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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The PQC, Non-Traditionals, And The End Of October

For the end of October, we here at OGA are finding some interesting things in terms of the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) and Non-Traditional team play.

The October 2010 PQC…

While not yet at Game 10 (G10) for all teams, in all years since the Lockout, OGA averages six PQC calls by the end of October. (For G10, it is 6.8.) This October, OGA has two PQC calls, both of Chasing Stanley, and IN the 2011 Playoffs, for MTL and TBL. By G10, we will have NO calls of teams at Tee Time – eliminated from 2011 post-season play – and only a maximum of four Chasing Stanleys. For October, that’s a two-third’s drop in total G10 calls from the average. For G10 if two more teams make Chasing Stanley, that’s a decline of one-third.

Why the negative trends in total calls made? It is what the NHL has been seeking. That word synonymous with drama – PARITY. Truly, on any night, any team can and has been winning. Many examples abound:

FLA defeating MTL at Le Centre Belle the night after MTL is dubbed Chasing Stanley.
TOR from one OTL through G10 last season to a combination of 5.5 wins to open this season.
LAK’s best opening home record in more than two decades…

This all means our job of determining who will be IN or OUT of the playoffs as early as possible is going to be much more difficult.

Look for more drama in the G20 spread. We should be at 14 PQC calls made and are interested to see how far off the average we are going to be.

The Non-Trads At October’s End

Where do the 11 non-traditional teams stand after the conclusion of October 2010? From highest to lowest and as of games completed on 30 October, we rank them for their end-of-season potential as follows:


Out of these 11, the actual 30 October standings would indicate TBL, LAK, NSH, CBJ, DAL and ATL, or just over half, would be in the Playoffs if they began today. Our power rankings projected out to Game 82 indicate the same six above plus SJS would be amongst the teams qualifying for the playoffs.

There are obviously many more games to go this season. But a projection of 7-of-16 or 43.8% of Playoff teams coming from the Non-Trad markets is a good justification to continue playing Hockey ‘down south.’ After all, it is the southern markets that hold a better chance of growing the sport than in Canada where Hockey is already practically religion.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Stanley Cup Playoffs...in October?

NHL fans, pundits, players and management alike have watched the unfolding trainwreck that is the 2010-2011 New Jersey Devils with a mixture of horror and fascination (and if you're a Rangers fan, amusement). While some might've suspected the Devils would struggle a bit as they adjusted to a new style of play, nobody could've predicted New Jersey's 2-6-1 start to the season, much less an NHL-worst goal differential of -15. Around the league, people want to know: What's happening in Newark?

As an amused observer (Let's Go Rangers!), I have my own take on the situation: The Devils' transition away from the Trap and towards a more up-tempo, attacking style of play is a direct result of signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a 15-year, $100mil deal over the summer. Kovy is an offensive dynamo, but defensively disinterested. Looking at it through the lens of Devils management, if I'm going to make such a hefty long-term investment, I'm going to make sure I get my money's worth. Kovalchuk consistently put up All-Star-level numbers in Atlanta, where he was (essentially) a one-man band; just imagine what he could do when surrounded by New Jersey's talented supporting cast (some of whom are stars in their own right).

Clearly, though, the Russian star couldn't reach his full potential while playing the Trap. Thus, the Devils had to change their style of play. Enter new head coach John MacLean. "Die Hard" was designated to lead (coach) New Jersey to the offensive Promised Land. The result thus far? Well, check the standings...the bottom of the standings. Why are the Devils struggling to adapt to the new system? I have a couple of thoughts:

First, Coach MacLean is tasked with teaching old dogs new tricks. By that, I mean the Devils roster contains six forwards and three defensemen over the age of 30...and let us not forget their 38-year-old future Hall of Famer goalie, who has spent his entire NHL career playing in a Trap-type system. Simply put, old habits die hard.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the New Jersey defensive corps suffers from a desperate lack of players named Rafalski or Niedermayer - in other words, swift-skating and experienced offensive defensemen. Cap constraints have forced the Devils to lean heavily on youngsters who must now learn on the job.

What does it all mean? John MacLean's tenure as head coach is the subject of league-wide speculation. Given the teams' struggles and GM Lou's hair-trigger track record, the speculation is understandable. From where I sit, however, "Die Hard" is safe (for now), as management seems to be taking the long view at this time. They have to take the long view: they've got Kovalchuk for the next fifteen years.

In the short term, however, tonight's game at San Jose could very well have playoff implications for the Devils. Here at On Goal Analysis, we know that every point counts, and teams must play along or above the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) in order to remain in contention for a playoff berth. New Jersey is in grave danger of falling so far below the PQC that they can be called at "Tee Time" - that is, eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In October? Yes, in October. While we won't come right out and say tonight's game against the Sharks is a "Must-Win" for the Devils, the OGA Boys will say this: Two points sure couldn't hurt.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Morning Odds & Ends

Assorted thoughts on all things NHL this fine Sunday morning, 24 October 2010:

The Chicago Blackhawks are the first team in the league to reach Game 10. They are In The Curve...OGA's Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC), that is. While the 'Hawks 5-4-1 start may seem a bit rocky for a defending Stanley Cup Champion, it's really not bad, considering the tremendous influx of new players this season and the time needed to establish chemistry with new linemates, not to mention Brian Campbell's injury, Nik Hjalmarsson's two-game suspension...does it sound like I'm making excuses for the Blackhawks here? I'm not - they're doing just fine, all things considered.

