The late start (10pm) of tonight’s west-coast game may preclude any recap before today becomes tomorrow, so the boys and I decided to lower your expectations in advance.

The Caps got smacked pretty good by the Hurricanes on Monday night. The boys looked lazy and disjointed. It’s been a tumultuous week on and off the ice, so we’re going to rattle off a bunch of excuses in case the team somehow manages to lose to the best team in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks.

Goalie drama. Tarik El-Bashir, Washington’s only remaining hockey-beat reporter, assures us that Little Mikey Neuvirth will start in goal this evening. His backup, Jose Theodore, is 10 years his senior. Theodore racked up a career-best 41 saves just two months ago, but has since been uneven in goal. Bruce Boudreau may now lack confidence in the netminder. I’d be dubious, too, as the guy was once hooking up with Paris Hilton. It doesn’t help that Semyon Varlamov has recovered from some early season miscues and revealed himself as an Olympic-level keeper. Once Varly returns from Hershey and his bout with crotch rot, we may have one of those classic sitcom scenarios on our hands.

Today we learned that Mike Green was not selected for Canada’s Olympic hockey team. This is only the latest in a long line of poor decisions for Canada (giving Alanis Morissette a microphone, slicing bacon too thick, letting Michael J. Fox leave the country), and one they will likely regret. The guy is the number-one scoring defenseman in the league right now. I mean– what else could Team Canada possibly want in a defender other than goal-scoring? Russian Machine worries for Greenie’s bruised ego, and has begun a Twitter campaign to make him feel better and also invade Canada.

Boyd Gordon isn’t playing tonight. Stop the f$#&ing presses.

Jason Chimera will be joining the Caps lineup this evening. The left winger from Columbus is expected to join the second line, perhaps taking (Olympian) Tomas Fleischman’s spot as he moves to center. Will the lineup and personnel shake-ups bring chaos to the team tonight? Will Chimera be welcomed into the team with open arms? Will Al Koken pronounce his name wrong? We can guarantee only that one of the questions will be answered, “yes.”

Alexander Semin left the ice mid-shift on Monday complaining of an injury. He later returned to the ice, but not before raising some questions about his wellbeing. Russian Machine has a vested interest in the Siberian kicking ass. We were willing to let it slide that he refuses to learn the language, but only so long as he plays games and handles the puck he’s freaking Legolas out there. If Alexander has re-injured his wrist, Russian Machine will demand he refund a portion his 6-million dollar contract extension — paid to us. We will accept payment in Green Turtle pub fries.

Lastly, the Caps are playing a team with a five-game winning streak. For contrast, the boys are on a zero-game winning streak. We lost — badly I might add — to the Carolina Hurricanes. That’s not quite as bad as the Harlem Globetrotters losing to the Atlantic City Seagulls, but it’s still pretty bad. If the Sharks manage to outscore the Caps tonight, blame it on momentum.

We’re now three hours out from tonight’s first puck drop.  You have the option of bucking up, quixotically rooting for a win; or you can be like me and dispense with that pollyanna nonse:  drink yourself into the last, glorious stupor of 2009 whilst the Caps get the Caps beat out of ‘em.

Cheers!

Capitals Make Bold Trade For Jason Chimera: Our Analysis

Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina in a Blue Jackets Uniform

Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina in a Blue Jackets Uniform. Weird.

The Washington Capitals made a trade this week, picking up Jason Chimera from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina. Given that I spent all weekend putting together a spreadsheet trying to approximate the Goals Versus Threshold that Puck Prospectus uses to give an idea of a player’s contributions, I thought it would be a good time to put it to use. I wasn’t able to match their GVT exactly, but I got close enough to make the thing potentially viable.

First, on what GVT is:

“To explain in terms already familiar to sports statisticians, GVT is very similar to VORP in baseball: it is the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed. The fact that GVT is measured in goals is crucial: statistics that divide up “Win Shares”, so that the ratings of a team’s players sum to that team’s number of wins, are very erratic and non-linear, since wins don’t increase or decrease linearly with team caliber. While hockey is ultimately about winning or losing, players’ contributions always come down to scoring goals and preventing them. A player cannot “win” a game, even though he may be put in a situation where scoring a goal or making a key save would create or conserve a win. Each player’s role, no matter his position, is to try and increase the goal differential in favor of his team. An offensive player who scores a hat trick only to see his teammates allow 4 goals against has nevertheless done his job; a goaltender who stops 39 of 40 shots only to lose 1-0 has likewise performed well. Using this standard, all players can be compared by the same yardstick: how much did they help (or harm) their team’s goal differential?…

  • GVT is measured in goals. This makes it a convenient unit that hockey fans are already comfortable with.
  • GVT compares hockey players of all positions and over any period of time.
  • GVT only uses statistics that lead directly to goals. You cannot incorporate goaltender wins into GVT, because they are not a measurement of goals prevented. However, if you can rationally explain what are the odds of a faceoff win (or loss) leading to a goal or goal against, it would be possible to incorporate faceoff wins and losses into GVT, though I have not done so.
  • GVT has built-in accounting. The sum of player GVTs on a team equals that team’s GVT plus the replacement level. This is essential, as player statistics often come with caveats. “Kovalchuk scored 43 goals, but he doesn’t play defense and his team isn’t good”. This makes it much easier to measure “how good would this team be replacing player A with player B?” It is also essential in that player success is correlated with team success, which after all is the entire point of the sport.
  • GVT automatically normalizes for the strength of the league…

GVT does not measure a player’s talent. The statistic measures a player’s contribution to his team’s goal differential. A goaltender that faces zero shots will have a value of zero, regardless of whether he is Patrick Roy or Andrew Raycroft. Likewise, a player that is injured or gets little ice time will see his GVT reduced accordingly. It also does not take into account environment: a player will score more with better linemates, and I make no attempt to adjust for that…

GVT does not measure intangibles. Things like leadership do exist in hockey, and they do help to make your teammates better. However, there is no way to measure this through statistics, and any attempt to quantify it is futile. In effect, we are not trying to see what information is “hidden” in the statistics; we are simply trying to better characterize the information that is at hand”

Alright, on to the trade!

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Wednesday Webhits: The Frost King’s Best Links Of The Week

Week two of The Frost King’s Webhits – out of 156* – has links looking at how well the Capitals’ goalies perform on the penalty kill, the diversified scoring of Washington’s forwards, which players excelled at scoring in the past decade, whether defense still wins championships, and a discussion about reforming the shootout system. Enjoy!

* My contract apparently goes through the end of time, which latest info says will be December 21st, 2012. Plan to start (and finish) your Christmas shopping a little early that year!

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