Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Down the Stretch they Come

After Friday night games the Southeast Division Standings are as follows:
ATL 91
TBL 88
CAR 84

Each team has just four games remaining. Each team has two "expect to win" games on their schedule. Atlanta (BOS, WAS) TBL (WAS, FLA) CAR (FLA, FLA). Then the three teams fighting for the playoffs play each other once apiece. Obvious the Hurricanes are on life support after losing to Tampa Bay and would need to swept their final four games to have any chance of getting into the playoffs.

For Atlanta, if they can simply take care of business against Boston and Washington that would give them 95 points on the season. If the Thrashers reach 95 points that would mean that Tampa would need to earn 7 of 8 possible points in the games left on their schedule just to tie Atlanta. A win Saturday would be a big step toward locking up the division prior to that final game of the year against Tampa at home. If either Carolina or Florida beat Tampa in the next week and the Thrashers beat their two "easy" opponents the division title will go to Atlanta.

Toronto Game

  • Few things are sweeter than beating the Leafs and watching their fans leave the building quite (OK beating the Sabres is pretty close to that considering what jerks their fans are).
  • The Thrashers played perhaps their most physical game of the year which is a good tuneup for the war that is the Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • Hedberg picked up off where he left off against the NY Rangers and absolutely robbed robbed them a couple of times when the team really needed some big saves.
  • Sutton had perhaps his best game in the months with a nice quick point shot that led to a goal, a big hit and a key defensive play. I've given the man plenty of grief, but we need everyone playing well at this time of the year.

  • Mellanby really looks like he can't keep up with the play or is no longer strong enough to win physical battles at times.
  • The power play scored twice in spite of itself. Both PP goals came of off broken plays--not off a perfect shot and a perfect pass. Note to the players: you scored after the initial shot was taken--passing the puck around 8 or 9 times simply helps the other team kill the penalty because it delays the shot and attempts to crash the net. Take a shot after 4 passes. It might just work better than after 9 passes!
  • The Thrashers dumped the puck right to Toronto players in the neutral zone. I realize that you must clear the zone to relieve the pressure in your end, but the lack of a breakout is disturbing. More attention must be given to getting the puck out of the zone and down the ice into the other end.
  • Players repeated passed up chances to shoot and passed or turned over the puck instead. Kovalchuk--who has a great shot--chose to circle behind the other team's net and got zero scoring opportunities on one shift instead of simply taking an open shot.
The boards have been making a big deal about Mats Sundin's comments about the Southeast Division and the playoff seeding format. I have to say that I agree with him about not liking the six divisions and the automatic seedings. The main reason the NHL has 6 divisions instead of 4 is marketing--it allows more teams to sell their product as a "first place team" or "division winner". If the Thrashers hang on to win the division they will hang a banner next fall, but what does that mean when you only have the 5th or 6th best record in the East? Personally I think their ought to be just four divisions in the NHL and home ice should go to the teams with the best record.

Sundin complained that the Southeast is a soft division. As much as I might not like to admit it, the Southeast is the weakest division if you look at their points-per-game percentage. The division did not fare well when they played the West or other divisions in the East. Those are the facts.
1.18 Northeast
1.16 Northwest
1.11 Pacific
1.10 Atlantic
1.09 Central
1.05 Southeast

On the other hand I found his comment about the last two Stanley Cup winners coming from the division to be out of line. "The last two Stanley Cup champions came from that division," Sundin said. "Try to figure that out." We have and we can't. Wow. That's some nerve on the part of a player and a reporter. You can't figure it out? Here let me help you. The Lightning and Hurricane players busted their butts sacrificed their bodies and made huge saves to win their respective Cups. Is that because you've never seen that sort of play in Toronto in your memory? The last two Stanley Cup Champs won just like everybody else does, they played four best of seven series and they beat all four of their opponents. That's pretty straightforward, but then again the Leafs haven't been about to do that for over forty years.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Conclusion: Thrasher Drafts in Review 1999-2002

I've gone through the 1st four drafts in team history on a year-by-year basis. Now for a quick summary to put all of this together to see how Atlanta's scouts and GM compare to others aroudn the league in that time period.

How Much is that Pick Worth?
For the summary I add up the probability of every single draft pick a team had between 1999-2002 to produce an estimate of how many NHL players they should have found given their number of picks and location.

Draft Pick 1999 Probability 2000 Probability 2001 Probability 2002 Probability
Top 1/3 of the 1st .78 .70 1.00 .80
Middle 1/3 of the 1st .67 .60 .70 .50
Bottom 1/3 of the 1st .30 .80 .40 .50
2nd Round .21 .26 .27 .18
3rd Round .37 .13 .18 .09
4th-8th Rounds .12 .09 .14 .04
9th Round .03 .00 .03 .00

1999-2002 NHL Draft Rankings
OK here is the mega super ultra sumamry table you're all been waiting for:

NHL Rank NHL Team # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHL Players Difference NHL Players Selected
6.7 11
+4.3 Koltsov, Malone, Kostopoulos, Caron, Orpik, Ouellet, C.Armstrong, Surovy, Whitney, M.Talbot, Christensen
Radivojevic, Vrbata, Hahl, Nederost, Sauer, Liles, Svatos, McCormick, Budaj
+2.5 Havlat, Kelly, Prusek, Volchenkov, Vermette, Spezza, Laich, Gleason, Schubert, Emery
Lundmark, Moore, Lundqvist, Zidlicky, Blackburn, Tyutin, Hollweg, G.Murray, Prucha
+2.0 Gaborik, Schultz, Sekeras, M.Koivu, Veilleux, Boogaard, P.M.Bouchard
+1.9 F. Kaberle, McGratton, Parros, Cammalleri, Bednar, Huet
+1.2 Leopold, Havelid, Tenkrat, Bryzgalov, Chistov, Gerber, Lupul
+0.6 Zigomanis, Miller, Pominville, D.Roy, Ballard, Wideman
+.06 Connolly, Pyatt, Martinek, Mezei,
Kolnik, Weinhandl, DiPietro, Torres
10 BOS
+.04 Boynton, Eloranta, Kultanen, Hilbert, Alberts, Morrisonn, Jurcina
11 CBJ
+.04 Klesla, Nummelin, A.Johnson, Leclaire, Nash,
12 ATL
+.02 Stefan, Exelby, Heatley, Hordichuk, Kovalchuk, Nurminen, Lehtonen, Slater
13 PHI
+0.2 J.Williams, Cechmanek, Seidenberg, Sharp, Pitkanen
14 STL
-0.2 B. Jackman, Khavanov, Taffe, Cajanek, McClement
15 TOR
-0.4 Boyes, Tellqvist, Wellwood, Pilar, Steen, Stajan
NHL Rank NHL Team # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHL Players Difference NHL Players Selected
16 CAL
Saprykin, C.Anderson, Stoll, Foster,
Moen, Kobasew, Lombardi
17 EDM
Semenov, Comrie, Stoll, Lombardi, Hemsky, Markkanen, M.Greene
18 MON
Hossa, Hainsey, Komisarek, Plekanec, Perezhogin, Higgins
19 SJS
Jillson, Goc Dimitrakos, Ehrhoff
20 TBL
Keefe, Svitov
Olvestad, Alexeev,
21 NAS
Hall, Erat, Hutchinson, Hartnell, Hamhuis, Tootoo,
22 NJD
Commodore, Martin, Hale, Rupp, Danton C.Janssen
23 WAS
Beech, Sutherby, Pettinger, Eminger, Semin,
24 FLA
Weiss, Majesky, Krajicek, Bouwmeester, G.Campbell
25 CAR
Tanabe, N.Wallin, Zigomanis, C.Ward
26 DET
Zetterberg, Kronwall, Hudler
27 DAL
M.Tjarnqvist, Ott, Miettinen, J.Jokinen, Bacashihua, Daley
28 CHI
S.McCarthy, M.Leighton, T.Ruutu, C.Anderson, Babchuk, D.Keith
29 VAN
D.Sedin, H.Sedin,
Umberger, Bieksa
30 PHO
Kolanos, Sjostrom,