The Columbus Blue Jackets played a desperately-needed bounceback game in Chicago last night. After going down, 2-0, the Jackets rallied to win, 3-2. I like Coach Arniel's decision to start Steve Mason again after Friday night's debacle (a 6-2 home loss to Calgary). Though only a couple of the Flames' goals can be pinned on Mase, it was best for him to "get back on that pony and ride", so to speak, rather than stewing over it until Tuesday night. Mason turned in a solid 30-save effort against the 'Hawks, and the team in front of him was much improved. Note of concern: Nikita Filatov opened the game on the fourth line and didn't touch the ice in the third period. New coach, same old doghouse. At this point, I have to question Filatov's maturity and desire to compete. So far this season, he's shown brief flashes of brilliance (mostly on the PP), and has looked the rest of the time like he doesn't want to get dirty. If he could find a little grit to go with those hands, Filatov could be great. If not, he could be Patrik Stefan.

After last night's 1-0 win over Dallas, the Nashville Predators are still the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss (4-0-3). As a Stars fan, I say, "Well done...ya jerks!" Seriously, I'm impressed by the Predators' ability to find ways to win. This team doesn't get the respect it deserves from the rest of the league.

I know it's very early, but I can't help myself: Looking at the standings this morning, I see that IF THE PLAYOFFS BEGAN TODAY, the entire Central Division would be in...and St. Louis would have the good fortune to face Calgary in the first round. It's far too early to draw any conclusions from this, of course, but it's interesting.

Back East, the News O'The Day is Ilya Kovalchuk's healthy scratchiness last night. Seeing as how Kovy has a No Movement Clause in effect until July, 2016, methinks John MacLean's days as the Devils' head coach are numbered...After allowing 13 goals in their first three games, the New York Rangers have allowed just six goals in their last three. Interestingly, the Blueshirts also scored 13 in their first three and six in their last three. They went 1-1-1, followed by 2-1-0. The difference? Better team defense/team play in general, as everyone seems to have stepped up their efforts following the injury to Marian Gaborik...Last, but not least, I'm high on the Florida Panthers right now. Aside from their stinker against Dallas last Thursday, the Panthers have outworked their opponents nightly. One bright spot in particular is the play of Rusty Olesz (6GP, 2-3-5, +4), who seems determined to live up to his cap hit.

At 6:00pm Eastern tonight, I'm planning on catching at least the first period of the Predators-Lightning game. I'd like to watch the whole thing, but the New Jersey October Trainwrecks roll into Madison Square Garden at 7:00, and I've gotta see Avery vs. Brodeur and Kovy (assuming he's not scratched again). In conclusion, let me say...Let's Go, Rangers!

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) At Game 5 (G5)

Sure it is early in the season. Only five games in, right? No need for anything close to panic.

Or is there? If you have been following On Goal Analysis’ (OGA’s) PQC for the last several seasons, you will know that OGA's proporietary measuring stick has called 34 of a possible 150 teams either IN (Chasing Stanley) or OUT (Tee Time) of the playoffs by G10. Yes, all of these games count – just read several comments that have been posted lately from coaches, GMs and even The Hockey News about how important a good start is. (Just like we have been telling you since the end of the Lockout.)

So where are we at G5, conference by conference? A quick look is telling…

The Eastern Conference

Overall, the average of the 15 Eastern Conference teams’ PQC is above the G5 PQC. It is, however, below the post-Lockout Conference average. This is due in part to the Eastern Conference’s winning percentage of .538 so far this season and that their record after games on 21 OCT against the West is only 12-12-3.

From last year, this conference displayed eight PQC increases at G5, and seven decreases. Of the decreases, BUF, NJD, OTT, PHI and PIT all were playoff teams last season and all but PHI had a PQC that was 50% or less of 2009/10’s total. The largest drop off was BUF who’s G5 PQC this year is 1/3 of last season’s. And the largest gain was Toronto at nine times better than last season’s G5, the largest leap in the NHL at G5.

Division averages against the PQC in order from highest to lowest are Southeast, Atlantic and Northeast. This is something of a reversal of fortunes as the Southeast is not normally the leader. But four of the five teams in the Division are in the Top 10 of their conference standings. While the Southeast and Atlantic Division PQCs are above normal, the Northwest’s is below average despite the play of BOS and TOR.

We also know at this time that eight of the 15 teams will not be called Chasing Stanley – IN the playoffs – by G10. If you want to know who they are immediately, subscribe to OGA’s Daily Tip In Report.

The Western Conference

Overall, the average of the 15 Western Conference teams’ is above average in terms of both the PQC and the Conference average. The West’s .587 average winning percentage after games on 21 OCT is a primary reason for this occurrence.

From last year, this conference displayed seven PQC increases at G5, and eight decreases. Of the decreases, CHI, COL, PHX and SJS were the playoff teams with a PQC drop off. Unlike back East, no Western Conference team had a PQC that was 50% or less of last season’s total. The largest degradation was EDM who’s G5 PQC this year is .571 of last season’s. The biggest Western gain was Minnesota at 2.5 times better than last season’s G5.This all points to a higher winning percentage against Eastern Conference teams and the possibility of another tight race in the West for playoff positions.

Divisions against the PQC in order are the Central, Pacific and Northeast. While the Pacific Division traditionally leads the West, this is not too far out of character. The note here is that the Central and Pacific are above average while the Northwest is below.

We also know at this time that nine of the 15 teams will not be called Chasing Stanley by G10. This is due in some measure to their higher G10 PQC requirement. Again, you can find out who they are immediately by subscribing to OGA’s Daily Tip In Report.

And that’s your G5. Stand by for updates as CHI hits G10 on Saturday, 23 October so the first PQC call of the season is coming right up.
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Columbus: The Perfect Hosts

Friday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Calgary Flames at Nationwide Arena. The Flames should send a "Thank You" note, as the Blue Jackets proved themselves perfect hosts.

