I got distracted with a few things yesterday; some articles, some real world responsibilities, some ranting about the sports media industry (watch out for a post on that today or tomorrow, if I have a chance). So the mailbag took a bit of a backseat, but we’re here today! It’s a good thing I haven’t committed to Monday yet. With that said…
What team is going to reach the perfect harmony of analytics and pure hockey smarts to build a sustainable playoff model?
— Former Hockey Account (@dsm_captive) August 13, 2017
There’s a key follow-up question here: What is perfect? The definition changes on a person-by-person basis. Some are all in on the numbers, some hate them, some are in the middle but lean one way or the other on minor points, like rate production, matchups, microdata, etc.
Even the teams we consider to be leading the new charge don’t seem to be totally consistent. “Is it a Lou move or a Dubas move” has hit annoying meme status in Toronto, the Panthers started tearing apart chunks the Computer Boy experiment almost as quickly as it began, and I suppose we’ll see where Carolina goes once they start the upward climb. Teams that weren’t all in on numbers but succeeded within them at the start (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles) have been no strangers to over-loyalty.
Most importantly, if you’re well versed in analytics, the last thing you want to do is build a sustainable model. The point of doing the work that the community has done is to find market inefficiencies and take advantage of them; a team that tries to “set it and forget it” might do well for a couple of years, but become the norm and fall back behind.
If Andersen goes down within the first 30 games, what do you give the leafs playoff chances baring a trade for a backup?
— Bill Mills (@millsybill) August 14, 2017
I guess this question is more “how much do you trust Curtis McElhinney and Garret Sparks” than anything, and the answer to that is, well, that it’s complicated. McElhinney looked solid in many of his appearances for the Leafs last year, but also just had the best season of his career at 34, with a sample of 21 games. It’s hard to gamble on that.
Sparks has been excellent at the AHL level over the past several years, proving himself to be one one of the best goaltenders outside of the NHL. But he’s struggled to stay healthy himself, which is a problem that’s kept him out of the Marlies lineup and dragged him down while trying to play through recovery with the Leafs in 2015/16. I do feel that he can be at least a league-average goaltender as an NHL backup, but if he’s expected to play starter’s minutes in the show for a couple of months, all bets are off. I’d believe you equally if you told me that your crystal ball said that he’d win the Calder Trophy, or that he tweaked something, put up a save percentage in the 0.890’s, and never got a sniff again.
In other words, keeping Andersen healthy is pretty important.
I want to buy a jersey of downtown Brown. When will they finally make it safe & sign him? What number will he move to w Marleau getting 12?
— Matt from Tall Can Audio (@TallCanAudio) August 14, 2017
I’d honestly say to just go for it. Brown has been the unluckiest player in the organization as far as jersey numbers go, having worn 61, 28, 16, and 12 in preseason and regular season action, along with 29 on the Marlies. It’s going to be really great when the Leafs have to fold and reset the team in about 20 years after needing to retire all 74 of his jersey numbers, while honouring his 400 goals and 6 Stanley Cups.
I’d guess that with William Nylander wearing 29, Kasperi Kapanen likely wearing 28, Mitch Marner wearing 16, and Patrick Marleau likely to take over 12, Brown’s preferred options are likely to be gone. Maybe we’ll see him take #18 (Ben Smith/Milan Michalek) or #20 (Frank Corrado); both are vaguely similar to what he’s historically worn. I doubt he’ll go back to 61, given how the Leafs have avoided going too far up with their numbers.
With so many goalies moving this offseason which team do you think has the best goaltending ding combo heading into the season?
— Alex Cooper (@Alex_Cooper89) August 13, 2017
It’s probably Washington, and you can argue that it was already the case last year. Braden Holtby is incredible and one of the best in the league, and the one benefit to losing Nate Schmidt for the Caps is that they get to keep Philipp Grubauer for a little while longer.
Do you plan on adding an email subscription widget?
— Syn (@nobodyrelevant0) August 13, 2017
That’s a good call. Such a good call that it’s in the sidebar as of… right now.