the Watchful Eye is gazed upon Patrick Marleau. How will he respond to his changing role on the team? Will Heatley's presence in the mix elevate his play? It very well could. He was second on the team in scoring last season with 71 points (38/33) but the Frozen Pill is wondering if Marleau's' season won't be a tale of two cities. Keep an eye on him to gauge whether he, A)gets the ice time he has been accustomed to in the past or B)becomes the lead unit in a package deal for a mid-season sweep of the house or C) plays more like he did in his 07-08 season where he produced only 19 goals and finished -19 on a good Sharks team.

The Crease: Evgeni Nabakov. Is Nabby your first or second choice for netminder?

Mad Scientist: Dany Heatley (LW). His off-season running commentary in Ottawa of 'get me out of here now' provided a lot of reason for fans and those in-the-know to say, 'hey, would you want sour grapes on your team?' But secretly, we all know about 29 teams had at least a passing, if not progressive, interest in finding out what it might take to bring the Heater into town. And we at OGA know, regardless of your opinions, you secretly want him on your fantasy roster. Remember, what happens off the ice, stays off the ice. What happens while on it will snag your fantasy team points as fast as Joe Thornton can pass the puck.


Will the San Jose Sharks swim straight for the kill and qualify for the post-season play yet again? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.

Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.

And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.

Tomorrow, another OGA Boy gets in on the action for Season Previews this week when the Colonel brings you a mind-bending analysis of the Renaissance Team, the St. Louis Blues. There is no spoon...

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com

1. 4.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

OGA SPR: The Pittsburgh Penguins - by Frozen Pill

This is On Goal Analysis' 2009/10 Season Preview Report (SPR) for the Pittsburgh Penguins- the 24th installment of our daily previews leading to the start of the new season!

Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.

The Pittsburgh Penguins as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)

Last Season VS the PQC: The Pittsburgh Penguins began last season as one of two teams left standing previously in the 07-08 NHL season. They had lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Detroit Red Wings and were ready to prove their appearance in the Finals was no fluke. A full season later, they found themselves in the exact same spot, but this time with different results. But how did the 08-09 Stanley Cup Champions Penguins fare against the PQC on their ride to grabbing the Cup?

As you may remember, last season started overseas and started strong. The Penguins were at 2.5 points above the Curve mean-line by Game 20. Then came the slump of the flightless birds that saw a coaching change and then a team's response. Where the Penguins had fallen to a full 3 points below the Curve by Game 40 and the hopes of playoff hockey at the Igloo appeared to be fading away, the Penguins responded well and began riding the Curve upwards until the end of the season where they finished +3 against the PQC.

Pittsburgh finished the 08-09 campaign with a PQC rating of 4.95 and reinforced the overall dynamics OGA uses to establish the measuring points along the Playoff Qualifying Curve. With a close evaluation of team play compared to the historical PQC performance of the league, conference and division, OGA was able to presciently call the Pittsburgh Penguins 'Chasing Stanley' (IN the playoffs) at Game 18 on November 18th, 2008.

Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: While the 08-09 Penguins did hoist the Stanley Cup last season, their yearly rating of 4.95 on the PQC was not their best performance, but was better than the team average of 4.55. The two season previous, the Penguins had finished in the 5+ rating territory. Just call it experience. Because what they learned along the way brought a complete team with a complete effort to the Finals last season.

And their average play as measured against the PQC since the lockout indicates another good shot of playoff hockey come next spring. Of note is how consistently the Penguins improve their team play and overall game each season as the playoffs draw close. Even in their terrible campaign of 05-06, where they had sunk as low as -5.0 against the Curve, the Penguins were able to improve their play as they pushed for playoff positioning.

The Penguins have important demarcation points along the Curve OGA looks for when evaluating their playoff chances. And this season, as they battle the alleged, non-confirmed but always-looked-for, Stanley Cup Hangover, the OGA boys will be watching the numbers. And letting you know what we know.

So how have the 09-10 Pens prepared for their defense of the title? Let's find out.

