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Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Goalies, obsolescence and Brian Burke hates fancy stats

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy
NHL: Ottawa Senators at Edmonton Oilers
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Mar 4, 2014; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens (30) makes a save against the Ottawa Senators at Rexall Place. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]

6. The Oilers' goaltenders

The Oilers upgraded their goaltending — maybe— by adding Viktor Fasth, making him likely the sixth goaltender Edmonton will use this year (if you remembered Richard Bachman got into three games for them this season, you win nothing).

What's interesting about this is that the Edmonton Oilers are now going to spend $5.2 million against the cap next season on their goaltenders, who carried a combined 81 games of NHL experience into last night's game. Fasth has been hurt all year, and was bad when he was healthy, but Scrivens has been very good in limited looks, and no one should be in any way worried I'm sure that he's on his third organization in like nine months.

Meanwhile, Justin Schultz is their No. 1 defenseman. What could possibly go wrong for these guys in the future?

5. Believing

The problem with this trade deadline, and how tightly packed the middle of each conference's standings are, is that a lot of teams are going to think they're in a position to contend for anything noteworthy when they are, in fact, not.

A good example of this would be the Washington Capitals, currently outside the Eastern Conference playoffs looking in, trading for Dustin Penner. Now, the idea of a fourth-round pick netting you a guy who's the first-line right wing on the team with the most points in the league is of course a very good one, and you can't fault George McPhee for trying to improve his position in this way if that's what he wants to do. The question, though, is why does he want to do it? The Caps have much more pressing concerns (i.e. their defense is atrocious, and their team save percentage could use some work even if Braden Holtby is a good netminder) than a right wing.

Other teams will find themselves in a similar situation: Doing something they don't need to do to maybe eke out six games in the postseason before getting their throats slit by the savages at the top of both conference tables. Imagine, for example, if the Senators make a big move in an attempt to close that three-point gap between themselves and Detroit. They'd play the Penguins and, Pittsburgh's depth issues aside, would find themselves gutted in a week.

At least it's refreshing to see the Canucks acknowledge the reality of things. They traded Luongo, they're probably going to dump Ryan Kesler for futures, and are letting everyone and their friends and family kick the tires on Alex Edler. A team that's on the cusp of the playoffs is running up the white flag, as they should.

4. Being Roberto Luongo

This was an abusive relationship if ever there was one. You have to wonder if Mike Gillis and John Tortorella are getting some kind of perverse joy out of doing this stuff to him. He really is a saint for putting up with all of this and not strangling someone. I guess the $6.7 million he's getting this season buys a lot of personal serenity.

He earned the trip to Florida, even if he has to be runnin' buddies with Tim Thomas. Godspeed, Lu.

3. Looking for something to blame

The Bruins haven't been spectacular in their own end over their last several games, dating back to a time even before the Olympic break. Many people have conjectured that this is due entirely to the fact that Dennis Seidenberg, a solid defensive defenseman if ever there was one, has been injured since late December.

Of course, the Bruins' goals-against average has ballooned during that time by a number far greater than the impact Seidenberg, playing 22 or 23 minutes a night, would have on the game. So what, really, is to blame?

Scott McLaughlin of WEEI.com broke it down and it turns out the answer is what anyone could have guessed: Regression. Tuukka Rask's save percentage from Oct. 3 to Dec. 27, when Seidenberg played his 34 games this season, was .938. Since then, it's .902.

This is obviously a huge drop-off, with the end result being a huge concern among Bruins fans that the team is dead in the water without Seidenberg. They certainly need a defenseman (or perhaps two) before today's deadline, that much is clear, and you might even be able to make the argument that the team is going to give up higher-quality chances without Seidenberg in the lineup. However, Rask's save percentage is still .927 for the season, about 14 points better than the league average.

And here's the interesting part: McLaughlin crunched the numbers and found out that if Rask stopped 92.7 percent of shots he faced for the entire season (which, by the way, is his career average), his GAA with Seidenberg in the lineup would have been 2.21. If it held steady at .927 after the Seidenberg injury, it balloons to... 2.24.

