Young Dmen the Sabres might reasonably acquire via trade

There is not a lot of blueline depth to the free agent class of 2015.  That leaves trading as the most viable option for a team to acquire a quality roster player who isn’t ancient or terrible at the hockey.  The only trouble there is that most teams only want to move a defenseman if he has a terrible contract or is just terrible.  Young players usually come with lower cap hits and potential, both highly coveted by cap constrained teams looking to make a playoff run.  What’s a GM to do?  In the Sabres’ case, the most logical course of action is to identify players who fit the following criteria:

  1. player must be able to fill a top 4 role
  2. player must be low enough on the depth chart for whatever reason that the team holding their rights can be convinced to part with them.
  3. player ideally belongs to a team who undervalues what that player does well or deploys a player in a manner not suited to that player’s skill set.
  4. player must be either good all around or excel in either limiting opponent scoring chances or generating scoring chances.
  5. If player is one dimensional, they must not be so bad on the other side of the puck that it cannot be masked by the proper defense partner.

Stats from war-on-ice.com

Hero charts from http://ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Contract info from generalfanager.com

Christian Folin

Current team: MIN

Cap hit: RFA

Age: 24

Height: 6.03

50.62 CF% 5v5 2014-15

TOI/Gm: 15.49

40 GP

Scoring chances for: 255

Scoring chances against: 266

ZSO%Rel: -4.43

51.65 5v5 CF% of competition

53.33 5v5 CF% of teammates

folin

Folin isn’t ideal for the Sabres.  He played bottom pairing minutes last season and was on the ice with quality teammates against lesser competition.  Despite that he had fewer scoring chances for than against.  Basically the only thing that weighs in his favor is that he is still young and developing and with the Wild’s acquisition of Mike Reilly he might be expendable.  To top it off, he’s a restricted free agent and Minnesota doesn’t have much in the way of cap space.  It shouldn’t take much to trade for his rights.  I’m not crazy about the idea of trading for him but it’s an option to consider.

Michael Del Zotto

Current team: PHI

Cap hit: RFA

Age: 25

Height: 6.00

48.89 CF% 5v5 2014-15

TOI/Gm: 21.79

64 GP

Scoring chances for: 606

Scoring chances against: 680

ZSO%Rel: -0.96

55.84 5v5 CF% of competition

53.58 5v5 CF% of teammates

Michael-Del-Zotto-e1415218543971

Del Zotto is the embodiment of a one dimensional player.  He’s all offense and minimal defense.  While he generated a ton of scoring chances he was on the ice for 74 more against.  Still he could be productive if paired with a puck mover who does well at shot suppression.  I’d put him with Mark Pysyk and see how that shakes out.  Del Zotto would definitely be risky but he’s also an RFA on a cap constrained team.  This trade might not be particularly easy to pull off since the Flyers have publicly stated that they want to retain Del Zotto but if he wants more money than they’re comfortable paying him, anything is possible.

Del Zotto HEROBrendan Smith

Current team: DET

Cap hit: $2,750,000 (2 years remaining)

Age: 26

Height: 6.02

55.53 CF% 5v5 2014-15

TOI/Gm: 17.93

76 GP

Scoring chances for: 553

Scoring chances against: 514

ZSO%Rel: 5.94

53.68 5v5 CF% of competition

52.12 5v5 CF% of teammates

smith

Smith wasn’t quite a top four defenseman last season but he was right on the bubble.  His impact in both shot suppression and generation was solidly top 4 quality.  He does not make teammates better but he doesn’t make them worse either.  When Smith was on the ice, the Red Wings got 39 more scoring chances for than the had against.  The Red Wings likely aren’t in any great rush to move on from Smith but they have 4 huge contracts on the blueline and 3 excellent young defensemen just starting to break through to the next level in a big way, none of them are named Brendan Smith.  Even running with a Tampa model of 11 forwards to 7 defensemen, there’s still an odd man out.  Also, all 3 are up for a contract extension next season and the Wings don’t have a ton of cap space.  An aggressive GM could probably leverage Smith out of Detroit without giving up the farm.

Smith HEROTorey Krug

Current team: BOS

Cap hit: $3,400,000 (1 year remaining)

Age: 24

Height: 5.09

53.07 CF% 5v5 2014-15

TOI/Gm: 19.45

78 GP

Scoring chances for: 862

Scoring chances against: 614

ZSO%Rel: 14.66

55.47 5v5 CF% of competition

53.44 5v5 CF% of teammates

I’ll say this up front, there is no logical reason why the Bruins would move Krug.  That said, there is no logical reason for anything the Bruins have done lately.  They have limited cap space, 6 defensemen, 10 forwards and 1 goaltender signed through next season.  Over the years, the Bruins organization has shown a tendency to trade away good young players for random pieces to plug into their lineup.  The Sabres have a logjam of forwards at the moment and might be willing to part with one of them.  Another Dman would almost certainly have to go back in any trade scenario but Krug is an upgrade to pretty much everyone outside of Ristolainen and Pysyk.  He generates a ton of offense and is tolerable defensively.  He also makes teammates better and he played with Jack Eichel in the IIHF World Championships.  He’s not the biggest guy in the world but he has a knack for being in the right place offensively and he’s not shy about jumping into the play on the rush.  Krug is exactly the type of player the Sabres are sorely lacking.  Chances of getting him are slim but he would make a fantastic addition to the roster.

Krug HERO

Left shooting FA Dmen I’d consider signing

The 2015 free agent class is uninspiring to say the least.  The Sabres roster still has holes and as Bob Dylan once said, “the cats need feeding and you’re the one to do it.”  Signing a free agent off the list to big money might make about as much sense as that last and it’s entirely likely that the best course of action is to leave free agency well enough alone and pursue players via trades.  But just for the hell of it, let’s take a look at which guys are left and whether any of them are worth pursuing.  The departure of Nikita Zadorov from the Sabres blueline created the most noticeable hole, so which left shooting defensemen are worth throwing money at?  For the Sabres’ purposes, the following criteria should apply:

  1. Player must have some tread left on the tires
  2. Player should be capable of performing at a minimum of a second pair level
  3. Player must be capable of posting at least 50.0 CF% at 5v5

Christian Ehrhoff

Age: 32

Height: 6.02

51.54 CF% 5v5 2014-15

TOI/Gm: 22.03

49 GP

Scoring chances for: 471

Scoring chances against: 478

ZSO%Rel: 0.35

50.09 5v5 CF% of competition

51.37 5v5 CF% of teammates

Let the dream die

Pretty much not gonna happen.  Even if he hadn’t had a bad experience here which culminated in a buyout of his contract, he’s looking to go somewhere that gives him a chance at the Cup.  The Sabres should be better next season but they aren’t contenders just yet.  Yes, the Sabres have cap space and he’d be worth it but Ehrhoff is a pie in the sky and the chance of him landing on your face is just about nil.  Let the dream die.

Ehrhoff HEROMatt Irwin

Age: 27

Height: 6.02

51.49 CF% 5v5 2014-15

TOI/Gm: 17.04

53 GP

Scoring chances for: 427

Scoring chances against: 373

ZSO%Rel: 6.28

55.69 5v5 CF% of competition

57.76 5v5 CF% of teammates

Irwin

He’s not the sexiest name on the list but he’s relatively young compared with the rest of the free agent class and he provides good upside on both sides of the puck.  Irwin played bottom pairing minutes with San Jose last season but he put up solid possession numbers and had an overall positive impact on his teammates’ scoring and possession.  Another factor that weighs heavily in Irwin’s favor is that he probably can be had at a very reasonable salary.

Irwin HEROLubomir Visnovsky

Age: 38

Height: 5.10

54.59 CF% 5v5 2014-15

TOI/Gm: 19.61

53 GP

Scoring chances for: 664

Scoring chances against: 396

ZSO%Rel: 12.06

49.53 5v5 CF% of competition

51.85 5v5 CF% of teammates

lubomir-visnovsky

Visnovsky is really getting up there in age and there’s no way I would sign him to a contract for longer than 2 years but he put up monstrous possession numbers last season and was still incredibly effective offensively.  He wouldn’t be part of the long term future but he might make sense as a quality stop gap guy to give players like Jake McCabe or Chad Ruhwedel another season to develop.  Again, the primary concern with Visnovsky is his age.  Another thing a team signing him would need to be cognizant of is that he was given rather light defensive responsibilities in terms of the quality of competition he faced and his percentage of defensive zone starts.  That said, he was tremendously successful on the offensive side of the puck and nearly 63% of scoring chances when he was on the ice suggests he wasn’t too shabby defensively.  However, like Ehrhoff, Visnovsky will likely be looking for a sizable paycheck and will probably prefer to go to a contender.

Visnovsky HERO

Sabres goaltender targets

youngishThe Sabres have several holes in their present lineup, perhaps the most noticeable being in goal.  In a press conference last Thursday, Tim Murray was asked about the plan for goaltending this upcoming season.

“We’ve got to get a goalie, that’s for sure but it’s always a moving plan.  The plan always moves.  And I’ve said that all along but we would love to trade for a goalie, we would love to trade for a ‘youngish’ goalie.  If that doesn’t work we’d trade for a real good short term goalie who’s older.  If we could sign the best or second best free agent goalie, we’d be happy with that too.  So it’s just, you know you’re working it every day and you’re trying to figure out, first of all, the goalies that are available via trade, what the price is and can you afford that price and if at the end of the day you can’t then you have to move on to plan B.  I’m confident that we can find something that’ll work here just by talking to other teams.  There are people available and that’s the avenue we’re pursuing right now.”

There are several goaltenders who might be available that fit the bill, including Robin Lehner OTT, Cam Talbot NYR, Martin Jones LAK and Eddie Lack VAN.  There are other options but these four have been the subject of the most recent chatter so let’s take a closer look and see if we can get a better idea of how good they are and in what order the Sabres should prioritize them. Robin Lehner – Age: 23, Cap hit: $2,225,000 (contract years remaining: 2) The longest tenured of the four goalies, Lehner comes with a high asking price of a player who could play in the top 6 and potentially a first round draft pick.  The 3 seasons he has played as Ottawa’s backup goalie have seen Lehner’s play steadily decline.  In the 2012-13 season, Lehner played 12 games and posted a 0.936 Sv% and a GAA of 2.20.  In the 2013-14 season, Lehner played 36 games and posted a 0.913 Sv% and a 3.06 GAA.  Last season, he played 25 games and posted a 0.905 Sv% and a 3.02 GAA.  At first blush it appears that he’s been trending in the wrong direction but even the best goalies’ save percentages on special teams situations can fluctuate wildly from one season to the next.  What do Lehner’s numbers in 5v5 situations tell us about his consistency over these 3 seasons?  War-on-ice.com breaks down shots and save percentages into shots from different locations on the ice based on NHL scorekeepers’ shot location records.  Shots are then divided into high low danger, medium danger and high danger areas.  Naturally, a goalie’s Sv% for each area declines as the shot location danger level increases.  This is what Lehner’s past 3 seasons looked like at 5v5. Lehner 12-13 5v5Lehner 13-14 5v5Lehner 14-15 5v5The trend is nearly identical with only a difference in his drop off of only 0.005 at 5v5 vs all situations between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons and a difference in drop off of only 0.001 between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.  Looking at only his 5v5 Sv% per danger level over these 3 seasons we see the same pattern emerge. 5v5 Sv% LehnerTo top it off, Lehner has a concussion history and was shut down for the season after colliding with Clarke MacArthur on February 16 of last year.  A composite of his play at 5v5 over the past 3 seasons puts Lehner at a 0.916 Sv%. Lehner 12-15 5v5Not exactly a guy I’d be crazy about giving up what Ottawa is asking for him.  Even when we examine his quality start percentage, we see a similar decline to his Sv% over that same span.Lehner QS 12-15 Cam Talbot – Age: 27, Cap hit: $1,450,000 (contract years remaining: 1) Talbot is a hot commodity after posting excellent numbers for the Rangers during the stretch of last season which saw Henrik Lundqvist unable to play due to an injury.  While Talbot doesn’t quite fall under the umbrella of “youngish” goaltenders, he is certainly someone the Sabres might be interested in acquiring.  The Rangers are likely to ask for upwards of a first round pick and there are plenty of other teams that will be looking to swing a trade for him.  In the 2013-14 season, Talbot played 21 games and posted a 0.941 Sv% and a 1.64 GAA.  Last season he played 36 games and posted a 0.926 Sv% and a 2.21 GAA.  But what about his 5v5 numbers? Talbot 13-14 5v5 Talbot 14-15 5v5 5v5 Sv% Cam Talbot Those are some pretty impressive 5v5 numbers.  They also tell us that Talbot was even more consistent over the last two seasons than his all situations Sv% indicates.  His drop off in all situations from 2013-14 to 2014-15 is .015 while the drop off in 5v5 is .008 with a difference of .007 separating the two.  His consistency in HD Sv% is also impressive and is the second highest of these 4 goaltenders with smallest gap between seasons of any of  them.  Consistency in every position is important but perhaps most important for goaltending.  After all, two goaltenders can play the same number of games with a 0.925 Sv% but if one wobbles between a 0.915 Sv% and a 0.935 Sv% and the other has either a 0.850 Sv% and a 1.000 Sv%, you’re going to have a much better feeling going into any given game with the first goaltender.  His composite 5v5 numbers between the two seasons are also very impressive. Talbot 13-15 5v5Granted, in both seasons, Talbot was playing behind a Cup contending defense but these numbers are very impressive, regardless.  He seems like a pretty safe bet for any team that lands him.  Consistency from one season to the next is nice but how does he do on a game to game basis? talbot QS 13-15While Talbot’s quality save percentage took a dip last season, we’re talking about a fairly small sample size and I’d tend toward the notion that his QS% in 2013-14 season were unsustainably high. Martin Jones – Age: 25, Cap hit: RFA Jones has played the fewest NHL games (36) of any of the goalies on this list but has impressed in the limited time he’s been given.  In the 2013-14 season, Jones played 19 games and posted a 0.934 Sv% and a 1.81 GAA.  In the 2014-15 season, Jones played 15 games and posted a 0.906 Sv% and a 2.25 GAA.  The drop off gets even more stark when we examine his 5v5 play. Jones 5v5 13-14 Jones 5v5 14-15Jones 5v5 13-15 5v5 Sv% JonesThe drop off in Sv% from 2013-14 to 2014-15 in all situations was only 0.028 while the drop off at 5v5 was 0.032.  We’re talking an extremely small sample size in both situations and his numbers look a lot more promising when we look at both seasons as a composite but that’s an awfully big gamble for a goalie whose asking price is likely to be on the high end of the spectrum.  Jones’ contract status is also a complicating factor.  The Sabres would either have to trade for his rights in hopes they could reach a contract agreement with him, offer sheet him, or wait until the Kings reach a contract agreement before making a trade.  On top of that, Jones has been brought up in the Kings system where he learned to rely on the heavy defensive strategy employed by that franchise.  As we saw with Ben Scrivens in Edmonton last season, that does not always translate well to another situation.  Jones has the potential to be a very good goalie but there’s simply not a large enough sample size to make a comfortable prediction.  Another knock on Jones from last season is that he wasn’t even playing at a consistently lower level.  His Sv% dipped and spiked dramatically on a game to game basis which is reflected by the drop in his QS%. Jones 13-15 QS Eddie Lack – Age: 27, Cap hit: $1,150,000 (contract years remaining: 1) Like Talbot, Lack isn’t quite “youngish” at 27 but he’s available and comes with, perhaps, the lowest asking price of a second round draft pick.  Lack has played in the backup role in Vancouver for the past two seasons, playing in 86 games in that span.  Last season, he played well in relief of the injured Ryan Miller during the home stretch of the season and even started the opening playoff games before eventually being replaced by the then healthy Miller.  In the 2013-14 season, Lack played in 41 games and posted a 0.912 Sv% and a 2.41 GAA.  Last season, he played in 41 regular season games and posted a 0.921 Sv% and a 2.45 GAA, along with a 0.886 Sv%, 3.03 GAA in 4 playoff games.  Not outstanding numbers but when we examine Lack’s 5v5 numbers, something that really jumps out is the consistency of his game. Lack 5v5 13-14 Lack 5v5 14-15 5v5 Sv% Lack His all situation Sv% actually increased 0.009 from the 2013-14 season to 2014-15 while his 5v5 Sv% between the two seasons dropped off by 0.004.  This level of overall consistency is a notch in his favor.  And indicates that his 86 game career 5v5 numbers are likely pretty accurate representation of what we can expect from him going forward. Lack 5v5 13-15In addition to seasonal consistency, Lack also boasts pretty reliable game to game consistency, posting only a slight variance in QS% over the past two seasons. Lack QS 13-15If the Sabres could get him from Vancouver for only a second round pick, I’d be very comfortable with Lack as their guy going forward. The Sabres could potentially call a guy up from the minors to play in net but that seems unlikely.  Earlier in the press conference Tim Murray gave us a window into his philosophy on goaltender development when asked a question about being disappointed that Ilya Samsanov didn’t attend the NHL combine. 

“I wasn’t disappointed at all.  Those are actually positives.  It gives you an opportunity, if you want, to get out ahead of other teams and do your own thing.  We sent two people to Detroit this week that spent 3 days with him and watched him on the ice and I know that a couple other teams did it but all 30 teams weren’t there, so it’s an opportunity.  And the second part of that is contract and it doesn’t bother me, because he’s 18 years old.  He needs time and, you know, under the old rules of the CHL he’d be playing two more years of junior hockey here, the plan for him over there is he’s on a good team and I think he’s gonna be a strong backup there with the opportunity to fight for the starter’s job this season and I think eventually be slowly moved into the starter’s job.  He’s gonna get development there.  The one position there that that league doesn’t probably doesn’t bother me as much as other positions is goaltending.  And I think he still get shots, he still get coaching and he’s still a big athletic guy that was a great interview with our guys that went down there.  And he has his head on his shoulders, he knows what he has to do, he knows his own timeline, very, very, very good self-evaluator.” 

From this it seems unlikely that Murray would elevate a goalie to the NHL this season unless he was absolutely sure that the player was ready.  How it all shakes out should be interesting to watch.  I’d rather not pay too heavy of a price for a goaltender and it doesn’t sound like Murray has any intention of doing so.

Exceeding Draft Stock – Historical Pick value vs NHLe cohorts

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The playoffs are over, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and now it’s time for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.  I don’t know about you, but as a Sabres fan, I’ve been waiting since last October to be able to say that.  Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel.  There were two of them and that meant that the NHL could jigger the odds however the hell they wanted.  The team that finished last, was a winner regardless.  McEichel did not become a phenomenon because of one player.  The Sabres lost the lottery and that was a little disappointing for a minute, but then we realized Eichel was coming to our team and we got to watch him play in the IIHF World Championship before he was even drafted and life is pretty awesome sometimes.  But what about the rest of the draft picks we have this season?  Not counting the no. 2 overall pick, the Sabres have 6 draft picks in this year’s draft, 4 in the top 100, 3 in the first two rounds.  Speculation has been rampant about what Tim Murray is going to do with those draft picks.  Will he trade some for a player?  Will he package them to move up?  Will he trade the other first to get more draft choices in later rounds?  Will he just use them to draft players?  If Murray chooses that last option, who should he take?  As a fan, drafts are a hell of a lot more fun to watch when I have players that I hope slide to my team’s spot.  It creates a level of suspense and keeps me engaged throughout the process rather than just paying attention briefly when my team is on the clock.

With the NFL draft, we can all watch the draft eligible players throughout their draft season while they play in college.  That makes it easy to have favorite players who I think my team should take.  I’m not always right but the draft is engaging because there’s a rooting interest there.  This isn’t always so easy for the NHL draft.  It’s true that junior and college games are becoming more and more accessible but if you don’t live in Canada, the level of exposure is nowhere close to that of college football.  We can pour over all the draft rankings and read all the player profiles to get an idea of what type of player each prospect is and that helps but what if there were a way that we could get an idea of which players were more statistically likely to succeed in the NHL?  That’s where the folks at theprojectionproject.com enter the picture.

In his book “Hockey Abstract“, Rob Vollman discusses translating data from other leagues by multiplying a players points/game by a translating multiplier and then projecting it onto an 82 game season to get a rough idea of how equivalent scoring rates.  The resulting number is known as NHL equivalency or NHLe.  Lochlin Broatch and Arthur Wheeler took this concept and made a database of drafted prospects, yet to be drafted prospects and NHL players’ NHLe over their career in theprojectionproject.com to give us an estimate of a players’ likelihood of success in the NHL based on a cohort, derived from players in the database with comparable NHLe scoring rate and player height.  For a more in depth explanation of their methodology, click here.

Every year, NHL general managers and scouts put in countless hours, scouring the globe for new talent.  The team that drafts the best in the present has the best hope of winning in the future.  Obviously every team needs their early round draft picks to pan out to have any hope of success, but drafting well in the later rounds is just as important.  Traditionally, the valuation of players in a draft is based off of information team scouts have gleaned from watching these players and ranking them according to various attributes they feel will translate well at the NHL level.  This article is not intended to discredit or replace what these people do.  Scouting is an invaluable resource that is absolutely essential to a team’s success in the draft.  Scouting is an imperfect science, however, and the best scouts in the world can get fooled by a player who does well in games when they are present.  Things like NHLe and cohort comparisons can be used to augment scouting reports and indicate instances where it might be wise to take a closer look at a player under consideration.

Sabres general manager, Tim Murray, seems to have a good grasp on using both scouting and analytics in player assessment.  In an interview with WGR550’s Mike Schopp, Murray said,

“To me, you go by what you see, you ask the guys upstairs if the numbers correlate, and if they do, then you think you’re on the right track, and if they don’t, then you have to make a decision: Are the numbers right, which most times they are, or are your eyes right? And that’s the tough decision. Because there are players out there you like that don’t necessarily have great numbers, and I don’t want to get into all my philosophy on all that, but you can get fooled some times, for sure.”

So, what do the numbers say?  I ran every player from the Central Scouting Service final rankings for the 2015 draft to find the percentage of players in their cohort who were successful at the NHL level.  To maximize the cohort size, I looked for cohort players within 2 inches in height to the player entered.  In some instances, most notably Mitchell Vande Sompel, the cohorts were extremely small and the statistical significance of their cohort is somewhat lessened.  For several players, I had to broaden my search criteria to within 4 inches in height to get a cohort of any size whatsoever, which in and of itself raises issues, particularly with players already on the borderlines of average NHL height.  Nevertheless, I wanted to see if I could find any players that might have a higher chance of success in the NHL who CSS ranked lower than their NHLe cohort would indicate they should be.  To do this, I compared the cohort success percentage of each player on CSS final rankings against the average historical success of players selected at each spot in the draft, basing the latter on Scott Cullen’s research which can be found here.

Edit: It was brought to my attention that theprojectionproject.com uses a 200 game success threshold for NHL success whereas Cullen has a 100 game threshold.  This may partially explain why some players cohort success rates are lower than historical pick values but it is still helpful in finding outliers.

Historical Draft Pick Value vs CSS Rankings + NHLe cohort success%Right away, there’s a handful of players outside of the first round who jump out at you.  In the case of Vande Sompel, there were 3 NHL players within 2 inches of height with comparable NHLe ratings.  The sample size is too small to say that the 100% NHL success rate is really a reliable measure of how likely it is that he will succeed in the NHL but it does not erase the fact that an NHLe of 27 in his draft year is exceptional for a defenseman and indicates that he might be a worthwhile gamble to draft higher than no. 34 overall.  His positional flexibility and Memorial Cup might indicate that as well.

The next most noticeable outlier, Rasmus Anderson, didn’t have a huge cohort (29) but it is large enough to get us on some more solid ground.  Andersson’s NHLe cohort boasts some impressive names including, Jay Bouwmeester, P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, Seth Jones and Aaron Ekblad.  His NHLe of 23 makes him look like he’d be an absolute steal around pick no. 93.  Guess which franchise owns pick no. 92?  Honestly, I have no idea how he slid so far down the rankings.  I’d be willing draft him in the second round and not miss a beat.  This profile will give you a good idea of what kind of player we’re looking at.

Another startling spike in a lower round belongs to Vladimir Tkachev whose cohort (43) boasts a 60% NHL success rate.  He had an NHLe of 23 last season and his cohort comparables include players such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyler Ennis, Claude Giroux, Paul Stastny and Jason Pominville.  So why did CSS rank him at no. 159 overall?  Well, there are several reasons.  In no particular order, those reasons seem to be: he’s listed at 5’9″, he’s Russian, after the Oilers failed to sign him as an undrafted FA out of training camp last season, his scoring slumped in his return to juniors.  But between that and his player profile, I’d be willing to draft him considerably higher.  Look out though, the Oilers probably wouldn’t mind scooping him up.

So now we’ve looked at a few extreme outliers, let’s take a closer look at  the individual rounds.

Round 1

History vs the CSS cohort (round 1)The first round of the draft is where most of the best players come from.  It is also a bone-yard of most of the NHL’s most infamous busts.  The 2015 draft has some spectacular players available in this round.  McDavid and Eichel are both dreamy with McDavid holding a 15 point edge in NHLe.  Both players have small cohorts but come on, how many players can reasonably be called comparable to these guys?  Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner look like pretty safe bets too with Marner holding a 2 point edge in NHLe, they’re close though, and Strome has size on his side.