  • If you are a Pens fan, you have the luxury of knowing your team spent the off-season celebrating rather than rebuilding, restructuring, hiring/firing, questioning what works, etc. Because it works. And here's the proof:
Question. Does Sidney still live with the Lemieuxs? That looks like pretty cozy quarters. Guest Room?
  • Although much of the team on and off the ice remains intact, some impact-player personnel have changed. It will present some challenges for the Penguins but will also make camp and the pre-season an opportunity to reinforce the teams' goal of defending the Cup while also adding some new flavor and tweaks to chemistry and line pairings.
  • OUT - Major players skating elsewhere this season: Petr Sykora (RW), Hal Gill (D), Rob Scuderi (D), and backup goalie Mathieu Giron. The biggest loss for Pittsburgh is along the blue line but the organization feels it is deep on defense. Also departed are wingers Chris Minard, Jeff Taffe and much-anticipated but rarely-skated, Janne Pesonen. Miroslav Satan is still unsigned and probably won't be playing for the Pens this season.
  • IN - Jay McKee (D) was signed in to help sure up defense. Other defenders signed were Nate Guenin and Chris Lee. The right wing was also addressed by signing Chris Conner and Wade Brookbank. Mike Rupp (LW) was also added to the mix. To replace the backup goalie, they signed former Capital, Brent Johnson. Free agent Ryan Bayda, previously with the Hurricanes, is in camp with Pittsburgh. And don't forget the Penguins signed Bill Guerin at the trade deadline last season and will now contribute to veteran leadership and offensive production for a full campaign with his new club.


The Sure Thing: Evgeni Malkin (C). He scored 113 points (35/78), finished at a plus-17 with 290 shots on net. The Art Ross Trophy winner led the NHL in points and assists and is ranked as either the first or second best draft pick for most fantasy rankings this upcoming season. If you are not sure why it's a Sure Thing to draft Evgeni Malkin then you rarely watch hockey...if ever. And that's okay, because we want you IN! One quick way to create a new hockey fan is to convince them to play some fantasy hockey. Therein lies a quick tour of who's who in this league for the new apprentice...

TrustyRusty: Sidney Crosby (C). Again, if you are not sure why Sid the Kid would be a trusted choice here, you are a new fan. He captains the team and puts up big numbers each season - 103 points last season alone. If you have the chance to grab him, don't play games...just do the right thing for your fantasy team and take the little spitfire.

TrustyRusty Honorable Mention: Sergei Gonchar (D). This proven offensive-minded point-getter has been a staple on many GMs' fantasy teams over the years. This season, he is healthy and ready to quarterback the power play for a full season. As a defenseman, he can be expected to post about 60 points if he stays healthy and is an easy choice on draft day for your d-doods.

Up and Coming: Jordan Staal (C). He's the team's third center and was fourth in points for the Pens last season. A true two-way forward, he just keeps getting better each year and if you aren't able to secure Malkin or Crosby for your fantasy team, don't forget about Jordan who will get some power play time with the aforementioned ringers.

Under the Radar: Chris Kunitz (LW). Chris is under the radar because you may forget to notice his numbers or play being blinded by the glare of the Malkin-Crosby act out there on the ice. But Kunitz played alongside Crosby after being acquired at the trade deadline by Pittsburgh last season and put up 18 points in 20 regular season games. Playing with Crosby, Kunitz will eclipse the 53 points (23/30) you may not have noticed last season he produced between ANA and PIT.

The Watchful Eye: Eric Tangradi (LW). He's only 20 years old but has a chance of cracking the lineup in Pittsburgh. He was a monster in the OHL last season posting 88 points (38/50) in 55 games. Wait to see if he skates opening night but keep him on your watch list if not.

The Crease: Marc-Andre Fleury. No, this is not the Fleury you were looking for...

Pittsburgh goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury has been a keeper in many leagues for the last couple of seasons as his numbers (wins and percentages) keep improving. He is definitely a top-tier goalie and a good choice if in your top preferences. There may be some adjustment time needed as the Pens work to replace the defensive system that saw Gill and Scuderi helping mop up the crease, but Fleury is full of talent and quite capable. While many other fantasy GMs are avidly trying to secure Brodeur, Nabakov or the Kippers, you can be confident in selecting Fleury as your top choice knowing he will play the majority of games and play well.

Mad Scientist: Alex Goligoski (D). Gologoski played in 45 games last season with the Pens, admirably filling in for the decimated blue line, including the injured Sergei Gonchar. He was good for about a point in every other game. Now, he will get to play with Gonchar. Goligoski is a puck-moving defenseman who will compliment Gonchar, will see power play time and will continue to improve his game at the NHL level as he shows great promise and brings with him a hard work ethic.


Will the Pittsburgh Penguins again qualify for the playoffs and try to visit the Finals again for a third year straight? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.

Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.

And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.

