Just in time for July 1 and on the heels of my article on assessing younger unrestricted free agent defenseman, here is the similar forwards article with a slightly different set of criteria (partly based on suggestions by the ever-mighty, all-seeing overlord of the Nation Network, the venerable Kent Wilson).
Again, by using specific tools from www.puckprospectus.com, www.capgeek.com, and www.behindthenet.ca, I was able to rank the best 35* unrestricted free agent forwards, this time those under 32 years old. This may help determine which players that the Winnipeg Jets or other teams should consider signing (or re-signing as you will see) come the July 1, 2012 free agency date.
[Editor note: On June 29, Flames re-sign Lee Stempniak while Travis Moen signs back in Montreal. They have been removed from the list as a result, so it shrinks from 36]
The 2012 Restricted Free Agent Qualifying Offers came out on June 25, the unqualified forward-positions talent is either very injury prone (Latendresse, Mueller) or their talent is marginal and thus is ignored here. But if you want a list of unqualified RFAs who would really be UFAs now, see here.
First, I used the UFA Finder on Capgeek to find the UFAs forwards in the NHL, then I was able to pull their BehindtheNet (BTN) advanced stats to see the quality of the under-32s with at least 40 games played last year, plus I pulled and added a very useful stat from PuckProspectus. Perhaps these players are worth a look by Kevin Cheveldayoff, GM of the Jets and other teams too.
Before I present the tables with the rankings of who is “most desirable” (without taking salary factors into account), here is the process or scoring system I used with the improvements explained:
With the help and command of the overlord one (KW), my analysis now has rankings based on six statistical factors as follows. The ones in bold are the added metrics not used in the previous D-man blog:
1. GVT: This key statistic, short for Goals vs. Threshold, measures how much any player (goalies included) contribute to their team winning games based on goal differential, and is thus measured in goals. Essentially a score of 10 means this player adds 10 more goals to his team’s total for a season. The excellent site www.puckprospectus.com explains it like this in their glossary: “GVT = Goals Versus Threshold. Developed by Tom Awad of Hockey Prospectus, GVT measures a player’s worth in comparison to a typical fringe NHL player. GVT has two major advantages over most metrics: it’s measured in goals, which are easily equated to wins, and it is capable of comparing players across multiple positions and multiple eras.” It seems logical that top forwards, and even those who prevent scoring chances would score high on GVT.
To understand it more, put another way (on the same website), GVT is “it is the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed”, thus a player who scores 3 goals but sees his team give up 5 has still done his job while a goalie who gives up 1 goal while his team has been shutout is similarly well-scored on GVT. The best players of 2011-12, such as Zach Parise all have GVT scores over 100. Last year Mr. Parise actually came in at 279.0, followed in the top 5 by Alexander Semin at 180.0, Pierre (or P.A.) Parenteau at 172.5, the surprising Kyle Wellwood at 145.5, and Jiri Hudler at 120.0 with other top players are in the 40 to 100 range.
All but 7 of the other players of the 3 dozen analyzed had positive GVT scores and it definitely reflects top-scorers (see above) and excellent checking forwards like Travis Moen (63.0), Jordin Tootoo (55.5), Paul Gaustad (49.5), among others.
2. Rel Corsi: This is the revised Corsi measure added in place of Corsi-On/60 which was used in the defensemen analysis.Rel Corsi is used for forwards in order to take into account the effect of being on a good line with good teammates by comparing how possession goes without this player on the ice. Per BTN, definition is “On-Ice Player Corsi minus to Off-Ice Corsi”. So for example, Jiri Hudler’s score gets downwardly adjusted in using Rel Corsi due to playing with possession-dominant linemates on the Red Wings. This time, this “possession proxy metric” is the most heavily weighted, but at just 25% of my final score. Again I feel like many others in the advanced stats world in that a Corsi measure seems to presents a good starting point for ranking overall quality of a player and thus it is very heavily weighted.
3. Corsi Rel QoC: This measure, newly added for the Forwards analysis, measures what quality of opponents they play against. For example, a first or second line forward may draw the top defenseman on the other team – for example if a top-line forward was playing Nashville last year – it is likely he played a lot versus Suter and/or Weber. This statistic will help to adjust the difficulty a forward may have had in keeping possession which would ultimately lead to shots and then goals.
It is given a weighting of 15% in my Final Score. Some unusual results come from this statistic however, in that while top skilled guys like Hudler, Doan, Parise, and Parenteau rank 3 through 6 in this Score, but some true checkers in Tanner Glass (Wpg) and Travis Moen (Mtl) show they are able to do well versus tough competition, ranking 1-2 in the Corsi Rel QoC Score in the table. Jets fans will not be surprised by this consider the GST line including Chris Thorburn and Jim Slater along with Glass was lauded for its checking efforts when they were “in tough”.