The player with the next highest cohort success rate is Evgeny Svechnikov who boasts an impressive 72% cohort success rate.  He scored at a high enough rate in juniors to be ranked in the first round but he is described as having “massive holes in his game” by The Hockey Writers, said holes being an absence of backcheck and forecheck along with a failure to use his size to protect the puck.  Basically he projects to be a one dimensional offensive player with good odds of NHL success.  A team could do a lot worse at no. 17 overall.

Timo Meier’s 70% cohort success rate doesn’t exceed the historical success rate for the no. 10 overall pick but, compared to most of the players in the first round, he’s certainly worth that draft position.  Meier boasts an NHLe of 31 and of the 45 successful NHL players in his cohort, 57% were at least average first line players.  There are no serious knocks on the right winger’s game and his player profile reads like he’s definitely a guy you’d like on your team.

If a team misses out on Meier, the next best option in Kyle Connor is a carbon copy as far as NHLe and cohort success rate are concerned.  The young center also has a 70% cohort success rate and an NHLe of 31.  The same percentage of NHL cohorts were at least average first line players.  The only knock on Connor is that he needs to get stronger.  According to his player profile, along with an excellent offensive game, he has spent the past season committing to developing his defensive game.  Nab him if you can.

That’s about it for the premier forwards in the first round, now let’s take a look at some of the defensemen.  The highest rated defenseman according to CSS is Noah Hanifin.  Hanifin only has a 55% cohort success rate which is significantly lower than defensemen such as Drew Doughty (63%), Aaron Ekblad (78%) and Seth Jones (65%) and his NHLe of 17 is 3 points lower than the next closest of those defensemen.  In addition to that, his player profile is even hesitant to call him the best defenseman in the draft, let alone the third best player.

The next defenseman, ranked at no. 7 overall is Ivan Provorov with a cohort success rate of 67% and an NHLe of 22.  Provorov compares favorably to players such as Drew Doughty and P.K. Subban and while the historical success rate for the no. 7 pick is considerably higher than 67%, we have to bear in mind that defensemen are significantly more hit or miss as draft picks than forwards.  That does not mean they shouldn’t go near or at the top of the draft, it simply means that it’s a risk that must be weighed.  And outside of the four centermen at the top of the draft, Provorov has a similar cohort success rate to the some of the best forwards in the draft.  His player profile lists the only knocks on his game as needing to add strength and being more selective in when to jump up into the play.

The third member of the much talked about triad of defensemen is Zach Werenski with a cohort success rate of 53% and an NHLe of 13.  Werenski is deservedly ranked 3rd and perhaps even slotted too high by CSS.  This is an instance where scouting and the numbers disagree.  Both Hanifin and Werenski play NCAA hockey, but when calculating NHLe the B1G and Hockey east have multipliers of .41 and .33 respectively.  So Werenski’s scoring equivalency doesn’t even take as big of a hit as Hanifin’s yet he has the lowest rating of the three defensemen.  Despite this, his player profile suggests he might be the best defenseman in the draft and he has certainly looked the part.  I would need to take a closer look before drafting this player at no. 9 overall.

Lastly, let’s take a look at a couple of players that make me very nervous.  Top of the list is Lawson Crouse.  Crouse is the only player in the top 10 with a cohort success rate (37%) below 40%.  He has an NHLe of 22 which is less than half that of Strome and Marner.  In his defense, he wasn’t on the greatest team last season but a forward ranked no. 5 overall should reasonably be expected to do better than that.  None of this necessarily means Crouse will fail but that’s a larger risk than I’d want to take at no. 5.  His player profile notes that he didn’t score at a high rate and he played some of his best hockey in a 4th line role for team Canada in the World Juniors but has otherwise only good things to say about him.

Another player that concerns me is Pavel Zacha.  Though his cohort success rate (46%) is much better than that of Crouse, his NHLe of 23 is comparable.  Zacha made it to no. 8 overall on CSS rankings on the strength of his power forward skill set and positional flexibility between center and wing.  However, even his draft profile cites the need to improve his defensive game and positional play.  This raises some red flags especially in a player ranked ahead of safer players.

Round 2

History vs the CSS cohort (round 2)We’ve already discussed Vande Sompel but aside from him, the second round boasts 9 players with cohort success rates higher than 40% which could provide excellent value when we consider the highest historical value of 2nd round draft picks barely exceeds that mark.  In addition, there are 8 players in the first round whose cohort success rate does falls below 40%.  The most notable players are Vince Dunn (cohort success rate 58%), Anthony Beauvillier (cohort success rate 53%), Travis Dermott (cohort success rate 49%), Yakov Trenin (cohort success rate 52%), Blake Speers (cohort success rate 52%) and Jeremy Bracco (cohort success rate 46%).

Round 3

History vs the CSS cohort (round 3)Round 3 features 4 players with cohort success rates of over 40% which is good value considering the average historical success of third round picks is ~32.5%.  The 4 standouts in round 3 are Gustav Bouramman (cohort success rate 41%), Anthony Richard (cohort success rate 47%), Alexandre Carrier (cohort success rate 51%) and Thomas Schemitsch (cohort success rate 57%).

Round 4

History vs the CSS cohort (round 4)We talked about Rasmus Andersson earlier.  Personally, I don’t think he makes it as far as the third round, but that’s just one man’s opinion.  The good news for the Sabres is that one of the other two outliers is ranked right where they’re picking.  As a matter of fact, pick no. 92 is in the center of a trio of above historical success rate players, so if the Sabres take any of them, their cohort success rates suggest better than average odds that player makes it to the NHL.  The other two standouts are Dmytro Timashov (cohort success rate 41%) and Loik Leveille (46%).

Round 5

History vs the CSS cohort (round 5)Round 5 features only one player whose cohort success rate is below the historical success rate for his ranking.  Unfortunately, the Sabres own the pick he falls on.  Not to worry, it’s round 5 and chances are the Sabres don’t pick Bailey Webster (cohort success rate: 13%).  Round 5’s two standouts are Hayden McCool (cohort success rate 24%) and Casey Fitzgerald (cohort success rate 32%)

Round 6

History vs the CSS cohort (round 6)This is the final round in which the Sabres hold a pick and it just so happens to land on a standout player.  I’ve already said that I’d like the Sabres to draft Tkachev, but if he goes off the board early, the two other standouts of round 6 are Nikita Pavlychev (cohort success rate 30%) and Ethan Spaxman (cohort success rate 26%)

Round 7

History vs the CSS cohort (round 7)Round 7 is chalk full of good bets in when it comes to cohort success rates.  The Sabres, however, do not have a pick in this round.  Standouts in round 7 include Karson Kuhlman (cohort success rate 22%), Jason Bell (cohort success rate 24%), Michael Zipp (cohort success rate 22%), Ryan Zuhlsdorf (cohort success rate 22%) and Marcus Crawford (cohort success rate 23%).

Assembly of a Winning Roster Pt. 4 (Buffalo Sabres edition)

After going over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Chicago Blackhawks and the L.A. Kings, it’s time to see how they can help us projecting the Sabres going forward.  The Sabres are following the blueprint of drafting high caliber players early in the first round for several years.  But that’s the easy part.  To build a successful roster, a general manager must have a clear vision of the team identity he wants to build around and he must be savvy and opportunistic in his acquisition of complementary talent.  The Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings all had a unique identity formed around the nucleus of their star players.  The Penguins were able to sign a bunch of free agents at the tail end of their prime, made trades for a few good players and counted on their stars to raise the level of everyone’s game.  The Blackhawks signed a few key free agents to long term deals to keep their cap hits down, traded for skill players near the beginning of their primes and committed to player development to maintain a solid pipeline of inexpensive young talent to eventually replace more complimentary veteran players.  The Kings made a handful of savvy free agent signings and were aggressive in the trade market to acquire talent at reasonable cap hits in the peak of their primes.  The Blackhawks targeted high skill, two way players in the draft, free agency and trades.  The Kings looked for heavy forechecking, two way players with reasonable cap hits that mostly spanned the length of their success window and were able to take the time to develop good NHL players in the minors.  The Sabres will have to apply some combination of the Blackhawks and Kings strategy if they are to achieve sustainable success.  With free agency all but a wasteland due to teams locking up their good players, it is paramount that the Sabres not only draft well but develop that talent properly to maintain a healthy pipeline of inexpensive talent they can bring into the lineup in the future.  Trades remain as important as ever but at this point in the Sabres rebuild, it makes sense to take a page out of the Blackhawks’ book and trade for younger players who can remain on the team for years to com or at least retain trade value over the course of their contracts.

The Current Roster

As of this moment, the Sabres NHL roster currently signed through next season looks like this:

Center

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Zemgus Girgensons Girgensons performed about as well as any player could be expected to last season.  He skates hard, hits hard and works harder and shows tremendous ability to use his body to protect the puck both on the rush and along the wall.  Top that off with a reasonably soft pair of mitts and you’ve got an excellent young player with a grim determination to win.  While his skill level may have a ceiling, his ambition could potentially shatter it and send him on a Wonkavator ride to becoming one of the Sabres best players going forward.

Tyler Ennis Small, speedy and super creative, Ennis is a solid top six forward.  He’s listed as a center but plays better on the wing.  With improved players around him, Ennis’ scoring might go up but if his power play time is reduced because there are more players to take it up, it will likely remain about level with where it’s currently at.  He played well for a terrible team last season and there’s no reason to think that will not continue.

Cody Hodgson Well, Hodgson’s 2014-15 season was pretty brutal.  It didn’t help that his quality of teammates took a nosedive and he was rarely given power play time but there’s no excusing it, Hodgson was bad last season.  He’s not a player who can generate his own offense and his defensive awareness is just about nonexistent.  On top of that, his skating is sub-par and he’s never going to be a physical player.  Unfortunately, the Sabres are saddled with his contract for the next 3 seasons.  At this point, he’s a buyout candidate unless he can miraculously turn his game around.  Thanks, Darcy.  One piece of good news on that front, because of Hodgson’s age, if the Sabres were to buy him out, the cap hit would only be one third of his current cap hit.

Cody McCormick McCormick is a hard worker with good leadership qualities but he’s basically a grinding enforcer.  On the upside, he has very entertaining fights, in which he throws reckless hay-makers with no regard for his own face.  On the downside, he’s not particularly good at the whole hockey thing.

Left Wing

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Evander Kane After a low scoring, injury hampered season with Winnipeg and after many highly publicized but poorly reported incidents, Kane was traded to the Sabres, where he watched the remainder of the season from the LTIR list.  So what do we have here?  Kane is a highly skilled, fast skating, heavy hitting winger who generates a ton of shots and has an excellent pair of hands.  In Winnipeg, one reason his scoring was down last season is that he was being used in a semi-shutdown role on the third line and was performing well in that role until the end of his season when he elected to undergo shoulder surgery.  Not surprisingly, his best seasons were played with more skilled centermen; unfortunately, he rarely had that luxury in Winnipeg.  Kane has the potential to score a lot of goals whether paired with Eichel or Reinhart and he’s still young enough that we can expect him to be a Sabre for many years to come.

Matt Moulson Moulson put in a decent performance for the Sabres last season, finishing 2nd on the team in points and 1st in assists.  The crafty veteran does not possess the greatest speed at this point in his career but he makes up for it in experience and leadership ability.  Put him on a line with good top 6 forwards and he can potentially still score in the 30 goal neighborhood.

Marcus Foligno Foligno is nearing the end of his development but it is not impossible for him to improve.  At worst he will make a quality 4th line player.  The rugged winger is not the fastest but he is an intelligent player who can score the odd goal, will always be a heavy hitter and is defensively responsible.

Right Wing

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Brian Gionta Gionta is here to teach the young players the right way to be a pro.  He’s getting a little long in the tooth and likely will never score at the same rate he did in his younger years but he isn’t devoid of offense and with the right line combination and proper deployment still has a few goals in him.

Nicolas DesLauriers DesLauriers holds the honor of being the only Sabres player to skate in all 82 games last season.  His possession numbers were bad last season but the same can be said of nearly the entire roster.  DesLauriers might make a good 4th line player going forward but with a more structured system, he will have to learn to be more selective in targeting opponents with his huge hits.  He has a hard, if not accurate, shot and can chip in offensively on occasion.

Defense

Rasmus Ristolainen Ristolainen is still learning the ropes in the NHL and last season he was thrown to the wolves.  His possession metrics are bad but that doesn’t show all the smart plays he made and how strong he was on the puck in his own end.  It doesn’t show all the passes he made to the tape of teammates who hopelessly turned the puck over time and again.  There’s a really good young defenseman in there, he just needs a little more time to adjust, more competent teammates and a structured defensive system and the numbers will follow.  I have a tremendous amount of hope for Ristolainen who is a strong skater and puck mover and is extremely dedicated to his craft.

Zach Bogosian Bogosian is the opposite of Tyler Myers in play style but he gets similar results.  He’s not an offensive dynamo from the blueline but he can score the odd goal and gets his share off assists.  Myers has more skill in the scoring department but Bogosian generates far more shots.  Not an elite defenseman by any means, but a useful piece on a good team.  He’s also got a mean streak that Myers never had and Buffalo fans love him already for it.

Nikita Zadorov Speaking of mean streaks, Zadorov has a nasty edge to his game and he’s a big boy so when he hits you, you’re gonna feel it.  On top of that, he’s a surprisingly strong skater for a player of his size and he has some even more surprising puck moving skills, complete with some deke, dangle and a hell of a slapshot.  When he was paired with Ristolainen last season, the two were a hell of a lot of fun to watch and surprisingly effective for such a young D pairing.  He has some maturity issues that may get him sent down to Rochester next season, but if he gets his act together, I think, he’s a wild card to eventually become a dynamic game breaking defenseman.

Josh Gorges Gorges and the Corsis do not get along and for good reason.  Gorges is the definition of a stay at home defenseman, excelling at shot blocking and clearing the front of the net, he does a competent job at shot suppression and not much else.  To his credit, he is a tremendous leader which can go a long way in calming a young team down once the puck drops.

Mike Weber I’m tempted to bring up a fictional review of the fictional band Spinal Tap’s fictional album Shark Sandwich, but that would be mean.  Mike Weber works hard every night and blocks a lot of shots.  He does reasonably well at shot suppression and I’d be comfortable with him as a 6th or 7th defenseman.

Goal

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Chad Johnson I can’t recall ever seeing him play.  In the 2013-14 season, he was the Boston Bruins’ backup and he posted a 0.925 SV% in 27 games.  Then he went to the Islanders last season and put up an 0.889 SV% in 19 games before he was traded to the Sabres.  Once he got here, he got injured and never played a game.  Nevertheless, he is under contract for next season.  Let’s see if we can tell what went wrong last season.  When we look at his play at 5v5 play during those seasons the trend is consistent. Johnson 13-14 5v5Johnson 14-15 5v5Johnson did not face fewer shots in Boston and he did not face fewer high quality shots in Boston, if anything the chances were more limited with the Islanders.  His play simply dropped off significantly.  Now even if we combine both seasons, we’re still talking about an extremely small sample size.  There’s no way to tell, from this, how good he truly is.  I suspect somewhere between the two but it could easily be one season or the other was a fluke.  Either way, I wouldn’t be comfortable going into a season with him as my starter.

Pending RFA and UFA players

On one hand, the current roster has some gaping holes, on the other, the roster last season was historically bad and I’m sure nobody cares to repeat that.  While it is more than likely that Eichel fills one of those holes, there’s still some formidable gaps that need filling.  So let’s take a look at the Sabres pending RFA’s and UFA’s.

RFA’s

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In most cases this is pretty easy and the only reason not to re-sign them is to get them off your books so you have more pro contracts available for new incoming players.  This is not a desirable outcome, however, as you are basically throwing away a player for nothing.  It’s bad enough to do that with UFA players, let alone players who can’t just opt to walk away because they don’t feel like signing with you.  So here’s the list of pending RFA players in the Sabres system.

Mikhail Grigorenko – Grigorenko has not looked particularly promising at the NHL level up to this point, but the Sabres have a first round pick sunk into him and he does have talent.  The fact is, he has been horribly mismanaged under the previous regime and his entry level contract should never have been activated when it was so clearly obvious that the kid wasn’t ready for the NHL.  The Sabres organization is in an interesting situation with the young center.  Unless he wows in training camp, he probably shouldn’t be on the NHL roster but once the Sabres re-sign him, Grigorenko cannot return to Rochester without clearing waivers.  On top of that Grigorenko is now considering playing in the KHL instead of possibly being sent to the AHL.  If he were to defect to the Russian league, it wouldn’t be the worst thing.  If the Sabres re-sign him and he were to go to the KHL and improve, a return to the NHL would mean coming back to the Sabres as the team would retain his rights.  The danger would be that he might never come back.  This is still preferable to a team claiming him off of waivers and him turning into a quality NHL player for them.  To avoid becoming a bust, Grigorenko must commit to getting more involved in the play and improving his skating.

Mark Pysyk Pysyk was ready for the NHL last season, as his brief stints with the Sabres made clear.  Sign him and let him never again set foot in Rochester.  That is one seriously developed kid and he will play a huge role for the Sabres going forward.  How good can he be?  Best case scenario for him, see Anton Stralman.

Johann Larsson Larsson showed that he can be a legitimate playmaking center in the NHL last season, though I would hesitate to keep him on the top 6.  Last season, he outperformed all Sabres forwards in relative CF% and can play at both center and wing.

Tim Schaller Schaller has been a strong player in Rochester, the Providence College product scored 43 points in 65 games for the Amerks last season and even provided a goal and an assist when he was called up to Buffalo last season.  I don’t see him becoming much more than a 4th line player in the NHL but time will tell and he is at worst a smart, hardworking force on the ice, willing to pitch in for the Amerks.  Re-sign.

Phil Varone Varone showed flickers of offense last season, in his time with the Sabres and was a good scoring forward in Rochester.  He struggled to perform consistently at the NHL level but it’s not crazy to imagine him becoming a decent bottom six player in time.  He plays a smart game and his positioning is good as long as he doesn’t try to do too much.  Re-sign.

Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov will likely be re-signed, if for no other reason than the organization needs bodies to stand in between the pipes.  Neither one appears ready for NHL action just yet but goalies are weird and it’s tough to say which one’s will work out.  Until the Sabres correctly identify which goaltending prospect is going to succeed, the more the merrier.  Lieuwen has a troubling concussion history but until concussions messed with his level of play, last season, he was putting up very solid numbers for the Amerks.  Of his 32 starts in the 2013-14 regular season, Lieuwen had only 4 games which did not qualify as quality starts. Lieuwen QS 2012-15 bar graphMakarov, had a disappointing 2014-15 season by this metric; however, for both goaltenders, the sample size involved is small enough that we should avoid drawing any hard conclusions.  These graphs are only convenient visualizations, neither tells us a great deal about how well either goalie is likely to play in the NHL. Makarov AHL QSKevin Sundher Sundher has not shown any particular signs of growth and even took a step back last season.  With new blood coming into the ranks in Rochester and more promising prospects looking for contracts, I don’t know if I would re-sign him.  If the Sabres can fit him under the 50 contract limit, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to continue his development in Rochester but the probability of him making the NHL is not good.

Jerome Gauthier-Leduc Gauthier-Leduc had an interesting 2014-15 season in Rochester.  In November, the Amerks had an overabundance of defensemen and found themselves light at forward, causing the Amerks head coach to try something different.  Leduc was moved to right wing and went on to have a moderately successful season, scoring 6 goals and 19 assists in 76 regular season games.  His transition isn’t necessarily a good thing because it means he wasn’t good enough to play defense for the Amerks, but perhaps being flexible in his position is enough to warrant another look next season.

Jerry D’Amigo, Zac Dalpe and Jordan Samuels-Thomas were the definition of warm bodies last season, both for the Amerks and the Sabres.  While none will be more than 26 years old come next season and all are hard workers, they are guys to fill out the Amerks lineup at best.  I’m not confident that any of them will be back next season.

UFA’s

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The Sabres have 8 players set to become unrestricted free-agents.  7 played for the Sabres and 1 played for the Amerks.  Few of these players has much offensive upside and none were particularly good defensively last season.  Nevertheless, let’s see if any of them are worth keeping.  Here’s the list of Sabres unrestricted free-agents.

Patrick Kaleta Kaleta has been with the Sabres since the 2007-08 season.  On the negative side, the board-rattling winger has earned himself a reputation as a dirty player, after racking up multiple suspensions over the course of his career.  Furthermore, his scoring has dropped off from minimal to practically nothing over the past 3 seasons with the Sabres and his physical style of play has also hurt his ability to remain healthy over the course of an NHL season.  On the positive side, his agitating style makes opponents insane and has left him with a positive penalty differential in every season he has been in the league, despite his many infractions.  This effect, however, has been diminished since his last suspension, and he seems to have been tabbed as a guy the refs won’t give calls to because of his reputation.  I’m not whining about the refs, I feel his reputation is well earned, I’m just saying this is a factor that must be weighed.  If Kaleta can no longer draw high amounts of penalties, his value as a player is severely diminished.  The other defining aspect to Kaleta’s game is that he is a fearless penalty killer.  Here too, his play in that aspect of the game has dropped off the past few seasons but this might be attributed to his poor health in that time.  If the Sabres re-sign him, it will be his first season returning to play fully healthy since 2013-14 and that might help his play to a certain degree; however, if he continues to play his game the way he does, he will be hard pressed to remain healthy for the 2015-16 campaign.  If Dan Bylsma feels he could use a player like Kaleta on the roster, he wouldn’t be expensive to sign and he definitely wants to remain in Buffalo.

Matt Ellis Poor, Matt Ellis.  He’s that grizzled vet who works his ass off always.  The consummate pro.  Very little skill, but he gets every last drop out of what he has.  At worst, a great guy to keep around in Rochester to set an example for the next generation and he somehow ends up playing stretches with the Sabres at some point every season.  I’d keep him, if only for the Amerks.

I’m just gonna lump Andrej Meszaros and Andre Benoit together here and say, let them fly away.  They weren’t technically the worst Sabres defensemen last season, but my god did they struggle.  Also, it’s confusing having that many Andre/js on the team and the variant spellings compounds the issue.  Even as thin as the free agent market is likely to be, I think the Sabres can do better than this next season.

Tyson Strachan Strachan is a poor man’s Mike Weber, though a decidedly better fighter.  He can go too.

Anders Lindback Lindback had a rough 2014-15 season with the Dallas Stars and was eventually traded to the Sabres with a 3rd round pick for the diminutive netminder, Jhonas Enroth on February 11.  Once Tim Murray traded off the red hot Michal Neuvirth, Ted Nolan had no choice but to play Lindback and Lindback performed surprisingly well.  I remember vividly.  His quality starts for last season look like this. Lindback 2014-15 QSIt is true that his play improved when he was played more frequently in Buffalo; however, we are dealing with an extremely small sample size in which it is entirely reasonable to expect any NHL goaltender to have a hot streak.  I suppose the Sabres could sign him to a deal but I’d be a lot more optimistic if they were to trade for a guy.  I’d say Lindback might be considered for a backup position, except (again extremely small sample here) his play seems to decline when he is played sporadically.

Matt Hackett Hackett was acquired from the Minnesota Wild as part of the Jason Pominville trade in 2014.  At one time, Hackett was Minnesota’s top goaltending prospect but he had fallen out of favor after his play dropped off significantly between 2011 and 2014.  He was a throw in with upside in the trade but it was a gamble that ultimately never panned out.  He could have been eligible for an RFA extension had he played a requisite number of games for the Sabres last season; unfortunately, his play never warranted that many starts and it seems the Sabres will not extend his contract this off-season.

Drew Bagnall Bagnall is the final pending UFA and he’s the only one to never dress for the Sabres.  While his chances of making the NHL at this point in his career is almost nil, he is an incredibly smart player and a great teacher for upcoming players.  He has already influenced players like Pysyk, McCabe and Ristolainen, and was named captain of the Amerks last season.  I would absolutely be in favor of re-signing him to play a leadership role in Rochester.

The Pipeline NHLe All Sabres ProspectsNow let’s take a look at who the Sabres have coming through the pipeline to see if they can’t fill any of those holes via promotion.  There’s a good chance that a fair number of these prospects will be at training camp this fall and a few of them just might make the NHL roster.  General Manager Tim Murray hinted that Sam Reinhart worked hard last season with his junior club to get stronger and there’s a good chance the young center makes the Sabres roster along with Jack Eichel.  Other prospects are far less likely to make the roster but never rule out the possibility of someone impressing enough to stick.  With that in mind let’s take a look at the prospects in the pipeline.

Sam Reinhart – C – The Sabres have not yet drafted Jack Eichel which makes Sam Reinhart the crown jewel of their prospect list until that happens.  Reinhart had a strong season in junior and came back a stronger, more developed player.  The much lauded center has elite hockey sense and he has soft hands and tremendous playmaking ability make him a huge part of the Sabres’ future and if he’s a little ahead of schedule in his development, all the better.  If he has to spend a little more time in Rochester, that will only help him in the long run, but it seems he has a good chance to make the NHL roster outright.

Nick Baptiste – RW – The energetic right winger has played well in both the 2013 and 2014 Traverse City prospect tournament, and had a strong season with the Erie Otters.  Chances are he lands in Rochester but it’s just possible he plays well enough to earn a spot on the Sabres roster.  If he were to do so, it’s entirely possible he could score in the 30 point range.