Tomorrow, the Frozen Pill ends his run of four Previews in a row with the Hot Hot Heatleys warming in San Jose. Come and see, come and see!

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com

1. 4.

Seeing Stars...and Panthers

That's right, kids: Big Tex is going to the AAC tonight for some Stars-Panthers preseason hijinks (hijinks is Finnish for "hockey", right?). I'll be Tweeting from the game, so feel free to follow along (@OGAs_BigTex). If you're too lazy to follow me, I have it on good authority that my partners in crime back at OGA headquarters will be Re-Tweeting me, as well (@ongoalanalysis). Who knows? I might even tweet something worth reading.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
1. 4.

Monday, September 21, 2009

OGA SPR: The Phoenix Coyotes - by Frozen Pill

This is On Goal Analysis' 2009/10 Season Preview Report (SPR) for the Phoenix Coyotes - the 23rd installment of our daily previews leading to the start of the new season!

Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.

The Phoenix Coyotes as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)

Last Season VS the PQC: The Phoenix Coyotes ended last season with a PQC rating of 3.95 which was just above their four-year average. However, a couple of bursts of hot play on the ice during the course of the previous season was not enough to crack the bottom of the playoff pairings and OGA was able to correctly call the Coyotes at 'Tee Time' (OUT of the playoffs) at Game 56 on Feb 12th, 2009 based on a close evaluation of the team performance as measured against the PQC.

The ride last year was a harrowing one. For the first 50 games of the season, the Coyotes played very close to, albeit just under, the Curve. But by Game 60, they found themselves 3 points below and sunk to a -3.5 by Game 70. A bit of spoiler-fun for the 'Yotes then commenced as they toyed with other teams playoff positioning and won eight of their final thirteen games to cap off the season. The rally actually brought them into positive territory above the PQC for only the second time in the entire season. The Coyotes finished the regular season 13th in the Western Conference.

Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: The Coyotes post-lockout average score as measured against the PQC is at 3.875. It is well below the NHL average. However, the Coyotes average has inched upwards after the previous two seasons which is a positive trend. This season's Desert Dogs will hope to take it up even further.

The key to improving their overall performance is to find ways to win games in the winter. Each season, right around Christmas time, the Coyotes begin dropping games like the temperature drops after sundown during the desert winter - fast. And they drop games all the way through February each season. Out of eight demarcation points measured against their PQC performance, the Coyotes are at a downward trend seven times during this time-frame. The key to Phoenix lengthening their season is to find ways to win games between Game 40 and Game 60, where their season is typically lost.

  • Wow. What a summer it's been for hockey in the desert. Or the potential vanishing of the same. If you have yet to hear/read about the current bankruptcy hearings in court for the Phoenix Coyotes, all you really need to know at this point is the Phoenix (Glendale) Coyotes are staying put. For now. For a brief history, there's this: New arena built far from fan-base and team does not win enough games to convince locals to drive to Glendale. Guy from Canada wants to buy the team and park it near Toronto. NHL doesn't want to move/close/admit defeat/whatever with the club in Phoenix and now, temporarily, owns the franchise. It's a nasty affair and is still unsettled, but an emergency meeting for the parties involved has been called for by the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the case. For more on this recent development, see the Coyotes site here.
  • Everything typed above could change with the stroke of a pen from a judge. Everything typed above could change if this team comes out of the gates strong this season, wins and the fans remember where they put their car keys. The area is a tough market for a 'fourth' sport and this may be a case of sports-saturation. But considering this part of the southwestern US houses what are lovingly referred to as 'Snow Birds', you would think some of these Canadian and Michigan ex-pats would get their butts in the seats and enjoy some hockey. I'm just saying...
  • Bridging the gap between management maneuvers and player moves, is the coach. In short, Wayne Gretzky may or may not still be the coach of the Coyotes. With his ties in ownership of the team and part of the bankruptcy filing, Gretzky is low-profile these days (read:AWOL) and the Coyotes are working through camp and the pre-season without him. Assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson is acting as head coach while the true status of Gretzky is unknown. He is still listed as the coach but is not coaching and the local media and fans are thinking a fresh start (no Great Big Salary behind the bench) might be the right skate forward.
  • In ice-related summer moves, players who moved on and OUT are: Steven Reinprecht, Enver Lisin, Nigel Dawes, Todd Fedoruk, Steven Goertzen, David Hale, Dmitri Kalinin, Ryan Lannon, Brandon Prust, Brian McGrattan and Garth Murray. This entire group of 11 players accounted for a whopping 51 of the Coyotes goals last season and the organization believes the veteran leadership and skill obtained during last season's trade deadline and during the off-season will more than compensate.
  • New Names: Adrian Aucoin, Radim Vrbata, Jim Vandermeer, Lauri Korpikoski, Vernon Fiddler and Jason LaBarbera will join the other recent arrivals at the end of the 08-09 season, Matthew Lombardi, Scottie Upshall and Petr Prucha to compliment the rise of the Phoenix Phuture.


