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What does Don Sweeney need to do to make it up to you by the 2022 trade deadline? (Part 1)

Chapter One- In The Beginning… (2016)

With over two months until the 2022 NHL trade deadline on March 21st, there’s plenty of time to start speculating about what kind of moves— if any— would make the most sense for the Boston Bruins in their 2021-22 endeavor.

Though it wasn’t easy at the start of his tenure as General Manager, Don Sweeney, has significantly improved his trading prowess as the deadline approaches from season to season in Boston.

That said, not every trade has yielded a gold mine for the Bruins and they’ve yet to win the Stanley Cup since 2011, despite making it all the way to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final on home ice and winning the Presidents’ Trophy the following season (2019-20).

For the record, a lot has changed in both the league itself, as well as the team’s development since the days of acquiring guys like John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak on Feb. 29, 2016, instead of swinging for the fences and landing, uh, guys like Pat Maroon, Kris Russell or Mikkel Boedker at the 2016 trade deadline.

In retrospect, maybe there really wasn’t that much of a market that season.

Sure, Eric Staal was traded to the New York Rangers the day before the 2016 trade deadline on Feb. 28th, but he only managed to amass six points in 20 games with the Rangers down the stretch.

Staal then joined the Minnesota Wild in free agency on July 1, 2016, and had four seasons of a career resurgence before he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres prior to the 2020-21 season— whereby he was later flipped to the Montréal Canadiens— only to end up losing in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.

These days he has been invited to Team Canada’s training camp for the 2022 Winter Games as he’s currently an unrestricted free agent.

More and more recently, the bigger trades happen in the last couple of weeks leading up to the deadline itself, so let’s widen the scope a bit for 2016, just for a second.

The Florida Panthers added Jakub Kindl from the Detroit Red Wings, Jiri Hudler from the Calgary Flames and Teddy Purcell from the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 27th that year.

Kindl spent parts of two seasons in Florida before leaving for Europe after the 2016-17 season, Hudler joined the Dallas Stars for 2016-17, and promptly retired thereafter, while Purcell joined the Los Angeles Kings in 2016-17, before joining the Bruins on a PTO at training camp in 2017, prior to being released then spent the 2017-18 season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and retired thereafter.

One other team tried going for it in the rental market, as Chicago acquired Tomáš Fleischmann and Dale Weise from the Montréal Canadiens for Phillip Danault and a 2018 2nd round pick (38th overall, Alexander Romanov), added Christian Ehrhoff from Los Angeles for Rob Scuderi and dealt Marko Dano, a 2016 1st round pick (later flipped to the Philadelphia Flyers, 22nd overall—selected German Rubtsov) and a conditional 2018 3rd round pick (the condition was not met) to the Winnipeg Jets for Jay Harrison, Andrew Ladd and Matt Fraser.

Fleischmann retired after that season, Weise left for the Philadelphia Flyers in free agency that summer, Ehrhoff went back to Europe, Harrison never suited up for Chicago, Ladd had 12 points in 19 games— then joined the New York Islanders in free agency— and Fraser also never suited up in a Chicago uniform.

So, the rental market didn’t really pan out that year.

The San Jose Sharks added James Reimer and Jeremy Morin from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Ben Smith, Alex Stalock and a 2018 3rd round pick (83rd overall, Riley Stotts) the same day the Panthers made all of their moves.

Reimer went on to serve as a decent backup to Martin Jones in San Jose’s 2016 Stanley Cup Final appearance before ultimately losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Sharks also bolstered their blue line five days prior in a separate trade with Toronto on the 22nd, in which San Jose acquired Roman Polák and Nick Spaling from the Maple Leafs for Raffi Torres, a 2017 2nd round pick (later flipped to the Anaheim Ducks, 50th overall— Maxime Comtois) and a 2018 2nd round pick (52nd overall, Sean Durzi), but again, neither of those deals were earth-shattering.

Polák was in search of a Cup ring late in his career (despite playing four more seasons afterward) and had three assists in 24 games with San Jose in the regular season before failing to put up a point in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games as a Shark prior to rejoining Toronto via free agency that summer.

Spaling at least had 2-4—6 totals in 24 games down the stretch with the Sharks and even recorded an assist in 24 playoff games before— like the rest of the team— losing to the Penguins in the Final and leaving the NHL for the Swiss League that summer.

In terms of immediate impact, the Sharks got their money’s worth (kind of), but for a trio of rental players.

San Jose’s deals might have been the biggest trades not involving the Bruins in the buildup to one of Sweeney’s most often criticized trade deadlines because first impressions mean a lot to some in the Boston fanbase.

What was made available, however, didn’t amount to much.

Although, there is enough credibility to the thought that the Bruins should’ve sold high on Loui Eriksson at the time when they could’ve shipped him out of the Hub at a premium before missing the playoffs for a second-straight year.

Instead, Eriksson went on to amass 63 points (30 goals, 33 assists) in all 82 games with Boston in his first healthy season in the three years he had been there after the Tyler Seguin trade (which happened under previous General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, while Sweeney worked in a player development role)— and signed on the dotted line with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1, 2016, leaving Boston with nothing in his wake.

This, after the Bruins (42-31-9, 93 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division) missed the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker with the Red Wings (41-30-11, 93 points, 3rd in the Atlantic) who had 39 regulation plus overtime wins (ROW) to Boston’s 38.

Two teams from the Metropolitan Division— the Islanders and the Flyers— clinched the Eastern Conference wild card playoff berths with 100 and 96 points, respectively, in the standings.

As for the biggest deal leading up to the 2016 trade deadline, you’d probably have to move the goalposts a little bit on the “within two weeks before the deadline itself” rule to find the best deal.

But the Ottawa Senators were the beneficiary of a revival on Feb. 9, 2016, when they traded Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen, Tobias Lindberg and a 2017 2nd round pick (59th overall, Eemeli Räsänen) to Toronto for Dion Phaneuf (captain of the Maple Leafs at the time), Matt Frattin, Ryan Rupert, Casey Bailey and Cody Donaghey.

Phaneuf had a late career renaissance with the Sens and proved to be pivotal in their run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final the following year— only to lose on the road in a Game 7 against the Penguins, 3-2, in double overtime.

Pittsburgh, by the way, went on to repeat as Stanley Cup champions that June.

Frattin never suited up for the Senators and left for the KHL after spending a year with the Stockton Heat (AHL) in 2016-17.

Rupert was mired in the minors until going to Europe in 2018-19, while Bailey played in seven games for Ottawa in 2016-17, then spent time split between the American Hockey League and Europe since then (currently in the DEL).

Donaghey, on the other hand, played in one AHL game in 2017-18, before spending the majority of his time in the ECHL prior to leaving for Europe last season (currently in the ELH).

But Phaneuf brought his $7.000 million cap hit to the Sens and actually saved the team money since they shipped out Greening ($2.650 million), Michalek ($4.000 million) and Cowen ($3.100 million) as part of the package— adding about $2.750 million towards the cap for Toronto in the deal.

Of course, the Leafs went on to win the 2016 Draft Lottery and selected Auston Matthews 1st overall that June, so it wasn’t all that bad.

In 51 games with the Maple Leafs prior to the trade in the 2015-16 season, Phaneuf had 3-21—24 totals. In 20 games with Ottawa, he had 1-7—8 totals.

The following year, he had 9-21—30 totals in 81 games and put up five points (one goal, four assists) from the blue line in 19 playoff games in 2017.

He then had 3-13—16 totals in 53 games with Ottawa in 2017-18, before he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in another deal that— you guessed it, saved the Senators some money (only about $1.100 million this time around).

Phaneuf had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 26 games with Los Angeles and recorded an assist in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Kings were swept by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2018 First Round.

Then in 2018-19, he amassed 1-5—6 totals in 67 games and had the last two years of his contract bought out by Los Angeles on June 15, 2019.

