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Advanced stats bode well for Sens

Aug 4, 2013, 6:59 PM EST

karlssongetty Getty Images

If you take luck out of the equation, then the 2013 Ottawa Senators were one of the best teams in the NHL … and the same can be predicted for next season’s club.

That’s the conclusion reached by Hockey Prospectus’ Rob Vollman, who ranks Ottawa first in both 2012-13’s “luck-neutral standings” and that system’s prediction for 2013-14 in his book “Hockey Abstract.”

Here’s the key excerpt:

The most likely Presidents’ Trophy winner according to this system is the Ottawa Senators. Despite finishing 12th overall last season, the Ottawa Senators could have finished first in 2012–13, too, had their luck come out a little differently, especially as it related to the health of Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza.

That system pegs the Senators’ chances of nabbing the Presidents’ Trophy at 32.2 percent, at least in an idealized world where luck isn’t such a massive factor.

Vollman considers offseason changes in his formula, but even so, it’s tough to ignore just how different this Senators team really is.

The team really is essentially adding Karlsson and Spezza back into the mix, removing Sergei Gonchar from the equation and trading Bobby Ryan for Daniel Alfredsson. Even Craig Anderson missed a significant chunk of last season, so Ottawa could present so many “variables” that they might almost seem like a different team.

Even so, at least one set of numbers argues that the Senators should be considered contenders rather than scrappy overachievers heading into next season.

(H/T to the Senators’ Web site.)

  1. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 4, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    While they may well be better healthy, I’m still surprised he has them ahead of the Hawks. As a teamn, Hawks were #2 offensively last year, #1 defensively, #1 in team points and +/- depth.

    The Hawks make playing 2 ways a priority. The only guy they lost that they would have wanted to retain was Emery. Have multiple guys on their AHL squad who are ready to make the next step, as Shaw and Saad did this year.

  2. hockeyflow33 - Aug 4, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    No chance at all

  3. phillyphanatic77 - Aug 4, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    I can appreciate Sens fans being optimistic about their club but this doesn’t make sense to me. I understand their absurd injury luck (or lack thereof) last season but this is not an elite team. Like I said on another page: they have excellent goaltending, but their offense and defense are middle of the pack. I mean a top-6 of Karlsson, Phillips, Methot, Wiercioch, Corvo, and Cowen is nothing to write home about. And beyond their projected top line there aren’t many scoring threats. So I don’t really get the Presidents trophy projection. Playoffs? Yeah, sure, it’s an up-and-coming team. True Cup contender? Not in my mind. I may be wrong but to me, the Senators are a few moves away from being mentioned among the Chicago’s, Boston’s, and Pittsburghs.

    • chuvalo - Aug 4, 2013 at 9:14 PM

      Pittsburgh? Great offense, average defense, average/poor goaltending.

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 4, 2013 at 11:11 PM

        And they still project Fluery as their starter. They escaped with a series 1 win as ultimately Fluery got benched, and the only goalie playing worse than he was, Nabokov, was left in, ending up with an abysmil .840 save %.

        Maybe it’s a pride thing, as they’d have to admit “we made a big mistake with that contract”.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 5, 2013 at 4:29 AM

        Believe me, being a Flyers fan I’m aware of the Pens shortcomings. However, they are generally a consensus Stanley Cup pick. And I think they showed the Sens that, despite their shortcomings, Ottawa is not on the same level. The Sens were barely in that series. They’re not true Cup contenders,. Atleast not yet.

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 5, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        I was not saying they are a cup contender. I was agreeing with another poster that says the Pens have issues that ultimately represent a ceiling. The Hawks would most likely have had their way with the Pens, as the Pens vaunted offense would have run into the objectively best defense in teh league, while the Hawks #2 offense would have met a defense that was middle of the pack in the regular season, bottom half in the playoffs (I do the stats thing and can back up what I’m saying).

        I’d personally be surprised that they would pass the Bruins and Pens next year. And ultimately unexpecteed injuries place a limit on projections.

  4. jonkchar - Aug 4, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    If Karlsson misses anymore who do they have to take over as an offensive D with Gonchar gone? maybe the Sens should look into acquiring Niskanen from the Pens

  5. cheliostwin - Aug 5, 2013 at 12:44 AM

    This is why they play the games, instead of just comparing stats to determine the winner. I have no idea what advanced stats the guy was using, probably something to do with percentage of shots that scored, number of shots taken per game, stuff like that. I’m guessing it doesn’t take into account the opposing team’s coach, who probably has devised a strategy, based on scouting reports, on how to play that particular team.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 5, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      Team stats CAN be fairly predictive, and some arn’t. From my perspective (and I’ve done a lot of this over the past year and made a lot of good team projections), it takes understanding the game and knowing how they apply, accumulating “stat sites” to get data from, and research/trial and error.

      Some stats are fairly predictive, others are not. For example, on defense, while a lot of folks focus on hits (which includes productive hits and “hits for hits sake”), teams rankings on hits had nothing to do with either making the playoffs or playoff success. And while I’m a Hawks fan and the Hawks are leaders in takeaways, takeaways were not relevent either. What was relevent was Save %, GAA, SOG against (the % effectiveness for opposing teams is effectively a combination of SOG allowed and save %).

      So yes, on a per game basis, you are correct, several factors trump stats (matchups, coaching decisions, how tired or fresh a team is, injuries…).

      But as far as projecting making the playoffs, and success in playoff SERIES, stats can be predictive – if you’re willing to invest the time. I have (perhaps spent WAY too much time), and my rankings, which I published on Yahoo hockey game and series previews articles under the name Scott D did project the success of 13 of the 15 series (Wings/Ducks and Bruins/Pens were the outliers). My projections beat both the seedings and the 3 Yahoo sportswriters projections.

      So please, do just articulate “conventional thinking” about the relevence of stats. If you have not done your homework in this area, there may well be aspects you’ve missed.

      Enjoy the games this upcoming season. I’ll also enjoy learning and wit matching amoung other fans, and I may well be an oddball.

  6. tcclark - Aug 5, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    I’m pretty sure they’re trading Daniel Alfredsson for Bobby Ryan, not the other way around.

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