The Sure Thing: Shane Doan (LW). Doan led the Coyotes with 73 points (31/42) last season. Second in scoring for the team was Matthew Lombardi with 46 points - 30 of which were scored in Calgary before the trade deadline. That's almost a 30-point gap between the first and second leading scorers. And if your pool awards points for shots on goal, the Coyotes captain put 230 of of those on net last season. Step aside! Shane Doan as the Sure Thing is also the Thing of Obvious.

TrustyRusty: Matthew Lombardi (C). Actually, this slot could go to Shane Doan again as the true, tested and measured Coyote for point production. But on a team with few offensively-gifted veterans, Lombardi performed wonderfully after coming to Phoenix in the Olli Jokinen trade with Calgary at the trade deadline last season. He put up 16 points in 19 games with the
Coyotes and will most likely see an increase in his ice time and a greater leadership role.

Up and Coming: Peter Mueller (RW/C?). Mueller, a first round pick in the 2006 entry draft, struggled last season and also dealt with a concussion-related injury, affecting his point totals. He posted only 36 points - a let down from expectations created by his 54-point effort the prior season, his rookie campaign in 07-08. Some reports have Mueller moving from the wing to center ice. If so, his point totals could go up easily as this very talented 21-year old begins play in his third NHL season. Don't be fooled by his sophomore numbers - he's talented and will play big minutes with big expectations.

Under the Radar: Phoenix Coyotes (all). Sorry...couldn't resist. Most fantasy GMs are going to grab Doan, if anybody, from the Coyotes. Minor point production from many of the youngsters being thrust into NHL action (some say too early) is going to be the norm for a couple of seasons. But Phoenix has a lot of guys coming back this season for their second or third stints - and we may see several of these hopefuls break out and surprise this season.

Names to get familiar with because they may not be on your fantasy team this season, but will be on your competitor's teams next year. Keith Yandle (D), Mikkel Boedker (RW), Zbynek Michalek (D), Viktor Tikhonov (RW), Martin Hanzal (C)

The Watchful Eye: Kyle Turris (C). Another youngster thrust into the spotlight, Turris' rookie campaign last season was an up and down affair picking up 20 points in 63 games. But the promise this player brings was seen a few times last season and is one to keep an eye on. As of September 21st, it appears Kyle will begin this season with the Coyotes affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. But if he gets a call-up to the big house, he may make a great acquisition from your fantasy 'free agent' market.

The Watchful Eye Honorable Mention: Kevin Porter (C). He won the 2008 Hobey Baker Award and had 10 points (5/5) in a 34-game stint with the Coyotes last season. With Phoenix trying to slow down on the push to get their young talent on the NHL ice and focusing more on development,Porter may start the season in San Antonio. But he is going to make it a hard decision for management having posted 4 assists in the first two pre-season games.

The Crease: Ilya Bryzgalov. He is a 'bottom of the list choice' for a goalie on your fantasy team. Although he has played very well at times in the past, his performance in Phoenix last season, after being announced as 'the man' between the pipes for Phoenix, was dismal. But he has the skill for a bounce-back and if still available mid-season, could be a great replacement goalie for an injured starter or a good free agent acquisition if he turns his play around and retains the starting position after Phoenix brought in Jason LaBarbera during the summer for backup duties.

Mad Scientist: Petr Prucha (RW). After an amazing rookie year in 05-06 playing for the New York Rangers, Prucha fell out of favor with the 'Organ-i-zation'. In that rookie campaign, he posted 47 points in 68 games. By contrast, in 07-08 he scored only 17 points (7/10) in 62 games. Little trust was placed in Prucha and the Rangers were happy to deal him at the trade deadline last season. So why is he the 'Mad Scientist' pick? Because he has shown flashes of brilliance and now has the opportunity in Phoenix to restart his career anew. Besides, Big Tex thinks he is teh awesomeness. Scottie Upshall is also a good choice for the 'MS' pick coming off of a career year split between Philadelphia and Phoenix and nobody questions his bravado.


