Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In Which I Argue That Sean Couturier Is Better Than Anze Kopitar

A year ago, as the Flyers were gearing up for their playoff push (remember that? Fun times) we had some discussions on the Flyers' internet community about Sean Couturier's status as a candidate for the Selke Trophy. Couts has always - from the day he entered the league - been an underrated defensive forward.

Last year seemed to be a breakout season in terms of national-level recognition. I sort of wrote about it, the way I always sort of write about things. Broad Street Hockey's Charlie O'Connor broke it down significantly better.

As the year progressed and Couturier lost time due to injury, he slipped out of the conversation. He ultimately finished eighth. Here's how the final vote went:

  1. Anze Kopitar (1145 votes)
  2. Patrice Bergeron (996)
  3. Ryan Kesler (424)
  4. Jonathan Toews (409)
  5. Joe Thornton (166)
  6. Aleksandr Barkov (115)
  7. Sidney Crosby (73)
  8. Sean Couturier (62)
  9. Pavel Datsyuk (55)
  10. Filip Forsberg (51)
  11. Joe Pavelski (46)
  12. Nicklas Backstrom (42)
  13. Jordan Staal (32)
  14. David Backes (32)
  15. Alex Steen (27)
Obviously, missing almost 20 games did not help Couturier. But it's not crazy to think that a full season of his usual level of play would have vaulted him up just below the Kopitar/Bergeron/Kesler/Toews quadrumvirate that always seems to win the Selke. Maybe next year. 

But this post isn't really a Couturier-centric post. During last night's Kings-Wild game, I was SHOCKED to see that Kings center Anze Kopitar - he of the $10 million cap hit - has scored just 6 goals and 35 points this season. Could you imagine if one of the Flyers' big names scored at a one-goal-per-ten-games pace? I mean this is, by all accounts, an awful year for everyone on the team except Wayne Simmonds. Here are their goal paces:
  • Simmonds: 0.41 goals per game
  • Brayden Schenn: 0.33
  • Jake Voracek: 0.26
  • Claude Giroux: 0.20
  • Sean Couturier: 0.20
  • Shayne Gostisbehere: 0.12
Even Ghost, who plays defense and has been the subject of no less than forty "sophomore slump" articles, has scored at a higher clip than Kopitar this season. And it's not just because of the Flyers' high-octane power play, either. Kopitar's individual 5v5 goals per 60 minutes is less than half of the numbers put up by Simmonds and Couturier. 

And then when you factor in that Kopitar has nearly doubled Couturier's power play time on ice (with the Drew Doughty/Jeff Carter unit, instead of the Mark Streit/Nick Cousins one), and I'm almost at a loss as to why Kopitar should make more than twice Couts' salary. 

You want to compare them head-to-head? Let's do it. This is all going to be via Hockeyviz, which is the best site on the internet. 

First, their average teammates and competition: 

Kopitar gets Doughty, and he's almost exclusively on the top line for the Kings in terms of ice time. As such, he gets a minuscule-ly more difficult matchup on the opposing blueline. But the forwards he plays against aren't as good as the ones Couturier's line has to face, and Couturier does it with primarily middle-six forwards and second-pair defensemen by his side. 

So here is my message for everyone who ever wants to talk shit about Sean Couturier: shut the fuck up and don't ever talk to me again. There might not be a player in the NHL who gets stuck with a worse combination of tough minutes and shitty linemates. Dave Hakstol - or whoever - needs to staple Jake Voracek to Couts' hip for the rest of their contracts. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Can The Flyers Ever Be Good?

It is BLEAK in Flyerland. We stink, we don't have a lot to ship out before Wednesday's trade deadline, and we have lost another season of the Giroux-Voracek-Simmonds core's prime years.

Oh, and we just had to sit in the cold and watch the boys get their dicks kicked in by the fucking goddamn Penguins.

So let's throw this season in the trash and take a look toward the future. We have a Ryan White playoff run to root for. The draft is four months away. Training camp starts in September. The sun is going to engulf the earth in a fiery death soon enough.

