Springfield Falcons' quality of competition through 40 games

Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009 09:12AM

This is a continuation of a concept that I test-ran at the end of December -– using the AHL website to test quality of competition. I didn’t get a ton of suggestions for improvement, so mostly I’ve gone with the previous format, except with one minor tweak: instead of three categories of player, I’ve expanded it to four.

Previously, a “strong” opponent was classified as a player with .75 points per game or better. I’ve dropped this requirement to .66 points per game, based on the fact that the threshold for an AHL first-liner is generally about that point (based on the AHL scoring statistics for 2007-08).A second-tier opponent was classified as anyone with between .5 and .75 points per game; that’s now between .5 and .66 points per game, as based on the 2007-08 AHL scoring numbers. A third-tier player is one with between .33 and .5 points per game; this should help give some credit to scorers who face their opposition’s checking line. A player with below .33 points per game is considered a “weak” opponent.

A player receives the following number of points for an “event” against each class of player (for more on the methodology used, please refer to either of the posts linked above):

  • First Line: 3
  • Second Line: 2
  • Third Line: 1
  • Fourth Line: 0

As previously, no value is given to events against the bottom-tier player. The points total is then divided by the number of events to give a value that should rank each player’s level of opponent. Without further ado, here are the Springfield rankings. Players with less than 21 events were excluded.

Forwards

  • Tim Sestito: 1.867
  • Liam Reddox: 1.853
  • Tyler Spurgeon: 1.819
  • Colin McDonald: 1.710
  • Carl Corazzini: 1.674
  • Bryan Lerg: 1.638
  • Guillaume Lefebvre: 1.610
  • Geoff Paukovich: 1.590
  • Vyacheslav Trukhno: 1.575
  • Gilbert Brule: 1.536
  • Derek Bekar: 1.536
  • Ryan Potulny: 1.524
  • Rob Schremp: 1.480
  • Ryan O’Marra: 1.255
  • Stephane Goulet: 1.190

This list compares well to the one I did at the end of December. The only forward who moves more than four spots in the rankings is Gilbert Brule. This should be a more accurate list; it hasn’t made the leap from summing to differentiation (because that’s way too much work), but there are more points in the equation so the line should be more accurate. Jeff Truitt likes his checking line; the only AHL scorers here facing tough competition are Liam Reddox and Bryan Lerg.

Defencemen

  • Theo Peckham: 1.834
  • Cody Wild: 1.812
  • Taylor Chorney: 1.693
  • Josef Hrabal: 1.658
  • Robbie Bina: 1.651
  • Mathieu Roy: 1.608
  • Ryan Constant: 1.571
  • Jake Taylor: 1.481
  • Bryan Young: 1.476
  • Sebastien Bisaillon: 1.309
  • Mike Gabinet: 1.130

Again, this list compares well with my previous one; the only defenceman making a significant move is Taylor Chorney. It makes sense, too -- Chorney has a decent resume as far as prospects go, and if he’s going to post a -21 with marginal offence, he ought to have some help from nasty opponents.

As with last time, it may be worth getting a little bit excited about Theo Peckham, and Cody Wild (who is finally getting some playing time from the coach) is probably underrated as a prospect at this point.

Conclusion

I’m reasonably confident with this process for measuring Quality of Competition; Vic Ferrari was nice enough to run a comparison between it and the Behind the Net method and they had a very close correlation so we can probably view it as a safe guideline. I'm going to get more into this later, but some of the roster moves that Springfield is making don't make a ton of sense when viewed in this light.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Monday Guy
January 23 2009, 10:12AM
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Willis, you make my head hurt

but hey, it's better than concentrating on work

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#2 Jason Gregor
January 23 2009, 11:10AM
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player receives the following number of points for an “event” against each class of player (for more on the methodology used, please refer to either of the posts linked above):

First Line: 3 Second Line: 2 Third Line: 1 Fourth Line: 0

This is where I question the ranking. Most coaches will put their checking line out against a top line. Yet if a top line faces them, you have it ranked as an easier opponent than the opposing first line.

Wouldn't it be harder to score against a line that focuses solely on shutting you down, rather than a #1 line who looks to score and doesn't defend as well?

Maybe I'm not seeing it correctly, but wouldn't checkers then always face tougher competition?

