Reviewing Flames Secondary Forwards Projections

Robert Vollman
April 24 2012 09:29AM

 

 

For two years now we’ve set pre-season individual scoring expectations for the Calgary Flames, using Tom Awad’s famed VUKOTA system, and our own Snepsts System to set worst-case, best-case and average scoring expectations for each player. 

As the season progresses sometimes our perception of a player gets skewed, so it makes sense to go back in time and compare their year-end scoring to the actual expectations we had of them before the season began. Recently we did this with the top-six forwards, and last week with the defensemen, and now finally we’ll look at the remaining secondary forwards, starting with David Moss.

David Moss

Injuries make David Moss one of the trickier projections, because they may prevent him from achieving his upside. “Scott Thornton and Radim Vrbata both show the upside for David Moss. With good health, more than his usual 13 and a half minutes per game, continued or even increased power play opportunities and possibly even some time in the top-six, Moss could easily reclaim the 20-goal throne.”

The analytical mind of the Snepsts System is often criticized for being too negative, especially compared to its more optimistic cousin VUKOTA, but David Moss is a perfect case of where that cynicism is well-placed, having searched NHL’s history and finding that “there are a handful of players like Dwight Foster that suggest Moss might fall back to the 0.25 points per game level – at age 30 that's certainly possible if he's not healthy and gets fourth line minutes only.”  David Moss wound up with 0.28 points per game.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      56 14 14  28
Worst       56  3  7  10
Best        56 13 21  34
SNEPSTS     56  9 10  19
Actual      32  2  7   9

Even when healthy David Moss was 9th among forwards in even-strength playing time, and enjoyed less than a minute per game on the power play – more than Blair Jones and Blake Comeau but less than Krys Kolanos and Mikael Backlund. That’s nowhere near enough for him to reach his top potential, because “when playing on a scoring line with gifted linemates, Moss can certainly match the 20-goal, 39-point performance he enjoyed in his prime at age 27 back in 2008-09, if he can stay healthy.”

Brendan Morrison

While we knew that “there's little historical precedent for a dramatic improvement from the 35-40 point range,” we didn’t know exactly how far Morrison would drop. After all, last year he beat his projection by 2 goals and 8 assists thanks to spending so much time between a red-hot Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.

In the end we decided that “the more practical conclusion is that his offensively productive streak could finally be coming to an end, and he'll drop back to the 31 points he scored in 2008-09 with Anaheim and Dallas.”


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      59 10 25  35
Worst       70  2  9  11
Best        70 22 25  47
SNEPSTS     70  9 18  27
Actual      39  4  7  11

Morrison was scoreless in his 11 games in Chicago, so his pace of 11 points in 28 games in Calgary would actually be bang-on with his projection of 27 points in 70 games. So while he was a disappointment as a Blackhawk, he exactly achieved expectations as a Flame.

Matt Stajan

We weren’t quite sure what to make of Matt Stajan as “there are actually a wide range of possibilities for Stajan – a 20-point 4th liner on death watch, an overpriced but usable 35-point depth option, or a return to 55-point top-six form.”

His 2010-11 performance came up exceptionally short of projections, due to losing his ice-time, sharp decreases in shooting percentage and of course his own offensive struggles. Nevertheless we felt that he would continue to struggle given that “only one out of ten historical comparables rebounded to top-six form: Vaclav Prospal, the Bret Saberhagen of hockey.”


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      66 10 24  34
Worst       82  9  7  16
Best        82 19 40  59
SNEPSTS     82 10 23  33
Actual      61  8 10  18

In the end Matt Stajan’s scoring rate of 0.30 points per game once again finished about halfway between our expectations (0.40) and the low-water mark (0.20) – and that’s with his late season surge. A disappointing season but it actually could have been worse.

Niklas Hagman

Not only was Hagman’s poor production predictable, but so was his departure, as we noted that several factors contributed to “making him a prime candidate for trade deadline departure should he fail to regain top form.”