Justin Bailey – RW – Bailey played well in the 2014 Traverse City prospect tournament and put up over a point per game last season in junior.  Like Baptiste, he more than likely ends up in Rochester but could impress enough in training camp to warrant a tryout spot on the NHL roster.  This will largely be dependent upon how aggressively Tim Murray fills out the roster through trades and free agency but it’s not crazy to imagine the youngster playing his way into an NHL position.

J.T. Compher – LW – There’s not a very good likelihood Compher makes the NHL this season.  He’s been named the captain of his college team and that’s a good place for him to develop his game.  The hard working, two-way winger plays an intense and gritty game reminiscent of Ryan Callahan who, incidentally, is also 5’11”.

Hudson Fasching – RW – The big power forward played well for his college team.  He’s a strong skater for a big man, a good passer, has a decent shot and likes to park himself in front of opposing goaltenders.  He probably isn’t ready for the NHL just yet but he plays a heavy brand of hockey.

Jean Dupuy – LW – Dupuy is a hard working grinder that will have to play a two-way checking role when he goes pro.  He has size, skating and grit to his game and a decent offensive upside.

Eric Cornel – RW – Cornel is a playmaking winger with good vision.  He needs to work on his positioning when he doesn’t have the puck and adding quick changes in his skating direction would improve his game.  He’s still a way off from making the NHL but he shows good offensive upside.

Jake McCabe – D – McCabe struggled early last season for the Amerks but his play improved and became more consistent in the back half.  Odds he makes the NHL out of training camp are slight but not nonexistent.  He’s a strong skater and loves to hit people but if he remains disciplined, he could develop into an effective defenseman.

Linus Ullmark – G – Ullmark is still recovering from surgery but when he is ready he will join the Amerks where we will get a better idea of how likely he is to be the goaltender of the future.  Hopes are high.

Sean Malone – LW/C – Malone is a local boy out of West Seneca, NY.  He plays a no-quit style of hockey and has decent hands and vision.  He’s not close to NHL ready yet but he certainly has the will to succeed and is someone to keep a close eye on.

Dan Catenacci – LW – The speedy winger is an excellent skater but he still has a lot to learn before he makes the NHL.  He’ll be an interesting prospect to watch in Rochester next season.

Vaclav Karabacek – RW – Karabacek has good hands and is a strong skater but has to put forward a more consistent effort if he is going to succeed in the NHL.  He’ll likely play in juniors again next season.

Brycen Martin – D – He’s a strong skater and good puck mover who plays a no flash, reliable, detail oriented game.  Martin will likely play in juniors again next season.

William Carrier – LW – Acquired from the Kings, Carrier plays the game with a good balance between skill and grit.  He’s a versatile player who could end up anywhere in the bottom 9 depending on how he develops.  He will likely be with the Amerks again next season.

Anthony Florentino – D – Florentino plays for the NCAA Frozen Four champion, Providence Friars, you may have watched that game.  He logs big minutes, skates well and plays a strong, physical game.  He’s definitely a prospect with a good amount of promise.

Potential Free Agent Targets

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In the past, the Sabres have had trouble attracting the best free agent talent and while that may change once Jack Eichel establishes himself in the NHL and the Sabres become a winning destination, we’re not there yet.  There is one advantage that the Sabres have over most NHL teams, however, and that is salary cap space.  While the team still needs to be smart about allocating its funds, they do have a huge amount of cap space and they will have to spend some of it just to get to the cap floor.  They are currently more than $8m below the cap floor and around $26m below the cap.  Cap space is to free agents what blood in the water is to sharks.  A word of warning, free agency is not what it used to be.  With most teams locking up their good players long term, free agency is typically either a bunch of guys with flaws in their game or guys past their prime.  The Sabres won’t and shouldn’t sign all the top free agents but they will be able to sign some of them.  With that in mind, here’s a list of possible candidates.  The non-goaltender player graphs were downloaded from ownthepuck.blogspot.ca.  It’s a great site run by Dominic Galamini @MimicoHero.

Paul Martin – Age 34 – Position: D – Last cap hit: $5,000,000

While Martin is certainly getting up there in years and I wouldn’t sign him to a long contract, I think he’s still got something left in the tank.  Last season, with Pittsburgh, Martin played top pairing minutes and excelled at shot suppression.  He’s good and the Penguins are not likely going to be able to retain his services. Dashboard 1 Antti Niemi – Age 31 – Position: G – Last cap hit: $3,800,000

A career 0.916 SV% goalie, Niemi’s SV% has declined slightly over the past two seasons.  He’s still a serviceable goaltender.  I wouldn’t want to give him a ton of term and, frankly, I’m not crazy about going nuts with a huge contract for a goalie but he’s a viable option.  One catch, he’s the only legit starter available in free agency and the Sabres will have competition in signing him.  Another downside is that Niemi, last season, ping-ponged between monster games and horrible games.  His quality starts were 33 to his 61 total starts. Niemi 14-15 QS Justin Williams – Age 33 – Position: RW – Last cap hit: $3,650,000

The L.A. Kings aren’t in a great situation as far as the salary cap is concerned.  On top of that they have to re-sign Tyler Toffoli and they want to sign Andrej Sekera.  The 3 time Cup champion, Conn Smythe winning winger is not getting any younger.  However, despite his years, Williams put up monstrous possession numbers for the Kings last season and he would definitely be a veteran I’d like Eichel and Reinhart to learn from.  There’s likely to be competition for his services, but as badly as the Sabres need a right winger, this might be the guy to throw a large short term contract at. Dashboard 1 Johnny Oduya – Age 33 – Position: D – Last cap hit: $3,375,000

A year younger than Martin with his name twice etched on the Stanley Cup at least once, Oduya may be a cap casualty for Chicago.  There are moves they could make to keep him but they are awfully close to the salary cap and Brandon Saad should command a healthy raise.  Oduya is an excellent shot suppressing defenseman who can eat minutes although he’s not likely to score many points.  He is a good candidate for a short term deal if available.Dashboard 1Michael Frolik – Age 27 – Position: RW – Last cap hit: $3,300,000

For the Winnipeg Jets last season, Frolik put up huge possession numbers in both generating offense and shot suppression, and as free agents go, he’s relatively young.  I’d love to have him on this team.  Unfortunately, the Jets have plenty of cap space and even though they have a number of players they need to re-sign, it’s hard to imagine Frolik making it to free agency.  If he does become a free agent, the Sabres will have heavy competition for his services. Dashboard 1Cody Franson – Age 27 – Position: D – Last cap hit: $3,300,000

Franson played most of last season for the Toronto Maple Leafs before being dealt to the Nashville Predators for their playoff push.  He played limited minutes but put up good possession numbers for both teams.  The Preds have a more cap space than the Sabres but they also have Paul Gaustad as the only center signed through next season.  Hard to predict whether they extend Franson.  If he does make it to free agency, he will be highly sought after by other teams. Dashboard 1Michal Neuvirth – Age 27 – Position: G – Last cap hit: $2,500,000

Okay, he’s not a proven starter but if you sat on the edge of your seat screaming because this guy was so good for the Sabres last season, you’ll remember that he was pretty good in his time here…or was he?  In his 27 games played for the Sabres last season, Neuvirth had a 5v5 SV% of  0.932 and an all situations SV% of 0.918.  Of his 33 total starts last season, he had 17 quality starts for a 51.5 QS%.  Theoretically, it might be possible that he played better with more frequent games but it seems far more likely that he simply got hot in February. Neuvirth 14-15 QSMichael Del Zotto – Age 24 – Position: D – Last cap hit $1,300,000

Del Zotto is not great at shot suppression, but he generated offense reasonably well last season.  The Flyers will likely want to keep him but their cap situation is a train wreck and they may not be able to swing a deal.  Paired with a defensively responsible, puck moving player like Mark Pysyk, I think Del Zotto might do well with the Sabres next season.  Also, at 24 he fits the age profile better than any free agent on this list so far.  I don’t know how much value any prospective team is likely to get out of him, but if signed to a reasonable contract and put in the right situation, he could be a useful piece.  Like most free agents there will likely be competition to acquire him, but he’s an interesting idea. Dashboard 1Jhonas Enroth – Age 26 – Position: G – Last cap hit: $1,250,000

He’s short but he was awesome last season, until he got to Dallas and was terrible.  Well, not really.  The Swedish netminder had a 5v5 SV% of 0.915 last season and an all situations SV% of 0.903.  What’s interesting, in contrast to the narrative, is that Enroth performed slightly better for the Stars than he did for the Sabres.  He had 18 quality starts out of 37 total starts with Buffalo and 8 out of 13 for Dallas.  His QS% for Buffalo was 48.6% while for Dallas it was 61.5%.  There’s not a ton of significance that can be taken from this as both are small sample sizes but it is interesting.  Overall, he had a reasonably consistent season but it wasn’t good enough for me to be completely comfortable with him as a starter.  I would consider signing him as a backup. Enroth 14-15 QSErik Condra –  Age 28 – Position: RW – Last cap hit: $1,250,000

Condra played limited minutes for the Senators last season and was tasked with a heavy defensive work load but still managed to put up excellent shot suppression and possession numbers.  He did not score at a high rate but was never in a good situation to do so.  Tim Murray would already be familiar with this player which is another point in his favor.  Ottawa has room to re-sign him but they typically operate with an internal salary cap and need to re-sign several RFA players, including center Mika Zibanejad.

Lee Stempniak – Age 32 – Position: RW – Last cap hit: $900,000

Stempniak is getting older but he performed well by scoring and possession metrics while playing a more defensive role for Winnipeg last season.  If a team could sign him to a similar contract to his previous one, it could be a low risk, high reward sort of signing.  It’s not clear if the Jets will let him reach free agency, as they have plenty of cap space to renew his contract, but he could be a solid pick up for a team in need of a right winger. Dashboard 1Adam Pardy – Age 31 – Position: D – Last cap hit: $700,000

Pardy is probably at best a bottom pairing defenseman.  He offers minimal offense and might have trouble cracking even the Sabres roster.  My argument for him, I think he’s an upgrade to Mike Weber.  While Pardy doesn’t offer much by way of the Corsis, he excels at shot suppression and is a solid option for a stay at home defenseman.  Also, his name is fun for social media on game night. Dashboard 1Potential Trade Targets

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Yeah, so free agency isn’t all that appealing.  Most of those players I just listed are either old, flawed, likely to be re-signed or likely to be swarmed with suitors from all corners of the NHL.  This places an even greater emphasis on drafting well and making smart trades.  I’m not going to get into a bunch of hypothetical trade packages because, while they’re fun to think about, they don’t mean much.  Instead, here’s a list of players who make interesting trade targets and fit the profile of players the Sabres are probably interested in.

Jordan Staal – Age 26 – Position: C – Cap hit: $5,725,000

Okay, this one’s not likely as the Canes probably have little desire to move this possession driving center.  However, they are interested in trading his brother and since that was the whole reason he wanted to join the Canes anyway, there might not be a lot of incentive for him to stay.  The Sabres would have to move quite a bit to get Staal and I don’t think Murray is in a rush to move his prospects but players of Staal’s caliber aren’t available very often.  Why would Buffalo be a good landing spot for him?  Well, he did win a Cup with Bylsma on his last team.  His contract has its pros and cons.  The good thing is that it’s a very reasonable cap hit for a player that good in his prime.  The bad part is that there’s 8 more years of it.  Staal would be 34 by the time his contract expired. Dashboard 1Ryan O’Reilly – Age 24 – Position: C – Cap hit: $6,000,000

It’s been a rocky road between O’Reilly and the Avalanche and they will likely look to move him.  He is an exceptional two way center who can score, has positive numbers by possession metrics, and rarely takes penalties.  He also fits in nicely with the Sabres timeline for their rebuild and would certainly accelerate the process.  It would take a huge package to land O’Reilly so be prepared to part with some pieces you’d rather not give up if the Sabres were to acquire him.  He will also be a UFA after next season and the team that trades for him would have to offer him a large contract to retain his services. Dashboard 1Frederik Andersen – Age 25 – Position: G – Cap hit: $1,150,000

Andersen was a solid starting goaltender for most of the year for Anaheim, so why would they want to move him?  Well they probably don’t want to but bear in mind, their backup, John Gibson, is considered their starter of the future and he’s on the cusp of being ready for full-time starting duty.  This might make parting with Andersen slightly more agreeable to them.  I think the Sabres would have to give up a lot to get him and I don’t think Murray is in a hurry to do that but Andersen is a bonafide starter and given the Sabres current situation in net, nothing is off the table. Andersen 14-15 QSAnthony Mantha – Age 20 – Position: RW – Cap hit: $863,333

The highly touted Detroit prospect had a very, very, very disappointing season for the Grand Rapids Griffins, at least according to Red Wings executive, Jim Devellano.  The winger had a monster final year in junior and hopes were tremendous for his first season in the AHL.  So when the rookie scored 33 points in 62 games, along with 4 points in 16 playoff games, it’s understandable why Detroit was underwhelmed.  If the trade price were low, it could be a good gamble; however, Detroit will probably be seeking a large return for their unproven prospect.

Jaden Schwartz – Age 22 – Position: LW – Cap hit: $2,350,000

The St. Louis Blues probably don’t want to move Schwartz but they have to sign Vladimir Tarasenko and he is going to get paid a lot.  Also, the Blues only have 10 forwards and 5 defensemen from last season under contract through next season so they may need to clear up some cap space.  Schwartz put up excellent possession numbers last season and for the right price, it might be possible to get him away from St. Louis. Dashboard 1(1)Nikita Nesterov – Age 22 – Position: D – Cap hit: $742,500

The Lightning will be in a bit of a cap crunch next season and they might want to move a more expensive defenseman and promote Nesterov; however, if they decide to keep their defensive roster together, they might be convinced to move Nesterov.  He is a young defenseman who moves the puck extremely well and uses his vision to make plays in the offensive zone.  It’s probably a good idea to keep him away from the other side of the ice but the Sabres have plenty of guys to play stay at home D.  I don’t think it’s particularly likely the Sabres would be able to swing a trade for Nesterov but he fits the profile and put up good numbers this season for Tampa Bay.

Martin Jones – Age 25 – Position: G – Cap hit: RFA

Jones is an RFA so a trade would be for his rights and not a player under contract but he has been a good goaltender in his limited time with the Kings.  Whether or not he is ready for full-time starting duty remains to be seen.  Last season, Jones had a 0.915 5v5 SV% and a 46.6 QS% through 15 regular season games.  One red flag on Jones is that he plays for a great defensive team which might slightly inflate his numbers.  Also his quality starts trended downward throughout the season.  However, since he only played in 15 games, the significance of this trend is not a reliable indicator of his talent.

Jones 14-15 QS

Offer Sheets?

Offer sheets are a tool available to NHL general managers, they are rare because they are considered dishonorable, because the compensation is steep and teams generally match them anyway.  To qualify for an offer sheet, a player must be tendered a qualifying offer by their team.  The draft picks for compensation must belong to the team issuing the offer sheet and they must be from the next year’s draft.  Here are the required draft pick compensation a team must give up depending on the tier of salary offered to a player.

$1,110,249 or below = None

Over $1,110,249  to $1,682,194 = third round draft pick

Over $1,682,194 to $3,364,391 = second round draft pick

Over $3,364,391 to $5,046,585 = first and third round draft pick

Over $5,046,585 to $6,728,781 = first, second, and third round draft pick

Over $6,728,781 to $8,410,976 = 2 firsts, a second and a third round draft pick

Over $8,410,976 = 4 first round draft picks

In the case of multiple firsts, the picks must belong to the team issuing the offer sheet and they must be in consecutive years, beginning with the next draft.

Those are some pretty steep compensations and the player you offer sheet better be worth it.  Given the price of admission to this poker game, it would be nearly impossible to offer sheet more than one player.  Also, if you’re willing to give up  the price of an offer sheet, you better be positive that the player is going to be amazing for you.  With that in mind, here are some potential targets the Sabres might consider.

Dougie Hamilton – Age 21 – Position: D

Hamilton is young and blossoming into an elite defenseman in the NHL.  Boston will likely move heaven and earth to get him re-signed and would probably move any current roster player outside of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to match the offer but if there’s a player worth the steep compensation required to get him, this is the guy.  An offer for Hamilton would likely have to be in the second to last tier in terms of salary, but he’s young and will be a tremendous defensive force going forward. Dashboard 1Brandon Saad – Age 22 – Position: LW

Saad is awesome, the young winger can score, plays well defensively, has explosive skating ability and is an absolute bull on the puck.  Chicago isn’t in the greatest way cap-wise right now, but they have a number of pieces they could spin off in trades to clear the necessary cap space to match an offer.  Nevertheless, a team might still find him a tempting enough player to try. Dashboard 1Tyler Toffoli – Age 23 – Position: LRC

Toffoli is an absolute stud, capable of playing every forward position and the Kings are working hard to get him re-signed; however, they don’t have a huge amount of cap space and they don’t have a ton of contracts they can easily trade away without hurting the team.  An offer sheet for Toffoli might be a way to pry him out of Los Angeles.  It would be expensive but he’s probably worth it. Dashboard 1Mark Stone – Age 23 – Position: RW

Stone had a big year for the Ottawa Senators last season and was a big part of their final push to make it into the playoffs.  The Senators are definitely going to try to re-sign him but with an internal salary cap, they might not be overly eager to match a larger offer sheet.  Stone isn’t a rock solid, guaranteed to be great player and issuing him an offer sheet might be a bit of a gamble, but he’s trending in the right direction and it has the potential to pay off in a big way. StoneVladimir Tarasenko – Age 23 – Position: RW

The premier forward of the St. Louis Blues last season, Tarasenko is an absolute monster in every aspect of the game.  The only problem with offer sheeting him is that even if a team offered the max salary, St. Louis would likely find a way to match it.  Tarasenko is already a bonafide superstar in the league and still has room to get better. Dashboard 1Draft

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So, draft day rolls around, Tim Murray walks up to the mic and selects Jack Eichel with the second overall pick, now what?  The Sabres have 4 other picks in the top 100 of the draft.  I’m not going to do a mock draft, but I looked through a few draft rankings for 2015 and I looked up some numbers on the players slotted in at picks number 21, 31, 51 and 92 overall.  There were a ton of mock drafts for the first round but I could only find 4 decent lists that go the rest of the way.  I used draft rankings from CSS, ISS, Craig Button, Ryan Wagman and thedraftanalyst.com.  I didn’t feel like buying the ISS draft book so I only have access to their top 30 list.  Sans ISS rankings, the other 3 picks only have 4 prospects that might hypothetically be available at those spots, assuming the 30 NHL teams have similar rankings as these draft experts.  Scouting reports usually give us a window into what type of player we’re looking at and are fun but give us little useful information in regards to projecting a players likelihood of success and current level of play.  To give us a little better picture of how these guys project, I ran their names on theprojectionproject.com, an excellent website and resource run by Lochlin Broatch @thelocker and Arthur Wheeler @ProjProjAW.  Their website uses the methodology laid out in Rob Vollman’s “Hockey Abstract” for translating scoring rates from other leagues to the NHL by comparing changes in scoring rates of players who have transitioned from one league to another.  It then compares that data to a cohort of players, similar in projected point production and height, to get a percentage chance of whether that player will become an NHL player, what level of NHL player or a bust.  It is not a perfect system, and in the case of defensemen can be misleading, but it is accurate enough, often enough to be respected as a reasonable means of player projection.  The metric used for translating a player’s numbers from their respective league to the NHL is called NHLe, short for NHL equivalencies.  It is useful as a means of comparing players across leagues with the players’ projected NHL point production as the baseline.  For these comparisons and to get larger cohorts, I have looked for comparable players within 2 inches of height to the player selected.  Here’s the projected numbers for players slotted at the Sabres draft positions by some of the experts.

Pick #2 overall (round 1) average success of this pick: ~100%

Jack Eichel – position: C, cohort size: 4, 100% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 48

Pick #21 overall (round 1) average success of this pick: 70%

CSSJeremy Roy – position: D, cohort size: 52, 58% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 20

Ryan WagmanJakub Zboril – position: D, cohort size: 64, 42% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 16

Craig ButtonJake DeBrusk – position: LW, cohort size: 141, 38% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 24

thedraftanalyst.comJeremy Bracco – position: RW, cohort size: 26, 46% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 30

ISSBrandon Carlo – position: D, cohort size: 101, 29% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 8

Pick #31 overall (round 2) average success of this pick: 34%

CSSJacob Forsbacka-Karlsson – position: C, cohort size: 222, 42% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 23

Ryan WagmanMitchell Vande Sompel* – position: D, cohort size: 4, 75% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 27

Craig ButtonRasmus Andersson – position: D, cohort size: 21, 71% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 23

thedraftanalyst.comJakub Zboril – position: D, cohort size: 64, 42% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 16

Pick #51 overall (round 2) average success of this pick: 33%

CSSErik Foley – position: LW, cohort size: 166, 34% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 22

Ryan WagmanRasmus Andersson – position: D, cohort size: 21, 71% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 23

Craig ButtonRyan Pilon – position: D, cohort size: 67, 39% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 16

thedraftanalyst.comConor Garland – position: RW, cohort size: 30, 23% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 41

Pick #92 overall (round 4) average success of this pick: 24.5%

CSSDmytro Timashov – position: LW, cohort size: 32, 41% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 29

Ryan WagmanConnor Hobbs – position: D, cohort size: 151, 19% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 9

Craig ButtonRyan Gropp – position: LW, cohort size: 193, 24% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 18

thedraftanalyst.comYakov Trenin – position: LC, cohort size: 111, 52% NHL, 2015 NHLe: 25

*Vande Sompel was number 32 on Wagman’s list but the player at 31 had not played enough games for a reasonable projection via theprojectionproject.com.  It should also be noted that his cohort size is extremely small, which makes his 75% NHL projection a little dubious.

The Sabres may draft some or none of these players.  Trades, player stock, individual team player rankings and over drafting all effect the draft order and these variables make it nearly impossible to predict accurately.  Mock drafts are fun and can give insight into how a player is perceived to stack up against his peers but they become essentially meaningless as soon as a team goes off the board.  In this year’s draft the first and second pick seem locked in, but after that the draft order is anyone’s guess.  NHLe and cohorts of comparably projected players get interesting when we compare them with draft pick value rankings like this one by TSN columnist, Scott Cullen. For example, Cullen has the probability of a player selected 21st overall playing at least 100 games in the NHL at 70% historically, yet of the players slotted in at 21 by all 5 prospect rankings has the highest success probability of those players at 58% probability based on the cohort of comparably projected players.  Both rankings have pros and cons.  Cullen’s methodology is useful in assessing the general value of a given draft pick in a trade scenario, whereas the projection project’s methodology is more useful in assessing the projected value of actual players a team is considering for selection.  Both can be used in concert by comparing the two to determine an acceptable level of risk for each player drafted.  So if 58% of Jeremy Roy’s cohort were successful in the NHL yet 70% of all players drafted at that spot in Cullen’s 10 year window were successful, then a team could maximize the value of that draft pick by looking at all remaining undrafted players to see if any of them have a percentage chance of success, based on their own cohort, that is closer to or higher than the historical 70%.

None of this is meant to discredit or displace scouting.  A good scouting staff is essential for success in the acquisition of players, whether through the draft, free agency or trades.  NHLe and cohort comparisons are simply another tool that can provide more information to bolster scouting reports or raise red flags where scouting reports might not.  If the scout says a player is going to be good and the numbers back it up, a team can feel that much better about their selection.  If they disagree this may indicate that a team should dig deeper.  Tim Murray has indicated on several occasions that this is exactly how they use analytics and scouting and I feel good that the Sabres are in the right hands.

How it all shapes up

With Eichel, Reinhart and Pysyk all likely to join the roster the Sabres need a top 6 quality right winger, a left winger, probably another quality defenseman and a goaltender.  How Tim Murray decides to fill those holes remains to be seen.  It’s possible he gets really aggressive and makes a ton of trades for quality players in which case the Sabres might be contenders within a couple of seasons.  It’s also possible Murray waits for some of the players in the system to develop and signs free agent stop gaps in the mean time.  If he goes that rout, it might take 2-3 years before the team becomes a contender.  Based on the other teams I’ve examined, I’d project 2-3 years before the Sabres are a contender and they could get into the playoffs in the next season or two.  Sam Reinhart called the Tampa Bay Lightning inspirational for what young players can do in the playoffs and he’s right to do so but the Lightning weren’t ready right out of the box.  They were swept last season by the Montreal Canadiens.  The Penguins lost in round 1 before going to the Cup Finals two years in a row and winning in the second trip, the Blackhawks lost to Vancouver before winning the Cup, the Kings lost in round 1 twice before they won the Cup.  This season is all about development and progress.  The organization wants to win but they’re not yet in the position to trade away assets for the finishing pieces to an already good roster.  First they have to assemble a roster and let it grow into a team.  Just for fun, here’s how I project the roster following the draft:

semi projected rosterFill in those question marks with, say, Justin Williams, Mark Stone, Cody Franson and Antti Niemi and that’s a significantly improved roster, ready to take a big step forward.

Assembly of a Winning Roster Pt. 3 (2011-12 L.A. Kings edition)

There has been much debate about how close or far away the Sabres are from being a playoff caliber team.  They have some young players already on the roster, a respectable number of quality prospects and more on the way with the draft coming up but we are told that it will be two to three years, if not longer, before they can make any noise in the playoffs, let alone challenge for the Stanley Cup.  So how far out are they?  With that question in mind, I have selected three teams who have undergone similar rebuild situations and won the Cup in recent memory to try to get an estimate of the time frame we’re looking at.  In this series, I intend to dissect the rosters of each team and how they were assembled.  I will discuss how long it took players to develop into quality NHLers and identify key acquisitions and what made them vital or trivial to that team’s success.