"Hi, Calgary - come on in! Great to see you guys! Food is in the kitchen and it's All You Can Eat, so go nuts! We have an open bar, too. Make yourselves at home. You want to score a shorthanded goal tonight? No problemo! Couple goals in the final minute of the period? Can do! Power Play goals? Hmm...I'm afraid we're out of those, but I'll tell you what: We'll let you score just seconds after the penalties expire. Will that work for you? Great! What's that? You've had too much to drink and want to shag my wife? Oh, what the heck - go for it! I'll drive you home afterwards!"

That, in a nutshell, was the game. If Columbus coach Scott Arniel had the ability to call up enough players, I could provide a list of (at least) nine forwards and five defensemen who earned themselves healthy scratches. Unfortunately, the Jackets play tonight in Chicago, so many players who don't deserve to will take the ice. On the upside, I fully expect a decent rebound tonight, as it's physically impossible for Columbus to play worse than they did last night.

This is the second burning bowel movement of a game the Blue Jackets have offered their home fans this young season. If they don't get it together, the only thing the team and their shrinking fanbase have to look forward to is the first overall pick in next June's entry draft.

Here endeth my rant (for today, anyway).

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The NHL Weekend Roadie: Hello, November!

This weeks' installment of The NHL Weekend Roadie features a trip for the first weekend in November. A month into the new season, teams are beginning to gel as players shake off "summer rust" and start to establish chemistry with new linemates. It's a good time to be a hockey fan...and an even better time to hit the road for three NHL games in three days.

The itinerary:

NHL Week Five (Friday, 5 NOV - Sunday, 7 NOV)

Friday, 5 NOV: Boston @ Washington - Fly into D.C. Friday morning and head over to Ben's Chili Bowl for a half-smoke (a link sausage served on a hot dog bun, unique to D.C.) and a piece of sweet potato pie or cake (they're both good). Check into your hotel and hose yourself off, then get to the Verizon Center to watch the visiting Bruins take on the hometown Capitals. This will be the third meeting of the young season between these clubs, following their Black & Blue series of 19 & 21 October. This should a hard-fought game, perfect for the first Friday in November. After the game, get some sleep, as you're hitting the road tomorrow for...

Saturday, 6 NOV: Florida @ Carolina - Hop in your rental car and point it south. Just 260 miles/4.5 hours later, you'll find yourself pulling into the parking lot at the RBC Center. The puck drops at 7:00pm, but get there early: Hurricanes fans like to tailgate! Once you've had your fill, shuffle to your seat inside the arena and buckle your seatbelt, as this will be the second game of a Black & Blue series for these division rivals (they play @ Florida Friday night). The 'Canes are trying to bounce back from a nightmarish 2009-10 season, while the Panthers, picked by many in September to finish last in their division this season, are off to a good start and might just be the hardest working team in the NHL right now. Guaranteed fireworks in this game!

Sunday, 7 NOV: Philadelphia @ Washington - This day requires some careful planning, as you've got another 4.5 hour drive ahead of you, tonights' game starts at 5:00pm...AND you've got an important pregame stop to make in DC: Comet Ping Pong. Guy Fieri hit this place on Triple-D, and the man's got good taste. Go order your pizza (or calzone; they rock, too), then get your blood flowing with a game of ping pong while you wait. Get stuffed, then get thyself back to the Verizon Center for the first meeting of the season between the Flyers and Caps. It's another guaranteed good one, folks.

Three games in three nights in two arenas. A double dose of Ovie & Co. Tailgating before a hockey game. Intense rivalries. Great food. What are you waiting for? Hit the road, Jack!

HOTELS - As always, the OGA Boys recommend hotwire.com for your accomodations (and they don't even pay us to say that). Rooms in DC are notoriously expensive (think New York), but good deals can be found just outside of town. Right now, in Arlington, VA (no more than six miles from downtown DC), a room at a four-star hotel on the night of Friday, 5 NOV, will set you back just $65 (plus tax). Sunday night, a 3.5-star room near Dulles International Airport is just $59. Saturday night in Raleigh, a three-star hotel near the RBC Center will go for around $50.

FOOD - As always, check either roadfood.com or this Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives-related site. These people know food, and they won't steer you wrong.

TICKETS - Only single seats remain for the Bruins-Capitals game, but pairs (and more) may be had through TicketExchange or StubHub. Plenty of great seats remain for the Panthers-Hurricanes game, and it's Family Night, which means great deals on blocks of 4 seats AND $1 hot dogs. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, WOO-HOO!

GETTING AROUND - You'll need to rent a car for your run down to Raleigh, so check Hotwire for the best deal. Also, check out the DC Metro for rail service to and from the Verizon Center.

Is there a better way to celebrate the first weekend of November than with some great NHL action in Washington and Carolina? Definitely not! Get your game and airline tickets, book your rooms and rental car, and hit the road - the OGA Boys'll see you at the rink!

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Portrait Of A...

See the guy above whose hands Rick Rypien are all over? That is a portrait of a full-fleged, bonafide (you fill in your favorite adjective here).

That's right - he is a (fill in another one here) to not only a Wild sweater, but any Hockey jersey from any team, anywhere near a sheet of ice.

In the military, someone not dressed in a combatant's uniform and carrying his weapon openly is legally considered a terrorist. While there won't be a tribunal here, had arena security known this yahoo would secretly enter the building with a lawyer tucked in his back pocket, they would have at least charged him properly for two tickets.

The only people jumping for joy at this call for litigation are the bottom feeding, ACLU card-carrying, litigators.