He didn’t officially retire until Nov. 16, 2021, and spent parts of two seasons following Brendan Shanahan around in his role as president and alternate governor of the Leafs.

Though he wasn’t scoring 40, 50 or even 60 points as a defender like he did in his prime with the Calgary Flames, Phaneuf was still the rugged and durable veteran blue liner that he was in his short tenure from before the 2016 deadline until about his final season and injury was really the only thing that did him in at the end due to his physical style.

He had value and the Leafs just gave him up to their intra-provincial rivals about three years before Toronto repeated themselves in giving Ottawa a better defender (Nikita Zaitsev) for a younger defender (Cody Ceci) that just didn’t really pan out as part of a larger package in a trade on July 1, 2019.

Anyway, that last part was really just for those of you that made it this far and care about things outside of just the Bruins organization.

We’ll move on to analyzing Sweeney’s deadline deals since 2016, in the next chapter.

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Bruins Forecast NHL Nick's Net Stats Forecasts

Boston Bruins 2020-21 Forecast Through 40 Games

“The stretch” is here. No, not the 7th inning stretch. It’s the Push for the Playoffs™️ as the NHL on NBC broadcasts will tell you.

Sure, the Boston Bruins have played 43 games and this forecast is already a little behind, but this time of year is loaded with things to do, stats to track and storylines to follow.

At least it’s not as far behind as other forecasts I still owe.

Everything that you’re about to see is done by hand. Kind of.

Sure, it all started in Microsoft Excel then migrated over to a GoogleDoc one day, but the premise is the same– I have no idea what I am doing.

My degree is in communication and my minor was in sport management. As part of my “Gen Ed” requirement to graduate, I got a “C” in Intro to Stats. Later, one of my sport management professors taught me how to use the “forecast” function in Excel (shouts Dr. Lyons).

It’s been four years since being told to step out of line and wait off to the side while my school searched high and low to find my diploma only to realize that it had been on the table in front of them the whole time (yes, this is a true story– my roommate even called me wondering where the hell I was for pictures with everyone).

The rest is history. Let’s get to talking about Boston’s forecast through 40 games, shall we?

First year players are hard to predict (if not impossible altogether) until they’ve had some experience in the National Hockey League under their belts. At least a game will make do, though their numbers will look a tad inflated until more time goes by and reality sets in.

That’s just a blanket statement that usually comes with an example– like Zach Senyshyn in recent years– though after 40 team games in a 56-game regular season schedule, there’s not enough data (this season, forecasted or otherwise) to really point out where making bets on a young player’s forecasted stats might be inadvisable.

Forecast is not pace.

While looking things over in both this current forecast and previous editions, please remember that there’s many variables that can (and will) disrupt a player’s season like injuries, lineup changes (being a healthy scratch, taxi squad member or otherwise), other American Hockey League related or waiver related transactions, trades, sickness, COVID protocol and intangible things like general superstitions, hot and cold streaks, etc.

Sadly, nobody’s been able to find a way to quantify all of that in a forecast function 2.0. In a perfect world, every player plays a full season.

Every player can reach, exceed or miss expectations in an exciting game of collective actions and puck luck. Unpredictability is part of many reasons why we watch sports.


Boston Bruins Forecast Through 40 Games Played (16 Games Remaining)

Brad Marchand remains on track to receive Hart Memorial Trophy attention as he’s in the midst of having a strong pull in Boston’s playoff direction.

The Bruins winger is forecasted to have 23-38–61 totals when all is said and done in 2020-21, which would’ve put him on pace for about 90 points in a regular length 82-game season had the ongoing pandemic never happened.

For the first time this season, David Pastrnak (17-19–36 forecasted totals) is not forecasted to lead his team in goals.

Instead, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron (23-28–51 forecasted totals) are forecasted to split the team lead in goals with 23 each, while Pastrnak trails with the second-most (17).

Nick Ritchie and Craig Smith are on track for 13 and 12 goals, respectively, as some of the better components of Boston’s depth this season, while third line center, Charlie Coyle’s down year continues with seven forecasted goals this season, which… …actually isn’t that bad?

Sure, 2021 hasn’t been the best year for Coyle, but it seems like a “bad year” for Coyle works much in the same that a “bad year” does for David Krejci.

It’s not that Coyle and Krejci are superhuman, but rather just human.

Plus, Krejci has already surpassed the four goals that he was forecasted to score in this 40 team games played model. Relax, folks. Every year can’t be golden.

On defense, Charlie McAvoy leads the team in points from the blue line with 7-30–37 forecasted totals, while newcomer Mike Reilly continues to impress with 22 forecasted assists (that’ll probably be too few).

In the meantime, upon returning to full health, Matt Grzelcyk can carve out 19 points in a battered season for Boston’s defenders.

While Reilly is destined to continue being a playmaker from the back end, newly acquired forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar are each expected to contribute offensively with Hall forecasted for 30 points by season’s end alongside Krejci and Smith, while Lazar should be good for 12 points on the season from the fourth line.

Oh and as for the since departed Anders Bjork? Well, at the time of the trade, he was forecasted to produce eight points this season.

That said, with consistent ice time in a top-six role in Buffalo, the new Sabres forward could yield respectable double-digit totals in such a short timespan. Nothing crazy, but 10 points or more isn’t out of reach if he was already on track to get about eight.

As long as the Bruins’ new-found offense can continue to produce and spur bottom-six scoring, then there’s a good chance with enough time to heal that the B’s can reset themselves on course for a playoff run with something to prove.

Sure the 2021 Expansion Draft for the Seattle Kraken got a bit more complicated with pending-unrestricted free agents in Hall and Reilly added to the fold, but if this is truly it for Boston’s core with Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Tuukka Rask (Krejci and Rask also being pending-UFA’s) then the time is now to go all-in and go for it.

Rask (2.20-2.22 forecasted goals-against average, .919-.923 forecasted save percentage) is expected to be rejuvenated by a decreased workload due to injury and the emergence of a hot hand in Jeremy Swayman– Boston’s fourth-string goaltender that, along with Dan Vladar, has literally saved the season.

Upon Jaroslav Halak’s (2.43-2.46 forecasted goals-against average, .913-.917 forecasted save percentage) return from COVID protocol, there’s a chance the usual duo of netminders for the Bruins could show signs of rust as they ease back into the routine for the long run.

That’s where Swayman and his best case scenario 2.22 forecasted goals-against average and .926 forecasted save percentage can provide relief as the B’s workout a three goaltender rotation similar to the Carolina Hurricanes’ situation with Petr Mrazek, James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic.

Whether it was inevitable that the NHL as a whole adopts a three-goaltender system because goaltending tandems were already catching on or simply a product of the contemporary times in a pandemic whereby carrying a third goaltender becomes a necessity by default, it’s not a bad idea for Boston to assess what they’ve got for the future.

Next season could very well be Rask and Swayman in net if the Bruins re-sign No. 40 this summer as the Finnish goaltender has indicated he’d like to be part of Boston’s transition in the crease a la the days of the transfer in power from Tim Thomas to Rask himself.

For a look at how things might have gone for the Bruins entering the 2020-21 season, feel free to read the original forecast through zero games played and how things looked through 20 games played.

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Boston Bruins 2020-21 Forecast Through 20 Games

O.K., so I’m still behind on some things around here.

Whether you’re new to DTFR or a long-time fan(?), you’re able to see the finished products around here and think “wow, that’s neat” and go about your day doing whatever the next thing on your mind happens to be.

You don’t have to wake up everyday to all the shot charts, player and team forecasts, expected points total models, Photoshop files, running list of game notes, podcast notes (yes, that’ll be back soon) and more that’s related to the day-to-day DTFR operations around here or other seemingly useless bits of information that may or may not see the light of day.

But that’s all the fun parts anyway. Hockey is my passion.