Click here to read Pt. 1 (2008-09 Penguins edition)

Click here to read Pt. 2 (2009-10 Blackhawks edition)

Los Angeles Kings players pose for a team photo after winning their first ever Stanley Cup by beating the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center.
Los Angeles Kings players pose for a team photo after winning their first ever Stanley Cup by beating the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center.

The Record

In this edition of Assembly of a Winning Roster, I’m going to break down the 2011-12 L.A. Kings.  The Kings finished the regular season with a record of 40-27-15 (95 points), good for 3rd in the Pacific Division.  They finished 4th in the league in Corsi for percentage at 53.4 CF% (3rd at 5v5 with 54.1 CF%).  Adding their 27th ranked team shooting percentage of 6.4 Sh% to their 4th ranked team save percentage of 93.1 SV%, they finished 20th in the league in PDO at 99.5.  PDO is a metric that is often used to express how lucky a team is in terms of scoring and generally regresses to 100 being the average amount of luck most teams get.  Higher than 100 is considered lucky, lower is considered unlucky.  How accurately it depicts luck in hockey is debatable but useful in this context.  The average among the 30 teams in the 2011-12 season was 99.9 PDO and the median was 99.95 PDO. Like the 2009-10 Blackhawks, the 2011-12 Kings squeaked by in the regular season with slightly below average luck by having above average puck possession.  Unlike the Hawks, the Kings brand of puck possession did not translate into a fearsome offense but manifested in a strangling defense, bolstering their already excellent goaltending.

The Roster

I’ve ordered this list based upon position and average time on ice per game.  On average, coaches give the most minutes to the players they feel can best handle them and it stands to reason that the players on the ice for the greatest percentage of the game should generally have the largest impact upon the outcome.  The 2011-12 Kings built their roster around the center position and elite defensive players.

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Centers

Anze Kopitar – Drafted no. 11 overall (round 1) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Kopitar scored 25 goals and 51 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 8 goals and 12 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: After the Kings drafted him, Kopitar played a second season for Södertälje SK of the Swedish Hockey League before joining the Kings in the 2006-07 season.  His rookie season, he scored 20 goals and 41 assists in 71 regular season games, 3rd in rookie scoring behind Paul Stastny (78 points) and Evgeni Malkin (85 points).

In the 2007-08 season, Kopitar scored 32 goals and 45 assists in 82 regular season games.  He also represented the Western Conference in the 2008 NHL All-Star Game as the youngest player on the team.

In the 2008-09 season, Kopitar scored 27 goals and 39 assists in 82 regular season games.

In the 2009-10 season, Kopitar scored his first hat-trick against the Dallas Stars on October 22, 2009, finishing the season with 34 goals and 47 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 playoff games.

In the 2010-11 season, Kopitar scored 25 goals and 48 assists in 75 regular season games, missing the final 7 games of the season due to a broken ankle.

Mike Richards – Drafted no. 24 overall (round 1) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Richards scored 18 goals and 26 assists in 74 regular season games, along with 4 goals and 11 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: After being drafted, Richards played 2 more years for his junior team until he was eliminated from the playoffs his second year, whereupon he was assigned to the Philadelphia Phantoms for their 2005 Calder Cup championship run, in which he scored 7 goals and 8 assists in 14 games.

He made the Flyers roster in the 2005-06 season, scoring 11 goals and 23 assists in 79 regular season games, along with 1 assist in 6 playoff games.

Richards played with the Flyers until the end of the 2010-11 season, following a second round defeat in a sweep to the Boston Bruins.  In that time, he scored 397 points in 452 regular season games, along with 50 points in 63 playoff games.  The Flyers made the postseason every year he played there except 2007, and made it to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final where the team was defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games.

On June 23, 2011, Richards was traded to Los Angeles with prospect Rob Bordson for , Brayden Schenn and a 2nd round draft pick.


Jeff Carter
– Drafted no. 11 overall (round 1) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Carter played 16 regular season games for the Kings, scoring 6 goals and 3 assists, along with 8 goals and 5 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: After the Flyers drafted him, Carter played the 2003-04 season with his junior team until they were eliminated from the playoffs.  He was then assigned to the Philadelphia Phantoms for their playoff run, in which he scored 4 goals and 1 assist in 12 games.

He again played the 2004-05 season with his junior team until elimination when he was, once more, assigned to the Phantoms, helping them win the Calder Cup championship.  He scored 1 assist in 3 regular season games with the Phantoms, along with 12 goals and 11 assists in 21 playoff games.

He made the Flyers roster out of training camp in the 2005-06 season and played with the team until he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets on June 23, 2011.  He scored 343 points in 461 regular season games with the Flyers, along with 21 points in 47 playoff games.

In the 2011-12 season with the Jackets, Carter scored 15 goals and 10 assists in 39 regular season games before he was traded to the Kings on February 23, 2012 for Jack Johnson and a conditional 1st round draft pick.

Jarret Stoll – Drafted no. 46 overall (round 2) by the Calgary Flames in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.  Redrafted no. 36 overall (round 2) by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Stoll scored 6 goals and 15 assists in 78 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 3 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: Stoll was unable to come to terms with the Flames and re-entered the 2002 draft and was selected by the Oilers.  In the 2002-03 season, he joined the Oilers AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs.  For the Bulldogs, he scored 21 goals and 33 assists in 76 regular season games, along with 5 goals and 8 assists in 23 playoff games.  He was called up to Edmonton for 4 games and scored 1 assist.

Stoll played for the Oilers in the 2003-04, 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, scoring 164 points in 282 regular season games, along with 10 points in 24 playoff games.  He was traded to Los Angeles with Matt Greene for Lubomir Visnovsky on June 29, 2008.

In the 2008-09 season, Stoll scored 18 goals and 23 assists in 74 regular season games.

In the 2009-10 season, Stoll scored 16 goals and 31 assists in 73 regular season games, along with 1 goal in 6 playoff games.

In the 2010-11 season, Stoll scored 20 goals and 23 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 3 assists in 5 playoff games.

Trevor Lewis – Drafted no. 17 overall (round 1) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Lewis scored 3 goals and 4 assists in 72 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 6 assists in 20 regular season games.

Skater History: In the 2006-07 season, Lewis joined the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, after his junior team was eliminated from the playoffs.  He scored 4 goals and 2 assists in 8 regular season games with the Monarchs, and played in 2 playoff games.

In the 2007-08 season with the Monarchs, Lewis scored 12 goals and 16 assists in 76 regular season games and played in 4 playoff games.

In the 2008-09 season, Lewis scored 20 goals and 31 assists in 75 regular season games with the Monarchs.  He also earned a 6 game call up to Los Angeles, in which he scored 1 goal and 2 assists.

In the 2009-10 season with the Monarchs, Lewis scored 5 goals and 2 assists in 23 regular season games, along with 5 goals and 4 assists in 16 playoff games.

Lewis cracked the Kings lineup in the 2010-11 season, scoring 3 goals and 10 assists in 72 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 3 assists in 6 playoff games.

Andrei Loktionov – Drafted no. 123 overall (round 5) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Loktionov scored 3 goals and 4 assists in 39 regular season games and played in 2 playoff games.

Skater History: After the Kings drafted him, Loktionov played another season in junior before joining the Manchester Monarchs for the 2009-10 season, scoring 9 goals and 15 assists in 29 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 8 assists in 16 playoff games.  He was called up to Los Angeles for 1 game but did not score a point.

In the 2010-11 season with the Monarchs, Loktionov scored 8 goals and 23 assists in 34 regular season games. He earned a call up to Los Angeles, scoring 4 goals and 3 assists in 19 regular season games.

In the 2011-12 season with the Monarchs, Loktionov scored 5 goals and 15 assists in 32 regular season games.

Scott Parse – Drafted no. 174 overall (round 6) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Parse scored 2 goals in 9 regular season games.

Skater History: Parse played with his college team until they were eliminated in the 2006-07 season when he joined the Grand Rapids Griffins, scoring 2 goals and 5 assists in 10 regular season games, along with 1 goal in 7 playoff games.

In the 2007-08 season, Parse was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs, scoring 3 assists in 14 regular season games before being sent to the Reading Royals of the ECHL.  With the Royals, he scored 5 goals and 11 assists in 18 regular season games.

Parse played the 2008-09 season with the Monarchs, scoring 15 goals and 24 assists in 74 regular season games.

He played 14 regular season games with the Monarchs in the 2009-10 season, scoring 4 goals and 11 assists, before the Kings called him up.  He played 59 regular season games and 4 playoff games with the Kings, scoring 11 goals and 13 assists.

In the 2010-11 season, Parse scored 1 goal and 3 assists in 5 regular season games and played in 2 playoff games.

Colin Fraser – Drafted no. 69 overall (round 3) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Fraser scored 2 goals and 6 assists in 67 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 18 playoff games.

Skater History: A year after being drafted, Fraser was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.  He played most of the 2004-05 season with his junior team the Red Deer Rebels before playing 3 games for the Norfolk Admirals.  Fraser played the Admirals for the next two seasons, earning a call up to the Blackhawks in the 2006-07 season where he dressed for one game.

In the 2007-08 season, Fraser played for the Rockford IceHogs where he scored 17 goals and 24 assists in 75 games earning a second call up for 5 games.  He returned for the IceHogs playoff run, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists in 12 games.

Fraser cracked the Blackhawks roster in the 2008-09 season and played there until being traded to the Edmonton Oilers on June 24, 2010, following the Blackhawks Cup winning 2009-10 season.  During his 2 full seasons with Chicago, Fraser scored 36 points in 151 regular season games and none in 5 playoff games.

Fraser played the 2010-11 season with the Oilers, scoring 3 goals and 2 assists in 67 regular season games.

On June 26, 2011, Fraser was traded to Los Angeles with a 4th round pick for Ryan Smyth.

Jordan Nolan – Drafted no. 186 overall (round 7) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Nolan scored 2 goals and 2 assists in 26 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: Nolan played the 2009-10 season with his junior team until they were eliminated and he was assigned to the Ontario Reign, where he played 3 games and scored 1 goal and 1 assist.

Nolan joined the Manchester Monarchs in the 2010-11 season, scoring 5 goals and 12 assists in 75 regular season games, along with 2 assists in 7 playoff games.  He also racked up 115 PIM that season.

He played 40 games with the Monarchs in the 2011-12 season, scoring 9 goals and 13 assists and racking up 119 PIM, before being called up to Los Angeles.

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Left Wing

Simon Gagne – Drafted no. 22 overall (round 1) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Gagne scored 7 goals and 10 assists in 34 regular season games and played in 4 playoff games.

Skater History: After the Flyers drafted him, Gagne played one more season with his junior team before making the Flyers Roster out of training camp in the 1999-00 season.  He played for the Flyers for 10 seasons, scoring 524 points in 664 regular season games, along with 47 points in 90 playoff games.  On July 19, 2010, Gagne was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he scored 17 goals and 23 assists in 63 regular season games, along with 5 goals and 7 assists in 15 playoff games.

On July 2, 2011, Gagne signed a 2 year contract with the Kings.

Dwight King – Drafted no. 109 overall (round 4) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.  For the Kings in the 2011-12 season, King scored 5 goals and 9 assists in 27 regular season games, along with 5 goals and 3 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: Following the draft, King played 2 more seasons with his junior team before being assigned to the Ontario Reign in the 2009-10 season, where he played 20 games, scoring 4 goals and 5 assists, before he was reassigned to the Manchester Monarchs.  For the Monarchs, he scored 10 goals and 16 assists in 52 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 7 assists in 16 playoff games.

He played the 2010-11 season with the Monarchs, scoring 24 goals and 28 assists in 72 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 3 assists in 7 playoff games.  That season, he earned a 6 game call up to Los Angeles, where he failed to record a point.

In the 2011-12 season with the Monarchs, he scored 11 goals and 18 assists in 50 regular season games before the Kings recalled him to the NHL.

Ethan Moreau – Drafted no. 14 overall (round 1) by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season with the Kings, Moreau scored 1 goal and 3 assists in 28 regular season games.

Skater History: After the Blackhawks drafted him, Moreau played another season with his junior team before being assigned to the Indianapolis Ice in the IHL for the 1995-96 season.  For the Ice, he scored 21 goals and 20 assists in 71 regular season games, along with 4 goals in 5 playoff games.  Moreau was also called up to Chicago sporadically, playing 8 regular season games, in which he scored 1 assist.

He played full-time for the Blackhawks from the 1996-97 season until he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers on March 20, 1999.  In his time with the Blackhawks, Moreau scored 64 points in 202 regular season games, along with 1 goal in 6 playoff games.

Moreau played for the Oilers from 1999 through 2010, when he was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and was part of the 2005-06 team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final before being defeated by the Buffalo Staff Infections Carolina Hurricanes.

In the 2010-11 season with the Jackets, Moreau scored 1 goal and 5 assists in 37 regular season games.

He signed a 1 year deal with the Kings on August 20, 2011. Following the 2011-12 season, Moreau retired from the NHL.

Kyle Clifford – Drafted no. 35 overall (round 2) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Clifford scored 5 goals and 7 assists in 81 regular season games, and played in 3 playoff games.

Skater History: Following his junior team’s elimination from the playoffs in the 2009-10 season, Clifford was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs for their playoff run.  With the Monarchs, he scored 2 assists in 7 playoff games.

He earned a roster spot with the Kings out of training camp in the 2010-11 season, scoring 7 goals and 7 assists and racking up 141 PIM in 76 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 2 assists in 6 playoff games.

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Right Wing

Dustin Brown – Drafted no. 13 overall (round 1) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Brown scored 22 goals and 32 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 8 goals and 12 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: In the 2003-04 season, Brown made the Kings roster out of training camp as a 4th line player, scoring 1 goal and 4 assists in 31 regular season games before being sidelined by an injury.

He played for the Manchester Monarchs in the 2004-05 lockout season, scoring 29 goals and 45 assists in 79 regular season games, along with 5 goals and 2 assists in 6 playoff games.

In the 2005-06 season, Brown was a checking line forward, scoring 14 goals and 14 assists in 79 regular season games.  He led the team in hits with 151 and drew 47 penalties, second in the league to Sidney Crosby (62 penalties drawn).  From that season until the 2011-12 season, Brown led the league in total penalties drawn with 380.  The next closest player was Alex Ovechkin at 255 penalties drawn.

In the 2006-07 season, Brown scored 17 goals and 29 assists in 81 regular season games.

In the 2007-08 season, Brown scored 33 goals and 27 assists in 78 regular season games.  His jump in scoring was a product of being placed on the top line with center Anze Kopitar and a career high 15.07 PSh% didn’t hurt either.

In the 2008-09 season, Brown was named captain of the team and scored 24 goals and 29 assists in 80 regular season games.

In the 2009-10 season, Brown scored 24 goals and 32 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 4 assists in 6 playoff games.

In the 2010-11 season, Brown scored 28 goals and 29 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 playoff games.


Justin Williams
– Drafted no. 28 overall (round 1) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Williams scored 22 goals and 37 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 4 goals and 11 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: Williams made the Flyers roster out of training camp after being drafted and played with the team from the 2000-01 season until he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on January 20, 2004.  In his 4 seasons with the Flyers, Williams scored 115 points in 226 games and was hampered by injuries and a carousel of coaches.

In the 2003-04 season with the Carolina Hurricanes, Williams scored 5 goals and 13 assists in 32 regular season games.

In the 2005-06 season, Williams helped the Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup, scoring 31 goals and 45 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 7 goals and 11 assists in 25 playoff games.  Following that season, Williams signed a 5 year deal with Carolina but was traded to the Kings on March 5, 2009 for Patrick O’Sullivan and a 2nd round draft pick. In his final 3 seasons with the Hurricanes, Williams scored 107 points in 151 games.

In the 2008-09 season with the Kings, Williams scored 1 goal and 3 assists in 12 regular season games.

In the 2009-10 season, Williams scored 10 goals and 19 assists in 49 regular season games, along with 1 assist in 3 playoff games.

In the 2010-11 season, Williams scored 22 goals and 35 assists in 73 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 1 assist in 6 playoff games. On February 28, 2011, Williams signed a 4 year contract with the Kings.

Dustin Penner – Undrafted free agent signed by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on May 12, 2004.  In the 2011-12 season for the Kings, Penner scored 7 goals and 10 assists in 65 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 8 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: Penner went undrafted out of the University of Maine but was signed by the Ducks and assigned to their AHL affiliate the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks for the 2004-05 season.  He scored 10 goals and 18 assists in 77 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 3 assists in 9 playoff games.

He was assigned to the Portland Pirates in the 2005-06 season, scoring 39 goals and 45 assists in 57 regular season games, along with 4 goals and 3 assists in 5 playoff games.  He was sporadically called up to Anaheim, scoring 4 goals and 3 assists in 19 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 6 assists in 13 playoff games.

Penner made Anaheim’s roster in the 2006-07 season, playing on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and helping the franchise to win its first Stanley Cup.  That season, he scored 29 goals and 16 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 5 assists in 21 playoff games.  The following season, the Ducks were in cap trouble and Penner’s contract was expired so the Edmonton Oilers signed him to a 5 year offer sheet which the Ducks were unable to match.

Penner played for the Oilers from the 2007-08 season until he was traded to Los Angeles on February 28, 2011 for Colten Teubert, a 1st and a conditional 3rd round draft pick. In his time with the Oilers, Penner scored 186 points in 304 games.

For the Kings in the 2010-11 season, Penner scored 2 goals and 4 assists in 19 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 playoff games.

Brad Richardson – Drafted no. 163 overall (round 5) by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season with the Kings, Richardson scored 5 goals and 3 assists in 59 regular season games, along with 1 goal in 13 playoff games.

Skater History: After the Avalanche drafted him, Richardson played 2 more seasons for his junior team.  He was assigned to the Lowell Lock Monsters, Colorado’s AHL affiliate, in the 2005-06 season, where he scored 4 goals and 13 assists in 29 regular season games.  He was then called up to Colorado, where he scored 3 goals and 10 assists in 41 regular season games, along with 1 goal in 9 playoff games.

In the 2006-07 season he played 3 games with the Albany River Rats before being called up to Colorado, where he scored 14 goals and 8 assists in 73 regular season games.

Richardson started the 2007-08 season with the Avalanche, scoring 2 goals and 3 assists in 22 regular season games before being sent down to the Lake Erie Monsters.  On June 21, 2008, he was traded to Los Angeles for a 2nd round draft pick.

In the 2008-09 season, Richardson played 31 regular season games with the Kings, scoring 5 assists.  He played 3 games with the Manchester Monarchs, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists.

In the 2009-10 season with the Kings, he scored 11 goals and 16 assists in 81 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 playoff games.

In the 2010-11 season, Richardson scored 7 goals and 12 assists in 68 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 playoff games.

Trent Hunter – Drafted no. 150 overall (round 6) by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season for the Kings, Hunter scored 2 goals and 5 assists in 38 regular season games.

Skater History: Following the draft, Hunter played 2 seasons with his junior team before being traded to the New York Islanders at the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2000-01 season, he was assigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons.  He scored 18 goals and 17 assists in 57 regular season games.

He was assigned to Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the 2001-02 season, scoring 30 goals and 35 assists in 80 regular season games, along with 8 goals and 11 assists in 17 playoff games.  He was called up to the Islanders during the playoffs, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist in 4 playoff games.

Hunter played the 2002-03 season with the Sound Tigers, scoring 30 goals and 41 assists in 70 regular season games, along with 7 goals and 4 assists in 9 playoff games.  He was called up to the Islanders for 8 regular season games, scoring 4 assists.

He made the Islanders roster in the 2003-04 season and played with them until he was traded to the New Jersey Devils for salary cap reasons on July 28, 2011.  In his time with the Islanders, Hunter scored 225 points in 451 regular season games, along with 3 goals in 10 playoff games.  The Devils waived him and bought out his contract.  He signed a tryout contract with the Kings and signed a 1 year deal on September 30, 2011.  After his regular season games with the Kings, he was waived and reassigned to Manchester.

Kevin Westgarth – Undrafted free agent signed on March 16, 2007.  In the 2011-12 season, Westgarth scored 1 goal and 1 assist and racked up 39 PIM in 25 games before suffering a hand injury and being placed on long term IR.  His name was, nevertheless, engraved in the Stanley Cup.

Skater History: Undrafted out of college, Westgarth signed on with the Kings and was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs for the remainder of the 2006-07 season, scoring 1 goal, 2 assists and racking up 44 PIM in 14 regular season games.

He played the 2007-08 season with the Monarchs, scoring 6 goals, 6 assists and racking up 191 PIM in 69 regular season games, and playing in 4 playoff games.

Westgarth was called up to the Kings twice in the 2008-09 season, totaling 9 PIM in 9 regular season games. With the Monarchs, he scored 4 goals and 6 assists and racked up 165 PIM in 65 regular season games.  During a game on January 23, Westgarth fought fellow enforcer, Garrett Klotz of the Philadelphia Phantoms, sending him off the ice on a stretcher with seizures following the bout.

Westgarth played the 2009-10 season for the Monarchs, scoring 11 goals and 14 assists and racking up 180 PIM in 76 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 10 PIM in 6 playoff games.

He earned a roster spot with the Kings in the 2010-11 season, where he notched 3 assists and 105 PIM in 56 regular season games, along with 2 assists and 14 PIM in 6 playoff games.

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Defense

Drew Doughty – Drafted no. 2 overall (round 1) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Doughty scored 10 goals and 26 assists in 77 regular season games, along with 4 goals and 12 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: Doughty made the Kings roster out of training camp after being drafted.  In the 2008-09 season, he scored 6 goals and 21 assists in 81 regular season games.

In the 2009-10 season, Doughty scored 16 goals and 43 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 4 assists in 6 playoff games.  He was also named as a finalist for the Norris Trophy.

In the 2010-11 season, he scored 11 goals and 29 assists in 76 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 2 assists in 6 playoff games.

Jack Johnson – Drafted no. 3 overall (round 1) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Johnson scored 8 goals and 16 assists in 61 regular season games before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets with a conditional 1st round draft pick for Jeff Carter on February 23, 2012.

Skater History: Johnson played 2 years for his college team out of the draft until they were eliminated in the 2006-07 season.  He signed an entry level contract with the Kings and joined the team for 5 games where he did not log a point.

In the 2007-08 season, Johnson scored 3 goals and 8 assists in 74 regular season games.

In the 2008-09 season, Johnson missed half the season to a shoulder injury, managing 6 goals and 5 assists in 41 regular season games.

In the 2009-08 season, Johnson scored 8 goals and 28 assists in 80 regular season games, along with 7 assists in 6 playoff games.

In the 2010-11 season, Johnson scored 5 goals and 37 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 4 assists in 6 playoff games.

Willie Mitchell – Drafted no. 199 (round 8) by the New Jersey Devils in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 for the Kings, Mitchell scored 5 goals and 19 assists in 76 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 2 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: After being drafted, Mitchell played the 1998-99 season with his college team until they were eliminated.  He was then assigned to the Albany River Rats for 6 games where he scored 1 goal and 3 assists.

In the 1999-00 season, Mitchell was assigned to the River Rats, scoring 5 goals and 14 assists in 63 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 2 assists in 5 playoff games.  He was called up to New Jersey for 2 regular season games but did not record a point.

In the 2000-01 season, Mitchell made the Devils’ starting lineup but was regularly scratched and was returned to the River Rats after 11 games.  He was recalled for 5 games later in the season but was again sent back.  In his stints with the Devils, Mitchell scored 2 assists. With the River Rats, he scored 3 goals and 13 assists in 41 regular season games.  On March 4, 2001, Mitchell was traded to the Minnesota Wild.

He played with the Wild from then until he was traded to the Dallas Stars on March 9, 2006.  In his time with the Wild, Mitchell scored 57 points in 288 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 3 assists in 18 playoff games.  He finished with a double digit positive scoring differential in each season but 2005-06.  Mitchell played 16 regular season games and 5 playoff games, scoring 2 assists in the regular season.

On July 1, 2006, Mitchell signed a 4 year deal with the Vancouver Canucks, which he played through completion.  For the Canucks, he scored 58 points in 264 regular season games, along with 3 points in 22 playoff games.

On August 25, 2010, Mitchell signed a 2 year contract with the Kings. In the 2010-11 season, Mitchell scored 5 goals and 5 assists in 57 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 playoff games.

Rob Scuderi – Drafted no. 134 overall (round 5) by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Scuderi scored 1 goal and 8 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 1 assist in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: Scuderi played for the WBS Penguins from 2001 through 2005.  He was called up to the Pittsburgh team for a 13 game stint during the 2003-04 season, logging 1 goal and 2 assists.

In the 2005-06 season, he scored 4 assists in 57 games for Pittsburgh while playing heavy defensive minutes.

The 2006-07 season Scuderi finally cracked the NHL lineup full time where he logged an overall positive goal differential despite the extreme defensive role he was often asked to play.  In his time with the Penguins, Scuderi scored 39 points in 300 regular season games, along with 8 points in 49 playoff games.  After winning the Cup with Pittsburgh, Scuderi signed a 4 year deal with the Kings on July 2, 2009.