We highlighted the ample evidence behind his conservative projection - “Hagman has a total of 26 close historical matches – including Ales Kotalik last year (though not in the top ten), together reinforcing the top-ten average of 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points over 82 games.”  That would work out to 27 points in the 71 games he wound up playing.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      63 14 16  30
Worst       82  8  7  15
Best        82 26 23  49
SNEPSTS     82 14 17  31
Actual      71  9 14  23

This is the second straight year Hagman has fallen on the wrong side of his projection, but at least in 2010-11 he had somewhat of an excuse, having lost 3 minutes of ice-time and a shooting percentage drop by over 3 points. There were no such excuses in 2011-12, and he still finished 4 points below target.

Tom Kostopoulos

Of Tom Kostopoulos, we wrote that “he has scored between 18 and 22 points in all but one of his NHL seasons. Unfortunately it looks like age is finally catching up to him (he'll turn 33 in January), and he won't manage even that modest scoring expectation”


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      62  7 10  17
SNEPSTS     78  4  8  12
Actual      81  4  8  12

While his 12 points might have come as a disappointment to many, it was actually bang on with his pre-season statistical projection – to exactly both the goal and the assist.

Tim Jackman

The VUKOTA system probably made too much of Jackman’s amazing 23-point 2010-11 season, but fortunately the Snepsts System wasn’t fooled.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      63  9 11  20
SNEPSTS     82  4  6  10
Actual      75  1  6   7

If it weren’t for Jackman’s ridiculously unlucky 1.0% shooting percentage he would have matched his scoring projection bang-on.

Mikael Backlund

Statistically we were very big on Mikael Backlund, feeling that he would score 30 or more points, even if he missed a few games to injury – and here’s why.

Last October we used AHL-to-NHL translations to give us enough data to form a projection, which typically takes at least two years of solid data.  Fortunately his 2009-10 AHL-to-NHL translation was 25 points in 77 games, almost identical to the 25 points in 73 games he actually got in 2010-11.  Just like with the defensemen, the AHL-to-NHL translation system proved itself with Backlund, giving us a highly reliable source of data on which to base our projection.

Using that as a sound basis we established that Backlund’s “high-water mark is Cam Neely's 55 points in 75 games, and Mario Tremblay's 47 points in 76 games.  At the lower end are players like Kris Beech, Jamie Lundmark, Jody Hull and Martin Gelinas, all of whom finished in the sub-20 point range.”


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      65 13 18  31
SNEPSTS     82 15 19  34
Actual      41  4  7  11

Stretched out over a full season Backlund would have managed just 22 points, well short of our expected projection and barely above that low-water mark. Even though injuries and bad luck no doubt played a factor, his final numbers still came as a considerable disappointment.

Lance Bouma

Lance Bouma’s scoring projection was based on translating his AHL scoring to an NHL equivalent, which would produce a 13-point player, or 0.17 points per game, just over half VUKOTA’s scoring expectation. “If you search history there are 12 players with similar scoring at that age, but it's mostly secondary guys like Aaron Gavey and Maxime Talbot.”


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      33  4  6  10
AHL-to-NHL  77  7  6  13
Actual      27  1  2   3

Lance Bouma’s actual scoring rate was 0.11 points per game, which was even lower than the cautious translation-based projection. He also scored just 6 points in 31 AHL games with the Abbotsford Heat.  Fortunately offensive production isn’t a key part of Bouma’s game, because it was a disappointment in both leagues.

Paul Byron

We based our expectations of Paul Byron on translating last year’s AHL scoring with the Portland Pirates, which would work out to 22 points over 75 NHL games, or 0.29 points per game.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      30  6  7  13
AHL-to-NHL  75 11 11  22
Actual      22  3  2   5

Ultimately Paul Byron saw just 22 games of action, and earned just 0.23 points per game, which was still a little short of his AHL-based forecast. He also earned 21 points in 39 AHL games with the Abbotsford Heat, which is again a little low.

Greg Nemisz

For the sake of completeness we’ll include Greg Nemisz. We wrote that “if you convert his AHL season to NHL equivalent and add those 6 games, he'd have 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 74 games – okay for a 20-year-old.”