Let's put on our GM hats and try to envision a Flyers team that can compete with the Penguins, Capitals, and Wilds of the league. Here is what you need:

  • Three centers
  • Five Good Wingers
  • Four Good Defensemen
  • A Goalie
  • A Forward And A Defenseman Who Can Fight
Three Centers

Claude Giroux is one of them, and if you disagree then you should remove yourself from the Flyers fan base. He has taken the torch as best captain in Philadelphia (Chase Utley and Brian Dawkins were the two most recent holders). He is exactly what you want out of a Flyers captain - skill, attitude, everything. 

Sean Couturier is also one of the three centers on this hypothetical team, and disagreeing here is almost more egregious than wanting to trade Giroux. The old adage is that Stanley Cup contenders have a Hart contender and a Selke contender. Regardless of who you think could be the Hart guy, Couts is inarguably the Selke guy. He consistently shuts down the opposition's best players, and he doesn't even need good linemates to do it. A trio of Couturier with Jake Voracek and quite literally any NHL player will be successful. 

The third center position is a bit of a question mark, especially considering we're going at least a year (maybe as many as three years) into the future. It could be Nick Cousins, Scott Laughton, or Jordan Weal - though they all seem to be better suited on the wing. It could be recent draftees German Rubtsov or Pascal Laberge, though it's tough to accurately project their development. And, of course, if the Flyers continue their downward trend this season, they could land a high-end prospect in June, like Casey Middlestadt or Nico Hischier. 

Five Good Wingers

Let's bang out the easy ones first. Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds are among the league's best. Michael Raffl is among the league's most underrated. Brayden Schenn is among the league's top powerplay scorers. 

Travis Konecny or Oskar Lindblom will likely round out the group, though it's not out of the realm of possibility that Taylor Leier or one of the Cousins/Laughton/Weal trio could end up taking on a larger role. 

And from a player development standpoint, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Wade Allison, or Mikhail Vorobyov could end up being NHL contributors. 

The Flyers' system has a well-known batch of high-end talent on defense, but their depth at wing is impressive - and they should be able to add to it this summer. 

Four Good Defensemen

Take your pick: Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Phil Myers, Radko Gudas, Robert Hagg. 

That was easy. 

A Goalie

This has to be Anthony Stolarz, right? I mean I joke on Twitter about how he has the best 5v5 save percentage in NHL history at this point in his career (he hasn't allowed an even-strength goal in two games), but he's showed signs of being able to take over as soon as next season. Any contract extension or free agent signing in front of him is merely a stopgap until he takes the reigns, or at least that's how I believe it should play out. 

A Forward And A Defenseman Who Can Fight

I want to include the caveat that this can't double-dip from the first three categories. You don't want your players who are Actually Good to be sitting in the penalty box for five minutes at a time. You want a guy like Ryan White, who certainly would have reacted differently than the Minnesota Wild did when Jared Spurgeon was speared in the face. 

You need a guy like Brandon Manning in the lineup on defense, and the Flyers will have to re-sign Ryan White to a two-year deal this summer after he wins the Cup with Minnesota. 

2018-19 Flyers

Raffl - Giroux - Lindblom
Konecny - Couturier - Voracek
Weal - Rubtsov - Simmonds
Schenn - Laberge - White

Provorov - Gudas
Sanheim - Morin
Gostisbehere - Myers


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Which NHL Team Had The Best 2013 Draft?

As usual, I got my inspiration for this exercise from a random tweet. Today's entry comes via Mikey D:

 I sort of disagree with MD, primarily because Sam Morin and Robert Hagg both figure to be key contributors on the blueline next year and for the foreseeable future. Two guys from a seven-round draft looks a hell of a lot better than zero.

I will call it a seven-round draft because there were, in fact, that many rounds. But the Flyers only made six selections, because they used their fourth-round pick in the Pavel Kubina trade. Those six selections were Morin, Hagg, forward Tyrell Goulbourne, defenseman Terrance Amorosa, goalie Merrick Madsen, and defenseman David Drake.

If you follow the Flyers in any capacity, you should already be pretty familiar with the first three. Morin was just voted the 9th best Flyer under 25 by Broad Street Hockey, Hagg tied for 15th, Madsen finished just outside the top 25 in the honorable mentions, and he still has his senior season at Harvard next year to prove himself. Goulbourne has fallen out of the running for the BSH Top 25 Under 25 honor but he totally could still beat you up.