In the 2009-10 season, Scuderi scored 11 assists in 73 regular season games and played in 6 playoff games without a point.

In the 2010-11 season, Scuderi scored 2 goals and 13 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 2 assists in 6 playoff games.

Slava Voynov – Drafted no. 32 overall (round 2) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Voynov scored 8 goals and 12 assists in 54 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 2 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: Before Voynov’s arrest and indefinite suspension from the league for the disturbing beating of his wife in October of 2014, Voynov was a useful player for the Kings.  After being drafted, he was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs in the 2008-09 season, scoring 8 goals and 15 assists in 61 regular season games.

In the 2009-10 season with the Monarchs, he scored 10 goals and 19 assists in 79 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 3 assists in 9 playoff games.

In the 2010-11 season with the Monarchs, he scored 15 goals and 36 assists in 76 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 3 assists in 7 playoff games.

In the 2011-12 season with the Monarchs, he scored 2 goals and 2 assists in 15 regular season games before being called up to Los Angeles where he played the remainder of the season.

Matt Greene – Drafted no. 44 overall (round 2) by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Greene scored 4 goals and 11 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 4 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: Greene played 3 seasons with his college team before being assigned to Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, the Iowa Stars in the 2005-06 season.  He scored 2 goals and 5 assists in 26 regular season games before being called up to Edmonton.  In his time with the Oilers, Greene scored 13 points in 151 regular season games, along with 1 point in 18 playoff games.  On June 29, 2008, Greene was traded to Los Angeles with Jarret Stoll for Lubomir Visnovsky.

In the 2008-09 season, Greene scored 2 goals and 12 assists in 82 regular season games.

In the 2009-10 season, Greene scored 2 goals and 7 assists in 75 regular season games, along with 1 assist in 6 playoff games.

In the 2010-11 season, Greene scored 2 goals and 9 assists in 71 regular season games and played in 6 playoff games without a point.

Alec Martinez – Drafted no. 95 overall (round 4) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Martinez scored 6 goals and 6 assists in 51 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 2 assists in 20 playoff games.

Skater History: After being drafted, Martinez played another season with his college team. He was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs in the 2008-09 season, scoring 8 goals and 15 assists in 72 regular season games.

In the 2009-10 season with the Monarchs, Martinez scored 7 goals and 23 assists in 55 regular season games, along with 3 assists in 16 playoff games.  He was called up to the Kings for 4 regular season games but did not record a point.

In the 2010-11 season, Martinez played 20 games for the Monarchs, scoring 5 goals and 11 assists, before being called up to the Kings where he played the remainder of the season.  With the Kings, he scored 5 goals and 11 assists in 60 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 2 assists in 20 playoff games.

Davis Drewiske – Undrafted free agent signed by the Kings on April 1, 2008.  In the 2011-12 season, Drewiske scored 2 goals in 9 regular season games.

Skater History: Undrafted, Drewiske played through his senior season for the University of Wisconsin before signing an entry level contract with the Kings on April 1, 2008.  He was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs for the remainder of the 2007-08 season, where he played 5 regular season games and 4 playoff games, scoring 1 assist in one of the latter.

He played the 2008-09 season with the Monarchs, scoring 1 goal and 13 assists in 61 regular season games.  He was called up to the Kings and scored 3 assists in 17 regular season games.

He played for the Kings exclusively in the 2009-10 season, scoring 1 goal and 7 assists in 42 regular season games.

With the Kings in the 2010-11 season, he scored 5 assists in 38 regular season games.

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Goaltending

Jonathan Quick – Drafted no. 72 overall (round 3) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Quick posted a 0.928 SV% and a GAA of 1.95, playing in 69 regular season games and 20 playoff games.  That season, he won the Conn Smythe trophy for a stellar performance in the postseason.

Goalie History: After being drafted, Quick played the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons with his college team before going pro.  In the 2007-08 season, he was assigned to the Reading Royals of the ECHL, where he played 38 games with a 0.905 SV% and a GAA of 2.79.  In his second game with the Royals, Quick scored an empty net goal late in the 3rd period whilst also recording a shutout.  That same season, he played 19 games for the Manchester Monarchs, where he posted a 0.922 SV% and a 2.32 GAA, and 3 games with the Kings, where he posted a 0.855 SV% and a 3.84 GAA.

He started the 2008-09 season with the Monarchs, playing 14 games with a 0.919 SV% and a GAA of 2.68, before being called up to the Kings.  With the Kings, Quick played 44 regular season games with a 0.914 SV% and a 2.48 GAA.

In the 2009-10 season with the Kings, Quick played 72 regular season games and 6 playoff games with a 0.907 SV% and a 2.54 GAA.

In the 2010-11 season, Quick played 61 regular season games and 6 playoff games with a 0.918 SV% and a 2.24 GAA.

Jonathan Bernier – Drafted no. 11 overall (round 1) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2011-12 season, Bernier played 16 regular season games, posting a 0.908 SV% and a 2.36 GAA.

Goalie History: After the Kings drafted him, Bernier played 2 more seasons with his junior team.  He was called up to the Kings once in the 2007-08 season with a 0.864 SV% and a 4.03 GAA in 4 starts before being sent back to junior.  After his season in junior ended, he was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs where he played 3 regular season games and 3 playoff games with a 0.946 SV% and a 1.63 GAA.

He played the 2008-09 season with the Monarchs, posting a 0.914 SV% and a 2.40 GAA in 54 regular season games.

Bernier played most of the 2009-10 season with the Monarchs, posting a 0.936 SV% and a 2.03 GAA in 58 regular season games and 16 playoff games.  He was called up to the Kings, where he played 3 games with a 0.957 SV% and a 1.30 GAA.

In the backup role, Bernier played the 2010-11 season with the Kings, posting a 0.913 SV% and a 2.48 GAA in 16 regular season games.

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Impact Players

Okay, now we know where everybody came from, on to the fun part.  The following stats are pulled from war-on-ice.com. Great site, check them out.  The following lists are restricted to players with a minimum of 20 games played.  The most obvious place to begin is by asking who scored the most points?  The top 10 point producers for the Kings in the regular season in all situations were:

  1. Anze Kopitar – 76 points in 81 games, good for 2.63 points per 60 minutes
  2. Justin Williams – 59 points in 81 games, good for 2.54 points per 60 minutes
  3. Dustin Brown – 53 points in 81 games, good for 1.95 points per 60 minutes
  4. Mike Richards – 43 points in 73 games, good for 1.87 points per 60 minutes
  5. Drew Doughty – 36 points in 76 games, good for 1.16 points per 60 minutes
  6. Willie Mitchell – 24 points in 75 games, good for 0.86 points per 60 minutes
  7. Jack Johnson – 23 points in 60 games, good for 1.02 points per 60 minutes
  8. Jarret Stoll – 21 points in 77 games, good for 0.98 points per 60 minutes
  9. Slava Voynov – 20 points in 53 games, good for 1.23 points per 60 minutes
  10. Dustin Penner – 17 points in 65 games, good for 1.11 points per 60 minutes

During the regular season, Jeff Carter scored 34 points in 55 regular season games but only 9 in 20 with the Kings with a 1.87 P60 so he was left off the list.  Since he went on to be the 6th highest playoff scorer that season and did not have as large a games played sample, we will unofficially include him in the list.  The Kings are by far the lowest scoring of the teams we’ve examined so far.  In fact, while they scored 18 more goals than the opposition over the regular season, only the Minnesota Wild scored fewer goals.  Goaltending and a rock solid blueline played a major roll and nearly every player on the team had to be defensively responsible at all times.  While P60 and point totals are nice stats and indicative in certain instances, and games are ultimately determined by which team puts the puck in the net the most times, these stats are often influenced by luck and player usage.  A player can score more in a season by getting good bounces or being played more on power play or getting more offensive zone starts etc.  By examining the question of which players had the most impact upon the season from multiple angles, we can get a clearer idea of which players had the most impact on the season.  Let’s take a look at who controlled play.  Corsi for percentage is generally accepted as a reasonable shot attempt based proxy for which team controls play and, in this instance, I am only examining Corsi for % in 5v5 situations to avoid penalizing/rewarding penalty killers and power players respectively.  This list is biased toward players with a higher percentage of offensive zone starts but I will indicate the extent of this bias by including the relative fraction of offensive vs defensive zone starts or ZSO%Rel (negative numbers indicate more defensive zone starts and vice versa for positive numbers and offensive zone starts).  The top 10 Blackhawks in the regular season were:

  1. Alec Martinez – 61.91 CF% – (3.51 ZSO%Rel)
  2. Justin Williams – 59.13 CF% – (2.26 ZSO%Rel)
  3. Brad Richardson – 58.81 CF% – (1.74 ZSO%Rel)
  4. Anze Kopitar – 58.13 CF% – (1.11 ZSO%Rel)
  5. Dustin Brown – 56.68 CF% – (2.06 ZSO%Rel)
  6. Slava Voynov – 56.23 CF% – (8.13 ZSO%Rel)
  7. Jordan Nolan – 56.23 CF% – (-0.23 ZSO%Rel)
  8. Dustin Penner – 55.90 CF% – (1.84 ZSO%Rel)
  9. Dwight King – 55.79 CF% – (-4.26 ZSO%Rel)
  10. Matt Greene – 55.69 CF% – (-3.71 ZSO%Rel)

From this we start to narrow our list to Kopitar, Williams and Brown as the true impact players.  The Kings had 12 players with more than 20 games played with a 5v5 CF% higher than 55.08!  Doughty and Stoll had a 5v5 CF% of 55.43 and 55.08, respectively.  But to make the playoffs, let alone win the Cup you need some guys to get some puck luck or at least, you need your guys who control play less well to overcome this shortcoming via skill.  Whichever way you want to look at it, personal shooting percentage is very relevant to who gets hot in a season.  After all, while controlling play is all well and good and generally means your team gets more chances than the opposition, at the end of the day, you want your guys to produce on some of those chances.  In the 2011-12 season, league average all situation shooting percentage was 8.89%.  With that in mind, the top 10 ass-situation PSh% on the Blackhawks belonged to these players:

  1. Dwight King – 11.90 PSh%
  2. Anze Kopitar – 11.26 PSh%
  3. Jeff Carter* – 11.11 PSh%
  4. Jordan Nolan – 10.53 PSh%
  5. Dustin Brown – 10.43 PSh%
  6. Mike Richards – 10.43 PSh%
  7. Simon Gagne – 9.72 PSh%
  8. Slava Voynov – 9.30 PSh%
  9. Justin Williams – 9.28 PSh%
  10. Alec Martinez – 7.69 PSh%

* Carter played fewer than 20 games in the regular season but player 11 on the list was Kevin Westgarth and I’m sorry but I just don’t care what your PSh% is when you score 1 goal and 1 assist on the season.  I gave him due credit as an enforcer, I’m not putting him on the impact player list.😛

Of the 24 players with more than 20 games played, only 8 had an above league average PSh%, 9 if we count Carter.  With an overall PDO of 99.5 on the season, the Kings appear to have been a tiny bit unlucky but because they controlled play in the majority of situations, they were able to stack the deck in their favor.  In any case, which guys were truly impact players for the 2011-12 Kings?  With the prior criteria in mind, the list looks something like this:

  1. Anze Kopitar – 58.13 5v5 CF% – (1.11 ZSO%Rel) – 11.26 PSh% – 76 points in 81 games – 2.63 points per 60
  2. Justin Williams – 59.13 5v5 CF% – (2.26 ZSO%Rel) – 9.28 PSh% – 59 points in 81 games – 2.54 points per 60
  3. Dustin Brown – 56.68 5v5 CF% – (2.06 ZSO%Rel) – 10.43 PSh% – 53 points in 81 games – 1.95 points per 60
  4. Mike Richards – 48.64 5v5 CF% – (0.29 ZSO%Rel) – 10.43 PSh% – 43 points in 73 games – 1.87 points per 60
  5. Alec Martinez – 61.91 5v5 CF% – (3.51 ZSO%Rel) – 7.69 PSh% – 12 points in 51 games – 0.95 points per 60
  6. Jeff Carter – 51.51 5v5 CF% – (-6.05 ZSO%Rel) – 11.11 PSh% – 9 points in 20 games – 1.87 points per 60
  7. Dustin Penner – 55.90 5v5 CF% – (1.84 ZSO%Rel) – 5.88 PSh% – 17 points in 65 games – 1.11 points per 60
  8. Drew Doughty – 55.43 5v5 CF% – (-1.26 ZSO%Rel) – 5.95 PSh% – 36 points in 76 games – 1.16 points per 60
  9. Dwight King – 55.79 5v5 CF% – (-4.26 ZSO%Rel) – 11.90 PSh% – 14 points in 27 games – 2.10 points per 60
  10. Slava Voynov – 56.23 5v5 CF% – (8.13 ZSO%Rel) – 9.30 PSh% – 20 points in 53 games – 1.23 points per 60

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Player Development

While each player is unique and the paths to the NHL are many, it is worth examining how long it took players to make the NHL.  I’ve gone over some of this in the Skater and Goalie Histories, but let’s dig in a little deeper.  First thing’s first, which players did the Kings draft or sign as undrafted free agents?

  1. Drew Doughty – no. 2 overall, made NHL year 1
  2. Jack Johnson – no. 3 overall, made NHL year 2
  3. Anze Kopitar – no. 11 overall, made NHL year 2
  4. Jonathan Bernier – no. 11 overall, made NHL year 5
  5. Dustin Brown – no. 13 overall, made NHL year 3
  6. Trevor Lewis – no. 17 overall, made NHL year 5
  7. Slava Voynov – no. 32 overall, made NHL year 4
  8. Kyle Clifford – no. 35 overall, made NHL year 3
  9. Jonathan Quick – no. 72 overall, made NHL year 4
  10. Alec Martinez – no. 95 overall, made NHL year 4
  11. Dwight King – no. 109 overall, NHL call-up year 5
  12. Andrei Loktionov – no. 123 overall, made NHL year 4
  13. Scott Parse – no. 174 overall, made NHL year 6
  14. Jordan Nolan – no. 186 overall, made NHL year 3
  15. Davis Drewiske – undrafted FA signed 2008, made NHL year 3
  16. Kevin Westgarth – undrafted FA signed 2007, made NHL year 5

The skaters on this list averaged 3.6 years before they earned a permanent spot on the NHL roster.  The earliest drafted player is Brown in 2003, the latest drafted player is Clifford in 2007.  Clifford and Martinez were excellent value picks and King and Nolan becoming good NHL players were pleasant surprises.  Only 6 of the 16 became impact players, though 13 of the 16 logged significant minutes.  The Kings built their team around Doughty, Kopitar and Brown but some of the lower round draft picks have to pan out eventually for a team to have success.  Stares daggers at, Edmonton.  Quick becoming as good as he did was a tremendous boon to the organization because his fast development sped up the team success and allowed Bernier to not only develop at a comfortable pace but become a superlative backup and eventually expendable.  The fact that both goaltenders were young, meant that their cap hits were low and allowed the team to bring in larger veteran contracts.

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Key Acquisitions

The young guns are essential but if you’re going to win, you have to fill out your roster with some wily veterans.  This can be accomplished through free agency or trades and the Kings did both.  Acquisition of good veteran players is rarely accomplished in a single season as there are, at any given time, a limited number of them available and 29 other general managers are scrabbling to get their filthy mitts on them.  This process can take a number of seasons and requires a savvy GM to target which ones will compliment his team and which ones will put it over the top.  From the So how did the Kings acquire their veteran talent?

Free Agents

Trade Targets

* age of player during the 2011-12 season.

The average age of these acquisitions was 28.1 with the oldest being Moreau (35) and the youngest being Richards (26).  Of the 13 veteran acquisitions they made, 11 played significant roles in the Kings’ success, while 4 became impact players.

Second overall draft pick Drew Doughty puts on his Jersey after being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings at the NHL draft in Ottawa, Canada on Friday, June 20, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand)
Second overall draft pick Drew Doughty puts on his Jersey after being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings at the NHL draft in Ottawa, Canada on Friday, June 20, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand)

1st Round Club But how many first round picks were there?  Okay, here’s the list of players drafted in round 1 who played on the 2011-12 Kings roster in order of where they were drafted.

  1. Drew Doughty – no. 2 overall
  2. Jack Johnson – no. 3 overall
  3. Anze Kopitar – no. 11 overall
  4. Jonathan Bernier – no. 11 overall
  5. Jeff Carter – no. 11 overall
  6. Dustin Brown – no. 13 overall
  7. Ethan Moreau – no. 14 overall
  8. Trevor Lewis – no. 17 overall
  9. Simon Gagne – no. 22 overall
  10. Mike Richards – no. 24 overall
  11. Justin Williams – no. 28 overall

18% of these players were taken in the top 5, 18% went in the top 10, 63% in the top half of the first round.  When Johnson was traded for Carter, he had been developing well from a points perspective, but the Kings needed a scoring center and had a plethora of capable defensemen.  Also, Johnson’s possession stats were trending downward since his rookie season and Carter’s had been relatively stable over his career.  The Kings drafted 54% of these players, 45% if we subtract Jack Johnson.

hindsight

Hindsight Is 20/20

Winning two cups in 3 years is a tremendous feat and even more impressive when compared with the Kings regular season record over that stretch.  The Kings built their roster around Kopitar, Carter, Doughty and Quick.  They have become even stronger with the additions of young players like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.  However, the players they brought on board for their first Cup run were nearing the end of their primes when they joined the team.  While some players like Carter and Williams continue to give strong performances, players like Richards, Scuderi, Greene, and Stoll have started to fall off since their second Cup run.  While anyone would make the moves the Kings made again to attain the success they have enjoyed, the nature of the roster construction left them with a smaller window for success than teams such as the Blackhawks.  The best team does not always win the Cup and the best approach seems to be to maximize the time frame your team has to attain success.  This is a delicate dance that must take into account the salary cap, the age of core players and the time it takes to develop replacement players for your veteran cap casualties versus the expedience of bringing in players via trade or free agency.  The Kings went about this in a smart, efficient and remarkably successful fashion.

Assembly of a Winning Roster Pt. 2 (2009-10 Blackhawks edition)

There has been much debate about how close or far away the Sabres are from being a playoff caliber team.  They have some young players already on the roster, a respectable number of quality prospects and more on the way with the draft coming up but we are told that it will be two to three years, if not longer, before they can make any noise in the playoffs, let alone challenge for the Stanley Cup.  So how far out are they?  With that question in mind, I have selected three teams who have undergone similar rebuild situations and won the Cup in recent memory to try to get an estimate of the time frame we’re looking at.  In this series, I intend to dissect the rosters of each team and how they were assembled.  I will discuss how long it took players to develop into quality NHLers and identify key acquisitions and what made them vital or trivial to that team’s success.

Click here to read Pt. 1 (2008-09 Penguins edition)

Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime to win Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals Wednesday, June 9, 2010, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime to win Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals Wednesday, June 9, 2010, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Record

In this edition of Assembly of a Winning Roster, I’m going to break down the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks.  The Blackhawks finished the regular season with a record of 55-22-8 (112 points), good for 1st in the Central Division.  They finished 1st in the league in Corsi for percentage at 54.9 CF%.  Adding their 4th ranked team shooting percentage of 9.7 Sh% to their 21st ranked team save percentage of 90.2 SV%, they finished 16th in the league in PDO at 99.9.  PDO is a metric that is often used to express how lucky a team is in terms of scoring and generally regresses to 100 being the average amount of luck most teams get.  Higher than 100 is considered lucky, lower is considered unlucky.  How accurately it depicts luck in hockey is debatable but useful in this context.  The average PDO among the 30 teams in the 2009-10 season was 99.9 as was the median.  The Blackhawks had, then, average luck, relative to the rest of the league but controlled play so well in all situations (even more so with a 55.4 CF% in 5v5 play ) that they dominated the league from the start.

The Roster

I’ve ordered this list based upon position and average time on ice per game.  On average, coaches give the most minutes to the players they feel can best handle them and it stands to reason that the players on the ice for the greatest percentage of the game should generally have the largest impact upon the outcome.  The 2009-10 Blackhawks built their roster around elite two-way players in both the offensive and defensive ranks.

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Centers

Jonathan Toews – Drafted no. 3 overall (round 1) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2009-10 season, Toews scored 25 goals and 43 assists in the regular season, along with 7 goals and 22 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: After being drafted, Toews returned to his college team, University of North Dakota, for his sophomore season where he scored 18 goals and 28 assists in 34 games, where he served as an alternate captain and helped the team reach the NCAA Frozen Four.

In the 2007-08 season, he joined the Blackhawks where he scored 24 goals and 30 assists in 64 games.  He scored his first NHL goal on his first shot and registered a point in each of his first 10 games.  He was nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy but ultimately was runner up to teammate Patrick Kane.

In the 2008-09 season, Toews was named team captain and scored 34 goals and 35 assists in 82 games, along with 7 goals and 6 assists in 17 playoff games.  He played in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game alongside Patrick Kane and Brian Campbell. Toews also potted his first career hat-trick on February 27, 2009 in a 5-4 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Andrew Ebbett – Undrafted free agent signed by the Ottawa Senators in 2006. In the 2009-10 season, Ebbett scored 1 goal in 10 games played for Chicago after being claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks on October 17, 2009. Ebbett ultimately failed to find a spot in the lineup and was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Minnesota Wild on November 21, 2009.

Skater History: After being signed, Ebbett played the 2006-07 season with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate Binghamton Senators.

The next season he signed with the Anaheim Ducks and played 74 games for their AHL affiliate Portland Pirates, racking up 18 goals and 54 assists before being called up to Anaheim where he made a 3 game NHL debut. In the 2008-09 season, Ebbett started the year with the Iowa Chops before being recalled to Anaheim.

Dave Bolland – Drafted no. 32 overall (round 2) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2009-10 season, Bolland scored 6 goals and 10 assists in 39 regular season games, along with 8 goals and 8 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: Bolland remained in junior for two seasons after being drafted.  In the 2006-07 season, he joined the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals where he scored 17 goals and 32 assists in 65 games, along with 4 assists in 6 playoff games. He also played 1 game with Chicago.

Bolland started the 2007-08 season with the Rockford IceHogs where he scored 6 goals and 4 assists in 16 games before being recalled to Chicago. With the Blackhawks, he scored 4 goals and 13 assists in 39 games.

He played the full 2008-09 season with the Blackhawks, scoring 19 goals and 28 assists in 81 regular season games, along with 4 goals and 8 assists in 17 playoff games.

Adam Burish – Drafted no. 282 overall (round 9) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Burish scored 1 goal and 3 assists in 13 regular season games and played in 15 playoff games in which he did not log a point.

Skater History: Burish played through his senior year at the University of Wisconsin. In the 2006-07 season, he played 9 games with the Blackhawks before being sent down to play for the Norfolk Admirals.

In the 2007-08 season, he played 81 games for the Blackhawks, scoring 4 goals and 4 assists and racking up 214 PIM.

In the 2008-09 season, Burish scored 6 goals and 3 assists in 66 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 2 assists in 17 playoff games.

Colin Fraser – Drafted no. 69 overall (round 3) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2009-10 season, Fraser scored 7 goals and 12 assists in 70 regular season games and played in 3 playoff games.

Skater History: A year after being drafted, Fraser was traded to Chicago, along with Jim Vandermeer and a 2nd round pick (Bryan Bickell) for Alexei Zhamnov and a 4th round pick.

He played most of the 2004-05 season with his junior team the Red Deer Rebels before playing 3 games for the Norfolk Admirals. Fraser played the Admirals for the next two seasons, earning a call up to the Blackhawks in the 2006-07 season where he dressed for one game.

In the 2007-08 season, Fraser played for the Rockford IceHogs where he scored 17 goals and 24 assists in 75 games earning a second call up for 5 games. He returned for the IceHogs playoff run, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists in 12 games.

Fraser cracked the Blackhawks roster in the 2008-09 season, scoring 6 goals and 11 assists in 81 games and playing in 2 playoff games.

John Madden – Undrafted free agent signed by the New Jersey Devils in 1997. In the 2009-10 season, Madden scored 10 goals and 13 assists in 79 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in the playoffs.

Skater History: After signing his deal with the Devils, Madden played with the Albany River Rats from 1997 through 1999, earning a 4 game call up during the 1997-98 season.For the next 10 years, Madden played with New Jersey where he played 708 regular season games and scored 140 goals and 156 assists, along with 20 goals and 21 assists in 112 playoff games. In that span the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003. Madden signed a 1 year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1, 2009.

Jake Dowell – Drafted no. 140 overall (round 5) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Dowell scored 1 goal and 1 assist in 3 regular season games for the Blackhawks on a call up from the Rockford IceHogs.

Skater History: After being drafted, Dowell played 3 more seasons for the University of Wisconsin before he signed a contract with the Blackhawks in July, 2007.

In the 2007-08 season, he played 49 regular season games with the IceHogs, scoring 7 goals and 10 assists, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 12 playoff games. He also earned a call up to Chicago where he scored 2 goals and 1 assist in 19 regular season games.

In the 2008-09 season, Dowell scored 6 goals and 14 assists in 75 regular season games with the IceHogs and played in 4 playoff games. He played 1 game with Chicago, in which he did not record a point. Dowell scored 7 goals and 16 assists in 78 regular season games for the IceHogs and played in 4 playoff games.