I hope the judge grew up in Michigan as a Gordie Howe fan so he can toss this (one last adjectivial shot here) out of his court on his apparently tender hind quarters - no worry there as his lawyer will break his fall...
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Monday, October 18, 2010

OGA's Black and Blue Schedule - Pair #4

Tomorrow night, On Goal Analysis' Black and Blue (B&B) Schedule resumes as we begin a BOS @ WSH and WSH @ BOS pair over the next three nights.

If you remember from the original post, the B&B Schedule is one of 30 pairs of games this season in which the opponents play back-to-back in each other's building with no other opponents in between to muddy anything. The theory of the schedule was that "...due to the increased nature of competition against the same foe for a consecutive game, the following things will happen in Game 2 of the pairing:
1. The opposite team will win the game
2. The likelihood of the game going into OT / SO is higher
3. There will be more penalty minutes awarded...."

So far this season, the NHL Premiere games in Europe all qualified as B&B pairs. Within, at least one of the three premises of the theory above was born out, and in two of the three pairs, two occurred. We eagerly await the outcome of this B&B special with or last one of the month being NYI @ MTL and MTL @ NYI, something that did not work out so well for the Canadiens in the not too distant past.

Order more ice packs, bandages and sutures as we work our way into the BOS/WSH series on Tuesday and Thursday nights...
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Shakin' Things Up in Columbus and Dallas

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting defenseman Mike Commodore is a healthy scratch for tonight's home opener against Chicago. Unlike last season, Commie's conditioning is not the issue; this time, it's his mobility (or lack thereof). Just two years ago, Commodore was the lynchpin of (former) coach Ken Hitchcock's defense, averaging 22:54 of ice time a night. Through the first two games of the Scott Arniel era, the blueliner saw his ice time cut to just 13:40, and he'll spend this evening in the press box.

The message seems to be clear: Mike Commodore is not a good fit for Arniel's system. Unfortunately, he also owns Columbus' third-highest cap hit this season ($3.75mil), as well as the next two. The combination of "fit and hit" instantly makes Commie trade bait, and the fact that he can still play should give the Blue Jackets good value in return.

IN DALLAS, alleged Swedish phenom Fabian Brunnstrom was waived today. Brunnstrom scored a hat trick in his NHL debut...and it was all downhill from there. A left-handed shot on a team full of lefties, Brunnstrom simply couldn't crack the Stars' top six, and couldn't adapt to the NHL game while sitting in the press box. This season, he's making $675k, and he'll be an RFA next June. For such a small investment, it's hard to imagine an offensively-challenged team not taking a flyer on the Swede.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The NHL Weekend Roadie: Halloweekend

The 2010-2011 NHL season is upon us, boys and girls. It’s time to start thinking seriously about hitting the road – perhaps to follow your favorite team on a road trip, or maybe to see a compelling matchup in person…or, if you’re like the OGA Boys, you probably want to see at least one game in every NHL barn. We’re working on getting our “NHL arena passport” stamped, and you can, too!

Unless you’re independently wealthy and have plenty of free time on your hands, you’re not going to hit all 30 NHL arenas in one season. You can chip away at your goal, however, by checking out The NHL Weekend Roadie. In it, we offer our suggestions for a road trip for every weekend of the season. We’ve already covered weeks one (too late), two (hurry up!) and three (still a little time!). This week, we’re looking at Halloweekend, the fourth weekend of the NHL season.

The itinerary:

NHL Week Four (Thursday, 28 OCT – Sunday, 31 OCT)

Thursday, 28 OCT: Phoenix @ Detroit – This roadie begins on Thursday, as the NHL is dark on Halloween. The second meeting of the season between these two clubs should be a good one (they meet in Phoenix on 16 OCT for the Coyotes’ home opener). After losing to Detroit in the playoffs last spring, Phoenix would like nothing better than to beat the Red Wings in their own building. The rest of the free world would probably enjoy it, too.

Friday, 29 OCT: Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh – Hey, it wouldn’t be a true “roadie” if you didn’t drive anywhere, right? Get up early, hop in your rental and hit the road to Pittsburgh (285 miles, approx. 5 hours drive time). You’ll surely be hungry when you get there, so do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to Primanti Brothers for your meal-in-a-sandwich fix. If you’re not in a sammich mood, try Pierogies Plus for some old-school, Eastern European comfort food. After you’ve stuffed your face, head over to the brand-spankin’-new CONSOL Energy Center to watch the Penguins take on the cross-state rival Flyers. This will be their third meeting of the season (Philly spoiled the Pens’ debut in their new arena, defeating Pittsburgh, 3-2, on 7 OCT).

Saturday, 30 OCT: Nashville @ Detroit – After you awaken from your food coma, drive back to Motown (still 285 miles, still about 5 hours drive time) for another game between division rivals. Detroit’s aging stars strive for one more shot at the Cup, while the young Nashvillians look to topple the (Red) Wing Dynasty. If you’ve regained your appetite by the end of the game, follow the crowd to Lafayette Coney Island for a chili dog (or three).

Sunday, 31 OCT: No NHL games today. Go home!

HOTELS - As always, we recommend checking Hotwire.com for your accomodations. Currently, a three-star hotel room in Downtown Motown can be had for just $59 on Thursday night, while a comparable room in Dearborn (a short drive from the Joe) on Saturday night will set you back $74. (Note: While staying in Windsor, Ontario is a cleaner, safer alternative to Detroit, rooms there are slightly more expensive and you'll need a valid passport to cross the border.) Friday night in Pittsburgh, a three-star room near the airport is currently $49, while three stars downtown will cost you $86.

FOOD - If the choices mentioned above won't work for you, check out either Roadfood.com or this Diners, Drive-ins and Dives-related website. The OGA Boys have eaten at over half a dozen establishments featured on Triple D, and we've never been disappointed.

