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Help Me Understand: NHL, Hot Takes and More

Welcome to the fourth edition of Help Me Understand.

Sports, hot takes and narratives. Some make sense, others perplex me.

—Help me understand why some are upset the NHL has sponsored division names. Does it matter? How many fans or media are going to use those names? Only those who are contractually obligated to. I’d guess most of us won’t even call it the North Division, instead calling it the Canadian Division. The NHL is looking to supplement the lost season ticket revenue, so it makes sense to sponsor the divisions, and have sponsors on helmets. It won’t impact the game on the ice, so I’m perplexed why some are upset? Even if it leads to sponsors on the jersey, I don’t see how negatively impacts the game either. I watched CFL games with a logo on the jersey and it has zero impact in my viewing pleasure.

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—Help me understand why so many wanted to use “lack of adversity” as the reason Canada lost the Gold medal game 2-0 last night? Would having to quarantine for two weeks in your hotel room in Red Deer not qualify as adversity? What about being in hotels for 51 straight days? Or losing your captain, Kirby Dach, to injury a few days before the tournament began? Also, the returning players like Bowen Byram, Jamie Drysdale, Dylan Cozens, Quinton Byfield, Dawon Mercer and Connor McMichael all played in the gold medal game last year and trailed 2-0, before coming back to win.

USA was a very good team, so was Canada. In a one-game-winner-take-all, I don’t see lack of adversity as the issue. The USA scored a goal on a deflection and then got a lucky bounce off the back of the net early in the second period to lead 2-0. Canada outshot the USA 23-2 over the final 27 minutes of the game. Did they look like a team that folded under the adversity? Byram beat Spencer Knight cleanly on a shorthanded partial breakaway, but he hit the post. With two minutes left in the second period Connor Zary was wide open in the slot, but Knight stoned him. McMichael had a breakaway with three minutes remaining in the third, but Knight stopped him.

Give USA credit — they played well. Canada wasn’t overwhelmed, they just were unable to score on a red-hot goalie. It happens. You can’t win every big game in today’s World Juniors. The competition is very close. In the past 12 years, here is the medal count at the World Juniors listed as Gold, Silver and Bronze:

USA: 4-1-2
Canada: 3-4-1
Finland: 3-0-1
Russia: 1-4-4
Sweden: 1-3-2
Slovakia: 0-0-1

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Russia has the most medals, nine, while Canada has eight and USA has seven. Canada has been in the final seven times. I didn’t see a lack of adversity as the reason Canada lost last night.

—Help me understand how none of us have spoken about Brendan Gallagher’s five-on-five goal production the past two seasons. I was looking up 5×5 scoring yesterday and stumbled across the fact Gallagher has the fourth most 5×5 goals the past two seasons. Wow.

Gallagher has been a demon at 5×5 scoring, but he falls from fourth to tied for 28th in total goals with 55. He only has five PP goals the past two seasons, despite playing the third most PP minutes in Montreal. He only has 47 shots and Montreal’s PP has been bad the past two seasons at 15.2%, which is 30th overall. Is he not getting puck touches on the PP, or is he not shooting? The Canadiens as a team don’t shoot very much. Tomas Tatar leads them in PP shots with 68, and that is 102nd most in the entire NHL the past two seasons. If Montreal’s PP can improve this year, their chances of making the playoffs will increase significantly. Scoring at 5×5 is important, and impressive, but scoring in all situations is what makes you a great goal scorer in my eyes.

— Help me understand some stats people discount PP scoring. I realize it is more difficult to score 5×5 than on the PP, but a powerplay goal is just as important as one at 5×5. They both count the same on the scoreboard. Having the ability to score on the PP frequently is a very important skill, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially heading into this season where we likely will see more powerplays early in the season due to an abbreviated training camp and no preseason games.

—-Jason Garrett made the playoffs three times in 10 seasons as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. They won two playoff games in 10 years. Many say he is good at developing young quarterbacks, which has merit, but as a head coach winning should be more important than just developing a quarterback. This past season he was the offensive coordinator of the 6-10 New York Giants, yet the LA Chargers already interviewed him for their head coaching vacancy and many in football applauded it. Garrett might be a great guy, and he has a good track record with quarterbacks, but that doesn’t make him a good head coach. I don’t understand why many think he would be a good choice as a head coach. He had three good seasons in Dallas, going 35-13, but the Cowboys were 50-54 in the other seven seasons.

