Reviewing Flames Player Projections

Robert Vollman
April 11 2012 04:26PM

 

 

You see lots of player projections before the season begins, but how often do we take a look back to check their accuracy?  While it takes guts to put your theories and predictions out there, it takes even more guts (or perhaps foolishness) to re-visit them after the fact.

Fortunately our confidence is bolstered by last season when, on the whole, the projections were pretty close (depending who you ask).  We’re genuinely as curious as you are as to whether we did better or worse this year.  After all, if objective statistical analysis isn’t useful in helping predict future outcomes, how useful is it over-all?

Let’s begin with Calgary’s top six-forwards as they were seen at the start of the season: Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen, Curtis Glencross, Lee Stempniak and Rene Bouque.

Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla may have defied our projection last year, but this year we caught him practically bang on.  Remember that VUKOTA is Tom Awad’s famous projection system (which also projects games played) but tends to be more optimistic than our Snepsts system. 

The Snepsts system searches history for players with similar era-adjusted statistics and spits out the average next season’s result for those players, as well as the worst-case and best-case scenario.


System    GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA    75 32 37  69
Worst     82 19 26  45
Best      82 37 51  88
Average   82 30 38  68
Actual    82 32 35  67

As we expected, Jarome Iginla continues to skate in the tracks of Sergei Fedorov, whose numbers match Iginla’s with eerie accuracy four years in a row now.  Unfortunately Fedorov was locked out the next season, and completed his career with several seasons as a 40-point guy.

Alex Tanguay

Alex Tanguay was another guy who embarrassed us last year, but we were closer this year, and even wrote that he would be “likely ending the season in a quest for 50” points.  At least we got that right.


System    GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA    69 15 33  48
Worst     79  8 23  31
Best      79 19 46  65
Average   79 13 32  45
Actual    64 13 36  49

In fairness his rate of scoring was a lot higher than we expected, but in our defense his on-again, off-again injuries – he reportedly couldn’t even raise the puck the last stretch of the season – understandably makes it very difficult to project statistically.  When he’s healthy he’s at the upper end of projections and when he isn’t, he can sometimes be near the bottom, like he was in Tampa Bay.

Last year Alex Tanguay may have beaten the expected points-per-game of his historical comparables, but the more optimistic VUKOTA system really nailed his production.  Right now his scoring is roughly comparable to Henri Richard’s, near the upper end of expected scoring levels.

Olli Jokinen

Last year’s projection nailed Olli Jokinen within a single point, but the fine-looking Finn blasted the projection this year, finishing just four points shy of the high-water estimate set by Ulf Dahlen.


System    GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA    68 17 30  47
Worst     82 13 24  37
Best      82 29 36  65
Average   82 17 29  46
Actual    82 23 38  61

In our defense, we identified three players who Jokinen matched most closely: Kelly Kisio, Shawn McEachern and Joe Carveth, the middle of which scored an era-adjusted 18 goals and 59 points in 82 games – almost bang on with Jokinen.  Indeed, part of our job is to look at the players spit out by the cold, analytical mind of the Snepsts System and decide who really is the most appropriate match.

Unfortunately McEachern was locked out the following season, and then managed just 8 points in 28 games playing part-time for a very bad Bruins team. Moral of the story: No long-term contracts for Jokinen, please!

Curtis Glencross

Despite being in full agreement with the optimistic VUKOTA engine, we underestimated Curtis Glencross yet again.  We had him pegged to finish south of 20 goals and just barely 40 points, and he instead  finished 2nd to Iginla with 26 goals, which boosted him up to 48 points – and in 4 fewer games.


System    GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA    71 19 21  40
Worst     71 10 18  28
Best      71 22 38  60
Average   71 17 23  40
Actual    67 26 22  48

At least his assists were bang on, and in fairness his goal-scoring was boosted by his ridiculous 23.6% shooting percentage.  Had it been 16.1% like last year he would have finished with 18 goals, we’d have been bang on, and I’m sure there would consequently have been a line-up of ladies wanting to be with us.

The extra goal scoring left Glencross closer to the best-case scenario than to the average, not too far back from Nik Antropov, who followed this up with two more very strong seasons.

Lee Stempniak

The statistical projection for Lee Stempniak once again came in a little high, but only by a single goal and assist - stretched out over 82 games he was on pace for 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 points. This is also one case where the VUKOTA system was poorly served by its optimistic nature.


System    GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA    69 19 20  39
Worst     82  6  9  15
Best      82 41 25  66
Average   82 20 20  40
Actual    61 14 14  28

Having missed just 11 games in the past 5 seasons, it was a bit of a surprise to see Stempniak miss 21 as a Flame. 

His scoring was ultimately best matched with his closest historical comparable Mark Parrish, who had an era-adjusted 16 goals and 30 points in 66 games in 2007-08. Unfortunately that would be Parrish’s last full season, and he scored just 15 points in 62 games for three teams the rest of his career.

Rene Bourque

We nailed Rene Bourque last year, projecting his scoring within 2 points. This year … not so much.


System    GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA    72 24 26  50
Worst     72 18  7  25
Best      72 37 38  75
Average   72 23 26  49
Actual    76 18  6  24

Wow that’s a miss. Almost dead on with the worst-case scenario, an almost irrelevant 1930s-era winger named Nick Wasnie, who was grinding out his last part-season with the awful St. Louis Eagles – who would have guessed he’d be Bourque’s comparable? Other than Chris Chelios perhaps, who played against them both.

Players like Pat Verbeek and Bill Guerin suggested that Bourque had a powerful upside this year (and maybe he did) but instead he did worse than we possibly could have projected. The less we speak of this, the better.

Next Time

As a group we expected an average of 20 goals and 28 assists in 78 games for these folks, and they got 21 goals and 25 assists in 72 games.