The long, grueling, season is counteracted by moments like Nathan MacKinnon underhand tossing Conor Garland’s helmet back to him and being fined $5,000 in the process.

Guess I’m going to have to start tracking how often that happens now.

In addition to everything mentioned above, you might not know that I’m constantly applying to jobs, so sometimes little things like this forecast write up gets put on the back burner until there’s a minute or two between games, guest appearances on other podcasts and more job applications.

Not trying to use anything as an excuse here, but please forgive me for being *checks notes* 15 games behind on the latest forecast, which will be irrelevant in another five games anyway, because it’ll be time to update Boston’s forecast through 40 games this season.

I do this all by hand in Microsoft Excel, so you know I’m not a real mathematician or statistician.

If you ask me to code something, I’ll ask you “what ‘R‘ you talking about? Get it? Did you see the pun I made there? Words, am I right?”

15 games ago, I updated each individual Bruins player’s forecast after writing my recap about Zdeno Chara’s first game back in Boston as a member of the Washington Capitals then eventually got around to updating the corresponding chart that you’ll see below.

Then I had to do that for whatever other teams I’ve been able to keep track of on time and I promise I’ll be writing about those forecasts… …eventually.

Oh and apply to more jobs.

Anyway, you probably don’t care about the life behind the screen, so let’s get to Boston’s forecast through 20 games, shall we?

As always, remember that my degree is in communication and my minor was in sport management. I got a “C” in my Intro to Stats class back in my first semester of college, which was eight years ago this fall.

Between then and now, I’ve worked in live sports production (TV and radio) and been unemployed, which explains why I’m constantly applying to jobs.

First year players are impossible to predict until they’ve built up some time in the National Hockey League. Generally at least a game will suffice, but their numbers might look a little “inflated” (for the lack of a better term) until the season rolls on and their expectations fall back to Earth.

In other words, Zach Senyshyn is now forecasted for 18 assists in this latest forecast, but that shouldn’t surprise you since he only had two assists in six career NHL games over the last two seasons.

That will change in the 40-game update, since he’s played in at least seven more games between the time this report was originally intended to be done and the next one.

Remember that forecast is different from pace.

Finally, remember that there’s a lot of variables, like injuries, being a healthy scratch or on the taxi squad, other American Hockey League related or waiver related transactions, trades, sickness, COVID protocol, general superstitions, hot and cold streaks, etc. that can (whether scientifically proven or not) disrupt a player’s season.

None of these can be accounted for in Microsoft Excel’s forecast function.

In a perfect world, everyone plays a full season. Every player has a chance to live up to expectations, hit and/or exceed their mark or miss it by a little/a lot.

Hockey is a game made up of collective actions and sheer puck luck. It’s unpredictable, which technically defeats the purpose of this (so if you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back).


Boston Bruins Forecast Through 20 Games (36 Games Remaining)

David Pastrnak came back from offseason surgery and looked like he hadn’t missed a step, since his scoring prowess left an immediate impact on the team and kept him forecasted as the team’s leader in goals by season’s end with 26, though Boston’s forecasted points leader has now shifted from Pastrnak to Brad Marchand.

Marchand’s forecasted 23-31–54 totals lead Pastrnak’s 26-26–52 totals, while B’s captain, Patrice Bergeron is on track to round out the top-3 in scoring with 20-30–50 forecasted totals– good enough for the second-most assists on the roster, one behind Marchand’s 31 and three ahead of David Krejci’s forecasted 27 assists.

It’ll be fun to see just how much things have changed in the next forecast, since Krejci’s gone off in the assist department lately and Marchand missed a couple of games due to COVID protocol, but let’s save that speculation (or hindsight) for the 40-game report, O.K.?

On defense, Charlie McAvoy continues to lead the way with 7-29–36 forecasted totals, while Matt Grzelcyk (13 points) and Jakub Zboril (12 points) are the only other defenders expected to reach double-digit points totals.

That’s quite an area of concern for the Bruins.

Not so much in the “oh no, who might get taken by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 Expansion Draft” sense, but rather, the general “oh no, this team is not as good as they were last year, but we expected that, so they still need to acquire a defender and more at the trade deadline this year” sense (especially if one of the younger blue liners like Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon or Urho Vaakanainen aren’t developing as fast or as well as Boston desires).

Nevertheless, what might be more pressing than ever before is the question of what comes next after Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak?

Rask (2.27-2.37 forecasted goals-against average, .914-.921 forecasted save percentage) is expected to have decent numbers this season if he can make a return to full health, while Halak (2.45-2.48 forecasted GAA, .910-.916 forecasted SV%) looks solid for a backup.

Yet, at the time of this writing, both goaltenders are out of Boston’s lineup– Rask due to injury and Halak due to COVID protocol.

Stay tuned for first impressions on Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman in the next forecast and what that might mean for the offseason’s plans with both Rask and Halak as pending-unrestricted free agents.

For a look at how things might have gone for the Bruins entering the 2020-21 season, feel free to read the original forecast through zero games played.

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Bruins Forecast NHL Nick's Net Stats Forecasts

Boston Bruins 2020-21 Forecast

Hello, friend.

Last season, I didn’t get around to posting my forecasts for the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights’ rosters.

I kept track of everything before the 2019-20 season began and after each quarter mark (roughly 20 games) as I normally do, but I just didn’t quite have the time and/or motivation to do a write up here on the blog for each one– let alone any of them.

This season, I’m already behind in presenting my findings entering 2020-21, but I’ve prepared all four teams’ player forecasts as usual.

To kick things off, we’ll take a look at how the 2020-21 season could’ve panned out if all Bruins players were healthy entering the 56-game season, but by the end of the month, Boston will already be 20 games into the season (provided nothing else is postponed) so it’ll be time for an updated forecast.

For the rest of the teams– including the addition of the Colorado Avalanche for a total of five teams being tracked this season– we’ll just take a gander at how things looked coming into 2020-21 and where each player is tracking after their respective 20-game mark.

In other words, Boston gets two posts (this one and another one in March) while Carolina, Colorado, Columbus and Vegas will each get a joint “forecast before the season began and forecast through 20 team games played” post, probably.

If you’re a fan of those teams and my… …expertise(?), I’m sorry. Please be patient. You’ve already been waiting since the last forecast I published in the 2018-19 season.

If you’re a fan of the B’s, well good news, let’s get into the forecast details.

As always, keep in mind that my degree is in communication and my minor was in sport management. I got a “C” in my Intro to Stats class in my first semester of college way back in *checks notes* the fall of 2013.

It was a night class and it was terrible, but I digress.

First year players are impossible to predict until they’ve had at least one National Hockey League game under their belt.

Young players that have had minimal NHL experience may also reflect “inflated” results.

No, Zach Senyshyn probably isn’t going to have 28 assists this season, but since he has two assists in six games over the last two seasons (his entire NHL career), the forecasting function in Microsoft Excel does math stuff based on his entire career as it would relate to if he played in all 56 games for Boston this season.

This will fix itself as the season progresses.

The same goes for Jack Studnicka’s forecasted 28 assists. Entering 2020-21, Studnicka has only played in two NHL games since just last season.

He’s already had a goal in six games this season and in the next forecast (after 20 team games played), he’ll likely be forecasted to have 1-8–9 totals by season’s end (assuming he plays in the remaining 36 games).

Forecast is different from pace.

Injuries, being a healthy scratch or on the taxi squad, other American Hockey League related or waiver related transactions, sickness, COVID protocol and general superstitions (getting enough sleep the night before a game, taping your stick a certain way every time, putting on the right skate before the left skate or whatever) may disrupt a player’s season.

These variables– tangible or not– are part of the game and cannot be accounted for in your everyday “straight up” forecast.

In an utopian timeline, this forecast pretends nothing bad could ever happen and every player has a chance to live up to their expectations. Of course, some will pan out, some will exceed expectations and some will miss the mark.