TICKETS - Great seats are still available for both games in Detroit, either through Ticketmaster or season ticket holders. While the Pens-Flyers game is sold out, plenty of season ticket holders are willing to sell.

GETTING AROUND - Even if you fly into Detroit, you'll need to rent a car to get to Pittsburgh and back, so check Hotwire for deals. As long as you're paying for it, you might as well get your money's worth. If you want to avoid the hassle of arena parking, however, try Detroit's People Mover. At just $.50/ride, it's a very reasonable option, and it'll take you right to The Joe. While not as convenient as Detroit's People Mover, there's a T Station just two blocks from the CONSOL Energy Center.

The last NHL Weekend Roadie in the month of October will get you three games in three days - one in a brand-new arena, and two in an aging classic. You can catch some great hockey, eat fantastic food, and still be home in time to go trick-or-treating Sunday night.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

JabberHockey - The Jabber Strikes Back

Tabula Rasa, baby. Clean slate.

A new season is upon us and that means history becomes geology. With the NHL Premier weekend behind us, the OGA scoring line returns with JabberHockey to deconstruct the opening festivities as well as discuss what's new around the OGA HQ here at On Goal Analysis.

Did you miss us as much as we missed you? Yeah, we feel it to.

Join us Tuesday night for our fantasy roundtable, FanFantasy and chirp in to add to the discussion in the chat room or via a phone call during our Open Ice Hits segment.

I'm going to put the Colonel on the spot and have him reveal the hockey madness of mind that finds the OGA Black and Blue schedule. It's like peeling back the layers of an onion only to find more onion. Obvious, but pungent. And you might cry a little.

On Goal Analysis' weekly hockey talk show, JabberHockey is live every Tuesday at 10.30PM Eastern. Topics vary each week as we highlight the lamps currently burning up the NHL. Always with a focus on our proprietary Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC), we offer unique insight into each teams' chances of making post-season play...and the stories to unfold along the way. OGA Knows. And you can, too. Please join us!

take me back to ongoalanalysis.com
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fantasy Funnies, or Do I Really Look That Stupid?

The puck hasn't yet dropped on the 2010-2011 NHL season, and I've already gotten one good post-draft laugh out of my fantasy league. I received the following trade offer today, which made me LOL. It's too good not to share:

Him: Offering Dion Phaneuf and Marty Turco, for...
Me: ...John Carlson and Roberto Luongo.

While the trade itself struck me as humorous in an absurdist sort of way, my would-be trading partner felt the need to include the following justification for the deal:

"I will take your worst defender for a great defender. Also i will swap for Lungo (sic). You have Lundqvist, he can carry you alone. Turco will be really good with the defending Stanley Cup Champions in front of him. Think about it, they made Niemi look like an all star. Send counter if you dont like, but seems fair to me. Youll still get goalie stats, now you get help up front. 10 for 50 and 86 for 235 ranking, favors you."

Get that? Phaneuf is a "great defender". Turco will be "really good". Also, the trade "seems fair", though in the end, it actually (somehow, magically, mysteriously) "favors you" (meaning me).

I don't know exactly when the milk first exited my nostrils, but it was probably at the "great defender" line. At first, I couldn't decide whether this was a serious offer, or seriously tongue-in-cheek. After a couple of re-reads, I decided it had to be serious. Well, I couldn't simply decline the offer without comment, so I made a counter-offer of Luongo and David Booth for Turco and Ilya Kovalchuk, with the following comment:

"Phaneuf is a 'great defender'? Seriously? C'mon, man - just because I'm from Dallas doesn't mean that I don't know anything about hockey...And because I'm from Dallas, I know all about Turco's inconsistencies. One week he's a world beater, the next week, he's stink on ice. I'm keeping Carlson because he's going to be this year's Tyler Myers. As for my counter, Booth is healthy and poised to lead a rebuilding Florida club. Points you lose in swapping Kovy for Booth, you'll make up by getting Luongo for Turco. Sacrifice some goals, improve your goalie stats."

While I wait for a response, I'm starting to rethink Phaneuf. If he and Elisha Cuthbert are still an item, she could sit with me in the Owners' Box for all our home games. Hmmm...

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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The Non-Traditionals And Their First 10 Games

Here at On Goal Analysis (OGA), we are decidedly in favor of growing The Great Game. With all due respect to our northern neighbors where Hockey was invented, you grow the game where you have the most potential to spread it to new people. In the NHL, that means the markets down ‘south of the border.’

While OGA analyzes all NHL teams’ ability to make – or not make – the post-season as far out as possible, of particular emphasis are the Non-Traditional teams, the Non-Trads. In this case, we mean (from East to West) Carolina (CAR), Florida (FLA), Tampa Bay (TBL), Columbus (CBJ), Atlanta (ATL), Nashville (NSH), Dallas (DAL), Phoenix (PHX), Anaheim (ANA), Los Angeles (LAK) and San Jose (SJS).

For this blog, we tell you how each of these teams played last year and on average since the Lockout coming out of the chute for the first 10 games of the season. Why are these games important when another 72 follow? When you look at it as measured by our Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC), you know that we called Colorado Chasing Stanley – IN the playoffs – and Toronto at Tee Time – OUT of the post-season – among our calls by Game 10 last season. We also discuss the Back-To-Back (B2B) schedule because those games do not allow for adequate rest, recuperation and refocusing of the team for the next contest.

And for good measure, we throw in a couple of notes about some of the other teams based on what we saw in the pre-season.

So before the first puck drops that officially counts, here is your Non-Trad analysis through Game 10 for the 2010/11 regular season.