System    GP  G  A PTS
Average   78 20 28  48
Actual    72 21 25  46

Individually we got Jarome Iginla, also Lee Stempniak if you adjust for games played and Curtis Glencross if his shooting percentage is a fluke, but lowballed Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay (by scoring rate), and blew it with Rene Bourque. 

Let’s see if we can do it better next week, when we look at Calgary’s defensemen before we wrap it up later this month with a look at their other forwards.
 

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Rob Vollman of www.HockeyAbstract.com is a regular feature writer on ESPN Insider, co-author of Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 and 2011-12, and regular contributor to NHL Numbers, Flames Nation and Arctic Ice Hockey. Innovator of Player Usage Charts, Quality Starts, GVS (Goals Versus Salary), the Snepsts Projection System, and known for work in League Equivalencies (NHLE). Twitter: @robvollmanNHL
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#1 Colin
April 11 2012, 04:52PM
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And this here fine folks is probably the best reason why we should NOT sign Olli Jokinen.

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#2 Tach
April 11 2012, 05:14PM
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"I’m sure there would consequently have been a line-up of ladies wanting to be with us."

Umm, Robert "Deathstar to Hope" Vollman, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but "accurate hockey player statistical projections" actually came up last on the list of things I projected as being likely to cause line-ups of ladies for any purpose. Except running for the door.

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#3 thymebalm
April 11 2012, 05:51PM
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Very impessed with how well the system seems to work! Now if only I had a pro hockey team to manage.

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#4 Canucks Suck
April 11 2012, 05:59PM
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If only alex tanguay could raise the puck.

we would have made the playoffs 8)

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#7 Colin
April 11 2012, 07:08PM
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Robert Vollman wrote:

Yep.

I don't even like the idea of a short-term contract. Use the same money to get a 24-year-old with an upside rather than a 34-year-old with a downside.

I was onboard with a short term, lower money deal, but looking at the stupidity of Jokinens numbers through that context(completely forgot about you doing these to start the season), it's crazy how far off a cliff Jokinen and his production might go. TRADE HIM TO EDMONTON!

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#8 Flipnip
April 11 2012, 09:15PM
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It is interesting that all but Bourque fell in the range expected (but only by 1 point) and that the overall average was pretty close too. What is telling here is that this was supposed to be our top 6 at the start of the year and they could only produce an average of 46 points? This is the issue of Sutter playing "power vs power". This team is unable to do it by these numbers and you guys were able to predict this at the beginning of the season.

I hope that the Flames management look at some of these numbers and, at least, give it some thought. While I know that the game is played on the ice and stats can be manipulated, these numbers indicate that unless the Flames can get 2 or 3 true top 6 forwards, we will either be in the same position next year or, more likely, worse.

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#9 What's up with all the diving in hockey these days?
April 11 2012, 09:18PM
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Hockey's getting worse than soccer with all the diving in the game, pretty pathetic and hard to watch. Sorry for the off topic comment but i needed a way to vent my frustration.

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#10 RexLibris
April 11 2012, 09:35PM
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Robert Vollman wrote:

Thanks!

And actually it's the player agents that tend to contact me. They love walking in armed with a list of comparable players (and how much they're paid).

"Player X was a dominant forward in his era, and his $100 a week, when adjusted for inflation circa 1928, should come out to an average of $4million a year"

Of course, Rich Winter would make it sound so much more convincing.

I am interested in this VUKOTA system. However, Iginla is a computer's comparable to Fedorov and Tanguay equals Henri Richard? While I don't doubt the numbers, it is those kinds of soundbites that skeptics will take away and use to dismiss the system altogether.

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#11 SmellOfVictory
April 11 2012, 10:56PM
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RexLibris wrote:

"Player X was a dominant forward in his era, and his $100 a week, when adjusted for inflation circa 1928, should come out to an average of $4million a year"

Of course, Rich Winter would make it sound so much more convincing.

I am interested in this VUKOTA system. However, Iginla is a computer's comparable to Fedorov and Tanguay equals Henri Richard? While I don't doubt the numbers, it is those kinds of soundbites that skeptics will take away and use to dismiss the system altogether.

Comparable primarily in terms of career scoring arcs. Things like goal/assist ratios and play style are secondary, if anything.

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#12 negrilcowboy
April 12 2012, 07:00AM
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ya gotta a system for coaches? the butta projections would be quite intriguing, we might be able to actually see what this intellectual honesty coinphrase ccrap is all about.

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#14 RexLibris
April 12 2012, 12:35PM
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@Robert Vollman

Oh I don't doubt the numbers and the matching. It's just somewhat amusing that of all the possible comparables to Iginla I think Sergei Fedorov might have been a name few would suggets.

Like you've said, it's up to us to make of it what we will. Unfortunately sometimes when someone is given a name like Fedorov in the context of Iginla comparables they immediately import all of their own internal perceptions of Fedorov to apply to Iginla outside of the objective and detached numbers.

For instance, Sam Gagner ties the points-in-a-game record held by Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky. Only a complete idiot would suggest that this feat immediately equates Gagner with either of those two players. And yet...

Our mind is fundamentally programmed to find associations and create connectivity in our world as a primal survival tool. Sports statistics are a long way from determining which berries make my tummy ache and which leaves work best for wiping my behind.

I like your work, it's the "do with it what we will" part that worries me as when fans, casual observers, and player agents get their hands on the condensed version of the information.

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#15 FireOnIce
April 12 2012, 03:08PM
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Brent Sutter and Dave Lowry will not have their contracts renewed.

It begins! Just cross your fingers Hartsburg isn't promoted to head coach.

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#16 Justin Azevedo
April 13 2012, 12:09AM
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I just love that your nickname is now "deathstar to hope".

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