It’s merely a suggested outcome for a sport that’s highly unpredictable because of its collectivistic nature and sheer puck luck.


Boston Bruins Forecast Through 0 Games (56 Games Remaining)

Had the 2019-20 season gone according to schedule, David Pastrnak might not have missed any time to start the 2020-21 season.

Nevertheless, we’ll pretend that an alternate timeline stills exists for a moment and mention that if he had played in all 56 games this season, he was forecasted to lead the Bruins with 26-29–55 totals.

Brad Marchand was forecasted as the next highest scorer with 21 goals and 47 points, while David Krejci looked to lead the B’s in assists (29).

Of course, none of this is how it really happened, but Pastrnak is still off to a hot start, Marchand is feeling “100-percent” and Krejci is only now just about to miss game action, having not traveled with the team to Lake Tahoe for their outdoor matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night.

Senyshyn and Studnicka’s assist totals have been highlighted in the chart above in reference to what’s already been stated in the introduction to this post.

Newcomer, Craig Smith, was forecasted to hit the twine 13 times and accrue 14 assists for 27 points this season, while Ondrej Kase was expected to notch 27 points in a 56-game season prior to injury.

On defense, the loss of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug is expected to be felt on the scoresheet, though we’re likely to see Charlie McAvoy’s stock rise in the next forecast after 20 team games played.

Speaking of McAvoy, he was expected to lead the team in points from the blue line entering the 2020-21 season with 6-22–28 totals.

In goal, Boston’s poised for another strong run from their goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak.

Though Rask is likely to get more starts than Halak, the two are prime for producing similar numbers this season in differing workloads.

Rask is set for another season with a goals against average in the low two’s, between 2.28 and 2.34, while Halak is right on track for being one of– if not– the best “backups” in the league with a forecasted GAA between 2.48 and 2.72.

Stay tuned for the next forecast in about four games– however soon that will be, provided nothing else is postponed and the Bruins can avoid piling up names on the league’s COVID Protocol list.

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NHL Nick's Net

Nothing to see here, folks: The NHL isn’t opting out

Friday afternoon the National Hockey League’s PR department released a statement on behalf of League Commissioner Gary Bettman indicating the NHL is not utilizing an early termination clause in their current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA).

In short, though the league has concerns of their own, it is ultimately beneficial “to operate under the terms of the current CBA– while working with the [NHLPA] to address our respective concerns…” the statement read in part, adding that the “[benefits] far outweigh the disruptive consequences of terminating [the CBA] following the upcoming season.”

Bettman’s statement read in full,

“Based on the current state of the game and the business of the game, the NHL believes it is essential to continue building upon the momentum we have created with our Players and, therefore, will not exercise its option to reopen the CBA.

“Rather, we are prepared to have the current CBA remain in effect for its full term– three more seasons through the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. It is our hope that a continued, sustained period of labor peace will enable us to further grow the game and benefit all constituent groups: NHL Players, Clubs, our business partners and, most important, our fans.

“In any CBA, the parties can always identify issues they are unhappy with and would like to see changed. This is certainly true from the League’s standpoint. However, our analysis makes clear that the benefits of continuing to operate under the terms of the current CBA– while working with the Players’ Association to address our respective concerns– far outweigh the disruptive consequences of terminating it following the upcoming season.”

The two sides have been meeting regularly throughout the offseason to discuss a possible extension of the current CBA and talks have been “productive and cordial” as noted by both sides in the NHL’s press release.

While the NHL would certainly like to see a larger cut of the revenue from all streams (what owner wouldn’t?), the league would also like to push forward with further cementing its image as a global brand.

A couple hours before Bettman’s statement was released, the NHLPA made it known in a media release of their own that the NHL had informed them the league would not be using its opt-out to terminate the current CBA next year.

The union has until Sept. 15th to reopen the current CBA, giving both sides a year to negotiate an agreement (either a new CBA or an extension on the current CBA) before it expires.

For those that are dying to know, the earliest possible date of a work stoppage would be the 2020-21 season.

But there’s reason to believe there won’t be any such interruption in the business and game fans enjoy.

Yes, the NHLPA would like to rework the current frameworks surrounding escrow, Olympic participation (specifically in the upcoming 2022 Winter Games) and the overall split of hockey-related revenue.

Those things have been long-known since (in order) escrow was introduced in the last decade, the players weren’t able to participate in the 2018 Winter Games and, finally, forever.

Both sides are wanting more international competition and are communicating about the possibility to hold another World Cup of Hockey as early as February 2021, following the cancellation of the 2020 World Cup of Hockey announced back in January.

Some players are worried the salary cap is inflating too fast and isn’t sustainable given current revenues.

However, there’s two reasonable methods of dealing with this and one additional method both sides would’ve done in the past (*ahem* work stoppage).

First, under the current escrow stipulations, a small percentage of players salaries is withheld by the league in a trust setup to account for “unexpected” expenses, such that, if the league revenue isn’t as much as owners had hoped, then the money in the trust goes back to boost the owners wallets.

It’s not terrible– in concept– however, the current escrow situation for the league and players is that the percentage fluctuates from year-to-year, let alone financial quarter-to-quarter.

As such, players can miss out on a variable amount of salary, because the league can (and will) sometimes fudge the numbers in revenue growth to show that the league needs the money more and can therefore boost the salary cap the following season.

It’s a way of dangling bait in the water for the larger fish (pending-UFAs) to potentially make more on their next contract in total salary, cap hit, etc., but they might not actually make that much since the escrow exists.

In other words, $10.000 million cap hits can be handed out like candy under the current rules because owners know they won’t actually end up shelling out $10.000 million a year to their best player(s).

It’s the union’s interest to benefit not just the top-end players, but all players– as they’re all union members (see, that’s how unions work).

The salary cap was $79.500 million in 2018-19– up $4.500 million from 2017-18– but only raised to $81.500 million for the 2018-19 season.

While general managers continue to handout bad contracts on July 1st as they always do, the intent is worth more than the bad asset management that may or may not have played out for your favorite team this summer.

A lower raise in the salary cap means that there might be a lower escrow withheld from player’s salaries, which means everyone makes more money.

Owners don’t have to spend to the (would be more expensive) ceiling and the lower limit doesn’t go up as much as a league-wide mandatory minimum payment (*ahem* Eugene), while players take home more of what they were signed for.

If both sides continue to keep escrow low and barely raise the salary cap from year-to-year under the current CBA, then both sides just might be happier in the long-run.

Then there’s the second option, which is really just an extension of the first option, but with the mutual understanding of what’s down the road.

The current United States national broadcasting rights deal with NBC Universal expires at the end of the 2021-22 season– coinciding with the current CBA’s expiration date (as long as the NHLPA doesn’t enact their early termination clause).

Not that all parties involved have to wait until the last minute on everything, but if escrow is lowered and the salary cap isn’t increased as much from season-to-season for the next three seasons, then by the next US broadcasting rights contract, everyone will make out a winner.

The current deal brought in $2 billion ($200 million per season) between NBC and NBCSN in the United States and CBC/Sportsnet in Canada.

Most major professional North American sports leagues are now seeing at least double that total amount for the same timeframe– meaning it’s quite possible the NHL will add close to a billion, if not at least a billion, dollars per season to the league’s total revenue.

Even if the NHLPA gave up a percentage of their current revenue split with the league, just about any percentage out of a billion US dollars per season is worth more than the current percentage out of $200 million per season.

If both sides can keep escrow low, keep the cap from inflating too much and wait three seasons, then it’s a surefire cash cow as the demand for sports on major networks increases in the States.

But wait, what about streaming?

It’s true– streaming live sports is a growing industry and that can all be attached or sold separately by the league in the next media package.

Speaking of which, it might be time to return to two major US networks in favor of even bigger gains…

Regardless, both the NHL and the NHLPA are in much better shape than the last couple of CBA negotiations.