The Carolina Hurricanes

Last year? Last season, well, CAR would just like to forget last season’s first half. While they could not be called OUT by G10, this was the team’s worst start since the Lockout and a harbinger of things to come over the following 30 games.

The Best? There should have been no doubt in 2005/6 when they won the Stanley Cup that they were at least heading to the post-season by the end of their first 10 games (G10). But they began the 2007/8 season in the same manner as their Cup run year and tripped up badly in mid-season. In short, they have been sporadic, in large measure due to accumulated team injuries over the course of the seasons.

G10 Average? By this season’s G10, they will have played three B2B pairings. Opening in Helsinki against MIN for a B2B that qualifies as one of one of OGA’s Black-And-Blue Schedule pairs, they come home for five days before a five-game road trip to OTT and out to the west coast. By G5, they have had 13 days to play those games for a normally comfortable 2.6:1 days-to-game ratio. But the issue here is all of those games are on the road. In fact, eight of their first 10 fall out that way – the scheduling Gods were not kind to the ‘Canes to start this year.

What Should They Do This G10? Since the Lockout, CAR’s trend is for a strong season start. They win on average by Games 2, 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10. This season, that would be versus MIN, VAN, LAK, PHX, NYR and PIT. That would suit them just fine. But they are just as likely to take the first two against MIN in Finland, OTT or VAN, SJS or ANA, an OT/SOL at PHX, and one-to-1.5 wins in the G8-10 range. If they surpass that, they are a force to be reckoned with for the season as long as good health accompanies them along the way.

The Florida Panthers

Last year? Last year the Panthers had their worst G10 start since the Lockout and were called at Tee Time. That call remained just as sound in April as it was before Halloween.

The Best? Arguably, their best season since the Lockout was 2008/9 where they played In the Curve – about average – all season and only lost a playoff berth on a tie-breaker that is no longer en vogue. While they displayed steady improvement against the PQC from 2006/7 through 2008/9, last year was a huge valley.

G10 Average? Unlike CAR, by G10 they will have played only one B2B pairing which is under the Conference average. That comes in the first two nights of the season on a Western Canada swing, while they enjoy a 2.4:1 days-to-game ratio through G5. The back half of their G10 has a marginally better ratio of 2.6:1, but contains an Eastern Canada road trip.

What Should They Do This G10? Post-Lockout, FLA wins on average by Games 2, 4, 6, and 9. This season, that would be against VAN, TBL, NYI and MTL. Those four wins are not the pace the team wants in order to be a contender. It is possible they could take one on the road in Western Canada, one-to-two at home from TBL, DAL and/or NYI, one more in Eastern Canada, and hopefully G10 versus ATL. If they can equal or best that, they stand a chance of playing past April 10, 2011.

The Tampa Bay Lightning

Last year? In 2009/10 the Bolts had an average, In The Curve G10 start, just as they always have since the Lockout.

The Best? Their best season since the Lockout by a slim margin was 2006/7 where they played just above the 2005/6 season, the last two times they have been to the playoffs. The 2007/8 and 2008/9 seasons displayed a negative PQC trend, which finally improved last season.

G10 Average? At G10 they will have played two B2B pairs at just above the Conference average. Their first five games have one B2B pair with a 2:1 days-to-game ratio, and the G6-G10 period has the other at 2.4:1. With five games at home and five on the road, the Lightning will enjoy a more milk-toast-like opening G10 that should provide ample opportunity to succeed.

What Should They Do This G10? Post-Lockout, TBL’s trend is just a bit under CAR’s. They win on average by Games 2, 5, 6, 8 and 10. This season, that would be against MTL, DAL, NYI, NSH and PHX. Despite this pre-season, TBL should get a ‘W’ against ATL to open the season, one-to-two more on their road trip in G2-G4, another one or two in G5-G8, and will test their mettle against PIT and PHX in G9 & G10. A win out of those last two with five in their first eight will put them on that winning path they need to make the playoffs this season.

The Columbus Blue Jackets

Last year? Columbus had their second best G10 start last season. They even carried that success on through their best G20 start, garnering the OGA call for Chasing Stanley which later turned into a disappointing Shot Off The Post, one of only three incorrect PQC calls in 2009/10.

The Best? Their best G10 start since the Stoppage was their 2007/8 campaign, a non-playoff season. The 2008/9 playoff season was a significant notch under their best but the only season and they made it to the post-season. This was because they played just above the eighth and ninth-ranked teams’ and the Eastern Conference averages. The margin between IN and OUT of the playoffs for the sixth through 10th place teams is always slim.

G10 Average? At G10 they will have played three B2B pairs, a pair above the Conference average. Their first four games are B2B’s including the NHL Premiere against San Jose in Stockholm which qualifies as one of OGA’s Black-And-Blue Schedule pairs. Their last pairing is G6–G7 the third week in October. Through G5, their days-to-game ratio is 2.6:1 (with post-Euro jetlag involved) and 2:1 for G6-G10.

What Should They Do This G10? Since 2004, the teams’ trend for G1-G10 is to win at Game 2, 4, 6, and 9 plus another half-game at G10. That’s against SJS (in Sweden), MIN, CGY, EDM and an OTL at COL. A split in Sweden would be a great morale booster for the team that underscores NHL parity. After Sweden, they host CHI and fly to MIN on Friday and Saturday, so the MIN victory of the two might be more likely. Between ANA, CGY and CHI in the next three, if they are playing well this season then one of those three should fall in the ‘W’ column. And PHI, EDM and COL in their last three being a win-and-a-half may or may not happen. What this team needs is to beat their average in the first 10 as an indicator of something closer to a playoff berth on their horizon than not.