1999-2002 Winners
Pittsburgh acquired a lot of players, some of them quite good some of them are just average. Of course they would go on to draft two stars in Crosby and Malkin in subsequent drafts and now have a very nice collection of young talent on their NHL team. I've heard a lot of NHL GMs talk about building the team through the draft but Pittsburgh has actually done that. Ottawa is another team that is largely home grown and they place third in my study with a great collection of impact and role players. Colorado found a lot of bodies but I don't expect to see any of those fellows in a NHL All-Star game during their careers. Minnesota ranks high but I only see Gaborik as a big impact player out of that group. If my study took quality into account Vancouver and Detroit would both move up significantly I suspect.

1999-2000 Losers
Phoenix was unbelievably bad during this four year period. They only found three NHL players when they should have seven with their picks. None of the players they drafted were impact guys. If I was an owner of this franchise I would clean house. You can't do much worse than you just did.

2002 Atlanta Thrashers
How did the Thrashers fare? Exactly as they were supposed to. They should have found eight players and they did find eight players. They drafted very high and they found three All-Stars or potential All Stars. They also found some role players later in the draft. The biggest problem is the lack of players who can help fill out the top two scoring lines.

Conclusion: The Thrashers were neither great nor terrible in their first four NHL drafts as a franchise. They did about as well as they ought to have done given their position and the quality of those drafts.

Next up: I may do something of college and junior free agents from 1999-2002.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

2002 NHL Draft Evaluation

Today I return to my examination of recent Thrasher drafts. The 2002 will be the final year I look at because it is simply too early to look at 2003. Even in the case of 2002 there a large number of draftees who have not yet played a season's worth of NHL games, but almost certainly will at some point next year.

How Much is that Pick Worth?
So how much were those draft picks worth in 2003? If you compare the NHL player success rate of 2003 with the previous years it is lower, however this is due in part to the fact that not enough time has elapsed for some of these guys to qualify as NHL players. If I redo this study in a year I expect some modest improvements in the success rate at every level.

Draft Pick 1999 Probability 2000 Probability 2001 Probability 2002 Probability
Top 1/3 of the 1st .78 .70 1.00 .80
Middle 1/3 of the 1st .67 .60 .70 .50
Bottom 1/3 of the 1st .30 .80 .40 .50
2nd Round .21 .26 .27 .18
3rd Round .37 .13 .18 .09
4th-8th Rounds .12 .09 .14 .04
9th Round .03 .00 .03 .00

How Much Where Atlanta's Picks Worth?
So what sort of picks did Atlanta have available at their table that day? The Thrashers had two first round picks #2 and #30 overall. Other than that their lower round picks were unlikely to produce much. The sum of all those picks comes to just 1.6 NHL players expected given the number of picks and their location in the draft.

Pick Location Pick Probability
2 .80
30 .50
116 .04
124 .04
144 .04
167 .04
198 .04
230 .04
236 .04
257 .04

2002 NHL Draft Rankings
In the following chart I list every single NHL team and where they rank based upon their performance in the NHL Draft. I list the number of picks available to them, the value of those picks in terms of Expected NHL players, the Actual NHL players drafted and the Difference between team expectations and team performance. Then, I list the players who count as successful picks using my game played criteria.

I have added a new category of Possible NHL Players. There are still individuals from this draft who have are getting close to passing my full season threshold but have not done so this year. The truth of the matter is that it is too early to totally close the book on this draft so I list the guys that still have a shot at qualifying as NHLers (For example, I think it is very like that Novotny, Paetsch and Oduya will qualify early next season).

Team Rank NHL TEAM # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHLers Drafted Difference NHL Players Possible NHL Players
1 PIT 11 1.4 3 +1.6 Whitney, Christensen, M. Talbot
2 TBL 13 0.6 2 +1.4 Ranger, R.Craig
3 CHI 9 1.0 2 +1.0 Babchuk, D. Keith Wisniewski, Ellison
4 TOR 9 1.0 2 +1.0 Steen, Stajan Ian White, S. Kronwall
5 WAS 13 2.1 3 +.9 Eminger, Semin, Gordon
6 BUF 10 1.4 2 +.6 Ballard, Wideman Paille, Hecl
7 CBJ 13 1.5 2 +.5 Nash, Pirjeta Tollefsen, Balastik, Goertzen
8 EDM 15 1.5 2 +.5 Stoll, Matt Greene
9 NYR 9 0.5 1 +.5 Prucha
10 ATL 10 1.6 2 +.4 Lehtonen, Slater
11 CAR 10 .7 1 +.3 C. Ward
12 DET 4 .7 1 +.3 Hudler Filppula, Fleischmann
13 MON 6 .8 1 +.2 Higgins Ferland
14 NJD 11 .9 1 +.2 Janssen Tallackson, Ryznar
15 NAS 8 1.0 1 0 Upshall
Team Rank NHL TEAM # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHL Drafted Difference NHL Players Possible NHL Players
16 PHI 7 1.1 1 -.1 Pitkanen
17 FLA 10 2.1 2 -.1 Bouwmeester, Greg Campbell Globke
18 ANA 8 1.2 1 -.2 Lupul
19 MIN 10 1.3 1 -.3 P-M Bouchard Harding, Foy, Brandner, Brust
20 CAL 12 1.4 1 -.4 Lombardi
21 DAL 12 1.5 1 -.5 Daley
22 PHO 11 1.6 1 -.6 Eager LeNeveu, Jones
23 STL 9 0.7 0 -.7
24 VAN 11 0.8 0 -.8