This time around– provided everyone is patient and actually understands the reasoning behind the careful decision making– it’s really a no brainer.

There’s nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Of note, the NHLPA’s executive board is scheduled to meet in Chicago on Wednesday. There’s been a work stoppage prior to the ratifying of the past three CBAs, yielding a 48-game season in 1994-95, the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season and 48-game season in 2012-13.

But the league isn’t falling on economically hard times in nearly half of its franchises (like in the 1990s), the salary cap was created (and a necessity) out of the 2004-05 lockout and the initial “growing pains” of the salary cap era seem to have sorted themselves out since 2012.

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Hurricanes Forecast NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game Stats Forecasts

Carolina Hurricanes 2018-19 Season Projections

It’s October whateverth, I know, and the regular season is already underway, but transferring data into a new system and (in some cases) building new rosters entirely can take its time in the midst of catching every game on TV, living life, etc.

So without further ado let’s pretend the 5-3-1 (11 points)– 1st place in the Metropolitan Division– Carolina Hurricanes didn’t actually start the season yet and let’s turn back the clocks to before puck drop on the regular season.

Back then, Andrei Svechnikov had yet to play an NHL game as an 18-year-old rookie. The 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft’s forecasted stats couldn’t be calculated until he stepped foot on the ice. Though his 2-2–4 totals in his first nine games have him forecasted for 18 goals and 18 assists (36 points) over his first 82 games, we’ll pretend we don’t actually know what we know now.

Anyway, the fact of the matter remains the same–  prior to the start of any regular season, these forecasted stats are merely educated expectations. A player who performs better than their expected outcome exceeded expectations (makes sense). A player who doesn’t live up to the numbers was either injured, a healthy scratch or on a chronic cold streak (or whatever).

Last season’s Carolina Hurricanes finished 6th in the Metropolitan Division with a 36-35-11 record and 83 points on the season. Bill Peters was fired as head coach and former Hurricanes superstar Rod Brind’Amour was hired behind the bench. Don Waddell took over as General Manager in the offseason, going from interim to full-time as owner Tom Dundon embraced a new direction to go along with his new reign.

The annual doldrums in Raleigh, North Carolina might be over sooner rather than later with a stockpile of youth in Sebastian Aho, Warren Foegele, Svechnikov and others, in addition to the quietly shutdown defensive pairings that include Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and newcomers Dougie Hamilton, as well as Calvin de Haan.

Carolina holds the longest playoff drought in the league currently, dating back to their 2009 Eastern Conference Finals appearance against the Pittsburgh Penguins– just three years removed from their 2006 Stanley Cup championship. The Hurricanes haven’t been part of any postseason activity in the 2010s.

Not that this season can necessarily change that, but the end of the drought is soon and the oasis of playoff hockey draws near.

It’s at this point in every forecast where I’d like to remind everyone my degree is in communication– not math– therefore all mistakes are strictly Microsoft Excels fault and for sure not an error of my own. Well, that, and there’s sometimes a little gut-feeling mixed in for players who’ve only played in less than ten games and therefore are projected to score, like, 100 goals or something.

My area of expertise resides in the written, spoken and nonverbal language of communicating– not numbers.

Forecasted stats are to be looked at as an utopian perspective– as though everything were to fall into line and nothing bad could ever happen. Some players will pan out and others will fall flat. These are only suggested (expected) outcomes for a sport that’s highly unpredictable due to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.

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Carolina Hurricanes Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)

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The good news for Carolina heading into 2018-19 is the realistic expectations are low. There’s only three players that are expected to crack the 50-point plateau, but that doesn’t mean any meteoric rise can’t creep up on any member of the Hurricanes and propel this roster into the postseason for the first time in– by the time April rolls around– a decade.

Brind’Amour is behind the bench now and having no prior NHL experience as a head coach, there’s nothing to point to and say “they’re destined to fail”. The Canes might come out of this with one of the best rookie coaches this season if they make the playofs and given all the expectations of the other rookie coaches around the league.

Washington’s Todd Reirden is behind the defending-Cup champions (so there’s high expectations with room only to fail), David Quinn is coaching a rebuilding New York Rangers bunch (so anything goes), Jim Montgomery is in charge of the borderline Dallas Stars (things could go either way) and Brind’Amour, well, he can only go up what with the roster he was given.

As always, we’ll get into goalies and rookies after the first quarter of the season passes, however, he’s a quick look at the expected top-points scorers for the Hurricanes this season.

Valentin Zykov has shown potential before and if Brind’Amour can finally be the one to light a fire under his playing style, perhaps Zykov just might amass 24-35–59 totals and be like William Karlsson was for the Vegas Golden Knights last season– except this time around, Zykov isn’t a new face in town for a new team.

Aho (27-31–58 expected totals) should easily reach, if not exceed, expectations for Carolina as he enters the world of first line minutes in the post-Jeff Skinner on the Hurricanes era.

We’ll neglect the holes in the Skinner trade where Waddell should’ve gotten more, but at least Aho is a positive in the “next man up” category of “players who should live up to being rushed into the spotlight, since there’s nobody else to turn to and have already been part of the organization prior to a rather one-sided trade”.

“Mr. Game 7” himself (Justin Williams) is bound for one last “breakout” year with 22-33–55 expected totals on a rejuvenated Hurricanes roster.

Meanwhile, Micheal Ferland, Warren Foegele and Jordan Staal make themselves as prime candidates for dark horse work horses in Carolina.

On defense, Dougie Hamilton (44 expected points) supersedes Justin Faulk (39 expected points) as Carolina’s top blue liner after being acquired in the Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm trade for Hamilton, Ferland and Adam Fox. In addition, Slavin and Pesce continue to fill-out one of the best kept secrets in NHL defense as pieces of the most underrated top-six blue liners with de Haan now part of the fold.

In goal, well, Brind’Amour has a lot of decisions to make on an almost nightly basis. Neither Scott Darling nor Petr Mrazek look to have goals against averages or save percentages in the starting goaltender range.

In fact, both are in the sub-par backup goaltender range– closer to 3.00 than 2.00– so as long as the Hurricane’s defense limits shots against and lessens the workload, then perhaps the season’s collapse won’t be because of bad goaltending.

Time will tell.

Until then, feel free to look around at how the Golden Knights and Boston Bruins should do this season.

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Numbers Game: Last Week To Make It Count

Ladies and gentlemen, the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin this month. It’s officially April. Start saving your money for either 1) playoff tickets or 2) tee times– there is no in-between.

Each month has brought a new twist to the latest forecasted standings here on Down the Frozen River and in the spirit of finishing off the season, here’s one final look at how things should pan out with one week remaining in the 2017-18 regular season.

It’s okay to tell Microsoft Excel you disagree, so by all means, take these numbers for what you want. A holistic viewpoint goes a lot further in the world of analytics and a salary cap. At this point, it’s almost worth more to focus on where your team is expected to fall in the standings than how many points they should amass on the season.

And if you’re embracing the tank, you might as well forget about it. The NHL draft lottery usually shakes things up pretty well anyway.

Anyway, here’s how the standings should shake out for all 31 NHL franchises based on their performances through March 31, 2018. Keep in mind my degree is in communication– not math. These are merely educated “I know how to use Excel to make things happen” guesses.

2017-2018 Projected Standings after Five Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Boston Bruins, 117 points (77 GP so far)
  2. x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 111 points (78 GP so far)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 104 points (78 GP so far)
  4. Florida Panthers, 89 points (77 GP so far)
  5. Detroit Red Wings, 75 points (79 GP so far)
  6. Ottawa Senators, 73 points (78 GP so far)
  7. Montreal Canadiens, 70 points (78 GP so far)
  8. Buffalo Sabres, 64 points (78 GP so far)

Surging through March despite numerous injuries, the Boston Bruins claw their way not only into first place in the Atlantic Division standings (and Eastern Conference standings as a whole), but they land themselves just their third President’s Trophy in franchise history as the league leaders at the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season.