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#3 Kent
January 23 2009, 11:19AM
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This is a process I considered applying to the Flames prospects after reading your original post.

Unfortunately, the sheer amount of work involved really, really deters me. Maybe I'll get to it if the all-star game bores me enough.

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#4 CurtisS
January 23 2009, 11:20AM
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Nice work JW

Just one question? How do you know which line plays which line every game?

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#5 CurtisS
January 23 2009, 11:27AM
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So let me get this straight.

Lets say in the NHL when a 4 th line ices the puck because they are tired yet they cant change. So Mact throws Hemsky's line out for the faceoff. He scores. (yes this happens alot). Now that was the only goal scored for them that game and that line didnt give anything up. So automatically this line plays butter soft oppostion because there is no prof on the stats sheets even though they played power vs power all night???

If I read that correct this is all incorrect.

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#6 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 11:30AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

This is where I question the ranking. Most coaches will put their checking line out against a top line. Yet if a top line faces them, you have it ranked as an easier opponent than the opposing first line.

I haven't done a systematic study on it at the AHL level, but at the NHL level the only two teams who really deviate from power-vs.-power these days are Anaheim and New Jersey. Even guys like Kovalchuk and Savard, who are traditionally regarded as one-way players, lead their teams in ice-time against the opposing teams first line.

The second point is that by splitting the "events" into 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines, I was able to check if guys like Schremp were playing tough checkers or 4th line guys, and for the most part it was pretty even. I can post the raw data if you're interested; I didn't this time because there didn't seem to be much interest last time.

Finally, the third point is that this method has a 93% correlation to Behind the Net's method, which uses a weighted +/- to allow for elite checkers. Thus it would seem that the two methods are nearly identical in terms of what they show. With all those points taken together, I'd expect a limited bias against the top-tier offensive players (Potulny, Schremp, etc.), but not a big effect.

Wouldn’t it be harder to score against a line that focuses solely on shutting you down, rather than a #1 line who looks to score and doesn’t defend as well?

The biggest thing that I'm using this to check is +/- rather than scoring numbers. It does have value for scoring numbers (as referenced in the three points I make above), but +/- is what it really helps us measure.

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#7 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 11:34AM
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CurtisS wrote:

Nice work JW Just one question? How do you know which line plays which line every game?

I explained it last time I did this, but the AHL records who was on the ice for and against on each goal. That's what goes into these numbers.

For myself, I have a pretty good idea who plays with who down in Springfield, and against who, and these numbers are a pretty close fit (although I expected Brule to be higher).

CurtisS wrote:

So let me get this straight. Lets say in the NHL when a 4 th line ices the puck because they are tired yet they cant change. So Mact throws Hemsky’s line out for the faceoff. He scores. (yes this happens alot). Now that was the only goal scored for them that game and that line didnt give anything up. So automatically this line plays butter soft oppostion because there is no prof on the stats sheets even though they played power vs power all night???

That's correct, Curtis. But the scenario you portrayed happens pretty rarely; Hemsky plays against good offensive players a ton, so usually there's going to be a goal one way or the other.

If it'll help, I'll run Hemsky's numbers with this method and we can see where he'd end up.

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#8 CurtisS
January 23 2009, 11:46AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: No im just curious. Im sure it happens at both levels. That situation anyways. Fair enough. Its intresing. Not sure how true but true enough in a whole season. I wouldnt wanna use these #'s for 1 game or for every 20 games. If you know what i mean. I bet it averages out nicely in a whole season.

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#9 CurtisS
January 23 2009, 11:50AM
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On a side note. Lerg usually plays with Schremp but im sure you knew that.

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#10 Jason Gregor
January 23 2009, 11:53AM
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CurtisS wrote:

On a side note. Lerg usually plays with Schremp but im sure you knew that.

Actually he is now playing with Potulny and Willis (Shane not JW)...

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#11 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 12:01PM
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CurtisS wrote:

On a side note. Lerg usually plays with Schremp but im sure you knew that.

He's spent some time on that line, but for most of the season it's been Schremp/Potulny and Lerg/Trukhno (from what I've seen anyway - I read quite a bit and try to see or listen to as many games as I can online).