So yes, regression.

2. Obsolescence

This is being written at 3:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday, which is to say that it comes after the flurry of trades that saw, among other things: Dustin Penner go to Washington for a fourth-round pick, that fourth-round pick then being flipped to Dallas for Stephane Robidas, all while the Ducks got two picks for Viktor Fasth and Edmonton flipped Ilya Bryzgalov to Minnesota for a pick of their own.

It was, for about 10 minutes, absolute chaos.

By the time you read this, this could have happened again. Extensions for some guys, like Ryan Callahan, maybe. Trades for others, like Thomas Vanek or everyone on the Sabres, perhaps. And thus anything that might have been written in this space about Ryan Kesler, for example, would almost certainly be null and void by the time it reaches your eyeballs.

Here's safe bet for me to make, though: The Leafs are going to do something stupid.

[Some time later]

I've now had to revisit things, as Roberto Luongo was just traded to Florida. I don't know what to do with any of this.

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Brian Burke, Calgary Flames' president of hockey operations, announces the firing of general manager Jay Feaster …

1. Bringing a skeptic

The Sloan Sports Analytics conference took place in Boston this past weekend and once again there was a hockey panel in which the efficacy of various statistical evaluation tools was discussed. It reportedly went about as well as the average person who thinks “Fancy Stats” are stupid might; the host of the panel, NESN personality Dale Arnold, noted that corsi undervalues players like Patrice Bergeron, which is simply not true.

Also, Brian Burke, who thinks such stats are stupid and without value, was on the panel once again for reasons that, while logical (his daughter helped set up the conference initially) also continue to be a source of annoyance and a waste of everyone's time. None of that kind of thing makes sense. It's like inviting a guy who knows how all the tricks work to your magician's conference specifically so he can point out that magic isn't real and the table has a false bottom and you're all idiots.

While the panel was supposed to be about analytics, Burke essentially hijacked it so that they discussed anything but. A waste of time ensued. If you don't think corsi, or studies of zone entry effectiveness, or any of the other work being done to better understand the game has value, that's fine. You're demonstrably wrong, but it's fine.

So why invite him other than it grabs a headline and turns the whole thing into a sideshow? This isn't Jurassic Park. You don't need to bring along skeptics specifically to prove to them that there is in fact value in what you're doing. Some people are always going to make the “You didn't stop to think if we should!” speech about sports analytics. They'll scream about the eyeball test until they drop dead, even as the rest of the world embraces — and gets results from — the data being used to evaluate players in hockey. Baseball, basketball, and football have all started using them heavily, while we have to sit here and listen to the “drunk's lamp post” analogy for the billionth brain-bleeding time.

Here's the real problem with bringing Brian Burke of all the people in hockey to this conference: He's had zero success in the NHL since 2008 (with a team he didn't build) in even getting a team into the playoffs, which is generally a hell of an easy thing to accomplish.

So for him to say, “This stuff doesn't work” sight unseen is to tacitly acknowledge that he is himself living in the dark ages, and is therefore worthy of ridicule. If analytics don't work for Brian Burke (and they never will, regardless of his assertions that he would buy something the second it was proven useful), and the eyeball test that he's relied upon so heavily for years also doesn't work, at some point you just have to say, “Nothing this guy thinks about player evaluation and team building is valid.”

Of course, this is the guy who just yesterday said in a scheduled media availability that he thinks the Calgary Flames should try to be buyers at next season's deadline. That says more than any spreadsheet ever could about what's wrong with the way he sees hockey.

(Not ranked this week: Your awful joke about pancakes, “Szabados for Backup,” Mike Gillis, being a Panthers fan, being the team that acquired Andy MacDonald, your memories of when the Canucks were going to be competitive, being a Sedin twin right now, conditional picks, a time when it was thought the goalie market was soft, the interest anyone at all had in TSN's trade deadline show, predicting what the hell is going on any more.)

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