The Mailbag: July 13
We’re back! Phase 3 is underway, which means that hockey updates are starting to look like like actual hockey updates again. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up for you to decide – I’ve already exhausted my skepticisms – but so long as it’s happening, we’re all going to talk about it.
But first – It’s also Monday, and I do have questions from the crowd. So let’s tackle those.
In Case You Missed It
Before we get started, here’s what I got up to last week:
- Last week’s Mailbag: In case you wanted to see what was previously touched upon.
- NHL Return-To-Play Schedule Includes Games All Day: A look at the schedule the NHL has planned for game days, and both the positives and negatives that may come from it.
- The Five Least Interesting NHL Teams Today, Ranked: This isn’t to be taken all that seriously, but a fun little exercise in reaction to a Twitter activity I came across.
- As NHL’s return-to-play looms, let’s respect those opting out: Written when the count of opt-outs was only two, it obviously still applies now. A look at players making very tough decisions for themselves, and why it’s not on us to judge.
My general choice: Pavel Bure, #10, Vancouver Canucks in the Black “Skate” design with all the right patches (Canucks Place, the Frank Griffiths tribute, 94 Finals). Favourite player, favourite design, a match made in nostalgia heaven.
My sentimental choice: My dad’s Wendel Clark Leafs jersey. It was among his prized hockey possessions and while I tend to wear jerseys more for playing in (outdoor rinks, renting ice with friends, etc) than casual wear, I’ll throw this one on from time to time for him.
Is there a point to researching which players do better than others after returning from an injury (extended absence)
— Luke’s (defund the) troops (@nine2schenn) July 13, 2020
I think there absolutely is – mapping and modelling injury impacts is going to be a huge frontier moving forward, particularly when it comes to avoiding risks at the negotiating table.
The issue, honestly, is the quality and quantity of information. Teams often give out vague info, and a lot of the historical exacts tend to be hidden behind paywalls on things like fantasy sports sites. I don’t think that should stop anyone from trying, though – resources like NHLInjuryViz have been a great start in the right direction.
So if this is something you’re interested in? No guarantees you’ll find the conclusions you expect to, but I think there’s a lot of upside in exploring it.
Playoff hockey usually sees a lot more leeway given in terms of penalties, and with the players not being in full season shape there will likely be more clutching and grabbing. How do you think the games are going to be called overall in this year's playoffs?
— Josh Proksch (@JoshProksch) July 13, 2020
Honestly, I’m not sure, and I’m excited to find out. Hockey has a huge issue with even-up calling, particularly when score is considered, and the playoffs are known to be even more relaxed. At the same time, as I mentioned in my home-ice advantage piece, the data being collected in German soccer right now indicates that empty stadiums have a psychological effect on how referees are calling fouls, bookings, and penalties. I’m very, very curious to see if similar happens in the NHL.
People seem to look at the Leafs season (pre shutdown) as an utter failure. I can’t help but think if Freddie posts his usual ~.917sv% we are looking really good. ESP since Keefe took over. Am i wylin or is there some merit to that?
— PJ 🉑 (@PaulBeastJames) July 13, 2020
Lots of merit to it. Since the coaching change, the Leafs hve posted the 8th-best record in the NHL – and were closer to cracking the Top 5 than they were to falling out of the Top 10. They were 7th in Score-Adjusted Corsi, and 5th in Expected Goals Share.
Conversely, they were 27th in save percentage in this sample. Some might point to this and yell “shot quality”, but the difference in their shots against rate in this span (14th) and expected goals against rate (also 14th), is non-existant, and breaking down Corsi/attempts against expected goals and high-danger attempts shows a team in the lower-middle of the pack, which is where they’ve been when throughout Andersen’s best seasons as well, if not worse.
Many players have played noticeably better since the change. To me, it seems evident that the team has been in good shape since it happened, but due to the angst leading up to it, people weren’t able to shake off their concerns. If the Leafs can come out swinging against Columbus, I think the collective worry will shake off pretty quickly.
Which Columbus Blue Jackets Assistant GM do you think would make a better NHL GM? Picking between Josh Flynn and Basil McRae
— Ryan Williams (@CEHL_Commish) July 13, 2020
Frankly, I can’t give an answer on this without learning more about what both do, particularly on McRae’s front. However, I cross paths with Josh at the rink a bunch since he does a lot of his work from Toronto, so I’m going to do the Hockey Man (TM) thing and pick the guy I’m personally familiar with until I learn more.