Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Powers of perception - Part Deux

A little while back, I did some research in an attempt to debunk a prevailing sentiment that the Habs were an extremely small team. Whether I accomplished what I set out to do is open to interpretation, but I think it did provide a little dose of perspective.

In the wake of Phil Kessel being traded to the Maple Leafs, and hearing all the talk of how he can't produce without Marc Savard, it struck me how often that argument comes up. The same things were said about Mike Cammalleri all summer, how he would suffer greatly without the benefit of playing opposite all-world winger Jarome Iginla.

Watching Cammalleri fly all over the ice with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta in the third period of Monday night's 4-3 win over the Penguins got me wondering.

Granted, there isn't a player alive who wouldn't see his production helped by playing alongside one of the league's best, most complete players. But thanks to some great research tools over at dobberhockey.com, I think we can safely say a lot of that criticism on Cammalleri was without merit.

To figure this out, I decided to only look at even strength ice time because I feel that is a true barometer to show how a player produces. For Cammalleri, however, this becomes a bit of a skewed portrait since he got 34 of his 82 points last season on the power play. But those points could be a result of several different factors aside from Iginla, such as Dion Phaneuf's booming point shot or a good power play system.

At even strength, I feel you get a far more accurate idea of how much a player relies on his teammates as opposed to his own talent for production.

According to the stats compiled at dobberhockey.com, which come from the NHL's nightly play-by-play sheets, Cammalleri spent 63.4 per cent of his even strength ice time last year playing with Iginla. Over that time, he produced 31 even strength points, which represents 64.5 per cent of his total even strength production of 48 points on the season.

For those of you who don't feel like doing the math, that means Cammalleri got 35.5 per cent of his even strength points in the 36.6 per cent of his ice time he spent playing without Iginla. That shows me that whether Cammalleri was playing with Iginla or not, he produced points at essentially the same rate, which bodes well for the Canadiens since there is no one even remotely resembling Iginla on the Habs roster.

While I was at it, I decided to have a look at how Gomez was used last year in New York, and I think I got an idea of why he struggled so mightily.

First of all, he didn't have a set line all season, and the wingers he had the most success with were Markus Naslund, now retired because he didn't feel he could compete at the level he's accustomed to, and Nikolai Zherdev, who is playing in the KHL because no NHL team wanted to pay him what he felt he was worth.

Gomez had Naslund on one wing for just over 50 per cent of his even strength time on the ice last season, while his second most frequent winger at just over 42 per cent was Ryan Callahan, a nice player, but hardly a sniper.

That trio produced only seven even strength points combined all season when playing together, and though a good chunk of that may have been Gomez's fault, I find it hard to believe that a new set of wingers wouldn't have done a playmaker like him a world of good. For instance, with Zherdev on his wing instead of Callahan the line produced 22 even strength points in limited ice time, yet for some reason Zherdev spent most of his season playing with Brandon Dubinsky.

It was much the same story for Gomez his first year in New York as he had a revolving door of wingers, including Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Brendan Shanahan, Sean Avery, Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha and even Marcel Hossa. Again, Gomez has to take some of the blame for New York's inability to find him appropriate linemates, but could it not be also the Rangers fault for lacking the proper personnel to play with him?

That probably had a lot to do with Bob Gainey signing Gionta to play with Gomez, and the Habs are banking that will avoid them having that same problem.

On one final point, how many of you saw Kessel's 5-year, $27 million deal and wondered how much it will cost the Canadiens to sign Carey Price at the end of the year? That was Kessel's second contract, and it was very similar to other second contracts signed by Anze Kopitar, Dion Phaneuf and Paul Stastny, while I'm sure Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will surpass that number this summer.

I've already stated my belief that the time to sign Price to a new contract is now, when his value is relatively low because of his troubles the past two years. If Price commands anywhere near the kind of contract Kessel signed, the Habs cap situation next year will be very tight with very few options for maneuverability.


Anonymous said...

While I agree with you that they should try and sign Price now, both Carey and his agent are thinking the exact same as you and are probably willing to take the risk of having a bad season in the hopes of having a good one.

Great blog though, stats can sometimes be misleading but its always nice to have some sort of argument to the "mainstream media" view.

Topham said...

Hi Arpon,

A couple of links that may interest you:


This website shows how Cammalleri and Iginla did together at even strength, showing all goals scored (not just Cammalleri's). It's interesting, because it does show like yours that cammalleri is better with Iginla (obviously), but still elite without him.

I also did some stats on Cammalleri and on Gomez:


They may interest you too.

Obviously another way to argue that Cammalleri can do it without Iginla is simply to show 2006-07 where he played with Frolov and Derek Armstrong!

As for Price, I'd be willing to gamble the other way – I don't think the equivalent of the 36 goal season is coming anytime soon from Carey.

Arpon Basu said...

Well, that goes far more in depth than I would ever have the patience for, but I think we've both come to the same conclusions, just in different ways (mine being far less in depth and informative). The one thing I would disagree with on your preview is the line combos, particularly the exclusion of Pacioretty, but it's certainly a debatable point. I've had trouble coming to grips with the effectiveness of the Corsi rating system, namely the assumption that all shots directed toward the net should be treated equal. Think of the Corsi rating those old Soviet teams would have had! But it does serve a purpose in establishing offensive zone puck time versus chasing the puck in the defensive zone, so in that sense it's pretty valuable

Laydownthelaw said...

Regarding Price, we have to keep in mind that goaltenders just don't make as much as forwards nowadays.

If Price comes up with Kessel's contract, just show him Brodeur's contract. Or M-A Fleury's. At this point, anymore than 4 mil$ for him would be preposterous, in my opinion. And even then, that's if he's good this year, which isn't a given.

Ted said...


Good to have you back. I was worried you were so disenfrachised with the new look that you left town.

I've managed to watch all 5 games and already feel short changed that we didn't have this energy in the play offs against Boston in April.

Despite all the pundits, I'm still skeptical on CP but recognizing that St. Patrick also had several difficult spells during his early carreer. In any event, after seeing the changes I'm very happy to sit back and see where this year takes us.

Arpon Basu said...

Your point is a fair one, in that goalies take longer to make the big bucks than forwards. But the Brodeur contract is not a fair comparison because he gave the Devils a discount, negotiating without an agent, and got some heat from the PA because of it. Fleury's deal is a much better comparable. When he signed his current contract, he was not a Stanley Cup champion, not yet a Stanley Cup finalist, he wasn't even a lock to become an elite goalie. He was coming off his first dominant season, and it was half a season at that. He was 23 at the time, and signed a 7-year, $35 million contract, a cap hit of $5 mil per year.

Topham said...

Arpon, I can see what you mean about Pacioretty, he's a good player.

However (and a big however), many people including myself have noted that he just doesn't really himself have the scoring touch yet. It's not an approach I would take while Guillaume steadily produces (somehow).

Once Pacioretty drops to line 3, then it's him vs. Sergei and D'Agostini. Again, there's arguments for all here – it could go any way. I personally think Max has the most to be learned in Hamilton – namely how to score as a pro.

Arpon Basu said...

I just feel Gui is far better suited to playing with Max, the chemistry is already established. I have trouble seeing him trying to keep up with Gomez and Gionta on the rush. Max really looked good in that spot Monday.