The Atlanta Thrashers

Last year? Last season, ATL made it to Game 10 In The Curve, or just about average as most teams play in that time span. While they could not be called either IN or OUT, this was the team’s second best start since the Lockout behind the 2006/7 season when they made it into the Playoffs.

The Best? Of note, while they have not qualified for the post-season since then, they have shown positive PQC growth in each of the last two seasons following their dreadful 2007/8 start. This is important to the team as their 2005/6 through 2008/9 seasons were decided in the PQC on average by Game 26. Last season, they were not called at Tee Time until Game 50, indicating the same kind of steadily improving track the Chicago Blackhawks have been on over the last three seasons.

G10 Average? In this season’s G10, they have three B2B pairs to play, a number greater than the Eastern Conference average by a bit more than one pair. They open at home versus WSH and the next night play at TBL before a three-game west coast swing which includes their second B2B pairing. So by G5, they knock out five games in nine days, or a 1.8:1 days-to-games ratio. This is worse than the more comfortable 2:1 days-to-game ratio for recovery from bumps and bruises they see later on. Games 6 – 10 hold three Atlantic Division opponents (BUF x 2 and the NYR) and a reverse pairing from opening night of versus TBL at home and at WSH as their final B2B pair of the stretch.

What Should They Do This G10? On average since the Lockout, they win by Games 2, 4, 7 and 9. But they will need to do better than that to keep their heads above water. This season, those wins would be against TBL twice, ANA and the NYR. If they are anything like they look on paper, they might easily split the four, total games with TBL and WSH, achieve the same from their two games with BUF, grab at least one win out in California and maybe catch NYR napping for an OT– or SOL. If they surpass that, they are on a path similar to 2006/7 and a potential post-season bid.

The Nashville Predators

Last year? The Predators’ G10 last year was their worst first 10 games since the Lockout. From 2006/7 through 2009/10, NSH only won two of their first five games. In three of those seasons, the team picked up the pace for G6-G10. In 2009/10, however, that second-half output was worse than the first five. The Preds still made the playoffs last season – which is why you cannot ever truly count them out – but they paid for the S L O W start the rest of the way.

The Best? Their best G10 was in the 2005/6 season, although the following year turned out to be their best finish. That first, post-Lockout season was a wire-to-wire performance of consistency, however.

G10 Average? NSH’s two B2Bs through G10 are right about average and are split between both halves of the furlong. Their 2.2:1 days-to-games ratio through G5 has only one game on the road versus CHI. They also have the same ratio on the back half of these games which, between the two, provides a playing rhythm that the team can get some measure of comfort from. Their second B2B is an at DAL and TBL mini-road trip.

What Should They Do This G10? In the last five years, NSH has on average won Games 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and another half-of-a-game at G10. Painfully for the Preds, that’s at CHI, versus WSH and PIT, at TBL, versus STL and a half-game thrown in at DET. What’r the odds on those wins? Would you want them? If they split those 10 games, I say they have had a good start to the new season.

The Dallas Stars

Last year? Dallas began last year just off pace for the type of year that took them to the playoffs their first three seasons following the Lockout. In fact, it was exactly equivalent to the start of the 2007/8 season which saw Dallas proceed to the Western Conference finals.

The Best? Their best start since the Stoppage, however, was the 2006/7 campaign, the kind of playoff season Stars fans yearn to see again. If they can start somewhere between last season and 2006/7, they will likely be both a surprise and on their way to a successful season.

G10 Average? Dallas starts with a ‘leisurely’ single B2B pair through G10. It comes in their first pair on the road at NJD and NYI. The days-to-games ratio through G5 is 2.2:1 and through G10 is 2.4:1. All in all, a decent time to recuperate from bumps and bruises and reset between games and focus on a new opponent each time.

What Should They Do This G10? Over the last five season, the teams’ trend for G1-G10 is to win at Game 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 10. This season, that’s against NYI, DET (on Mike-Modano-Returns-To-DAL-Night), TBL, NSH, ANA and BUF. Getting one ‘W’ every other game through the first six would mean to capture six wins they need to add three-of-four in their G7-G10 home stand. Between NSH, ANA, LAK and BUF, no team is a pushover, so if DAL begins with five versus six wins, don’t be surprised.

The Phoenix Coyotes

Last year? The Coyotes of last season had their best G10 start since the Lockout. Since it was also the first time they made it into the post-season since the Lockout, it is a good marker for success in follow-on seasons.

The Best? See above.

G10 Average? Like CBJ and LAK, PHX suffers three B2B pairings in the first 10 games of the season. The opening pair is against BOS in Prague and qualifies as part of OGA’s Black-And-Blue Schedule. After five days off returning from Europe, they are versus DET and at ANA B2B as well. Their days-to-games ratio through G5 is a deceptive 2.6:1 which is actually two pairs with multiple days in between. The third B2B kicks off a road trip the week before Halloween at both MTL and OTT. G6-G10 has a 1.8:1 ratio which means it will be more difficult to find any kind of comfort zone for recuperation and preparation over the second half of this furlong.

What Should They Do This G10? Since the Lockout, the ‘Yotes on average have won at Games 2, 5, 7 and 10. [Of note: of all of the Non-Traditionals they are the only team without a win for a given game (G9) since the Stoppage.] For PHX, those wins would be versus BOS (in Prague) LAK, MTL and TBL. While you can expect it is likely to get a split in Europe, they can get ahead of their curve with a ‘W’ on the weekend of 16 & 17 October. Another win versus LAK or CAR is possible in G5 and G6. Another victory from one of the three road games to MTL, OTT and DET is needed, and the traditional G10 winner would all come together to only set them In The Curve. If they can add an additional victory or two in there as well, they will have as good, or better, a start than last, successful season.