Andrew+Ladd+Patrick+Sharp+Stanley+Cup+Finals+7WR23OtyIDnl

Left Wing

Patrick Sharp – Drafted no. 95 overall (round 3) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Sharp scored 25 goals and 41 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 11 goals and 11 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: Sharp played two seasons for the University of Vermont before joining the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, where he scored 14 goals and 19 assists in 53 regular season games. He was called up to the Flyers for 3 games.

Sharp split the 2003-04 season between the Phantoms and the Flyers scoring 15 goals and 14 assists in 35 games for the AHL team and 5 goals, 2 assists for the NHL team. He played 12 playoff games with the Flyers and scored 1 goal in that stretch.

Sharp played the lockout season for the Phantoms before cracking the Flyers roster full time in the 2005-06 season until he was traded to Chicago midway through the season, along with Éric Meloche for Matt Ellison and a 3rd round draft pick. For the Blackhawks, that season, he scored 9 goals and 14 assists in 50 regular season games.

In the 2006-07 season, Sharp scored 20 goals and 15 assists in 80 regular season games. In the 2007-08 season, Sharp exploded for 36 goals and 26 assists in 80 regular season games.

In the 2008-09 season, Sharp was named an alternate captain and scored 26 goals and 18 assists despite playing only 61 regular season games due to injury. He also scored 7 goals and 4 assists in 17 playoff games.

Andrew Ladd – Drafted no. 4 overall (round 1) by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Ladd scored 17 goals and 21 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 3 assists in 19 playoff games.

Skater History: In the 2005-06 season, Ladd joined the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters, where he played 25 games, scoring 11 goals and 8 assists. He was called up to the Hurricanes that same season and scored 6 goals and 5 assists in 29 regular season games but was returned to Lowell after suffering an injury. He was recalled for the Hurricanes’ playoff run, in which he scored 2 goals and 3 assists in 17 games, helping the Canes to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

In the 2006-07 season, Ladd played 65 games for the Hurricanes, scoring 11 goals and 10 assists. In the 2007-08 season, played 43 games for Carolina before being dealt to the Blackhawks for Tuomo Ruutu. He played 20 games for the Blackhawks, scoring 5 goals and 7 assists.

In the 2008-09 season, Ladd scored 15 goals and 34 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 1 assist in 17 playoff games.

Ben Eager – Drafted no. 23 overall (round 1) by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Eager scored 7 goals and 9 assists in 60 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 2 assists in 18 playoff games.

Skater History: The year after he was drafted, Eager was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers and joined the Phantoms, playing 5 regular season games and 3 playoff games and failing to record a point.

Eager played with the Phantoms in the lockout season, scoring 7 goals and 10 assists and racking up 232 PIM in 66 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 16 playoff games.

In the 2005-06 season, Eager scored 6 goals and 12 assists in 49 games with the Phantoms and 3 goals and 5 assists in 25 games with the Flyers. He also played in 2 playoff games with the Flyers but did not record a point.

In the 2006-07 season, Eager played 3 games with the Phantoms before being recalled to the Flyers, where he scored 6 goals and 5 assists and racked up 233 PIM in 63 regular season games.

In the 2007-08 season, he played 23 games with the Flyers, failing to record a point, before being dealt to Chicago in exchange for Jim Vandermeer on December 18, 2007.

In the 2008-09 season, Eager scored 11 goals and 4 assists in 75 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 17 playoff games.

Bryan Bickell – Drafted no. 41 overall (round 2) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Bickell scored 3 goals and 1 assist in 16 regular season games, along with 1 assist in 4 playoff games.

Skater History: Bickell joined the Norfolk Admirals in the 2006-07 season, scoring 10 goals and 11 assists in 48 regular season games and played in 2 playoff games.  He earned a 3 game call up to the Blackhawks and scored 2 goals.

In the 2007-08 season, Bickell scored 19 goals and 20 assists in 73 regular season games for the Rockford IceHogs along with 2 goals and 3 assists in 12 playoff games.  He was recalled to Chicago for 4 games but failed to record a point.

In the 2008-09 season, Bickell scored 6 goals and 8 assists in 42 regular season games for the IceHogs, along with 2 assists in 4 playoff games.

In the 2009-10 season, Bickell scored 16 goals and 15 assists in 65 regular season games for the IceHogs.

Radek Smolenak – Drafted no. 73 overall (round 3) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Smolenak played 1 regular season game for the Blackhawks without recording a point.

Skater History: In the 2008-09 season, Smolenak was called up to Tampa Bay for 6 games, recording 1 assist.

In the 2009-10 season, he was claimed off waivers by the Blackhawks but was reclaimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning after his one game played.

Kris Versteeg – Drafted no. 134 overall (round 5) by the Boston Bruins in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Versteeg scored 20 goals and 24 assists in 79 regular season games, along with 6 goals and 8 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: In the 2005-06 season, Versteeg joined Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, scoring 2 goals and 4 assists in 13 regular season games and playing in 3 playoff games.

In the 2006-07 season, Versteeg scored 22 goals and 27 assists for the Providence Bruins before being traded to Chicago with a conditional draft pick for Brandon Bochenski. Versteeg scored 4 goals and 19 assists in 27 regular season games and played in 2 playoff games for the Norfolk Admirals.

In the 2007-08 season, he played 56 regular season games for the Rockford IceHogs, scoring 18 goals and 31 assists, along with 6 goals and 5 assists in 12 playoff games. For the Blackhawks, he scored 2 goals and 2 assists in 13 regular season games.

In the 2008-09 season, Versteeg joined the Blackhawks full time, scoring 22 goals and 31 assists in 78 regular season games, along with 4 goals and 8 assists in 17 playoff games.

Tomas Kopecky – Drafted no. 38 overall (round 2) by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Kopecky scored 10 goals and 11 assists in 74 regular season games, along with 4 goals and 2 assists in 17 playoff games.

Skater History: Kopecky was assigned to Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins where he played from 2002 to 2006.

In the 2006-07 season, Kopecky made the Red Wings roster, scoring 1 goal in 26 regular season games and playing in 4 playoff games.

In the 2007-08 season, he scored 5 goals and 7 assists in 77 regular season games for Detroit and won a Stanley Cup with the team despite not playing in a playoff game due to injury.

In the 2008-09 season, he scored 6 goals and 13 assists in 79 regular season games for Detroit, along with 1 assist in 8 playoff games.

On July 1, 2009, Kopecky signed a 2 year deal with the Blackhawks.

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Right Wing

Patrick Kane – Drafted no. 1 overall (round 1) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Kane scored 30 goals and 58 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 10 goals and 18 assists in 22 playoff games. Of those 10 playoff goals, the most important came in overtime in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to win the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

Skater History: Kane made the NHL his first season after being drafted, scoring 21 goals and 51 assists in 82 regular season games and won the Calder Memorial Trophy.

In the 2008-09 season, Kane scored 25 goals and 45 assists in 80 regular season games, along with 9 goals and 5 assists in 16 playoff games.

Marian Hossa – Drafted no. 12 overall (round 1) by the Ottawa Senators in the 1997 NHL Draft. In the 2009-20 season, Hossa scored 24 goals and 27 assists in 57 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 12 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: After being drafted by the Senators, Hossa played 7 games with Ottawa, scoring 1 assist, before being sent back to juniors where he went on to win the Memorial Cup with the Portland Winter Hawks.

During the final game of the tournament, he suffered a knee injury which kept him from joining the Senators until December of the 1998-99 season. When he did return, Hossa scored 15 goals and 15 assists in 60 regular season games, along with 2 assists in 4 playoff games. Hossa played in Ottawa until the 2004-05 lockout season.

In the 2005-06 season, Hossa signed a 3 year deal with the Atlanta Thrashers where he played until he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 26, 2008. Hossa played the remainder of the season with the Penguins, helping them gain a Stanley Cup Final berth although they were eliminated in 6 games.

In the 2008-09 season, Hossa signed a 1 year contract with the Detroit Red Wings and returned to the Stanley Cup Final to face his former team in the Penguins, once more finding himself on the losing end of the equation.

On July 1, 2009, Hossa signed a 12 year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dustin Byfuglien – Drafted no. 245 overall (round 8) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2009-10 season, Byfuglien scored 17 goals and 17 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 11 goals and 5 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: Byfuglien started his career as a defenseman and played the position throughout his career until the start of the 2007-08 season when he was moved to the right wing.  He began his professional career in the 2005-06 season with the Norfolk Admirals, where he scored 8 goals and 15 assists in 53 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 2 assists in 4 playoff games.  During that season, he played 25 games with Chicago, scoring 3 goals and 2 assists.

In the 2006-07 season with the Admirals, Byfuglien scored 16 goals and 28 assists in 63 regular season games, along with 2 assists in 6 playoff games.  He was briefly recalled to Chicago, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists in 9 regular season games.

In the 2007-08 season, Byfuglien played 8 games with the Rockford IceHogs before being recalled to Chicago permanently, where he scored 19 goals and 17 assists in 67 games played as a winger.

In the 2008-09 season, he scored 15 goals and 16 assists in 77 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 6 assists in 17 playoff games.

Jack Skille – Drafted no. 7 overall (round 1) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Skille scored 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 regular season games with the Blackhawks.

Skater History: After being drafted, Skille played 2 seasons for the University of Wisconsin before joining the Norfolk Admirals for 9 games after his college team failed to qualify for the 2007 NCAA tournament.

In the 2007-08 season, Skille was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs, where he scored 16 goals and 18 assists in 59 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 1 assist in 12 playoff games. During that season, Skille earned a call up to Chicago, where he scored 3 goals and 2 assists in 16 regular season games.

In the 2008-09 season, Skille scored 1 goal in 8 regular season games with the Blackhawks before being returned to the IceHogs, where he scored 20 goals and 25 assists in 58 regular season games.

Troy Brouwer – Drafted no. 214 overall (round 7) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Brouwer scored 22 goals and 18 assists in 78 regular season games, along with 4 goals and 4 assists in 19 playoff games.

Skater History: Skille played through the 2005-06 season with his junior club, the Moose Jaw Warriors.

In the 2006-07 season, Skille played 66 regular season games with the Norfolk Admirals, scoring 41 goals and 38 assists, along with 1 goal in 6 playoff games. During that season, Skille earned a 10 game call up to Chicago but did not record a point.

In the 2007-08 season, Skille played 75 regular season games with the Rockford IceHogs, scoring 35 goals and 19 assists, along with 5 goals and 4 assists in 12 playoff games. He earned a 2 game call up to Chicago and recorded 1 assist.

In the 2008-09 season, Skille played 5 games with the IceHogs before earning a permanent call up from Chicago, where he scored 10 goals and 16 assists in 69 regular season games, along with 2 assists in 17 playoff games.

Keith-Seabrook

Defense

Duncan Keith – Drafted no. 54 overall (round 2) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Keith scored 14 goals and 55 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 15 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History:  Keith reported to the Norfolk Admirals in the 2003-04 season, scoring 7 goals and 18 assists in 75 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 8 playoff games.

Keith played the 2004-05 season with the Admirals, Keith scored 9 goals and 17 assists in 79 regular season games and played in 6 playoff games.

In the 2005-06 season, Keith joined the Blackhawks, scoring 9 goals and 12 assists in 81 regular season games.

In the 2006-07 season, Keith scored 2 goals and 29 assists in 82 regular season games.

In the 2007-08 season, Keith scored 12 goals and 20 assists in 82 regular season games. He was placed on the top defensive pairing with Brent Seabrook and played well enough to be selected to play in the 2008 NHL All-Star Game.

In the 2008-09 season, Keith was named alternate captain of the Blackhawks and scored 8 goals and 36 assists in 77 regular season games, along with 6 assists in 17 playoff games.

Brian Campbell – Drafted no. 156 overall (round 6) by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Campbell scored 7 goals and 31 assists in 68 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 4 assists in 19 playoff games.

Skater History: Campbell played with his junior team until being eliminated from the playoffs in the 1998-99 season when he joined the Rochester Americans for 2 games at the end of their playoff run.

In the 1999-00 season, Campbell played 67 regular season games with the Amerks, scoring 2 goals and 24 assists, along with 3 assists in 21 playoff games. He earned a 12 game call up to the Sabres, where he scored 1 goal and 4 assists.

In the 2000-01 season, Campbell played 65 regular season games with the Amerks, scoring 7 goals and 25 assists, along with 1 assist in 4 playoff games. He was recalled to the Sabres for 8 games, in which he did not record a point.

Campbell split the 2001-02 season between the Amerks and the Sabres, scoring 2 goals and 35 assists in 45 games with the Amerks and 3 goals, 3 assists in 29 games with the Sabres.

In the 2002-03 season, Campbell joined the Sabres full time and continued to play for the franchise until being dealt to the San Jose Sharks on February 26, 2008. After the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs in 2008, Campbell’s contract expired and he signed an 8 year contract with Chicago on July 1, 2008.

In the 2008-09 season, Campbell scored 7 goals and 45 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 2 goals and 8 assists in 17 playoff games.

Brent Seabrook – Drafted no. 14 overall (round 1) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Seabrook scored 4 goals and 26 assists in 78 regular season games, along with 4 goals and 7 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: Seabrook played with his junior club until being eliminated from the playoffs in the 2004-05 season, when he joined the Norfolk Admirals for 3 regular season games and 6 playoff games, in which he scored 1 assist.

In the 2005-06 season, Seabrook made the Blackhawks out of training camp, scoring 5 goals and 27 assists in 69 regular season games.

In the 2006-07 season, Seabrook scored 4 goals and 20 assists in 81 regular season games.

In the 2007-08 season, Seabrook scored 9 goals and 23 assists in 82 regular season games.

In the 2008-09 season, Seabrook scored 8 goals and 18 assists in 82 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 11 assists in 17 playoff games.

Cam Barker – Drafted no. 3 overall (round 1) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Barker scored 4 goals and 10 assists in 51 regular season games before he was dealt to the Minnesota Wild for Kim Johnsson and prospect Nick Leddy on February 12, 2010.

Skater History: In the 2005-06 season, Barker played 1 game with the Blackhawks before being returned to his junior team for the remainder of the season.

Barker split the 2006-07 season between the Norfolk Admirals and the Blackhawks.  He scored 5 goals and 10 assists in 34 regular season games with the Admirals, along with 1 goal and 3 assists in the playoffs  For the Blackhawks, he scored 1 goal and 7 assists in 35 regular season games.

In the 2007-08 season, Barker played 29 games with the Rockford IceHogs, scoring 8 goals and 11 assists.  For the Blackhawks, Barker scored 6 goals and 12 assists in 45 regular season games.

In the 2008-09 season, Barker started the season with the IceHogs where he played 7 games before being recalled to Chicago.  For the Blackhawks, he scored 6 goals and 34 assists in 68 regular season games, along with 3 goals and 6 assists in 17 playoff games.

Jordan Hendry – Undrafted free agent signed by the Blackhawks on July 17, 2006. In the 2009-10 season, Hendry scored 2 goals and 6 assists in 43 regular season games and played in 15 playoff games.

Skater History: Hendry signed a contract with the Norfolk Admirals in the 2005-06 season, scoring 1 goal and 4 assists in 13 regular season games and played in 3 playoff games. He was subsequently signed by the Blackhawks.

In the 2006-07 season, Hendry played 80 regular season games with the Admirals, scoring 4 goals and 12 assists, along with 2 assists in 6 playoff games.

He split the 2007-08 season between the Rockford IceHogs and the Blackhawks. He played 45 regular season games with the IceHogs, scoring 3 goals and 4 assists, and played in 1 playoff game. For the Blackhawks, Hendry scored 1 goal and 3 assists in 40 regular season games.

In the 2008-09 season, 9 games with the Blackhawks before being returned to the IceHogs, where he scored 3 goals and 6 assists in 53 regular season games, also playing in 4 playoff games.

Kim Johnsson – Drafted no. 286 overall (round 11) by the New York Rangers in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Johnsson scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 8 regular season games with the Blackhawks.

Skater History: After being drafted, Johnsson played 5 seasons for Malmo IF of the Swedish Elite League before joining the Rangers in the 1999-00 season. That season, he scored 6 goals and 15 assists in 76 regular season games. He played with the Rangers until being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on August 20, 2001.
Johnsson played with the Flyers until the 2005-06 season when he signed a 4 year contract with the Minnesota Wild.

In his final season with the Wild, he scored 6 goals and 8 assists in 52 regular season games before he was traded to Chicago with prospect Nick Leddy for Cam Barker on February 12, 2010.

Niklas Hjalmarsson – Drafted no. 108 overall (round 4) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Hjalmarsson scored 2 goals and 15 assists in 77 regular season games, along with 1 goal and 7 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: After being drafted, Hjalmarsson played 2 seasons with HV71 Jonkoping before joining the Rockford IceHogs in the 2007-08 season. With the IceHogs, he scored 4 goals and 9 assists in 47 regular season games, along with 4 assists in 12 playoff games. He also earned a 13 game call up to the Blackhawks, where he scored 1 assist.

In the 2008-09 season, Hjalmarsson scored 2 goals and 16 assists in 52 regular season games for the IceHogs before being called up to Chicago permanently. For Chicago, he scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 21 regular season games, along with 1 assist in 17 playoff games.

Nick Boynton – Drafted no. 9 overall (round 1) by the Washington Capitals in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Redrafted no. 21 overall (round 1) by the Boston Bruins in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Boynton scored 1 assist in 7 regular season games with the Blackhawks, and played in 3 playoff games.

Skater History: Boynton failed to come to terms on a contract agreement with the Washington Capitals and was subsequently redrafted by the Boston Bruins. He played the 1999-00 season with the Providence Bruins, scoring 5 goals and 14 assists in 53 regular season games, along with 1 goal in 12 playoff games. That season, he earned a 5 game call up to Boston but did not record a point.

In the 2000-01 season, Boynton scored 6 goals and 27 assists in 78 regular season games with Providence, along with 2 assists in 17 playoff games. He was recalled for 1 regular season game with Boston but did not record a point.

He played for Boston from the 2001-02 season until the 2005-06 season, scoring 30 points in his best season. Boynton was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes on June 26, 2006 and went on to play with the Coyotes until he was traded at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft to the Florida Panthers.

Boynton signed a 1 year contract with the Anaheim Ducks on July 9, 2009, where he played until being waived to play for Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. From there, he was traded to Chicago for future considerations on March 2, 2010. Boynton was assigned to play for the Rockford IceHogs but was called up to Chicago during the 2009-10 season.

Brent Sopel – Drafted no. 144 overall (round 6) by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Sopel scored 1 goal and 7 assists in 73 regular season games with the Blackhawks, along with 1 goal and 5 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: In the 1995-96 season, Sopel joined Vancouver’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, for 1 game after his junior team was eliminated from the playoffs.

In the 1996-97 season, Sopel again played with his junior team until they were eliminated, whereupon he played 2 regular season games and 3 playoff games with the Crunch.

He played with the Crunch through the 1999-00 season, earning call ups to Vancouver of 5 and 18 games during the 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons respectively. During those call ups he scored 3 goals and 4 assists.

Sopel made the Canucks’ roster in the 2000-01 season and played for them until he was traded to the New York Islanders on August 3, 2005. Less than a week later, he signed a 2 year contract with the Islanders but was traded back to Vancouver at the 2006-07 trade deadline.

On September 28, 2007, Sopel signed a 1 year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks and on January 10, 2008 he signed a 3 year contract extension. During the 2007-08 season, Sopel scored 1 goal and 19 assists in 58 regular season games.

In the 2008-09 season, he scored 1 goal and 1 assist in 23 regular season games.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi stops the last shot by Atlanta Thrashers' Niclas Bergfors during the shootout of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010, in Chicago. The Blackhawks won 5-4. (AP Photo/John Smierciak)
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi stops the last shot by Atlanta Thrashers’ Niclas Bergfors during the shootout of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010, in Chicago. The Blackhawks won 5-4. (AP Photo/John Smierciak)

Goaltending

Antti Niemi – Undrafted free agent signed by Chicago in 2008. In the 2009-10 season, Niemi posted a 0.912 SV% and a GAA of 2.25 during 39 regular season games and 22 playoff games.

Goalie History: Niemi began his professional career, playing 3 seasons with the Pelicans in the SM-liiga before signing with Chicago.

In the 2008-09 season, Niemi played 38 regular season games and 2 playoff games for the Rockford IceHogs, splitting starts with Corey Crawford
. He posted a 0.913 SV% and a GAA of 2.43. He earned a call up to Chicago and played 3 games with a 0.864 SV% and a GAA of 3.40.

Cristobal Huet – Drafted no. 214 overall (round 7) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season, Huet posted a 0.895 SV% and a GAA of 2.50.

Goalie History: After the Kings drafted him, Huet played the 2001-02 season with Lugano of the Swiss National League A.

He joined the Kings in the 2002-03 season, posting a 0.913 SV% and a GAA of 2.33 in 12 games before he was sent down to the Manchester Monarchs. The following season, he played 42 games for the Kings, posting a 0.907 SV% and a GAA of 2.43.

Following the 2004-05 lockout, Huet signed with the Montreal Canadiens, winning the starting job with a 0.929 SV% and a GAA of 2.20 in 36 regular season games and 6 playoff games. He played with Montreal until he was traded to the Washington Capitals on February 26, 2008. With the Capitals, Huet posted a 0.936 SV% and a GAA of 1.63 in 13 regular season games and 7 playoff games.

On July 1, 2008, Huet signed a 4 year deal with the Blackhawks. In the 2008-09 season, he posted a 0.909 SV% and a GAA of 2.53 in 41 regular season games and 3 playoff games.

Corey Crawford
– Drafted no. 52 overall (round 2) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2009-10 season he played 1 game, posting a 0.913 SV% and a GAA of 3.04.

Goalie History: In the 2005-06 season, Crawford joined the Norfolk Admirals, where he played 48 regular season games and 1 playoff game, positing a 0.898 SV% and a GAA of 2.94. The Blackhawks called him up for 2 games, in which he posted a 0.878 SV% and a GAA of 3.47.

In the 2006-07 season, Crawford played 60 regular season games and 6 playoff games with the Admirals, posting a 0.909 SV% and a GAA of 2.84.

In the 2007-08 season, Crawford played 55 regular season games and 12 playoff games with the Rockford IceHogs, posting a 0.907 SV% and a GAA of 2.83. He earned a 5 game call up to Chicago, where he posted a 0.929 SV% and a GAA of 2.14.

In the 2008-09 season, Crawford played 47 regular season games and 2 playoff games for the IceHogs, posting a 0.917 SV% and a GAA of 2.59. He was called up for 1 game in the Blackhawks 2009 playoff game.

In the 2009-10 season, Crawford played 45 regular season games and 4 playoff games, posting a 0.909 SV% and a GAA of 2.67.