Will the Phoenix Coyotes sophomores help propel their team into the playoffs this season for the first time since 2002? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.

Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.

And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.

Tomorrow, the Frozen Pill rolls out another Season Preview Report - the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Hair of the dog, anyone?

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com

1. 4.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

OGA SPR: The Philadelphia Flyers - by Frozen Pill

This is On Goal Analysis' 2009/10 Season Preview Report (SPR) for the Philadelphia Flyers - the 22nd installment of our daily previews leading to the start of the new season!

Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.

The Philadelphia Flyers as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)

Last Season VS the PQC: A strong start to last season had the Flyers playing a full 2 points above the Curve by Game 30. It proved to be a strong enough start as OGA was able to correctly call them 'Chasing Stanley' (IN the playoffs) at Game 29 on December 13th, 2008 based on a close evaluation of the team performance as measured against the PQC. They achieved an above-average 4.95 PQC rating and never sunk more than a point below the Curve throughout the season. In fact, for five of the eight of the furlongs they were either at or above the PQC in their performance.

Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: Philadelphia's post-lockout average PQC score is now at 4.388 - the average being brought down dramatically by the abysmal 2006-07 campaign wherein they only rated at 2.8. That nasty finish garnered some good draft positioning, though (and one of the Frozen Pill's favorite prospects - James van Riemsdyk) and the 2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers are coming into this year's campaign to reap the rewards of good draft positioning over the past decade.

An interesting note of how the Flyers measure up against the curve is found in mid-season. OGA measures team performance against the PQC every 10 games. The span is referred to as a furlong and each 10th game is a demarcation point. Although the Flyers have advanced to the playoffs each of the previous two seasons, when viewing the PQC over the previous four seasons, the Flyers struggle each season midway through. From the 4th furlong to the 6th (the Game 40 and Game 60 demarcation marks), the Flyers play BELOW the PQC 75% of the time, going as low as 4 full points below the Curve.

The 2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers must be conscience of this and make whatever adjustments are needed to change this negative trait during this 3-furlong stretch. So in what ways did the Flyers begin prepping the changes this off-season to ensure this year's team rushes the velvet rope guarding the door to the Big Dance?

  • Salary cap issues in Philadelphia put management in the mode of tackling the business end of an appropriate budget while under the belief this team is built to win NOW. A pivotal player from last season, Mike Knuble, went to Washington as a result of operating procedures.
  • The biggest news from the summer was the deal Philly made to acquire Chris Pronger from the Ducks. The cost was hefty, though as the Flyers dealt Joffrey Lupul and future defenseman, Luca Sbisa. They also had to give up their first round pick for the 2009 draft but feel Pronger may be the missing piece on the blue line to help take the team progress deeper into the playoffs (and past PA-rival Pittsburgh). But perhaps the Flyers felt plenty-stocked on current, producing first round picks to make the move. See below in the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose for examples on why Philadelphia believes the current team is the one to win with.
  • Another key addition over the summer was the signing of Colorado's Ian Laperriere. The Bully-quotient just went up on Broad St. How this will affect one major area of on-ice concern from last season (the undisciplined play and time spent in the penalty box) remains to be seen. One would think, adversely. And so far, in the pre-season, the nasties have it.
  • Goalie Swap! OUT are Marty Biron (NYI) and Antero Niittymaki (TBL). IN are (he's back...), Ray Emery (NHL_exile) and Brian Boucher (SJS). The choices here are the results of a money-conscience team willing to take some chances...hoping the awesomeness assembled in front of the crease infects the play in the blue paint, too. More on this next in the Fantasy Dose, below.


The Sure Thing: Mike Richards (C). He's the captain, he represents their future and he's only played four seasons in the NHL. In the last two, he's posted 75 and 80 points and scored 58 goals. For 7 of those goals last season, he scored them short-handed, leading the NHL. He scores on the power play (8 goals last year), on the penalty kill and at even strength. He led the team in assists (50), plays in every situation and led all Flyers' forwards in ice time last season averaging 21:44. The question is not 'why' to choose Richard but 'why haven't you?'.

TrustyRusty: Danny Briere (C). Ah yes, Daniel. He's trusty in the sense that he has a proven record of putting up massive points and scoring crucial and timely goals. He's rusty in that he is returning from an injury-plagued 08/09 season. However, all reports indicate he is back both health-wise and playing-wise. In the 3 pre-season games played so far, Briere has 2 of Philly's 5 goals...and both were unassisted. Briere is back, folks and his low-ranking on many fantasy rankings reports means you may be able to sneak him into your lineup. Crazy, huh? Talking about Danny Briere on your fantasy team as a 'sneaker' pick?