25 NYI 7 0.8 0 -.8
26 BOS 7 0.9 0 -.9
Toivenen, Yan Stastny
27 SJS 7 0.9 0 -.9

28 OTT 8 0.9 0 -.9
29 COL 10 1.0 0 -1.0

30 LAK 11 1.1 0 -1.1
Grebeshkov, Kanko

2002 Winners
It is likely that in another year, our rankings at the top might change some as a result of more draftees qualifying as NHL players. At the moment the Penguins are your leader having found three contributors (Whitney, Christensen and Talbot). Tampa places second despite having many lower ranked picks. The Lightning managed to find two non-star players who could be on their roster. Chicago places third (Babchuk and Keith) and will likely move higher as (Wisniewski and Ellison) become NHL players. Likewise, Toronto is in 4th but could further climb the list if White and Kronwall player more NHL games. The Blue Jackets also have potential to move up with three players in the potential NHLers. If they all make it that would give them 5 players out of this draft, although only Rick Nash is what I would consider an impact player.

2000 Losers
At the moment there are a lot of teams at the bottom of this list who have yet to see one of their draftees play a full NHL season. However, most of these teams toward the bottom have at least one player who is on their way to meeting that goal. Only three teams have no players climbing toward the 82 games played mark. Those three teams are: Vancouver, San Jose Colorado.

2002 Atlanta Thrashers
How did the Thrashers fare in 2002? My approach puts them at 10th which is right on the edge of the top third and the middle third. They had a very high pick and they took a quality player (Lehtonen). Later in the 1st round they had a pick that was basically a coin toss in terms of value, a 50-50 shot of producing a player. That pick was Jim Slater who has arrived with the big club. They made that pick count and right now that pushes the team's ranking up.

What about the non-1st round picks from this year? Levokari came over to North America but didn't make it. Fretter is scoring at a good clip in the ECHL but he is long way from the NHL. Schell is also still in the ECHL for the third year. Flache, Manson, Dwyer also spent some time in Gwinnett but are not likely NHL players. The only guy I really have some hope for at this point is Nathan Oystrick who just turned pro this year after playing at Northern Michigan. He started out in the AHL and was leading all defensemen in scoring the last time I looked. My guess is that he will be one of those defensemen prospects fighting for a NHL job fall.

We can almost close the book on this draft as far as the Thrashers are concerned. Right now the Thrashers are ranked 10th but they will slid down as prospects from other teams qualify as NHL players. If Oystrick were to make it to the big league that would change the team's grade from average to outstanding, but for the moment it is yet another average draft for the Thrashers.

Next up: The combined 1999-2002 rankings.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Take a Deep Breath Everyone

Your blogger took the weekend off. The Cold War Kids show I mentioned was even better than I expected. I nearly broke my back helping some jerk move. Roller hockey at the park on Sunday was great--until I broke my Derek MacKenzie stick. Anyways, I'll resume posting the draft reviews tomorrow, but now I wanted to comment on the last two games and fan reaction.

Back-to-back losses and many people have slipped into despair--or at least off the bandwagon. I think we need to keep perspective. The team was red hot after the trades and we all thought they were world beaters but it is natural for some of that initial momentum to wear off. Everyone gets too excited when we are on a winning streak and too down when we are on a losing streak. There is a lot of parity in the NHL and small things can be the difference beween a winning and losing streak.

The loss to the Sharks was very predictable. Personally, the Sharks are my pick to win the Stanley Cup this year. Yes, the Thrashers are good, but the Sharks are just a great team. The Thrashers struggled to get the puck out of their own end and get it across the red line versus San Jose. Maybe the Thrashers didn't play as well as they could have, but you have to give a fair amount of credit to SJ. They are big, the are fast and they are very talented. I expect them to go far this summer.

As far as the Pittsburgh game, I was thrilled with how well we played them on the defensive side of things. You have to remember that the Penguins have probably been the hottest team in the East in the 2nd half. They have been beating everyone and scoring goals right and left. We limited them to just two goals. The first goal came about because Jim Slater was late covering his man in the crease area. The second was the flukiest goal against the Thrashers all season. Lehtonen misjudged it, but the Penguins certainly got some help from the hockey gods as it bounced and changed directions at the last second.

If you're looking for a goat in the Penguins game don't look at Kari who absolutely robbed Pittsburgh twice (If Kari doesnt make those saves it would have been 3-0). Instead you ought be complaining about an offense that managed just a single goal in back to back games. You're not going to win many games that way in the modern NHL.

A tip of the hat to Mellanby for what might just be the final regular season goal of his career. The season is winding down and so is his career. I wasn't a big fan when the Thrashers signed him but he brought more to the team that I would have imagined.

I've heard that Eric Belanger's injury is not serious and he should be fine--whew. Also, if the team has a good start to the playoffs, it is possible we will see Jon Sim in a Thrashers uniform again this season.

Friday, March 23, 2007

2001 NHL Draft

Today we take a look at the 2001 Draft and the Thrashers performance.
(In a previous post on the 1999 Draft I explain my method for evaluating each draft.)

How Much is that Pick Worth?
The first step is to figure out what each draft pick is worth. For comparison's sake I've posted the success rate by round for picks in both 1999, 2000 and 2001. This draft looks more like what we would expect, namely that the higher your pick the greater your chance of success. You can also see that this 2001 Draft was deeper in the 3rd-8th rounds than the previous two years. (Note: my study found virtually no difference between a 4th round pick and a 8th rounder so they are valued the same.)
Draft Pick 1999 Probability 2000 Probability 2001 Probability
Top 1/3 of the 1st .78 .70 1.00
Middle 1/3 of the 1st .67 .60 .70
Bottom 1/3 of the 1st .30 .80 .40
2nd Round .21 .26 .27
3rd Round .37 .13 .18
4th-8th Rounds .12 .09 .14
9th Round .03 .00 .03

How Much Where Atlanta's Picks Worth?
So what sort of picks did Atlanta have available at their table that day? The #1 pick overall thanks to a lucky staff member at the lottery selection. The Thrashers did not have a 2nd round pick this draft (I can't remember why at the moment). The combined probability for the all of the Thrashers picks comes out right at 2.0 players.

