Head coach Adam Oates of the Washington Capitals is. That sentence is still correct in the present tense. I’m astonished.
This is not another article listing the problems with Adam Oates, or even the problems with George McPhee. This is an article, the last in a series, describing the Capitals on a week-to-week basis using quantified analysis. If at any point the following article reads like a hitpiece against Caps coaching or management, that’s only because the math totally hates them. It’s not me, I swear.
Also, I think Dmitry Orlov is gonna be real good someday. Let’s do the numbers one more time!
These are the numbers as of 8 PM on Sunday, April 13th, though I’m not posting this until a few days later. The sample is 5-on-5 play while the score is close. That means within one goal in the first two periods and tied in the third. That way special teams, blowouts, and comebacks don’t color the data. Stats of note are highlighted in powderpuff pink and discussed below.
But first, here are all the previous snapshots:
- Even-Strength Anxiety
- Precious Little Progress
- Turn and Face the Strain
- Underwater, But Winning
- Line Shuffling, Good and Bad
- Small Steps in the Right Direction
- The Gauntlet
- R.I.P. The Black Hole Line
- Scratching, Benching, Winning
- Addition by Subtraction
- No, Really, Mike Green is Good
- Everybody, Goalie Panic!
- The Unsustainable Lifestyle
- Losing for All the Right Reasons
- Need Points Now
- Waiting Out the Percentages
- The Beagle and the Damage Done
- Thinning the Herd
- Hold That Thought
- Shallow Depth and the Trade Deadline
- It’s Later Than You Think
- Wagons West
- Victory in California!
- Time to Reunite Nicky and Alex
- The Wonderful Futuree
- The Caps were the 21st best team at puck possession (i.e. even-strength shot-attempt percentage when the score is close) with 48.66%. The Caps finished four places higher than that in the standings– mostly due to a truly exceptional powerplay and some sturdy goaltending during their god-awful penalty kill. Your favorite hockey team, the best in the league just four years ago, are on course to finish in the bottom ten next season.
- Back in December: “while Adam Oates has done a commendable job getting Alex Ovechkin to bloom again, the rest of the garden needs tending.” The garden went untended. In the end, most players from the Hunter era (which was also bad) got even worse under Oates.
- Seriously, why hasn’t he been fired yet? Right now he’s just circling the block, waiting to park the bus on someone else.
- Total 5v5 ice time shared by Dustin Penner and Alex Ovechkin: 10 minutes, 40 seconds. That’s almost as long as “Starla” off the Smashing Pumpkins’ Pisces Iscariot comp. Unrelated tidbit: Adam Oates told the press that he and McPhee speak every day.
- Shout-out to the iron men who played all 82 games: Jason Chimera, Joel Ward, Nick Backstrom, Tom Wilson, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner. That is… not a lot of dudes. The Caps were one of the healthiest teams in the league going by cap hit of injured players, but they iced almost 40 players. If you’re looking to apportion blame for that, I’d split it up pretty evenly among the dude behind the bench and the small dude who whispers a lot and punched another dude that one time.
- Tom Wilson‘s 82-game campaign featured less ice time (651) than Brooks Laich got in 31 fewer games (880) . To make up for it, I propose that Wilson play goalie for the first five games of next season.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s possession stats (SA%) stunk. Just 36.8 percent of unblocked shot attempts during 5v5 in close games belonged to the Caps– awful even for a fourth liner. Let’s hope those 163 unblocked shot attempts he saw aren’t indicative of what kind of player he’ll be in the long run. I loved what I saw from him on offense. The rest of the time… we shall see.
- During 5v5, Alex Ovechkin was outshot during 641 to 547. If all shots were equal, that’d be about a minus-4 goal rating (not counting 4v4 play or the 10 shorties he was victim to). Instead, Ovi was a minus-35, the 884th lowest in the league. Then again, Ovi’s PDO– a stat based on things he mostly cannot control– was 96.6, putting him around the 6th percentile. Factor in all the action he saw in his 1126 minutes played during 5v5, and it’s not all that crazy. Expect some dumb-ass stories about Ovi turning around his defensive game next season, when all that will really have happened is a reversion of crummy luck.
- Actually, a little more on that: A friend asked me whom I would trade and whom I would keep. Like in all things, the answer is complicated. If the Caps become an offense-focused team next season, their roster is ready (aside from D depth). If the Caps hire a defensive-minded coach instead, it’s time to *gulp* break up the core. I think Ovechkin is one of the best players in the world, but on a team that — by design– won’t have the puck much, he’s a liability. On the other hand, if you build a team around him like Boudreau did– obsessing over his offense and optimizing him like a pit crew tweaking a Chevy SS at Talledega, then he’s the nucleus of a very viable core. Ovi’s chief problem was never how he plays without the puck; it’s that he’s been playing without the puck so much. Same goes for Mike Green. And a bunch of others, like this next guy…
- Bold prediction time: Dmitry Orlov will one day be a Norris trophy candidate. His individual shot creation is up, his possession (SA%) is way up, and he’s shutting down shots better in his own zone. Some experience and some excellent coaching will help him choose when to pinch and when to retreat better, and then I’d bet we’ll have ourselves a stud here. On the other hand, there’s a backlog of offensive defensemen on this roster, and not a ton of PPQB time to go around. I worry a bit for Orly’s development.
That’s it for the snapshot! 26 weeks and 40,000 words later, here we are …despairing at a team whose management seems to be less rigorous in self-reflection than this hapless blogger. If the last 26 weeks have taught me anything, well let’s make a list:
- The problems were apparent early. Week one was titled “Even-Strength Anxiety” for crying out loud.
- Changes were not made to address those problems– not on the ice, not on the roster.
- This team probably does not use anything like the peer-reviewed, statistically validated metrics used by serious hockey analysts. (I don’t count myself as a serious hockey analyst for the record.)
- I have no idea why I used “position” as a column in the snapshot. I have no idea why I did a lot of things, but I know I’ll make a lot of adjustments next season– if you’re still willing to read.
- ExtraSkater.com is the bomb dot com diggity donkey kong.
- Despite an imperfect roster, the Capitals are capable of a lot more than they showed you this season. An overhaul in decision-making should come with a very nice return. Things suck now, but they’re not so bleak as they might seem. To paraphrase Warren Ellis: the world is never perfect and the world is never doomed. That goes for hockey teams too.
Now I turn it over to you: What did you like this season? What did you hate? I’ll have A LOT more to talk about in coming weeks, but it’s your chance to steer the conversation. GO NUTS!
- GP: Games played
- TOI: Time on ice
- GF: Capitals goals for which the player was on the ice
- GA: Opponent goals for which the player was on the ice
- SA%: Percentage of shot attempts (from both teams) that went towards the opponent’s net, excluding blocked shots
- Sh%: Capitals’ shooting percentage while the player was on the ice
- Sv%: Capitals’ goalie save percentage while the player was on the ice
- PDO: The sum of Sh% and Sv%, a number that regresses closely to 100 in larger samples; a proxy for luck, in a sense– i.e. high ≈ lucky
- ZS%: The share of shifts the player started in the offensive zone, excluding neutral-zone starts; data not limited to close games.