We’ve dwindled down to the final five games of the season, but despite the doldrums, the Capitals showed up to play tonight. Even if most of the viewing audience was busied with the NCAA basketball tournament, this rare meeting of the Washington Capitals and the Columbus Blue Jackets was solid hockey. Columbus came out extremely hard, seemingly ignorant of the fact that the team was gutted at the trade deadline, their head coach has been fired, key players are hurt and the team is 12 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot.
The “Blazers” as Joe Beninatii constantly referred to them as, had odd man rushes all night long, but failed to convert almost every time because of solid goaltending from Jose Theodore or generally poor execution. Columbus’ wealth of penalties seemed to doom any chance for them to reach a crucial early lead. And despite the Capitals giving up a third period tally – which forced Bruce Boudreau to call a timeout and have an expletive-filled dress down of the team – the Blue Jackets could not force Overtime. Thus leading to the Capitals making history.
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”