Draft Pick Location Pick Probability
1st overall 1.0
3rd round .18
4th round .14
4th round .14
5th round .14
6th round .14
7th round .14
7th round .14
9th round .03

2001 NHL Draft Rankings
In the following chart I list every single NHL team and where they rank based upon their performance in the NHL Draft. I list the number of picks available to them, the value of those picks in terms of Expected NHL players, the Actual NHL players drafted and the Difference between team expectations and team performance. Then, I list the players who count as successful picks using my game played criteria.

I have added a new catagory of Possible NHL Players. There are still individuals from this draft who have are getting close to passing my full season threshold but have not done so this year. The truth of the matter is that it is too early to totally close the book on this draft so I list the guys that still have a shot at qualifying as NHLers (I think it is very like that Novotny, Paetsch and Oduya will be there early next season).

Team Rank Team Name # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHL Players Difference NHL Players Drafted Possible NHL Players
1 NYR 11 2.4 5 +2.6 Zidlicky, Blackburn Tyutin, Hollweg, G. Murrary
2 OTT 13 3.0 5 +2.0 Spezza, Laich, Gleason, Schubert, Emery Bochenski
3 COL 10 1.5 3 +1.5 Svatos, McCormick, Budaj
4 BOS 8 1.6 3 +1.4 Alberts, Morrisonn, Jurcina
5 MIN 7 2.0 3 +1.0 M Koivu, Veilleux, Boogaard Wanvig
6 STL 8 1.1 2 +1.0 Cajanek, McClement
7 MON 8 2.3 3 +0.7 Komisarek, Plekanec, Perezhogin
8 SJS 6 1.4 2 +0.6 Goc, Ehrhoff Clowe
9 VAN 6 1.4 2 +0.6 Umberger, Bieksa J. King
10 PHI 9 1.5 2 +0.5 Seidenberg, Sharp Woywitka
11 LAK 11 2.5 3 +0.5 Cammalleri, Bednar, Huet
12 BUF 8 1.7 2 +0.3 Pominville, D. Roy Novotny, Thorburn
13 PIT 9 1.7 2 +0.3 Armstrong, Surovy N. Welch
14 FLA 12 2.8 3 +0.2 Weiss, Majesky, Krajicek Malec
Team Rank Team Name # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHL Players Difference NHL Players Drafted Possible NHL Players
15 ATL 9 2.0 2 0 Kovalchuk, Nurminen
16 NAS 9 2.0 2 0 Hamhuis, Tootoo Shishkanov
17 EDM 11 2.2 2 -0.2 Hemsky, Markkanen Pisa
18 TOR 12 2.3 2 -0.3 Wellwood, Pilar Colaiacovo, B. Bell, Kondratiev
19 ANA 11 2.4 2 -0.4 Chistov, Gerber
20 DAL 10 1.5 1 -0.5 J. Jokinen, Bacashihua M. Smith
21 CBJ 11 2.7 2 -0.7 A. Johnson, Leclaire
22 CAR 8 1.7 1 -0.7 Zigomanis
23 NYI 8 .8 0 -0.8

24 CHI 13 3.0 2 -1.0 T. Ruutu, C. Anderson
25 DET 7 1.0 0 -1.0
26 PHO 9 2.0 1 -1.0 Sjostrom Spiller
27 WAS 10 1.3 0 -1.3
Oduya, Paetsch
28 CAL 11 2.3 1 -1.3 Kobasew
29 TBL 14 2.8 1 -1.8 Svitov Artyukhin
30 NJD 10 2.0 0 -2.0

2001 Winners
The Rangers are ranked on top as they were able to land a starting goalie (Blackburn) an offensive defenseman (Zidlicky) and some other depth players (Tyutin, Hollweg, Garth Murray). But I think that Ottawa will probably surpass them as soon as Bocheski hits 82 games. The Senators had the #2 overall pick thanks to the Yashin trade and took Spezza a star level offensive player, they also found a starting goalie, and two defensemen in Schubert and Gleason plus Brooks Laich. In third place we find Colorado which managed to unearth Svatos and Budaj late in the draft. Boston found a trio of young players. Honestly, Minnesota is a bit high. If my study took quality into account, Veillieux and Boogaard are not impact players and even M. Koivu hasn't really set the world on fire. Personally, I'd rather have the players that Montreal found than those Minnesota drafted. Also Buffalo, Dallas and Toronto all will move higher when some of their prospects cross the 82 game mark.

2001 Losers
Teams that found zero NHL players include Detroit, Washington, Islanders and New Jersey, but that list is very deceptive. The Wings did find Bykov who clearly can play in the league but wished to return to Russia. The Capitals took Oduya who will pass the 82 games played mark early next year. Tampa is ranked low but Artyukhin will be counted as a NHL player if he returns to the NHL next season. So really I only see the Islanders and Devils coming up empty handed.

2001 Atlanta Thrashers
How did the Thrashers fare in 2000? My approach puts them at 15th which is smack in the middle. They had the top pick and they took the right guy, Koavalchuk is a star player. Nurminen provided some badly needed stability in goal until an injury cut short his NHL career. Bottom line, 2001 was a lot like 1999 and 2000, not terrific, but not terrible either.

Other players taken in 2000 (Garnett, Sipotz, Gajic, Colin Stuart) have reached the AHL level put I don't see them as likely NHL players. Garnett played some last season due to injuries but my guess is that the team will let him depart once his contract ends since Pavelec will be need minor league starts next season.

Next up: The 2002 Draft.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The 2000 NHL Draft

In today's post I take a look at the 2000 NHL draft and how the Thrashers did. (In the previous post on the 1999 I explain my method for evaluating each draft.)

How Much is that Pick Worth?
The first step is to figure out what each draft pick is worth. For comparison's sake I've posted the success rate by round for picks in both 1999 and 2000. There a couple of interesting things here. The 1st round was clearly deeper in 2000 than in 1999. The players taken at the end of the 1st round in 2000 had a very high success rate (in fact, there were fewer misses in the late 1st rounder than in the middle or top of that round) and twice as high as players taken in the same area of the 1999 draft. The 2nd round was also better in 2000, but then things really fall off quickly. The 3rd-9th rounds all produced fewer NHL players than the weak 1999 draft. I think it is safe to say the 2000 was a bit better than 1999, but it was very top heavy. (Note: my study found virtually no difference between a 4th round pick and a 8th rounder so they are valued the same.)