But, to Mikey's point, it's been three and a half years and the big club has nothing to show from the 2013 NHL Draft. No games, no goals, no big moments. Nothing. But are they that far behind other teams' draft classes from that year? Let's explore.

Teams That Drafted Elite Talent At The Top Of The Draft

I want to separate these teams, from the pack, because of course drafting a slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it, ready-to-contribute-right-away player is going to make the whole draft look good. The top four teams on the board selected the top three North American skaters and the top European skater. I think it'd be good for us to keep that in mind as we dive in.

Colorado Avalanche
  • Notable picks: forward Nathan MacKinnon, defenseman Chris Bigras, goalie Spencer Martin, four defenseman who will never play in the NHL
Even with MacKinnon, this draft had minimal impact on the Avs. They still stink, they're going to blow it up again, and they'll probably end up getting a bunch of draft picks so they can completely whiff on every single one of them. Except the franchise-caliber talent, they'll fall into that, and then they can surround him with NOTHING and repeat the whole process. 

Florida Panthers
  • Notable picks: forward Aleksandr Barkov, defenseman Ian McCoshen, goalie Evan Cowley, defenseman Michael Downing, center Matt Buckles, forward Christopher Clapperton, defenseman Joshua Brown, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar
It's never good when six of your selections in one draft are so irrelevant three seasons later that they don't even have Wikipedia pages. But, of course, Barkov being the perennial Selke winner of the future erases everything and the Panthers get billed as a skilled young team. 

Also it's insane that Christopher Clapperton couldn't make it to the big leagues. Possibly the best hockey name of all time. He's still playing college hockey, so maybe you'll see his name slapped on the back of a Panthers jersey in the future. 

Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Notable picks: forward Jonathan Drouin, winger Adam Erne, goalie Kristers Gudlevskis, winger Henri Ikonen, forward Saku Salminen, winger Joel Vermin
Granted, the Lightning traded their third- and fourth-round picks in the blockbuster Anders Lindback and BJ Crombeen trades. But still, this draft counts as a "win" for them even though they only hit on one pick, all because Drouin is a stud.

Nashville Predators
  • Notable picks: defenseman Seth Jones, defenseman Jonathan Diaby, forward Felix Girard, goalie Juuse Saros, forward Saku Maenalanen, defenseman Teemu Kivihalme, forward Emil Petterson, forward Tommy Veilleux, forward Wade Murphy, goalie Janne Juvonen
This exercise is starting to make me mad on line. Everyone's draft stinks. The vast majority of the 200 players drafted each summer stink and won't ever make the NHL. Everyone whiffs on most of their picks. So what if Morin and Hagg took some time to get their feet wet in professional hockey? Shooting 2-for-6 is far from terrible. 

Now, keeping in mind that almost every team probably had a draft that graded somewhere between "okay" and "awful", let's try to find some teams that really plundered this draft. 

Teams That Stole A Star Way Later Than He Should Have Been Drafted

This section is tricky because a grand total of zero players drafted outside of the top ten have ever been voted or selected to an All-Star or All-NHL team. If we dumb our definition of "star" down to the 14 guys who have played 100+ NHL games and/or scored 40+ NHL points, then we at least have something to work with.

But if we do that, does a middle-of-the-road guy really count as a star? I think it's better if we name the category something like...

Teams That Wound Up With Multiple Guys Who Are Currently NHL Contributors

Calgary Flames

  • Notable picks: forward Sean Monahan, forward Emile Poirer, forward Morgan Klimchuk, defenseman Keegan Kanzig, defenseman Eric Roy, firward Tim Harrison, defenseman Rushan Rashikov, defenseman John Gilmour

We'll start with the Flames, whose 6th overall selection (Monahan) currently leads all players from this draft with 296 games, 99 goals and 194 points. But their other first-round picks (Poirer and Klimchuk) are tearing up the AHL and figure to make the jump next season. Going 3/3 on first-round picks in one day would be impressive, and the additional high-end talent should be good for a long-term Flames-Oilers rivalry in  Alberta.

