Monday, 28 March 2016

OPINION: Radulov a Flawed, Risky, but Potentially Intriguing Option for Tampa Bay

A report out of Russia this morning indicated that the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the process of negotiating with pending-UFA Alexander Radulov, who last suited up in the NHL with the Nashville Predators back in the 2011-12 season.  While Sportsnet's Elloitte Friedman debunked that report following its release, it is worth noting that there is a very real possibility that Radulov returns to the NHL in time for next season.  The player said as much in an interview translated by The Hockey News last summer:
“You see, I’m not so young,” Radulov told the paper, according to a rough translation. “(I’m) not 20 years old, and it is possible that I will have the last chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. If it is a great option in a team that will fight for the title, then why not?"
One thing that's clear based on that quote is that, should he come back to this side of the pond, Radulov will be looking to win the Stanley Cup; he wants to compete.  So, it's probably not unreasonable to suggest that the Maple Leafs *might* not be the best fit for him.  They are, of course, at least a couple years away from being able to do any damage in the postseason.

If that's indeed the case, it's worth pondering where a guy like Radulov might fit in today's NHL.  He wants to win a title.  He'll likely want some money.  And, because of all the perceived risk involved, he likely won't be able to demand a long-term contract.  Call me crazy, but a Stamkos-less Tampa Bay Lightning squad might be a fit.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Quick Thoughts on Slater Koekkoek's Role... or Lack Thereof

Anton Stralman's injury (a fractured left fibula) could not have come at a worse time for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  With the postseason right around the corner, Tampa is without its number-two defenceman, a guy who is arguably the most underrated rearguard in the National Hockey League today.  It's not a good situation.

GM Steve Yzerman responded by calling up Slater Koekkoek, his team's 10th overall pick from the 2012 draft.  Koekkoek, by all accounts, has performed well in Syracuse by utilizing his swift stride and puck moving abilities.  Yzerman undoubtedly viewed him as a player who could/would step in and help to fill the void left by Stralman's massive presence.

Unfortunately the coach had other things in mind:

Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Fight for First in the Atlantic is a Battle of Process vs. Percentages

A lot has been made of tonight's matchup at Amalie Arena between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.  After all, who would have predicted that two teams from Florida would be battling for first place in the Atlantic Division at this point in the season?  It's a pretty cool story.  People are rightly intrigued by the fact that both squads from the 'Sunshine State' have 91 points through 74 games this year, while relying on a bevy of young talent.  It's an exciting time to be a hockey fan in the state, to be sure.

But, as much as people like to draw parallels between the Lightning and Panthers due to the fact that they both play in supposedly 'non-traditional' markets and are having on-ice success with youngsters leading the way, there's a pretty distinct contrast between the two teams specific to the 2015-16 campaign.  It comes down to a pretty simple idea: One of these two teams has had a lot of its success this year attributable to the process, while the other owes a heap of credit to percentages.

Consider that the Panthers are currently ranked 20th overall in the NHL's race for the Corsi championship.  With a five-on-five CF% of 48.2%, the Panthers find themselves just in front of Columbus and Calgary but behind the likes of Edmonton and almost every team bound for the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Obviously Corsi isn't everything, but analysis has repeatedly shown that possession matters.  Remember when the Colorado Avalanche were the flavor of the month despite rocking brutal possession stats?  They fell back down to earth.  How about the Maple Leafs?  They crashed, too.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Singing for an Unsung Hero: An Analysis of Vladislav Namestnikov's Performance in 2015-16

Since starting my new job in the accounting field, I haven't had the opportunity to sit back and watch Tampa Bay Lightning games like I used to when I was writing at HockeyBuzz and finishing my degree.  Living out West means that Tampa games are often midway through the second period by the time I get home and find my way to the couch.

So, nights like last Tuesday night feel kind of special.  I got home and was able to watch the Lightning play a very solid game against a quality opponent, the Detroit Red Wings.  The result was a 6-2 win for the home team, which sent countless "fans" in red straight to the washroom where they could switch back to their blue-colored gear.  Victory tasted especially sweet, if I may say so.

One of the things that stuck out as I watched Tuesday's game was the play of Vladislav Namestnikov.  I've written at length already about his impact on the Lightning this season here and here, so it didn't exactly surprise me when I found myself sitting back and thinking that the Bolts might have a real building block in the form of #90.  What it did do, however, is get me interested in quantifying some of his very real success now that we basically have a season's worth of data to analyze.  The results, as you'll see below, were more impressive than I ever could have predicted.