Despite their late season hiccups, the Tampa Bay Lightning settle for 2nd in the Atlantic Division and gear up for what should be a deeper than the First Round playoff appearance.

The Toronto Maple Leafs make some noise with their second consecutive postseason appearance, but are no match for the long journey to the Cup this season (give it one more postseason, Leafs fans. Next year, it’s totally your year).

Somehow the Ottawa Senators string together a few wins to surpass the Montreal Canadiens. Meanwhile the Florida Panthers stumble just as quietly out of playoff contention as they began the season.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 104 points (78 GP so far)
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 99 points (79 GP so far)
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 98 points (79 GP so far)
  4. wc1-New Jersey Devils, 98 points (78 GP so far)
  5. wc2-Philadelphia Flyers, 97 points (78 GP so far)
  6. Carolina Hurricanes, 83 points (79 GP so far)
  7. New York Rangers, 80 points (79 GP so far)
  8. New York Islanders, 78 points (79 GP so far)

The Washington Capitals always seem to find a way to win their division. Especially in what has been Braden Holtby‘s season from hell (have you checked his goals against average and save percentage this season yet? Because if you’re a Caps fan and you haven’t, maybe you shouldn’t for your own good heading into the playoffs).

In what has equally been as difficult a season for Matt Murray in goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions should have home ice for a First Round matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets that shouldn’t go less than seven games. Best friends in real life, Mike Sullivan and John Tortorella, just might put their friendship to the test for a couple of weeks.

Both of the Eastern Conference wild cards are going to Metropolitan Division teams this season as the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers are welcomed back to the postseason with open arms.

If you’re a Carolina Hurricanes fan, next year seems enticing to break the playoff drought– and it’s only fitting, since 2019 will mark 10 years since Carolina last made the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And if you’re John Tavares, maybe you’re looking elsewhere from the abysmal New York Islanders this offseason. Say for instance, the quickly rebuilding New York Rangers?

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. z-Nashville Predators, 114 points (78 GP so far)
  2. x-Winnipeg Jets, 114 points (78 GP so far)
  3. x-Minnesota Wild, 99 points (78 GP so far)
  4. wc1-St. Louis Blues, 98 points (78 GP so far)
  5. Colorado Avalanche, 94 points (78 GP so far)
  6. Dallas Stars, 89 points (79 GP so far)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 78 points (79 GP so far)

The Nashville Predators edge out the Winnipeg Jets in regulation-plus-overtime wins to lay claim to the Western Conference’s best regular season record and home ice through the Western Conference Final. Both teams are set for what should at least be postseason appearances extending into the Second Round.

Since Winnipeg is likely to knock out the Minnesota Wild in a quick series, let’s skip right over them to talk about the St. Louis Blues for a minute.

They thought it was a great idea to get rid of Paul Stastny at the trade deadline– giving up his dominance on the faceoff dot– and yet, here they are with a final week of the season push for the playoffs.

Of course, it helps that the Colorado Avalanche lost Semyon Varlamov and Erik Johnson to injuries (with the Johnson injury being the bigger blow to Nathan MacKinnon‘s Hart Trophy worthy season and the rest of the Avs).

At least Tyler Seguin reached the 40-goal mark for the Dallas Stars and the Chicago Blackhawks still have Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Pacific Division

  1. y-Vegas Golden Knights, 113 points (79 GP so far)
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (79 GP so far)
  3. x-Los Angeles Kings, 95 points (79 GP so far)
  4. wc2-Anaheim Ducks, 95 points (78 GP so far)
  5. Calgary Flames, 85 points (79 GP so far)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 79 points (79 GP so far)
  7. Vancouver Canucks, 75 points (79 GP so far)
  8. Arizona Coyotes, 72 points (79 GP so far)

An expansion franchise almost clinched the Western Conference regular season title. The Vegas Golden Knights are that good and should make an impressive effort into at least the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s pure insanity, but it’s fun to watch.

If you’re a California resident, there’s good news, all three of your teams will be in the postseason (again). Just switch your hats and/or jerseys to whoever’s playing that night and hope for the best (pick San Jose, they seem like a good dark horse).

The Calgary Flames get the honor of “best of the worst teams in the west”, which I’m sure will tie into the Stampede Festival somehow– if not solely because their owner is looking to stampede out of the city and into a new arena elsewhere.

Poor Connor McDavid, it must be demoralizing to have back-to-back 100-point seasons on a team that has only made the playoffs once in his young career.

And you probably shouldn’t write off the Arizona Coyotes entirely, because they very well could make the Vancouver Canucks look worse and jump from 8th to 7th in the division by season’s end.

If you’re so inclined to see how things were expected to pan out this season back in October, you can do so here.

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Numbers Game: March to the Playoffs

First of all, it’s March, which means it’s officially the best month of the year, but not for any of the reasons you’re thinking. College basketball can stay on the back burner– especially when there’s playoff hockey to look forward to next month when, oh yeah, that NCAA championship game actually occurs.

Save your “March is the worst month of the year” takes for the next person in line, thanks.

Anyway, at this point in the season it’s worth noting that the trade deadline has come and passed. While acquisitions like Rick Nash for the Boston Bruins, Derick Brassard for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tomas Tatar for the Vegas Golden Knights and Paul Stastny for the Winnipeg Jets will certainly impact their teams, the following projected standings are merely an educated guess at how things should pan out.

There are simply too many variables that Microsoft Excel cannot account for, namely injuries, roster changes and well, whether or not a player woke up on the right side of the bed that day.

To that end, some projected points totals had a little Gut Feeling 2.0 added to them. In other words, the Toronto Maple Leafs are not going to end up with 130 or 131 points like a couple of models showed– there’s simply not enough games remaining for them to almost match an NHL record.

Therefore, more realistic measures have been added for some teams to account for “reality”.

Some teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, for instance, had a little win-percentage on the season taken into account for their 19 remaining games on the season– and then reflected in the total number of points they should earn.

As with all stats and analytics, try not to get too bogged down on one or another. A holistic viewpoint goes much further than trying to survive on heart and grit alone.

Especially in today’s NHL, where speed and skill are more present than ever before.

With that, here’s a glance at how the standings should shake out for all 31 NHL clubs based on their performances through February 28, 2018.

As always, my degree is in communication, not math. In other words, throw everything mentioned above out the window, strap yourself in and good luck surviving the adrenaline rush that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Oh, your team’s not going to make it, you say?

My condolences, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes fans. Next year is totally your year.

Maybe.

2017-2018 Projected Standings after Five Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. y-Tampa Bay Lightning, 106 points (64 GP so far)
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 105 points (61 GP so far)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 105 points (66 GP so far)
  4. Montreal Canadiens, 78 points (63 GP so far)
  5. Detroit Red Wings, 75 points (63 GP so far)
  6. Florida Panthers, 75 points (60 GP so far)
  7. Buffalo Sabres, 68 points (64 GP so far)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 65 points (62 GP so far)

The Atlantic Division was already determined in December. Nothing should surprise anyone, except for how close it should be coming down the wire for first place in the division.

It might seem crazy considering the Tampa Bay Lightning really bolstered their defense with Ryan McDonagh at the trade deadline, but Boston and Toronto have as much speed and offense to remain in the hunt for that little “Y” next to their names down the stretch. Plus it helps that the Lightning, Bruins and Maple Leafs aren’t playing each other every night, so that has to factor in their somehow.

Between 4th and 6th in the division it’s anyone’s game. The Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers are all teetering on the edge of either a rebuild or just a few steps away from a re-tool-on-the-fly.

Neither of them are inherently “ideal”, but they can’t do anything else to compete with Tampa, Boston and Toronto.

It’s worth noting that the Buffalo Sabres will barely climb out of the basement of the division this year. And that’s without Jack Eichel (fractured ankle).