Draft Pick 1999 Probability 2000 Probability
Top 1/3 of the 1st .78 .70
Middle 1/3 of the 1st .67 .60
Bottom 1/3 of the 1st .30 .80
2nd Round .21 .26
3rd Round .37 .13
4th-8th Rounds .12 .09
9th Round .03 .00

How Much Where Atlanta's Picks Worth?
So what sort of picks did Atlanta have available at their table that day? The #2 pick overall thanks to losing both a lot of games and the draft lottery (NYI won it). They also had the 1st pick in the 2nd round and another 2nd rounder, so they had picks in VERY good locations in a top heavy draft. The Thrashers had zero 3rd rounders and a load of extra late picks. Unfortunately, this was not a very good draft for late picks, so while they had multiple picks in the 6th, 8th, and 9th rounds the odds of any of those picks becoming players were very long indeed. (Something to keep in mind when you hear a player traded for a 4th rounder or 5th rounder--that pick is very unlikely to produce a NHL player.) Even with all those extra late round picks, the sum of the probabilities for Atlanta indicates that they should have found 2.03 NHL players once you take into account where those picks were located.

Picks by Round Probability of Success
1st (2nd overall) .70
2nd .26
2nd .26
4th .09
4th .09
5th .09
6th .09
6th .09
6th .09
8th .09
8th .09
8th .09
9th .00
9th .00

2000 NHL Draft Rankings
In the following chart I list every single NHL team and where they rank based upon their performance in the NHL Draft. I list the number of picks available to them, the value of those picks in terms of Expected NHL players, the Actual NHL players drafted and the Difference between team expectations and team performance. Finally I list the players who count as successful picks using my game played criteria.

NHL Rank NHL Team # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHL Players Difference NHL Players Selected
1 MIN 9 1.6 3 +1.4 Gaborik, Schultz, Sekeras
2 LAK 11 1.6 3 +1.4 Frolov, Lilja, Visnovsky
3 NJD 13 2.6 4 +1.4 P. Martin, D. Hale, Rupp, Danton
4 CAL 9 1.7 3 +1.3 Stoll, Foster, Moen
5 NYR 9 .9 2 +1.1 D. Moore, Lundqvist
6 COL 13 2.1 3 +1.0 Nederost, Sauer, Liles
7 CBJ 11 1.4 2 +.6 Klesla, Nummelin
8 PHI 8 1.4 2 +.6 Justin Williams, Cechmanek
9 PIT 10 1.4 2 +.6 Orpik, Ouellet
10 WAS 6 1.5 2 +.5 Sutherby, Pettinger
11 TOR 10 1.8 2 +.2 Boyes, Tellqvist
12 CAR 8 .8 1 +.2 N. Wallin
13 NYI 9 1.9 2 +.1 DiPietro, Torres
14 DAL 10 1.9 2 +.1 Ott, Miettinen
15 OTT 10 1.9 2 +.1 Volchenkov, Vermette
NHL Rank NHL Team # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHL Players Difference NHL Players Selected
16 MON 11 2.0 2 0 Marcel Hossa, Hainsey
17 ATL 14 2.0 2 0 Heatley, Hordichuk
18 ANA 5 1.1 1 -.1 Bryzgalov
19 BUF 8 1.3 1 -.3 Gaustad
20 PHO 8 1.4 1 -.4 Kolanos
21 EDM 10 1.5 1 -.5 Lombardi
22 TBL 10 1.6 1 -.6 Alexeev
23 BOS 12 2.6 2 -.6 Kultanen, Hilbert
24 STL 9 1.7 1 -.7 Taffe
25 SJS 7 0.8 0 -.8
26 NAS 12 1.9 1 -.9 Hartnell
27 DET 11 1.9 1 -.9 Kronwall
28 FLA 8 1.0 0 -1.0
29 VAN 7 1.3 0 -1.3
30 CHI 15 2.4 0 -2.4

2000 Winners
The Minnesota Wild had a very good draft day picking up a star player with Marian Gaborik in the 1st round and finding a solid NHL player in Schultz and an overage European veteran in Sekeras who contributed for three seasons. The Kings also did better than expected finding two impact players in Frolov and Visnovsky and a depth defensemen in Lilja. The Devils found quantity if not great quality in the draft landing Paul Martin, David Hale, Michael Rupp and the now incarcerated Mike Danton. The Avalanche and Rangers had some success late in the draft with J-M Liles and Lundqvist.

2000 Losers
Teams that came away empty handed were the Sharks, Panthers, Canuks and Blackhawks. But the Blackhawks ranking is fairly deceptive. Chicago drafted three Russians who played less than a full season Vorobiev, Yakubov and I. Radulov. These players have returned to Russia and it is entirely possible that they are capable of making it in the NHL. The Red Wings are listed at the bottom but one of the players they took in 2000 Tomas Kopecky debuted as a rookie this year. If he makes it past the 82 games played mark next year that will pull Detroit out of the basement in these rankings.

Another example of a ranking that is a bit deceptive is Calgary. They rated high (as a winner) because their scouts located three guys who could play in the NHL (Stoll, Foster and Moen). Unfortunately for the Flames franchise all three players made the NHL with another club and thus the work of the scouts was undone by the front office.

2000 Atlanta Thrashers
How did the Thrashers fare in 2000? My approach puts them at 17th which is slightly below average given their number of picks and location within the draft. Heatley went on to become a star player and was traded for Hossa who is also a star player so that is a successful pick. Even if the Islanders had taken Heatley the team would have landed Gaborik that year. Bottom line, 2000 was a lot like 1999 draft. Not terrific, but not terrible either. Another middle of the pack draft for the team.

The Thrashers also picked up figher/checker Darcy Hordichuk who was then dealt to Phoenix for two prospects, one of whom was used to get Marc Savard from Calgary. It is interesting to see that both players taken this year were subsequently traded. But in return the Thrashers received two of their three leading scorers for last year's club. Good trades translated an average draft performance into two impact players on the ice.

Simon Gamache was taken in the last round. He worked very hard and turned into a borderline NHLer. He was given NHL looks by Atlanta, Nashville and St. Louis and has since headed over to Europe to play. Not a single player from the 9th round of 2000 has played 82 NHL games so far. That is two drafts in a row where the Thrashers almost found a gem in the 9th round. 4th round selection Carl Mallette put up some nice numbers in the Q but went unsigned by the Thrashers and spent a few years in the ECHL before heading over to some of the weaker European leagues.

The big missed opportunties in this draft where the two 2nd round picks. In 2000 roughly one out of every four players taken became a NHL player and the Thrasher had 2 picks in that round, but came away empty handed. The real wild card is Ilya Nikulin who I still hear could be a NHL caliber defensemen. He has always played on very good teams (Moscow Dynamo and Kazan Ak-Bars) over in Russia--which is probably the top league outside of the NHL. But for whatever reason he has never signed. Is it because he doesn't want to learn English? No desire to play in North America? Funny stuff with his agent? For what ever reason he has never donned a Thrashers jersey and thus the team has never gotten anything out of him. Were the Thrashers to sign him this summer and he makes the club it could pull their score up for this draft, but we've been waiting to see that happen for some time, so I'm not going to count on it.

Next up: The 2001 Draft.

Analysis: 1999 NHL Draft in Review

Around the trading deadline there was a fair amount of discussion on various Atlanta Thrasher discussion boards about the Thrashers (and GM Don Waddell's) record in the NHL draft. Some people claimed that the team had a terrible record, while others (including myself) argued that the team was just average. That debate started me thinking about how to do a quantitative analysis of recent drafts in order to get a handle on how well (or poorly) the Thrashers have done.

This is the first post in a four part series that will look at the Thrashers record in the NHL Drafts from 1999-2002. Why the years 1999-2002? Because it takes roughly 4-5 years for drafted players (who are only 18 years old) to mature and reach the big leagues. Not enough time has passed to completely evaluate more recent drafts.

(Warning: Stat Blogging Dead Ahead! If you don't care how I did this skip down to the two tables where I rank all NHL teams #1-28.)

How should we evaluate a team's performance at the NHL draft? Teams have a different number of picks and those picks are in different locations. Also some draft years are better than others (1999 was a bad year in case you didn't know). If we are to evaluate each team we must find some way of accounting for differences in the number of picks and their location in the draft order within a draft year. Once we can properly value these picks we can then arrive at a judgement about the relative success or failure of each NHL team.

First, we have define success on draft day. Who should we count as a NHL player? There is no perfect answer. Every definition carries with it some draw backs. Looking over the 1999 draft it struck me that most of good players have played at least a full season's worth of games. This allows us to separate out the guys who made it into the league from those that had cups of coffee. So I'll use 82 games for skaters and 45 NHL games played for goalies (since goalies never play a full season).

I think that using a full season worth of games is a reasonable criteria for success. The bottom line of the NHL draft is finding players who can make your roster. A scouting director needs to produce scorers, goalies, checkers and defensemen. Thus, I think games played is a reasonable criteria for success. Again, it isn't perfect but it is reasonable. (note: I plan to do a more advanced study this summer that combines both games played with the value of the player for a more nuanced approach--but your blogger only has so much time at the moment.)

Next we have to figure out a way to estimate how many players each NHL team should reasonably be expected to find in the draft. First we have to take into account significant variation in the number of draft picks. In the 1999 draft Nashville Predators had a high of 15 draft picks while the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers had only 6 each. We should expect that Nashville will draft more NHL player than the Wings and Flyers given the difference in the number of picks.

Now we must also adjust for the location of those each team's picks within the draft. 1st round picks are more valuable than 2nd rounders and 3rd rounders. Early 1st rounders are more valuable than late 1st rounders.

In order to assign a specific value to each draft pick we need to know roughly what percentage of players taken in that area of the draft turned out to be NHL players in 1999 (see the table below). For example 78% of players drafted in the top 1/3 of the 1st round made it into the league, this fell to 67% for picks in the middle of 1st round and then dropped further to 30% for late 1st round picks in that year. In 1999 21% of all 2nd rounders made the league, while 37% of all third rounders eventually arrived (this is a bit of an oddity that the third round was more productive than the 2nd round).

In my research into the drafts between 1999-2002 I found that after the end of the 3rd round there is essentially no difference between a 4th round pick and a 8th round pick. Some years the 8th round produced more players while other years the 4th round. It seems that after you get past the top 90-100 draft picks it is something like a lottery where each lottery ticket has an equal value. The one exception to this was that 9th round picks were consistently worthless in terms of producing NHL talent. So for this study I will assign picks in rounds 4-8 the same probability of turning into a NHL player.

Draft Pick 1999 Player Probability
Top 1/3 of the 1st Round
Middle 1/3 of the 1st Round .67
Bottom 1/3 of the 1st round
2nd round .21
3rd round .37
4th-8th rounds .12
9th round .03

OK, now that we have a way of valuing draft picks round by round. The next step is sum up the probabilities for each team. I'll use Atlanta as an example since this is a Thrashers blog (see the table below). In 1999 the Thrashers had 11 draft picks. The Thrashers 1st rounder was 1st overall so the probability is quite high (.78) that the pick will produce a player, but as we move down the ladder the picks become less likely to turn into a guy wearing the team's logo. If we sum up the joint probability of all 11 Atlanta picks we discover that given all those picks in 1999, we should expect that the team would find 2.1 NHL players given the number of picks, their placement in the order and the weakness of that particular draft year.

1999 Atlanta Picks by Round Probability Value of those Picks
1st (Top 1/3) .78
2nd .21
3rd .37
4th .12
4th .12
5th .12
6th .12
7th .12
8th .12
9th .03
9th .03
Total Value of 1999 Picks 2.10

I repeated this process for all 28 NHL teams drafting in 1999 and the results are contained in the table below. I calculated the Expected NHL Players for each team and then looked at the number of Actual NHL players (82 NHL games played) that resulted from that team's picks. The Difference column show whether teams produced more or fewer players than expected.
I have ranked all 28 teams based upon their net Difference.