TrustyRusty Honorable Mention: Chris Pronger (D). New to the Flyers this season, Pronger is going to get your fantasy team points on the blue line. He will play tons of power play time and be counted on anchoring the Flyers' defensive play, eating up ice time like a summer-time sno-cone. He'll get some goals, plenty of assists and, playing in a Broad Street Bullies sweater, he will Prongerize your PIMs.

ARRIVED (fka Up and Coming): Jeff Carter (C). Although he lead the team last season with 84 points (46/38), he is just one of the Flyers' 'up and comers' because he, like Mike Richards, defines what the future of this team looks like. B0th Carter and Richards centered this team to offensive prowess via physicality. They both racked up PIMs in the 60s, led the team in scoring and plus/minus (+23 and +22, respectively) and were both drafted in the 1st round of the 2003 NHL entry draft. Like Richards, Carter is easy pickins, as it were.

Under the Radar: Claude Giroux (RW). Here's the deal. And we can make this one quick. Either your competing GMs are already familiar with Giroux and made sure to have him on their team early in the draft or, if not, he should be high on your draft-order list. Another first round pick (2006-22nd overall), Giroux scored 27 points (9/18) and finished +10 in 42 games for his rookie campaign. For his first taste of NHL playoffs, he contributed 5 points (2/3) in six games. Giroux is good. Grab him if you can, with or without the stick.

The Watchful Eye
: James van Riemsdyk (LW). Another first round pick (2007, 2nd overall), van Riemsdyk entered the 09-10 camp and pre-season as a 'hopeful' to crack the starting roster. He then scored the first goal of Philly's pre-season in a 3-1 loss to Detroit and assisted on a Richards' power play goal against Toronto. Reporting shows the kid (20 years old) has been impressing a lot of folks at the camp - both teammates and media. Keep an eye on van Riemsdyk as he may not only make the starting roster right out of camp, but perhaps garnish some time on the Philly power play.

The Crease: Ray Emery. The reformed hot-head returns from a stint in the KHL to become the new starting goalie in Philadelphia. His troublesome history in Ottawa is behind him and a new chapter is open for the writing this season. But is he a starter for your fantasy team? I think many fantasy GMs will remain leery about selecting Emery. Odds are it will go one way or the other: Emery will either a) start strong, stay with team and again be a goalie we talk about for performance reasons or b) show he hasn't reformed himself enough to keep the media and fans' focus on team performance and become a distraction and, thus, a fun goalie to watch at the now-Adirondack Phantoms games. But Emery took responsibility for what happened in Ottawa and the need for a true, elite goalie in Philly gives Ray every opportunity to start the season fresh...and gives you a risky, albeit potentially rewarding, choice for a starter on your fantasy team.

OF NOTE: If the Emery-Experiment does not work out, Philadelphia signed former backup netminder and Phantom Phamiliar, Brian Boucher during the off-season. He split his time in the last two seasons between the Philadelphia Phantoms and the San Jose Sharks and did a great job backing up Evgeni of the Nabakov with 2 shutouts in his first two games. This is the same Boucher who achieved notoriety during his time in Phoenix where he set the modern NHL record of 5 consecutive shutouts. So be watchful of this occasional shutout artist who started his career in Philadelphia as yet another first-round pick (1995).

Mad Scientist: Daniel Carcillo (LW). Since Carcillo is no longer playing with the Coyotes and battling Pacific Division rivals, the Dallas Stars 20 times a season, Carcillo may not score as many goals in Philly as in previous years. But you cannot ignore last season's league-leading 254 PIMs if your fantasy league rewards you with points for minutes spent feeling shame. His closest competitor in the NHL here was Shane O'Brien with 196. Beware the -15 finish last season for Carcillo, though. Perhaps such a stat will be offset with increased scoring when comfortable with his new environs and the system in Philadelphia as Carcillo was acquired at the trade deadline last season and only laced up for 20 regular season games with the Flyers.


Will the Philadelphia Flyers be in contention for the playoffs again this season? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.

Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.

And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.

For the next few days, you get your regular dose of the Frozen Pill. Tomorrow brings the Phoenix Coyotes. Sunrise or sunset in the desert?

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com