We're going to go a little more rapid fire from here out, because including nameless fifth-round picks isn't really accomplishing a lot and it's a waste of my time. The "notable" picks are only going to be guys who are actually, you know, notable.

Carolina Hurricanes

  • Notable picks: forward Elias Lindholm, defenseman Brett Pesce
Nobody really cares about the Canes but Lindholm is 4th in the draft class in games played, 5th in goals, 6th in assists, and 4th in points. Among defensemen, Pesce is arguably even more impressive at 4th in games and 3rd in points, 

Buffalo Sabres

  • Notable picks: defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, defenseman Nikita Zadorov, forward JT Compher, forward Connor Hurley, forward Justin Bailey, forward Nicholas Baptiste, goalie Cal Peterson
Ristolainen should need no introduction. He ranks second in this draft class among defenseman (and fifth overall) in games played, and he signed a 6 year, $32.4 million contract before this season. That might be too much money for him, but he is going to get paid that much for a long time so let's just move on. 

Zadorov and Compher were included in the Sabres' trade with the Avalanche that netted them Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn. I guess you can count that as a decent use of picks, but also maybe not considering they were the 16th and 35th picks. 

That leaves Buffalo with four players remaining who are worth mentioning. Hurley and Peterson are in their junior seasons at Notre Dame (Peterson is the captain and also the goalie, which is cool). The Irish are currently ranked #13 in the nation, and they're looking to make the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. 

Bailey and Baptiste have both split time between Buffalo and AHL Rochester this season, but they've been limited to primarily bottom-six roles. Still, Buffalo's youth is going to grow up eventually, so it's never bad to give some of the young guys a cup of coffee or two in the big league. 

Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Notable picks:forward Alex Wennberg, forward Kerby Rychel, forward Marko Dano, defenseman Dillon Heatherington, forward Oliver Bjorkstrand
Wennberg is sixth in the draft class in points despite playing between 40 and 100 fewer games than everyone above him. Bjorkstrand led AHL Lake Erie to the Calder Cup last season and won the playoff MVP award in the process. Heatherington was also a member of that Lake Erie team, though he's certainly lower on the totem pole than Bjorkstrand. 

Rykel has been tearing it up this season, but he's been doing it for Toronto because he was traded to the Maple Leafs last summer for "meh" defenseman Scott Harrington. Dano has bounced from Columbus to Chicago (in the Brandon Saad trade), and then from Chicago to Winnipeg (in the Andrew Ladd trade). 

New York Rangers
  • Notable picks: forward Anthony Duclair
(Evil laugh) let's end on the Rangers, because this must have been the best 80th overall pick in the history of the NHL draft, and they traded him away (with two additional picks) for a year and two months of Keith Yandle. 


In conclusion, the Flyers will end up falling somewhere in the middle of the pack in this 2013 draft when everyone's career has finished. Morin and Hagg will contribute, Madsen might turn into a player, and we'll always have Goulbourne. 

Would a top-five pick have been an impact player? Obviously. Would it have been nice for them to scoop Pesce, Duclair, Bjorkstrand or Pavel Buchnevich in the third round? Sure. Would the roster be better if we had added Miles Wood or Tyler Motte in the fourth round instead of nobody? Probably. But those are six guys in the final five rounds of the draft (that's like 150 picks). 

The cheeky adage is draft picks are lottery tickets, and three full seasons often isn't enough to scratch all of the ticket off. We might get to scratch Hagg's this Spring if Ron Hextall trades away some of the Flyers' expiring contracts on the blueline. We'll almost certainly scratch Morin's next season. And even if we don't win anything with those tickets, it's perfectly average for a draft to yield one (or zero) productive players. 

Plus we have six tickets from the 2014 draft, nine tickets from the 2015 draft, ten tickets from the 2016 draft, and nine more upcoming next summer. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Midseason Flyers Top 25 Under 25

Back in the summer, the good folks at Broad Street Hockey released their annual Top 25 Under 25 ranking. I posted my ballot, and as it turns out I was really fucking wrong.

This ranking of prospects is a semiannual process for BSH, and since we are at the halfway point in the season we're going to see what's changed since August. Here's the link to the page where you can submit your ballot for the mid-season ranking.

As a quick refresher, here was my top eleven in August:

  1. Sean Couturier
  2. Shayne Gostisbehere
  3. Scott Laughton
  4. Nick Cousins
  5. Ivan Provorov
  6. Taylor Leier
  7. Travis Sanheim
  8. Sam Morin
  9. Travis Konecny
  10. Anthony Stolarz
  11. Robert Hagg
What a goddamn idiot! In my defense, I split it into groups and ranked the guys who already had NHL experience above the guys who didn't. But that turned out to be a horrible way to rank our prospects. I'm going to try to avoid being so horrible at this in the midseason rankings, but I know where I'm starting my list and it's probably going to be bad again. 

1. Sean Couturier
2. Ivan Provorov

Ivan Provorov is going to be number one when the list comes out. I accept that. I don't even necessarily have an issue with that. But a rookie who has held his own for half a season, to me, is not as important as a veteran center who constantly shuts down the opposition's best players. If Provorov turns into the defenseman that we are all hoping he becomes, then yes he will be more valuable than Couturier. But for now, Sean Couturier is the third most important player on the team overall and the most important under the age of 25. 

3. Travis Konecny
4. Shayne Gostisbehere
5. Travis Sanheim

The headline for the Courier Post today is something along the lines of "Flyers hope patience will lead to goals." Well, I have an alternative theory: maybe putting three of the most talented offensive players in the goddamn lineup would lead to goals. 

This Konecny-Gostisbehere in the press box thing is getting fucking ridiculous. And for a team that can never seem to generate any goals, maybe their AHL affiliate's top offensive blueliner would serve as an upgrade over the five defenseman who have combined to score 48 points in 177 games. 

I'm tired of the lip service about "putting the best team on the ice" because the actual gameplan seems to be "let's play low-event hockey so our shitty players aren't exposed quite as much." Going forward, I hope that the aggressive instincts of these three youngsters are embraced by Dave Hakstol instead of being squashed. 

6. Nick Cousins
7. Oskar Lindblom

Beyond Konecny, there isn't a ton of high-end talent on the wings. Cousins seems to be a serviceable player with a good mix of offensive ability and defensive responsibility. The latter is almost certainly aided by his recent play with Couturier, and the two of them on a line with Matt Read is probably the best way to create a "shutdown" line to ease the burden on the Flyers' top six. 

Lindblom is dominating the SHL and I can't wait for him to join one of the teams in the states in the Spring. This could end up being the pick that makes me look foolish, because I can certainly envision a scenario next season where Lindblom is a top-six (or even top-line) winger. Flyers Twitter jokes about "X-Giroux-Voracek" a lot, but Lindblom-Giroux-Voracek makes my jeans tight in the crotch area. 

8. Sam Morin
9. Phil Myers

Just get the fucking dead weight off the blueline, please. 

10. Scott Laughton
11. Taylor Leier
12. Jordan Weal

I like these three. I really do. I just don't see where they fit into the lineup. 

The Flyers' top six forwards for the forseeable future are some combination of Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Couturier, Raffl, Read, and Konecny. That's already too many players, and if you extended it to the top nine forwards, the list is going to include the leftovers from that list plus Cousins and Dale Weise. 

Laughton, Leier, and Weal, then, are going to have to prove worth of playing in an offense-minded role with Jake Voracek or a defense-minded role with Sean Couturier. The offense hasn't been an issue at the AHL level - the three have combined for 91 points in 107 games this year - but it hasn't translated quite so well to the NHL level. They are young and they all have time to develop before they'd really be considered busts, but they certainly have a lot of guys standing in the way of regular NHL ice time. 

13. Anthony Stolarz

Maybe 13th is too low for the goalie of the future and the best goalie in the history of the NHL (at 5v5). 
But I could see a situation where he gets usurped during the 2-3 years where the Flyers have another goalie in front of him on the depth chart. That could be any one of a handful of guys - stay tuned for those names in a minute - but for now, all signs point to Stolarz being the guy in another two or three years.