4. OZDiff: Another BTN-drawn statistic that tells a somewhat similar story to Corsi is the Offensive Zone Finish Percent minus Offensive Zone Start. Hopefully this statistic (OZDiff for offensive zone difference) tells us that your Forward is involved in actual scoring plays since shifts ends when you score, normally from within the other team’s zone (right Tommy Salo?). If the raw OZDiff is a positive number over 2.0 this translates to OZDiff Score of 10+, and thus the Forward can either be seen to push the puck ahead from their own zone. Notably, primarily third line and lower checking forwards doing well in this measure with the top 5 scores going to McClement, Gaustad, Prust, Glass, and Peters. Like with the defensemen, since the statistic has some similarities to Corsi-On, it is only given a 5% weighting on my final score.
5. Pts/60Min: Yes, the glamorous, main-stream-media loved counting statistics (goals + assists = points) obviously do hold value in assessing players. For forwards, whose most obvious role is to score goals, and so this statistic was weighted at 20% versus just 15% for defensemen. The Pts/60 Min Scores calculated on the 20 weighting are rather tightly bunched but again the top 5 players are obviously first and second-line forwards with the order going as follows: Semin, Parenteau, Hudler, Parise, and Wellwood. Suprisingly strong stats from Joey Crabb and Tim Stapleton were among the top 10.
6. TOI/60: This analysis gives a more moderate ranking to how much time a forward played in 2011-12 at 10% value versus 20% for defenseman. Players who get more ice time are normally those who are versatile and thus can either kill penalties or play on the power play in addition to playing regular 5v5 shifts. And, of course the players who can regularly generate the most offense and score points will play more minutes. However, TOI is not as important as for defensemen who only come in sets of 3 versus forward lines who come in sets of 4 and have a less homogenous set of skills versus defenseman.
Thus, the value of Forwards depends on their role, meaning a 4th-line checker who plays only 12 minutes a game has less value, but his difference in value versus a first-liner may not be as wide as that of a bottom 2 versus top 2 defenseman. In any event, the best forwards still play the most, and thus the top 5 forwards in this measure in order are Parise, Parenteau, Doan, Semin, Winnik, Andrei Kostitsyn.
7. Pen Diff: Again, an interesting but minor statistic is whether a player gets his team in trouble with penalties (helps if you get power plays) or draws penalties (not as good to be short-handed). By looking at Penalties Drawn less Penalties Taken (both on 60 minutes basis), we would expect the best forwards to be in the positive numbers because using their stickhandling skill, speed, and steadiness on their skates with the puck or in front of the net, they can draw penalties.
The statistic shows that yes, the lists’ top possession and skilled forwards like Zach Parise, Brad Boyes, Lee Stempniak, and Kyle Wellwood will draw more penalties than they take, but so do the agitators on the list such as Adam Burish, Brandon Prust, Jordin Tootoo, and Darcy Hordichuk. This time, this statistic NOT flattened (like it was for D-men) as it makes sense that forwards should draw penalties and not take them, thus negative values hurt a player’s ranking, but not much becuase this statistic is given a 10% share of my final score.
Desirability Rankings for 2012 Free Agent Forwards Under 32 years
|NAME OF PLAYER||TEAM IN 2011-12||POS||GP||GVT Score (15%)||Rel Corsi Score (25%)||Corsi Rel QoC Score (15%)||OZDiff Score (5%)||Pts/60Min Score (20%)||TOI/60 Score (10%)||Pen Diff Score (10%)||TOTAL NET SCORE||FINAL RANK|
Jets fans may be happy to see Kyle Wellwood on top of this list, and while it may surprise others who remember his lack of fitness issues in Toronto and even Vancouver, he is an excellent driver of possession, he scores points on a frequent basis, and he draws penalties.
Some other surprises of the top 10 may be Jake Dowell of Dallas, John Mitchell of NYR, however, even with adjusting these statistical weights, the Total Net Score still puts these kinds of players in the top half in most iterations.
So what should the Jets do?
So Jets and other teams, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when the player agent comes to you? (sorry had to have one TV reference). Well, in the case of your own Kyle Wellwood, sign him.
And if you decide other players will consider windy and cold Winnipeg given your top-6 forward needs, decide who you want to afford and try to sign them, with perhaps Shane Doan (started his career with old Jets) or some of the less-famous names (Mitchell, Winnik, Dowell) being suitable targets.
Look forward to your comments, queries, inquisitive or derisive remarks!