Simply put, the Ottawa Senators are beyond bad.

Metropolitan Division

  1. z-Pittsburgh Penguins, 108 points (64 GP so far)
  2. x-Philadelphia Flyers, 99 points (63 GP so far)
  3. x-New Jersey Devils, 97 points (63 GP so far)
  4. wc1-Columbus Blue Jackets, 96 points (63 GP so far)
  5. wc2-Washington Capitals, 94 points (64 GP so far)
  6. New York Islanders, 87 points (64 GP so far)
  7. Carolina Hurricanes, 75 points (63 GP so far)
  8. New York Rangers, 72 points (64 GP so far)

After much turbulence leading up to this month in the Metropolitan Division, it seems by the end of the month, we’ll have a clear picture of who’s really a contender, who’s making a Second Round exit and who’s just pretending to be on the ice when they’re actually sending out some pretty high-tech holograms on the ice.

In other words, the Pittsburgh Penguins are suited for a three-peat as long as Matt Murray can stay healthy. Even still, they’re beginning to peak at the right time as they have done every year with Mike Sullivan behind the bench.

But who’s that neighbor of theirs in Pennsylvania? They might have to re-grease some poles in Philadelphia, because the Flyers are surging right now and it should carry them into decent playoff position.

The New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals all remain competitive, but sadly fall victim to First or Second Round exits simply because have you seen the rest of the Eastern Conference? Yeah, I thought so too.

One of these years if the Carolina Hurricanes look to actually spend a little more money they’ll be able to take their money-puck approach back to the postseason for the first time since 2009, but this year is not that year. They didn’t do anything at the deadline and it shows.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. p-Winnipeg Jets, 116 points (63 GP so far)
  2. x-Minnesota Wild, 104 points (63 GP so far)
  3. x-Nashville Predators, 100 points (62 GP so far)
  4. wc2-St. Louis Blues, 92 points (65 GP so far)
  5. Dallas Stars, 92 points (63 GP so far)
  6. Colorado Avalanche, 85 points (63 GP so far)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 70 points (63 GP so far)

Your President’s Trophy winners, ladies and gentlemen, entering March 2018 should be the Winnipeg Jets.

That’s right, the team in Winnipeg, Manitoba with a seating capacity of a little more than 15,000 fans at Bell MTS Place. That one. Winnipeg. The Western Conference’s Carolina Hurricanes. They aren’t big spenders, yet they bought exactly what they needed at the trade deadline in Paul Stastny.

Meanwhile, apparently Eric Staal‘s first hat trick in a little over five years is enough to catapult the Minnesota Wild on a surprising run down the stretch. Though they are currently 3rd in the Central Division, Minnesota is coming alive.

It’s hard to knock the Nashville Predators off of their game– especially while they’re in command of the division– but something just doesn’t go exactly as planned this month for the Preds.

They’ll still beat Minnesota in the First Round and set themselves up for quite a matchup with Winnipeg in the Second Round though. Obviously the winner of that is going to battle the Vegas Golden Knights for the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.

A warning to the St. Louis Blues– keep up this downward trend and the Dallas Stars will replace you in the wild card.

Whatever upper body injury is plaguing Corey Crawford is only making things worse for the Chicago Blackhawks.

In some models, they should be a lot better than they are right now, but that’s due to their impressive streak of success from 2010-17. Now, in 2018, the wheels fell off and the floor fell out from under them– on top of the Crawford injury.

Pacific Division

  1. y-Vegas Golden Knights, 113 points (63 GP so far)
  2. x-Los Angeles Kings, 105 points (64 GP so far)
  3. x-Anaheim Ducks, 100 points (64 GP so far)
  4. wc1-San Jose Sharks, 94 points (64 GP so far)
  5. Calgary Flames, 78 points (65 GP so far)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 78 points (63 GP so far)
  7. Vancouver Canucks, 77 points (64 GP so far)
  8. Arizona Coyotes, 63 points (62 GP so far)

The Vegas Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, come up three points shy of winning the 2017-18 President’s Trophy as the team with the best regular season record. The Vegas Golden Knights.

Despite the push from all of the California clubs, this is Vegas’s division title to lose. Not just in the regular season, but in the playoffs too.

No amount of onslaught from the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks should be able to stand a seven-game series with Ryan Reaves and the rest of the Golden Knights. Having said that though, it’s a shame the San Jose Sharks will likely pair-up with the Jets, because we’ll never get to know if Vegas could single handedly defeat all three California teams en route to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

That’s assuming a lot, but let’s roll with it.

All season long the Calgary Flames have been a lovable underdog. Unfortunately, their time is cut short. All good things must come to an end and again, if you’re going to do nothing at the deadline as a fringe competitor, you can’t expect to improve.

At least you shouldn’t, otherwise well, you know the definition of insanity (doing the same thing and expecting a different result).

Better luck next year, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes.

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Bruins Forecast NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game Stats Forecasts

Numbers Game: Boston Through 40 (2017-18)

As the calendar flips from 2017 to 2018 the NHL’s regular season keeps rolling along. Having played 40 games so far this season, the Boston Bruins are now in the midst of their bye week 2nd in the Atlantic Division (53 points)– ten points behind the Eastern Conference leading Tampa Bay Lightning.

Plenty of teams have been pleasant surprises, namely, the Vegas Golden Knights and the New Jersey Devils through the first half of the season. To say the Golden Knights are merely on a hot start is a major understatement– there’s a legitimate chance Vegas will not only make the playoffs, but compete with the Lightning and Winnipeg Jets in what’s shaping up to be a competitive three-way battle for the 2017-18 President’s Trophy.

Regardless, Boston has not been a pleasant surprise. No.

If you’ve been tracking Don Sweeney‘s every move since becoming general manager in 2015, then you aren’t surprised at all to see that this year’s Bruins squad is playing on another level and turning heads around the hockey world.

It’s a very methodic approach– one that takes its time while patience wears thin among fans that demand excellence every shift in the Hub– but the Boston Bruins are ready for a breakout performance in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs (barring a second half of the season collapse).

While many are busy trying to come up with a nickname for Boston’s fourth line of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari— I recommend either “The 50s Line” (since Schaller, Kuraly and Acciari wear No.’s 59, 52 and 55 respectively) or “The B52 Line” (an ode to the music group, sure, but also a nod to Kuraly’s stellar anchor as the center)– it’s a shame no one’s come up with anything for the legend that is the Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak line.

Usually it’s just “the Bergeron line”, but if you’ve seen the production from this line, you might just think back to the days of “The Uke Line”, “The Kraut Line” or “The Dynamite Line”– all of which were historic lines in Bruins franchise history.

Anyway, on with the show…

Through 40 games played this season, here’s a look at how every player on Boston’s roster should pan out for the remaining 42 games. Please remember my degree is in communication– not math– so any miscalculations are Microsoft Excel’s fault.

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Boston Bruins Projections Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)

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At this point in the season everything begins to look more realistic. Unless you’re still looking at Tommy Cross‘s projected stats. Again, that’s a product of forecasting a season for a player based on every career NHL game that player has played. Cross has yet to appear in an NHL game since the 2015-16 season; because of this, his numbers look more promising based on the formula alone than they actually probably would be, unless he knows something about his game we don’t.

Until a player like Cross (or other players with few career NHL games played) suits up in the 2017-18 season, that players numbers are reflective of a more “idealistic” season. In other words, it’s a pipe dream (until it actually happens).


The Bruins finally have a healthy lineup. Well, kind of.

Defenseman, Adam McQuaid, is still out after missing time due to a fractured right fibula. Upon his imminent return, who exactly should Bruce Cassidy pull out of the lineup, if anyone?

Matt Grzelcyk‘s emerged from the shadows of the last couple of seasons– in which he made his professional debut and NHL debut. He’s solidified himself as a top-6 defenseman, capable of earning his ice time and/or McQuaid’s job at less than half the price (at least until this offseason, when Grzelyck’s entry-level contract is set to expire).