 14. Robert Hagg

It feels like we've been asking the same question since the day he was drafted - is Robert Hagg good? Last year, it seemed like he might not have been good. But based on everything I've read from Allentown, he seems to be good again this year. I imagine next summer will be the big push from him to try to make the team.

Sort of related: how fun is next year's training camp going to be on the blueline? If we assume that Gudas, Manning, Provorov, and Gostisbehere are sticking around, we will have two spots up for grabs between Sanheim, Myers, Morin, and Hagg.

(Ha ha I made a funny joke about Andrew MacDonald not being on the team until the Sun consumes the Earth.)

This is the point in the exercise where I stop knowing a lot about the prospects. So I'm going to group them together and just kind of take stabs.

We Need Forward Prospects

15. German Rubtsov
16. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
17. Davis Kase
18. Mikhail Vorobyov19. Pascal Laberge
20. Wade Allison
21. Radel Fazleev

Some combination of these guys have to turn into useful NHL players, right?

We Also Have More Goalies

22. Carter Hart
23. Alex Lyon
24. Felix Sandstrom

Ranked in order of how likely I think they are to ultimately steal the job from Stolarz.

I Really Like Tyrell Goulbourne

25. Tyrell Goulbourne

He is just the best,

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Today I Learned About Sovereign Wealth Funds

Without giving away too many details, my job is loosely related to automobiles. Today I researched the parent company of one brand of vehicle, and found that it is a subsidiary of the German conglomerate Daimler AG. Daimler's brands include Mercedes-Benz. Smartcar, Mitsubishi's commercial truck business, and a variety of other automobile-centric businesses.

But we don't care about their actual business in this post. The most intriguing part for me was their company ownership breakdown:

  • 74.8% institutional shareholders (banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, endowments, mutual funds, things like that)
  • 15.3% private shareholders (like my rich grandmother and your boss' boss)
  • 3.1% Renault-Nissan alliance (the Miller-Coors of the auto industry)
  • 6.8% Kuwait Investment Authority
That last one is what caught my eye. So, like, the country of Kuwait has a whole government division that is active in world trade markets? And they control $592 BILLION worth of assets?

Well, friends, it's actually a really common thing for world governments. And I had no idea about any of it. Here's the top 25 countries in terms of sovereign wealth fund size (via Wikipedia, because this whole exercise was like a goddamn Wikipedia race for your boy)

China's government controls a trillion and a half dollars in worldwide financial assets. Combine that with the UAE's $1.2 trillion and those government funds alone control more money than the GDPs of thirty different (mostly African and South American) countries (via Wikipedia again).

An interesting aspect of that list to note is the countries that have multiple government-controlled funds with different names and controllers. China's two largest, the China Investment Corporation and State Administration of Foreign Exchange, do wildly different things:
  • CIC:  responsible for managing part of the People's Republic of China's foreign exchange reserves for the benefit of the state, seen as being "firmly entrenched" in the political establishment
  • SAFE: tasked with drafting rules and regulations governing foreign exchange market activities and managing the state foreign-exchange reserves
Okay so maybe those two entities are basically the same goddamn thing. But are you ready for some real shit? Wikipedia says this:
"With the burgeoning of China's reserves and amidst increasing rivalry between state agencies, there are signs of growing independence of and competition between the subsidiaries."
It's tough to say, but it seems like we're headed for a showdown between CIC Chairman Ding Xuedong and SAFE Director Pan Gongsheng. Keep an eye on that beef, because rising global tension certainly won't make their relationship any more tranquil.

Behind China and the UAE, the nation with the largest SWF is Norway. And all of the assets being considered there are part of one huge government pension fund. You may also hear it called by its old Norwegian name, Oljefondet ("oil fund").

It is called the oil fund because it is just that - a fund into which the surplus wealth produced by Norwegian petroleum income is deposited. Rather than spend that excess wealth on yachts and jewelry and hookers (looking at you, numbers 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 16), the good old Norwegians throw it into their pension fund.

But apparently, it's become sort of a big point of dispute for Norwegian politicians as it's ballooned to its mammoth size. The (goddamn) liberals want to take more of the extra petroleum income and use it to fund government spending. The (pussy ass) hippies want to diversify from global stock markets because they are afraid of volatility (that one might actually make sense now). And the (corrupt) Norwegian GOP probably want to embezzle the money or use it to boost their own stock prices.