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— I’m all for looking at different numbers to evaluate players, but help me understand those who suggest Elias Pettersson is close to Connor McDavid. Even the staunchest Petterson supporter will point out he isn’t close to McDavid’s offensive production, but use his possession numbers and on-ice GF-GA to suggest the gap is close. Is it, though?

Accurate comparisons are difficult for many reasons. McDavid has played five NHL seasons, while Petterson has played two. Pettersson was born in November, and thus he was selected in the 2017 draft instead of 2016 with most 1998-born players.

Is looking at the age of their seasons a fair comparison?

Pettersson played in the NHL at 20 and 21 and has played a total of 139 games with 55-77-132 points. To be almost a legit point-per-game player (0.94) your first two years in the NHL is damn good. I really like him as a player. Especially his incredible wrist/snap shot. It’s unreal. I’d like him to shoot more.

In his two seasons at 5×5 he has produced 32-47-79 with 185 shots and he has averaged 2.5 P/60.
He had a 52.1CF%, 52.8FF%, 51.7SF%, a 51.05xGF% and a 57.37GF% (109-81).
All solid numbers.

In McDavid’s first two NHL seasons at 18 and 19 years of age he had 46-102-148 in 127 games. He averaged 1.16 points/game.
At 5×5 he produced 33-59-92 with 267 shots and had a 2.83 P/60.
He had a 52.63CF%, 53.3FF%, 53.5SF%, 56.11xGF% and a 57.95GF% (113-82).

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He outscored Pettersson and he had better possession numbers.

Now if you look at his 20 and 21 year old seasons:

He scored  82-142-224 in 160 games and averaged 1.4 points/game.
At 5×5 he produced with 54-81-135 with 363 shots and a 2.99 P/60.
He had a 51.2CF%, 51.4FF%, 51.5SF%, 51.77xGF% and a 53.7GF% (158-136)

So the theory is because Pettersson has a 4% higher GF% that closes the gap from their offensive numbers where McDavid scored 85 more points and had almost a half point higher P/60? Help me understand how this seems accurate.

— Help me understand how a player who wasn’t in the NHL last season is “too good for Kyle Turris, Josh Archibald, Tyler Ennis, Dominik Kahun or whoever is the left winger on the Oilers third line?

I’ve written many articles on the need for patience with Puljujarvi, dating back to his rookie season. He wasn’t NHL ready then, but he is now. But that doesn’t mean he should be thrust in a top-six spot right away. There are no preseason games and an abbreviated training camp. Plus, unless you are a proven elite scorer like McDavid, Draisaitl or others who’ve done it for years, to suggest a player it too good for the third line is very insulting to third line players, who are quite good. I hope Puljujarvi becomes a legit top-six winger, but I’d like to see him dominate as a third liner first.

— Help me understand how Bulk Barn can be without “Dinosours” for the past six weeks. Is there a world shortage suddenly? I miss snacking on them. I know I can get them in a big bag at Costco, but I don’t have the discipline to have a bag that big in my house and not eat it all. I need the ability to buy a small bag.

—Does anyone have a great way to assess the upcoming NHL season? We’ve never seen a season where all games are within the division and most of them are either a two-game series, with the odd three-game series. Will the series format mean more physical games? Will coaches be able to stifle offence because they only have to focus on six opposing teams in the Canadian division (I mean the North division — dammit, I mean the Scotia NHL North division…) or seven opposing teams in the other three divisions? I love the unpredictability of this coming season. It truly is unlike any season we’ve seen, and one day I think we will see more offence, but the next day I remember how coaches and video coaches have the ability to find tendencies much quicker when they are only focused on a small group of teams and we could see lower scoring games. Admittedly, that is somewhat fear-based, as I prefer offence, and am more entertained when watching a game with more lead changes and more scoring chances. But either way, I’m stoked for the 2021 season, I just don’t know what to expect.

—Help me understand the best fantasy hockey rules to have. I played fantasy hockey 10 years ago, but felt it was too time consuming. But I’d like to get back into it. What do you feel are the best rules to have in your league? I thank you in advance.

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