The Anaheim Ducks

Last year? In 2009/10, Anaheim had their worst G10 start since the Lockout. While they played .500 Hockey by G5, in G6-G10, they only put out a .200 effort.

The Best? Their best season since the Stoppage was the 2006/7 Stanley Cup winning year. That season, they were called Chasing Stanley at G10. Since then, there has been a constant downward trend by season’s end in terms of the PQC.

G10 Average? At G10 they will have played two B2B pairs at just about the Conference average. The pairs are split evenly with one before G5 and the other after. They start hard out on the road with a 1.6:1 days-to-game ratio. But G6-G10 is better at 2.2:1. Seven of the first 10 are on the road in a three-gamer road trip, with a home stand before a four-gamer out of town. A mixed bag of team bonding and fatigue from travel, the Ducks will need some character for a good showing out of the chute.

What Should They Do This G10? Since 2004, the teams’ trend for G1-G10 is wins at Game 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. That’s versus NSH, VAN, PHX, PHI and DAL. Over the last five years, this team has played .560 Hockey at home and .437 on the road. So in the first three-gamer road trip, one win would be about average. Their home stand should have a game-and-a-half in the W/OTL column, and the last, four-gamer road trip could have one-to-two wins. If they do that, then about 4.5 W’s should ensue. That’s a bit under the PQC, but not something that cannot be overcome. If they are better than that, you may have them heading in the right direction back toward the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Kings

Last year? Last year was the Kings’ first foray into the Post-season since the Lockout. Many predict a return with even better results this season. It may be interesting to note last year’s start was only their second best since the Lockout.

The Best? The interesting note is that last year was not as good as their 2005/6 kickoff. Both seasons, in fact, looked about the same through G40. The Kings just could not sustain the ‘W’s’ in 2006 like last year.

G10 Average? Los Angeles has three B2B’s through G10. They are on the road to bookend the 10 games and split the pair home and away in the middle. Days-to-games by G5 is 2.4:1 and through G10 is a harried 1.6:1. Ouch. But their final five games are all a road trip through the guts of the Continental U.S.

What Should They Do This G10? In the last five years, the Kings have won on average on the evens – Games 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. That’s versus CGY, VAN, PHX, MIN and DAL. If CGY’s pre-season was not an anomaly, then their first W might not come until G3. Do they steal another one or two on the short home stand? And look for them to be stronger on the first three of the G6-G10 road trip as the flights are relatively short and there is a day in between games. The G9 & G10 pair will be tough because it is at both CHI and DAL B2B – they will be up to play the Stanley Cup Champion but may be tired and ‘smelling the barn’ pulling into DAL. Five W’s in the first 10 would not be bad for this schedule. But they need to capitalize early as they have a tough scheduling row to hoe later in the season.

The San Jose Sharks

Last year? San Jose began last season tied with 2007/8 for their second worst start since the Lockout. You shouuld take this with a grain of salt, however, because they stand as one of only three teams in the NHL to have made it to the post-season every year since the Stoppage.

The Best? While all successful in terms of making a post-season appearance, 2008/9’s G10 start saw SJS wire-to-wire as an team OGA called Chasing Stanley.

G10 Average? The Sharks begin the season with a just-about-average two B2B pairings, including the Black-And-Blue Schedule starter against CBJ in Europe. They have a long 2.8:1 ratio to kick off G1-G5, but this is due in part to the six days they are off after game two with CBJ in Stockholm. The G6-G10 ratio of days-to-games is 2.4:1 including the at EDM and CGY B2B for G6 & G7.

What Should They Do This G10? Their success these past five years starts with the new season as they win on average by Games 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10. This year, that’s versus CBJ (in Europe) ATL, COL, EDM, NJD and MIN. All of these and more are doable based on how the team looks on paper. The only unknown is which one – Niemi or Nittymaki – is the best netminder to start between the pipes.

Other, Post-Pre Season Notes

Atlanta Thrashers fans have to be a bit worried that their team went ‘Oh-Fer’ in the Win column in the pre-season. But take note that five losses, all by one goal, not necessarily with the season’s starting lineup, and while learning a new system usually means a little gelling needs to take place. Hopefully, practice before the opener against WSH will be all that is necessary to tune up.

The Calgary Flames’ perfect Pre-Season will not necessarily translate into the games that count, especially with the cornucopia of injured Centermen on the roster.

The Minnesota Wild’s play this pre-season is eerily reminiscent of last regular season’s first 10 games, while the Colorado Avalanche’s 2-5-0 record looks nothing like their beginnings in 2009/10.

The St. Louis Blues’ Pre-Season effort – especially on the Power Play – looks like the Central Division is in for some stiff competition this year.

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ play during their nine-game Pre-Season is the kind of effort they will have to pull off throughout the season to see games past the middle of April.

The Washington Capitals’ 5 – 1 record included only three games with Alexander Ovechkin in the lineup. Sidney Crosby only played in two of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ six. What happens when they both are in for as many of 82 as they can get done health-wise?


Here is a summary of the predictions for the Non-Trads’ at G10 which OGA will grade themselves upon as the teams get to that point:

Carolina – 5.5 to 6 W’s
Florida – 5 to 6 W’s
Tampa Bay – 4 to 6 W’s
Columbus – 4.5 W’s
Atlanta – 4.5 W’s
Nashville – 5 W’s
Dallas – 5 W’s
Phoenix – 5 W’s
Anaheim – 4.5 W’s
Los Angeles – 5 W’s
San Jose – 6 W’s

Also: Calgary will NOT be perfect at G10. Minnesota may very well start hard like last season. Colorado may not start as well as last year. Look for St. Louis and Toronto to improve. And it is like shooting a wounded duck, but count on Washington and Pittsburgh to be strong again this season.

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