January 08 2012 10:43AM
Alan Ryder just published his annual NHL Review over at Hockey Analytics – a 90-page monster full of everything you need to know about the 2010-11 NHL season, which begs the following questions for many of who: Who is Alan Ryder, and why should anyone with even a glimmer of interest in advanced statistical hockey analysis go and read it immediately?
To answer that, think of Alan Ryder as the Niklas Lidstrom of advanced statistical hockey analysis, because he's been in the game longer than anyone else, and is still among the very best. The statistics and principles used by those who believe our field began some time between 2006 and 2009 were built on the foundation that Ryder helped build a decade ago. Not to oversell his work, but why study something second hand when you can hear it directly from the only other statistical analyst I know who was actually alive when Kansas City had an NHL team.
To give you an idea of his offerings we'll recap a few of his conclusions about our beloved Calgary Flames, especially his thoughts on Miikka Kiprusoff, Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla.
If you're a Mikka Kiprusoff fan then you might want to have a few stiff drinks before surfing on over to Hockey Analytics, because the failure of the Flames to make the post-season was placed squarely at his feet.
“Calgary and Tampa Bay were the NHL's two best teams, before one considers goaltending.”
Alan Ryder, 2011 NHL Review
In terms of marginal goals, one of the key components of his Player Contributions rating system, the Calgary Flames were the best team in the league last year when looking only at the various offensive and defensive components. It was goaltending, and goaltending alone, which Ryder blames for a disappointing season – if the Calgary Flames had picked up a little bit of help as the otherwise similar Tampa Bay Lightning team had then it could very well have been the Flames earning 100+ points on its way to the Conference finals.
Player Contributions (PC), incidentally, is Ryder's own over-all statistical assessment of a player's contributions, very similar in nature to its far less complex cousin GVT, which makes sense since they were both developed at the same time based on the same principles by cooperating analysts - and Kipper fared extremely poorly by its measurement. On page 30 Ryder lays out Kiprusoff's statistical deterioration over the years, pointing to his successful 2009-10 season as the lone exception rather than the rule.
On the bright side the Calgary Flames were very much improved defensively, but despite being ranked so highly at shot prevention and shot quality reduction, no individual Flames showed up among the league's best defensive players, suggesting it was more of a team effort (unlike their Floridian clones).
Jay Bouwmeester, who was hailed as last year's most over-hyped defenseman (losing that title to Zdeno Chara this year), ranked as the 17th best defensive defenseman in the league, but unfortunately also had the highest cap cost per Player Contribution point among leading defenseman – almost $120,000 per PC point (which equates to 1/10th of a point in the standings).
Over-all Mark Giordano beat out Bouwmeester as the Flames best defenseman, finishing 19th overall due to his superior offensive play. His much more reasonable cap hit also earned him a spot on Ryder's all-cap roster, along with Alex Tanguay.
Speaking of which, Alex Tanguay came out as one of Ryder's favourites thanks to his amazing shoot-out play, which earned him a whopping 32 PC points and the Wyatt Earp award for top shooter (Kipper was 6th in the Cork Award for the top shoot-out goaltender).
Due to his tremendous performance in the shoot-out Alex Tanguay was ranked as the league's 8th best forward, three spots higher than Jarome Iginla. Together they made Ryder's 2nd Western all-star team, and Jarome Iginla even made Ryder's 2nd all-star even-strength team.
Jarome Iginla's great season also earned him a spot on Ryder's 2nd all-star greybeard team (players aged 33 and up), but don't break out the champagne and Ben Gay just yet, because that's not a good thing. Generally every single member of both all-star greybeard teams have huge declines of about 20% the following season.
It wasn't just Tanguay and Iginla because as a team Calgary clearly had the biggest positive offensive swing in the league, according to Ryder's calculations – almost as large as New Jersey's negative offensive swing. The improvement of 42 marginal goals is seen as simply a reversion, having dropped by 46 marginal goals in 2009-10.
It was also interesting to learn that there were only 95.6% as many shots recorded at home than on the road, the 4th lowest percentage in the league, suggesting that either the Flames play a much different game in the Saddledome, or that the scorekeepers at home have a much more restricted definition of the word “shot” than do their colleagues around the league.
That's just some of the fascinating insights you'll find in Alan Ryder's annual review every year, which also includes all his raw data, so it's definitely worth checking out both this year's and his historical archives of previous seasons.