But about that third point, there is a HUGE (yuge?) list of companies who have been excluded from the conversation about where the oil fund can invest its money. Those companies partake in the following sorts of activities:

  • production of tobacco
  • environmental damage (including one that got called out for "illegal logging")
  • phosphate production in the Western Sahara (oddly specific)
  • human rights abuses
  • corruption
  • sale of weapons and military equipment to non-friendly nations
  • production of air-dropped or ground-launched explosives
  • production of nuclear arms
  • violation of the Geneva Convention
  • Wal-Mart
So we kind of have the whole spectrum here. Skoal mint long cut is apparently not a cool thing in Scandanavia. Cutting down trees is also pretty not fetch. And then we work our way up to human rights abuses and goddamn weapons of mass destruction. Norway just lumps them all together and excludes them, because they want their oil fund to help create a more pleasant Earth. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hockeyviz/SB Nation Wraparound - February 1st

Coming out of the NHL's All-Star break, our plan was to get our feet wet again by checking on the teams that basically locked in their playoff spot through the first half of the season. That was these guys:

Yesterday, we looked at the top four Western Conference teams - Minnesota, Chicago, San Jose, and Anaheim. Today, we will bring it back home and look at the three Metropolitan teams and the one Atlantic team who have all basically secured a spot in the postseason. We'll do it our usual way where we check the team's SB Nation site to see what's going on in their world, and then use HockeyViz to illustrate it more clearly.

Washington Capitals (Japers' Rink)

I was going to use their "Is Nate Schmidt better than a third-pair defenseman?" piece, but that relied almost exclusively on Corsi at the beginning and nobody cares about Nate Schmidt anyway.


Evgeny Kuznetsov Named NHL’s First Star for January by Becca H (link)
The NHL announced today that Evgeny Kuznetsov has been named the first star of the month for January, after picking up 20 points in his last 15 games (including a two-point effort last night, his seventh multi-point game of the month).
His 20 points in 15 games during the month brought him up to 39 points in 50 games for the season, and he's as good a "second line" center as there is in the NHL. He's due a bump from his current $3 million contract this summer, and I imagine that the Caps are ready to commit a lot of money for a long time to the soon-to-be-25-year-old.

Let's start the visual portion of this exercise with HockeyViz's new and improved Season Summary Skater Card (TM).

The short version is the Caps are good in general, but they are both Good and Fun with Kuznetsov. It's certainly a luxury for Washington to have a second-line center that produces like a first-line one (both at even strength and on the power play), and that's part of the reason that they're atop the Metro.

Columbus Blue Jackets (The Cannon)

The Final Sprint: Predictions and Expectations for the Final 34 Games by Eric Seeds (link)
The Blue Jackets cooled off, but are still in good shape. So, what would we like to see from the Blue Jackets going forward? 
There are three predictions included that I think will translate well to HockeyViz graphics.
Secure one of the divisional spots in the playoffs: Securing a divisional spot would show that team played well for the entirety of the season, and were not just a flash in the pan because of the winning streak. It would also mark the best finish the team has ever had in the regular season. 

Barring a heroic surge from the Rangers - which seems unlikely given that everyone on Twitter was mourning the death of Henrik Lundqvist last night. I'll go out on a limb here and say that the top three teams in the Metro have all created a big enough cushion to clinch the Metro's three playoff spots.
Cam Atkinson hits 70 points: Cam hitting 70 points would obviously be a career high for the first time All Star. He would need 24 points in the final 34 games.

Even though he was (deservedly) named an All-Star, I don't think people really realize how well Cam Atkinson has played this season. The BJ's take a TON of shots from high-danger areas with Atkinson on the ice, and Cam is ripping a lot of those shots himself.