CHICAGO - APRIL 24: Patrick Sharp #13 and Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate a goal by teammate Patrick Kane #88 with 13 seconds left in regulation time against the Nashville Predators in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 24, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Predators 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO – APRIL 24: Patrick Sharp #13 and Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate a goal by teammate Patrick Kane #88 with 13 seconds left in regulation time against the Nashville Predators in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 24, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Predators 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Impact Players

Okay, now we know where everybody came from, on to the fun part.  The following stats are pulled from war-on-ice.com. Great site, check them out.  The following lists are restricted to players with a minimum of 20 games played. The most obvious place to begin is by asking who scored the most points?  The top 10 point producers for the Blackhawks in the regular season in all situations were:

  1. Patrick Kane – 88 points in 82 games, good for 3.35 points per 60 minutes
  2. Duncan Keith – 69 points in 82 games, good for 1.92 points per 60 minutes
  3. Jonathan Toews – 68 points in 76 games, good for 2.68 points per 60 minutes
  4. Patrick Sharp – 66 points in 82 games, good for 2.65  points per 60 minutes
  5. Marian Hossa – 51 points in 57 games, good for 2.89 points per 60 minutes
  6. Kris Versteeg – 44 points in 79 games, good for 2.16 points per 60 minutes
  7. Troy Brouwer – 40 points in 78 games, good for 1.87 points per 60 minutes
  8. Brian Campbell – 38 points in 68 games, good for 1.44 points per 60 minutes
  9. Andrew Ladd – 38 points in 82 games, good for 2.05 points per 60 minutes
  10. Dustin Byfuglien – 34 points in 82 games, good for 1.51 points per 60 minutes

While P60 and point totals are nice stats and certainly indicative in certain instances (e.g. Kane’s 88 point season), and games are ultimately determined by which team puts the puck in the net the most times, these stats can be influenced by luck and player usage.  A player can score more in a season by getting good bounces or being played more on power play or getting more offensive zone starts etc.  If the one-eyed man sees flat, examining the question of which players had the most impact upon the season from multiple angles makes sense.  Let’s take a look at who controlled play.  Corsi for % is generally accepted as a reasonable shot attempt based proxy for which team controls play and, in this instance, I am only examining Corsi for % in 5v5 situations to avoid penalizing/rewarding penalty killers and power players respectively.  This list is biased toward players with a higher percentage of offensive zone starts but I will indicate the extent of this bias by including the relative fraction of offensive vs defensive zone starts or ZSO%Rel (negative numbers indicate more defensive zone starts and vice versa for positive numbers and offensive zone starts).  The top 10 Blackhawks in the regular season were:

  1. Marian Hossa – 60.30 CF% – (8.33 ZSO%Rel)
  2. Patrick Sharp – 59.54 CF% – (8.96 ZSO%Rel)
  3. Jonathan Toews – 59.34 CF% – (4.68 ZSO%Rel)
  4. Brian Campbell – 58.45 CF% – (3.33 ZSO%Rel)
  5. Jordan Hendry – 58.09 CF% – (11.47 ZSO%Rel)
  6. Patrick Kane – 58.02 CF% – (15.95 ZSO%Rel)
  7. Tomas Kopecky – 57.51 CF% – (2.57 ZSO%Rel)
  8. Duncan Keith – 57.39 CF% – (-6.71 ZSO%Rel)
  9. Cam Barker – 56.23 CF% – (9.65 ZSO%Rel)
  10. Kris Versteeg – 56.16 CF% – (-4.21 ZSO%Rel)

From this we start to narrow our list to Toews, Sharp, Hossa, Kane, Kieth and Versteeg as the true impact players.  Overall, the Blackhawks had no player with more than 20 games played with a 5v5 CF% of less than 52.21, an astonishing testament to their puck possession prowess.  But to make the playoffs, let alone win the Cup you need some guys to get some puck luck or at least, you need your guys who control play less well to overcome this shortcoming via skill.  Whichever way you want to look at it, personal shooting percentage is very relevant to who gets hot in a season.  After all, while controlling play is all well and good and generally means your team gets more chances than the opposition, at the end of the day, you want your guys to produce.  In the 2009-10 season, league average all situation shooting percentage was 9.15%.  With that in mind, the top 10 PSh% on the Blackhawks belonged to these players:

  1. Troy Brouwer – 19.13 PSh%
  2. Jonathan Toews – 12.38 PSh%
  3. Marian Hossa – 12.06 PSh%
  4. Patrick Kane – 11.54 PSh%
  5. Andrew Ladd – 11.49 PSh%
  6. Dave Bolland – 11.32 PSh%
  7. Kris Versteeg – 10.87 PSh%
  8. Tomas Kopecky – 10.53 PSh%
  9. Ben Eager – 10.29 PSh%
  10. Patrick Sharp – 9.43 PSh%

These 10 were, in fact, the only 10 Blackhawks of 20 with more than 20 games played who had an above league average PSh%.  Obviously, in some cases a player may be elite and therefore sustain a higher PSh% and it helps when you have setup men as skilled as Kane and Keith on the team but clearly some portion of this should be attributed to luck (at least within the confines of this season).  With an overall PDO of 99.9 on the season, it’s safe to say the Blackhawks were neither overly lucky nor unlucky but because they controlled play in the majority of situations, they were able to stack the deck in their favor.  In any case, which guys were truly impact players for the 2009-10 Blackhawks?  With the prior criteria in mind, the list looks something like this:

  1. Jonathan Toews – 59.34 CF% – (4.68 ZSO%Rel) – 12.38 PSh% – 68 points in 76 games – 2.68 points per 60
  2. Marian Hossa – 60.30 CF% – (8.33 ZSO%Rel) – 12.06 PSh% – 51 points in 57 games – 2.89 points per 60
  3. Patrick Kane – 58.02 CF% – (15.95 ZSO%Rel) – 11.54 PSh% – 88 points in 82 – 3.35 points per 60
  4. Patrick Sharp – 59.54 CF% – (8.96 ZSO%Rel) – 9.43 PSh% – 66 points in 82 games – 2.65  points per 60
  5. Kris Versteeg – 56.16 CF% – (-4.21 ZSO%Rel) – 10.87 PSh% – 44 points in 79 games – 2.16 points per 60
  6. Duncan Keith – 57.39 CF% – (-6.71 ZSO%Rel) – 5.63 PSh% – 69 points in 82 games – 1.92 points per 60
  7. Brian Campbell – 58.45 CF% – (3.33 ZSO%Rel) – 3.66 PSh% – 38 points in 68 games – 1.44 points per 60
  8. Troy Brouwer – 55.35 CF% – (-1.79 ZSO%Rel) – 19.13 PSh% – 40 points in 78 games – 1.87 points per 60
  9. Andrew Ladd – 56.14 CF% – (0.63 ZSO%Rel) – 11.49 PSh% – 38 points in 82 games – 2.05 points per 60
  10. Tomas Kopecky – 57.51 CF% – (2.57 ZSO%Rel) – 10.53 PSh% – 19 points in 74 games – 1.78 points per 60

mont-toews-stal_slide

Player Development

While each player is unique and the paths to the NHL are many, it is worth examining how long it took players to make the NHL.  I’ve gone over some of this in the Skater and Goalie Histories, but let’s dig in a little deeper.  First thing’s first, which players did the Blackhawks draft or sign as undrafted free agents?

  1. Patrick Kane – no. 1 overall, made NHL year 1
  2. Jonathan Toews – no. 3 overall, made NHL year 2
  3. Cam Barker – no. 3 overall, made NHL year 5
  4. Jack Skille – no. 7 overall, called up year 3
  5. Brent Seabrook – no. 14 overall, made NHL year 3
  6. Dave Bolland – no. 32 overall, made NHL year 5
  7. Bryan Bickell – no. 41 overall, called up year 3
  8. Corey Crawford – no. 52 overall, called up year 3
  9. Duncan Keith – no. 54 overall, made NHL year 5
  10. Niklas Hjalmarsson – no. 108 overall, made NHL year 5
  11. Jake Dowell – no. 140 overall, called up year 4
  12. Troy Brouwer – no. 214 overall, made NHL year 6
  13. Dustin Byfuglien – no. 245 overall, made NHL year 6
  14. Adam Burish – no. 282 overall, made NHL year 6
  15. Jordan Hendry – undrafted free agent signed 2006, made NHL year 4
  16. Antti Niemi – undrafted free agent signed 2008, made NHL year 2

The skaters on this list averaged 3.9 years before they earned a permanent spot on the NHL roster.  The earliest drafted player is Duncan Keith in 2002, the latest drafted player is Patrick Kane in 2007.  Niemi was signed in 2008 but had already played professional hockey in the SM-liiga so was farther along in his development than a typical drafted goaltender.  Hjalmarsson and Keith were excellent value picks and Brouwer and Byfuglien becoming good NHL players were pleasant surprises.  Only 4 of the 16 became impact players, though 11 of the 16 logged significant minutes.  Chicago built their team around Toews and Kane but some of the lower round draft picks have to pan out eventually for a team to have success.  Stares daggers at, Edmonton.  Goalies are important to a team but Chicago built their team to out-possess the opponent and suppress the shot volume faced by their goaltender, thereby lessening the importance of the position to some degree.  I’m not saying Niemi is just some guy they threw in there, because he has been a good goaltender over the course of his career and some credit should be given to the Blackhawks’ scouting staff for identifying his potential.   However, the team did not need to draft a goalie no. 1 overall or trade the moon for an established stud netminder.

Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa (81) celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal as Nashville Predators' Shea Weber reacts during the overtime period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Western Conference first-round playoff series Saturday, April 24, 2010, in Chicago. The Blackhawks won 5-4 in overtime.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa (81) celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal as Nashville Predators’ Shea Weber reacts during the overtime period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Western Conference first-round playoff series Saturday, April 24, 2010, in Chicago. The Blackhawks won 5-4 in overtime.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Key Acquisitions

The young guns are essential but if you’re gonna win, you have to fill out your roster with some wily veterans.  This can be accomplished through free agency or trades and the Blackhawks did both.  Acquisition of good veteran players is rarely accomplished in a single season as there are, at any given time, a limited number of them available and 29 other general managers are scrabbling to get their filthy mitts on them.  This process can take a number of seasons and requires a savvy GM to target which ones will compliment his team and which ones will put it over the top.  From the 2006-07 season to the 2009-10 season, the Blackhawks went from 5th in the Central Division, to 3rd, to 2nd, to 1st and a Stanley Cup.  So how did the Blackhawks acquire their veteran talent?

Free Agents

Trade Targets

Waivers

* age of player during the 2009-10 season.

The average age of these acquisitions was 28.1 with the oldest being Madden (36) and the youngest being Smolenak (22).  Of the 15 veteran acquisitions they made, 13 played significant roles in the Blackhawks’ success, while 6 became impact players.

kane_savard

1st Round Club But how many first round picks were there?  Okay, here’s the list of players drafted in round 1 who played on the 2009-10 Blackhawks roster in order of where they were drafted.

  1. Patrick Kane – no. 1 overall
  2. Jonathan Toews – no. 3 overall
  3. Cam Barker – no. 3 overall
  4. Andrew Ladd – no. 4 overall
  5. Jack Skille – no. 7 overall
  6. Marian Hossa – no. 12 overall
  7. Brent Seabrook – no. 14 overall
  8. Nick Boynton – no. 21 overall
  9. Ben Eager – no. 23 overall

44% of these players were taken in the top 5, 55% went in the top 10, 77% in the top half of the first round.  Cam Barker was traded for Johnsson and Nick Leddy and, while Leddy did not play for the Blackhawks in the 2009-10 season, he was instrumental in their 2013 Cup run.  Chicago drafted 55% of these players, 50% if we subtract Cam Barker.

Hindsight Is 20/20

The Blackhawks built the core of their roster around Kane, Toews, Keith and Seabrook, adding Hossa, Sharp and Versteeg to round out the  core.  They filled out the roster with tremendous depth players whose common denominator was skill and the ability to play defensively.  The construction of the core was the key to their success.  By correctly identifying which players were important and which were not, they were able to trade away peripheral players and retain a healthy stable of prospects to rotate into the lineup as replacements.  By doing so, they have remained competitive over a longer stretch than the Penguins and have not lost too many key players to the cap crunch.  The Blackhawks model is a good example of sustainability in the modern NHL.  The only trouble with the Blackhawks and Penguins model in today’s NHL is that players of the ilk of Marian Hossa almost never reach free agency.  This has placed a larger importance on the draft and a GM’s ability to make smart trades while maintaining healthy trade relationships.  Is the Blackhawks model replicable?  Perhaps, but in the current NHL, a team would probably have to avoid the Cam Barkers and likely draft an impact player there.  There is always the option of selling high on such players, but they are time sensitive goods and it takes a smart GM to identify them in time.

Assembly of a Winning Roster Pt. 1 (2008-09 Penguins edition)

There has been much debate about how close or far away the Sabres are from being a playoff caliber team.  They have some young players already on the roster, a respectable number of quality prospects and more on the way with the draft coming up but we are told that it will be two to three years, if not longer, before they can make any noise in the playoffs, let alone challenge for the Stanley Cup.  So how far out are they?  With that question in mind, I have selected three teams who have undergone similar rebuild situations and won the Cup in recent memory to try to get an estimate of the time frame we’re looking at.  In this series, I intend to dissect the rosters of each team and how they were assembled.  I will discuss how long it took players to develop into quality NHLers and identify key acquisitions and what made them vital or trivial to that team’s success.

061209_DET_PIT_TeamPhotoNig

The Record

I’m going to do this chronologically and begin with the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Penguins finished the regular season with a record of 45-28-9 (99 points), good for 2nd in the Atlantic Division.  They finished 19th in the league in Corsi for percentage of total at 48.1.  However, by adding their league leading 9.7 team shooting percentage to their 14th ranked team save percentage of 92.2, they managed to finish 3rd in the league in PDO at 101.9.  This disparity between PDO and Corsi rankings can indicate an unusually skillful team, an unusually lucky team or a little bit of both.  I am inclined to go with the third option but the point here is that they won, not to debate how lucky they may have been.  I will say that no matter how good your roster, coach or general manager, winning a Stanley Cup is contingent upon getting at least a little lucky.

The Roster

I’ve ordered this list based upon position and average time on ice per game.  On average, coaches give the most minutes to the players they feel can best handle them and it stands to reason that the players on the ice for the greatest percentage of the game should generally have the largest impact upon the outcome.  The 2008-09 Penguins (like the current Sabres) built their roster around the center position.  This seems like a good place to begin.

Crosby-Malkin-Staal-600x500

Centers

Sidney Crosby – Drafted no. 1 overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Crosby scored 33 goals and 70 assists in 77 regular season games along with 15 goals and 16 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Crosby entered the league at the age of 18 in the 2005-06 season, played top line minutes for the Penguins scoring 39 goals and 63 assists in 81 games played.  The next closest players on the roster in the goals column were Mark Recchi (24) and John LeClair (22). The next closest players in assists were Sergei Gonchar (46) and Mark Recchi (33). That season they missed the playoffs.

In the 2006-07 season, Crosby scored 36 goals and 84 assists in 79 regular season games along with 3 goals 2 assists in 5 playoff games.  Crosby is amazing.

In the 2007-08 season, Crosby scored 24 goals and 48 assists in 53 regular season games along with 6 goals and 21 assists in 20 playoff games.  The Penguins were eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final in 6 games by the Detroit Red Wings.

Evgeni Malkin – Drafted no. 2 overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Malkin scored 35 goals and 78 assists in 82 regular season games along with 14 goals and 22 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Malkin’s NHL debut was delayed until the 2006-07 season due to an international transfer dispute with his original club Metallurg Magnitogorsk. In that season, Malkin posted 33 goals and 52 assists in 78 regular season games along with 4 assists in 5 playoff games.

In the 2007-08 season, Malkin scored 47 goals and 59 assists in 82 regular season games along with 10 goals 12 assists in 20 playoff games.

Jordan Staal – Drafted no. 2 overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Staal scored 22 goals and 27 assists in 82 regular season games along with 4 goals and 5 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: In the 2006-07 season, at the age of 18, Staal scored 29 goals and 13 assists in 81 regular season games along with 3 goals in 5 playoff games.

In the 2007-08 season, Staal scored 12 goals and 16 assists in 82 regular season games along with 6 goals and 1 assist in 20 playoff games.

Max Talbot – Drafted no. 234 overall (round 8) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Talbot scored 12 goals and 10 assists in 75 regular season games along with 8 goals and 5 assists in 24 playoff games.  2 of those goals came in the Penguins 2-1 win in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings.

Skater History: Talbot went pro in the 2004-05 season spending the season with the Penguins AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, where he scored 7 goals and 12 assists in 75 regular season games along with 1 assist in 11 playoff games.

Talbot split the 2005-06 season between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh, scoring 12 goals and 20 assists with the WBS Pens in the regular season along with 3 goals and 6 assists in 11 playoff games.  For the Pittsburgh Penguins, he scored 5 goals and 3 assists in 48 games.

In the 2006-07 season, Talbot played only 5 games for the WBS Pens, scoring 4 goals in those games.  He played 75 games with the Pittsburgh team and scored 13 goals and 10 assists along with 1 assist in 5 playoff games.

In the 2007-08 season, Talbot scored 12 goals and 14 assists in 63 regular season games along with 3 goals and 6 assists in 17 playoff games.

Ryan Stone – Drafted no. 32 overall (round 2) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  In the Pen’s Cup season he played 2 games.  Basically only important because he was part of a package to trade for Mathieu Garon on January 17, 2009.

Dustin Jeffrey – Drafted no. 171 overall (round6) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Jeffrey scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 14 regular season games.

Skater History: Jeffrey joined the WBS Penguins for their 2007-08 playoff run, scoring 2 goals and 1 assist in 15 playoff games.  In the 2008-09 season, Jeffrey scored 11 goals and 26 assists in 63 regular season games for the WBS Penguins along with 5 goals and 5 assists in 12 playoff games.

Mike Zigomanis – Originally drafted no. 64 overall (round 2) by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Redrafted no. 46 overall (round 2) by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, he scored 2 goals and 4 assists in 22 regular season games for the Penguins.

Skater History: After bouncing around several AHL teams and making some brief appearances with NHL Clubs, he finally caught on with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2006-07.  He was traded to Pittsburgh for future considerations on October 9, 2008.

Craig Adams – Drafted no. 223 overall (round 9) by the Hartford Whalers in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.  During his time with the Penguins in the 2008-09 season, he played 9 games, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist in the regular season and 3 goals and 2 assists in 24 playoff games.  He has been on the roster ever since.

Skater History: Played a 4th line role for the Carolina Hurricanes between the 2000-01 season and 2007-08 when he was traded mid-season to the Chicago Blackhawks.  On March 4, 2009 Adams was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh.

Ruslan+Fedotenko+Alex+Goligoski+Pittsburgh+9n15wZuslePl

Left Wing

Chris Kunitz – Undrafted free agent signed by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, April 1, 2003.  For the Penguins, in the 2008-09 season, Kunitz scored 7 goals and 11 assists in 20 regular season games along with 1 goal and 13 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Briefly acquired off of waivers by the Atlanta Thrashers but reacquired the same way by Anaheim.  In the 2006-07 season, Kunitz scored 25 goals and 35 assists in 81 regular season games along with 1 goal and 5 assists in 13 playoff games en route to the Ducks’ first Stanley Cup in franchise history.  His play dipped the following season and did not improve in the 2008-09 season.  He was traded with prospect Eric Tangradi to Pittsburgh for defenseman Ryan Whitney.

Ruslan Fedotenko – Undrafted free agent signed by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1999. In the 2008-09 season he scored 16 goals and 23 assists in 65 regular season games along with 7 goals and 7 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Fedotenko played with the Flyers from the 2000-01 season to the 2001-02 season.  He was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the off season and in 2004 scored the game winning goal in game 7 against the Calgary Flames to lead the franchise to its first Stanley Cup.  He then went on to sign a series of 1 year contracts with Tampa Bay, the New York Islanders and finally Pittsburgh.

Tyler Kennedy – Drafted no. 99 overall (round 4) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Kennedy scored 15 goals and 20 assists in 67 regular season games along with 5 goals and 4 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Kennedy played the 2006-07 season with the WBS Penguins, scoring 12 goals and 25 assists in 40 regular season games.

In the 2007-08 season, he played 10 games with the WBS Penguins, scoring 5 goals and 4 assists before being called up to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he scored 10 goals and 9 assists in 55 regular season games along with 4 assists in 20 playoff games.

Matt Cooke – Drafted no. 144 overall (round 6) by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Cooke scored 13 goals and 18 assists in 76 regular season games along with 1 goal and 6 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Cooke split the 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons between Vancouver and their AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch, scoring 20 goals and 26 assists in 55 regular season games for the Crunch. For the Canucks he scored 5 goals and 9 assists in 81 games for Vancouver.

Between the 2000-01 season and the 2007-08 season he averaged 11.14 goals and 15.85 assists per season along with 8 goals and 4 assists in 32 playoff appearances. With his contract set to expire, Cooke was traded to Washington at the 2007-08 trade deadline. He scored 3 goals and 4 assists in 17 regular season games. He signed a 2 year deal with Pittsburgh the following off season.

Pascal Dupuis – Undrafted free agent signed by the Minnesota Wild.  In the 2008-09 season, he scored 12 goals and 16 assists in 71 regular season games.

Skater History: After being signed by the Wild, Dupuis continued to develop for a year in the International Hockey League before joining the Wild for a full season in the 2001-02 season in which he scored 15 goals and 12 assists in 76 games.  He stayed with the Wild until the 2006-07 season when he was traded to the New York Rangers and then, after a cup of coffee, to the Atlanta Thrashers.  On February 9, 2008 he was traded to Pittsburgh along with Marian Hossa in exchange for Colby Armstrong (drafted round 1), Erik Christensen (drafted round 3), prospect Angelo Esposito (drafted round 1) and a first round draft pick.

Luca Caputi – Drafted no. 111 overall (round 4) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, he scored 1 goal in 5 games played.

Chris Minard – Training camp signing by the New Jersey Devils for the Albany River Rats in the 2005-06 season. In the 2008-09 season, he scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 20 regular season games.

Skater History: After playing with the River Rats, Minard played for New Jersey’s newly affiliated AHL team the Lowell Devils. When his contract expired, he was signed as a free agent by Pittsburgh in the summer of 2007.

Janne Pesonen – Drafted no. 269 overall (round 9) by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Pesonen played 7 games.

Skater History: Pesonen never played for the team that drafted him, rather playing for Kärpät in the SM-liiga. Kärpät won the Finnish championship in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008. In his last season for Kärpät before being signed by the Penguins as a free agent, Pesonen scored 34 goals and 44 assists in 56 games.

Jeff Taffe – Drafted no. 30 overall (round 1) by the St. Louis Blues in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Taffe scored 2 assists in 8 games.

Skater History: Taffe played 3 seasons with the University of Minnesota and his rights were traded to the Phoenix Coyotes where he was in and out of the lineup between the 2002-03 and 2005-06 seasons until he was traded to the New York Rangers where he played 2 games before being traded back to Phoenix. He signed a 1 year contract with Pittsburgh on July 13, 2007. He re-signed the following season.

Paul Bissonnette – Drafted no. 121 overall (round 4) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Bissonnette scored 1 assist in 15 regular season games and racked up 22 PIM.

Skater History: Between the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons, Bissonnette bounced between the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL and the WBS Penguins where he built a reputation as an enforcer. He made his NHL debut in the 2008-09 season with Pittsburgh.

Miro

Right Wing

Bill Guerin – Drafted no. 5 overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Guerin scored 5 goals and 7 assists in 17 regular season games along with 7 goals and 8 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Guerin played with the Devils from 1991-98 when he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. He played for Edmonton until the 2000-01 season when he was traded to the Boston Bruins. In 2002 Guerin signed a 5 year deal with the Dallas Stars but was bought out in the third year. He signed with the St. Louis Blues and was traded to the San Jose Sharks midway through the 2006-07 season. He signed a 2 year contract with the New York Islanders in 2007 and was traded to Pittsburgh on March 4, 2009 for a conditional 4th round draft pick which later became a 3rd.

Miroslav Satan – Drafted no. 111 (round 5) by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Satan scored 17 goals and 19 assists in 65 regular season games along with 1 goal and 5 assists in 17 playoff games.

Skater History: Satan played for Edmonton from 1995 until 1997 when he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres where he played until 2004-05 lockout. He lead the Sabres in scoring in 6 of those 7 seasons. Satan signed a free agent contract with the New York Islanders and played for them until 2008 when he signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh.

Petr Sykora – Drafted no. 18 overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Sykora scored 25 goals and 21 assists in 76 regular season games along with 1 assist in 7 playoff games.

Skater History: Sykora played for the Devils from 1995 through 2002, spending portions of his first three seasons with the Albany River Rats. He helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup in 2000 and return to the Stanley Cup Final the following season. He was traded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim before the start of the 2002-03 season. After 3 seasons with the Ducks, punctuated by a season played for Magnitogorsk Metallurg during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, he requested to be traded to the New York Rangers. The Rangers did not renew his contract and Sykora signed a 1 year deal with the Edmonton Oilers. In July, 2007 he signed a 2 year contract with Pittsburgh.

Connor James – Drafted no. 279 overall (round 9) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, James played one game with the Penguins.

Tim Wallace – Undrafted free agent signed by Pittsburgh in 2006.  In the 2008-09 season, Wallace scored 2 assists in 16 games.

Skater History: Wallace played 4 years for Notre Dame before being signed by Pittsburgh following a tryout. From 2006 through 2009, he played for the WBS Penguins. He was briefly called up to Pittsburgh during the 2008-09 season.

Bill Thomas – Undrafted free agent signed by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2006. In the 2008-09 season, Thomas scored 2 goals and 1 assist in 16 games.

Skater History: Thomas split the seasons between 2005 and 2008 between the San Antonio Rampage and the Phoenix Coyotes. In the 2007-08 season, he led the Rampage in goals until he earned a call up to Phoenix. The following season he was signed by Pittsburgh.

Eric Godard – Undrafted free agent signed by the Florida Panthers in 1999. In the 2008-09 season, Godard scored 2 goals and 2 assists in 71 regular season games.

Skater History: Godard never played for the Florida Panthers but played for their AHL affiliate, the Louisville Panthers, and was traded to the New York Islanders in the summer of 2002. After his NHL debut on October 17, 2002, Godard bounced back and forth between the Islanders and their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. During that time he carved out a role as an enforcer, racking up huge penalty minutes. In August, 2006 he signed with the Calgary Flames where he bounced between Calgary and their AHL affiliate, the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, until 2008. He signed a 3 year contract with Pittsburgh on July 1, 2008.

sergei-gonchar

Defense

Brooks Orpik – Drafted no. 18 overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Orpik scored 2 goals and 17 assists in 79 regular season games along with 4 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Orpik played the 2001-02 season for the WBS Penguins, logging 2 goals and 18 assists in 78 games. The following season, he played 6 games with the Pittsburgh team and was sent back to the WBS Pens.

In the 2003-04 season, Orpik earned a permanent roster spot in Pittsburgh as a second pairing shutdown defenseman.

Orpik continued to develop over the next 4 seasons, eventually being trusted with upward of 20 minutes a night.

Rob Scuderi – Drafted no. 134 overall (round 5) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Scuderi scored 1 goal and 15 assists in 81 regular season games along with 1 goal and 4 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Scuderi played for the WBS Penguins from 2001 through 2005. He was called up to the Pittsburgh team for a 13 game stint during the 2003-04 season, logging 1 goal and 2 assists.

In the 2005-06 season, he scored 4 assists in 57 games for Pittsburgh while playing heavy defensive minutes.

The 2006-07 season Scuderi finally cracked the NHL lineup full time where he logged an overall positive goal differential despite the extreme defensive role he was often asked to play.

Ryan Whitney – Drafted no. 5 overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Whitney scored 2 goals and 11 assists in 28 games before Pittsburgh traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for Kunitz and Tangradi.