Searching history with that data we concluded that Greg Nemisz would be a 25-point guy if he saw regular NHL action for a full season, ten points less than the pace on which VUKOTA placed him.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      28  5  7  12
SNEPSTS     82  9 16  25
Actual       9  0  0   0

Unfortunately Greg Nemisz saw just 9 games of NHL action, and under 8 minutes a game, but he did earn 29 points in 51 games for the Abbortsford Heat.  It’s a pity he didn’t get an NHL job, something he probably would have made far better use of than the 30-year-olds that were used in his stead.

Final Word

People frequently complain that the Snepsts system is too pessimistic, but over-all for the past two years it has served our purposes well.  In fact, Brendan Morrison and Tom Kostopoulos were bang-on, while David Moss, Niklas Hagman, Tim Jackman, Lance Bouma and Paul Byron were all within reasonable spitting distance.  Only Matt Stajan and Mikael Backlund flopped to any serious degree.

Unfortunately Calgary needed at least a couple of these secondary players to step up, but not a single one exceeded scoring expectations – and that could have made all the difference. 

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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 Kent Wilson
April 24 2012, 12:14PM
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Definitely a rough year for the depth guys. Their luck was rotten from a number of agnles - percentages and injuries. Still, it's amazing that not one of them exceeded expectations in terms output even a little bit.

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#2 Graham
April 24 2012, 01:02PM
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Moss - he may be worth resigning for a bargin price. Injury prone, but he has the potential to score 15 - 20 goals.

Kostopoulos - let him walk

Stajan, Jackman and Bouma are under contract, and likely return. (think we are stuck with Stajan)

Bryon - at this point marginal NHLer. Begins next year in the minors.

Nemisz, a make it or break it year for the big guy. Depending on what style of play the new coach wants, he might be worth a look on the 4th line to start the season. Size and some skill, poor speed and mobility.

The supporting cast of characters may look pretty familiar next year.

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#3 Charleston Kingsley
April 24 2012, 02:54PM
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Do you see Nemisz and Byron in the lineup next year in a bottom six role? Can they make that step? I'd take them both over Kostopolous.

I see Bouma being a fixture on the fourth line with Jackman. Horak could possibly be on the third. Baertschi will likely crack the top six.

I'm not sure where to slot Stajan.

I wouldn't mind signing Stempniak for a one year 1.5 M deal.

With (hopefully) several players making the move from Abbostford to the big leagues I would think that it would be a logical choice to have Troy Ward become our next head coach. However I have this gut feeling that it is more likely that Feaster hires Hartley because of their relationship.

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#4 Kent Wilson
April 24 2012, 03:59PM
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@Charleston Kingsley

Horak won't be on the third line absent a giant leap forward. He couldn't even hang with 4th liners this year.

The best bets to make the team this season are Baertschi and some mix of Nemisz, Bouma, Byron etc. as 13th forward/injury call-ups.

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#5 everton fc
April 24 2012, 04:09PM
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I don't think Byron's more than a call-up.

I think Bouma can be a decent 4th line mucker, who has proven he can step into a third;-line role, if need be. Albeit not permanently. Yet.

Nemisz is not really a 4th line player. If he could play 4th line centre... Makes Moss expendable, if you re-sign Stempniak.

I hope we don't hire Hartley.

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#6 ChinookArch
April 24 2012, 08:47PM
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Robert,

These systems are really intriguing, I'm impressed at how close they are at projecting player productivity. When you put them out at the beginning of last season, I was skeptical, but I've come around.

Too bad the bottom 6 were mostly underwhelming this year.

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#7 Greg
April 24 2012, 10:07PM
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Surprising to see that many players on the team all came in under projections, and I even remember thinking the projections seemed low at the start of the season. That's almost enough to make me think that some secondary tweaks might be enough to keep treading water as long as the drafting keeps looking as good as last years picks are thus far. Would still prefer to see major changes but I guess it does give Feaster a defensible position if that's the course they take.

Also, I really hope Backlund goes on to mirror Gelinas a lot more than Lundmark and those other guys!

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#9 Tach
April 25 2012, 02:12PM
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A two year summary for the Flames:

2010-11: Mediocre top-end, lucky/stellar depth, sunk by overpriced and underperforming goaltending

2011-12: Mediocre top-end, unlucky/poor depth, wasted quality season from highly paid goaltender

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