Looking forward to the second half of the year, Columbus' top six of Wennberg-Atkinson-Foligno-Dubinsky-Saad-Jenner is going to be good enough to sustain their offensive pace. Throw in Sam Gagner and Scott Hartnell (a pair of "should of kept" Former Flyers with offensive upside), and it almost seems like the Jackets have a pretty damn solid group of forwards.
Zach Werenski finishes in the top 3 of Calder voting: It is pretty clear that the Calder Trophy will be won by one of Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine, who are both having fantastic seasons. However. Zach Werenski is having an excellent season in his own right.
Seth Jones is the workhorse for the Blue Jackets. Jack Johnson, Werenski, and either David Savard or Ryan Murray usually round out their top four. Coming into the year, I think most of us thought it was going to Jones and a bunch of scrubs.

Well, one of those other scrubs turned out to be a pretty fucking sweet 19-year-old hockey player.

He hasn't quite adapted his near point-per-game pace at Michigan to even strength play in the NHL yet, but he's a strong power play pointman. Of his 31 points this season, 17 of them have been on the advantage. The only defensemen with more power play points are Shea Weber, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Victor Hedman.

And in terms of the overall scoring race, Werenski is similarly impressive:

But the biggest reason that I think Werenski has earned his Calder nomination (he'll lose to Matthews, but still) is the following portion of his Season Summary Skater Card (TM):

There is a mild amount of sheltering that happens here - Werenski isn't generally used as a shutdown defensemen against the opponents' elite players - but this is incredible. He makes an already-great Columbus team even better in terms of goal differential, and his underlying (or play-driving) metrics are almost unconscionably good.

Pittsburgh Penguins (Pensburgh)

NHL Trade Rumors: Report that Penguins want to trade Marc-Andre Fleury before deadline by Hooks Orpik (link)

Here are all of the hot quotes from Penguins GM Jim Rutherford:
"It’s been good to have those two goalies to get us to where we are," Rutherford said. "Are we going to be able to hold onto that? We’ll just have to see how that plays out. It becomes more difficult as the season goes along for the coach to keep both guys happy." 
"If a team calls and something makes sense for us, whether it’s to open up cap space, or to make our team better presently or down the road, or to clean up the situation because one of the goalies wants to play more. Whatever that may be, I’ll deal with that at the time. But I don’t feel pressure to do that right today." 
"There are a few variables. The expansion draft is one variable. Also, are both goalies going to be comfortable in that situation all the way through to the end? And finally, does somebody come along with an offer that makes sense?''
"And goalie, more than anything, is the position where it's hard to make two players happy. So that will probably end up being the most important thing in our situation."
I mean that sounds like Rutherford just walked out of a conversation with Fleury and Murray where they both complained about not playing enough. That's not a throwaway one-liner that found its way harmlessly into an interview. That is four different mentions of "keeping both guys happy" so I'm going to go out on a limb and say it is a real concern in the Penguins' locker room and front office. 

Here's the dagger, from ESPN's Pierre Lebrun:
I think it's obvious that the Penguins would rather deal Fleury before March 1 than wait until the offseason, but that decision may be out of their hands.
As far as destinations, I am not an insider so I don't know shit about dick. But here's how Fleury and Murray compare so far this season:

If I were a betting man, I would wager that the Penguins were hoping that Fleury would have been a more enticing piece of trade bait over the first half of this season. The team has played decently in front of him, but those big gaps of red on the Save Percentage section of the chart are stretches where Fleury was getting outplayed by opposing goaltenders. Murray, on the other hand, has been solid all year long.

Lots of teams could use a boost in goal this season. Philadelphia and Carolina are having two of the worst goaltending seasons since the lockout. St. Louis is having an even worse season, and they wouldn't be a division rival for the Penguins. Dallas is another Western Conference option, but they already have a ton of money committed to goalies.

I don't know where Fleury is going to go. But I do strongly believe that he's going to go somewhere.

Montreal Canadiens (Eyes On The Prize)

Mark Barberio placed on waivers by Mark Dumont (link)

Please allow me to step outside of my usual HockeyViz mold to include one of Domenic Galamini's HERO charts:

You're telling me that nobody was interesting in acquiring that guy for a mid-round pick or low-level prospect?

Nobody thought they could use a little extra juice in the defensive zone? I mean, I get that he has no goals and only two primary assists, but even in the new NHL there's still a role for a defender who suffocates everything in his own end and helps push play in the other direction.