Grzelyck, 24, is seven-years younger than McQuaid and could provide the same amount of offensive production or more down the road. By default, Grzelcyk’s offensive game is better than McQuaid’s this season.

Of course, there’s some things working in McQuaid’s favor in his ability to block shots, use his body and throw punches when “the code of hockey” needs to be enforced.

Though, again, there is a younger blue liner– albeit by a year and at $250,000 less– that could carry the weight of the tough guy on Boston’s defense. That guy is Kevan Miller, 30, who’s having what’s poised to equal or surpass his career year of 2015-16 in points (18), while teaching Grzelyck the ways of a bottom-pair defenseman.

Brandon Carlo has yet to score this season and is– by all considerations– in a sophomore slump. But he is only 21-years-old and destined to solidify as a top-4 defenseman in his career. He’s no Charlie McAvoy, but it wouldn’t make sense to punish a young player for showing his youth in his errors that he’s made at times through the year.

Before you know it, McQuaid could be the next Paul Postma on the Bruins as another healthy scratch on a night-to-night basis– though providing much needed depth when one of the regular guys goes down with an injury.

The Bruins have a plus-29 goal differential after 40 games this season, which is seven more than they had at the end of last season.

It seems promising that Boston will continue to only get better offensively down the stretch with David Pastrnak seeking to best his career high in assists while amassing almost 70 points on the season. That’s just 1/3 of the Bergeron line.

Brad Marchand should easily reach the 70-point plateau for not only the second time in his career– but the second year in a row– as Patrice Bergeron continues to swing the momentum around in his scoring projections (expected to surpass at least 60 points this season).

Rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen will each have respectable numbers that should flirt with the 50-point plateau. DeBrusk may only end up with 20-26-46 totals, but Heinen should continue to charge down the stretch reaching 22-43–65 totals in his own spectacular rookie season.

It’s not Earth-shattering by any means, but it is highly underrated. Especially with a guy like David Backes on the same line.

Backes, in his own right, is bringing some extra bang for his buck this season. Having missed almost half of the season with diverticulitis and recovering from the surgical removal of part of his colon, Backes is lighter and better than ever.

And one more thing for the haters…

Tuukka Rask is back. This could be a Vezina Trophy winning season, if not more, for the Finnish goaltender.

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Numbers Game: Count Your Quarters

It’s December 1st which means all 31 NHL teams have passed the quarter mark of the regular season. Some teams have played almost 30 games while others have barely passed the 20.5 games required for the “quarter of the way through the season” moniker.

In the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers are bad, the Colorado Avalanche are okay, the Vegas Golden Knights are good and there’s a very real chance that the Arizona Coyotes barely surpass Colorado’s 22-win 2016-2017 season benchmark of “worst team in the Salary Cap Era”.

Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning are thundering their way back into dominance over the rest of the league, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the real deal, the Montreal Canadiens are turning a corner after stumbling out the gate and the New Jersey Devils are good– too good.

Oh and then there’s the fact that the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are quietly in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

So with everything in mind, let’s use Microsoft Excel to help us predict the rest of the season, shall we?

Unlike my standings projections before the first puck dropped on the season, I haven’t added any Gut Feeling 2.0 to these predictions. There’s going to be some surprises and there’s going to be some things that are way off, considering the fact that an equation cannot predict injuries, streaks or things of that nature. What might look insane now, will look different (hopefully) in another 20 games or so.

Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to do another round of this around the All-Star Game.

The moral of the story here is that if you’re off to a bad start, like Edmonton, and you’re running up against a tight salary cap moving forward, it’s never too early to start counting your quarters and figuring out what assets you’ll be able to lose by the trade deadline.

If you’re a good team, like New Jersey, then it’s the perfect time to assess how far you think you’ll go and determine who might be right the addition at or before the deadline that’ll push you further than expected and maybe all the way to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

2017-2018 Projected Standings after Two Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. y-Tampa Bay Lightning, 101 points (25 GP so far)
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 98 points (23 GP so far)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 94 points (27 GP so far)
  4. Montreal Canadiens, 92 points (27 GP so far)
  5. Detroit Red Wings, 89 points (26 GP so far)
  6. Ottawa Senators, 88 points (23 GP so far)
  7. Florida Panthers, 78 points (24 GP so far)
  8. Buffalo Sabres, 67 points (25 GP so far)

To keep things short, the Lightning and the Maple Leafs are still the best picks coming out of the Atlantic Division if you have your eyes set on trying to predict which teams might have a deep playoff run in 2018.

The Boston Bruins have been battling injuries all season long and while they’ve kept the pace with their youth-infused lineup, they still have a lot of development to go before they can reach a conference finals run, let alone Stanley Cup Final run. Ottawa’s decline continues to be one of the biggest surprises in the weakest division in the Eastern Conference. Other than that, nothing else is really groundbreaking here.

Metropolitan Division

  1. z-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points (26 GP so far)
  2. x-New York Islanders, 98 points (24 GP so far)
  3. x-Washington Capitals, 98 points (26 GP so far)
  4. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 97 points (25 GP so far)
  5. x-New York Rangers, 97 points (25 GP so far)
  6. New Jersey Devils, 94 points (24 GP so far)
  7. Philadelphia Flyers, 90 points (25 GP so far)
  8. Carolina Hurricanes, 84 points (23 GP so far)

In the Metropolitan Division the Pittsburgh Penguins look to regain their top-notch form as they’ve had a difficult time adjusting to life after Marc-Andre Fleury (and have especially struggled with a decimated defense from the offseason).

The Columbus Blue Jackets are likely to climb in later projections, based on their current performance, but again, since this is only based off of a formula in Microsoft Excel… Columbus will be just fine. They should be an underdog or a dark horse for Stanley Cup contention this season. This division will continue to be the tightest battle all season long, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see New Jersey inside or outside of the picture come April.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. p-St. Louis Blues, 107 points (25 GP so far)
  2. x-Chicago Blackhawks, 100 points (25 GP so far)
  3. x-Nashville Predators, 98 points (25 GP so far)
  4. x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points (25 GP so far)
  5. Dallas Stars, 93 points (25 GP so far)
  6. Minnesota Wild, 93 points (25 GP so far)
  7. Colorado Avalanche, 85 points (23 GP so far)

As exciting as the battle for the Metropolitan Division should continue to be this season, the Western Conference’s Central Division has plenty of counterpoints to offer for top-notch divisional battles and Stanley Cup contenders. This is the season for the St. Louis Blues (to at least make a run for the President’s Trophy).

Whether or not St. Louis can go further than their 2016 Western Conference Finals trip went and make it back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970, only time can tell. Between the Blues, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets, it’s safe to say one of your Stanley Cup finalists will be from the Central Division.

Pacific Division

  1. y-Vegas Golden Knights, 106 points (24 GP so far)
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (23 GP so far)
  3. x-Los Angeles Kings, 99 points (26 GP so far)
  4. x-Anaheim Ducks, 98 points (25 GP so far)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 90 points (26 GP so far)
  6. Calgary Flames, 89 points (25 GP so far)
  7. Edmonton Oilers, 73 points (26 GP so far)
  8. Arizona Coyotes, 65 points (28 GP so far)

In the biggest surprise this season, the Vegas Golden Knights are not only tracking for a postseason appearance– they’re on the rails to a Pacific Division winning season. Yes, the Los Angeles Kings are the only other hottest team in the Pacific, but there’s something to be said for the San Jose Sharks experience the last few seasons.

Just like the Central Division, Vegas, Los Angeles or San Jose would be safe bets for a deep playoff run. The Anaheim Ducks could make things interesting as they have always done, but there’s really nothing else that looks promising to make a surge in the standings and/or postseason. Sorry Oilers fans.


Need a reminder of what things looked like early in November? Here it is: