Calgary’s blue line was overhauled in the 2011 off-season. Absent for the first time since 1999 was Robyn Regehr, along with depth pieces Steve Staios and Adam Pardy, replaced with Chris Butler, Scott Hannan and Derek Smith.
To help set scoring expectations for Calgary’s blue line, and indeed their entire line-up, we used the Snepsts System of searching NHL’s long history for players with similar scoring totals, and using their following seasons as a basis for predicting how well each of today’s player would do in 2011-12. For each player we found players with similar historical scoring results to set high-water, low-water and average scoring results.
It’s one thing to publish your pre-season player scoring projections, but it’s another to circle back and see how you did. We started last week with a look at Calgary’s top-six forwards, for which we were probably 3-3, although we probably picked up the loser point in two of those losses.
This week we’ll look at Jay Bouwmeester, Anton Babchuk and Mark Giordano, followed by a look at the scaled down version we adopted for those of more modest scoring like Cory Sarich, Scott Hannan and Chris Butler. We’ll conclude with a look back at the AHL-to-NHL translations we used to predict scoring for those with limited NHL experience like T.J. Brodie, Derek Smith and the relatively unused Brett Carson and Clay Wilson.
Jay Bouwmeester’s historical comparables are well documented, having even done an in-depth analysis mid-season, and were also highly consistent, so it was with high confidence that we predicted he’d be below 30 points, much like his closest scoring match Rick Lanz.
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 72 5 20 25 Worst 82 3 16 19 Best 82 4 29 33 Average 82 4 20 24 Actual 82 5 24 29
Jay Bouwmeester’s 5 goals and 29 points were almost exactly what we expected, bang on with his various comparables. The aforemented in-depth piece identified twelve players, all of whom had similar seasons and histories as Bouwmeester. We concluded that “those who lacked a strong defensive game were essentially done, like Yushkevich, Potvin, Smith, Mara, Lanz and (probably) Hainsey. Those with strong defensive games enjoyed between three to seven more seasons, like Russell, Hatcher, Green and (probably) Hamhuis. Those who managed to get their scoring back (if only temporarily) also managed to keep going for four to nine more seasons, like Crossman and Huddy.”
For two straight seasons the most intriguing historical comparable for Mark Giordano was his best-case scenario: Norris-winning Duncan Keith and a potential 68-point season. Even his average expectation was impressive: 43 points in a complete 82-game season, even higher than the normally more optimistic VUKOTA system, which had him pegged for 35 points in 71 games.
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 71 8 27 35 Worst 82 5 17 22 Best 82 14 54 68 Average 82 9 34 43 Actual 61 9 18 27
Unfortunately Giordano fell short of the best-case scenario, and 5 points shy of the average of his comparables (43 points in 82 games works out to 32 points in 61 games), which put him in the same territory as former Flames like Steve Smith and Igor Kravchuk. Uhh.. that’s not good. Moving on.
Anton Babchuk was signed to an impressive deal in the off-season, leading to hopes that he could manage the 34-point projection (over 82 games), and possibly even exceed it.
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 68 7 23 30 Worst 82 5 15 20 Average 82 11 23 34 Best 77 14 40 54 Actual 32 2 8 10
Despite that big new contract, Anton Babchuk wasn’t used unless everyone (including depth AHLers) were injured – and even then wasn’t given much opportunity to score. Even if you stretch out his scoring over 82 games, his 26 points would still finish about halfway between the average and worst possible expectations.
After reviewing his historical matches last October we wrote “Both the VUKOTA and Snepsts systems agree that Sarich is looking at roughly a 14-point season, much like many veteran depth two-way defensemen of the past. That assumes he can play a full season, otherwise he’s more likely to finish with 6 points, like in 2009-10.”
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 62 3 11 14 SNEPSTS 70 4 10 14 Actual 62 1 6 7
Unfortunately our comments were strangely prescient, and Sarich wound up only one point higher than that likely 6 point finish.
