Monday, April 11, 2011

Demolition Experts

Well folks, the DBJ has dropped the gloves, calling for blowing up the CBJ roster.  In my role as executive optimist, I am supposed to provide counterpoint to this opinion.  But putting lipstick on this pig won't make it any more attractive, it's still a pig. 

So some things to consider in this discussion.

When we look at the Nashville Predators (congrats to the folks in Nashville) the stark difference between the two franchises is stability.  Same coach, same general manager since day one.  They are on Vision Version 1.  We are on at least Vision 3, realistically probably Vision 3.2.2.  You can't retool overnight to reach these conflicting/contradictory visions.  At some point in the life of this franchise, you need some stability.  Especially to attract the top notch free agents.  Howson's approach to providing a modicum of stability did not turn out well.  In fact, it turned out to be surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) similar. 

Part of the beauty of the push for playoff competition in February of this year was that we got to get a good read on our talent, playing in a playoff hunt, against playoff teams.  Unfortunately, we found out we are not ready to compete.  One thing  I think this tells us is that our young players are playing too high up in the line up.  I'm starting to think that Jake Voracek belongs on the third line next year.  But you need the talent to push him down there.

As the season wound down, several things struck me.  We have a definite inability to defend the slot.  While Mase was not superlative, he faced many, many gorgeous chances.  Our defense does not know how to defend.  Case in point, in the last game of the season, we still have two defenders chasing one guy behind the net, losing the puck battle to that one guy, who centered the puck to someone wide open in the slot due to the numbers mismatch.  This is in game 82.  My conclusion from this is that our defensemen never really 'got' Arniel's system.  This conclusion is supported by the fact that they were a much better team when they had a lot of practice time.  This is something that can reasonably be expected to improve next year, as the players adpat to the change from Vision 2 to Vision 3.

Another thing that really needs to be considered, is this very good post on Light the Lamp, concerning LOFT, or Lack of Flippin' Talent (grandma, you remember Andy Capp don't you?)  Clearly stated, any serious consideration of Free Agents MUST consider this ranking.  The ranking seems a fairly obvious, simple, and effective tool for evaluating free agent acquisitions.

With the LOFT statistic in mind, I took a look at what free agent defensemen were available.  In order to make a measureable effect on our cumulative Tier total, I figure we need to sign at least one, or possibly two free agent defensemen who are going to at least trigger the 'above average' tier. 

In order to determine which defensemen might clearly be in that tier, I took the top 90 defensemen in 2010-11 in the categories of points and plus/minus.  I decided that the average of their respective rankings would give you the best balance of offense and defense, and thus earn that tier ranking. 

There were only 6 free agent defensemen who ranked in both points and plus/minus.  They are as follows:

Name                                  Points Rank       Plus/Minus Rank      Average Rank
Christian Ehrhoff                             7                           14                             10.5
Anton Babchuck                           36                           25                             30.5
Kevin Bieksa                                 77                             2                             39.5
Steve Montador                            62                           19                             40.5
Tomas Kaberle                             13                           82                             47.5
Roman Hamrlik                             38                           70                             54

Not a huge list to choose from.  I did not consider age, overall health etc, as those are things that are taken into consideration in salary negotiations.

Also, there are some quirks to this assessment.  Such as the fact that Nicklas Lidstrom did not emerge in this assessment, as he did not rank in the top 90 in plus/minus (which required at least a plus 3).  But tier wise he is at least an all-star, more realistically an elite player.  The same situation arose with Shea Weber, who I used to evaluate my system.  He also did not rank in the top 90 in plus minus, but would rank in the LOFT Tiers as an all-star.  So the way I did this is not perfect, to say the least.  Any of these guys would bring balance to our line up.  We probably need two of them.

Then all you do is sign Brad Richards, and away we go!  Vision 3.2.5 is a reality!

GO JACKETS!

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