More so in the AHL than the NHL we get to see these guys with a variety of linemates and in a variety of situations.

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#12 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 12:03PM
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CurtisS wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: No im just curious. Im sure it happens at both levels. That situation anyways. Fair enough. Its intresing. Not sure how true but true enough in a whole season. I wouldnt wanna use these #’s for 1 game or for every 20 games. If you know what i mean. I bet it averages out nicely in a whole season.

Absolutely. It's like polling - in a poll of 1000 callers, I might get three NDP supporters in a row. That doesn't mean that the country is 100% NDP; you need the other 997 callers for balance.

Also, please feel free to raise objections to this method. I have a reasoanble level of confidence in it, but I want to refine it and make it better, and I really don't want to put up stuff that has little or no value here. If anyone has ways to get a better measurement, or improvements to this one, go ahead. I won't take it personally.

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#13 Ribs
January 23 2009, 12:26PM
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Needs more pie charts.

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#14 David Staples
January 23 2009, 12:34PM
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Jon: I like this way better than Qualcomp, as Qualcomp is based on team plus/minus, a problematic stat, as it regularly awards plus points and minus points to players who have little or nothing to do with the scoring sequence.

At least with points scored, we know that the player was most likely vital to the scoring sequence, so it's giving us a far better idea about quality of competition. Of course, we don't know the defensive ability of these players, so half of the equation is missing. Nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction.

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#15 David Staples
January 23 2009, 12:36PM
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Yes, and it may well be time to get a bit excited about Theo Peckham. The trading of an Oiler d-man becomes more of a possiblity with his seemingly strong play against tough competition at the AHL level. Looks like he could survive against fourth line comp in NHL next season.

Just don't put him out there to get cross-checked in the face by Crosby ;)

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#16 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 12:57PM
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Ales Hemsky scores 1.706 at this; a statistical tie with McDonald for 4th, which is basically where he's been on the Oilers this season.

That's the other advantage of these numbers over the ones at Behind the Net - they translate from team to team.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 12:59PM
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@ David Staples:

Thanks David. I know you don't like plus/minus, but I think it works pretty well if:

a) empty net goals for/against are taken out of the equation b) short-handed goals for are taken out of the equation c) powerplay goals against are taken out of the equation

and then it's weighted by team and considered in context.

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#18 oilerdiehard
January 23 2009, 01:01PM
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Some really interesting stuff Jonathan. Thanks for the all the work. My boy Chorney has been showing some solid improvement the last 6-8 games on both sides of the puck. I hope he can keep it up. I will be looking forward to seeing an update to these numbers later in the season to see how everyone is progressing.

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#19 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 01:15PM
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oilerdiehard wrote:

Some really interesting stuff Jonathan. Thanks for the all the work. My boy Chorney has been showing some solid improvement the last 6-8 games on both sides of the puck. I hope he can keep it up. I will be looking forward to seeing an update to these numbers later in the season to see how everyone is progressing.

I'm going to post a seperate set of numbers for the last half of the season, and then combine the two in a third post for an over-arching look, so hopefully we'll spot changes.

Chorney's stopped the bleeding the last little while; I think this season may be a bit of a write-off for him.

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#20 Mr DeBakey
January 23 2009, 01:57PM
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I like this way better than Qualcomp, as Qualcomp is based on team plus/minus, a problematic stat, as it regularly awards plus points and minus points to players who have little or nothing to do with the scoring sequence.

Last winter, IOF compared Qualcomp to a few of other measures of "tough minutes". He used - own-zone draws - opponents averagew time on ice - a similar one to this one, it measured SAON and who was on the ice. [or something like that]

They all compared quite closely. And now this one does too Qualcomp is good

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#21 Ducey
January 23 2009, 02:28PM
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These #'s don't show well for O'Marra, whom I was hoping was developing as a checker.

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#22 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 02:44PM
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Ducey wrote:

These #’s don’t show well for O’Marra, whom I was hoping was developing as a checker.

From everything I've seen of O'Marra, he hasn't progressed at all. He's been playing fourth line minutes most of the season.

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#23 Falconfan4life
January 23 2009, 03:16PM
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Whatchu talkin' bout Willis!

W@W,you have too much time on your hands,and i thought i spent alot of time updating Edmontonians on Springfield Falcon & Stockton Thunder games.Of course i hope you are paid for your efforts,keep up the g@@d work!