NHL Rank NHL Team # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHL Players Difference NHL Players
1 NYI 14 4.0 6 +2.0 Connolly, Pyatt, Martinek, Mezei, Kolnik,Weinhandl
2 ANA 7 1.1 3 +1.9 Leopold, Havelid, Tenkrat
3 PIT 11 2.2 4 +1.8 Koltsov, R. Malone, Kostopoulos, Caron
4 OTT 10 1.7 3 +1.3 Havlat, C. Kelly, Prusek
5 COL 11 1.8 3 +1.2 Radivojevic, Vrbata, R. Hahl
6 LAK 10 1.9 3 +1.1 F. Kaberle, McGratton, G. Parros
7 CHI 8 1.3 2 +.7 McCarthy, M. Leighton
8 BOS 10 1.5 2 +.5 Boynton, Eloranta
9 SJS 7 1.5 2 +.5 Jillson, Dimitrakos
10 DET 6 .6 1 +.4 Zetterberg
11 STL 10 1.8 2 +.2 B. Jackman, Khavanov
12 TBL 10 1.9 2 +.1 Keefe, Olvestad
13 CAL 10 2.0 2.0 0 Saprykin, C. Anderson
14 BUF 12 2.0 2.0 0 Zigomanis, R. Miller

NHL Rank NHL Team # of Picks Expected NHL Players Actual NHL Players Difference NHL Players
15 NAS 15 3.0 3 0 A. Hall, Erat, Hutchinson
16 ATL 11 2.1 2 -.1 Stefan, Exelby
17 FLA 9 2.2 2 -.2 A. Auld, Hagman
18 EDM 9 2.2 2 -.2 Semenov, Comrie
19 VAN 8 2.4 2 -.4 D. Sedin, H. Sedin
20 DAL 11 1.5 1 -.5 M. Tjarvqvist
21 NJD 8 1.5 1 -.6 Commodore
22 CAR 9 1.8 1 -.9 Tanabe
23 PHI 6 .9 0 -.9
24 WAS 10 2.1 1 -1.1 Beech
25 TOR 9 1.2 0 -1.2
26 MON 11 1.4 0 -1.4
27 NYR 11 3.0 1 -2.0 Lundmark
28 PHO 9 2.0 0 -2.0

1999 Winners
The New York Islanders ran away from the pack that year by drafting 6 NHL player in a draft where we should have expected them to only find 4 players given their picks. Their six NHL players included two scoring forwards (Connolly and Pyatt) an overage defensemen (Martinek) and some NHL depth players (Mezei, Kolnik, Weinhandl). The Ducks also had a strong draft considering that they had few picks. They still managed to find two top 4 defensemen (Leopold and Havelid) and a depth guy (Tenkrat). Pittsburgh managed to find quantity if not quality. Of the four NHL players Pittsburgh drafted, Koltsov has been an erratic scoring forward, Caron a backup goalie, Kostopoulos a depth player. R. Malone is probably the best guy out of the four that they found in 1999. The other big winner was Ottawa who got one of the four star offensive players in available in 1999 in Martin Havlat (the others being the two Sedins and Zetterberg). They also snagged a solid center in C. Kelly and a backup goalie in Prusek.

1999 Losers
Philadephia, Toronto, Montreal and Phoenix all came away with nothing from this particular draft. I would also suggest that Tampa is overrated by my method since their two "hits" Olvestad and Keefe were not impact players and neither are still in the NHL. Washington's one hit was Beech who is a fringe NHL player. The Rangers had two 1st round picks and all they have to show for it is Jamie Lundmark who has bounced around between four teams and has a career high is just 29 points.

1999 Atlanta Thrashers
How did the Thrashers fare in 1999? They were expected to find roughly 2 NHL players and they did in Stefan and Exelby. Their actual number of NHL players minus their Expected NHL Players places them right in the middle of the pack, ranked 16th out of 28 teams. In short it was an average performance. Not brilliant, but not terrible either. Obviously they didn't get any of the four star forwards available in the draft--then again neither did 25 other teams either.

The Thrashers also had a couple of guys from that draft who might still make it to 82 games. Tommi Santala has been on the Canuks roster this year and has 46 games played so far in his career. Getting anything, even a depth player out of a 9th round pick (which Santala was) is a bit of an accomplishment so a tip of the hat on that one. MacKenzie continues to get a few games here and there. He isn't that far from having a J.P. Vigier type of career. If the team had experienced a number of injuries on the checking line it is possible he might have ended up getting a fair number of NHL games played this year. Blatny got some looks both with the Thrashers and Boston but is out of the NHL now.

Did Atlanta get the best player in 1999? No. But they also avoided a complete disaster by not taking a guy like Brendl or Kris Beech. The team found two guys capable of playing a regular shift in a very weak draft year. Could they have done better? Certainly. Was it a disaster? No, go see the Rangers for that.

Next up: The 2000 Draft.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Coming Attractions II: Cold War Kids in ATL Friday

I usually only write about the Atlanta Thrashers on this blog, but I do have other interests, including going to see live music here in town. My good friend Rich writes a blog called Cable and Tweed on indy music in Atlanta. Last year we went to see a show by Sound Team (they were so-so) and I was really impressed by opening band Cold War Kids. I purchased their EP Up In Rags and like it very much. I rarely pimp anything in this space, but if you're looking for something to do this Friday night (no Thrashers game) you might want to head over to Vinyl and check them out. What do they sound like? I'm terrible at describing music, but I'd call them blues influenced rock. You can listen to some of their tracks on their myspace page and judge for yourself.

Coming Attractions: Thrasher Drafts in Review, 1999-2002

Starting tonight I will post an evaluation of the Thrashers NHL drafts 1999-2002 on the blog. There was a lot of talk about how "bad" the Thrashers drafts have been. I've argued that the Thrashers haven't been "bad" but merely "average" over those years. I take a look at the data and rank all 30 NHL teams during that period.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Swinging Sunday

Yesterday was a big win in the history of the franchise. On paper it seemed likely that the Thrashers would lose to a Buffalo team with a better record and Tampa would beat a Washington with a worse record. Instead the Thrashers get a huge victory against the Sabres and Tampa has a meltdown game and the division lead is now 6 points (with the Lightning holding a game in hand). If the Thrashers can keep that lead above 3 points it will make the final regular season game from deciding the outcome of the division title (and home ice advantage).

I'm a bit short on time today, but a couple of quick observations:

Havelid looked his old self yesterday. Let's hope that his confidence has been switched back on and he plays like he is capable of playing.

Tkachuk's play at the front of the net has really transformed this team. He was crucial in both OT victories at home. The team needs to try to feed Keith in front of the net like that more often on the power play. He is willing to shoot, get him the puck!

I think that Tkachuk has also encouraged other players to crash the net. We are seeing more Thrasher chances develop where multiple players converge on the crease to put pressure on the opposing team's netminder and defense.

Zhitnik continued his great weekend. First he shut down Jagr and then last night he made more big plays to keep the game tied including throwing himself down across the crease when Lehtonen was out of the net.

Overall I thought the Thrashers defense did a solid job against the best offense in the East. You are not going to completely shut down Buffalo's forwards but the Thrashers played them as well as they have in any of their meetings this season.