Chris Butler’s closest historical match was Ville Siren, who scored 14 points in 53 games for the Minnesota North Stars, a historical match that agreed with the statistical VUKOTA projection.
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 53 3 11 14 SNEPSTS 53 2 9 11 Actual 68 2 13 15
While we successfully predicted Chris Butler’s scoring production, we also said “don’t put him in Regehr’s skates because he can’t fill them,” and in that we were greatly mistaken. Chris Butler played effectively in top-line duty alongside Jay Bouwmeester, while Robyn Regehr was outscored by Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
Given historical comparables like Tim Watters, Jay Wells, Jason Smith and Curtis Leschyshyn we felt that Scott Hannan’s scoring would continue to drop, and that he was “unlikely to get the opportunity to even hit double-digit scoring.”
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 62 1 9 10 SNEPSTS 80 1 5 6 Actual 78 2 10 12
Scott Hannan’s 12 points were double what we expected, and far more in line with optimistic VUKOTA’s projection. It was actually his 2nd best season scoring-wise since his first season in Colorado back in 2007-08.
For T.J. Brodie we translated his AHL scoring to an NHL equivalent and came up with 17 points in 71 games, which is roughly the same scoring level projected by VUKOTA, which assumed he’d only get the opportunity to play in 25.
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 25 2 5 7 NHLE 71 3 17 17 Actual 54 2 12 14
T.J. Brodie’s 14 points in 54 games further reinforces the validity of AHL-to-NHL translations, as his scoring level of 0.26 points per game very closely matches the expectation of 0.24.
For Derek Smith, the AHL-to-NHL translation for each of his past two seasons worked out to 23 points, a couple more than what you’d get if you stretched VUKOTA’s projection of 7 points in 27 games out to a full year.
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 27 2 5 7 NHLE 80 4 19 23 Actual 47 2 9 11
Derek Smith’s projection of 23 points in 80 games would work out to 13.5 in 47 games, a little more than he actually scored for the Flames. That’s about as accurate a projection as you can get for a player with just 11 games of NHL experience.
Clay Wilson’s AHL-to-NHL translations paint the picture of a very consistent 20-point scorer, coming off a career high 25, just like VUKOTA would project over a full season.
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 31 3 7 10 NHLE 82 8 17 25 Actual 5 0 0 0
Of course we have no idea how many points Wilson would have scored over a full season, having played just 5 games – most of it at the end of the year when Calgary was already eliminated from the play-offs, but we included this projection for completeness sake.
We went the extra mile with Brett Carson, projecting his AHL data to their NHL equivalent to see how he might to this season even though “barring lots of injuries, Brett Carson is likely to be plying his trade in the same place he has for years – in the AHL. “ In 2010-11, for instance, he would have scored 10 points in 57 games at the NHL level.
System GP G A PTS VUKOTA 43 2 6 8 SNEPSTS 43 0 7 7 Actual 2 0 0 0
Brett Carson only got two games of action, so we’re including this one only for interest’s sake.
Calgary got the most out of low-cost depth pieces like Chris Butler, Scott Hannan, Derek Smith and T.J. Brodie, and ultra-high-cost depth piece Cory Sarich, but failed to justify the hefty contract awarded to Anton Babchuk. Mark Giordano’s season didn’t live up to his potential, and Jay Bouwmeester’s performance, while predictable, is still well short of his Norris-level contract – at least scoring-wise.
Once again our record is roughly even – the projections were largely accurate in the case of Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Butler and the AHLers T.J. Brodie and Derek Smith, but at least a little off in the case of Mark Giordano, Anton Babchuk, Scott Hannan and Cory Sarich. Given that most of them still fell within the range, we should at least get credited with the loser points.
Having already taken a look back at their top-six forwards last week, and their defensemen here this week, all that remains is to look back at their other forwards like David Moss, Matt Stajan, and company – something we’ll do next week.