Now you know someone weas going to call you on this statement ( I’m going to get more into this later, but some of the roster moves that Springfield is making don’t make a ton of sense when viewed in this light) and ask you for an explaniation!Well,what are you thinking???

It seems IMHO Coach Truitt hasn't got the best out of his/Edmonton's prospects this season,and i can't agree with some of his decision making either.Case in point Sebastien Bisaillon,a absolute cannon of a slap shot that is the best on the Falcon team,and he has the most accurate slap shot as well,he plays for 2 - 3 games then is sat for 2 - 3 games straight???

Rob Schremp has a deadly accurate one-timer,i can count on one hand the number of times he has had a chance to use it this season.

The Defense,well ther injuries to Jake Taylor,Bryan Young,and Mike Gabinet really took a toll on the defensive corps of the Falcons this season.Now that those 3 are back it will get better,and hopefully #4 (tiny victories) and the other younger players will benefit from their return.

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#24 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 03:30PM
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Falconfan4life wrote:

It seems IMHO Coach Truitt hasn’t got the best out of his/Edmonton’s prospects this season,and i can’t agree with some of his decision making either.

Yeah, I don't get it. Cody Wild and Bryan Lerg were healthy scratches early on - now both are being leaned on, especially Wild. There are a ton of decisions that Truitt's made that don't make much sense at all.

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#25 Dennis
January 23 2009, 04:31PM
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JW and Gregor: Jon beat me to it but more and more now the days of teams using a dedicated checking line are going out of style. Now, most teams are going PVP and it might not be too long before one of the long-standing teams - the Ducks - follow suit.

If you look at their numbers you can see that all the gains from having the young skilled guys playing the soft are being lost by continuing to ask the Pahlsson line to play the toughs.

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#26 oilerdiehard
January 23 2009, 06:15PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I’m going to post a seperate set of numbers for the last half of the season, and then combine the two in a third post for an over-arching look, so hopefully we’ll spot changes. Chorney’s stopped the bleeding the last little while; I think this season may be a bit of a write-off for him.

I would not call it a write off. I think he build off of this. Hopefully he can chip away slowly at that minus number and keep putting up points as he has lately.

You are definitely right though Truitt does make a lot of interesting decisions. When Chorney was something like -17 he was glowing about him and saying he is still sending him out against top opposition. One would think if you have a rookie struggling that much you might start dropping him down a couple pairings to face some easier comp.

Truitt just sent down Hrabal again and apparently according to a report a Thunder fan quoted over on HF. He has refused to report to Stockton.

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#27 David Staples
January 23 2009, 10:37PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ David Staples: Thanks David. I know you don’t like plus/minus, but I think it works pretty well if: a) empty net goals for/against are taken out of the equation b) short-handed goals for are taken out of the equation c) powerplay goals against are taken out of the equation and then it’s weighted by team and considered in context.

Jonathan. When is powerplay ever added into plus/minus. I thought it was just shorthanded and en goals?

I know you do a lot of analysis based on GF/60 and GA/60 and team plus/minus. But when it comes to a team stat used to rate an individual player, I'm leaning towards Corsi numbers plus/minus or SF/SA plus/minus, although they are problematic, too, and not exactly proven indicators of individual performance (at least at this point).

Again, that's why I prefer your new method of relying on points scored, as that is an individual stat, not a team one, and gives a clear picture of a player's on-ice performance, as opposed to his team or unit's performance.

Brilliant concept on your part, a real advance.

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#28 Jonathan Willis
January 23 2009, 11:56PM
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David Staples wrote:

When is powerplay ever added into plus/minus.

If a goal is short-handed goal is scored, the powerplay guys get a -1, and the penalty killers get a +1, I believe.

And thanks.

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#29 Jonathan Willis
January 24 2009, 10:33AM
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oilerdiehard wrote:

I would not call it a write off. I think he build off of this. Hopefully he can chip away slowly at that minus number and keep putting up points as he has lately.

Sorry, I didn't explain myself well. Obviously, we all hope that he builds from this season, but because this season was so bad for a prospect with a nice resume, I don't think we can make predicitons on what he'll turn into based on it.

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