I don't complain about calls much because it is the NHL, but the non-call on Hossa that preceeded the diving call on Havelid was just awful. That hook on Hossa has been called a penalty all season long and now it is not a penalty? What happened to the standard that any time your stick in parallel to the ice and on another player's body it will be called? Right out the window it seems. Overall it was a poorly called game as things were missed against both teams.

The power play remains to pass happy. I counted another sequence in which they made seven consecutive passes in a row without a shot. At least they did cash in a 5 on 3 chance for a change, but Kovalchuk's shot happened because nobody else wanted to shoot the puck--again.

Four days off for the guys to rest. Should be good as long as they don't get too overconfident and come out flat versus the Sharks. Every time we have played a western team (other than Colorado's goalie meltdown) it seems like the team from the West has outskated us in the 1st period. Hopefully they can reverse that on Thursday. I've watched the Sharks a fair amount this season and they will be a tough team to beat.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Playoff Countdown: Game #10: Theft

The Thrashers have lost some games in heartbreaking fashion this year and when that happens people complain on the boards about "how come we never get any breaks?" Well, last night the karma was returned in spades as Atlanta went home with two points that the Rangers probably deserved to win.

I hear that the Rangers coach was asking to talk to the Atlanta Police Department after the contest, crying "we was robbed!" Johan Hedberg was simply outstanding (and lucky at times) as the Rangers piled up some terrific chances around the Atlanta net but could only manage to get one goal behind. I've never played goaltender, so I can only imagine that how difficult it would be to remain that sharp after seeing so little game action of late. I real tip of the hat to Hedberg for keeping himself mentally focused.

The power play was once again pass happy. At one point I counted seven consecutive passes inside the Rangers zone without a shot. When a team passes that much they are helping the opposition kill the power play. Before the game GM Don Waddell had one of his meet the season ticket holder events and he was asked about the lack of shots. DW said that despite the offensive skills of players like Hossa, only Kovalchuk liked to shoot the puck on the PP. "Everyone in the league knows who our shooter is and they adjust to that."

I'm thinking that it is the job of the coach to change their mentality. Institute a fine system for anyone who passes up an open shot on the PP. Or make them climb the mountain in practice if they fail to take open shots. It is great that this team continues to win in spite of their power play unit, but when we get to the playoffs we need EVERY part of this working effectively.

With the two points against the Rangers and the Tampa loss to Buffalo, the Thrashers now control their destiny in terms of winning the division. Of course, Sunday this might all change with when Tampa plays a Washington team that they should beat and the Thrashers play a Sabre team which is ranked higher in the standings.

Yet another point (or points) that were gained because of the players acquired at the trading deadline. Zhitnik largely shut down Jagr during regulation and then in OT Zhitnik fired the puck from the blueline and Tkachuk created a great screen in front of Lundqvist for the game winner.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Nightmare on Marietta Street

Last weekend I had a nightmare for the first time in years. My dreams were haunted by the spector of an enormous 6'6" createre with wings and horns that seduced people and sucked the life force from them.

I couldn't quite see the head of this apparition until the last moment when it looked my way and suddenly it was revealed as a SuccuSutton a hell-born cross between a succubus and Andy Sutton. This is roughly what it looked like.

After I woke I tried to shake the spector of that awful visage from my mind, but the terror came rushing back when I picked up the Monday AJC and read the Thrashers feature story by Craig Custance.

It turns out that the SuccuSutton hopes to return to the Thrashers next season to continue sucking the lifeforce from the team. Horrors! Ye gods release us! Quick consult the World of Warcraft Users Guide!

Now some of you might have been tricked by the Sirens' Song of the SuccuSutton when reading this particular piece, so let me rip the scales from your eyes and reveal the truth.

On Feb. 24, the Thrashers traded for Alexei Zhitnik, a top-pair defenseman, and a talented penalty killer — roles Sutton had been filling for years with the Thrashers. The team identified needs, general manager Don Waddell would explain, and acquired players to fill those needs.Almost immediately Sutton's ice time dropped. Dramatically. Andy Sutton reponded: "I almost felt embarrassed," Sutton said. "Almost like I was the reason why we weren't winning. I sort of took it that way, and took it on that way, even though that's not the case."

What the SuccuSutton meant was: "Curses I have been exposed! After years of lying low they have acquired the magical amulet of Zhitnik and I cannot draw my power from the life force of this team any longer. And I had almost completed my goal of draining all the talent from the body of Nic Havelid!"

The Agent of the SuccuSutton spewed forth these beguiling lies:
Based on what's happened lately, the writing might be on the wall that an exit might be in place," Sutton's agent, Pat Morris, said. "At the same time, if Andy could stay, he wants to stay. If Atlanta wants him to stay, and it's a fair economic position, he'd look at it." Morris compared Sutton's ability to a player like Jay McKee, who made $4 million this season in St. Louis.

The truth my friends is that the SuccuSutton is nothing like Jay McKee. You see McKee actually finishes his checks on a regular basis. McKee actually hustles back to touch the puck on icings instead of just coasting around inside his own zone. McKee actually turns his head and identifies the opposition player on his goalie's blindside. McKee has played on a team that went deep into the playoffs. The SuccuSutton bears no resemblance to Jay McKee.

When asked about the SuccuSutton The GM had this to say: "A lot of things go into consideration," Waddell said. "How a player will fit in the pay structure, where he fits in the top six. If he's going to be your No. 3 or No. 4 defender, he can't be paid like a one or two."

What Grand Master Waddell meant was "At last I have been released from his agent's evil spell! I am free--no more Lashing Pain! No more Soothing Kiss!"

Yes, dear readers our nightmare draws to a close as the SuccuSutton is about to banished from this fair city with at the end of this season. But beware! The SuccuSutton will live to haunt another NHL city, let us thank the gods we will be spared further suffering!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Cruelest Cut

Cam Ward is out for the season after a skate sliced a muscle near his knee--and it really sucks. Why? Because it gives the team and their fans a handy excuse should their club miss the playoffs. Even though the truth of the matter is that this team was already on the cusp of missing the post season with a healthy playoff MVP netminder at the ready.

I was really looking forward to putting up all those pictures of dejected Hurricanes as they gathered their golfing gear and headed out for the links after NHL game #82. Now, however, good taste will mandate that I eschew such low stunts.

After all I remember so clearly now how compassionate everyone was to the Thrashers after they lost their #2 goalie before the season even started and their #1 just one game into the 05-06 season. Nothing like trying to make the playoffs with ECHL goaltending.

When your team fails to make the postseason by just two points, that is indeed the cruelest cut of all.

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