Skater History: Whitney played his first games for the WBS Penguins in their 2004 playoff run, logging 1 goal and 9 assists in 20 games.

In the 2004-05 season, Whitney scored 6 goals and 35 assists for the WBS Pens in 80 regular season games along with 2 goals and 7 assists in 11 playoff games.

Ryan earned a permanent call up in the 2005-06 season after scoring 5 goals and 9 assists in 9 games for the WBS Pens. In 68 games with Pittsburgh, he recorded 6 goals and 32 assists.

Whitney’s offensive production peaked in the 2006-07 season which saw him score 14 goals and 45 assists in 81 regular season games along with 1 goal and 1 assist in 5 playoff games.

In the 2007-08 season, his production declined to 12 goals and 28 assists in 76 regular season games along with 1 goal and 5 assists in 20 playoff games.

Hal Gill – Drafted no. 207 overall (round 8) by the Boston Bruins in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Gill scored 2 goals and 8 assists in 62 regular season games along with 2 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: After 4 years playing for Providence College, Gill played for the Bruins from 1997 through 2006. He signed a 3 year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs before the 2006-07 season where he was productive, scoring 6 goals and 14 assists in 82 games followed by 2 goals and 18 assists in 63 games before being traded to Pittsburgh on February 9, 2008 for a 2nd and 5th round draft pick.

Sergei Gonchar – Drafted no. 14 overall by the Washington Capitols in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Gonchar scored 6 goals and 13 assists in 25 regular season games along with 3 goals and 11 assists in 22 playoff games.

Skater History: Gonchar played for the Washington Capitol’s AHL affiliate Portland Pirates for 2 playoff games in 1994 and 61 games in the 1995-96 season, scoring 10 goals and 32 assists before being called up to Washington. He played for Washington from 1995 until 2004 when he was traded to the Boston Bruins. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Gonchar signed a 5 year deal with the Penguins.

Kris Letang – Drafted no. 62 overall (round 3) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Letang scored 10 goals and 23 assists in 74 regular season games along with 4 goals and 9 assists in 23 playoff games.

Skater History: In the 2007-08 season, Letang played only 10 games for the WBS Penguins, scoring 1 goal and 6 assists, before being called up to Pittsburgh. He scored 6 goals and 11 assists in 63 regular season games along with 2 assists in 16 playoff games.

Mark Eaton – Undrafted free agent signed by the Philadelphia Flyers in August, 1998. In the 2008-09 season, Eaton scored 4 goals and 5 assists in 68 regular season games along with 4 goals and 3 assists in 24 playoff games.

Skater History: Eaton played the 1998-99 season with the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, and 47 games of the 1999-00 season before being called up to the Flyers. He was traded to the Nashville Predators and played for them until 2006. On July 3, 2006, Pittsburgh signed Eaton in free agency where he was in and out of the lineup for throughout the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

Philippe Boucher – Drafted no. 13 overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 1991. In the 2008-09 season, Boucher scored 3 goals and 3 assists in 25 regular season games along with 1 goal and 3 assists in 9 playoff games. He retired from the NHL the following off season.

Skater History: Between 1992 and 1995, Boucher went back and forth between Buffalo and their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in the 1994-95 season where he bounced between the NHL and various IHL teams until the 2001-02 season which saw him play 80 games with LA. The next off season he signed a free agent contract with the Dallas Stars where he played well until November 16, 2008 when he was traded to Pittsburgh for Darryl Sydor.

Darryl Sydor – Drafted no. 7 overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Sydor scored 1 goal and 1 assist before being traded to the Dallas Stars for Philippe Boucher.

Skater History: After an 18 game stretch with LA, Sydor returned to juniors where he helped the Kamloops Blazers win the 1992 Memorial Cup championship. The following season he joined the Wayne Gretzky led Kings and played with the team through the season and playoff run that went to the Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Montreal Canadiens. Sydor played with the Kings until the 1995-96 season when he was traded to the Dallas Stars. In the 1998-99 season, Sydor helped the Stars to win their first Stanley Cup championship, in which Brett Hull scored an illegal goal against goaltender Dominik Hasek in 3 OT of game 6; a goal which was, nevertheless, allowed, due to abysmal officiating, it ultimately proved to be the series clincher.  No hard feelings here.  He played with the Stars until he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the summer of 2003. He played 49 games for Columbus before they traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning where he won his second Stanley Cup, helping the Lightning defeat the Calgary Flames in 7 games.  After the 2004-05 lockout Sydor played for the Lightning for another season before being traded back to Dallas in the 2006 off season.  He signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent in the summer of 2007.

Ben Lovejoy – Undrafted free agent signed to the WBS Penguins in the 2007 off season. In the 2008-09 season, Lovejoy played 2 regular season games with Pittsburgh.

Alex Goligoski – Drafted no. 61 overall (round 2) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season, Goligoski scored 6 goals and 14 assists in 45 regular season games along with 1 assist in 2 playoff games.

Skater History: Goligoski played with the University of Minnesota from 2004 through 2007.

He played the 2007-08 season primarily with the WBS Penguins and was called up to Pittsburgh for 3 games in that span.

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Goaltending

Marc-Andre Fleury – Drafted no. 1 overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season Fleury posted a 0.912 SV% and a GAA of 2.67.

Goalie History: Fleury started the 2003-04 season with the Penguins immediately after being drafted. He was sent back to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL in lieu of the team not wanting to pay him a $3m performance bonus, despite his offer to forfeit the bonus. After a first round elimination with his junior team, Fleury joined the WBS Penguins for 2 games in their playoff run.

Fleury played the 2004-05 lockout season with the WBS Pens, posting a 0.901 SV% and a GAA of 2.54.

In the 2005-06 season, Fleury played 12 games with WBS before being recalled to Pittsburgh where he played 50 games and posted an 0.898 SV% and a GAA of 3.25 behind a porous Pittsburgh defense.

In the 2006-07 season, he won 40 of 67 games and finished the season with a 0.906 SV% and a 2.83 GAA.

He was injured in the 2007-08 season and played only 35 games, winning 19 and posting a 0.921 SV% and a 2.33 GAA.

Dany Sabourin – Drafted no. 108 overall (round 4) by the Calgary Flames in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. In the 2008-09 season he played 19 games, winning 6 and posting a 0.898 SV% and a 2.85 GAA.

Goalie History: Sabourin joined the Flames’ AHL affiliate, the Saint John Flames, in the 2000-01 season. In the 2003-04 season he played 4 games with the Calgary Flames. In the 2004-05 season he went from the Wheeling Nailers to the WBS Penguins. In the 2005-06 season he earned a call up to Pittsburgh where he played 1 game only to be claimed off of waivers by Vancouver. On May 3, 2007, Sabourin replaced goaltender Roberto Luongo for the first frame of overtime in a playoff game while Luongo was overcome by diarrhea. The following off season, Sabourin signed on with Pittsburgh in free agency.

Mathieu Garon – Drafted no. 44 overall (round 2) by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.  In the 2008-09 season, Garon played 4 games for Pittsburgh, posting a 0.894 SV% and a 2.91 GAA.

Goalie History: Garon spent his first 5 seasons for various AHL affiliates of the Montreal Canadiens earning brief call ups to Montreal in the 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.  In the 2003-04 season he played 19 games as the Canadiens’ full time backup goaltender.  In the 2004 off season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. During the 2004-05 lockout season, he played with the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs where a strong performance earned him a the Kings’ starting job in the 2005-06 season. The following season he was relegated to the backup position after struggling as a starter. In the 2007 off season, he signed with the Edmonton Oilers in free agency where he split time as the starter until being traded to Pittsburgh for Sabourin and a 4th round draft pick.

John Curry – Undrafted free agent signed by Pittsburgh in July, 2007. In the 2008-09 season, he played 3 games for Pittsburgh, posting a 0.913 SV% and a 2.40 GAA.

Goalie History: After being signed, Curry was intended to be the WBS Penguins’ backup behind Ty Conklin. However, after Conklin was called up to Pittsburgh, due to an injury to Fleury. During that time Curry’s strong play earned him the WBS started job.

won 2009 cup

Impact Players

Okay, now we know where everybody came from, we can start to splice this up and try to figure out the anatomy of a Stanley Cup championship team.  Nurse, scalpel.  (Oh yeah, the following stats are pulled from war-on-ice.com. Great site, check them out.)  The following lists are restricted to players with a minimum of 20 games played.

The most obvious place to begin is by asking who scored the most points?  The top 10 players in the regular season in all situations were:

  1. Evgeni Malkin – 113 points in 82 games, good for 3.70 points per 60 minutes.
  2. Sidney Crosby – 103 points in 77 games, good for 3.63 points per 60 minutes.
  3. Jordan Staal – 49 points in 82 games, good for 1.82 points per 60 minutes.
  4. Petr Sykora – 46 points in 76 games, good for 2.24 points per 60 minutes.
  5. Ruslan Fedotenko – 39 points in 65 games, good for 2.57 points per 60 minutes.
  6. Miroslav Satan – 36  points in 65 games, good for 2.13 points per 60 minutes.
  7. Tyler Kennedy – 35 points in 67 games, good for 2.25 points per 60 minutes.
  8. Kris Letang – 33 points in 74 games, good for 1.27 points per 60 minutes.
  9. Matt Cooke – 31 points in 76 games, good for 1.72 points per 60 minutes.
  10. Pascal Dupuis – 28 points in 71 games, good for 1.65 points per 60 minutes.

While P60 and point totals are nice stats and certainly indicative in certain instances (e.g. Malkin’s 113 point season), and games are ultimately determined by which team puts the puck in the net the most times, these stats can be influenced by luck and player usage.  A player can score more in a season by getting good bounces or being played more on power play or getting more offensive zone starts etc.  If the one eyed man sees flat, examining the question of which players had the most impact upon the season from multiple angles makes sense.  Let’s take a look at who controlled play.  Corsi for % is generally accepted as a reasonable shot attempt based proxy for which team controls play and, in this instance, I am only examining Corsi for % in 5v5 situations to avoid penalizing/rewarding penalty killers and power players respectively.  This list is biased toward players with a higher percentage of offensive zone starts but I will indicate the extent of this bias by including the relative fraction of offensive vs defensive zone starts or ZSO%Rel (negative numbers indicate more defensive zone starts and vice versa for positive numbers and offensive zone starts).  The top 10 players in the regular season were:

  1. Tyler Kennedy – 53.18 CF% – (-6.52 ZSO%Rel)
  2. Alex Goligoski – 52.65 CF% – (4.39 ZSO%Rel)
  3. Chris Kunitz – 51.59 CF% – (-11.94 ZSO%Rel)
  4. Kris Letang – 50.71 CF% – (1.82 ZSO%Rel)
  5. Sergei Gonchar – 50.15 CF% – (3.30 ZSO%Rel)
  6. Pascal Dupuis – 50.10 CF% – (1.90 ZSO%Rel)
  7. Jordan Staal – 49.73 CF% – (-15.21 ZSO%Rel)
  8. Ruslan Fedotenko – 49.71 CF% – (7.21 ZSO%Rel)
  9. Sidney Crosby – 49.44 CF% – (9.28 ZSO%Rel)
  10. Hal Gill – 48.52 CF% – (-8.96 ZSO%Rel)

From this we start to narrow our list to Kennedy, Letang, Dupuis, Staal, Fedotenko, Crosby and Malkin as the true impact players but to make the playoffs, let alone win the Cup you need some guys to get lucky or at least, you need your guys who control play less well to overcome this shortcoming via skill.  Whichever way you want to look at it, personal shooting percentage is something that very much relevant to who gets hot in a season.  After all, while controlling play is all well and good and generally means your team gets more chances than the opposition, at the end of the day, you want your guys to produce.  In the 2008-09 season, league average shooting percentage was 7.94%.  With that in mind, the top 10 PSh% belonged to these players:

  1. Chris Kunitz – 17.95 PSh%
  2. Matt Cooke – 15.12 PSh%
  3. Miroslav Satan – 14.17 PSh%
  4. Sidney Crosby – 13.92 PSh%
  5. Petr Sykora – 13.89 PSh%
  6. Ruslan Fedotenko – 13.78 PSh%
  7. Jordan Staal – 13.25 PSh%
  8. Evgeni Malkin – 12.11 PSh%
  9. Mark Eaton – 11.76 PSh%
  10. Max Talbot – 11.76 PSh%

In all, the Penguins had 17 of 23 players with more than 20 games played (nearly 74%) who had an above league average PSh%.  Obviously, in some cases a player may be elite and therefore sustain a higher PSh% and it helps when you have setup men as skilled as Crosby and Malkin on the team but clearly some portion of this should be attributed to luck.  Lucky or not, how many guys were truly impact players for the 2008-09 Penguins?  With the prior criteria in mind, the list looks something like this:

  1. Sidney Crosby – 49.44 CF% – (9.28 ZSO%Rel) – 13.92 PSh% – 103 points in 77 games – 3.63 points per 60
  2. Jordan Staal – 49.73 CF% – (-15.21 ZSO%Rel) – 13.25 PSh% – 49 points in 82 games – 1.82 points per 60
  3. Evgeni Malkin – 46.12 CF% – (19.29 ZSO%Rel) – 12.11 PSh% – 113 points in 82 games – 3.70 points per 60
  4. Ruslan Fedotenko – 49.71 CF% – (7.21 ZSO%Rel) – 13.78 PSh% – 39 points in 65 games – 2.57 points per 60
  5. Petr Sykora – 45.01 CF% – (12.39 ZSO%Rel) – 13.89 PSh% – 46 points in 76 games – 2.24 points per 60
  6. Tyler Kennedy – 53.18 CF% – (-6.52 ZSO%Rel) – 8.77 PSh% – 35 points in 67 games – 2.25 points per 60
  7. Kris Letang – 50.71 CF% – (1.82 ZSO%Rel) – 7.25 PSh% – – 33 points in 74 games -1.27 points per 60
  8. Miroslav Satan – 47.95 CF% – (2.20 ZSO%Rel) – 14.17 PSh% – 36  points in 65 games – 2.13 points per 60
  9. Pascal Dupuis – 50.10 CF% – (1.90 ZSO%Rel) – 8.28 PSh% – 28 points in 71 games – 1.65 points per 60
  10. Chris Kunitz – 51.59 CF% – (-11.94 ZSO%Rel) – 17.95 PSh% – 18 points in 20 games – 3.23 points per 60

sidney-crosby-workout-resis1

Player Development

While each player is unique and the paths to the NHL are many, it is worth examining how long it took players to make the NHL.  I’ve gone over some of this in the Skater and Goalie Histories, but let’s dig in a little deeper.  First thing’s first, which players did the Pens draft or sign as undrafted free agents?

  1. Sidney Crosby – no. 1 overall, made NHL year 1
  2. Marc-Andre Fleury – no. 1 overall, made NHL year 3
  3. Evgeni Malkin – no. 2 overall, made NHL year 3*
  4. Jordan Staal – no. 2 overall, made NHL year 1
  5. Ryan Whitney – no. 5 overall, made NHL year 4
  6. Brooks Orpik – no. 18 overall, made NHL year 4
  7. Alex Goligoski – no. 61 overall, made NHL year 5
  8. Kris Letang – no. 62 overall, made NHL year 3
  9. Tyler Kennedy – no. 99 overall, made NHL year 4
  10. Luca Caputi – no. 111 overall, NHL call up year 2
  11. Paul Bissonnette – no. 121 overall, NHL call up year 6
  12. Rob Scuderi – no. 134 overall, made NHL year 8
  13. Dustin Jeffrey – no. 171 overall, NHL call up year 2
  14. Max Talbot – no. 234 overall, made NHL year 5
  15. Tim Wallace – Undrafted, NHL call up year 3
  16. John Curry – Undrafted, NHL call up year 2
  17. Ben Lovejoy – Undrafted, NHL call up year 2

*Evgeni Malkin did not make NHL year 1 due to 2004-05 lockout and an international transfer dispute in the 2005-06 season.

The skaters on this list averaged 3.8 years before they earned a permanent spot on the NHL roster.  The earliest drafted player is Rob Scuderi drafted in 1998, the latest drafted player is Luca Caputi in 2007.  However, Caputi was still developing in the 2008-09 season which makes Jordan Staal the latest drafted player to earn a permanent roster spot.  Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang were excellent value picks and Rob Scuderi, Max Talbot and Tim Wallace becoming NHL players were pleasant surprises.  Only 5 of the 14 became impact players, though 10 of the 14 logged significant minutes.  Pittsburgh built their team around the guys they got at the top of the draft but some of the lower round draft picks have to pan out eventually for a team to have success.  Stares daggers at, Edmonton. Goalies are weird and I’m not even going to get into the numbers with Fleury.  He kinda, sorta made the league year 1 but, for the purpose of this discussion, I went with the first season he was called up and stayed.  Leave it at this: goalies are rarely drafted as high as he was and usually take longer to develop and nobody has a clue which ones are gonna be good.

Key Acquisitions

The young guns are essential but if you’re gonna win, you have to fill out your roster with some wily veterans.  This can be accomplished through free agency or trades and the Penguins did both.  Acquisition of good veteran players is rarely accomplished in a single season as there are, at any given time, a limited number of them available and 29 other general managers are scrabbling to get their filthy mitts on them.  This process can take a number of seasons and requires a savvy GM to target which ones will compliment his team and which ones will put it over the top.  The Penguins were terrible in Crosby’s draft year, finishing 29th in the league with 58 points.  The following season they finished 2nd in the Atlantic division with 105.  Much of this improvement can be attributed to Malkin and Staal joining the roster but they also aggressively pursued veteran talent in both free agency and trades.  So how did the Penguins acquire their veteran talent?

Free Agents

Trade Targets

* age of player during the 2008-09 season.

The average age of these acquisitions was 30 with the oldest being 37 (Guerin) and the youngest being 25 (Thomas).  Of the 20 veteran acquisitions they made, 12 played significant roles in the Penguins success, while 5 became impact players.

1st Round Club

But how many first round picks were there?  Okay, here’s the list of players drafted in round 1 who played on the 2008-09 Penguins roster in order of where they were drafted.

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury no. 1 overall
  2. Sidney Crosby no. 1 overall
  3. Evgeni Malkin no. 2 overall
  4. Jordan Staal no. 2 overall
  5. Ryan Whitney no. 5 overall
  6. Bill Guerin no. 5 overall
  7. Darryl Sydor no. 7 overall
  8. Philippe Boucher no. 13 overall
  9. Sergei Gonchar no. 14 overall
  10. Brooks Orpik no. 18 overall
  11. Petr Sykora no. 18 overall
  12. Jeff Taffe no. 30 overall

50% of these players were taken in the top 5 of the draft, 58% in the top 10, 75% in the top half of round 1.  Pittsburgh drafted 50% of this list.

snellen-eye-chart

Hindsight Is 20/20

The Penguins’ strategy of surrounding their young talent with aging talent worked.  It worked fast.  They made the playoffs the season after drafting Jordan Staal.  The next season, they made the Stanley Cup Final.  The season after that, they won the Stanley Cup.    In retrospect, however, it is worth asking whether it might have been wise to invest in more players whose primes aligned better with those of their core players.  The result, over the years has been that they consistently invested draft picks and prospects at the trade deadline to plug holes in the roster which has lead to their current state of flux.  The Penguins model has much to recommend it but its sustainability is suspect.  I leave judgement to you, this is one model and it was effective.

I kind of like being an underdog?

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Ever since I became a Buffalo Sabres fan, this team has been an underdog.  There were times when they were good (scary good) but they’ve never been the best.  They’ve never won the Cup.  They’ve never been the Broadstreet Bullies or the Big Bad Bruins; they’ve never been the team with the greatest player in the world; they’ve never been the biggest or the richest or the smartest.  The most beloved team, by many fans’ reckoning, was the “hardest working team in hockey.”  For my money, it was the Drury and Briere era but I didn’t realize that I liked hockey until 2003-04 season.  I’m not sure if I have the worst or best timing, but that season after the lockout ended had me hooked for life.  They weren’t the biggest team and no one really thought they’d be as good as they ended up being but hell, there’s a reason I like The Casualties and have to go to every Scott H. Biram show that rolls through town.  I’m not being some elitist hipster asshole or anything.  I had much cooler friends than me who introduced me to almost all of the music that I listen to today.  The point is, I love what I love and I know what that is when I see it and when I do, I make it a part of my reality.  That 05-06 Sabres team was like punk rock to me.  It was fast and exciting and anything at all could happen at any given moment.  Rick Jeannerete made me feel the same way I felt when I first listened to Flogging Molly’s “Drunken Lullabies” album on my front porch in Medina, NY.  I couldn’t get enough.

And that is why they can keep their Connor McDavids and your Mike Babcocks.  Did I want those guys?  Yeah, you’re damn right I did.  I can’t think of any sane reason why I wouldn’t.  They’re the best, right?  By any rational, external standards and without being able to see the future, it sure seems like it.  I wanted Sidney Crosby when he was drafted.  I wanted Zach Parise to come here as a free agent.  But I live in Buffalo and I’m used to setbacks.  I’m used to losing.  I’m used to my city being synonymous with wings and the fact that we get more snow every winter than Kate Upton has creepy admirers.  There are a lot of folks around here who get mighty thin skinned about things like Tom Brady saying our hotels suck or articles like this, but none of that makes me less hopeful for the future.  Hope.  There are an awful lot of miserable jerks who will tell you that it will never get you anywhere and will only lead to disappointment.  They won’t tell you that it’s better to accept futility and quit but that’s just because they like laughing at you and you quitting would spoil the fun.  I’m not gonna lie, it’s draining to tie myself to every draft pick that comes along like a balloon, hoping that this time, when I jump, they won’t pop and let me crash.  It’s easy to just say, “because it’s Buffalo,” and move on.  Me, I’m gonna keep hoping.  That’s how sports work.  I have absolutely no control or say or input into what the Sabres do, but give a monkey a typewriter and eventually it’ll put out something legible.  It may not be intentional but something has to go right eventually.  Tim Murray, the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, strikes me as a hell of a lot smarter than your average monkey.  Keep this firmly in mind: no matter how bad the team you root for sucks, it doesn’t mean you do.  Sports are fun because they invite us to identify ourselves with the teams.  They give us an outlet to escape from the day to day grind.  They give us something to believe in.  It’s completely natural then to feel as if when they fail, we fail with them.  Just remember, that doesn’t make you a failure.  Hell, it doesn’t make the players or coaches or general managers a failure.  It makes them imperfect humans, same as you and me.  They make tons of money and you can go ahead and yell at them all day, I won’t stop you.  At the end of the day, the only thing they can do is try and the only way they can truly fail is not to try.  As a fan, there is no way to fail.  Whether you cease to believe, or root for them to lose for a better draft pick, or call the radio and complain about how awful they are, if you’re still interested enough to do those things, you’re still a fan.  Until you lose interest, you’ll always be a fan.  I’m just saying it’s a much better experience if you can keep some hope in the equation.  Otherwise, why bother?  Sure the Sabres didn’t get Mike Babcock.  Sure they didn’t win the draft lottery.  They beat out the Coyotes for last place!  We’re still getting Jack Eichel!  We still have Sam Reinhart, Girgensons, Ristolainen, Zadorov, Pysyk and Evander freaking Kane.  I hope those kids come through for us.  I’m convinced that they will.  But even if they all end up being short of the mark, I’ll still love this team.

Another aspect to consider is that, while it damn sure isn’t perfect here, it isn’t perfect anywhere else.  There is no Aristotelian ideal hockey team.  Every team has strengths and weaknesses.  The LA Kings manage to not score enough, the Chicago Blackhawks don’t have the greatest depth on their blueline, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a limited bottom six, few prospects, little cap space and subsequently can’t make it out of the second round.  All of these teams have Cups in recent memory but never was there a dynasty that lasted forever.  Now I’m not here to put those teams down.  They have amazing rosters and great coaches (yeah, I think Mike Johnston is a pretty great coach).  The Sabres have an opportunity here and it’s extremely exciting.  They have the opportunity to build a team in light of the analytics era of hockey.  They have some unbelievable prospects to form a core that can grow into their own, together, and can become something that hasn’t been there in the organization for a while: a team.  Josh Gorges may not be the greatest defenseman but one thing he’ll always be is a damn good leader.  Brian Gionta may be on the steep decline of his career but he can hold a room together.  If you need proof of that, go watch the last 20 games of last season.  At no point is that team not working their asses off.  They were terrible and the coaching strategies left a lot to be desired but they never stopped working.  If Tim Murray can manage to infuse some talent into that framework and find somebody that’s halfway competent to coach them, then we have the makings of a pretty scary underdog.  It won’t be perfect but let’s be honest, perfect is boring.

Sabres are hardly short on candidates in the wake of Babcock’s decision

Two in the Box

Despite multiple reports that indicated the Sabres were on the verge of landing the biggest fish in the free agent coaching pond, Mike Babcock chose to take his talents to Toronto after a long, drawn out search process.

This leaves the Sabres standing at the altar without a coach for the time being as their bride-to-be sets off to the Great White North. The Sabres aren’t without options, however. Nor should this be seen as some black eye on the organization as they proceed through the next step of their rebuild.

Landing Babcock would have helped pile credibility onto the organization after two-straight 30th place seasons. Babcock’s presence would have likely chummed the waters for interested free agents while providing the Sabres with a bench boss with a strong winning pedigree. Missing out on him is obviously no small hiccup, but it will hardly derail the path Tim Murray has…

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